All the snow is nearly gone, and natural obstacles are appearing everywhere I look. There are steep banks, creek beds, irrigation ditches, downed logs criss-crossed in every formation, rocky hillsides, nasty bogs, etc. that I have learned to love. These obstacles help a horse use his body in a way that allows him to get balanced and underneath of himself. By deliberately placing his feet with a purpose and starting to use his hindquarters, he is better prepared for his next step.
To me, the scariest horse to be on is a horse that doesn’t know how to travel outdoors, such as horses that live in a stall and are ridden on flat, well maintained surfaces. If you’ve ever done a job on a horse like this, you know what I am talking about. You feel at any moment that they could slip, trip, or just fall right on over because they have never had a reason to specifically place their feet. This makes the horse off-balanced and unprepared for different terrain.
Natural obstacles help a horse find three aspects of correct movement:
-connecting the feet to the reins for greater control of the placement of the horses feet.
-a horse starts to get his hindquarters underneath of him in preparation for the next obstacle or change of direction.
-the horse finds his natural balance in order to become more stable in any terrain through the connection of the feet and engagement of the hindquarters.
The beauty of nature’s obstacle course is the way that it helps horses find the connection, engagement, and balance. All you’re doing is setting up the scenario so that the horse is able to find these movements on his own. The longer it takes the horse to learn, the better, for it seems to imbed the positive effects in their system even more deeply. Ultimately, this makes any of the specific movements better, such as short serpentine, while engaging the hind and front quarters without working them directly. This allows the horse to search for the correct answer on their own, building desire and confidence in their mental state, positively impacting the horse to enjoy the time spent under saddle!
Application to Daily Life:
Have you ever felt like you have been forcing results to happen? You want to make such a positive difference that you do whatever it may take to get those results in the shortest amount of time possible, sometimes at the expense of others. The next opportunity that arises, I encourage you to step back for a second and ask yourself how you can achieve the same results by setting the scenario up in a way that others are able to find the solution on their own. Sure, it may take a little more time and effort, but the results will be worth every second spent. You will start to build a rapport with your team that will increase productivity tenfold by allowing others to have responsibility, make mistakes, and ultimately find the solution themselves. All you are doing is making the wrong thing a little more difficult and the right thing easy. When they find the answer they feel a sense of accomplishment instead of just another job finished or deadline met. It will build confidence within each and every person involved in the process and strengthen the relationships of the team individually and as a whole!