We know that consistency is probably the most important quality a horse or horse person can attain.

The race in the tortoise and the hare story pits the slow steadiness of the turtle against the nimble, flashiness of the rabbit. It concludes with the tortoise as the winner, communicating the much more valuable nature of consistency over the “wow factor.” Other words for it would be responsibility, dependability, work ethic, trust, loyalty and self-control. I put it under the “no adultery” commandment in the Bible, because it is all about hanging in there and persevering, even at times when we don’t feel like it.

If we knew nothing else about horses but had the desire for tenacity and perseverance, we would have 99-percent of what we needed. The 1-percent of technique doesn’t do much good if we do not have the staying power. Consistency is probably the most important thing for a new rider to get confidence in themselves and the horse. It’s the integrity of a good foundation.

Mike Daniels

Mike Daniels

Different personalities of horses and people take different strategies to get the responsibility of consistency. A slow, easily bored individual is going to take a different approach than one with a nervous, fast, easily excitable personality. An easy-going individual can get soured easily on consistency, so we cannot expect them to do something for very long before changing to a different subject or challenge.  A nervous, excitable person will take the opposite approach. They need to be almost bored on purpose in order to achieve a balance.

I don’t expect lazier horses to circle consistently in the round pen at first. I will first ask them to trot consistently for about four circles before asking them to stop. One circle at a run might be all I require of them in the beginning. I will require them to work with energy until I ask them to slow or stop, but I make sure I don’t ask them for too much repetition in the beginning. I will then change to something else, like de-sensitivity or maneuverability. We can gradually get them to circle more to develop the consistency of a circus horse through time as their mind and muscles can handle it.

I don’t let lazy horses walk too slowly on the trail. I would rather let them do a lazy jog rather than a lazy walk. But sometimes we can provoke their mind a bit by seeing how slow they can walk without stopping (this can be a real challenge). Whether it be circling or going straight down the trail, I make it uncomfortable for them to not be consistent in the fairly short time I ask them to do it in the beginning. I gradually ask them for more and more repetition through time, with the spice of variety of tasks in between to keep them from being soured. Ways I cause them to be uncomfortable when they are not upholding a responsibility include bouncing in the saddle on purpose and checking on the reins (quick jerks).

Nervous, excitable horses need much repetition to calm them and get them consistent. We need to be calm and relaxed ourselves when working with them, and our goal is to have them calm and relaxed before we quit. If they are not calm and relaxed when we are done working with them, they will not get better. This might mean simplifying our requests and giving them more time to respond. Sometimes they can seem to circle forever without calming down. We need calm, thinking consistency. In order to get them thinking more, I might cut them off and cause them to stop, turn and go back and forth in front of me like a cutting horse for awhile. When they begin to start waiting for my requests, then I will give them rest in between that and circling them. The many repetitions along with engaging their brain to make them think will eventually calm them, and will develop the consistency we want.

With calm lazy horses we need to interject variety to keep from souring them. With nervous horses we interject only enough variety to keep them thinking, otherwise we must bore them on purpose with repetition.
Our goal with nervous, or calm horses is to help them learn to pace themselves so they – as well as us – can be in it for the long haul. Especially if we ourselves are looking forward to eternity with the Jesus Christ, creator of all things good.

Mike Daniels is a horsemanship trainer and barefoot trimming specialist from Raymondville. Email: rlhorse58@yahoo.com.