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  • Writer's pictureHelms Hill Farms

I Failed My Horse Today

I failed my horse yesterday. I started off already upset at things that had nothing to do with her. I was in a huff and trying to rush to beat daylight. And at first, it was okay. She cooperated, albeit very cautiously, and was trying to trust that I knew what I was doing.

But the minute she spooked, I reacted as if the world had imploded on itself. I was immediately frustrated and conveyed that to her. My heartrate went up, my breathing was faster, and my hands weren’t nearly as soft as usual, and my sweet, sensitive baby mustang told me I was doing it wrong. And I ignored her signals and told her to get over herself. And it all went downhill from there. Nothing I was doing came across to her correctly because I was doing it in anger and frustration. She couldn’t properly interpret my signals because I was a mess, and that wasn’t her fault, that was mine. And I had to walk away. I couldn’t work with her and keep my emotions in check all at once. It had been a long day, I wasn’t feeling 100%, and I was asking things of her that she had never done before. So I walked away.

I’ll admit, I cried a bit. I convey myself as a very strong person with the general public and with clients, but in reality, we’re all fighting our own battles. Sometimes I ask too much of my horses before they’re ready and it’s easy to get frustrated when they don’t immediately pick it up. Sometimes I ask too much of myself when I’m not in a position to give everything my best that day.

I took about 10 minutes to collect myself, to breathe, to get my heartrate back down, and to remind myself that this was a very young mustang that still had a lot to learn and I needed to teach her properly. And I went back and tried again. Of course this wasn’t some magic fix-it-all and everything just immediately fell into place, but my head was a little clearer and I was reading her signals a little better. We went back to all the times I’ve worked with her (and work is a loose term, more so playing) and I tried the same signal methods I usually do at liberty. There was zero pressure for her to move off of, just simple willingness to please. I took it slower, not trying to rush her like I had before. And it was like it clicked for her, like “oh the dumb human finally knows what she’s asking of me now”.

So yes, I failed my horse yesterday. I didn’t listen to what she tried to tell me. I tried to force her to do something before I had actually taught her what I was asking. I didn’t reassure her when she got nervous, I just pushed harder. And I failed her.

But today is a new day, and I know better now. That’s not to say I won’t continue to fail my own horses over the years to come, that’s not to say I won’t continue to fail myself. But it does mean I am more cognizant of my own shortcomings as a trainer, and I’ve got this little mustang to remind me of that every day.

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