2019 Important Announcement
We did the videos for the 9 Keys almost 10 years ago and the quality is no longer up to current standards. The content is still excellent though – in fact the philosophy of the 9 Keys is the basis for everything that we do here – Feel for your horse, Connection, understanding our horse’s fear and resistance and how to do things differently so as to solve both of these dream killers (ah I just got an excellent title for a blog!), motivation without force, the importance of our own safety and even the feelings of safety. So I’m leaving the 9 Keys available until I’ve replaced them, which is in planning right now as I write this. In the meantime, enjoy!
The Second Key to Happiness with your Horse
When we describe how we want our horse to be and behave, we usually use words like calm, confident and relaxed. Most of us want our horse to be our best friend and a willing, happy partner.
But HOW is the big question.
HOW do we get a tense horse – like Oz in the pic above used to be – to be calm, confident and relaxed, able to learn new things happily and focus on the job AND look out for us at the same time?
This Comfort Zone Model will introduce you to a philosophy that will help your horse to deal with all levels of fear and anxiety. Fine tuning your use of this approach and applying it throughout every aspect of their life, will give you the ability to help your horse become that calm, confident and willing partner – under all circumstances – that you are no doubt looking for and help you to create a bond with your horse that is simply beautiful.
So here is the Second Key to Happiness with Your Horse – an introduction to understanding your horse’s fear and what to do about it. (There is a written version below.)
If you ever have trouble playing an audio or video that wants to stop/start all the time, here’s a great tip from Marja – click the start/play button and immediately hit the pause button. Wait for the video to load, then click start/play again and watch your video uninterrupted by your download speed.
Written Version of the Video
Helping our horse to get rid of their nerves or anxiety is fundamental to our RELEASE, RE-LEARN and RE-PROGRAM formula that is such a short cut to being a brilliant rider.
So here is the second key to happiness with your horse – a way to understand your horse’s fear AND what to do about it – with the Comfort Zone Model.
The most important job you will have with your horse from now on, is to notice when your horse is afraid AND TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT to help your horse to feel safe.
It doesn’t matter that you don’t understand how they could be afraid of this thing, it doesn’t matter if you think their fear is irrational – it only matters that you do whatever action it takes to help them feel safe.
Here’s a diagram of the Comfort Zone Model that will help you to understand how to do that. I got this from a gifted Tasmanian horseman called Philip Nye.
Towards the centre of the circle is the comfort zone. The comfort zone is where your horse feels comfortable and relaxed – where everything is familiar and feels good and learning takes place easily in the comfort zone.
This narrow band outside the comfort zone is what we call the Not Too Sure Zone. In the Not Too Sure Zone, your horse feels a bit of tension, even a slight anxiety.
The oh shit I’m dead zone, from now on known as the Oh Shit Zone, kind of speaks for itself. I think every horse rider knows this feeling. It’s a place where our horse cannot think, they can only react with survival reactions many of which are not useful to us as riders and some of which are downright dangerous.
Spending too much time in the Not Too Sure and Oh Shit Zones is the reason that so many people think that horses are dumb creatures of routine and habit – when in fact they are amazing, thinking, responsive, co-operative beings in their comfort zones.
Us humans aren’t too smart in our Oh Shit Zones either!
Working mostly in the comfort zone and spending no longer than two minutes in the Not Too Sure Zone – is a great way to learn fast and is fundamental to the RE-LEARN stage of the RELEASE, RE-LEARN and RE-PROGRAM formula that is SUCH a short cut to becoming a better rider and being better with our horse.
If we spend LONGER than two minutes in the Not Too Sure Zone, then we are in danger of creating a habit of our horse feeling tense and anxious. In fact, because nobody ever told us this stuff, it’s a sad fact that most horses already have that habit of feeling tense and anxious in many situations.
And it happened because they spent way too long in their Not Too Sure Zone.
And here’s the big deal – when you or your horse have been in the anxiety or nervousness of the Not Too Sure Zone for too long – the tension that comes from that becomes normal and that seriously gets in the way of your performance together.
You can change that chronic tension in the RELEASE stage of the RELEASE, RE-LEARN and RE-PROGRAM formula.
If your horse is anxious and if you are not completely confident, then make it just a few seconds at a time in the Not Too Sure Zone – until you and your horse do feel confident to be out of the comfort zone for longer – but no longer than two minutes.
The key to helping your horse be a happy willing partner is to spend at least 80% of the time in your horse’s comfort zone and no more than 20% in the Not Too Sure Zone.
So, spend 80% of your time where you and your horse already feel comfortable and safe and happy and only 20% of the time getting used to things that either of you are afraid of, or learning new things or whatever else makes you feel slightly tense or uncomfortable.
The practical application of this Comfort Zone Model is that EVERY TIME YOU NOTICE YOUR HORSE IS AFRAID, YOU DO WHATEVER IT TAKES TO HELP THEM FIND A COMFORT ZONE AGAIN – ideally in less than two minutes.
You back off, slow down, take the pressure off, change what you are doing, get off, turn around and go back to the paddock, to the field or the barn, go back towards their horse friend – whatever it is that you have to do to help them find a comfort zone again.
When your horse feels OK, you can stop there and wait for The Chew – that’s the validation that I talked about in the First Key – that signal of shared communication.
When you take this action EVERY TIME YOUR HORSE IS AFRAID, then the comfort zone will get bigger and bigger until it covers everything that you want to do with your horse.
And it gets much, much faster to put new things into the comfort zone as you go along and it is sooo worth it.
I apply the Comfort Zone Model to everything that I do with horses – all the time – so that relaxation and thinking and learning easily becomes the normal thing for my horse to experience. And I take whatever time it takes for that to happen. And believe me, once you and your horse get the hang of working like this it is sooo much faster to learn new things with your horse’s active co-operation.
I want to be a good rider and helping my horse to be a relaxed, thinking, cooperative partner where we learn easily together is fundamental to what will become a short cut to becoming a better rider.
In tomorrow’s lesson, I am going to reveal to you the biggest reason that you feel nervous or anxious when you are doing something with your horse. This is the biggest cause of riders losing their nerve. It will blow your mind how simple it is for people to either get their confidence back or even get it for the first time.