I do not play golf, but I have heard the age-old advice to "follow through with your swing". I suspect this advice applies to baseball, shooting baskets, and lacrosse. I have little to no experience in those areas, but I do have experience with horses and here is where I believe the importance of the "follow through" rings true.
I worked with a new horse today. A very big horse. He is a good horse and I like his curious, sweet personality, but I did notice something about him within the first minute that I met him.
He likes to invade my space.
I greeted the horse, but before I could even open the gate, his nose was up my sleeve. Cute, right? Wrong. I do not think this is cute. I do not mind if a horse sniffs me and I do not mind if a horse who knows the boundaries of being around human beings places his nose in my hand. I pet Harley's nose this way all the time. However, I do not like a new horse who knows nothing about me getting so personal. I want a new horse to be a little more cautious, like the kids on the first day of school.
I started leading this nice horse and found that his leading habits mirrored his "nose up the sleeve" habits. I had to hold the lead line on the right side of his chin, while leading left, to keep his face out of my lap. Let me reiterate that he is a very nice horse. Bully would be too strong a word, but when a creature weighs 1500+ pounds (I said he was big!), it doesn't matter how nice the creature is, if he is walking on top of you.
So after testing his leading habits in both directions and attempting to get a trot in hand, I decided to re-educate this sweet guy. My technique is to swing the leather popper at the end of the lead line toward the horse's shoulder. If the horse understands this cue, he moves his shoulder away from the line. If he is really in tune, the line does not even swing. I just move my arm or my hand or direct my intent at his shoulder. This horse did not know the lesson yet, so he ignored the swinging line.
The next step was to let the swinging line hit his shoulder. If he did not respond, then the line kept swinging at his shoulder. If he responded by walking into the line (into the pressure), the line swung with more intensity. If he tried to back up or planted his front feet and swung his quarters away from the line, the swinging continued. Basically, the horse had to figure out that the only way to get me to stop swinging that pesky line was to step his shoulders out of my space. This required persistence and timing on my part and here is where the follow through comes in.
The horse initially walked into me with his shoulder when I asked him to move away. I swung the line more intently and he threw his head up and braced his body. He made that horrified face that horses make when they really want you to stop whatever it is that you are doing. I think this is where a lot of people lose their follow through.
The worst thing that I could do at that moment, is stop swinging that line. If I stop swinging that line, I am telling the horse that planting his feet is the response I want. I am also telling him that acting scared is a valid coping mechanism. I am also telling him that it is safe to hang out in my lap.
I do not know about you, but I do not want a 1500+ animal to prefer my lap to any other place on this planet, because let's face it, that would not be safe for me!
So I followed through. I swung that line and when the horse looked horrified, I swung it some more. After ten long seconds, he decided that standing in my face was not a good idea and hopped his shoulders away from me. He hopped away and took off at the canter. Luckily, I am used to the feel of a cantering horse at the end of a line, so I turned his face and allowed him to canter around me. As soon as he jumped away, my line went dead. The swinging stopped. I did not punish him for running. I didn't say anything. I just let him canter until he wanted to stop, which was within half a circle. Twenty minutes later he was walking next to me, but at the end of three feet of line. Now he would trot when I asked and no longer made the scared-face. He even stretched his neck down and started to look quite pretty. Best of all, I no longer had a nose up my sleeve. If I had given in to his incorrect responses when I started swinging the line, I would still be walking with a giant in my pocket and very little control of his feet and body. In other words, I would not be safe.
The fact that he learned the lesson so quickly shows what a really nice horse he is. I just like to admire him with some space between us.