So I was wracking my brain to even think of a title for this article because I want everyone to read it. Of course, I want everyone to read all of my articles, but this one is different.
This is about a trap that all horse owners and trainers fall into at some point. Yes, all. Yes, you too. Yes, even me.
Beginners, intermediate, advanced. We are all susceptible to the trap of becoming task focussed. In fact, you could argue that most of the horse training industry is designed to have us task focussed - from the ‘levels of difficulty’ that you will find across dressage, jumping, working equitation, to the chase of the ‘perfect execution’ of a few set manoeuvres in reining, the unwavering focus required of a cutting horse, even our ‘levels’ within pony club (or 4H elsewhere) as the foundation of our often first involvement with horses. We even have horsemanship programs that require the execution of certain tasks for advancement.
Most disciplines have a series of tasks or manoeuvres required of the horse and the rider, so what's the problem?
On the surface, not much. We use these tasks and exercises to open a dialogue with our horse, to offer us a ‘measurement’ in terms of getting something right. Ie - if I am asking my horse to go backwards, the most basic measurement of if this has happened or not is the very act of the horse going backwards.
So, the basic benefits (the Good) of tasks are that they;
Give us something to do - something to 'start with'
Give us a way to open a dialogue
Give us a measuring stick
It is similar to a child learning to write - when you are first teaching them you might ask them to trace letters, but then you ask them to 'write something' - if you are asking the child to come up with the 'thing' to write - they may get distracted or delayed by trying to come up with the 'thing' - usually we ask them to write their name - this gives them something to write, removing the need for them to think of it, and it gives us (and the child) a measuring stick - did you write your name or not? Pretty straightforward. It's the same with tasks or exercises and horses. Of course with exercises, they are often purposed to address the horses body, or mind, or communication with the owner, but you get the idea.
So what is the Bad, and I guess the real question - what is the ugly?
The less than beneficial aspects (the Bad) I see when a person becomes ‘task focussed’ is that the conversation becomes one-sided. The intuitive relationship that we can share with our horses fades to a distant memory, and our interactions with each other become a regimented, and often relentless pursuit of ticking a task off a checklist, as business-like as replying to morning emails and as bland as putting items in the trolley off the weeks shopping list.
Feel is often the first victim of task orientation with cues and ‘phases’ increasing until the horse is simply reacting to our elevation, and may accidentally execute what we are asking (backwards or sideways for example) and if they are lucky, will get a break (we would call it a reward) at this moment to ‘learn’ the lesson. Don't get me wrong - I'm as guilty as the next guy in my earlier years of teaching phases, and the concept of 'do whatever you need to do to make him do it' and 'make the right thing easy and the wrong thing difficult', thankfully (for the horses) we have a different approach now. ** Please don't consider this a condemnation of these concepts, they are, in their own way an introduction to horsemanship training for most people, and good concepts for people to begin to understand horses. I do however believe that these concepts are something that we can and should 'move beyond' as our basic understanding of horses grows and we build trust and partnership-based communication.
Free thought is often the next victim, with us using any number of ways to ‘cheat’ in order to ‘support’ the horse to understand the skill at hand. Using a fence to block forwards for sideways is an example that comes to mind, though there are any number of ‘cheats’ that we will resort to in the pursuit of the exercise itself.
So whats the ugly?
Perhaps the greatest tragedy in becoming task focussed is the continued breakdown of the trust of the horse, as you relentlessly pursue your agenda and fail to recognise the body language in the horse as he tries to communicate his stress, lack of understanding or discomfort. Our celebration of completion of tasks fuels our human need for achievement and success, often at the sacrifice of the horse.
The horses body becomes another casualty as brace and tension in movements cause discomfort, incorrect development of muscles, or forcing him into what we feel is the ‘correct’ frame contorts his body in a way that he is not physically able to execute.
And finally, our own development as a student of the horse becomes restricted, as the ability to execute tasks masquerades as progress, when all the while our intuition, feel and observation - the very gifts that are the cornerstone of the art of horsemanship are neglected.
What can we do about it?
Recognising the trap of becoming task focussed allows us to remain conscious during our interactions with our horses, and putting an emphasis on feel, observation and lightness will allow us to utilise tasks to have a conversation, build trust, and develop our horses in mind, body and spirit.
Using tasks purely as a segway to the conversation, and removing the idea that completion of the task is the success. Putting a focus on the development of our finer skills in feel, timing, observation and intuition as success.
Yours for the horse
Our online courses are getting some fantastic feedback! Our next course is on Gymnastics and Agility in the horse - and we will cover both ground and ridden exercises, both with, and without equipment, as we know some of you may not have access to equipment at this time!
Well, we have now presented our three online clinics recently and the feedback we are getting is fantastic. Turns out there are quite a few 'hidden benefits' to online clinics!
It was so good that we have decided to continue to run online courses.
The way they work;
The course workbook is emailed to you
You are added to a private facebook group with other members of the clinic
The course content is videoed as individual exercises (ground, ridden and theory)
The course is delivered over the allocated days (lessons are all uploaded by start times)
Optional - you can upload video of yourself doing the exercises for feedback
The feedback from the 12 participants of the balance course is fantastic - and some of the benefits that we found came from the course being online;
You are able to re-watch lessons as many times as you like
You can train at your own pace - some people are doing one or 2 exercises per day - giving them up to a months worth of training content
You can do the course with more than one horse (video feedback is only on 1 horse, however, you can add another horse video for a small additional fee)
When choosing to video yourself you are able to see your interaction with your horse, this offers a fantastic learning platform.
We are delivering online courses at a minimal fee of $175.
Upcoming we have
Agility and Gymnastic exercises - 16 & 17 (Ground and ridden)
Building Confidence and Overcoming Anxiety issues in the horse - 30 & 31 (ground and ridden )
Advancing your groundwork - 13 & 14 (Ground only)
To Book in or for further details email us by clicking HERE or replying to this email
TKH ONLINE SERVICES
I am well aware of the need for many people to tighten the purse strings at thise stage, so I am offering training ranging from Free of Charge up to regular clinic costs. My plan is to continue to share my services to current and new students as follows;
Weekly Article Direct to inbox. If you are already part of our email news list, you will know that you receive a free weekly article directly to your inbox. This article can be on a range of topics from training, horse psychology, human psychology, physiology, biomechanics, and any topic that comes to my mind when I'm writing it! Usually sent out on Mondays - a great kickstart to your week! Cost: $FREE - Access - Send us your email address. NOTE - I do post the link to the articles on Facebook but you are not always guaranteed to see it. I also will occasionally send them as only emails - they will not be publicly posted, so send in your email to receive each one.
Online training Evening Workshops. Currently Monthly. Each month I do a live online training workshop to anyone who has joined. These are held on Facebook, cover a range of topics (see poster for upcoming workshops) and each participant receives a workbook via email. Cost: $FREE Access - Send us a message!
Wednesday Night LIVE! WNL is going to make a comeback! After starting our popular live show as Monday Night Live back in April 2017 - can you BELIEVE they are 3 years old! We changed to Wednesday Night Live and then at the end of 2019 took a little break. Due to popular demand, we will be recommencing WNL each week. Cost: $FREE - Access - on our Facebook Business page - Tanja Kraus Horsemanship.
The Millie Diaries (and other training videos). Our Youtube channel is constantly uploaded with content - right now we have brought back The Millie Diaries and are sharing with you her training journey of Trailer Loading Preparation. Follow the link to the first episdoe here and subscribe to see uploads (usually daily). The Millie Diaries
Online Training Videos. I have been providing my online training videos since July last year and will continue to upload the content. The training videos do not follow a particular plan or system - I simply film sessions with my, and clients horses, and share with you either the exercise instruction for what I am doing or the solution to the issue I am trying to solve. There are over 100 videos which include liberty training, online ground sessions, ridden work, problem-solving, theory classes on psychology and physiology. I will continue to upload videos to this platform (a minimum of 2 per week, however it is usually 3 - Monday, Wednesday and Friday). COST - $10 per month USD (I cannot change this to AUD, the platform will not allow it). Access - Head to https://www.patreon.com/tanjakraushorsemanship to join and get instant access.
Online courses and schools. Our first online clinic on Balance was a huge success! We have several upcoming courses that will be delivered in an online format. You will receive the workbook, the instructions on the course exercise both on the ground and ridden (video format), and the theory classes. Cost: As per registration form. Access - as per course registration form.
Private Lessons Online. Private lessons will be provided to a small number of people wanting to get that feedback from me. You will be able to submit a video of you riding for me to view and offer suggestions and solutions for any challenges you are facing or simply for progress advice. COST: TBA. Access - please register your interest in this option and we will get back to you as soon as possible.
I'm hoping with this many options that we will not only have a heap of great things to keep us motivated and training and bonding with our horses, but that it will provide a great opportunity for us to really ‘level up’ our, and our horse's skills.
Let me know your thoughts, questions or suggestions
Take care and hang in there!
To join our free online evening workshops - simply reply to this email with your email address, which workshop you would like to join, and connect with us on facebook so we can add you to the group!