Recalculating – what a Garmin can teach you about horse training

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I’m one of these types that embrace technology kicking and screaming. When I was in college, we had a rudimentary computer lab, but I preferred to drive ten miles to have my term papers typed (I was fast on a keyboard but way too inaccurate to create anything that wasn’t more White Out® than ink). What a gem I found in this gal willing to pound away on short notice while I waited for the lofty price of $15 (even then, I was making more on an hourly basis in my part-time job than she was – delegation is a wonderful thing to learn to do effectively). I still own a Smith Corona® which might even get dragged out one of these days to keep writing when the power is out. Of course, if I were up to speed on eBay, I could probably sell it for a fortune as memorabilia. I digress.

Women's Horse Industry Network Conference in TN
DeeAnn Dominy was an unexpected treat

Anyway, I decided to invest in a Garmin recently as I considered the best way to navigate to Tennessee for the Women’s Horse Industry Network Conference. All the area AAAs have shuttered their doors assuming everyone was getting their information online, so a Trip Tik® created with an actual live advisor was out. The last time I used MapQuest I was winding through back roads in Deliverance West Virginia that had me turning left or right every thirty seconds on roads that didn’t exist. Google Maps couldn’t find my destination.

I decided it was time to invest in a tool that would give Big Brother access (imagine my disabled OnStar® already does) and offer me directions I could easily understand in the dark.

This is GREAT (hearing Kent Dorfman in Animal House)!  It was amazing having this tool on the ready through five states during a fourteen hour trip beginning about an hour before sunset. Of course, it would have started an hour earlier if the darn thing included any directions in the package on how to use it. At the conference, Randi Thompson informed me everyone goes online to get product instructions. Funny, there was nothing in the product packaging that provided this educational note. Guess I’m way behind the times.

Elizabeth Shatner kept us all charged

Redirects can give you – and your horse – confidence

On the way back, I hit several unanticipated detours (and a bridge out on a major highway in KY). The signage was so horrible (make a left-hand exit on 70 mph roads with 20 yards notice) I continued to miss the Highway Department’s suggested route. That’s when I started appreciating the ‘recalculating’ mantra.

Being so calm through this challenge that would have ordinarily had me ready to scream caused me to reflect on how applicable this device approach is to horse training.

Technology and horse psychology compute

One of things that occurred to me as I continued to make wrong decisions on the road was the way the Garmin paused, stated “recalculating” and then offered a completely different path toward the desired destination. This is a lot like good horse training.

How much time do you spend pausing to consider an alternative path when things aren’t working with your horse? Even with this globally-connected satellite-driven tool it took at least five seconds to resolve confusion over a misdirected path. Funny, it never suggested a U-turn (even when I was headed in the wrong direction on exits – necessary coffee and associated bladder issues made these more numerous as the trip hit morning hours). I’ve seen trainers (or amateurs, or novice riders or instructors) take a whole lot less time to punish a horse over a misunderstanding. Most of the time, the process was to go back to a prior demand offered in the same way it was misconstrued.

In this case, technology does offer a better way to approach hands-on equine training challenges. Imagine how much more effective the outcome could be if those expecting a response from their horse made a request and considered a different path for understanding before they blamed the horse for misbehaving.

One thing I have found since relying on the Garmin, is I pay less attention to my direction. That’s a good cautionary note for horse interactions too – if you let someone else write your playbook, you risk missing what your horse is trying to tell you.

The next time your horse doesn’t do what want – or what your trainer demands, consider taking a moment to recalculate the directions you are giving. You might be surprised at how quickly and easily he responds to your wishes if you take a slightly different path to communication.

Please share your ‘recalculating’ stories in the comments below. If you’re challenged reaching a horse that’s not hearing you, consider how the book “Turning Challenging Horses Into Willing Partners” might help you both in your journey.

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