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Focus and Birdie
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Joe
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 Posted: Wed Apr 23rd, 2008 08:18 pm
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"Goofy and rider were not together...birdie gone bye-bye!"

Actually, you are probably thinking about another movie entirely -- Bye Bye Birdie


J

miriam
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 Posted: Wed May 14th, 2008 04:14 pm
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Seriously though, how far is too far? If the horse cannot think of two things at once ie: me and that something in the woods, how can he be looking over there and still be giving me one ear? I would say that he is still with me when I have an ear. Shouldn't I let him scan his environ a bit....?

DrDeb
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 Posted: Wed May 14th, 2008 10:11 pm
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Yes, Miriam. The animal has a right to examine its environment.

There is a difference between the birdie gazing out from its perch vs. the birdie flying away. This is metaphorical speech but nevertheless has a chance of getting the picture across to you.

The idea when you go on a trailride is to have the horse's birdie either on its head or behind its head, between your head and his head. It can also, when circumstances require it, be out as much as 20 ft. ahead of the horse, but no more than this, and with no intention of flying away.

If you don't understand this, then I suggest you go to the now-famous video clip on "You Tube" showing the bullfighter on the palomino horse. Ask yourself: why doesn't the horse run away? Where does that horse's birdie appear to be? Is its birdie in the same place as what it is looking at?

Why don't good cutting horses run away? What is it about following cattle at a walk that is so good for "flighty" horses?

Then when you have considered this, then go out to your riding area and practice turning your horse, at a walk, by means of the birdie. You "turn by the birdie" by using your inside hand or foot in such a manner that it attracts the horse's attention. When you feel his attention (his birdie) fly to your hand or foot, then you use hand or foot to draw the birdie farther around to that side. Thus will his body turn, for wherever a horse's birdie goes, there must his body go also. -- Dr. Deb

miriam
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 Posted: Sun Aug 24th, 2008 01:05 am
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Guess this is a good thread to ask this; when the horse gets that rumbling in his nose, couldn't it be that he's smelling something? I know it can come when they get nervous too, as a first sign of angst. The lake is in dogdays now, and a lake just smells like a lake anyway, but today they were snorting for the longest time. They didn't seem too nervous about it. They probably have better smell than us. One day they seemed apprehensive about the woods, kept looking there etc, I couldn't see anything, but then a bit later I got a whiff of something bad from over that way. That rumbling nose can't always be angst can it?

DrDeb
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 Posted: Sun Aug 24th, 2008 08:41 am
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Angst, I don't think, Miriam, but "concern" certainly. And yes, they do have sharper senses all around than we do, so they will often detect something -- smell it, hear it, feel vibrations in the ground, see it in the dark, etc. -- before we do.

So if there was a rotten cow carcass laying out there along the lakeshore, hidden in the reeds, they might smell that before you do. Or they might be smelling or hearing another animal moving around in the reeds.

We have an irrigation pipe that dives underground just off one edge of our riding arena. Sometimes there is no water in this pipe, sometimes it is full, and sometimes it is in the process of filling. When it is either full or empty it doesn't bother my gelding Oliver at all. But when it is filling, it both vibrates the ground from the water spilling down into it, and also makes a kind of gurgling subterranean noise. And he just absolutely cannot get that figured out. So every time the pipe is filling, then you get him standing back away from it, but facing it, and making these lo-o-o-o-o-o-ong roller-in-the-nose noises. If you chase him up at that time, adding excitement to the mix, or if you drive him toward it, then the roller-in-the-nose will change to explosive snorting and loud nasal blowing and whistling. This is a horse's way of saying, "I just can't believe that!!!" It is a mix of heightened "concern" but also heightened curiosity.

And this is why I don't say "angst" -- often when they snort, what's going on is more akin to what the cat tends to do of an evening, after laying around all day. There comes a mood when the slightest thing will set them off -- they go wild, they go up the curtains, up the back of the couch, run around with their back arched and their tail in an upside-down "U" and right up on the tips of their toes. This is signatory of  a buildup within the animal. Sometimes this is due to something that is concerning or frightening to them. But some other times it is just due to a buildup of sheer energy and spirits.

Where it gets unpleasant is when the rider is not capable of riding, or enjoying, the fast rollbacks and more energetic gaits that are likely to be part of the picture. The rider gets scared and wishes it wasn't happening, and also may want to punish. If you can't ride it or don't want to, the way out of this is to feel the buildup while it is happening, and then turn away from the triggering stimulus before the horse comes unglued. He's not being bad; he's just doing what the cat does.

What cures the cat? Go play with the cat. A few minutes of vigorous play dissipates the excess energy: chase the ball with the bell in it, wrestle with a toilet paper tube, go after a favorite piece of string. The cat enjoys this -- it expends energy and it is a relief from boredom and the lack of something to "hunt". What cures the horse? The same thing, more or less. Dismount and let him go gallop a while. Have him at liberty and encourage him to run, then run across the arena yourself and cut him off and turn him back. Snort and toss your head. He will see that you are playing, too. Oliver likes to "fake" coming in, getting within just barely fingertip-distance of me, then snorting, ducking, and running. This is a play invitation -- he is saying "chase me". So I do. We quit when he tells me he's blown -- he tells me by either coming right up and settling down and offering to have his forehead rubbed, or else he goes and gets on his drum in the expectation that I won't chase him off of it, so that he can rest there. 

You have to have a sense of humor to really train a horse. If you watch them when they're in their herd, you see that most horses show a kind of wry humor a lot of the time. And it is particularly instructive to watch horses when they play with each other, paying particular attention to what the one horse does to invite the other horse to play, and also to how they signal each other that they've had enough. -- Dr. Deb

 

Helen
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 Posted: Sun Aug 24th, 2008 12:27 pm
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Thank you so much for that post, Dr Deb, I have been wondering about that kind of thing - an "I'm feeling good, I want to play" kind of exuberance while riding - quite a lot recently, and wondering how to tone it down without taking the play out of the horse. Was so good to read your suggestions on how to do this... now to continue learning to distinguish between playful and vicious jumping around, since they can be so related to each other.

DrDeb
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 Posted: Sun Aug 24th, 2008 09:24 pm
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Helen, there is no such thing as "vicious" jumping around where horses are concerned. The very FIRST thing you need to do is get this type of thought completely out of your belief system.

If a horse jumps around -- or does anything else -- it is because that is exactly what the rider set the horse up to do.

If you have understood what I said in the post above about why horses may make sudden, vigorous movements, and how to de-fuse those, then you will know that your ability to "set the horse up" to go quietly depends entirely upon your ability to attend to the signs he gives you BEFORE he jumps around.

If your horse jumps around and this catches you by surprise, it is because you were not attending. This means you were not attentive. It means you were not sufficiently focused to call upon him to remain focused upon his work, or what you did want him to do.

Your focus determines his focus. Your confidence and inner OKness determine his confidence and inner OKness.

It might be helpful right now for you to go back and review your "Birdie Book", where all of this is discussed at quite some length. -- Dr. Deb

Helen
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 Posted: Sun Aug 24th, 2008 11:00 pm
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OK. Thank you and will do.

Joe
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 Posted: Mon Aug 25th, 2008 04:48 am
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Miriam:

We call that "getting snorty."  Often it starts with concern but quickly devolves into some avoidance which can mean roll backs, side passing and so on if we don't either put the concern to rest or make it go away.  If you like having several hundred pounds of coiled, worried power under you, it is a real treat.

I have noticed that our guys often get worried about something in the woods, to the point of losing focus and staring into the trees every time they pass a certain point on a certain day.   They care nothing for dogs; in fact, if the younger animal sees a dog in his pasture, he tosses his head and charges the dog, teeth bared.  No dog has ever stayed around for more than a few miliseconds.  However, kind of by accident, I have noticed that  my dog cannot be made to go into the lower pasture on the days that the horses are snorty down there.  She will dig in and slip a collar before she will walk there, and at liberty, she stays hundreds of yards off.  That pasture is surrponded by a creek bed that is connected to hundreds of miles of wooded stream bed and lake shore (yes, this really is north Texas).  We have coyotes and panthers.  I suspect that one or the other is or recently has been around when the animals get spooky.

Of course, we used to have a feral pig cross the pasture every day at about 7:30 am.  That was good for some fun, too.

Joe

cdodgen
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 Posted: Mon Aug 25th, 2008 05:27 pm
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Joe, Knew from you other post that you were a Texan, just did not realize that you were my across the fence neighbor.  Let's add to the list of coyotes, panthers (yes we really do have cougars and black jaguars here in North/North East TX) and pigs;  the humble and hard to see armadillo that sounds like a herd of water buffalo charging through the bushes after you.  Just as Dr. Deb stated about Oliver, noise with no apparent cause is of great concern to horses. 

Oh by the way Joe, if you ever get the itch to hear really good, correct bluegrass, come see us.  My husband (banjo) and brother-in-law (guitar) have pick'n session out on the porch.  Cheryl

Joe
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 Posted: Mon Aug 25th, 2008 10:03 pm
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We are outside Wylie, on the Dallas County side of the line.  Where are you?

You know, we also have wicked big bobcats the size of dogs around here, and those would doubtless worry a horse as well. 

Miriam, on the other hand, is on a beautiful property in the Minnesota north woods.  I'll bet her guys get to smell bears and wolves, and given the wetland off one side of the property, maybe moose, too, which could worry them.

You know, for a different kind of fun, try a small flock of birds breaking out of a cedar tree about three feet to one side and at more or less eye level to the horse.  Talk about bird(ies).  Bye bye for sure.

Joe

Last edited on Mon Aug 25th, 2008 10:10 pm by Joe

jlreyes
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 Posted: Tue Aug 26th, 2008 01:51 am
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As a Texan I have to contribute: SNAKES! Snakes in the ponds, snakes in the creeks, snakes who rattle, big snakes lounging across the road. And, I am the one who jumps, flinches, and squeals at snakes. My horse seems unconcerned about them and seems to be snickering when I spook -  Are all horses "cool" about snakes? The black stallion stomping on the snake thing - Does that only happen in the movies?

I really appreciate this thread because I wonder about the times that my horse and I come across things/animals that could be dangerous: Javelina with babies, hissing possum in broad daylight, skunks with their babies, etc. I know I get scared and my birdy takes off, but when I spook, my horse seems to keep his cool. I really appreciate him filling in for me during these episodes. Does he not worry about these things because he lives with them (heavily wooded pasture - out 24/7)?

And, there really is no noise quite like an armadillo running under a barbed wire fence:)

Jennifer in Central Texas

 

miriam
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 Posted: Tue Aug 26th, 2008 03:01 am
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Ok, we have wolves, coyote, fox, badger, bobcat (lynx), deer, fisher, otter, muskrat, porcupine, beaver, grouse, bear, and a rare but more than once yearly Mtn Lion sigting. Lots of big and small raptors. No moose reported just here Joe. There was a bear in the front yard this spring but it was after the bird feeder. I think the dogs keep most of this at bay, and the horses seem ok with the dogs scouting the perimeters as we move along. I always figure that when the horses are more hypervigilant than ususal, that something has passed through. I saw a big cat with a long tail cross the driveway once, horses were all ears and high heads that day. Mostly it's the dead things that stink that make for those "rollers". North of here, closer to where your cabin is Joe, I heard a story of a horse being killed by a big cat.

I know what you mean Jennifer, my horses don't even flinch when an eerie loud Barred Owl spooks me. I figure if they're unscathed, that it's all just ok. One summer awhile back when my filly was a yrlg, I saw a chase across the pasture; rabbit, fox, dog, filly!

Joe
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 Posted: Tue Aug 26th, 2008 03:15 am
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Moose are pretty ascarce by us, too.  I saw one once years ago at a distance.  My grandparents saw several, over a period of many years.  Once Grandpa was looking for berries or hunting or something in a creek in a deep V-cleft and startled one.  It ran, but not away.  He had to dive to the side and flatten against the cut bank to avoid being trampled.

As our horses are over a thousand miles away, I have had only a few chances to ride in Minnesota.  Have always heard that they will try not to cross or stay too close to an active bear trail.  Have you experienced that?

Joe

Julie
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 Posted: Tue Aug 26th, 2008 06:11 am
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Hi all, just to but in here.  Can't beleive how it must be to have all those animals around your horses.  In New Zealand ..... nothing no snakes nothing that would hurt horses just the odd bit of flying paper or something to shy at.  Any way further to the keeping their birdie and focus your challenges would frighten me let alone my horse so how do you keep their birdie in those situations?

Cathie


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