Harry Whitney Trick Training Clinic

~By Ima Mary Dennis

1) Began the morning with a story about what transpired when he went to get gas the afternoon before. It was pretty full with big trucks, but he saw one pump that he could get to by maneuvering a certain way and wouldn't lock any other trucks in.

As he was pulling in, a horn blasted and he saw this guy in a truck yelling to Harry that *he* was next and that Harry had cut in, etc.

Now Harry had looked closely and never saw this guy...had no idea where he came from. But it was obvious that the man thought Harry *should* have seen him...though Harry had done his best to figure everything out, he still was clueless as to where this guy came from.

As Harry waited forever....maybe 4 minutes....there were 2 things Harry thought about from this incident:

1) That we often think our horses *should* know something just because it is perfectly clear to us.
2) That he sure felt sorry for the guy if his life was so busy/stressed that 4 minutes made that much difference to him.

How does #2 apply to our horse life? Slow down, be in the present because that is where our horse is. Don't be thinking about what tricks to work on, if and where everyone is going to dinner after the clinic, will my horse do well during the clinic, will I make a fool of myself, etc.

For me, the fact that Harry felt bad for this guy rather than thinking he was a real jerk, was the first of many instances/stories that showed how Harry walks thru life...with compassion, not criticism, with understanding not judgment, with patience not pressure, with responses not reactions.

2) Hard for humans to do nothing. easy to put on pressure, difficult to release (i.e., do nothing)

3) Patrick was talking with Harry and mentioned that out of 30 minutes of talk, a person might remember 10 minutes of it. Harry said that if the instruction offered contains humor, then the remembered part is raised to 40%....and that if we don't remember then it is his 'fault' as the teacher because of his presentation!

Besides teaching with humor and wonderful stories, Harry also used analogies to really drive home what he had said.

4) The vital importance of consistency. If a horse is in a stall and we put up an electric fence about 100 feet from the stall in the middle of the night and then let him out, he will bump into it. Will he remember the boundary in the morning? You bet.

But what if, after he bumped into it at 100 ft and the next night you moved it into about 50' and then let him out...would he bump into it...probably yes...because he was expecting it to be at 100'.

So, the next night you moved it out to 150' and let him out, then moved it to 25' and then to 40 and then to 10....eventually that horse would be so frightened and confused he would only come to the door of the stall, but not venture out. Getting zapped by something that was never where he remembered/expected it to be would fry his brain and he would become paralyzed with fear or aggressive with frustration.

Its heart-rending to think that we can cause the animals we love to feel the exact same way as that poor horse in the illustration. What responsibility we have!

5) For the horse to feel at peace, the feet have to be where the mind is. If you don't believe that, watch a horse in cross ties that is pawing and moving around. If you were to let him loose, do you think he would stay there between the posts??!! His mind was somewhere else and when the opportunity came (he was let loose), the feet carried the body to where ever the mind was.

For the horse to view us as the sweet spot, we must be able to draw the mind back.

6) The old saying 'wrong thing difficult/right thing easy'....sounds good, huh? But more often it is 'between a rock and a hard place'....we make the wrong thing difficult, but we only offer a hard place as an alternative. he is forced to choose between the lesser of two evils and we are not the safe/comfortable place for him to go.

Patrick came up with a good illustration of this...a kid wants ice cream. The dad offers him broccoli or an apple. Of course, he will choose the apple....but he STILL wants the ice cream and the kid isn't feeling that great about ole dad right now.

What if, when the kid wanted ice cream, the dad took him out in the yard and played ball with him or read to him... IOW...replace the desire for the ice cream with something the kid enjoys...the kid is having fun, he's thinking dad is a pretty good guy to be with and before he realizes it, he has forgotten about the ice cream.

Pretty good illustration considering we never had any kids!!

7) The more difficult the behavior/movement, the more often we need to stop and say 'thank you for your effort'...we simply must see those tries the horse is giving us.

8) On the trail, you ask your horse to slow down...his feet slow, but pretty soon you are engaged in a pulling contest or you are constantly bringing him back , he speeds up, you bring him back, he speeds up. what is really going on here? Again...the feet/mind thing. The feet are being stopped, but the mind is still way out in front (the feet are just trying to keep up with the mind!!). Illustration ~ at a stoplight, you step on the brakes. the car stops, but the engine is still running as it would be if you were going 60mph!! Soooo...what will help that horse? Backing, not just slowing or stopping. The backing stops the mind from thinking forward. Of course, this needs to be established on the trail with people who will work with you, not leave you as your horse is backing!!

9) For a horse who is slow...doesn't want to speed up with in the gait...upward transitions are needed. Scenario: ask him to walk faster...so you bump him (or whatever your cue is), you keep bumping him...he starts trotting. That isn't what you want, so you shut him down. he gets frustrated and pretty soon you are bumping harder, kicking, hitting, yelling, screaming, cussing, selling him!!! Harry said the thing he sees most with this is that when the rider brings the horse back down from the trot, he also stops riding with energy/focus...so the horse shuts down to that slooowww walk. Bring them back from the trot, but keep your life up...not for a trot but for a faster walk. Accept and reward each single step and then string them together.

There were a couple of other things we remembered...I will try to finish this tomorrow.

Harry is an exceptional teacher, and a rare combination of charisma and genuineness...and just plain funny!!

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