Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Discipline and impatience

I've had discipline on my mind a lot lately. Last week, my trainer wanted me to get Panama in trouble for spooking at something, whereas my approach has been not to get mad at him, but to tell him "Quit" or "No" in a calm voice, circle back, and ride him right by the same spot where he goosed. Maybe my approach doesn't get the fastest results, but I believe it works, and I think Panama has been quicker to calm down in the indoor arena since I started taking this approach.

Then today, we had a repeat of this incident. Panama wasn't focusing, my trainer got impatient and frustrated, and everything got worse from there. Interestingly, when I left the arena midway through the session to talk to another boarder, Panama completely lost whatever focus he'd had, and my trainer had to give up on the arena entirely. She took him back to the obstacle course behind the arena to give him something else to think about until I came back.

When I returned, she asked if I wanted to get on. "I need to get off," she said. "Sure," I said.

As I was getting ready to mount, I said, "I've been really agonizing over how to say this, but... I think that Panama responds really poorly to impatience."

To my surprise, my trainer agreed, and said she knew he and she had probably been feeding off of one another's frustration. I mentioned that I've been trying to respond to things without getting mad at him, and said that he'd calmed down pretty quickly yesterday when I rode him, even after the excitement of his first experience with a hair dryer.

She had to leave, but asked me to do some walking and trotting so that the ride would end on a more positive note. He was still pretty revved up, and was further distracted by a new horse that was trailered in as we worked, but he did calm down enough to give me what I wanted: a consistent pace at the trot in both directions before we quit for the day.

It has occurred to me that my trainer and I have different expectations of Panama. I don't mind if he spooks occasionally, but I do expect him to recover from it pretty quickly, if not immediately — which he generally does. I also don't mind if he is nervous or distracted at the beginning of a ride — I expect him to listen to my voice (I talk to him a lot) and settle into our ride, and he always does, although it varies a bit how long that takes.

My trainer, on the other hand, seems to expect him not to have any of those problems to begin with. I'm not sure how realistic that is, especially at only four and a half years old, but I'm hopeful that she'll keep her impatience more in check now that I've mentioned it.



At March 3, 2010 at 7:28 AM, Blogger lopinon4 said...

You know, it seems to me that you have that strong voice in your gut that sometimes conflicts with what your trainer tells you...and it's a good thing. :) You know Panama better than anyone else, and it's okay for you to know how he ticks better than your trainer does. I'm sure she finds your insight very valuable as she attempts to help you with him, and it sounds like she's pretty good at receiving the information/opinions that you offer. I hope you continue to have an open relationship with her, and that Panama's education continues to progress! Nice job!

At March 3, 2010 at 6:05 PM, Blogger Katharine Swan said...

Thanks for the encouragement! It felt good to get that off my chest. I may not be a trainer, but I do know my horse's personality and temperament well enough to know getting impatient with him only makes things worse!


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