CUTTING: The Between Cattle Trigger
What does it mean when you put your hand on your horse’s neck to quit working a cow? Have you ever thought that it is much more powerful than simply a communication to your horse to stop working the cow?
Your hand on your horse’s neck can be a physical “trigger” to begin an entire sequence that insures that your next steps in the herd are calm and methodical.
The between cattle time is a time to relax, even if only for a couple of seconds. That relaxation time is initially “triggered” by putting your hand on your horse’s neck. This calming time is seriously important. (Even people who know this idea and have done it for a while can get caught up in the moment and skip this step, resulting in the next cut being poor and rushed.)
The purpose of this pause, this rest, this relaxation is to slow your heart rate down and slow your brain waves down. This pause is also a time when you decide exactly where you are going next in the herd … and then you move … instead of randomly moving in the herd and impulsively reacting to the cattle.
You may be thinking, “I don’t have time for that!”
Here’s the key … it is not related to time. If conditioned properly, your hand on your horse’s neck will initiate an automatic sequence of breathing, turning your horse around slowly, pausing momentarily, and then … only then … re-entering the herd.
This entire sequence has to be practiced … and practiced … and conditioned at home in order for the hand on the neck to trigger the automatic responses.
You can also condition the trigger at home. Visualize the steps and calm yourself and walk through the steps in your mind … repeatedly … in the comfort of your living room easy chair.
I cannot overstate the power of these steps … and the power of a single physical trigger to build your skill and confidence in the herd.
HORSEMANSHIP: The Power in Rest
Recently I interviewed Bobby Kerr, the famed mustang trainer who is now doing rodeo performances with his mustangs throughout the country.
During the interview Bobby talked about how he could crack whips or shoot guns off of the backs of mustangs. He accomplished this during a training window of only 90-120 days.
His answer fascinated me. He said that when a horse/mustang has been working, and then stops and rests … this is a powerful time to teach. When the mustang is standing in the middle of the arena, just hanging out, he gradually introduces the sound of the whip or a gun. Because the horse pairs the sounds with rest, he easily becomes comfortable with the noises.
He went on to say that the rest time is an integral part of his training…for a long time, I have understood the power of recovery in training any kind of mental, emotional or physical skill. The idea is that when we “work” (as in exert energy), we stimulate growth. But when we recover, that is when the growth actually happens. Without rest and recovery, we get weaker instead of stronger. We need methodical rest to get strong.
I have also understood that when a horse is released and pauses, that is a huge reward for him. However, I never really thought of introducing potentially fearful stimuli to a horse during a time of rest in such a methodical way.
How could you use this idea in your riding/training? It is a powerful one.
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This article was printed in Performance Horse Digest, Volume 8, Issue 11