In discussing the higher level of understanding that Tony is reaching, it is nice to think about the most elementary aspects that carry over throughout the entire course of a horse’s education. Tony started as a very willing and kind young horse; through consistency, patterns, repetition and intention Ricky has helped him to improve his inherent good qualities. Fundamentals in the form of physical actions, the mental and emotional connection, as well as the learning patterns and thought processes stay exactly the same all the way through to extreme refinement.
As early as the first ride, even if all you feel that all you are doing is asking for a bend, stepping the hind over and moving out, the beginning of a delicate connection is being established. Utilizing and preserving the softness that every horse starts out with is an extremely refined aspect of horsemanship. Taking the purity of a young horse and helping that to carry over to an educated and refined partner is a beautiful thing. The learning processes are interesting to connect as they are part of a fascinating synergistic cycle.
To help Tony understand life as a working man, Ricky utilizes consistency, patterns, repetition, and intention. Each of these aspects are similar but very unique parts of helping the horse to understand, and pivotal on each other. You can’t have one of these attributes of your horsemanship without the other. Getting this going on with your horse will also help you to get the most from your work together.
Consistency is the very first thing Ricky worked to offer Tony. If every time a person interacts with their horse and is consistent with how they ask, then the horse finds a lot of comfort in understanding. An example of this would be when Ricky asked Tony to move out through the gates. First Ricky makes a plan, next he asks, then follows through. If every time he plans, asks and follows through in the same way (and release along the way), then before you know it, Tony is making his plan as Ricky does. When Tony understands the purpose and goal, then he begins to think very freely on his own as Ricky has allowed him to. Asking with consistency is so important, but releasing for the try and even more for the right answer, is vital in achieving understanding.
Patterns take consistency and repetition to establish. Utilizing patterns to teach helps the student learn what to expect. In working with horses, patterns can either be the pattern of cues or the pattern of path traveled. An example of using a simple pattern would be keeping the horse on a circle. Ricky would guide Tony less and less while staying on the same track. Then, in keeping to the same track the horse begins to predict the path and figure out how to balance his own body, regulate his speed and shape the circle on his own. As Tony gains more confidence and understanding he will inevitably offer more “try” when presented with things that he doesn’t already know or understand. A valuable skill for a horseman is to help the horse to stay in an open and receptive frame of mind, not penalizing the try is a good start to this. Within a pattern the horse gains confidence in their abilities and decision making.
Repetition is another aspect that Ricky utilizes to educate Tony with the goal of creating a thinking partner. Repetition is the part of the learning system that helps the brain to learn the patterns that are being presented. Regardless of the student, it takes time to really connect with the skill being taught and practiced before it is truly a learned skill. Repetition helps a horse’s mind, but it also helps largely with physical strength and flexibility. As their mind is soft and receptive from understanding, their body will follow suit to create fitness, strength and suppleness.
The next attribute that is essential for this balance and system of education that Ricky used with Tony is, intention. Intention is vital for this system to work because all of these efforts would be nothing if there were no goal. To execute consistency, patterns and repetitions successfully there must be a clarity and precision of each. There is no chance of this without intention; Tony needs to know and feel of why, before you could fairly expect him to offer maximum effort. Ricky also exudes a short and long term intention to Tony. A short term intention would be working on fundamentals to gain trust and comfort with each other. A long term intention would be to actually do a job with Tony. From short term to long term intentions the precision of consistency, patterns and repetition are always applicable.