Good manners and safe behaviour are all in the details.

Good manners and safe behaviour are all in the details.

I found myself with a little time to kill this week and thought I’d put it to good use by watching some training videos. Rarely do I find myself with a few hours to spare, but when I do it’s always nice to broaden the old horizons and check out what’s new and happening in cyberspace. Flipping through the channels I happened upon Warwick Schiller, who appeared to be a rather effective Australian horseman who was working with a large Warmblood gelding destined for the dressage ring. The horse had been sent for training to help him overcome the usual – spooking, bolting, sucking back, and rushing forward, with a little separation anxiety thrown for good measure. The horse didn’t seem to be a hardened criminal, but it was obvious he had some serious boundary issues and had obviously missed his calling as a lap dog.

I headed for the recliner and settled in! Nothing beats kicking back to watch someone else problem solve training issues and, in my humble opinion, this guy’s insights were bang on the money. His opinions of this horse’s problems were much the same as mine would have been – that the larger problems were in reality a result of a few smaller underlying issues that needed correcting and his solution was simple: teach your horse to respect your personal space. He explained that the key to gaining a horse’s respect depends on the handler’s ability to completely immerse themselves in the moment. You need to maintain a hyper sensitive awareness about all of the horse’s actions and reactions and then be ready to administer corrections quickly and quietly. No exceptions. Hallelujah! I’ve got a serious case of trainer crush goin’ on!

When using this method, the simplest of things, say taking off a blanket, can become an all encompassing and full blown training session. Does the horse stand still? I mean really stand still? All four feet planted squarely on the ground completely and utterly immobile? Does he relax his head and neck while you’re moving around or does he spend the entire time trying to eat your hat and gloves? These behaviours matter, especially when he catches sight of his limp and lifeless blanket laying in a heap on the ground and perceives it to be a major threat to his personal safety. It’s usually as he’s fleeing the scene that we realize just how important those tiny details really are.

That’s why training like this is such a turn on for me. This method combines my skills and knowledge with the perfect amount of my slightly obsessive-compulsive personality disorders. It’s a match made in heaven! For years I have been widely accused by more than one loving family member of having a tendency to fixate on seemingly insignificant details. Apparently I lack the ability to just “let things go”. I’m acutely aware that most people tend to approach conversations with me with a certain degree of caution because I tend to point out when their body language takes a sharp left turn but their words take a sharp right. Well, I say screw it!

Obviously my family hasn’t realized that these “annoying” traits are widely revered by guys like Warwick Schiller. Sure hyper awareness and attention to detail can be super frustrating sometimes especially for those family members who’d rather not be in “training”, but I like to look at the bigger picture. Never has there been a more perfect career fit for someone like me than the horse training industry. I happily embrace the hours spent fixating on tiny twitches and facial ticks. Nothing excites me more than sharing every nuance of a horse’s behaviour with those around me, even when I know most of the subtleties are completely lost on them. So, with a self-applied seal of approval from the masters of the Internet, my family will happily shove me out the door so I can fixate on the horses and leave them alone.