Training is about teaching, not about proving your point. Sometimes we make the mistake of trying so hard to accomplish some specific objective that we lose sight of the end result.
This past weekend is a prime example. We were riding some young horses that have coming along really well. Both neck rein, stop, and really handle nicely. As we rode up to a piece of concrete in a ditch, the first horse didn’t want to walk across the concrete. We circled several times without him actually walking on it.
Not successful, the other horse was ridden up to the concrete. Of course he had already seen the terrible and scary concrete so he refused to walk across it too. Finally, he decided to step onto the concrete and stood while the first horse got used to the idea. Not long after both were standing on the concrete with their front feet.
With the success, it was time to ride back 20 feet and try riding the length of the concrete. No way, he still wasn’t going to cross. Could the horse have been forced across? Absolutely! Did we? No.
Significant progress had already been accomplished. The horse goes almost everywhere calmly and without issues. He responded to what we wanted, but not to the point we wanted. There is plenty of time later in the week to explore the ” terrible place ” and try again. This time he may just walk across without a second look. Having forced the issue might have made a mountain out of a mole hill.
With training, sometimes you take the small success and build from them. It wasn’t a horse who stubbornly refused to perform, an entirely different scenario. In that situation, you want to make him to it. In this case, he just wasn’t sure about the situation. Not scared, not running away, just uncertain. A little time and patience will build more confidence and do so in a way that the horse doesn’t become hard to handle.
In short, when training, don’t win the battle and lose the war. You may make the horse do what you want, but at the cost of developing future problems. When training, learn to accept the small successes and build from there. And especially if you have horse that is trying to learn and not acting up.