Sometime in the past year, I can’t remember exactly when and where, I read a paragraph about always looking at environmental training challenges as opportunities for growth. Especially with a young horse. Tree trimmers working close by? Training opportunity. Horses next door galloping wildly? Training opportunity. Windy day? Training opportunity. With the caveat, of course, that the work you do should be appropriate to the training and experience of the horse. For instance, with a young horse, something like TRT in hand work and only moving on to the next thing like under saddle if the horse is calm, so as not to overwhelm them with the situation. But not avoiding a lot of potentially scary things totally, to keep everything copacetic.
This whole mindset has really fundamentally changed how I approach a challenging environment. Instead of plowing through and being more harsh OR just backing off and finding somewhere else, I have been so much more conscious of challenges as teaching opportunities to end up with a more trained and exposed horse. I think I’ve gone from a get ‘er done philosophy that could be a little rough, to a more empathetic approach that sometimes backed off too much, to where I am now with a mindset that first and foremost thinks about how I can use this situation as a training moment.
This all ties in nicely with the TRT Method philosophy of small building blocks of exposure to scary things but never with an intensity that completely overwhelms the horse so that he can’t think. A lot of times I am running into a challenging situation and choosing to do an easier version like in hand or easy working gaits but always with the thought that this will be the bottom stair in the staircase to where we need to go. I am also much more aware of gradually building up exposure to things that are potentially scary. I find, because I am not throwing them off the deep end, but I am also regularly testing boundaries of things and places that are scary, both horses are tending to not get overwhelmed and act out.
Thoughts about how your training philosophy has changed and how you look at environmental challenges?