For the last few years I have isolated myself from the rest of the horse world. I knew I would be full of self doubt mixing with other horse people until I felt confident in my abilities with clicker training. But I’ve missed the social connection – the gathering of people with similar interests. At the end of 2019 I decided I needed contact – for my own benefit. I have spent years focussing on my horses while I have learnt about clicker training. Now I was ready to venture out!
So with that thought in mind, I knew it was time to get social with other horse people. As it so happens, I know quite a few members of the Nambucca Natural Horsemanship Club. They are a great group of people – and what’s more, my friend Vicki offered to bring Monty for me to play with on their club days. I’ve written about him before – in this post – Meet Horace!
Monty is the first horse I have sat on since my accident off Ducati in 2017 – it was a momentous occasion! I am very grateful to him and Vicki for giving me that opportunity. And now I have the opportunity to clicker train Monty!
So, on the first club day in January 2020, I was confronted with a very excited Monty! While he was familiar with the showground and the club days, he had not been for several years, so it was pretty exciting for him. And for me! While on the subject of me, I was aware of how tense I was. Here I was in a new environment with a horse I didn’t know. I was clicker training in a natural horsemanship group, and I was feeling quite overwhelmed.
My environment had changed! I had stepped out from my familiar horses, who I train at home, to taking on Monty at an unfamiliar showground!! It was quite a challenge! ‘The Voice’ wanted to take over. Do you remember me talking about Madge in this post? She was that nasty, whingey, whiney voice.
I could feel Madge trying to get a hold of my head on that first day. People were arriving, towing their horse floats, casually unloading their horses and quietly tying them to the float to eat hay while we had morning coffee. What would people think of me? I would look so weird with my treat pouch wandering around…
Now my mind was racing…… even though I was among friends, and had known the group, particularly through my animal communication work, I could feel the self doubt creeping in. Madge (my voice) started to tell me that these people were old hands with horses – they could just saddle up and ride around the showground while I was fussing around with standing on a mat!!! What did I really know? – she continued.
I couldn’t let her win – so I superimposed her voice with an image of Magnum. I would drown her out with that image – and I like to think Magnum was by my side, giving me confidence! I think of Magnum as my touchstone when I need confidence. I think about how far he has come and all that we have been through. I thought about what he said to me once – it came out of the blue – such a surprise. I was putting him back in his stable and I heard “The only expert I ever needed was you”. It brought me to tears. Now I needed to keep that thought in my head.
So with that in mind, it was time to start. First, I had to take into account that we were both in an environment that was different to our normal days. Monty was busy keeping his eye on his mate Beau, Vicki’s other horse. He had a reputation for being a ‘busy’ horse.
The first thing I decided to do was leave him in his rope halter – remembering Alexandra Kurland’s words about starting off with the equipment the animal is familiar with. So, apart from that – where was I going to start? I felt like all eyes were on me – but they weren’t of course – everyone was too busy with their own horses. It was only Madge talking!
Now I needed to come up with a plan, to set him up for success! How was I going to start? So I will leave you with this image –
As Vicki handed Monty’s lead rope to me, I felt like I was at the bottom of a mountain I needed to climb – with an audience. I stood there with lead in hand – this was a new horse, a new environment, and a new group of people who did not use clicker training. Monty munched the grass – while I took a few deep breaths!!
….. to be continued!
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