The Power of the Pause for the Training of Horses and Peace of Mind

Recently I was working with a new student, showing how I introduce teaching halt from trot on a circle at liberty after I have the basic connection with a horse that the Waterhole Rituals provide to the partnership. I asked the horse to whoa, and about eight strides later, he stopped, and looked at me with a look that seemed to say “Is this what you wanted?” I then told him he was a good boy, and gave him a treat. My student asked why I treated the horse since he stopped eight strides later than when I first asked for it. Since the horse had not been asked to halt this way before, the fact that he stopped at all was quite an accomplishment. Of course, with more time and training, soon the horse will be stopping on a dime and will be happy to do so. As our training session progressed, gradually, the horse stopped in fewer and fewer strides. It was the pause which allowed him to think about the request, and gave him the time to put his body in the right frame which would allow him to stop from a trot.

The next stage of asking for halt once a horse gets the idea that he can halt from trot on a circle around me is that I then focus on getting him to stop instantly from my voice without the extra steps. In the new exercise, if the horse does not stop on a dime, I remove the pause and send him around easily again without any energy that would suggest a reprimand and then ask again for halt at the same spot. In a short time, no more that 4 minutes into this exercise the horse learns to stop exactly on the spot of my choosing. If the horse does not pick up this in a short time, the horse is not ready for the new lesson on stopping exactly when he hears my request. What is important to remember here is that the pause in the beginning without reprimand helps the horse to learn at his own pace which will be faster than pushing him in to it.

This question from my student caused me to think more about the power of the pause that is so important in our lives as well as training our horses. How often are we able to react or do something the first time it is asked of us? I think to expect our horses to be more responsive than we are is not practical.  When small children begin to learn to hand write, they usually cannot copy the letter exactly at first. They need encouragement, assistance, guidance and most importantly patience. Then, after the child performs the task of writing the letter, the pause comes next to admire their effort and evaluate their work. It is the same with our horses. In order for learning to be entertaining and fun for both the human and horse, we need to make sure that the bond is developing from the lessons.

This time of year the traffic seams to be worse than normal, and it can be difficult to perform even the easiest of tasks in an efficient manner for one reason or another- such as flooding, or snow, depending on where you live. Even in these instances it is important to remember to enjoy the pause. The stop light turning red might offer just the right time to enjoy a special song on the radio, or give us a chance to admire some Christmas lights on a hillside we may not have noticed before. It is easy to get in a rush with so much to do. Remember the gift that the pause has to offer us. The pause is not only a gift, but is often a much needed rest, and time to enjoy some peace!

Today I was visiting a friend’s ranch. We were looking at the wonderful natural green grasses that only come out in Southern California after the rains come. The textures of the boulders, sagebrush and soft grasses were a feast for the eyes. The air around us was silent, still and clear. Way out on the horizon we could see the ocean which had become a mesmerizing golden band in the distance. As we sat there admiring the warm afternoon sun after many days of rain, a beautiful coyote meandered down the mountain path a little ways from us. It was one of the best looking coyotes I have seen in quite a while! His coat was bushy and glistening, and his reddish color would be the envy of many women I know. As we watched him trot down the hillside, he paused to look at us. After a short look, he was off again, and gracefully trotted down the narrow grassy trail and out of sight. This coyote’s pause was definitely a gift to me!

winter_grasses coyote

If you would like to share any special winter animal sightings that would be great!

I hope you all had a Merry Christmas, and are staying safe and warm wherever you are!

It is my tradition for the New Year is to spend the day doing everything that I want to experience all year long. Good feelings, good deeds, making contact with people I love, time with my horses and writing and making beautiful environments around me and listen to beautiful music, playing the piano and of course checking my Blog and dancing with Apollo and my mother!!

I wish us all a Happy New Year!!

Carolyn