Buck Branaman once said that 99% of horses’ problems were
caused by people. This slightly depressing and sobering though might put some
people off but I see it as a personal quest to never stop learning. I’ve never
sold myself as a starter of young horses, purely because it’s not something I’ve
had much experience in and I like to do a job well or not at all.
Obviously getting Hugo as an unstarted youngster last year
was planned as I wanted to take my horsemanship through this process and see what
I learned. I have no doubt that in another few years, I hope to have developed myself
further and am sure things would be different if I was starting him then. But
here we are.
Things have been going really well with him. He has accepted
me on his back, he has accepted the saddle at walk, trot and canter and he
understands that voice and/or legs mean go. So recently we started to get stuck
and I couldn’t quite put my finger on the problem. I guess maybe I have to see
a pattern a few times before it really clicks in my head. And this is what the
problem was… We can steer and walk to the left, no problem. However, steering
and walking to the right seemed to mean a brick wall in his head. He just
couldn’t get his feet moving forwards or sideways and would just buck or throw
his head up. It doesn’t really scare me sitting on him when he does this and I’m
sure the traditionals would just give him a smack and get him moving on, but to
me, there was a piece of understanding missing for him. The worst part though
was that when he’d finally moved out through the problem and could make a turn
to the right, I didn’t feel very successful and I don’t think he did either. We
just made the best of a vague situation.
In my latest training session, I decided to go back to the
long lines and see if could isolate the problem without me being on his back.
He started off fine and then after about two circuits of my weave pattern, he
got stuck and really tried to buck, while still braced on the right rein. I was
able to keep asking him to move forwards with my voice and suddenly he broke
into trot and off he went. We did some lovely shapes all over the field at walk
and trot without another ‘No’ moment. This really cemented in my mind that the
issue was not to do with my sitting on his back but that he simply didn’t
understand how to go forwards to the right at the same time. The end of the
session felt really positive – he seemed happy too so lots to take away from
I love how much this little guy is teaching me. We may take
a bit longer than others but we will be confident and happy doing it.