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Redmare
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 Posted: Fri Jun 9th, 2017 03:32 pm
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I finally got a chance to go actually ride with one of the ESI recommended horseman, Tom Curtin, this past weekend. It was an incredible 4 days, I'm still processing all of the information I garnered from riding and watching; my notebook is getting quite full! However, there are some things Tom talked about that I'm hoping, Dr. Deb, you can help me fill in the gaps on.

1 - There was three mornings of colt starting, with most of the horses being between 1.5 and 3yo. Someone asked Tom a question along the lines of "what next?" for these young horses once the owners return home with them. Tom said he's both started the horse and then let him alone for a year or so before coming back to him as well as moved right on to working with the horse under saddle. Now, these are quite young horses: I am very familiar with your piece on skeletal maturation, so it got me thinking about if I'm missing something...Tom talked about a couple of the horses he brought having only had 10-12 rides (or less!) on them (these were 3 year olds) but these horses were as soft, relaxed and responsive as could be!

2 - The horse I brought is not one I own, I am working with him for someone else and he came with some troubles. This horse resented going forward: he resented a driving aid from the ground on a long line and resented the leg under saddle. I had not cantered this horse yet under saddle due to the significant resentment he had about being asked for a strong effort forward, so Tom had me hustle him at the trot and get him trotting as fast as he could go until I felt him say "But Abbie, I just can't trot any faster, I think I might have to canter!" to which I'd respond "that's a good idea" and let him break into a canter. I'd let him alone until he broke to the trot again, and then I'd hustle him until he offered to canter again. By the end of three days (and now back at home) the horse very happily took a rhythmic, easy canter with no fuss and minimal "hustle". I didn't think to ask Tom about why the word "hustle", but I know he chooses words carefully...I'm thinking that here the "hustle" was never about getting this horse to canter, indeed I wasn't really to care if the horse did canter at all. I cared about raising the life in that horse until it became HIS idea to canter, and I just gave him permission to do so. So is it the INTENTION here that made all the difference? I have seen plenty of horses "hustled" into a canter: they do so resentfully, off-balance and at a very quick pace. This horse took a few tries to find his balance, but he now steps into a lovely canter quietly and calmly. I think previously this horse was "hustled", but it was done so with the human's INTENTION upon cantering the horse with no thought as to how the horse felt about it. I think what Tom showed me how to do was just set it up for the horse and let him find it on his own.

3 - Still regarding the canter: the first several times this horse took the canter from the hustled trot he bucked, not to get into the canter but a few strides in. When he did he'd break to the trot and Tom had me hustle him again. The bucking became less and less until he no longer did it. Now, when Tom had me continue to hustle the gelding after the bucks, I kept thinking of what Ray said along the lines of "you can't take the horse through something bad and come out OK", but I trusted Tom and so I did what he said knowing it'd work out. What was the difference in this situation? Are we again looking at intention, and the fact that if I'd been intending to get the horse to canter, he'd likely still be bucking? Is it that the horse came to realize that intention and thus got OK with raising the life because it became his idea?

I am so glad I was able to have this experience...the depth at which I'm still processing this is amazing and humbling. Tom says hello, by the way!

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 Posted: Sun Jun 25th, 2017 06:38 am
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Hi Redmare,
I hope you don't mind me adding onto this thread but I took my pony to Dr Deb's clinic this year and it too was an amazing learning experience. It has taken me a while to process all I learnt but I too have some questions I haven't been able to answer--


Dear Dr Deb,

Thanks again for coming down to NZ this year, I had such fun at the clinic and got to feel so much, learnt lots but I have a puzzlement that I am having trouble clearing up.

At the clinic you set things up for me and my pony so we could have a good ride and learn. You noticed her ‘sticky feet’ and got the other riders to spread out around the arena. She always has had ’sticky feet’ or is a better term a ’sticky mind’?!

I mentioned she swallows her Birdie and you said something along the lines of she’s a mare and I bought her! Most of our riding is on our own and I still can’t figure out how to get her to barf up her birdie when she swallows it. I don’t see the point of “getting after her” when is it down in her guts and her mind is there too and there is no energy to work with. I feel I am missing something. I wonder if she could benefit from the Lesson of the spur or is there some way I can grab her mind before she feels the need to swallow the birdie.

I have been trying to keep her busy, lots of transitions but somewhere along the line she decides enough is enough and sucks back. I just have to think let’s change the footfall to trot now and she is sucking back. How do I help her see moving her feet as a good thing like she did at the clinic.

If you get a moment to nudge me in the right direction it would be much appreciated.

Stay cool, it sounds so hot over there.

Kind Regards
Judy

DrDeb
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 Posted: Sun Jun 25th, 2017 11:50 pm
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OK, Redmare I'll answer yours first and Judy's after that as they are different questions about different aspects of the clinics you attended, or relating to different problems with the horses. Go right ahead and write back if you still have questions after reading these replies or don't understand something I've said.

Redmare, you asked three things, and here are my responses to those in order given:

1. Who said being two years old would prevent the horse from being a completely happy camper, if handled well and correctly at that age, just as if he had been well and correctly handled at any even younger age? There are two year olds who are so physically immature at that age that nobody should ride them, due to their weediness; just as there are miniature ponies that nobody should ride, due to their tininess at whatever age; and just as there are some horses, of whatever breed or type, that nobody should ride at any age because they have a screw loose mentally. Tom is perfectly capable of judging which those are and advising you of his findings; this is one thing that qualifies him to teach. So his judgement regarding whatever two year olds you saw him start was that those two year olds were physically mature enough to handle all aspects of that process, which involves all the ground handling preparation, plus saddling, mounting and dismounting, and brief rides. Then you also heard Tom say, "after this three-day clinic experience, you can just as well put these two year olds up until they're four." In other words, he's telling you the truth, which is, after having been handled well and correctly at the clinic, they've not only learned the right responses and the right attitude, they'll also remember those lessons and retain that good attitude for the rest of their lives. "So they're started, so they go" Harry Whitney always says. And Tom has done, and so advised you, exactly as Ray Hunt, Buck Brannaman, and Harry Whitney would do, who also know the business well and do it correctly. In short, most two year olds can stand three or four days that it takes to start them under saddle. What they cannot stand, which is what Tom and the other guys are telling you, and which is what I also have told you in the "Ranger" piece, is that they cannot stand to be WORKED at that age: i.e. put into training for any form of competition, or asked to do more around the home, farm, or ranch than basically ride down to the mailbox and back. They need the time to mature, so that you can start them at two so long as it is just STARTING; but WORK begins when they're four and they're well on the payroll at age six.

2. Cantering is not a speed, my dear. Cantering is not faster than trotting. Cantering differs from trotting merely in that it involves a different coordination of the limbs, resulting in a different order of footfall. Cantering is not "more advanced" than trotting or walking; it's just different than trotting or walking. All normal unmounted horses canter, and all those horses already know how to canter. So it's not them that need to change; just your thinking, and for that matter, the whole industry's. "Hustling" in the form you did it at Tom's clinic was not done in order to punish the horse, or even for the sake of teaching him to go FASTER, because cantering is not faster than trotting. Tom flagged the horse on in order to teach the horse that the rider's leg is to be taken seriously; it is to be obeyed every single time throughout that horse's life. And what the leg means is NOT "go faster" but "wake up", "pay attention,"  or "get ready" --because the rider is about to ask for something different.

This is hugely important: HORSES DO NOT GO 'FORWARD' BECAUSE YOU KICK OR SQUEEZE WITH THE LEGS. They learn to go forward, i.e. to give energy and to prepare to give energy, or as we say 'to raise the life', because they DO NOT WANT to be kicked or squeezed with the leg. It is very difficult to get most students to understand this, because what you are used to is that stepping harder on the gas pedal of your car makes the car go faster. That is ABSOLUTELY NOT how it works with a horse. Once you understand what I am trying to say here, though, your horse will perk up, raise the life, pay attention, and prepare to obey (whatever you say next) whenever you so much as tweak a calf muscle or step down a little firmer into one stirrup. And the way that the horse learns this is, you apply LIGHT pressure with the legs, you give him two heartbeats to get with it, and if he does not, in comes Tom and swats him on the butt or flags him. Pretty soon you ask LIGHTLY and as soon as your leg so much as moves, the horse gets himself ready.

So at every one of the clinics given by those who are truly representative of our school, you will see the clinic leader flag or swat horses' behinds when the horse does not GO FREELY FORWARD or FREELY RAISE THE LIFE upon the mere threat of the application of leg. The rider must learn never to apply more than a couple of ounces of leg pressure, because most horses would love to sucker you into a role reversal, where YOU wind up doing a ton of physical work while the horse winds up doing all the planning.

3. Horses often buck (not usually very hard, just kind of a hiccuppy higher lift to the rear end) when they are first learning to carry a rider at the canter. The buck gives them extra "air time" which allows them to get their hind feet into coordination with their front feet so that the result is a canter. Your animal bucked less because he got better at the coordination, and also got better at putting fully enough weight on the outside hind foot, upon which crucially depends the canter departure. Every canter stride after the departure is another departure too. You will materially assist the horse in learning this by consciously sending your feel and your "intentions" down into the outside hind limb. Horses that enjoy cantering, and there are a lot of those, will often learn to make a beautiful quiet departure merely from this "intention". -- Dr. Deb

DrDeb
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 Posted: Sun Jun 25th, 2017 11:58 pm
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OK, Judy, now your turn.

In your case, it's going to need to be a "question and answer" session.

As you know, your brown pony named "Little" is herd-sour. This means WHAT in terms of her birdie? And it results in WHAT in terms of her behavior?

This is an example of the operation of the very most important and very most basic LAW of a horse's life. WHAT is that law, which I have sometimes called "Whitney's Law"? Can you state the law please, which I have repeated at every clinic, usually several times, each year for the past decade during which you have been attending clinics. -- Dr. Deb

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 Posted: Mon Jun 26th, 2017 06:09 am
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Whitney's Law
'To the extent that the body and the Birdie are separated the horse will manifest signs of stress and misbehavior.'

Herd sour: In terms of her Birdie... I have left it behind and her thread is getting stretched.

Her behavior is sucking back, reluctance to go in the direction I would like to go and if I don't listen she will up the ante and threaten to rear. I think she is scared rather than 'stubborn'.

Regards Judy and Little

DrDeb
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 Posted: Mon Jun 26th, 2017 07:33 am
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OK, Judy, so far as "note-taking," that's right, but you seem to be blanking on an idea of what is to be done about the problem on a practical level.

What I have done in our clinics, by asking the other riders to surround you, is simply avoided having to solve the problem. When there is a horse on every side of your horse, Little is not particularly sucked in any one direction, and this allows you a semblance of an opportunity to experience what the others, whose horses are less troubled, have been having fun with. But make no mistake, it is merely a crutch and the real problem has been "ducked".

I choose to handle your barn-sour and herd-sour horses this way -- I'm using the plural because ALL of yours have been this way over the years -- because you are not the only person at the clinic and we have very limited time. If we were to focus on clearing up this difficulty during the clinic, it would result in Judy getting all the time and attention, and other people, who have already solved this problem and who want to go on to learning canter departs or leg-yields or other skills, can't do that while they politely wait for Judy to catch up DURING THE CLINIC on what she should have been doing AT HOME. This is the difference, you see, between conducting a clinic and what I would do if I were with you week to week like a normal riding instructor. When all the instruction is compacted into clinics, the instructor must depend upon the student not only to take good notes, but to grasp the principles and ACT UPON THEM independently during the 11 months and 3 weeks out of every year when I am not with you.

I know you've attended Buck's clinics in NZ. And I know from talking with Jenny that the occasion has arisen, more than once at his clinics, where it was necessary to help a horse to (as Buck puts it) 'get a divorce' from the herd.

Can you describe to me what Buck does to accomplish this? (Incidentally, we did this at my clinic for several people, including yourself, during the first several years, when the group was at a very elementary stage where many people were having this type of problem; do you remember?)

You are correct, you have tried to ride Little away from the herd, or away from wherever else her desires are attached; you have ridden her BODY away but you have not made sure that her birdie came along with her body, and this separation, which you force upon the horse by your desire to ride "out" no matter whether the birdie is coming along or not, is what stretches the thread and causes the horse to defend itself, even to the point of violence.

How does Buck's technique get the horse's birdie to come unstuck from the herd and fly back to the horse's body, so that the two are united? In short, what, exactly, are you to DO -- when we are not merely "ducking" the problem by giving you a crutch consisting of a circle of horses surrounding you?

As you know, only when the body and the birdie are united will there be peace and equanimity inside of the horse. Then the thread is not stretched, and you can go anywhere, so long as the horse packs its birdie along at each moment of each ride. -- Dr. Deb


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 Posted: Mon Jun 26th, 2017 08:34 am
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Buck has spoken of the horse's divorce at his clinics, unfortunately the one that had a brilliant example of it was the clinic I didn't get to! As I understand it, the herd bound horse is ridden on a loose rein/not steered but has to work/is kept busy by the rider among the gathered herd. She discovers this is not a very comfortable place to be so starts to look for other options eg looks up the arena, here the rider gets quiet and horse starts to think someplace else might be more comfortable for her. The horse might need to return to the herd for more work but each time she leaves the herd she finds peace, and the time in the peaceful place gets longer in duration. This keeps going till the horse chooses to stand at the other end of the arena and rest quietly. This may have to be repeated. From a Birdie point of view this process calls the horse birdie to her and away from the other horses.

I seem to remember from your clinics the horse was kept moving among the herd, with the rider being a bit active in the leg and as soon as the horse showed a desire to leave the herd all was quiet for as long as the horse could stay away from the herd. I can only vaguely remember this so have done my best to recall.

Both of these call the horse's Birdie by making her desire darn hard work, and the horse herself starts to look for another option that will provide peace and comfort. As the rider is doing nothing but supporting the horse she is ready to tell the horse 'yes' that is the answer, so the horse keeps her birdie with her as we head away from the herd.

So as far as Little and I go, my job is to identify where her birdie is, if it is not where I want to go, who cares, we are off to catch a birdie. I will go to where her birdie is and make it 'work' so she looks for someplace else to go. I keep doing this each ride-- until she can keep her birdie and I can start to direct where we might go as she will be calm and obedient because she has her birdie and I am not stretching her thread.

Thank you.
Judy

Redmare
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 Posted: Mon Jun 26th, 2017 08:29 pm
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Dr. Deb, thank you for your detailed reply. I understand your responses to #'s 1 and 3 very well: your response to #1 in particular reminded me of something Tom said again and again over the four days, which was how important the meaning of the words we choose is.

I would like to ask for clarification regarding a couple of things:

You mentioned Tom coming in with the flag to help the horse get that the leg means something, but Tom did not come in with the flag with me and this gelding. I did see him do so when the folks got up on the colts for the first time, and he helped move them around, but he did not do this with me. Now I'm a bit confused on what exactly the horse got to understanding in those few days: he can still get "sticky" to the leg at times, and he's been pretty bothered by the leg for some time before I started working with him, so I figured it would take a bit before he really understood that every time means EVERY time. I apologize if I'm being unclear, I'm having a bit of a hard time articulating the trouble I'm having making the correlation between what you're saying and what I did, even though I understand what you're telling me...

Perhaps I'll ask it this way: what is the difference in what the horse comes to understand, if anything, between the following: me using a light leg pressure to raise the life in the horse and Tom coming in w/ the flag when the horse does not respond, me using a light pressure to raise the life in the horse and coming in w/ a flag or whip that I am carrying when the horse doesn't respond, and what Tom had me do, which is ask for hustle in the trot until the horse offers to canter of his own volition?

DrDeb
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 Posted: Mon Jun 26th, 2017 09:00 pm
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Well, Red, when their legs get to moving as fast as they do when you hustle the trot, at some point it's going to either be canter or fall down, isn't it?!

Many people spend their whole lives getting into a canter this way; it's the best they know. What they don't realize is that CANTERING IS NOT A SPEED; it's merely a different order of footfall. What helps the horse the most is that you send your feel and your intentions down into the outside hind leg, so as to induce the horse to weight that leg and push off from that leg. Then you don't have to hustle.

Cantering consists of two phases: (1) Weight and push off from the outside hind leg, and (2) Raise the life enough to ensure that the 'lift' of the mid and fore parts of the body occurs. When the only way the horse knows to get into a canter is to hustle into it, these two subcomponents get mushed together. In a quiet, schooled departure, they are quite separate; indeed if you're departing from a halt straight into a canter -- and this is of course your ultimate goal -- you can hold the horse onto the weighted leg as long as you like, and he will wait there as if to spring into the canter as soon as you give the order to raise the life.

So if Tom didn't come to you with the flag for this, I assume it means he's thinking that the horse would likely misinterpret that and just get jumpy and anxious. You note that the animal did learn to make soft, quiet departures during the clinic and you say he's continued to do this. There can only be one reason for that, and that is, that you and the horse both were able to get the abovementioned two parts separated, so that he no longer needs to be hustled and should never again be hustled, in fact.

So 'hustling' isn't how you get a horse over being resentful of the leg. If you feel like the brakes are on internally, i.e. what you call 'sticky', it will be because the horse's birdie isn't where it should be. Surely Tom had you focus "up and out" all the time while you were riding, and probably reminded you repeatedly not to look down and in, and not to FOCUS down and in. You pick out a target to ride to. This has a tendency to suck the horse's birdie up from down inside of him, or behind him, and put it out in front about ten feet or so, where it belongs. The LAW OF THE HORSE'S LIFE is that his body must follow his birdie; and hence, when you control his birdie, you control his body and the life in his body. You have to direct the birdie, not pull, push, kick, or squeeze the body to go this way or that.

Further, I suggest that whether you did this at the clinic or not, that you spend some time -- indeed quite a bit of time -- with him on the ground. Have him saddled up and OK with life, and be in an enclosed arena. Have him in a halter and lead. You carry a short whip with a blunt rubber butt. Using the butt of the whip like the end of your thumb, touch him on the ribs just where the widest part of your calf would fall, and observe his reaction. In a horse resentful of the leg, this will be one of several things: he will kick at the "leg" you're applying (so watch you don't get struck); he will shiver and shrink away; he will get all stiff-legged behind and perhaps kind of hop around as if to untrack but very stiff and clumsily; or (especially if it is a mare), the horse will bull into you.

You need to work through this. If the horse does not do one or some combination of the above, then I doubt he's actually resentful of the leg, rather simply does not understand it or possibly does not respect it. You teach response and respect by flagging him after two heartbeats, as I described in the previous post.

Let me know if this answers your concerns or causes a light to go on somewhere. -- Dr. Deb




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 Posted: Mon Jun 26th, 2017 09:30 pm
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Judy, here's your reply:

I quote from the last paragraph of your post: "So as far as Little and I go, my job is to identify where her birdie is, if it is not where I want to go, who cares, we are off to catch a birdie".

No, no, no, no, no. You are to DIRECT her birdie. There are two times in the horse's process of training where you allow the horse to take YOU anywhere: one is the very first couple of weeks of breaking-in, where you are still riding in the roundpen and still getting the horse to accept the idea that somebody besides itself is going to be directing its will. With baby-green horses, you go along with their ideas at first, then gradually introduce your ideas as "suggestions" rather than orders or commands. You steer the minimum when they're that green -- one good reason to confine your riding at this stage to the roundpen. The other time when you let the horse take you where its birdie is, or wants to be, is when you two are old old friends, after he's proved for years to be the most reliable and delightful of mounts. He earns by this the status of company vice-president, and at that stage, it is not only safe but delightful to let him follow up on a suggestion that he may make. But note: EVEN THEN he does not get to take over; he has to SUBMIT the suggestion to you for approval before acting on it.

That you completely misunderstand this is emblematic of your overall problem, Judy, which is that you have great difficulty bringing yourself to take command. At the last clinic you made a great effort in that direction. Now you have to do it effectively, all the time, at home.

Next quote from your post: "I will go to where her birdie is and make it 'work' so she looks for someplace else to go."

OK, this is good enough. You don't have control of Little at the present time, so you will indeed be compelled to let her return to wherever she wants to be, because if you fight her you risk getting bucked off. Buck doesn't want to get bucked off either! But when she is in the place she thought she wanted to be, then you work the livin' crap out of her: you get very busy. But everytime you so much as face in the "outward" direction, you ease off. If she herself offers to face in the "outward" direction, you ease off a great deal and even take a rest.

Eventually you will feel her offer to take some steps in the "outward" direction, and you VERY TACTFULLY encourage this. Your leg should be a mere whisper. What got her into this much trouble is that previously, what you have done is gotten greedy, i.e. anytime she faced where you wanted her to go, you thumped her onward in that direction. What you're showing the horse is that going along with YOUR idea works out the best for HER.

Last quote from your post: "I keep doing this each ride-- until she can keep her birdie and I can start to direct where we might go as she will be calm and obedient because she has her birdie and I am not stretching her thread".

Again: confusion. You are to be directing her birdie all the time, EVEN when you are "letting" her take you back to the herd because you are compelled to for safety reasons. You are not to be expected to ride out a bucking horse; you ARE expected to be  psychologically ahead of the horse all the time, is what I'm saying. If she needs to take you back to the herd, she gets the crap worked out of her every single time, and you do this without shame, without guilt, without meanness or anger, and without hesitation -- you do it "clinically". The American TV psychologist Dr. Phil always says to the mixed-up people who come on his show, "OK, you went back to using drugs. How is that working out for you?"

I also suggest, Judy, that at home you start not only looking for situations, but even in a way sneakily setting them up, that tempt the horse to go back and thereby make an additional opportunity to bring this point home to her -- the point being, in short, that YOU are in control and not her. I would set this up as much from the ground as from the saddle, indeed as much from the ground as possible. Is she "sticky" when you go catch her and take her away from her pasture buddies at the very beginning of the daily ride? I imagine she is in fact! So handle it there -- you begin to lead her away, but you listen for her very breathing to change. When it does, you yourself TAKE her a few steps back but once you arrive "back", you start ground-schooling or longeing pretty vigorously. After a little while, maybe three to five minutes, stop, walk up the line, pet her, and then see if she don't come along with you a little sweeter and a little farther before she has another "regression." When she does, go back a few steps and school the piss out of her again. This won't take very many repeats I am imagining, and you will be amazed at how what she learns from this form of ground-work bleeds over into how she is under saddle. I think one thing that has been happening is that this little mare is smart enough to detect all the holes in your attentiveness, and she waits to take advantage of any hole or gap she finds.

So you see, this brings us finally to what people say about Harry Whitney: "Harry always gets closure." I've seen Harry groundschool horses like yours with such FIERCENESS -- iron-willed commitment -- or tough love, whatever you like to call it -- that it almost brought tears to my eyes. The poor horse! one is TEMPTED to say: that's enough! stop! But you absolutely MUST NOT STOP until the horse's will to have its own way is broken. When it softens, no faking it, no partial results; when it RESERVES NO PART OF ITSELF AS NOT BEING AVAILABLE TO YOU -- only then have you succeeded in "making" a safe and reliable mount.

So your determination, shown at the last clinic, to get a grips on yourself, and "bring your adult" as you said -- and find that power of command -- is really the main thing in question here. I hope you can find it and OPERATE ON IT, so that next year, if I should see you, you will at last have a horse at the clinic that does not beg for special attention and can therefore participate fully in skill acquisition, which is only possible when these holes in the basic breaking and training have been repaired. -- Dr. Deb

Redmare
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 Posted: Tue Jun 27th, 2017 11:56 am
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Yes, light is on, Dr. Deb!

I thought on all this last night: yes, he has learned how to make those soft upward transitions (which it appears we both fell upon by accident, or perhaps I just didn't have the words to describe what I was doing but had some kind of feel for it) BUT he will only make them outside the arena where I usually school him. We are on a dirt road and there is a nice long straight stretch leading from the main dirt road to the farm parking area. The trees on either side create almost like tunnel vision, and I realized when I brought the horse back from the clinic how useful this might be to get his birdie out in front of him. So we practice our canter on the road, and he's taken to it very well. I have not been successful in replicating this indoors, however, and so now I am thinking I may have more a birdie situation than a situation mostly to do with the horse's understanding of the leg.

So when I take this gelding inside where I at least start every ride, I will spend a good amount of time working with the blunt rubber whip...would carrying the whip or the flag while mounted also be appropriate for this horse to help him get his birdie out in front of him in this instance? I recall a thread once where you discussed the true use of the whip or a flag under saddle not for "getting the horse to go", but to encourage that birdie to get unstuck from within the horse so the horse is then naturally drawn forward when the leg is applied.

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 Posted: Wed Jun 28th, 2017 11:01 pm
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Dear Dr Deb,

Thank you so much for this. I was so confused, I really didn't know what to do. Desperation drove me here, as I couldn't answer my questions. Yes, her feet are sticky when I go to catch her but she couldn't give a poop about the pony herd she wants to go out the gate to the grass rather than come with me! Now I have a plan. She is clever, she came from a riding school where she outclevered them. My promise to her when I bought her, was as soon as I could I would do whatever it takes to get her okay on the inside. She has stayed this way too long in my care but now I am so ready to do what it takes.

Buck has said he only lets a horse take over on cattle work but I see there are other times when it is allowed now too.

Thanks again for clearing this up, I can't wait to get out there with Little. I know it won't take much as she is so bright. I will get effective.

Best Wishes
Judy and Little

DrDeb
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 Posted: Thu Jun 29th, 2017 02:22 am
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Red, I think you can work on both aspects here.

To be very clear: the blunt rubber "poker" is meant first as a diagnostic tool, to find out how "resentful" (read: ignorant) of the leg the horse actually is. After the diagnosis, i.e. you observe what his reactions to the first few pokes in the ribs are, then you shift into teaching mode. What you are to teach him with the blunt poker is that he is (1) not to fear the poke at all, and (2) he is to YIELD to it softly, each and every time. "Yielding" means untracking. Be very aware of your technique here: NEVER begin an untracking by pulling on the horse's head; ALWAYS initiate movement from the hindquarters. You can easily "untrack" a horse by pulling on the halter; this is cheap and incorrect, so watch yourself that you're not doing that.

The other half of this is the birdie problem. You can think of the "leg" problem as that he doesn't want to push his body on, i.e., the situation seen as from "back to front". But there is also that which is to draw the horse onward, which is to alter his focus and his desires so that he WANTS to go forward and finds out that's enjoyable. So you have "drive", and you have "draw", and you need both to succeed fully.

As to "draw": this is what the flag is FUNDAMENTALLY for. Yes we do use it to swat the horse's butt, or the equivalent of the ordinary riding whip as to be applied to the leg area or the horse's thighs or gaskins or hocks, essentially as a way to make our arm longer so that we don't have to deform or abandon our seat in order to reach down to where the money is going to have to count. And we like the flag for this, just as we like the ball-whip, because as Buck says, for the horse it's like getting swatted with a tube-sock -- we avoid the dressage whip at all costs, because when you hit the horse with that, it hurts. We want to "stimulate" and "awaken" and "raise the life", but we don't want to hurt him.

Nonetheless, use as a driving aid is far from being the main or fundamental purpose of the flag, just as running the horse around and around in the roundpen is far from the main or fundamental use of the roundpen. It isn't about driving; it's about DRAWING. So the flag is a butterfly net, a birdie-attractor. This is why there was always a drag pulled at Tom Dorrance's clinics, which allowed all the horses to notice it, hook on to it, have their birdies fly to it and land on it, and thereby, to literally be pulled forward by it. And the drag is so powerful that one did see every horse freely offer collection, even green horses and even horses ridden by complete neophytes; and the collection persisted so long as the horse's birdie remained out in front of him and the drag continued to pull him forward. It is very sad to think, but it is true, that this is the one and only time in a lot of those peoples' lives when they will ever have their horse offer them that feel. Most riders miss most of what there is in the way of joy to be had in horseback riding.

So your problem now is to invent drags in the indoor arena. Your gelding is "mareish" in this way; there's a lot of mares who just don't see any reason to put out a lot of energy in the indoor, when they see there's a wall facing them only fifty or sixty feet away. Nonetheless the horse must learn that when you ask for 100% output, he is to give that, even if for only three or five steps. This is called "learning transitions."

Maybe you can find a friend who has a real broke horse, one that's familiar with the rope....that's the classic way, you have the friend lasso a tire and drag that around, being careful not to get her horse tangled in it or hung up in any way. Your job is then to let your horse notice the drag as it goes BY him, in front of him; exactly the technique one uses to hook the horse on, by walking crosswise his nose in the roundpen. You be far enough back that if he feels so stimulated that he jumps, he won't jump into the tire or get across the rope. You don't need to be close, you will find out: so long as his birdie goes forth and lands on the tire, you'll see those ears prick up and the neck arch and the whole body arch up and the steps get light and lively: and you just let that happen for as long as it's liable to but DON'T FALL ASLEEP in it, so you quit just before your dragging partner stops, and you quit by veering off to the side into a circle.

If you can't find a buddy with a broke horse, then find one who's got at least a lick of sense or, at minimum, will follow directions exactly as given. Get a pretty substantial flag and give that to her. Then tell her to go out about twenty feet in front of your horse and just walk along, dragging the flag on the ground. This will have the same effect as the tire, and you do similarly.

You may need to do this over several sessions. When you are not actually following the drag, you also mind yourself, that at ALL TIMES when in the arena you ALWAYS have a target in mind: some definite point that you're going to ride to. You DO NOT make figures and you DO NOT fall asleep or get talking with somebody for more than howdy-doodies. You turn constantly; you change directions constantly. So you have two things in mind all the time: target no. 1, which is the target you're currently riding to, and target no. 2, which is the one you're going to turn towards the moment you reach target no. 1. Do not stop and pet when you reach target no. 1, in other words, but keep on going from target to target to target, and the whole time you do this, you mind your horse's eyes and ears and keep telling him that HE needs to get interested in the target, too.

Because, you see, a circle is composed of four arcs and contains four targets. But that will come a little bit later. Let me know how this works out for you. -- Dr. Deb

Redmare
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 Posted: Mon Jul 3rd, 2017 03:58 pm
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Alrighty, Dr. Deb. I took all you suggested and toyed with it over the last few days.

What I found was that the 'draw' for this horse was quite easy for him: he hooked on the drag no problem and followed it very contentedly once he realized he need not be concerned about it. The drag also helped me better work on my 'draw', as I sometimes find myself getting too inward with my own focus.

What he needed more help with was the 'draw' from the leg. After we'd worked with the drag for a while, I still found he felt somewhat 'sticky' to my leg, even just to make a transition from halt to walk or walk to trot without the physical drag in front of him. I have continued to work with the blunt rubber stick on the ground, and I don't actually think this horse resented the leg: I don't think he respected it because he didn't understand it. So I got out my flag and I worked the horse in transitions from halt to walk, halt to trot, and walk to trot until he no longer needed me to come in with the flag to go forward freely and promptly from only a few ounces of leg pressure. It was only when I knew he understood that, from a walk, I sat up and focused on a cone at the end of the arena and asked for a bit more life than I had previously. I was so wonderfully rewarded with a big effort on his part to lift up into canter quietly but promptly. We did a few more up transitions as I hadn't quite set him up enough on the outside hind the first time, and every single time his offer was better and better.

I've ridden him twice since you posted and while he needed me to start out with the flag again the second ride, he needed it for about a quarter of the time he'd needed it the first time.

DrDeb
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 Posted: Mon Jul 3rd, 2017 05:52 pm
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Dear Red: Good application and understanding on your part, with wonderful results.

Now the challenge will be to 'not get greedy' in terms of your rides inside an arena.

I would balance my rides for the next two months as three rides 'out' for every one ride 'in'. It being summertime, this will probably not be difficult in terms of inclement weather preventing you from riding 'out'.

When riding 'out', do the same things in terms of focus that you have now discovered that you need to do 'in': in other words, don't just let the great outdoors take care of the horse's reluctance to go forward freely without you being AWARE of what is taking place. Yes let the stimulation of being 'out' work for you; but be aware and take note of what aspects of the great outdoors seem to please and stimulate this horse, so that he 'frees up'.

Then you can perhaps even reproduce some of those, or some aspects of those, in your rides 'in'. The great challenge, always, with riding inside an arena is to promote variation within the variety -- to avoid boredom and sameness.

Keep us posted please as all your summer rides progress. So pleased that this is working out to be fun for both of you. -- Dr. Deb


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