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Maia and my Greek Mothering

Balance is key for all living creatures. In our horsemanship, it comes into play every day: fitness/relaxation, technical skills/fundamentals, big movements/small ones, groundwork/under saddle work, etc.

Today, I'm talking about balancing "attitudes"...mine and the horses.

You see, I work so hard to have a bond with my horses, a good line of communication and trust, that, sometimes, I can err on the side of too much relaxed, affection-filled, casual work. How do I know this?

Because when a pole is on the ground, my horses will knock it over with their hooves and not think twice about it!

They're just moving along, singin' a song, and PLONK!

Granted, I don't train with cavaletti (poles) much because I don't have real cavaletti available very often (at my place they're just PVC poles that move with the breeze, I swear), and at the polo club they are massive pieces of

wood that also cannot withstand the force of a moving hoof (and are darned heavy for me to place and remove!).

Still, a horse that is thinking about its feet, will naturally want to avoid hitting ANYTHING with a hoof---that is simple self-preservation.

So, I feel I am to blame if I have gotten them to trust me so much that they put their life in my hands and just go where I ask them to go without thinking about their life-giving body parts.

I've decided that this year, 2020, is the year that I will help them all FEEL their bodies, own their greatness, and use their bodies in ways they may never have dared before!

In this clip, therefore, I am working on getting them to think about their feet. How? Not by smooth, professional, television-worthy tactics, but good old Greek mothering.

"What does that mean?" you ask.

Well. The easy answer? I yell when they get it wrong.

Yep, sorry, if you thought you were going to learn about some scientifically-proven, elegant new methodologies.

It's just plain old negative reinforcement a la Greca, probably dating back thousands of years. What does that translate to?

Oh! It translates to using verbal admonishment as the negative reinforcer! If the horse wants me not to yell, he can shut me up by not making noise with his hooves on the pole!

In this case, Maia, my super-sensitive and capable mare, gets all ruffled and dramatic in response to my ruffled and dramatic yelling and flag flapping--but watch how quickly she actually LIFTS her hooves the next time the pole is in her vicinity! And how quickly any drama disappears when the message gets through!

After this little encounter she felt good about her achievements, and I could drop the rope and congratulate her verbally and with a treat.

We got two things done with this exercise--she understood that I am a fallible, emotional human that can still be fair when excited; and that it matters where her feet are, and to please pay attention to them.

Greek mothering. The foundation of my horsemanship. And, the foundation of my humanship.

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