Yesterday a friend of the galloping housewife posted about her partner who, despite being completely non-horsey, had given up their morning to assist her as she struggled with a barn full of horses, an underwater yard and a muck heap floating away on the rapidly rising tide. The comments from their friends were quite revealing, with a stark divide between those whose other halves were supportive of our collective madness and those who wouldn’t leave the fireplace and the glass of red wine if their relationships depended on it. The galloping housewife herself is very grateful for the fact that her own husband of some *cough* 17 years has gone from not knowing the biting end from the shitting end to the point where he can now feed, change rugs, shift, load & transport and lay a bed fit for an Olympian. Not only can he, but he does. Without (audible) complaint.
But how much of this is luck and how much of this is good management? Many years ago the galloping housewife was told that she should be setting up a school for horsey husbands, such a rarity was the behaviour of her own amongst his peers.*
*For the purposes of this article, it doesn’t matter if the reader is male or female, if they’re married, co-habiting, dating or ‘thinking about it’, if their partner is male, female, purple, unicorn or frog – the principles are the same. And as the saying goes – the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The next best time is now.
The thing is, dear galloping housewives, you all have the skills to create your own perfect partner. All you need to do is transfer the tools you utilise every day at the yard to your home environment. Think about it. If you can persuade 500kgs of wilful animal that doesn’t speak your language, has a mind of its own and a brain the size of an orange to do your bidding, why are you setting limits on your ability to train your partner?
The techniques are exactly the same. Set clear boundaries about what is acceptable and what is not. Use cues to elicit the response that you want, reward a try and lavish praise when they get it right. Make them think that responding to these cues is their idea. Don’t keep asking when they give perfect answer – they’ll get confused and you’ll diminish the likelihood of embedding the training. Punishment should be used sparingly and timing is everything. Don’t let a shiny new gadget deflect from proper schooling. Don’t expect them to go Grand Prix until they’ve mastered all the grades below. Feeding the kids when you’re late home from the stables should be well established before you leave them at home alone for 4 weeks while you compete on the sunshine tour in Spain. And finally, it is always, always, all about good contact.