I was blessed early on in my equine career to have some pretty amazing opportunities presented to me with great mentors and professionals in the horse industry. The following post was an article I wrote while working as an assistant trainer to a man that has taught me the most about training, Aaron Ralston. The original article was posted in Horse Digest Magazine issue 11, 2011.
The words of Martin Luther King Jr., Benjamin Franklin and mandy other historical figures drew our thoughts and attention to a focus point. Whether it is an event, some injustice, or a victory, words are being used all the time to capture our thoughts and draw them into a focus point for a response.
I was struck by a speech I heard recently about how often we misuse words in a way that distracts rather than attracts and so fogs our thoughts rather than clearly capturing our attention. Many times too many words are used to convey a message and the result is like white noise in the mind of the audience. Attention is then drawn to the noise or ambiguity of the message rather than the focus point. A teenager rolling their eyes at their parents’ lectures is a perfect example. I know from experience having been a teenager. On the contrary though, many of us have simple words or sayings from respected or memorable people that have stuck in our minds and replayed themselves for years and even a lifetime.
After a long day of preparing some horses for a show with Aaron, he pointed out that I was doing too much. I realized that sometimes the way I use my rider aids can be a lot like a person who talks too much. My intention and desire may be to bring my horses attention and focus to the cow or a point on the other side of the arena. However, when I am constantly holding my horses in position with my hands and making minute adjustments; the result is white noise in the horses mind and they are not able to focus on what I want them to. In my frustration, I began to exaggerate the blunt clarity of my aids. My horse was finally able to make the desired response from my aids. I am learning how to use my aids like the words of a well respected person. They dont speak all the time but when they do, everyone stops and listens.
Looking back on these words from the beginning of my professional career, I can say that the principle still holds true. As a rule of thumb with all of my equine partners, if things aren’t going the way I want them to, I take a step back, return to the basics, and “speak” clearly and concisely.