“Ability to make deadlines.” This is the kind of positive review we might expect to receive from a supervisor, or it’s a bulleted point we add to a resume. As a society, we value an individual’s commitment to doing what he or she says he or she will do “on time”—we schedule meetings we expect others to attend; our children have homework assignments we expect them to complete.
But when it comes to horses, deadlines are a recipe for disaster.
“In our world, everyone is obsessed with deadlines and speed,” says Magali Delgado in the bestselling book GALLOP TO FREEDOM, which she wrote with her husband Frederic Pignon. “In the horse’s world, you have to forget these. If you tug on a carrot, hoping to speed its growth, you will loosen the roots and achieve the opposite effect.”
Goals are different than deadlines, in that we can move the “achieved-by date” as necessary. We want our young horse to load into a trailer quietly and consistently? That’s a good goal. But a bad idea is to decide you need to reach that goal by the end of the week. Maybe you will accomplish it in that amount of time–or even less. But, few things scuttle your ability to work with horses in a rational, fair, and flexible way than stress and urgency brought on by—you guessed it—a deadline.
“When there are difficulties, I try to divide them up into manageable parts. I wait until the horse feels ready to take the next step, and I am convinced that in the end I save time by this approach,” says Magali. “When it comes to work, I try never to overdo it. Deciding on the correct length of a working session is vitally important. What is more, a horse must feel that if he does really well he will be rewarded with a shorter session. If he is forced to go on too long it not only tires him, it also ‘demotivates’ him—a great mistake.
“In horse training, inevitably, you will make mistakes. As Albert Einstein said, ‘Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.’ My horse shies: Is that wheelbarrow the reason? I remove it; he shies again. Is it because he doesn’t like being away from his friends? And so on. I spend my life trying to get to the bottom of enigmas.”
But one thing, say Magali and Frederic, remains very clear:
“Always be patient and never push too fast or too insistently.”
GALLOP TO FREEDOM: TRAINING HORSES WITH OUR SIX GOLDEN PRINCIPLES is coming in paperback!
CLICK HERE TO JOIN THE WAITLIST on Trafalgar Square Books’ online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.
Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of horse books and DVDs, is a small, privately owned company based on a farm in rural Vermont.