Two weeks ago (I know my blog is very timely) I got the opportunity to participate in a Tik Maynard Clinic. For those who are unfamiliar, Tik is a sort of horse whisperer, and has a knack for being able to just “get” horses. I’ve known multiple people to have some sort of disconnect with their horse, and Tik has been able to help diagnose the problem. He also does things like this at the Thoroughbred Makeover:
Tik is also a upper level eventer himself, so I find that he’s a great bridge between natural horsemanship and eventing. I am also doing an article about the clinic for the next issue of Eventing USA, so this will be pretty brief and I’ll share that article and the specifics onces it’s published.
First was groundwork. As far as natural horsemanship goes, I know some people just plainly don’t like it, and that’s fine. I find that it benefits me and Justin because a) it give him manners on the ground b) it strengthens our relationship – its not just tack up, ride and untack, and c) it’s just fun. Doing ground work is kind of like being a little kid and just playing with your pony. Justin is perfectly happy to back and lunge and run around the arena with me – it shakes things up. He’s also quite good at it, so I can take him over jumps, through poles exercises, etc. on the ground.
Working with Tik reminded me of the basics, and there was even a guy who does natural horsemanship and is looking to get into eventing who was able to demonstrate some really fun stuff he and his horse do on the ground.
I think the biggest takeaway from the entire clinic, was the advice Tik gave me on Justin’s herd bound tendencies. Justin is pretty chill almost all the time, so during the clinic he is obviously doing the exercises perfectly and then returning to his half asleep state.
Well, Tik had me finish an exercise and stop away from the group. Once I stopped he told me to give all the praise Justin could take: pats, treats, loosening the girth, etc. The idea is that I encourage him to “grow roots” away from the group, and learn that is where he actually gets to relax and that’s where he should want to go. If we went back to the group he had to “work” by walking around on the bit – not as much fun as sleeping and getting treats and pats by himself.
The first time I make him park away from the group it was obvious how much he did not like it. He tried to prance around, nervously chomped on the bit and just generally was not relaxed. This was the lightbulb moment when I realized I was inadvertently encouraging his herd bound behavior. The fact that he is so laid back in every other situation with the group highlighted this fact.
He also said to bring a halter to my lessons/rides, so that when I’m finished entirely, we can stop away from the group and Justin can have his bridle off and eat grass and relax. No matter the execution, the idea is to make being away from the group the fun stuff. Obviously there wasn’t a huge change in his behavior in one day, but the idea makes sense, and I think this can help him. he also really only shows herd bound behavior on cross-country, so I’m going to keep at this and see if it helps make him more comfortable out on course.
Another really cool thing about the clinic was just watching Tik work with Justin as well as other horses. He worked with a couple wild youngsters, and when one started to rear he started smiling. Literally smiling from ear-to-ear at the prospect of another “learning opportunity.” My official goal in life is to have an attitude like Tik Maynard. He is level headed in every single situation – not to say horses don’t have to behave, they do. But, he has this refreshing empathy in his training. He told us that he thinks 90% of riders he sees push their horses more than he does, and I can agree with that, but he takes the time to really understand why a horse is acting a certain way, so he can really help them understand and not just “force” something.
I realize this didn’t cover many topics, but I will share my article about clinic specifics once it’s published. If Tik is ever in your area, I’d highly recommend riding with him!