In his new book, The Art of Restarting Horses–internationally acclaimed horseman, Mark Rashid, says that horses who received inadequate training the first time around need to be restarted before they can become “willing partners” for human beings.
Horses are a lot like people. When there are gaps in understanding particularly when it comes to the most basic of foundational concepts, confusion and thus frustration, worry, and even anger are sure to follow. On the other side of the coin, the stronger the foundation of understanding, the less likelihood there is of overall confusion and worry…
Just like people, horses often grow up with these “gaps” in their training and education. And again, just like people, they sometimes acquire undesirable habits as they mature. When this happens, it can be difficult for the horse to be a willing partner to a human, which can lead to further problems as misunderstandings multiply. In these situations, the horse may need to be “restarted”—that is, given a second chance to learn what is expected of him and how he can find a place where he is confident and comfortable both beside a handler and beneath a rider.
In order to restart a horse successfully, we need to know how to retrace the steps the horse’s education has taken. And we need to know when we’ve found the path missed the first time around.
Because of the geometry of the situation, with the horses being on the outside of the circle and me in the middle or hub, I didn’t need to move very fast or very far in order to keep a consistent position in relation to theirs. This position was basically right at or just slightly behind the stallion’s inside hip. I was moving with them in this way actually to establish two things. The first was that I wanted to take control of the situation in a relatively benevolent way. You see, up till then, both horses had been in total control of any situation regarding how they were being handled. I don’t really believe either horse actually wanted to be in control of their situation, it’s just that due to the general circumstances, that’s what usually ended up happening.
Anytime someone tried to approach them they would become fearful and flee. Because they were running, people couldn’t get near them, so their running created a release, but that release didn’t necessarily help them feel better. Their fear and running was how they ended up inadvertently controlling the situation. As a result, even if someone was able to get close to them, they still didn’t feel good about it, which is why they would run again the next time anybody tried to approach. Moving with them as they fled basically removed the release they had been receiving in the past by running, which caused them to have to put some thought into their situation rather than just fleeing from it. This, in turn, begins to shift control of the situation out of their hands and into ours.
Excerpt from "Finding The Missed Path: Art of Restarting Horses" Reprinted with permission from Trafalgar Square Books Copyright © 2016 by Mark Rashid