One of the toughest lessons
in great horsemanship is to just….
Every great horsemanship professional uses The Pause in training.
Western horsemanship trainers call it “soaking”, my mentor called it “taking a break”. Whatever you want to call it, it’s all about giving the horse a chance to think, process the information, relax and refresh.
Nowadays, it is normal to keep pushing on.
Push for the next thing to happen, hurry it up, forge on, go, go, go. But, have you ever been pushing on and on and rushing and going, going, going and realized something went horribly wrong in all that? Have you ever suddenly stopped, or worse, been forced to stop and realized,”Wow, if I had just taken a breather in all that, I would have seen that could have gone a whole lot smoother.”?
The same thing happens with horses.
My mentor, Ed Rothkranz was a dressage master. He would say, “after every movement, take a break, even if it’s just for 3 steps, take a break then ask again. If you do that, the horse will always be happy to do it. But if you go on and on and on, the horse gets tired of doing it and will want to fight his way out of it”. He would say, “When you go to the gym, do you lift up the weights and hold them above your head for 1 hour? No. You do a series of reps, then take a break. You should ride your horse the same way”.
Buster McLaury, one of our Horsemanship Greats, always gives horses a chance to soak when he is introducing something to them. He will say, “now let’s give that horse a chance to think on that a little bit. It’s a good time to tell a cowboy story” and he tells riders a funny joke, a story about his Father or Ray Hunt or something relevant to the moment.
Pausing is not easy to do.
It sounds very simple, and the act in itself is quite simple, but people have the MOST difficult time doing it. Whenever I watched Ray Hunt teach and now Buster McLaury, I see where there will be a moment where both would say, “Now set it up and wait”.
Most people will wait for a moment, but right before the horse has got it sorted out and would have tried something, like, move a foot, or give, or whatever they can think of to get it sorted out in their mind, the person working with the horse would lose their patience or think too much time has passed and they would push for something.
Right then the horse would get confused and things would go badly very quickly.
In dressage, you will often see people riding around and around for half an hour without a break.
I often see where the horse gave the best he could and the rider should have given a break right then, but instead, they continue on for another 10 minutes and it starts going downhill from there. The rider continues to push on and the horse will try and give himself a break, or will be a sweating, puffing mess and I will hear the rider say, “well we had a few good ones in the middle there…..”.
Ed gave a break after every thing he asked of a horse.
He wanted you to take 100 breaks, but what people soon came to realize, the breaks would keep the horses interested, and soon they wanted to do something you asked of them because they understood the question much more clearly and much quicker I may add. On top of that, they would work their bodies more effectively because they had a quick recovery moment mentally AND physically.
My challenge to you is to take more breaks.
PAUSE, in life and when working with your horses. Instead of pushing through and asking harder or faster, just….. wait….
Share what you find in the comments below! I am very interested to hear what happens for you!