My largest and most lasting times of change seemed to come to me at a moment in time. I now know that it was the constant application and experience that developed the eventual answer to the problem that was making my life so difficult. Early I would take my frustrations out on my horses. If they were not getting better, the story I told myself was that it was simply because they were not trying and possibly trying to make me frustrated. This left me feeling void of any rational answer and resulted in a loss of my temper in the form of whipping, jerking, excessive spurring, etc. I actually thought that I could show them how stupid they were being and would eventually teach them the error of their ways. Unfortunately, I never achieved the desired result in this way. As usual, I had to learn this lesson the hard way. The process I am describing resulted in a lobotomized machine that performed only as much as I made it do. Sadly, those horses lost their response to even the sharpest spur and largest bit and took on an attitude of “thump me all you want, I am dead to you.” I’m not saying I was some kind of monster. I actually showed my horses love and respect while on the ground, in their stalls, etc. I simply did not know how to get them to want to work for me. Without the right ratio of positive to negative reinforcement tied in with a clear purpose or objective I found that they quickly drained their main reserves and begin using their survival instincts until they had nothing left. I learned that this process leaves a scar on their mind that will forever affect their performance.
So what is the answer? Persistence with the knowledge that although we look for results to happen in a moment, the lack of visible improvement may be the lack of processing time. We all learn at different speeds and by using different sensory processes.
One definition of insanity is: Doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different outcome. You may think that this pertains only to physical actions. However, instead of changing drills, change the processing time you give your horse. Consistency of action will develop the result we want if we reward with the proper release and allow the proper processing time.
[published in Aaron Ralston’s book, RIDE UP!]
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