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To leave or not to leave...that is the question?

I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts recently and reading a lot of books, I’ve basically fallen down a rabbit hole of new thoughts and different peoples ideas of what “training” a horse consists of and within this I’ve come across the opinions from what we know as traditional all the way through to “horses should be just left to do their thing” And over the past few years I’ve found myself drawing away from my traditional training roots and exploring the more free style of horse work all the way to the deep reflection of should we be doing anything with these amazing animals at all A lot of these types of methods can be named by the people that create them and to be honest no one “training” method sits well with me, which is then why I headed down the what if we just “let them be” root? But as I’ve meandered through these thoughts and feelings and watched how my own horses have responded to the different ways of connecting I have come up with my own thoughts on how we work with our horses To me the method of dominance is totally wrong, and from a person that was trained in that way of working with them I know what it’s all about and the results that you get, but also to leave them in a field untouched feels wrong too. This one is less obvious, but understanding how horses would be in the wild is crucial to this thought process, wild horses don’t just stay in one meadow for the whole of their lives, they are constantly on the move and with this comes the constant need for them to be using their body and brain, they will be set challenges by nature every day, be required to problem solve of where their next water resource is coming from or how to avoid the local predators, they will come across rivers that need crossing, fallen trees that need to be successfully and shelter to be found. In the uk we severely lack space for our horses, I’m blessed with 40 acres of turnout for 4 horses but this still isn’t enough to keep them mentally astute or physically active, our paddocks in the uk tend to be bare of anything that can pose danger as we would hate to risk our horses welfare so therefore they are bare of challenges and interest To me our time with our horses needs to be when we are able to give them this problem solving playful confidence building training, and if we come up with interesting games, challenges and ultimately things the horse can achieve and gain confidence in then we are adding to their lives rather than taking away This does however require outside the box thinking, riding round on a 20m circle in a surfaced arena day in and day our maybe “safe” it may even improve the horses fitness and suppleness but does it challenge their mind? Can they feel they’ve gained confidence from it? Do they understand their bodies any better? I’ve been thinking a lot about how we feel when we master something new or work out a solution to a problem it builds us up in confidence and therefor makes us feel good, this is what I aim to do with my horses And when I set achievable challenges that cause them to think, the feedback from them is nothing but positive. So I’m now putting together a way of achieving what my horses need to be able to be safe and fit, able to do the activities I wish to do, but in a totally different way to what i would have done with them in the past, a way that adds value to their life rather than is just another day under saddle doing the same kind of stuff. I’m excited to see how this pans out, and how I can capture my horses natural curiosity and problem solving abilities in a way that they love what they do Watch this space!

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