My wife Christine has been a music teacher ever since she left school. She’s taught hundreds of people to play piano, keyboard, piano accordion and organ. I’d never had much interest in learning a musical instrument until a couple of years ago when Chris arrived home with a $25 tremolo harmonica. I picked it up and started blowing it.
“Just blow there, that’s a C” she said. “Draw on the same hole and you’ll make a D.” So began my musical career. It wasn’t long before Chris had me playing a few simple tunes. She started by teaching me to play just three notes – C, D and E. When I was confident and relaxed with C, D and E, Chris introduced more notes. The tunes gradually became more complicated and soon I was playing a full octave of notes.
Chris added one note at a time. She never confronted me with two notes at once. Each step led to the next step and each tune led to a more complicated one.
Chris gives me a lesson almost every day and after two years I’m the proud owner of half a dozen harmonicas and I can read music and play more than 100 tunes. Chris always makes my lessons interesting and doesn’t let me rest on my laurels. Every week she says “You’re ready for a couple of new tunes.” The next thing I know, I’m learning something new.
Learning music is very similar to teaching horses. I always start with one simple thing – I teach the horse to stand and accept me rubbing him from one side. (You could call that a C note.) Next I move to the other side and again teach the horse to stand and accept me rubbing him. (We’ll call that a D.) When the horse is confident and relaxed with this, I move to the next step and teach the horse to walk forward to me when I stand in front of him. (Let’s call that E.)
After a few days, I stand in the centre and teach the horse to walk around me in a circle. (This would be F.) There’s no point trying to move to F if C, D and E haven’t been taught and understood.
Each step must lead to the next step and there’s no point moving on if the horse isn’t confident and relaxed with the previous step. This step by step approach to horse training is exactly the same as my music lessons.
After a couple of months, each simple step that you teach a horse comes together so that you can lead him, load him into a trailer, ride him and play any other tune you wish.
If you keep the steps simple and work on one thing at a time, it’s amazing what you’ll achieve in a couple of years. You’ll have your horse playing all sorts of complicated tunes.
Chris often says, “Don’t expect to play the Moonlight Sonata in the first week.” And it’s no different with horses.
Unfortunately, a lot of horse people try to produce complicated movements when their horse doesn’t understand the basics. Many horse people think they don’t need to teach all the simple steps. They think that a horse can go straight to the “Moonlight Sonata” without learning “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”