Our recent learning experiences with Juliano convinced me that „never say never” is spot on right also with horses. Every day with Juliano brings us something new and even though sometimes I can't name the direction in which we took a step it is always a piece of a puzzle which will fall into place later in our journey. We learn a lot with our horses and even more from them but what goes on in our human mind when we come across an obstacle? Can we teach all horses the same things? Can my horse do that? These are the questions we face at some point of our journey, sooner or later, it doesn't matter. The important thing is how we handle new situations. Do we give up or go on?
I bet most of us have a savvy, game or a task which we stray from. In the beginning we say „Oh, I'm never going to ride with just a savvy string”, „My horse will never do lead-changes on-line” etc. but time goes by and we find ourselves riding our horse bareback and bridle-less. It is like a dream come true and we remember the times when we thought it's never going to happen for us. In our heads we know we have accomplished something amazing but we still limit our selves when next challenge comes. For us this limitation was sideways towards me. Juliano is master of sideways away from me, he can do walk, trot and canter sideways. This is now easy for him and I take that for granted.
Juliano going sideways away from me in canter
However, I couldn't picture him doing sideways towards me. I thought this is not going to happen and I even started giving myself absurd explanations for that. The truth is, every healthy horse can go sideways left, right, away and towards a human, but I still believed it is to difficult for us. I didn't even think of trying. Few days ago I finally gave it a shot. I was forced to do it really. It is raining a lot here and we only have a few dry, not slippery spots to play on, one is against a fence. So I found myself on that tiny spot of dry land with Juliano. I was thinking what to do there, jojo, tiny change of direction in walk... Juliano was bored to death, he knows it all. For Juliano boredom is worst enemy and his respect for me goes way down when I ask him for things he knows over and over. Then I thought „Oh, OK! I will try the sideways towards me. I will fail but I will try”. I asked Juliano once, twice and there it was, a step of sideways towards me! 5 minutes later Juliano was going sideways towards me in both directions with no support of carrot stick just my hand in the air. It was so easy and all this time I had it in my head marked as „impossible”. We have learned something new and Juliano was as proud as a peacock. How silly of me not to give it a shot before.
It is amazing how many things we are afraid of. We limit both ourselves and our horses with our own fear of failure. For example some horses are afraid when something touches their feet, a rope, branch etc. For a human this can mean a stop sign for sideways over a pole or a barrel. Then we say things like „My horse can't go sideways over a pole because he will get scared if he steps on the pole”. Well, why not work on the feet first, show the horse there is nothing to be afraid of. Get him comfortable with things touching his feet and then do sideways over the pole. The first step might take a while, some horses are very panicky about their feet but the next step, the actual sideways may be as easy as it was for Juliano. The point is - help your horse don't limit him. So next time you think „This is not for us” pause for a minute because your horse will most likely do it and it is only your judgment which is blocking the progress. Give it a shot, take it slow and be patient – it's all it takes.