Completing the Task

For most of us we just want to get something done, completing the task is usually more important that how the task is completed.  When it comes to task completion, as a goal over development good horsemanship, the result can degenerate quickly into a battle of wills between the rider and the horse.  The most obvious example being overuse of the aids.  There are tons of examples of rider frustration that might come to mind, from pulling and spurring to knocking and banging on one.

Let’s think about backing a horse up for instance, horses are naturally unaccustomed to backing up, when left alone in their own world (without people) it is unusual for one to back up more than one or two steps, and that’s in order to prepare for a turn.  Yet, that doesn’t stop a person from pulling on the reins to try to basically drag a horse backwards.

Eventually the horse may figure it out, and complete the task, but it must endure a lot of pain before it finally “submits to the bit” (a bad translation).  Taking the time to prepare the horse by using a step-by-step approach is better for both horse and rider, but it takes time.  Leaning backwards and pulling as hard you can, may get the task completed, but how about the horse?

With horses that aren’t compliant, the results could become dangerous; many a frustrated rider has added some spurring to “motivate” the horse to step back.  The horse being pulled and driven, from the spur, could end up lightening its front and either stumbling over backwards or rearing up and sometimes rolling back onto the rider.

Another area of task completion, at any cost, is returning escapees back to their pastures.  Some horses can be difficult to catch, these are often, but not always, horses that are rarely handled or not handled very well.  For them eating grass, out in the big field seems like a much better deal than getting caught.

The work around for people who are inexperienced with catching young or feral ones, is to herd them, or chase them, back into their pasture.  But this, human reaction, can also have unintended consequences, like horses trying to jump gates to escape the person chasing it.  The horse may get caught up on the gate and could be injured or worse, all the while the human is blaming the “stupid horse”.

It will take longer, but a much better approach is to teach the horse to be prepared to get caught.  When a horse is mentally prepared to be caught it is not a challenging process to halter it and return it where it is supposed to be.  However, getting a horse prepared to be caught takes more than a few minutes and most humans are on the clock, both in terms of task completion and their willingness to learn.

The problem in either case is a lack of preparation, usually because the human lacks experience or understanding of horses or their behaviour.  What the end of the day, wouldn’t it be better to figure out how to motivate the horse to complete the task rather than too imply try to force it?