This is one of my favorite stories from my own experiences growing up with horses. This is a quick version of a story that will be out in my next book, a how-to book on the Waterhole Rituals. The story offers a formula in "How to get what you want from a horse". Let's say you want to bond, or to be able to put a halter on a horse, or maybe you have a larger goal like winning the Olympics on a horse you have trained yourself, or take the “buck” out of your horse, or take the anger out of your horse, or teach your horse not to be afraid of a trailer, or teach him not to bite you, or how to be successful with the Waterhole Rituals to solve these issues, or to be successful using any method that has stumped you.
The secret to your success with a horse might be revealed to you through asking yourself one question only. From this question a path will unfold easily, you will return to what you “should be” doing with your horse rather than want you “would want” to do with your horse.
Maybe you read Tom Dorrance’s book "Harmony with Horses" and you want to make practical use of his obvious wisdom, but you do not know where to begin? So here is the story...
This question that my Dad asked me, led me to my success as a coach with people, and as a trainer, partner and best friend with horses!
When I was about 9 years old I wanted to start a business training horses. I went to my Dad and asked him how to get started, and he simply said “You need a sign that says HORSE TRAINING, with our telephone number and put it on the edge of the road”.
In those years, there were many horses in our town, with very few trainers offering a service, and this kind of service could possibly get a lot of business.
I was a child who wanted to train horses, but really did not have any experience in training them. I was very good with horses, but this is not enough. At that age we just know what we want! So I put the sign up and waited. Nothing happened for a good month. I then went to my Dad and told him that no one has called about putting a horse in training with me. My Dad said, “Did you advertise the price?” and I said “No”. He said, “Well, there is your problem”. I asked him what I should charge and he said to pick a price that a person could not refuse. He suggested that my training fee, and the board included, should be lower than the cheapest board in town. He told me he would pay for the hay; since we grew hay it would not be too costly, and I could keep the money I made.
I was thrilled. I opened a bank account and from the new sign, the calls started coming in.
My first customer had a horse that bucked and the client wanted the buck taken out. My Dad went and picked the horse up for me and we could see that this horse was a tough horse just from a feeling you had from being around him. He was a big chestnut, running quarter horse type.
We put him in a paddock and there he sat. I surely was not going to make the same mistake with him as I did with Pepper, the pony that I wrote about in my book “Naked Liberty”. I went to my Dad and asked him “What should I do with him?” I had never ridden a horse that bucked other than Pepper. I had no skills in fixing this kind of problem. This horse did not even like me. My Dad asked me the “Question” that empowered me for the rest of my life with horses, and that I hope will work for you as well.
He asked “Well, Carolyn, what are you not afraid to do with that horse?” I told him that I was not afraid to lead him. He said “There is where you should start. You can lead him out into the desert for 30 minutes and back, and you will have put in a good hour with him and can call that training”.
Wow! I had the formula, I could do that! So I led him into the desert and back, and called it training. I felt wonderful. At age of 9 I was self-employed, realizing my dream and I had money in the bank. I never look any further into the future. I just did my job. One day, my Dad told me : “By the countenance of that horse he looks like he is much happier, and has settled down. I do not think he will buck any more, why don’t you try riding him?” I did, and my father was right. I had trained my first horse.
The next horse that came in for training was not halter broke, and would chase me out of her pen. I was concerned about this problem. I thought I was not going to be able to fix this problem. Again my Dad asked me “What can you do with her, that you are not afraid to do?” I told him that I was not afraid to sit in her manger. He said: “Great, sit in her manger for an hour a day and call that training!” So I did.
She got used to me and I got used to her. I would collect the alfalfa leaves in a little pile, after picking the stems out, and then would feed them to her. She got to like my company, and understood how I was helping her finding the best hay. Sometimes she would try to push me away when I wasn’t quite finished with my selection, and I would then drive her out of the manger altogether. When she would return and respect my space, then I would give her what she wanted. We developed such a relationship that one day I was able to slip a halter on her head and use the rope to lead her to the piles I had made for her in the manger. Once she became comfortable with that I began taking her to specific places in her paddock that had treats for her. In no time I had her halter broke.
Horse after horse, the answer to fixing the horse was always found in asking myself “what I could do that was safe and that the horse would allow”.
Today when I work with a horse that is in training with me I simply look for the strongest connection I have in the moment and build from that. I never take for granted that I would expect a horse to perform no matter how well he is trained. This way I stay on the “right side” of the horse and I do not push too much, which keeps me in the harmony and unity that Tom Dorrance writes about in his book “Harmony with Horses”.
Today, I am here with my blog and services, that I have created, all meant to help you in the same way my Dad helped me, with stories and support and programs that are easy to manage.