There is more than one way to skin a cat. Or, more aptly put: there is more than one way to achieve something with a horse.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that only methods x, y, z can be used to achieve the desired result/feeling. Or worse yet, that only 2-3 exercises are needed to train a movement.
The reality is that every horse is different. If you confine your methods and exercises, you may stifle progress– not to mention your own learning.
A horse I tried to introduce collection to recently delivered this humbling lesson. He knew most of the lateral movements, but had a hard time figuring out how to take weight behind, transforming his normal working gaits into collected ones. I tried teaching him using the lateral movements…nope. Couldn’t put the pieces together. I tried teaching him the concept more directly via transitions. As soon as I asked, he became like an angry teenager– all rebellion, no reasoning. Then one day, to break up the monotony of arena work, I set out a series of trot poles. DING! The light went on.
Without directly asking him to transfer the weight, he naturally figured out how to shift his weight back. It wasn’t just the collected trot he figured out for himself, but also the canter. Although humbled, I now have one more method I can use to teach collection to another horse in the future.
Your horse is your greatest teacher– if you are humble and open-minded enough to learn from him.
How large is your arsenal of exercises for your most challenging training obstacles? What beliefs about how horses must be trained do you hold as absolute truth? Have they ever been challenged by a horse? What was the outcome?