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.

11 Responses

  1. I love your blogs. This one is especially good. Recalculating and redirecting. I’ve emailed before about my six year old alpha QH/Cleveland Bay cross Toby. We’ve made great progress on almost all fronts, with a relatively dangerous issue remaining, spook and run. This guy is brave as can be about obstacles of all kinds. In an obstacle course clinic last year he was a star, afraid of nothing. I took him on a five day trail ride to Cook Forest in PA last year, where he exhibited “bomb proof” behavior on four hour rides through very trappy trails, down mud slick hills into knee deep running water, up the other side without jumping, slipping or spooking, but let some small (unknown) something off to the side or in his “rear view mirror” surprise him, and he’s a turn and run kind of guy, so fast that it’s hard to react with a one rein stop in time to “catch” him before he’s out of the starting gate. So after an episode yesterday, where I congratulated myself at the end of a mad (complete with bucking) 35 yard dash, that I managed to hang on and stop with one rein, I’ve been thinking today about how I will work on this latest challenge. Then comes an email with your blog and this great metaphore to reinforce my thoughts about changing up the program for this talented but challenging boy. Thanks again. I’m going to order your book before signing off.

  2. Suzanne, thanks so much for your kind words and story. Toby sounds like an interesting horse. It’s unusual for dominant horses to be so spooky (this is often due to a lack of confidence) but I’ve found some that either have vision problems or heightened hearing that can be over-reactive to sights and sounds. Six is still quite young, so he may relax with more mileage, but you might consider getting his eyes checked.

    Regardless, most horses will give you a warning (might be very slight, but feel for tension, watch for a slight raise of the head, ears forward, heed a change in cadence, etc.) if something concerns them. Often talking to them in a reassuring voice, rubbing the crest of the neck, getting a little busy with your leg and seat to bring their attention back to you and keep them moving forward, offering a longer rein so they can investigate, letting them stop to process what they see/hear (often with wheelers it’s best to keep them moving but some just need to look) or relaxing them in another manner that eases their angst (you can experiment a little with what works for Toby) can discourage a bolt.

    I really appreciate the book purchase. Good luck with Toby!

  3. Hi Nanette, It is always a pleasure to read your blog and it was a real pleasure to read your book a second time. I really enjoy reading this article cause I never taught about it that way. Recently, I gelded my 19 months old yearling. At that age my horse are just starting to learn how to longe. Everything was going fine for a week. We were longing him once a day and it was swelling that much. But after 10 days, he was in infection on one side. I didnt longe him the day before cause of the weather. So the next day when I went to longe him, poor him, he was trying but on 3 legs. We took care of that, put him on penicillin etc. The day after he was already him better shape but I had in mind that I was going to longe him 3 times a day to put all the chances on my side. It didnt take him long to get really bored and you could see that he wanted to do something else. I had to stop and think on what to do and still make him move. So I invented some excercise that I would normally do with more experienced horse.
    Instead of make him go in circle, I started walking around the paddock and still make him go around me and after a while I taught him to walk and trot in a straight line with me on his side. I had all his attention hahaha Then I would step behind him and make him hind leg cross under him…Was so suprise when I saw that he could do it even with everything swollen under neath him. We done that on both side. So we finish with a good training and my colt was still interested in working…I really had to improvise something with him so I could keep him moving. Instead of forcing him to go around me, since he is just in a learning step, I had to stop and recalculate hahaha
    You are right !! Even high technology have to take time to recalculate :o) Thanks again Nanette !

  4. Sandra, so glad to hear you are enjoying the book. Yes, it’s very important to keep things fun with the young ones – actually any horse. Good for you for coming up with new ideas to keep life interesting for him. That’s smart recalculating :-). Thanks for sharing your story.

  5. this is a great message. One of my themes when working with horses, dogs, or anything else I want to “Train,” is to remember each thing is an individual. There’s no such thing as “My Program” that works for every animal. There are many times that backing up and going in a different direction is a great thing.

    1. Yes, they’re all different, aren’t they? It would certainly be a better world for the horse if more people figured out they can build a better relationship and more confident horse when time is taken to get with the horse’s program.

  6. I enjoyed reading this post. Nanette this concept can be applied to so many things. I needed a reminder of that this year with my seventh hour math class full of Freshman. I had to back up and try something else with them. We sometimes get tunnel vision and don’t look at things from the student’s, whether that be a person or an animal, point of view. You have given me something to reflect on.

    1. Thanks for stopping in, Candy, and for your great story. I think we’re all guilty of forgetting our perspectives aren’t always shared by others at times. I did have to chuckle that a piece of technology illustrates stopping, thinking and changing course once more information is gathered.

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