Saturday, February 28, 2009

the character of horses and humans

Last weekend I got to go to a horse training clinic presented by Clinton Anderson, an Australian trainer who has gained quite a following here in the US. So far in my blog I've talked about most of my major passions in life: my faith, my writing, my family... but I haven't mentioned yet my fascination with horses.

I have been riding horses since I was 10 years old, have owned a horse since I was 22, took a semster long course on horses when I was at Cornell, read the Horse Whisperer when it first came out and Monty Roberts' books (and many, many other horse books, pretty much every one, fiction or non fiction, I could get my hands on...) and yet surprisingly I have only started to really understand them in the past year.

Thanks to Clinton Anderson's training DVDs, and now this clinic, I'm starting to see some "magic" working with my own horses. He teaches all the same techniques I've heard of before; there are many trainers who are able to understand the actions of a horse, but this guy has the unique gift of being to break down, step-by-step, exactly how we humans can interact with a horse to get the horse to UNDERSTAND US.

The clinic started with Clinton working with his own horse in the arena. Without any halter, without touching the horse, he was able to get her to do all sorts of amazing things - side-passing and pirouetting, bowing, even laying down (the performance I saw was even more polished than this older on YouTube).

It was beautiful to see how the horse completely trusted him and seemed to truly enjoy peforming for him. Then he spent 12 hours, over two days, working with green or spoiled horses showing us the steps to take to develop this type of relationship and response.

So, what is the key to this amazing working relationship with a horse? Basically, if a horse respects you and trusts you, he'll do anything for you.

So very very simple, and yet so very, very hard, because isn't that the bottom line in relationships with humans, too? Respect and trust. The basis of a strong marriage, a strong family, as well as a friendship - if the friendship is more than just the casual one. It's also the basis of the ONLY kind of real relationship you can have with God (sorry, all of my blogs come back to either one of two things: writing, or faith).

How do you gain respect and trust? With horses, you don't let them trample all over you. You make them pay attention to you and respond to your cues. The trust comes when they do respond to you correctly, you immediately reward them by "taking the pressure off" and letting them relax.

If only it worked the same way in human relationships! I've learned with my husband that I don't earn his respect by bossing him around and applying pressure! Actually, I earn his repsect by letting him go his own way. The more freedom I give him, the more he is drawn back to me. And that seems to build trust, too, both ways.

But hey, I'm no expert. Too bad they don't have husband training clincis like they do for horses.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Margo,
    I didn't realize Clinton Anderson had gotten so popular. I guess i've been gone too long. About 5 years ago i worked for Wahl Clipper, they're a big sponsor of his. I was in charge of their mustang that Clinton trained, Nevada Joe. Anyway, Clinton lived and worked at the horse farm that Wahl owned. So i got to see all of the horses he was training. It was pretty amazing. He is really gifted, i have to say he's not really the nicest guy though. I helped take care of his horse Mindy who was in the video. She was sooo sweet.