It isn’t unusual for me to work with a client’s horse and find that I just don’t have the problems she is having. Part of it is that I come in with some better timing and clarity. But part of it is the fact that I am NEW and don’t have a long history established with the horse. So it is relatively ‘easy’ for me to make what appears to be a remarkable change. But it only works for me.
Now the owner can come in and do the ‘same’ thing and it doesn’t work for her. Is it because I’m so much better? I don’t think so. Not entirely. I think what happens is that the owner has to not only do what I did but also overcome the old history. So her
job is actually much harder.
The owner is a ‘cue’ (so to speak) for things to go a certain way. Horses like it when things stay the same. So, when the owner seeks to change the dance that they’ve developed over time and have things go a different way than usual the horse will resist that change. It is an example of how strong a behavior that has a long history of reinforcement behind it can be. Now, if we could just give the things we want that kind of reinforcement history we’d be in business!
So un-doing and fixing is way more difficult than just doing it to start. Unfortunately, until we’ve worked with lots and lots of horses we don’t know what we don’t know. I’m not immune to that phenomenon! I’ve got a mare, named Tulsa, who has been with me for 16 years. She is 20 now and is the one who put me on the path I’m on now. I’ll be honest, I experienced a lot of frustration with that girl over the years. Today, I shouldn’t complain because she gives a lot of people a lot of joy. In fact, one of her students said recently, she is the perfect horse to learn to ride on.
I had to chuckle to myself on that one. Cuz I look back and think of all the mistakes I made and I wonder if we didn’t have this history together and I were start again with her, would things have ended up different? Maybe so. Or, not. Who knows. Either way she taught me a lot and continues to keep me on my toes. And for that I’m grateful.