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I believe preschool teachers and colt starters should be among the highest trained and paid professionals in the world.
I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that the future, not just the future of the horses and children they teach, but the future of the entire planet depends on quality early education.
The human brain is thought to be most malleable between ages two and five. It’s not that you can’t teach an old dog (or horse or human) new tricks, but life is going to be a lot easier, safer and more successful and productive for everyone when youngsters of any species have positive learning experiences from the get go.
In the video below, I’ve gone through the critical foundational elements I believe are necessary to set a barrel horse up for outrageous and lasting success in life as a high end performance horse, and beyond.
Because really, what they need in addition to discipline specific training is mental and emotional development, maturity and general life skills.
Whether you’re working with youngsters or have an old campaigner, there are endless benefits to be gained through not only further refining your ability to influence a horse’s body effectively, but most importantly, their minds.
How well your horse can adapt to the stress of life on the road – whether he can stay calm and relaxed as you get that high degree of physical responsiveness in intense environments no less, ultimately determines the outcome of our performance – it’s ALL connected.
Take for example, that when I ride next to our neighbors pasture, I’m careful not to disturb their cattle. This is because having been raised in a farming and ranching environment taught me that stress impacts health and well-being which ultimately impacts production and performance.
As barrel racers, I believe it’s important to concern ourselves with providing horses young and old with everything they need to be happy, productive members of equine society.
I think it’s our responsibility when we set out to accomplish OUR goals, to make it as stress-free for them as possible. A thorough foundation goes well beyond the ability to effectively order body parts around.
Not only will you and your horses be more likely to be safe, have fun, always able to quickly address problems (with a much less likelihood of them to begin with), AND increase your odds for winning – but through honing your horsemanship skills, your horse’s general quality of life will be impacted for the better.
He’ll experience less stress and therefore a higher level of well-being. A ‘foundation,’ in my mind, goes so far beyond teaching a horse to be obedient – that’s only a small portion.
To me, a truly solid foundation encompasses the bigger picture, one with equally important components that all effect each other. A ‘foundation’ is more than what we do TO our horses, but is really all about HOW we communicate WITH them as well as how we empower them to accept and relate to the world we bring them into.
If you LOVE horses like I do, there’s more to all this than just winning barrel races.
My hope that when you really sink into today’s video and begin to apply what I’ve shared, that every aspect of your (and your horse’s) life – in and out of the arena, will be positively affected!
Keep in mind that any problem you have on the pattern can be traced back to these areas. A problem on the pattern is never really a problem ONLY on the pattern (IF you look close enough).
As a recipe for problem-solving, consider these areas:
There are primary modes/systems of communication we use that can be broken. For example, is the horse…
- Calm and thinking OR afraid of you, your tools, or unconfident in a certain environment, or when learning, in general?
- How excellent are the horse’s responses to steady and driving (rhythmic) pressure? This may be as we communicate through the reins, lead rope, legs or seat… to their mouth, zones of their mid-section, or in/on ANY area of their body.
- Can they yield/respond at any gait/speed and can they do so in combination/isolation?
Do things fall apart at speed or distance? At what point does the brace, resistance or disconnect occur?
- How is the lateral (neck) flexion, vertical (poll) flexion, latitudinal flexion (bend nose to tail) and longitudinal (‘bend’ tail to poll over the topline) – at advanced stages I expect my horse to maintain shape
- What about quality – how quick, light, accurate and responsive is your horse (even at speed)? Is there any physical tension, what does their expression tell you (their mental state IS part of the foundation we develop)?
- Does the horse REALLY know that it’s their responsibility to act like a partner and maintain gait and direction (then eventually shape), until we ask otherwise?
With all that said, how do you think any problem you have, or have had on the pattern (or elsewhere) connects back to these areas?
Let’s hear your questions, comments and any barrel pattern challenges, insights or experiences in the comments below!
For even more resources on this month’s Foundation topic, check out: