Losing (But Winning) The Battle

Losing (But Winning) The Battle

Today I want to discuss thinking outside the box in terms of pet ownership, something I pride myself on and do a lot of coaching on in this consulting business. I like to help broaden the horizons of pet owners and help them think about things that are bigger than the problem at hand. My work this morning with a horse I'm bringing back under saddle is a great example. 

He decided during our schoolwork in the riding arena to take it upon himself to shove the gate open as we walked past. Not ideal - but not something that altered his exercise routine. We could ride past an open gate, if that was to be his choice. However, he then took it a step further and decided to put his head down and drag us out the gate, and up towards the barn. Classic evasion that happens on every single horse I've ridden. 

Here's where it gets tricky. Ideally, I would have leaned back, booted him back in the ring, and continued. The goal was to not give in and take him back up to the barn, which is what he wanted. Just like any animal you're training, he cannot learn that that behavior means he gets what he wants. But no matter how hard I tried, he would not move forward, and kept evading my aids and backing and scooting sideways up the gravel path. It got to the point where he was dangerously close to wedging himself into a stone wall that bordered the other side of the pathway. 

My mind flashed to go pro footage I once saw of someone in a similar situation - refusing to let her horse win the battle of refusing to go forward, and refusing to get off and lead them back on foot. The result of the video was her horse backing himself into a ditch on the side of the road, falling, throwing the rider, and then getting up and bolting home. The rider was heavily criticized for her stubbornness and the potential danger she put her and her horse in. Although I didn't comment on the video in any way, I couldn't help but agree. Alas - she didn't agree with any feedback. She had to win that battle. 

I knew in my situation, if my horse took one more step, he would trip over the stone wall, send me into a bush, cut his legs open, and both of us would be in a lot of trouble. So, I "lost" the battle. I got off right there, marched him back into the ring, got back on, and taught him the lesson he needed to learn. 

Did I really lose the battle, however? Yes, we had to make some modifications. But the end result still happened, and no one got hurt. Would either or both of us getting hurt on that wall be worth it? This is the type of scenario I try to coach others on - knowing the next step would be a dangerous one, and preventing it. Something as silly as bolting out an open gate and trying to edge up to the barn isn't worth anyone's safety. Considering we are both safe, sound, and unhurt, I would say I won the battle. 

xo, A & P

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