Wednesday, December 30, 2009

When distractions are a GOOD thing...

Today my trainer had a rather ingenious way of dealing with Panama's fear of the indoor arena. Instead of fighting his desire to speed up the entire time, she slowed him down by giving him something to think about: ground poles.

We've done ground poles outside, but never inside, and unsurprisingly he treated it like something entirely new. He stalled in front of them, tried to go around them, and when I (coached by my trainer) didn't allow him to do either, jumped over them. Eventually he got used to them and walked over like he was supposed to, so we moved up to the trot.

I also learned one important thing today. My trainer is always telling me to sit back, shoulders back, etc. Well, today, she said it a different way: "Lead with your hips." I did, and found myself relaxing back... and down. Suddenly it all made sense, what I've been doing wrong all this time! Duh! I was pretty pleased with myself — between my new discovery and my trainer's coaching, I was able to sit Panama's spooks much more easily than usual.

In any case, my trainer's idea worked really well — instead of trying to fight Panama's fear, throw a road block in his way and distract him! It made for a much better ride: Instead of having to constantly say "Don't do this," we put something in front of him and said, "Do that." And it worked like a charm!



At December 31, 2009 at 8:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Distractions and problems to solve are a great solution and help to hold the horse's attention - and yours too - it's hard to worry when your mind is busy!

At December 31, 2009 at 5:38 PM, Blogger Katharine Swan said...

Kate, it did help me too! It gave me something to focus on so that I wouldn't get bored, which I struggle with when we are having to do a lot of walking.

At December 31, 2009 at 10:31 PM, Blogger Nuzzling Muzzles said...

When I was a teacher I always tried to phrase what it was I wanted in the positive instead of focusing on "Don't do this and don't do that." I know all too well that most kids and people have too short of an attention span to listen to an entire sentence. I can say "Don't write your name on the paper," and all they will hear is "Write your name on the paper." Anyway, "lead with your hips" is a nice way to put it. I hope I can remember that phrase next time I ride. Poles are an ingenious diversionary tactic for a scared horse.

At January 1, 2010 at 1:58 PM, Blogger Katharine Swan said...

NM, when I taught preschool and after school programs, I tried to do the same. Positive directions just work so much better than negative directions -- I actually think they tend to stop listening at "Don't"! LOL

Panama was still a little scared of the ground poles, but it was a fear that we could work with, whereas a vague fear of being indoors is much harder to overcome. I think it helped in that respect, too -- working with the ground poles gave him an accomplishment that was tangible and within his reach, which also provides a way to build confidence in his abilities indoors!


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