How to Soften a Horse’s Mind with Tom Wagoner
- July 5, 2016
- Wendy Greenough
It is very common among horseman to describe a horse, as one who has a soft mouth or who is soft sided. This usually means the horse is sensitive, responsive, well broke, and in-tune to the rider. What about a horse who has a “soft mind”?
Have you ever thought about creating a horse that is content, confident, and clearly focused on the task at hand? Creating a horse that was finely tuned-in and waiting for your next cue, a horse that checks- in?
Have you ever stepped on a horse that was on cue, made every move you asked, placed his feet in perfect timing, and was soft and supple in your hands…however…his mind was everywhere but on you? His mind was busy! This has happened to me a lot while running barrels on our stallion, Fabulous Golden Jet, aka Corona.
He was started and trained by my father and mentor, Tom Wagoner. Corona is very sensitive, and very in-tune and receptive of your body language. He does exactly what you ask, when you ask. Therefore, there were never grounds for punishment. However, the entire time he was generally looking off, his mind was busy, and clearly everywhere, but on me. Often times, Tom, would travel to barrel races and give Corona his warm-up. The difference was night and day! When Tom had the opportunity to do this, Corona’s mind was settled, tuned-in, and content. Our competition runs were hard to beat!
For me, as a trainer and competitor, this is a huge struggle!!! However, Tom, who is a very artistic horseman, knows how to create a horse with a soft mind. It wasn’t until my struggle with Corona, that I realized what a gift Tom had of giving a horse a content, confident, and clearly focused mind set.
How does he do it? “Unfortunately, there is no text book explanation,” says Tom. Tom explains, “There is no mechanical cue that I have found or use to accomplish this. It’s a discipline, and a bond of trust that you establish with your horse. It’s a feel. You must give your horse the feeling of confidence and contentment, and in return they will be willing to please. This is something you have to earn; just as you earn trust and respect. I guess this is a gift I am not able to give. I can only make people aware so they can strive to obtain this type of a relationship with their horse, to enable them to do these same things.”
Of course, this was not the explanation I wanted to hear! I wanted the textbook version! However, I have already learned something from this reply and now I have several things to work on to build this type of relationship with each horse I ride.
Please join me on Cavvy Savvy as I share more teachings of my father, Tom Wagoner . Until next time, always enjoy your ride!
About Wendy Greenough
Horses are the cornerstone of my family, occupation, and lifestyle! I am fortunate to be the daughter of renowned horseman, Tom Wagoner, who is also the founder of Feet First Horsemanship. Tom has always been my main influence while training horses, and I'm...