A bad habit sneaks into the horse's skills
because we allow it. Either we allow it because we are lazy and
don't fix it immediately or we allow it unknowingly. Again, an
easy example of being lazy or unobservant is the bad habit of
the horse not standing when being mounted. How many different
examples do you recall of poor mounting habits executed by the
horse? You're right, PILOT ERROR.
KEEP IT SIMPLE
So, how do we go about correcting a bad habit? The first thing
is to analyze the poor habit. What is the nature of the habit?
Is it a single habit or is it a combination of several mini habits?
Usually it is a combination of poor habits that have merged into
one large problem. I begin by defining and refining it down to
the simplest mini skill and work on it consistently. Yes, that
means every time that it is done wrong, address it, don't overlook
it. It may not seem like much is being accomplished at first
so be ready to show your patience and observation skills. Don't
get frustrated because it will take time. The time it might take
to correct, or maintain, may take a month, a year or the rest
of the horse's life. Just make up your mind that you are going
to wait him out.
How do you know when to reward the horse and how do you do it?
It depends upon the skill . If you are working on softness or
suppling you reward the horse's try with a release. It may take
a long time but you have to wait on the horse. It may be just
a little dip of the head or face immediately followed by release
of contact. After he has done it a few times you can anticipate
the release. You can feel it coming. Now, beat him to the release,
that's when the lightness starts coming. By beating him to the
release, the length of the signal to be soft becomes shorter.
That is when your suggestion becomes more and more subtle, the
horse is becoming softer and more responsive. Then, come right
back exactly as before, wait and release for the try. Walk along
a few minutes on a slack rein and repeat, test just once or twice.
Once they start to get the release as a reward, they are ready
to continue learning. The effort to be as subtle as possible
can be achieved by coming in the back door. By this I mean through
the process of extreme subtleness. How soft can you be and how
quiet in the request can you be and still be heard by the horse?
Their sensitivity can be accentuated by your softness and it
will come back to you through their sensitivity. It's a circle
in which one begets the other. They are more sensitive than we
give them credit for, its just a matter of us being soft enough
and receptive enough to pick up on their response.
Don't get anxious and think they are solid because they aren't.
Just keep asking lightly and reward the try each time. Ask yourself,
"how soft can I be?" This helps to build their self
confidence and their trust in you because they know how to get
the reward every time. That's from your consistency.