“You want him to have a thousand experiences, not the same experience a thousand times.” -old cowboy say’n
I haven’t ridden my equine student very much this week. Of course the horses didn’t mind at all! None of these ponies are high level competition horses. Rather, most are youngsters in their first year or two of training. Some call this period ‘breaking,’ or ‘breaking-in.’ Some say ‘gentling’, but it’s pretty much basic training or kindergarten (I think sometimes ‘boot camp’ comes close).
These horses don’t need a lot of physical conditioning like the athletes. What they need is to build the foundation and that is mostly mental and psychological.
One good example is the free longe or round pen lesson, wherein the horse is sent around in a circle, and stopped and turned around, and sent off again repeatedly, until he first turns his ear toward the trainer, then finally stops and looks at the trainer, and begins to lick his lips and to chew.
If at this point the trainer quits the lesson, the horse will be very quick to focus his attention on the trainer the next lesson. The wonderful thing about the near perfect equine memory is that it doesn’t matter if it is a day later, a week, or a month. He’s made a groove in his brain and it will be there from now on.