Keep the "conversation" going
Posted by Irina Yastrebova on Thursday, March 10, 2016 10:34 AM
Spring is around the corner and horses during this time of the year become a bit "crazy" - full of extra energy, spookier, more opinionated, etc. This puts many riders in a difficult situations dealing with this abundance of energy. Observing my students deal with it gave me an interesting insight into this situation.
It is well known when a rider is anticipating a spook this can create a precedent for it. One of the popular answers why this happens is because a horse can feel a
state of anxiety in his rider and start to feel nervous himself. Hence, becomes more spooky. But I think there is another reason for it. A rider gets so preoccupied with fear that he/she forgets
to give the horse instructions on what to do. I call it blanking out. A rider abandons his/her horse and this by itself is very scary to a horse. Being left to his own devices in a difficult situation most likely will lead to a spook, run away or panic. This blanking out moment can be very short, a second or so. An alert, quick thinking horse will immediately take action because nobody else does. Even during a spook a rider still can help his/her horse by providing him with guidance like turning during run away, or using your inside leg when a horse is shying from a spooky corner. Even if it felt unproductive a rider still was present in the critical moment and kept the "conversation" going.
When a rider is in a state of blanking out he/she doesn't act with logic and purpose. If something bad does happen the rider's actions are random and a lot of time counter productive. I personally witnessed a few - complete abandoning of contact during run away, still pulling on the reins when a horse is about to rear, the most common one is standing up in the stirrups and leaning forward during acceleration from a spook. Because I was there and I could talk the riders through the correct actions nothing bad happened. However, an instructor is not always present and riders must learn to have clear mind capable of quick thinking.
Keeping a conversation going is not only helpful to the horse. It is also very helpful to the rider. It redirects the focus from anticipating something bad to working toward something productive and positive. Staying busy with tasks like riding specific line at specific speed, keeping a correct flexion, asking for bend will keep the rider's brain very occupied and will leave very little room if any for negative thoughts like:" what if my horse spooks from that door?..."