We have been inundated with rain lately. Not that it matters too much as I have a covered arena at my boarding facility. But Cricket is still getting over her little cold. I've been spending lots of time reflecting on what I learned at camp. This might be a good thing - better than coming home all gung-ho and missing the finer points of what I learned.
Another major theme in our camp was "being pleased" with whatever the horse offered. Sit for a moment and feel pleased. Notice what it does to your body, to your emotions, to your face. Now be displeased. Feel the change from relaxation to tension, from happy to frustrated or angry. Our horses are masters at reading body language. The simple act of being pleased offers more positive feedback than we can possibly imagine.
It can be difficult - sometimes - to be pleased when things aren't going right. But remember what Pat says, "Horses are like computers - they may not do what you want but they always do what they are programmed to do." It goes along with something else I read, "If your horse were mentally, emotionally and physically capable and understood what you wanted, he would do it."
So no matter what your horse does, somehow you asked for it. Sometimes we ask by what we do - a misplaced cue or a poorly-timed release. Sometimes we ask for it by what we do not do - weak leadership allows for dominant behavior. No matter what, we asked for it.
But here's the fun part. Sometimes when we mess up, we get something amazing. I did something "wrong" asking Cricket for transitions within the trot and she offered me passage. I did something wrong in asking for trot yo-yos under saddle and she gave me walk to canter transitions. It wasn't what I wanted but somehow it's what I requested. You better believe I was pleased!
When we are pleased, our horses are free to offer things. And even when it's not exactly what we wanted at that moment, it might be something we want later. So don't cause your horse to feel wrong because you failed to effectively communicate what you wanted. Even if a horse bucks, that's the beginning of jumping and collection.
Go out and be pleased with your horse!