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The lesson before the lesson...

barefoot horses cantering free Pippsway Wellington Somerset near Devon

I’ve said before that lessons at Pippsway start the minute I get out of the car and today was no exception. Pip and I went to get Amber from the field and, as she is still pure wild, we just ‘herd’ her from the field to the menage. I’ve worked with Amber quite a few times now so you would think I would have her figured out. As it happened, today was a lesson in being ‘in the moment’, using the right ‘volume’ in my communications and how, very often, what we are doing causes exactly that which we are trying to prevent!!! So all in all very educational….Who would have thought you could learn so much in the thirty feet between the field and the menage? Not me and that’s for sure. I should really know better by now!

Pip opened the field to the gate and called Amber who happily came over and started walking towards the menage. Going on past experience, my first mistake, I started to ‘block’ the area adjacent to the menage gate to discourage her from running up past it and towards the other field. Not only did I block her I had my arms out wide, which in Ambers world is the equivalent of shouting at the very top of your voice! The outcome of all this was that she not only didn’t go into the school, she ran away in the opposite direction and was not at all keen by this point in doing as we wished and so ran up past us to the other field. The very thing I had been trying to prevent. Worse really than any of that was I didn’t yet understand what had just happened.

Pip smiled ruefully at me and kindly explained. Amber had actually been following Pip’s instruction to walk into the menage…..right up until the point where I had ‘shouted’ with my body language. So not only was I blocking her needlessly, I was doing it in far too an exaggerated manner than ever would be required by Amber. I explained that I did it because in the past she has run up past the menage gate. Mistake number one. Instead of thinking about what Amber has done before I should have been responding to what she was actually doing in that moment. i.e leave her alone as she was doing exactly what she had been asked! Understanding my mistake, and now being in a position where we did indeed have to block Amber, I used just the very slightest movement with my hand. She responded immediately. No need of entire arms being used whatsoever!

Amber looked at Pip and seemed to say ‘Okay, you’ve told her off so I’ll go in now….’ she did exactly that and we enjoyed a wonderful lesson.

It is quite extraordinary how often we inadvertently do something, the horse responds and so we blame him and think he has done something wrong. Only that Pip is there to speak for the horse and explain my mistakes I would be none the wiser.

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