Something to think about
Yesterday I gave a lesson. The horse owner had had an accident on the pasture and now she is easily scared of her own horse (who likes to look around but is gentle in general). She is quite an unconfident person and I am trying to help her to be more self-assured.
Two behaviors attracted my attention: She asked for something, she got no response from the horse, she immediately stopped and became sad and disappointed. Plus: She asked for something, her horse didn't offered the right answer right away and she became slightly impatient with the horse.
The first example shows how little she is convinced of what she was doing. She almost expects it to not work before she even tries. She gives the aid, it doesn't work, and her conclusion is "I am doing something wrong". But not her doing is wrong but her thoughts. It's like having the first piano lesson of your life and beating yourself up afterwards because you are still not able to play that concert piece you've heard on the radio.
Cut and run is not the solution here. Instead, stick to it and give you some time. This is why we use phases with horses. We ask friendly, but we are able to reinforce and be clear about what we want and that we want it. Just because it doesn't work when we start out, it doesn't mean we are useless and whatever we are doing is pointless.
The same applies to the horse, which brings me to the second example. She not only has no patience with herself but also she cannot appreciate the horse's tries. It's not so much that she blames the horse for being stupid, it's her perspective: She interprets the horse's tries as mistakes. And she wants to prevent these mistakes from happening.
Please don't get me wrong here. I am in no way bashing this woman. On the contrary: I think she is brave as she carries quite some fear and is willing to tackle it and work on it. Plus, she is quite handy with the rope and stick already. So it's not clumsiness that gets in her way: it's her mind and her perspective.
A little perseverance and the belief that what she is doing will work out - even if at the beginning it doesn't - will fix the first problem. Allowing the horse to try and find the right answer without being judgemental will fix the second problem.
This is why I like horsemanship so much, by the way. You don't tell the horse what to do. Instead, you present him the signal and let him work it out on his own (with your support, of course).