Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Nurturing the natural try

'We shall take care never to vex the horse, or cause it to abandon its affable gracefulness in disgust. For this is like the fragrance of blossoms, which never returns once it has vanished'.
Antoine de Pluvinel 1685

As I go on learning more and more about horses I keep spotting more and more stuff. Improving my horsemanship is in fact an endless quest.

Anyway, I don't know if I have ever mentioned Hugo before, but he is interesting, mainly for one thing - he is totally lazy and only half there. Now, years ago I would probably have been fine with that - a nice slow horse that even my granny could have sat on, but now I am looking at him and thinking, 'how the hell did he get in to that state?'.

He's lost his 'try'. So here is what I think. The try is there in the horse, he wants to find a peaceful place, and through selection man has bred it into them maybe even more. Horses are born with try - loads of it. A bit like working dogs, they want to get it right. Our job is not to kill that try, but to actually nurture it. There is nothing so much fun as sitting on a horse that tries - it is a powerful and inspiring experience. There is nothing so dispiriting as sitting on a horse that has lost its try - feeling the pain of its history, and then feeling the pain of trying to rebuild that try - I think it is one of the hardest jobs and I'm not sure it's even possible. I'm not sure they can ever be the same again.

So here is my plan. Any horse I am working on, I want to preserve and nurture the try. I don't want to be the one that is responsible for taking that out of the horse. So how can I do that? Well the really obvious things to avoid are quite simple. Get your releases right. Don't just go in all guns blazing - ask small and release on the first signs of a try. Once you've asked don't just release without getting a response. Don't keep asking when the horse is already doing what you asked for. Don't confuse the horse by asking too much too soon, or by asking in inconsistent unclear ways. And here is the big one that I'm still thinking about, but I am pretty sure is true. Keep the horse happy working for a good release. In other words, don't go upping the reward, because then the horse won't be so keen to work for less.

There is nothing so good as a horse that is naturally happy to work.


glenatron said...

Seeing the try is one of the things that I think really marked Ray Hunt out- reading about him in the tributes on the latest Eclectic Horseman really brought home how brilliantly he could recognise the tiniest try on the part of the horse and how he could respond to it.

I remember the first few times I watched Steve Halfpenny he'd be saying "there's a try" and nine times out of ten I wouldn't see what he had reacted to. These days I can recognise it most of the time but even having watched people like him and you working a whole lot I don't always see it or don't always recognise that the lean to the right ahead of the step to the left is a necessary rebalancing and consequently a valuable try.

It seems like a place where new layers of subtlety and finesse are always waiting to be found.

Also, as you say, really important to the whole notion of keeping the horse in the horse.

jmk said...

I've always been told I have quiet hands. A instructor (a good one I had)told me "quiet hands, quiet mouth, quiet horse" Riding lots of different lessons horses when I was young made we aware of how much different horses try. Sometimes the rider is so busy with their body, hands, or minds they are not really "with" the horse and the horse knows it. Some horses try to wake you up, some just shut down. Why should a horse try if we can't come to the party prepared to listen?
After I rode in a Mark Rashid clinic I got much better a seeing/feeling a try. As I rode he would say "there" everytime the horse softened or changed expression or moved it's body the tiniest bit. Soon it got to the point of seeing just the thought of a try, a very slight change before the actual movement. Fascinating. It is wonderful to have these great horseman, Ray, Mark,Harry, etc,show you what to look for and try to see what they see in the horse that's trying.

elaine said...

Oz is a good example of this. If he tries, and you don't twig it (or release fast enough) he gets frustrated!

So it's one of my biggest challenges. It's rough having a horse who has read all the books already and complains when you're not doing it perfectly.

Agree with all of your post Tom.

trainedbyhorses said...

Thank you for this.

Donn Coppens said...

Tom I am totally diggin' the awesome lingo out here in the horsey world.

I love this "try" concept and it applies to all creatures great and small...
dare I say it even human teenagers!

This is MAYJAH Tom,
4 3 2 1...

Kathy Baker said...

So what do you do with the horse who will not put forth the effort in order for you to even recognize the try? A horse that is so stuck on his own thought?