It's painful to watch now. One of the first exercises in the training curriculum I follow is "Hooking On." After unsuccessfully lunging my mare, I was so excited to see some forward motion out of her, that I thought I really had something awesome going on. My only trouble was, I couldn't get her to "hook on" on her right side. With the trouble I was having, I purchased a virtual lesson from Warwick Schiller and anxiously awaited his praise on all the things I had going great, and his tips for getting my mare to "hook on" on both sides.
I was disappointed in myself to find out that I did not have much good going on in my 10 minute video I submitted. Apparently, I didn't even understand what was happening in the process. In my naivety I thought it was called "Hooking On" because your horse was learning to "hook on" and follow you around the round pen. This is not the end goal. That is a nice side effect.
Re-watching the video I can see it all clearly now. I provide my cues too quickly. I am not prepared to follow through if my horse does not respond to my "ask." She comes into my space, I step backwards. She pins her ears... pretty much the ENTIRE time. She looks towards the outside while mentally blocking me out. My body position is often side on to her. I don't back up my "ask" with the lunge whip even once during the video, although there are countless times when following through with the lunge whip would have been necessary. She is pushy and in my space. The list goes on and on...
As painful as it was to hear the feedback in my virtual lesson, it was a necessary piece for me to fully understand what I was getting myself into. The feedback Warwick was providing gave me a clear indicator that if I were going to do this on my own, and do it successfully, I was going to need to step out of my comfort zone. Step out of my comfort zone and step towards my horse. Step towards this 1,000 lbs. livestock animal who was pinning her ears at me. If you've never done it, trust me, it's out of your comfort zone.
Before working with my horse again, I practiced these 3 steps over and over in my house: 1) Ask, 2) Step Towards, 3) Follow Through. I practiced until it became rhythmic. Point and click, step forward, swing whip. Swing whip... was I going to have to whip my horse? *Step out of my comfort zone again.* I was going to swing the whip at the space my horse should have moved out of when I asked. If she moved out, "Phew! That was close, glad it didn't get you." If she didn't move out of that space when asked, "Pop!" ...and now we are both out of our comfort zone.
And so began a new journey with my mare. A journey where she learned to focus on me, paying attention to my body language and cues, respecting my space, respecting me, and learning how to learn. She was "hooking on."
I am a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA), who has taken my knowledge in Applied Behavior Analysis, and the methodology of expert horse trainers, to create an Equine training program that is anything but average. Working with my own horses has led me to discover my passion for not just training horses, but practicing quality horsemanship. For the best interest of the horses, I hope to spread this interest in quality horsemanship.