CFN – This Column of “Spirits in Unity” is being published by CFN for the community of Stormont Dundas & Glengarry. It is an honour to have you as a reader. I welcome any comments, questions or topics you would like me to discuss. I hope you enjoy reading about the wonderful world of horses and the impact that natural horsemanship can have in making it a better world for both horses and humans.
“Don’t Just Do Something, stand there.”
As a teacher of horsemanship, the hardest thing for me is keeping my mouth closed and not interfering in the learning process. Every teacher has that desire to intervene when they see something happening that they think they could improve upon by speaking out. But sometimes the most profound lessons are those that we learn for ourselves.
In our ‘Spirits in Unity’ program we try to help our students and their horses to solve puzzles. We try to give them the skills and habits that will help them to become horsemen and horsewomen. Sometimes it is very hard to see the solution to a problem when it is right there in front of you the whole time. In fact sometimes it is even more difficult to recognize the problem in the first place.
Just the other day one of my students discovered something that I had been hoping for a long time would happen and I was so wanting to give them the answer to a puzzle that they didn’t even see.
Whenever you go out into the paddock or field to get your horse you may have that long walk out unless of course he comes when you call. And then there is that long walk back. Then just the other day I observed one of my students far out into the field interacting with his horse. He haltered him up, turned the halter into a set of reins. Then I saw him going through the pre-ride checklist and my heart raced with excitement in expectation. Had he gotten the idea? He swung up on his horse’s back and rode him bareback back to the barn. When he got to the barn he said with a huge smile, “That was the most amazing feeling I’ve ever had”.
That’s the feeling you get when you discover something really cool all by yourself. By keeping quiet and not giving away the “Cadbury Secret” as it were, my student was able to experience that feeling all by himself.
You see, he had the means of transportation back to the barn right there beside him all the time, but never had realized it before. The skills he had been taught about haltering, making reins out of a lead line, mounting your horse bareback were all skills that came into play. And he had the satisfaction of recognizing and solving the problem for himself.
As a teacher, I had waited so long for some of my students to see the puzzle, and find the solution for themselves. Now I know that he is starting to use the skills I taught him.
The next day that same student repeated the process, with a slight variation. He had to go out into the field to bring all the horses in. This time he took his halter and lead, hopped on his horse and herded the rest of the horses back to the barn. “Why didn’t I think of this before?” he said.
Now he is really beginning to see the problems as well as the solutions.
When dealing with humans or horses it is often better to allow them to make mistakes. Their learning is often more effective and much more satisfying.
I once read a quote that went something like: “Teach a man anything and he will learn nothing, but give him the skills to teach himself and the whole world will be his to discover.”
The Controlled Catastrophe
During the Liberty Challenge at our recent “Spirits in Unity’ mini tour stop at Avonmore Fair, things got out of hand pretty quickly. In the liberty challenge, there are no lines between the horse and human and therefore the only thing between you and your horse is the truth. The truth about how strong your partnership really is. It wasn’t too long before two of the horses decided that they were going to have some fun of their own and they began to run after each other. They were soon joined by six other horses. The horses ran and kicked up their heels, reared, bucked and jumped over obstacles much to the delight of the audience.
For the kids in the ring, there was nothing but smiles. They were calm and relaxed and went about doing what had to be done to get control of their horses without panic. In about 10 minutes they had everything back under control. This was of course not the first time they had experienced the ‘Controlled Catastrophe’ game.
The audience was astounded at the way the situation was handled, without panic, without blaming the horses for their behaviour, without embarrassment when things went off the rails. You see, sometimes horses just have to be horses, and kids just have to be kids.
So if you want to be an effective teacher, do as Pat Parelli says, “Don’t just do something, stand there.” Take the time to let learning happen with both your human and equine students.
These kind of lessons only occur when you put the relationship with your horse first.
If you are interested in learning about our Spirits in Unity Tour for 2012 or what other people interested in horse welfare are doing with natural horsemanship in our area you can become a member of The Eastern Ontario Natural Horsemanship Club at www.meetup.com .There is no charge to join.
Whether you are just a horse lover, have dreams of owning a horse someday, or already have one, I hope these columns will give you some insight into the true nature of these magnificent creatures. I hope you will find them both informative and inspirational.
May all your dreams come true,
Garry “Horsetalker” Meek