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Intentionally Clumsy

Don Jessop

Elegance is always an important highlight for me in my mastery programs. I teach all about being soft, smooth, and tactful in your cues and suggestions creating a harmonious partnership that's beautiful to behold.

Just one thing... sometimes elegance is over promoted and can lead to prioritizing being perfect over making progress. Which means you feel you have to walk on eggshells, or never screw up, and never look awkward or clumsy.

Sometimes being clumsy, intentionally clumsy, makes your horse realize awkward is okay. Silly, off balance, poorly timed cues, aren't the end of the world. Sometimes, especially in the early training stages, it's better to have a horse be non-reactive to everything, even weird things, than be so sensitive and perfect that you have to whisper, or they'll get offended.

In my colt starting classes I actually promote intentional clumsiness, asking my students to bump with their legs to go, rather than squeeze, or even squeeze to stop, rather than loosen your legs. The whole point being, don't be perfect. Teach the horse to not react to poor horsemanship. In truth, this intentional clumsiness is the only way you can help a horse learn to carry a novice rider safely.

Here's the short version of all this. Don't beat up on yourself for not asking the horse perfectly. Don't second guess if you're doing it "right" and your horse only gets confused because you feel you're doing it "wrong." Allow yourself to be, rather, intend yourself to be, less than perfect and let your horse find out it's okay. I'd rather have a horse be non-responsive, requiring three or four reminders to carry out a task than have a horse jump at your leg or hand pressure because you weren't perfectly precise in your communication.

I'd rather tune a horse up with repetition and consistent signals than walk on eggshells hoping not to confuse them or offend them. This is the value of intentionally being clumsy. Your horse gets smarter about what is a suggestion to move and what is simply novice, unbalanced, poorly executed communication from a student rider. (BTW, we are all students)

Nobody really enjoys being around others who are easily triggered or offended and the same goes for horses. Better to train resilience and relaxation and finally, communication through rewards and repetition.

Bottom line, perfect, is the enemy of progress. Be silly, be clumsy, be human. It's all okay in the end.

Thanks for reading, ​Don

Don Jessop - Blog Welcome

Hi! I'm Don Jessop

With Mastery Horsemanship

I write to inspire, educate and encourage you on your horse and personal journey.

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Don Jessop


Don opened up a community, full of people on the same journey you are!
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Don Jessop


Don believes every horse owner should have access to the Principles of Horsemanship and he shares them freely here.

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