A typical lesson lasts two to two and half hours. It starts with a discussion, usually while the handler and I walk to wherever the horse is kept. The discussion centers around what has been going well since the last lesson. I like to start with what’s going well because in the end that’s what we’re here to do, make progress and celebrate it. As the horse is prepared in whatever way the owner sees fit I take the time to observe the horses behavior and the interaction the handler has with it. I try to just take a mental note but not intervene. I want to see what is really going on without my influence on the horse or rider. During this time I try to sit off to the side and just carry on conversation with the handler. Building a relationship where we can trust each other is just as important as the horse and handler building a good relationship.
Once the horse is ready and we’ve figured out what is going well, I’ve got a good idea of our basic plan for the day. The next step is to head to arena where we’ll be doing our work for the day. With any luck we’ll start at liberty in the round pen. I always want to do a quick check on how the horse and handler are interacting without any lines attached. Once a horse has been in training with me for several weeks this is a quick check, just a few minutes similar to a preflight before an airliner takes off.
I’ll use this time to talk about what might not be going well. There’s usually something that isn’t going quite the way the handler would like. We can usually use an exercise to test the problem and find out exactly where the hole in the training is. I’ll then work this into the lesson plan and we begin the formal training for the day. Where we go from here is dependent on the level of the training but will usually begin with ground work. We’ll move however fast or slow the hors requires and then move into the new maneuvers. I find it easiest to first explain the task and then demonstrate it slowly before asking the handler to perform whatever it is we’re working on. From here I can make suggestions and recommendations or corrections. When the handler is comfortable with the lesson we can move on to the next task.
At the end of the lesson we’ll go over what the handler will work on until our next meeting and talk over the progress from today’s lesson. I like to stay through the “putting away” process. But this time rather than just observing I’ll bring up anything I notice. We work these changes into the exercises we’ve already planned. I like to end the day as we put the horse away, talking about how the handler is feeling about the lessons. I always want to make sure that they are feeling like we’re covering enough ground, and working on what they feel is important. I also want to give them one more chance to ask any questions they haven’t gotten to.