I have a new challenge and a new partner. A six year old gelding who is not very happy. I use the word ‘challenge’ deliberately, not because I am thinking of going into battle but because it focuses my mind on what I need to do in a positive way. ‘Challenge’ is an effective word in the same way that ‘problem’ is not effective. Obviously it is so much more positive and motivating to say ‘I have a challenge’ than to say ‘I have a problem’, which only brings the focus on what is wrong and is deeply depressing! To be effective we need to focus primarily on what we need to do rather than on what is wrong…or indeed what has just gone wrong.




For example it is common to see a rider look back at a fence their horse has just hit, when of course they should instead be thinking about their approach to the next fence. To look back is a double negative because it also distracts and slows the decision making process of the brain. Because of this errors of course in both show jumping and dressage are more common after a fence or movement has gone wrong.


So in the short term thinking ahead positively is vital. Equally in the long term it is also vital to think ahead and be positive about our possibilities. Not everyone wants to be an Olympic rider but few would turn down the option of doing things better and easier if it was available. Especially for horse riders this option is available with good coaching and certainly we all have the sparks of possibility.




Because I know from my experience that huge change is possible, and despite the fact that my new challenge is a horse, I also say to myself ‘ I have a new partner’, exactly as I do with my human
students. Now this is not psychobabble as the more we can help ourselves automatically act and respond in a good way the quicker and easier progress will be made. By thinking of partnership and making the best of the situation, instead of despair and distain and getting out of the situation, a much better outcome is possible.


So for better or worst I look at my new horse as a partner in our endeavors. Logic tells us that a positive, enthusiastic and respectful approach will be much more effective than negativity and bullying. Of course partnership is easy to work at if the horse is willing and talented just as it is easy if a human is willing and talented. In these circumstances it is easy to work towards partnership and everyone is happy. However the real test of a trainers is their ability to respond positively to those who are less willing and less able.




We all probably think we act the same to students at both ends of the spectrum but we need to look in the mirror to check whether or not this is the case. My new equine partner is relatively unwilling and not coming through the back. Three days of lungeing have already made a huge difference and the trot is good….next week I think the canter will come and then he will have some active hacks to improve his attitude and fitness. Then he may be ready to jump and I think he is going to make a great horse and a great partner. Onwards! William



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Comment by Jackie Cochran on May 14, 2010 at 11:36am
It is so good to have you back, William.
Let me add one caveat to your excellent blog (and I know you are doing this.) Horses are much more willing to be partners if the rider makes sure that the horse is as comfortable in his tack as possible. The horses I ride are much more willing to act as my partner when I address all their discomforts. It is just part of respecting your partner.
My instructors sometimes think I am crazy spending all this money on comfortable tack for a horse I will never own, but both my instructors really appreciate the difference in their horses when their horses start actively cooperating with me and moving with more fluidity. Yes, part of the difference is that I know how to ride and how not to irritate the horse, but in a few lessons, fixing a point of discomfort each time, the horse starts relaxing and moving as his conformation allows.
As for looking back, that was a BIG no-no when I started trying to jump. Just think, the horse just hit his leg (and that can hurt), his rider looses responsive contact and may even yank the horse's mouth, and does not help the horse recover. By the end of the course the horse does NOT feel like his rider is a partner, and probably gives a sigh of relief when their rider finally gets off and the horse can go to his stall and nurse his bruises.
Good luck with your new partner. I have no doubt that you will prove to him that you are worthy of being his partner.
Comment by William Micklem on May 14, 2010 at 6:11am
Good man Geoffrey...thank you for your support...William
Comment by Geoffrey Pannell on May 14, 2010 at 5:04am
Good to have you back William. Some very good things in this blog, we really do have to work hard sometimes on ourselves and our pupils to think and act positive. Just by doing this we can make big improvements in the partnership with our equine challenges as the horse dosent live in the past , just the moment. Cheers Geoffrey

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