Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Point of Resistance

"It is always darkest before the dawn." --proverb

I'm working with two trainers now, one solely for the first rides and one for myself as I do the groundwork and first rides with Quincy.  My lesson yesterday was with the second, my main trainer, Regina.  I've trained with Regina previously, both on her horses and with Cowboy as I rehabilitated him after his P3 fracture.

Yesterday's lesson was half on the ground and half in the saddle, but both shared the same theme--finding resistance and getting past it.

Resistance can be tough to see.  Or, if we see it, we come to some sort of peace with it because you have to pick your battles and as long as your horse is doing pretty well, you figure, it's good enough.  If resistance goes ignored, it shifts from resistance to training--bad training, bad habits. 

Regina is hands off during our lessons, but instructs me from outside of the round pen.  She is a fountain of information that I only half retain once the lesson is done.  This is probably because I'm listening to her and my horse simultaneously.  However, no matter the exercise we're working on, she is always wanting me to let Quincy find the right answer. 

The thing with Quincy, and all horses, is that the wrong answers are sometimes a form of resistance. They want to give an answer that they're comfortable with and allows them the most freedom. You ask for something, like a bend in their neck, and they twist it down to the ground and say, how about this instead?  They're negotiating for the best deal--one that preferably leads them back to eating at the soonest possible moment.

When I first got in the saddle yesterday, Quincy was moving forward as I asked, but her head was all over the place--mostly down.  It was uncomfortable because in that position she couldn't move forward properly and I didn't have any control.  She could break into a trot or, if she wanted to, even buck me off.  My first impulse was to bring her head up through the reins and bit, but she was ignoring the reins and it was taking more and more force to get her head up, which was frustrating her while her frustration was scaring me.  

Resistance and frustration are very different.  Frustration comes after resistance when they're not finding the right answer and there is more a battle of wills between horse and rider with no clear path to success.  We have to create a clear path for them to see and choose.  Knowing how to create the path is why I have a trainer.

Regina had me move up on my reins until I could feel the bit make contact--no pulling back--and then just hold it there as if I was holding an arm full of watermelons.  Quincy tried to go down, but the way was blocked.  Quincy tried to go sideways, but the way was blocked.  Quincy started backing up, but the contact remained.

I could hear Regina saying to me--hold it, hold it, hold it, hold it.  

And, finally, RELEASE!

We apply pressure through aids, leg contact and our physical presence to interact with the horse. Any time there is pressure involved, there will naturally be some "resistance." The idea behind Least Resistance is for the handler to pay attention, "read" the horse, apply only as much pressure as is needed to get results, and release that pressure the instant the horse tries to respond.  Wild Horse Mentors

It seemed like a long time before the release came.  It was the point at which I was about to give up. When I was saying to myself, "Why am I here again??" And then, Quincy's head came to a place of softness--and the release.  She had made the right choice, which happened to also be, the only choice.

Regina talked to me about it afterward and how resistance is our ally in training.  We often don't find or recognize our horse's areas of resistance and, when we do, we give up trying to work through them right before they find the answers.

Today I'm going on a trail ride with my other trainer, Rachel.  She's going to ride Quincy while I ride Cowboy and, as always, if I feel comfortable we can switch off.  She offered to do this for me so I could see what to expect on the trail with Quincy.  I was very happy to take her up on it.

12 comments:

  1. That resistance part of your post was very interesting -- things I think we know intuitively but which are helped so much by having a trainer to work with. I know the feeling of thinking the release will never come. You are making great progress. Enjoy your trail ride today.

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    1. The trainer is a great help and good set of eyes from the ground. I'll let you know how the trail ride goes. Hopefully, I can get some pictures.

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  2. **Rah Rah
    Sis Boom Bah
    Yaaaaaaayyy Team!**
    (me Cheerleading for the both of you)

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  3. great post. Carmen can get a bit 'dramatic' searching for the right answer but we get there most of the time. It sounds like a great lesson

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    1. Sounds like you have the same philosophy--helping her find the right answer. I think I would have given into the drama if Regina hadn't been behind me saying "hold it." What a great feeling when they get it though. :)

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  4. It sounds like Quncy finally figured it out and became soft. Maybe she will remember how it felt to take the path of least resistance because being soft felt better. A good lesson all in all. Have a great trail ride!

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    1. Yes, she did become softer for the rest of the lesson once she found that spot. They have good memory. The rest of the lesson was glorious figure 8s with she and I really connecting and moving together. But I wouldn't have got that without Regina coaching me from the sidelines.

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  5. I like what Ray Hunt said: "Set it up and let him feel it". The timing of the release is what turns on the light bulb for the horse. Fun, isn't it!

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    1. Shirley, yes it is so much fun. I could get addicted to this. That's a great saying and so true. If I hadn't decided to work with a trainer, I'm not sure what light bulbs would have been coming on for her, but with Regina's help, the right ones are plugged in and what an immediate difference it makes in softness and willing partnership. I feel like every pleasure endorphin in my body kicks into gear when we get to that point. A "Rider's High".

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  6. This post resonated deeply with me and one of the issues I've faced with Eagle. That uncomfortably low head-set of his. He doesn't do it outside the ring, which tells me it is a form of resistance for him. He doesn't want to be working in the ring. I think your response was a very good one, and fits into my philosophy very well. But like you, without "eyes on the ground" helping me through it, I'd likely have gotten frustrated or scared (or both) and given up before my horses figured out the proper response too. I so need to find someone to do lessons with! You're doing so well, and encouraging me to get busy too!! So happy for you!! And I totally agree about this stuff becoming addictive - I just LOVE it!!!

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    1. I can't overstate the tremendous help and support my trainers have been for me. I was stuck doing nothing with Quincy for two years because I didn't feel comfortable doing the training by myself. I so wish I'd gone to the trainers back then and not wasted two whole years wondering what to do. Green horses can be very scary to ride--especially when they use resistance and we can't find the right path to help them to the answer. The point of frustration is a potential train wreck. I feel so safe with Regina there coaching me. I'm still in the saddle, but that extra set of eyes--the wisdom, especially--is keeping me safe.

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Please feel welcome to join our discussion--tell us about your own thoughts and experiences.