What Does Being Effective Mean?
Someone asked me that earlier this week after they read last week's entry. Now if this person had a question about what I mean by being effective then I know there are others needing some clarification on the topic.
I think of it like driving to work. For nearly thirty years I drove the same road five days a week to Bakersville. The drive kind of stopped being fun after about the second day. It soon became a mindless routine that really didn't require much thought. That's what just being busy with a horse is like. His body is going through the motions, but he really isn't feeling too good about it because his mind is not being challenged.
Being effective means the things we are doing with the horse causes his mind to become engaged. He starts to use his brain. When we are being effective the horse becomes interested in what's going on and what we are doing and what we have to offer.
When we are just being busy the horse is going through the motions doing what we are asking, but he looks like he grew up wormy and got weaned off on a pickle. His ears are pinned and he's mad at the world. He knows that what we are really trying to do is work the "fresh" out of him and hope that it makes our ride a success. Even when there is nothing attached to the horse this is still an attempt to control him.
When we are effective we direct the horse into balanced movements and then let him learn to just be. A good example is stepping the hindquarters over. It doesn't matter if you're on the ground with a lead rope or at liberty, or on his back with the reins or without them. Most of the time when doing this the horse leans over his inside shoulder, gets heavy on the forehand because he's bent too far, is taken out of balance, and disengages his hindquarters. He should be directed and supported into better balance and more straightness so he can stand up on the inside shoulder, stop that foot and pivot his hindquarters around on that inside leg therefore engaging and not disengaging the rear end.
When he gets it allow him to stop and gently hold him in that position/frame and just stay there for a few seconds. Release and pet him before asking him to do something else. Pretty soon the rider can learn that the release doesn't mean that all contact with the seat, legs, and reins are thrown away. They find there's a release right there waiting by simply softening the feel. Now the horse is thinking and is prepared to go do something else without losing that feel.
What we do is not as important as how our horse is responding to us. Are we making it interesting for the horse by helping him stay straight and balanced, or is he simply going through the routine, wanting to hurry up and do it so we will leave him alone? When we are effective he is following our lead and going with us so that real soon we can relinquish what we think is control and now go with him.