If You are ANGRY, Get Off Your Horse

I have a super important subject I want to discuss, and that is...

If you are angry, get off your horse. Never be ANGRY (or emotional) when training or riding your Polo pony.

You will only do damage, and your horse (and you) will not progress. Here's why...

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If You are ANGRY, Get Off Your Horse | Polo Pony Training

If You Are Angry, Get Off Your Horse:


Gavin: Well Gang, a hearty good morning from Kings Polo Club here in - just outside Cairo in Egypt, where I am part of the team that's building this amazing setup here. This is the block of stables that - there're 3 of these blocks.

You will see they really had so much thought put into them. They made that the horses really feel to be a part of a group, in a herd. There not even doors on the stables. And at the end of the stables here you can see my office behind me.

And you will hear the fans in the background, it gets really hot here. We're looking at, at the moment, between 40 and 45 degrees (Celcius) in that in the day, so we're doing a lot of coaching at night and riding in the evenings and early mornings.

And this is my favorite time of day down here, in the early mornings. All the horses so tranquil, and really such a lovely setting and I just love being around these amazing animals. Having said that let me just - the fans are quite noisy - so let me just walk outside here.

And you will see as I walk out - let me find a chair just to sit and chat to you guys, because there's a subject I really want to touch on, of how strong should you be with your horses when you are schooling them. What is appropriate - my hand across that camera, sorry guys.

There we are. And the stick and ball field directly behind me here, that is almost ready to use. So the facility coming on in leaps and bounds. - Right, back to the subject.

(01:50) I think that the most important thing when I'm riding and training horses, is never to be angry while I'm training them, if they're not doing what I'm asking them to do.

My father, who was a really good player, he was eight goals and a great horseman, always gave me the advice of "Gavin, if you're angry, get off your horse, get yourself under control. And once you're under control you'll be able to think more clearly about the problem you're facing."

And that is such great advice guys, because to be honest, horses will try you to the nth degree.

It's like having a family and children. Man, you love them dearly but boy they can really try you, okay. And horses are looking for boundaries. Just like children, horses are looking for boundaries. And you have to create those boundaries for them.

(02:45) But the biggest thing is if you are training horses, and you've got horses that are not performing as you want them to perform, you have to ask yourself one question: is the horse not doing what I'm asking it to do, because it can't... Or is it not doing what I'm asking it to do because it's just being a naughty little Rat.

And you can't make a sound judgment on that, if you've got angry with the horse, because when you're angry you're going to overreact. As in life, you know, one reacts to friends or husbands or wives or whatever, in anger and afterwards there's such regret that you've done that you know and if you just taken the time to get yourself under control, and approached it in a nice, quiet, calm way, you'd have got a lot further down the track.

(03:37) So, anyway, I digress from the horses, but it's exactly the same story... Get off the horse if you're angry. Get yourself under control, and ask yourself that simple question: is the horse not doing what you're asking it to do because it can't?

And if it can't, also remember to do the medical checks, because maybe it's not being able to do what you asking it to do because it's got pain somewhere, okay? Mouth, tendons, whatever - have a good look and check that out and make sure you're not making the era of pushing a horse that is sore and it can't do because it's got a medical problem.

(04:14) Then there's the schooling side, and often if you find that you are battling to get a horse to do what you wanting it to do, if you regress in those schooling lessons and go back to basic steps, you will find often, a particular thing that it can't do and that is what's inhibiting it from going forwards, to do what you asked me to do at the current time.

So don't be scared to go back... There's a great saying from Pat Parelli, in his natural horsemanship book, of "take the time it takes"... How long must I go on doing this lesson, and there's no answer to that. Do it until the horse knows how to do it, okay. Take the time it takes.

(05:01) So that's just number one; if it can't do what you're asking it to do, don't be scared to regress and teach those basic lessons again, and you suddenly find actually you're moving forwards, with the problem that you had.

But there will be times that that horse is actually just behaving like a little prat, and being naughty, and I have no problem with you being strong with a horse... not angry and not beating up on it, but create the boundaries, okay.

And to be honest, if you look at the way that you are approaching that reprimand, remember horses hate moving their feet. If you get them moving, you taking them out of a comfort zone, okay.

And if you look at Clinton Anderson and his wonderful website, Downunder Horsemanship, you will see there that he talks about moving a horse forwards and backwards, and left and right, and getting its feet moving. And when it reacts appropriately stopped doing the stimulation and put it back in a comfort zone.

So there many ways of actually getting that horse - of reprimanding without getting over strong with the whip and things. And I would really encourage you to just keep your own emotions in check.

(06:18) And to be honest, I sound like I'm kind of preaching to you guys, and I've been right at the forefront of making that same mistake.

I can remember being up in a club called Gingindlovu, up in zululand when I was younger, playing polo up there, and I had a mare that was really giving me trouble on the field. And I got so strong with her, to a point that it was ridiculous.

I got so angry with her that I played like a fool, we lost the game, and I didn't do the horse any favors at all. I didn't help her, I didn't take it forward.

I should have just taken her off the field, got another horse, and carried on the game and gone afterwards, when I was cool, and found out what the problem was. Is it just that she was being naughty? Maybe it's a feed issue, and she was overfed? All of those things come into why the horse is not behaving as you want it to behave.

(07:15) So just, you know what now I'm... after this whole incident, I'm driving home and my wife's in the car, and she said to me, "Gav, did you really need to get that strong with that horse?"

And you know what, I was so young and brash that I was trying to justify what I'd done, and it was unjustifiable. There's no justification for beating up on a horse, okay.

So just don't get into that situation, and when I look back at that situation, and my answer, and not being brave enough just to say, Gav you know what, sorry love, I just behaved like an idiot, I lost my cool.

So on the field I lost it, and off the field I also lost the plot, and wasn't brave enough to actually to admit to what I'd done. And all of that has left such a horrible feeling and yes I've apologized about it, but it's been a great lesson...

(08:00) Because just remember that the only bad mistakes in life that you make are mistakes you don't learn from. And boy that's been a mistake I've really learned from.

So, I just hope you never get into that situation of beating up on a horse like that, and if you are, just get off it and get yourself calm.

(08:21) Now, just while I'm talking about this, I get so many questions about the bits and what an appropriate bit is for the horse, and I get these people that are saying "oh but that bit so strong and it's going to hurt the horse."

Well, every Bit works on an avoidance of pain, okay. Just remember that, so if you've got a little Snaffle in the mouth and you are yanking around, and the horse is not responding to that touch on the reins, and you having to yank on it.

In my mind that's far more unkind, than putting the appropriate bit, that the horse knows that if it doesn't respond then it's going to actually be associated with a little bit of pain with that, okay.

And if you are doing that and you're riding where horses are responding to the light touches, that to me really really is far kinder than yanking around on a bit that is too soft for the horse, and not helping it at all.

So just to touch on that subject as well and I'm not saying go and put the kitchen sink in the horse's mouth... Number one go back and get your riding good. Get onto a sheepskin. Get your riding really strong. Get your legs strong, so that you can have soft hands, okay.

And do all of those things as well, but just don't ride the horses when you cross, okay. Get off them, you'll find that your horses progress so much quicker.

Really hope that helps gang, and I'll see you in the next lesson.


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If You are ANGRY, Get Off Your Horse | Polo Pony Training