The other day, I was coming out of the arena after a great ride on my new(ish) horse, Haajes. I was joking around with another boarder, swapping tales of habits and eccentricities our horses have had.
I mentioned Haajes’ habit of anticipating the trot command, and added: “Actually, all my horses do that!” To which my coach, passing by, wryly replied, “If all your horses do it… it’s probably you!“
Well, that gave me pause. I thought back to my main two horses in the past. My first horse, a sensible and tractable Thoroughbred gelding, had been inclined towards the lazy side of the excitability spectrum. Yet, he had always anticipated trot and canter commands from the walk. As soon as I gathered the reins, he would spring into action whether cued or not.
The horse after him, was another Thoroughbred gelding. This one a bit more forward and strong, but still very sensible. He, too, had anticipated the trot. And now Haajes… could it really be something that I’m doing?
Running through a list of my regrettable habits, I have to admit that I have a tendency to give my horses their head and let them chill into a cool-down walk, as soon as I’m finished the bulk of their work. What this seems to have accomplished, is that all of my horses interpret my gathering the reins as a precursor to the inevitable “back to work.” However, “walk” does not seem to be an integral part of my working program! This is definitely a problem– and not my horses’ problem, either!
Well, the buck stops here (is that a saying? I feel like I may have made it up…?). Starting today, I consciously tried to counteract the damage which I have already done to Haajes with my bad habits. I gathered the reins and worked him a bit laterally at the walk; then slackened the reins, gathered them again, and so on. This will be my first horse that doesn’t automatically connect “shorten your reins” with “trot NOW!”
And as an addendum to this goal, I am also going to be more aware of the other habits I’m unconsciously imparting upon my mounts… and try to at least diversify them! What habits have you passed on to your horses, good and bad?