Recently I was forced to have a five month break from working with my horse Bronson as, due to the flare up of an old repetitive strain injury, I was unable to use my arms. I couldn’t even drive never mind anything else! Thankfully Pip offers training livery so, rather than Bronson becoming a field ornament and losing all his fitness, Pip brought him even further along in his training. Happy days! Not only did he go from being dangerously nappy to being happy to hack out alone, he went from being a nervous wreck to being this very proud horse! I was flabbergasted. When I asked Pip how she had achieved this she simply said “By believing in him”.
A while later I was at the yard and had tacked Bronson up when I realised I needed to pop to the loo, so I asked him to stand and wait. Pip and Imogen were sat about twenty feet away having a cuppa….Anyway, upon my return I started chatting to Pip and Imogen and Pip said “He’s resting a leg. He stood perfectly the entire time you were in the loo but you didn’t notice and he’s had to rest a leg to get your attention, rather like a naughty child”. We don’t allow the horses to rest their legs when we are with them at Pippsway because it means they are not mentally relaxed and are ready to take flight at any moment when they rest a leg (the polar opposite of what I had always thought it meant before I came to Pippsway!). I felt really bad. Bronson had been so good and I had neither noticed nor told him he was a good boy. Not a happy moment!
The next time I came to the yard I made a point of thinking about Bronson standing so still and waiting perfectly for me to return, I summoned a feeling of pride in him and I brought this feeling and image into my mind as I went to the field to bring him in. The result? Well I had rather a different horse! I’ve been making a point ever since of noticing every single thing he does well and telling him what a good boy he is and as a result I’m getting more and more good behaviour and compliance and a much happier horse!
Noticing all the good things he does has been transformative to our relationship. He is thriving on me being so proud of him and telling him what a good job he is doing and as we finish each day and I bring him back to the field I make sure that, before I take his headcollar off, I thank him for all his hard work, tell him how wonderful he is and let him know how proud I am of him. He is so much more willing to do as I ask as a result and our relationship is going from strength to strength!