Polo: If You Are Angry, Get Off Your Horse

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Well Gang, a hearty good morning from
Kings Polo Club here in – just outside Cairo in Egypt, where I am part of the
team that’s building this amazing setup here. This is the block of stables that –
there’re 3 of these blocks. You will see they really had so much thought put
into them. They made that the horses really feel to be a part of a group, in a herd. There not even doors on the stables. And at the end of the
stables here you can see my office behind me. And you will hear the fans in
the background, it gets really hot here. We’re looking at, at the moment, between
40 and 45 degrees (Celcius) in that in the day, so we’re doing a lot of coaching at night
and riding in the evenings and early mornings. And this is my favorite time of
day down here, in the early mornings. All the horses so tranquil, and really such a
lovely setting and I just love being around these amazing animals. Having said
that let me just – the fans are quite noisy – so let me just walk outside here. And you will see as I walk out – let me
find a chair just to sit and chat to you guys, because there’s a subject I really
want to touch on, of how strong should you be with your horses when you are
schooling them. What is appropriate – my hand across that camera, sorry guys.
There we are. And the stick and ball field directly behind me here, that is
almost ready to use. So the facility coming on in leaps and bounds. – Right, back
to the subject. I think that the most important thing when I’m riding and
training horses, is never to be angry while I’m training them, if they’re not
doing what I’m asking them to do. My father, who was a really good player, he
was eight goals and a great horseman, always gave me the advice of “Gavin, if
you’re angry, get off your horse, get yourself under control. And once
you’re under control you’ll be able to think more clearly about the problem
you’re facing.” And that is such great advice guys, because to be honest,
horses will try you to the nth degree. It’s like having a family and children.
Man, you love them dearly but boy they can really try you, okay.
And horses are looking for boundaries. Just like children,
horses are looking for boundaries. And you have to create those boundaries for
them. But the biggest thing is if you are training horses, and you’ve got horses
that are not performing as you want them to perform, you have to ask yourself
one question: is the horse not doing what I’m asking it to do, because it can’t… Or
is it not doing what I’m asking it to do because it’s just being a naughty little
Rat. And you can’t make a sound judgment on that, if you’ve got angry
with the horse, because when you’re angry you’re going to overreact. As in life, you
know, one reacts to friends or husbands or wives or whatever, in anger and afterwards there’s such regret that you’ve
done that you know and if you just taken the time to get yourself under control,
and approached it in a nice, quiet, calm way, you’d have got a lot further down
the track. So, anyway, I digress from the horses, but it’s exactly the same story…
Get off the horse if you’re angry. Get yourself under control, and ask yourself
that simple question: is the horse not doing what you’re asking it to do
because it can’t? And if it can’t, also remember to do the medical checks,
because maybe it’s not being able to do what you asking it to do because it’s got
pain somewhere, okay? Mouth, tendons, whatever – have a good look and check that
out and make sure you’re not making the era of pushing a horse that is sore and
it can’t do because it’s got a medical problem.
Then there’s the schooling side, and often if you find that you are battling
to get a horse to do what you wanting it to do, if you regress in those schooling
lessons and go back to basic steps, you will find often,
a particular thing that it can’t do and that is what’s inhibiting it from going
forwards, to do what you asked me to do at the current time. So don’t be scared
to go back… There’s a great saying from Pat Parelli, in his natural horsemanship
book, of “take the time it takes”… How long must I go on doing this lesson, and
there’s no answer to that. Do it until the horse knows how to do it, okay. Take the
time it takes. So that’s just number one; if it can’t do what you’re asking it
to do, don’t be scared to regress and teach those basic lessons again, and you
suddenly find actually you’re moving forwards, with the problem that you had.
But there will be times that that horse is actually just behaving like a little
prat, and being naughty, and I have no problem with you being strong with a
horse… not angry and not beating up on it, but create the boundaries, okay. And to be
honest, if you look at the way that you are approaching that reprimand,
remember horses hate moving their feet. If you get them moving, you taking them
out of a comfort zone, okay. And if you look at Clinton Anderson and
his wonderful website, Downunder Horsemanship, you will see there that he
talks about moving a horse forwards and backwards, and left and right, and getting
its feet moving. And when it reacts appropriately
stopped doing the stimulation and put it back in a comfort zone. So there many
ways of actually getting that horse – of reprimanding without getting over strong
with the whip and things. And I would really encourage you to just keep your
own emotions in check. And to be honest, I sound like I’m kind of preaching to you
guys, and I’ve been right at the forefront of making that same mistake. I
can remember being up in a club called Gingindlovu, up in zululand
when I was younger, playing polo up there, and I had a mare that was really giving
me trouble on the field. And I got so strong with her, to a point that it was ridiculous.
I got so angry with her that I played like a fool, we lost the game, and I
didn’t do the horse any favors at all. I didn’t help her, I didn’t take it forward.
I should have just taken her off the field, got another horse, and carried on
the game and gone afterwards, when I was cool, and found out what the problem was.
Is it just that she was being naughty? Maybe it’s a feed issue, and she was
overfed? All of those things come into why the horse is not behaving as you
want it to behave. So just, you know what now I’m… after this whole incident, I’m
driving home and my wife’s in the car, and she said to me, “Gav, did you really
need to get that strong with that horse?” And you know what, I was so young and
brash that I was trying to justify what I’d done, and it was unjustifiable.
There’s no justification for beating up on a horse, okay. So just don’t get into
that situation, and when I look back at that situation, and my answer, and not being brave enough just to say, Gav you know what, sorry love, I just
behaved like an idiot, I lost my cool. So on the field I lost it, and off the field
I also lost the plot, and wasn’t brave enough to actually to admit to
what I’d done. Ao all of that has left such a horrible feeling and yes I’ve
apologized about it, but it’s been a great lesson, because just remember that
the only bad mistakes in life that you make are mistakes you don’t learn from.
And boy that’s been a mistake I’ve really learned from. So, I just hope you
never get into that situation of beating up on a horse like that, and if you are,
just get off it and get yourself calm. Now, just while I’m talking about this, I get so many questions about the bits and what an appropriate bit is
for the horse, and I get these people that are saying “oh but that bit so
strong and it’s going to hurt the horse.” Well, every bit works on an avoidance of
pain, okay. Just remember that, so if you’ve got a little Snaffle in the mouth
and you are yanking around, and the horse is not responding to that touch on the
reins, and you having to yank on it. In my mind that’s
far more unkind, than putting the appropriate bit, that the horse knows
that if it doesn’t respond then it’s going to actually be associated with a
little bit of pain with that, okay. And if you are doing that and you’re riding
where horses are responding to the light touches, that to me really really is far
kinder than yanking around on a bit that is too soft for the horse, and not
helping it at all. So just to touch on that subject as well and I’m not saying
go and put the kitchen sink in the horse’s mouth… Number one go back and get
your riding good. Get onto a sheepskin. Get your riding really strong. Get your
legs strong, so that you can have soft hands, okay. And do all of those things as
well, but just don’t ride the horses when you cross, okay. Get off them, you’ll find
that your horses progress so much quicker. Really hope that helps gang, and
I’ll see you in the next lesson.

 

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