Today’s post will continue the discussion of how you begin working with different kinds of horses in the round pen. In my last post, we looked at how to start the process with a “Pressure” horse, meaning a horse that is easily worried by pressures of various kinds. Now we’ll take a look at the “Mind” horse, which is the type of horse that has strongly focused thoughts and feels the need to keep track of whatever is going on around them.
The “Mind” horse
Sometimes, we turn a horse loose in the round pen and find that they are not so much scared of pressure, but their mind is strongly attentive to things outside the pen. Maybe their buddy is back in the barn, or a truck is bouncing up the road, or some dogs are playing a little ways off. Whatever the “draw” is on the horse’s mind, this is not the time to focus on the horse’s body or on trying to make the horse move. Before you can do any of that effectively, the horse’s mind must come into the pen so a conversation can be had.
The steps you want to take here are similar to the first scenario with the Pressure horse (see my last blog post), but with a different priority. You will still be concentrating on changing the thought, but your use of pressure will be tied to what the horse is focusing on. With the Pressure scared horse, you were looking for the moment they connected with you so that you could enable them to control what they were scared of. With the Mind horse, you are looking for their focus to change to help them understand that they have the ability to control pressure by staying mentally present. A horse will persistently follow what they are focused on, so the idea is to get them to focus on you. One way you can work on this when the horse’s thought is elsewhere is to stand a little distance away from the horse, opposite to whatever the horse’s mind is locked on to, then create a pressure that is enough to interrupt their thought and get them to focus on you. As soon as they do, release the pressure to reward the horse for changing their thought. If they are a the type to enjoy praise and a stroke or scratch, that can be a nice reward as well.
Mind-predominant horses usually won’t fear the pressure you use and will respond to it if you use it judiciously. This means that you never want to use more pressure than is necessary, but the intensity of your pressure has to match or possibly be just a hair stronger than their desire to stay focused on whatever is pulling their mind away. However, if you use too much pressure, ask too often, or “nag” without actually getting a change of thought, the horse will begin ignoring you and will become dull to your pressure. That means you don’t want to nit-pic at every little outside thought, but gradually work to show the horse that bringing its mind to you is a good thing. It is also very important to remember that you are not punishing the horse for thinking away from you, and you are not demanding that they think towards you. You are simply creating a scenario where the world has a more peaceful, inviting feel when they are with you, so be mindful of your energy, which must create and reflect this calm, positive thought.
Click HERE to watch a video of me working with a Mind horse in the round pen.
In my next post, I will talk about how you begin working with a “Space” horse in the round pen. Meanwhile, if you would like to learn more about working with different kinds of horses in a Relational way, visit us at JoshNichol.com.
Great post and loved the video, was great to clearly see how the horse was learning to control the pressure.
Thank you Josh. I always love your depth and clarity of all the ideas and intricacies involved in the complex work of horses. Keep them coming 🙂