Pieces of the Puzzle are coming together

They say you should start a puzzle by putting together the edges and the frame first – and all the blue bits. I feel like I’ve been doing that for years and I’m never getting close to seeing the Big Picture 😦


I took the time to re-read my training philosophies and it helped me better understand what is going on: there is too much MIRACLE OCCURS HERE bullshit that has been frustrating the hell out of me for years.

It’s time I turn this around by first identifying what is not working for me and how I can change it:

1.) While I admire the work by Klaus Hempfling and Cavalia, the issue for me with them is there is too much “miracle occurs here.” While I’m slowly understanding their advice, since there is no linear training outline where I can see progress, it becomes a frustrating process, which causes me to give up.

We all have different ways we learn and I need more concrete steps. Give me the logical “how-to” behind it, not just the warm and fuzzy. Give me a method to gauge progress so I can increase the horses’ skill level.

2.) I went back to the Art of Natural Dressage forums and after seeing the videos and photos with commentary at the Instagram account @Intrinzen I now get it. I get the exercises and I see the progression from exercises to performance.

Before, I just couldn’t see it – where I lay the blame here is trying to read a European forum where English is not their first language so you have large blocks of texts, broken paragraph lines etc.. making it hard to read and with not a lot of good quality video or photos.

We all have different ways to learn, and I work best with video accompanied by text. I also work best when I see “connections”; when I don’t see the need for a bow, I don’t bother to train it. These ‘tricks” can have training applications but I need to know the why? because a trick for a trick’s sake is not my thing.

I also have to be more compassionate with myself and where my life was at that time. I was extremely frustrated with Z, who was dangerous, and Tristan was starting to fail in health, and husband was off working out of state, while I was trying to get kids through high school and college. Life had a bit going on then and being able to understand complex ideas required more focus then I was capable of.

3.) I definitely have a problem reconciling the two ends of the training spectrum – on one end there is the “the horse decides everything, without it, you will not achieve the bond or performance” to the “direct, control and teach the horse everything” schools of thought.

I am trying to bring these two worlds together and they are like stuffing two cats in a bag. I’m battling my own conventional thought – the way I was taught to train horses, conventional wisdom, and my own nature of “just do it for heaven’s sake!” attitude.

To commit to this path with Dante, I will need to be on the watch for those old ideas to come back – the easy way to get something done, the “just do it” frustration that makes us revert. I will have to keep my mind open, use creative problem solving, and constantly be asking myself – hey gal, why did you go back to that? and re-correct.

4.) One thing that stalled me was watching the False Prophets and knowing they lied. It turned me away from the free will horse path. There is a lot of Parelli and Liberty work that is still operating on pressure and force tactics.

The games you see are really tricks – something the horse was taught through force (usually the iron fist in the velvet glove) because the trainer wanted them to learn it – and not because the horse chose to be involved.

This is a very fine line and if you have an observant eye and have watched a lot of videos and reviewed photos you know what I mean.

5.) My frustration with not getting anywhere with Z, really dinged my confidence level. I’ve come to realize this week that she was above my pay grade – and that even two professionals found her a difficult horse. I have to let that “failure” go on my part. What I was not able to do with Z has nothing to do with what I will be able to do with Dante.

The world has changed since I started clicker training 15 years ago. Even this last year there are more videos, articles and clarification of what I could be doing to make what I want to happen- happen.

I need to use those resources and come up with my plan (it’s now in a blog post draft) and my own roadmap to get me to where I want to go – the same connection I had with Pepper with another horse – maybe even deeper and stronger since Pepper taught me so much and I’ve grown up some.

Dante is a good horse – I just need to get him well, spend time with him and have the wits and courage to train him the way I’ve always wanted.

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3 Responses to Pieces of the Puzzle are coming together

  1. I’m just now getting caught up on all your posts… You’ve been very inspired lately! This post is something I’m struggling with too. I loved Imke Spilker’s book “Empowered Horses” but it was all theory and too vague to put to use for me. Thanks for introducing us to Intrinzen – this is ’empowered’ but with more instruction. Yet they are between offerings of instruction, so I can only see tantalizing bits of things and no “how to”.

    There is also the transition – I have a 16 year old gelding who came without much formal training, period. I’d done some traditional type work and then I read about empowerment. I went out to his pen and we stared at each other. He was waiting for me to do the usual thing – halter him, groom, saddle and ride. I waited for him to be spontaneous and for some idea to come to mind. It was like that episode of “Mork and MIndy” where Mork throws a raw egg in the air and says, “fly, be free!” and it breaks on the ground. It would be much easier to be playful with a young horse.

    It’s getting better, but you’re right. There is a lot of vagueness and things left out. I wrote to Spilker asking how one starts out empowering the horse. Basically she told me that I was empowered to figure that out. A few experiments later and I was frustrated and the horses were getting no where. I still need a framework – I think we all do, even if it’s just a series of questions or ways to get started. I love “chase the dragon” . I am going to try it next time I get out there! I think it’s a great way to break the formality that plagues me.

    • HAHAHA I love your Mork and Mindy reference because I know exactly what you are talking about. FLY! Hmm not so easy!

      I’m going to be posting some ideas of how I will be organizing my work and I think this will help you. Not sure what I would call it but yeah, I’ll be posting about it very soon (today has been nothing but errands).

      I think one reason for this issue is these trainers who are making breakthroughs are on the cutting edge, they are intuitive, right brain thinkers, who have trouble articulating what they are doing to get their results. This ends up with too much “mumbo-jumbo-presto-magicko” to please me or really even to help me!

      The other problem is with this training is it works against those who full care board and who live off the premises where their horses reside. If you see your horse every day and are our your horse’s prime caretaker for feed, moving to pasture, stall cleaner, etc… it is much easier to form bonds. So this leaves the majority of horse owners in the dark – how do you connect with a horse that you see an hour or so a day?

      Re: your 16 year old gelding – again these trainers choose stallions for a reason – they are showy and responsive. Hempfling admits that in his video about “why do I choose stallions?” hahaha but OTOH, you can have a breakthrough with a gelding and an older horse; it is possible as I’ve done it.

    • The first recommended exercise I would try is touching a target using clicker training. If he knows that you can move on to Catch the Tiger very easily. I’ve also reorganized this page with direct links to blog posts:

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