Process Over Product
Updated: Jul 7, 2020
We all encounter challenges with our horses at some point, whether it’s teaching a new concept or improving on an old one. Whatever the challenge is, the PROCESS is more important than the PRODUCT. What I mean by PRODUCT is whatever “thing” it is we want our horses to do. When horses show resistance, handlers often increase their efforts and energy into getting the product. If the resistance is bad enough, it can escalate into a frustrating battle resulting in more resistance until the situation either explodes or we give up—either way, both are unsatisfactory and end on a bad note.
There is a remedy that prevents these situations from happening and you will never again have to worry about ending on a bad note—EVER.
The remedy is focusing on THE PROCESS. Find a starting point far enough away from the wrinkle (the resistance) and teach the horse to be very responsive WITH confidence in that step before moving on. There are always multiple areas on which to improve in any process leading to a product. For example, a horse that resists loading in a trailer has multiple potential wrinkles to examine: How well do they come forward off of light pressure on the halter?; How well do they come forward in a straight line?; How well do they step up?; How well do they back off of pressure on the halter?; How well do they follow your lead and match your energy?
Notice, it’s not THAT they can do all those things, but rather HOW WELL they can do them that matters. Are they able to do those things with confidence? Get all of those areas ironed out away from the trailer instead of trying to force them at the trailer. This is a time for creativity. Come up with ways to expose some of those wrinkles on a much more manageable scale that builds on trust, confidence, and leadership. In this example, the trailer is the product that already failed and I guarantee, during the time of failure the horse was focused on something other than our leadership. If we focus on the product (the trailer), we set them up for failure and/or a toxic experience. But if we step away from the trailer and find manageable ways to build confidence in their insecurities, they begin to see us as a leader worth following regardless of the situation. Because our goal is now helping them improve in the PROCESS, we can pick any point in that process to end on a good note. The product will come as a natural progression as it is the last step in the process. Adopting this mindset helps our horses become happier, more willing partners and helps our frustrations and anxieties about attaining the product disappear. Focusing on PROCESS over PRODUCT is a win-win approach to any challenge.
Remember, it’s Horsemanship NOT Forcemanship.