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Working with the spooky nappy horse
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devvie
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Joined: Mon Oct 31st, 2016
Location: Guelph, Ontario Canada
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 Posted: Tue Nov 1st, 2016 12:01 am
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Hello to everyone here on the forum. I just joined.

I'm looking to continue my education in working with a rather spooky and nappy horse.

The horse (gelding, 12 years old) is often fairly reactive and spooky in all the typical ways, and the spookiness is magnified by situations where his herd-bound behaviour is triggered: for example, can be very brave trail riding with others, and lead, but if he sees something perceived as scary, will then stop and "request" a lead from the other horse(s), and he is mostly always less confident on his own.

He can also be very nappy. Let me provide a few examples for you all from tonight, since they're fresh in my mind, but first I will say that I've been riding and working with this dude for over four years and things are consistently getting better in this regard, although progress is slow.

So, examples from tonight:

-leaving the farm/barn area, he takes a hard look at the scary tarp-covered bale of conditioner for the footing in the arena: it's been there for about 2 months but he still considers it new and potentially scary, and he's spooking (trying to go wide around it, high-headed, jigging). I ask him to whoa, stand still, allow him to lower his neck, and turn him to look at it. Excellent - he lowers his head, takes a look and then -- whoops, more nappy than excellent -- having decided it's not going to eat him today, starts to graze. Uh, not what I had in mind.

That over with, we cross the road to the house under construction across the road: lots of new stuff to look at here, but nothing worries him. I've brought with me a bag because I'm there to collect apples from the tree, fruit's going to waste with no one living there at the moment: we've been to the tree many times lately to stop for a snack. Horse willing to stand by the tree, but not putting his feet exactly where I want them to go (close enough to reach the apples please), and when I try to circle him around to far side of tree he resists in his classic manner: refusing to go forward, refusing to go left, instead spinning to the right. This dude has taught me to be patient about these moments so I stand him there, and ask a few times, nicely, and eventually I get the yes and we end up where I want to be, in a good spot to harvest apples. He gets a pat -- and then walks and then trots off in a spooky way, from under the apple tree -- haha, hilarious -- only to have me circle around again, again stand under the tree, and again he walks off. Third time or so, he stands, I get my apples.

On his best days, he's brave and willingly goes just about everywhere, if even sometimes he needs to stand and evaluate something before he's willing to go forward. On his worst days, he can prop from a gallop, he can spin hard to the right, and if pressed on the matter (i.e. if you try to demand that he go forward despite him acting fearfully toward something) he will rear. At his most fearful under saddle he trembles, snorts, and his heart races: classic signs of anxiety.

His ground manners are generally excellent, he likes his people. He's not a horse though about whom you would say that he's "workmanlike" or "always tries to please."

There's more nuance to my perceptions about all of this that I'm keen to discuss, but I'll start with the above for now.

Finally, I wanted to say two quick other things:

- I tried the basic focus exercise tonight, having just read about it today, and got 8 seconds of focus on the third try, with a gentle movement of the lead rope. However . . . instead of keeping his distance from me, just before I got focus from him (each of the three times), he would take two steps toward me and stand with his head inches from me instead of standing still.

- Secondly, I "discovered" Dr. Deb. through the USEF lectures posting on YouTube, for which I am grateful.

--Devvie

DrDeb
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 Posted: Wed Nov 2nd, 2016 01:01 am
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Devvie, I'm on the road today for a class and so can't answer you right now at length. I'm glad you've discovered the 8-seconds-minimum focus work and that you see the importance of it. Your troubles are not separate instances of different sorts of trouble; they are all ONE trouble and they all have one cause, and that is that your horse is not "with" you or "with" himself. His Birdie is not with him, and you so far don't know how to cause that to be.

Therefore, I suggest you order a copy of the 2-CD set entitled "Mannering Your Horse" from our main website. Go to http://www.equinestudies.org and click on "Membership", then go to the audio CD section. You are under the impression that your horse has good manners, but by your description this is not so. "Mannering" is connected to the horse having good manners, but really covers much more, and its whole basis is focus. In the absence of the horse's ability to keep his Birdie with him, and your understanding just what this means, he will not be able to be a mannered horse (or a safe or enjoyable ride, either). So go get the CD's and listen to them and then please write back after you've put into practice the concepts which I talk about on that program.

You will have some questions after that, I am sure, so write us back then. -- Dr. Deb

 

devvie
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Joined: Mon Oct 31st, 2016
Location: Guelph, Ontario Canada
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 Posted: Thu Nov 3rd, 2016 04:54 pm
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Thanks for your reply, Dr. Deb.

For sure the Birdie metaphor captured my interest in a big way the moment that I heard of it, especially in relation to this horse. I certainly will wait with my questions, but I have written down my questions of the moment, to compare with the questions I'll have after studying "Mannering Your Horse".

In the mean time, I've spent a good number of hours reading threads here on the forum, and have already put some ideas and suggestions into practice, and am seeing/experiencing some differences in working with this horse. Quite exciting. Proof is in the pudding as they say, so that it itself motivates me to get busy with these studies.

Thanks all.

--Devvie

Last edited on Thu Nov 3rd, 2016 04:54 pm by devvie

DrDeb
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 Posted: Thu Nov 3rd, 2016 05:20 pm
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Devvie, we will look for you to order the "Mannering" CD's as above suggested. -- Dr. Deb

devvie
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 Posted: Fri Apr 21st, 2017 02:19 pm
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Hello Dr. Deb and all of you forum members (and happy spring!),

I went for many snowy drives to and from the barn and elsewhere this winter with the Mannering cds playing and me listening, and I worked on applying them in the groundwork that Lou (the horse) and I did.

So yes, I do have questions. I wonder a little bit where to start, so instead of attempting to recount my many trains of thought regarding progress made, get into details about how the groundwork progressed, or to collect all questions into one long post, I think that I will begin with just two (very much related). Of course I have developed my own answers to these, at least partially, but I think it's better to ask them here, unless you'd like me to air my ideas on the answers first.

1) How to best translate the groundwork, esp. going to your room, to work under saddle?
2) What are next steps for me to learn to apply these lessons during (before, I would think) times when the horse is in turmoil, birdy is elsewhere, and flight response has kicked in?

Thank you.





-


Last edited on Fri Apr 21st, 2017 02:22 pm by devvie

DrDeb
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 Posted: Sat Apr 29th, 2017 05:43 am
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Devvie, thank you for the consideration and thoughtfulness in actually DOING as I suggested. The reward for this, almost without exception, is that the person so willing finds that "it works", and their horse and their relationship with their horse improves.

It is good to try to distill your many questions down into a crucial few. One question can contain many, and the INITIAL answer to any one question will usually lead to at least partial answers to many others.

So to your queries.

(1) This is multiplex and will evolve as your skills and perceptions evolve. For the moment, if the horse is liable to get "lost", then what you do is you dismount, lead him over to the drum, put him on it, and you both chill for a while. You get him up there and you let him settle and you leave him until just before he shows signs of wanting to get down on his own initiative.

(2) This is the same question as no. 1 in another form. You are correct in thinking that a great key lies in getting your spoke in BEFORE the horse's Birdie leaves. My question to you is, therefore, are you working on your own perceptivity? It is neither wise nor really allowable for the person to "fall asleep" whenever they are around a horse, either in the saddle or on the ground. The horse needs your support at all times.

Now, if you don't have a drum and haven't built one yet, go to Google advanced search per directions given in thread above this one on front page of forum, follow all directions and enter "drum", "drum work", "building a drum" as keywords and it will pull numerous different designs contributed previously by our readership here.

If after that you need specific directions as to how to begin drum work, then write back. After a snowy winter this will be great fun and a good project as spring begins in Ontario. -- Dr. Deb

devvie
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Joined: Mon Oct 31st, 2016
Location: Guelph, Ontario Canada
Posts: 5
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 Posted: Mon May 15th, 2017 03:28 pm
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Hi,

Thanks for your response.

Regarding your question, "My question to you is, therefore, are you working on your own perceptivity?" my first response is a happy YES: this has been key in any improvements made since we began the groundwork. Or perhaps less perceptivity and more ACTING on perceptions.

In short, during the course of the groundwork I realized that, despite having worked around horses for a long time and possessing what I think is a very decent grasp of their body language based on hours of paying attention to them, I would not react at the first inkling, instead opting to take a wait and see approach. (My coach, of course, has been telling me this for years, but I'm finally absorbing, to her amusement/suffering).

Therefore I have been working at reacting immediately, at the first sign. An example of this would be when Lou the horse is, say, thinking about doing a 180 back in the direction of the barn (which in his case means popping his shoulder a little out to the right as he always spins right). In the past I would absolutely notice this but not act on it until it escalated into a stronger signal. Now I'm working on reacting instantly -- which in this case would be putting my right leg on and basically telling him, buddy, I know what you are up to here, no way, forward and straight please, and rewarding him when he does.

Secondly I would comment that I'm also working on being more attentive -- trying to get ahead of him -- when we're out doing things. I'm trying to notice things before he does so that I can, uh, how to say this, better support him when he gets freaked out/show him that I am listening.

Finally, I do have one follow up question at the moment. Regarding the drum: most of our issues are when we're out on the road or on trails, so perhaps my question should have been more specific: 1) How to best translate the groundwork, esp. going to your room, to work under saddle away from the barn and out in the open.

(This is not to say that I don't plan on beginning the drum work, but this horse and I both benefit from being out on trails and we don't like to dull ourselves with too much ringwork, and ultimately the ringwork is all about making him brave and obedient enough to go pretty much anywhere. Also, cross country jumping is one of our activities, and to do this confidently he must go out on his own, away from other horses, with confidence.)

He's become better and better about going out alone, but there are still moments.
Currently I halt when these moments happen (because more often than not if I ask him to walk forward, he goes backwards, sideways, or up. Since I know this, I now opt to ask him to whoa instead), wait for him to lower his head, and ask him to walk on after that. If that doesn't succeed, I simply dismount, lead him forward, and mount again when I think he's calmed. I then ask him to walk forward again away from home. If he doesn't, I dismount again and give him still another lead. He does not get to turn around and head home. Some days he doesn't need this lead, other days he does.

Thank you again.


Last edited on Mon May 15th, 2017 03:32 pm by devvie


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