“Now Wait Just a Minute” — a Review of an Eclectic Horseman Article
When we’re working with our horses, we’re always dealing with reaction time. If our horse makes a mistake, should we react right away? Should we act before the mistake happens to prevent any mistakes? In an article called “Now Wait Just a Minute,” in Eclectic Horseman, trainer Jeff Derby describes how important it can be to develop the habit of waiting on your horse.
Jeff starts the article by using the analogy of dancing where one of the partners leads and the other follows. Another analogy is that we want our horses to follow a feel. In describing the concept in terms of horses, Jeff talks about your horse waiting for you before going ahead with something. The undesirable examples he lists are walking off before we signal the horse to step off or reaching for a bite of grass while we’re leading him.
Jeff says that one of his favorite chances to help a horse get started on waiting is to stand between the horse and his grain bin and then pour grain in his feeder. Of course the horse is going to try to get around you to get to the grain, and Jeff recommends using your elbow and the grain scoop to bump his muzzle. Then when you see a pause in the horse, you’d release and let him get to the grain.
Another example of the same concept that I use is in taking a hoof. I’ll release a hoof when my horse relaxes and gives me his hoof while I’m cleaning it or trimming it. If my horse is not relaxing or if he’s trying to lift his hoof away from me, I’ll try to stay with him and the hoof until he relaxes and gives his foot to me — even if it’s only an instant. That’s when I’ll release and let him drop his foot to the ground. I’ll let him relax for a bit before I pick up his foot and begin again.
Jeff makes an important point is referring to Martin Black and saying that anticipation in a horse can be a good thing. We want our horse to anticipate a cow’s move to set us up for making a good throw and I want my horse to anticipate the need to move sideways to close a gate we’ve just passed through. Jeff says that anticipating is necessary for preparing for a maneuver, but over-anticipating is not waiting and is a problem. Perhaps it can be a small change, but it’s certainly worth thinking about as we work with our horses.
Eclectic Horseman is an outstanding magazine and it’s always full of helpful articles to make your horse training and your riding more effective and more fun. If you have questions or comments, please leave them here.