Lessons in the Round-yard

Central to all the work and training I do with our horses is the round yard – a small, fenced, round area approximately 16 metres in diameter. All of our horses are familiar with the round yard – it has become a place where old skills are revisited and new ones are added. It is a place where our horses learn “how to learn” and in the process become calmer and more confident. It can be a place of mayan_round_yard_webrhythm and cadence. To enter into the round yard with your horse requires that all concerns and worries are left at the gate – for in order to work with your horse you need to be with your horse…

The round yard is also a place of exposure. It is a place where attitudes are revealed. By asking the question – “will you go” – I look to see how the horse answers – sometimes – in deed most times – it is with a yes, but occasionally one of the horses will look at me, toss their head, flatten their ears and answer no…

The previous week for me had been a week to be forgotten. Facing challenges from a number of directions, I had found my faith, my patience, my love and loyalty challenged and exposed. I was left feeling weak, anxious and questioning my skills as wife, mother, daughter, leader and friend. Towards the end of the week I led Flynn – our young Standardbred gelding – into the round yard. Earlier in the week, during another exercise in a different area, I had asked him to go and noticed that, while he said yes, he had answered with a bit of attitude. Though a small thing, if left unchecked, it could develop into a bigger issue, so I decided it was time to try and nip it in the bud.

As I popped Flynn through the various exercises in the round yard, I couldn’t help but reflect how this session in the round yard was a reflection of my week. At the heart of any meaningful interaction with a horse is communication. Careful observation, clear cues and direction, accurate timing as to when pressure is applied or released, understanding the capabilities of the horse and what is normal and abnormal behaviour are all vital to a good relationship. As the leader in our little herd I need to be clear, consistent and focused on all that we do together. Was Flynn’s hesitancy due to him saying no or was I unclear in my communication. Was his action a reflection of his fear and uncertainty or a young horse testing the boundaries of our relationship? Each step, each exercise required an “on the go” assessment of not just Flynn but my actions and reactions as well.

At the end of the session we stood and faced each other – I reached out my hand and Flynn reached out his nose and we connected – horse to human, follower to leader. And although according to my ridiculously overdeveloped sense of perfection, the session may not have been perfect, change had occurred. Once again I was struck by the partnership that can develop between two individuals who are so very different but who seek to understand each other. And though the challenges I faced during the week are still there, I leave the round-yard a little more confident that they too, will be met and overcome.

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