I met a fellow equestrian professional today who asked me what Outside The Box Equine Training was about? why had I branded myself and my company as this? And was it just a sales gimmick?
She was quite forward... and at first I thought a little rude.
My answer? No.
I began to explain what I believe, what is at the core of my approach with every single horse I meet and how I try and teach and pass on my skills and knowledge.
I believe you should train each horse in a way they find easy to understand. Now this sounds a rather easy thing, well that is what I was shot down with anyway.
Once you spend time with any horse, even a very "straightforward" or very experienced horse you begin to realise this is at times easier said than done.
It is great to have a framework in terms of the scales of training to help keep you on track but it's difficult when every horse is different, every horse has had a different start and a different person teaching them. We also all have a different way of applying our Aids and we all have slightly more dominant parts of our body which we will use to our advantage even without knowing we are doing it.
For instance - the leg can mean, go forward, go backwards, move away, bend etc.
It's a tricky business even for the advanced horse and rider to deliver and accept the Aids and they could misunderstand what the leg means, but it's all in the way we apply them. How we deliver our message/Aid.
This is where the 'Outside The Box' comes in - you must be smart and adaptable when riding and training.
I had a trainer that told me the outside rein is everything in the half pass, I have also had a trainer tell me the inside leg is everything in the half pass - Both are Grand Prix Riders so should both know what they are talking about - correct?
Well If the outside rein is not helping the half pass, then there is no point hanging onto it, hoping and praying that something will change. You can ask the same question 1000 times if a person or animal is giving you the same answer, you are at a stale mate and if you want to progress you must change the question or how you are asking it. Every horse or rider will interpret things in a slightly different way, its all about getting some perspective and understanding interpretation.
Training is about understanding and reading your horse, communicating with Aids that are easy for you to deliver and easy for your horse to accept and understand. Accepting and understanding are also two very different things when it comes to training a horse.
For instance - If you have a weaker side due to injury and you can't get your horse to bend around your weaker leg, does that mean you should only ride on the other rein? or perhaps not ride at all? No of course not, you just have to find another way to get your horse to understand, it might just be getting them more sensitive to the aid but what if you only had one leg? what then? You have to find another way to get your message across. 'Working Outside The Box' as it were.
I don't believe in brute force - I work on a partnership, an exchange of feedback from all involved. Horse, rider and trainer.
I don't believe in gadgets, or tying a horse down to make it submit - I believe in finding a way to communicate with your horse in a quite and smart way, so they can be relaxed and open to your desires. A tense, stressed horse will not learn well, it will not be able to build a strong body, free from injury, it's frame will not be supple, soft nor its mind focused on the job at hand.
I feared I was getting a little deep for her but I felt she had opened the 'Box' and wanted to rummage, I think there should be no length you can not go to, take time to understand, to listen, to learn.
My parting thoughts -
Keep them relaxed. Give them as much time as they need to work things out, if you really want a bold, brave and confident horse thats on your side, you need to allow them to be just that. You need to provide a secure and positive environment for everyone to learn.