“Fix it up, and let ‘em find it.”
were the words of Ray Hunt, the immortal “horse whisperer” of the twentieth century. But what did he mean?
For a long time, I repeated it like a mantra, without really feeling that I truly understood it. Then, over time, and many saddles, it began to make sense, in the way that the horse’s logic works. Horses have excellent memories, but their deductive power is not like ours. They learn from experiences and they make associations, some of which are useful and some not.
“I got stung by a bee in that trailer once, so I’m not going in there,”
is an example of an association that is not helpful. However, the other day, I was trying to get a young horse to go straight, but he kept wanting to push to go left. I let him go a little, then put my left leg and rein and seat bone on him to push him back on the straight line. The instant he was lined up, I released. This went on for several repetitions, but finally he continued on straight ahead, rather than to be bothered by the “every time I try to go left, he’s there irritating me.” He found it, because I’d let him make a mistake, then I “fixed up” a correction until he did.
“Micromanagement” doesn’t work well with horses — or people.