To train a horse is like participating in a dance show. These dance shows usually pairs an experienced and an inexperienced dancer and the competition now focus on which pair will become most skilled together. The job of the experienced dancer is to teach the newbie how things works out and of course enjoy the learning process. When we work with our horses things usually work out this way as well. Most of the time the rider acts as the skilled and experienced dancer while the horse is the beginner who hasn’t yet learned the steps, the posture and the timing to perform the dance.
When we train a horse we strive for the same result as a dancer does with his partner. The result we are after is usually a dance between two beings that seem so light and easy that it becomes art to the eye and soul. Now, the big question is… How does the experienced dancer teach his partner the dance?
Let’s refer to the two dancers as the teacher and the student. That would make it easier.
You see… Never have I seen a teacher in one of these shows punishing his partner for not understanding how a specific step should be done. Neither for doing it wrong or doing something else than the student was supposed to. I have seen students and teachers laugh together when things went wrong and I have seen them doing it over and over again until the student finally understood. I have seen the teacher come up with different types of explanations and descriptions to make the student understand, but never seen him repeat the same words over and over again even though the student doesn’t make sense of the words spoken.
What usually is the result from this way of teaching is a student who loves to dance and who finds it enjoyable to practice even though it is difficult and demanding. It becomes a pleasure to the student because there is space for failure and because space for failure makes space for keep trying until things work properly. A student who has faith in the trainer because he has patience and perseverance instead of impatience and punishment. That is what makes a happy student who loves the learn and have fun in the process!
Now if the show hired a bad dance trainer things would probably look different during the training sessions. The trainer would be annoyed every time his student didn’t understand the steps he was showing and teaching. He would become angry and impatient when the student simply couldn’t manage to move his feet the right way. He would most likely start raising his voice and depending on his temperament also give his student a reproving blow to make him ‘put himself together’ and do it right.
The student most likely would stop trying simply because of fear to do things wrong. He most likely wouldn’t enjoy attending his dance lessons. The result at the final completion most likely wouldn’t be very pretty since the student couldn’t move his feet right, but tried because he didn’t dare to do otherwise. It would not be light and graceful to watch, but more struggle and pain because the student was forced to perform instead of doing it out of pleasure.
Now – what does this tell us? How should we approach dance practice with our horses? And what kind of dance teacher are you to your horse? Do you create a dance partner who dances out of pleasure or out of fear?