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Don Jessop

Somewhere in your program you have to have a place for this phrase: "the horse chooses..."

If you don't have a place, you don't have a partnership, you have a dictatorship, and no one likes those.

Recently my colleagues and I sat at a round table to discuss where King Author went on holiday, but after... we also discussed the concept of "choice" in our programs. Specifically, what do we allow our horses to choose, and when, and why?

My answer was "time," which I thought was particularly clever, confirmed by my friends' nods of agreement and my unchecked, poorly hidden pride. Letting the horse choose time means I always allow my horse to learn on their own terms. I never ram something down their throat, metaphorically speaking. If a horse needs a moment, I try to read that, and in the moment, give it.

My colleagues, masters in their own right, and far superior to me in many unique aspects, recited their own version of the phrase. Tony and Franzi indicated they allow their horses to choose the "maneuver," rather than deciding beforehand what the horse will perform. They instead play liberally with the idea of self expression and positive interactions. We all smiled and nodded in agreement to confirm their cleverness too.

Andy bent more toward letting the horse choose the "space," giving room for a horse to move freely and confidently through a course rather than micro-managing every step. The best example is, rather than dictate the strides before a jump, he prefers to allow the horse to find balance independently and therefore, over time, feel more confident and happy about the tasks and relationship. And once again we all celebrated in his cleverness.

Tristan spelled out a different version of the phrase. And when he said it, we all sat silently, and for too long. From his initial perspective he must of thought he did something wrong. No praise, no astute observations of his cleverness. But as the words slowly escaped our mouths, his confidence grew.

He said, and I quote... "What about, if the horse chooses you?"

He explained how in his program he wants his horses to always choose him. So simple. So profound.

Perhaps you can understand why we all sat dumbfounded. We all agreed, internally, without hesitation, because it's something we all do organically without even thinking about it. We all know there's no sense moving up any training ladder without the horse's desire to be connected, attentive, and together.

The problem is, we failed to see the simplest thing first. It's like when Steve Martin and Chevy Chase quickly changed their answers to Martin Short's question in the classic movie "The Three Amigos." Martin asked what they'd do with the money they earn. Steve and Chevy greedily expressed how they would buy big cars and fancy things, while Martin expressed a desire to open an orphanage and help solve world hunger. Comically..., after hearing his response, the other two immediately and guiltily jumped ship and agreed they would ALSO do that, and then..., after..., spend the money on new cars and fancy things.

The point is, we all realized in our round table discussion how important it is to live by the simple principles first and ask the right questions often. "Out of sight, out of mind," they say. So, keeping things close to our heart means repeating them often in our daily language.

The phrase, "the horse chooses...," invites a new frame of mind in every encounter. We love how the horse can choose his time, space, movements, and perhaps a dozen more things we haven't expressed yet. And we love how we all agree the horse must choose you.

It's a question I pose to you now. What does your horse choose? What do you allow in your program? When do you allow it and why? I'm presupposing you do let the horse choose, because I can't bare the thought of my readers not allowing certain freedoms in their equine activities.

Answer the questions in your comments below. We love to hear from you. Tell us how this article impacted you and what you might change as a result. Share this article with your friends.

Here's to our journey with our four legged friends. 🥂

Can't wait to hear from you. 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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