Consistency: Doing Math in the Saddle.

claratackConsistency is a great aid but do you know how it actually works? There’s an analogy I heard decades ago that has stuck with me. It involves bank accounts. You’re right; never listen to me about money, but it’s not that kind of bank account.

Start by thinking that you and your horse each have a bank account of experience. For your horse it’s a reckoning of all of his experiences with humans–all the good times and all those times where he got scared and had no help. Confidence, fear, willingness to partner, and what caused pain and when rewards were given. The account is his possession. He’s the one who quantifies the contents.

Your account has all of your horsemanship experiences, including the times you were confident or fearful. It’s what you have learned from experts and how well you listen to your horse. You get extra points for patience. A tiny corner is reserved for your dreams. It’s your personal wealth as a potential partner for a horse.

It’s simple. In any situation, either of you can make deposits or withdrawals. An experienced rider can help a young horse with a deposit of patience and positive training. An old campaigner can enrich a novice rider by carrying them through a rough spot. Sometimes it’s referred to as the Twenty Year Rule; for the best results the sum of experience shared by the horse and rider should equal twenty years or so.

It makes perfect sense; all of us are the sum of our experience. But there was one problem. Back then, I had a very green and spooky young horse and I wasn’t as brave and crazy as when I was a kid. Bankrupt. Neither of us had much to draw on. We had good intentions but it was an against-the-odds start.

It’s a pretty common dilemma. Most rideable horses that end up in rescue have training problems, stemming from poor handling. Some riders manage to buy a well-trained horse, but without the right skills, the horse’s account is quickly depleted and he becomes resistant and sour. A rider’s good intentions can become spent on a confused horse, as well.

Seen this way, it’s a fair, impartial accounting of any situation, whether it’s a competition horse or a trail horse. Seeing a horse/rider problem as a math equation takes some of the emotion and blame out of it on both sides and that’s a great first step. Guilt and failure are negative deposits.

Start now. The past is data; you can’t change that, so let it be. Horses have strong memories and if that trait is working against you, your best hope is to layer good memories on top that will eventually out-number the bad. You have to get the numbers in his favor. If your confidence is shaky, or you need a few more training tools, then make that investment in getting good, professional help and watch your own numbers go up.

Here is where consistency comes in. Horses love a routine and it’s the sacred job of every rider to leave the horse in a better place at the end of the ride than the beginning. It’s our version of First Do No Harm.

Just like the stock market, horses are always moving in an overall tendency. They are getting better or worse. Long range investments have less drama and are more dependable, while others think taking their life savings to Vegas for the weekend is a smart bet. It’s a choice.

Start your ride start slowly with a warm-up that relaxes and supples him. Reward him for being alive. Get happy. Notice him liking what you’re saying; reward that. On this one day, the most you can do is have one ride. Lower your expectations of perfecting your world in an instant. Instead of getting greedy, be content to make one good deposit.

The truest thing that I know about horses is that it’s time and consistency that trains a horse. There are no shortcuts, no get rich quick schemes, that will ever take the place of a simple Piggy Bank approach.

The thing we pay attention to grows. If we make a problem bigger than it is by isolating it and scrutinizing it into a huge issue, then we squander an opportunity. We can invest worry until the issue blocks out the daylight or invest in knowing it all works out in hindsight. Because it really does.

Here’s the secret: never give up. Get a tortoise tattoo if you need to, but just stick it out, slowly and patiently, because consistency is the greatest kindness a horse will ever know. He wants the confidence to clearly understand where he should be, without fear of pain. One positive ride at a time, consistency will buy you a new normal.

You know that rider that you see who is smiling, riding a dream horse that will do anything? That horse people call a push-button horse? They focused on what was right about their ride and built their fortune one penny at a time. It was no accident; it was a long-term goal. Praise their consistency.

And then one day, if you are very, very lucky, you will take a short twenty-minute ride on a green and frightened horse. In those moments you will have a wealth of  understanding and positive leadership to give him. You will be an aid to him. Then he will exhale that first shallow blow of baby trust, as you exhale a breath rich in the memory of that first horse you invested your best self in. Rich in the knowledge that you have something of value to offer a horse.

Anna Blake, Infinity Farm.

25 thoughts on “Consistency: Doing Math in the Saddle.

  1. Tara

    Hi Anna, I love your writing; it’s exquisite. Thank you for sharing your wisdom. I just ordered Stable Relation, and look forward to its arrival.

  2. Sharon

    Very good and true words… it is difficult at times to not let that “everything has to be perfect” mentality sneak in. It is true if we just relax and enjoy, instead of picking a fight the experience for rider and horse has big bonuses in their accounts. I’ll keep trying… Thanks

  3. pishkeen

    Thank you Anna! You always remind me to go slow, breathe deep. My old black mare and the new little white mare are grateful. They both appreciate it.

  4. Tina

    Great advise….we all want instant results..like dieting…you start a diet and in a few weeks if you haven’t lost 20 pounds you are disappointed. Slow and steady wins the race…Breath and Rotate

  5. Your posts always seem to be perfectly timed for me and my guy.

    We’re preparing to come back into work after a looong break. Him – lacking topline and stamina. Me – lacking a template and confidence that we can do it. Thanks 😀

  6. filidhe

    Wow. Gorgeous post, Anna! Really well worded, and ringing so true. 🙂 Thank you for your continued insight! *Briana*

  7. I love the analogy: that everything we do is either a deposit or withdrawal. This hits home for me in a big way, with some experiences over the last couple of weeks. Thanks for the reminder, and the words to hang onto!

  8. Andrea

    Loved the analogy – really makes it clearer to think about it in this way! Such a good reminder to be happy about the little things. Time & consistency pay off. 🙂

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