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Horse confidence issue.. or??
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eirualaerdna
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 Posted: Thu Jul 19th, 2007 06:47 pm
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This is what I had originally posted at another website, where someone direted me here:

She has a serious issue that I don't know how to address.

She is a 14.3h national show horse breed. She's 15, has been a show horse, especially in jumping, used to live in a very nice place in a nice padded stall and all that. She was used for lessons, ect. I don't know much more about her background.

Problem is, she's INCREDIBLE under saddle, but on the ground it's not that way. I had her in pasture, but when I try to put her in a stall with the other horses out, she freaks out and wont shut up. She's broken gates down trying to get out of a stall if other horses are in the pasture and she's not. She will run away if I'm even remotely close to her when she's hanging with the other horses in the pasture (although the rest of them will hang out with me) as if she knows I'm going to touch her. She will never look directly at me, especially in the eyes. She kicks at the other horses, bites them, ect when they're eating, or even for no good reason at all. She reared up on the baby pony when it was born and tried to kill it, but missed only because she was on a hillside and ended up slipping down. I have no idea what's going on in her head. Once I get a halter on her, she follows me anywhere and she does pretty much anything I ask her (including picking up her speed or slowing down according to what I'm doing), but it's as if she refuses to recognize my presence even though she will do what I ask. In the saddle, she responds amazingly, and I don't feel disconnected from her at all. Her social problems are becoming increasingly more of a serious problem. Does anyone have any idea what makes a horse this way, and what can I do to help her? Is there a book I can read or a video I can watch or something? Does anyone have any suggestions? My friend has given up on her because she can't handle her, but I don't want to give up on her. She wants to sell her, but I think there's something I haven't done that might make all the difference... maybe not. Ideas????


Since posting that, I have heard that this is probably a reaction to her poor confidence level, along with agressive behavior to compensate for whatever it is she is lacking confidence-wise. Is this true? If so, what do you suggest I do?

I'm just getting back into horses. I used to be a very horsey kid until the age of about 15 then I lost my opportunities to ride, then just got my first horse (I'm 21 now), Birdie, in february at about the same time my best friend got this horse (which has ironically become my horse as well). So, I'm relearning a lot, and very often I feel lost on what to do (although I read monty robert's book and have since learned a great deal about the working of the horse's mind). So, if I sound "novice", its true, I just try not to tell my horses that. =]

DrDeb
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 Posted: Fri Jul 20th, 2007 06:42 am
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Dear Andrea -- I'm going to begin this by telling you that if I am going to teach you, you will first have some "catching up" to do, so to speak.

You see -- one of the tenets of the approach to horsemanship and horse-handling that I teach is that we, as humans, have to stop projecting our thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes onto the horse. In other words, horses have their own reasons for doing what they do -- and those reasons are, in THEIR world, perfectly valid.

That does not mean that the actions that horses do are necessarily desirable or safe, though! Or that we would like to see the horse continue doing them. No, we do want to change them. But how we are going to get this done is going to be, first step, through altering our point of view so that we are looking at things from the HORSE'S point of view.

We humans can do this because we have the mental capacity. Your horse cannot do the same -- it cannot think like a human. But you can learn to think like a horse. And only when you do that will you be able to outsmart any horse. The idea here is for me to teach you how to know what a horse is going to do before he does it. Then -- because you'll know what he's going to do before he does it -- you can prevent it.

And when you prevent it, then it never does happen.

One of the things that I believe is that you, Andrea, can have a horse that is not only a fantastic ride but 100% pleasant to be around -- no biting, kicking, nipping, striking, pulling away, attacking, jumping over or through fences or gates, or anything else of the sort. When I say "100% pleasant", I mean that YOUR horse COULD be exactly like my horse, Ollie, or my great old Painty and Sadie. These are horses that I personally own or owned (Painty and Sadie are dead now), handled them for years, had tons of fun on them doing all kinds of different things including shows, and never had so much as a single bad moment EXCEPT when I myself made a mistake.

Just tonight, when I was out there to the riding arena with Ollie, we were working on Spanish Walk. After I rode him for a while, I got off, and then we were Spanish-Walking from the ground. And here was Ollie, totally at liberty in the arena, still wearing his saddle and bridle, but just so interested in what we were doing that he had no ideas of leaving where I was, and he was giving me a really big try every time I asked. After we did that a while, then I had him follow me over the wooden bridge that we have, which again he does completely at liberty, and then mount up on the circus drum. I took his saddle and bridle off while he was standing up there, then toted them over to the fence and hung them up -- and Ollie just stayed on the drum while I walked away, as I had asked him to.

Then I asked him to come off of the drum and come over and put his nose into the halter. He takes care of putting his nose in there -- I take care of buckling it up. Then I led him over to the gate, asked him to stand about four feet behind me while I undid the latch to the gate and swung it open. Ollie waits until I have opened the gate and then walks quietly through when I tell him it's OK to come ahead. Then he pivots so that I can close the gate and latch it from the outside. Then we walk from the arena area back to his stall, and on that walk, the lead rope is slack the whole time because he neither gets ahead of me nor lags behind me, but stays right at my shoulder.

I am telling you this to whet your appetite. Would you like to have a horse that acts like this? If so -- you can write back and we will begin some lessons. The lessons will involve some homework for you, which will include some reading and also some specific things to do with your horse.

The first lessons for you will involve teaching your horse what are generally called "manners". This does not mean that I am calling your horse some kind of oaf; rather it means a particular list of skills which I see (from your query) that your horse does not know much about. All horses can be taught these skills. In the course of you teaching your horse these things, you yourself will also be learning some new skills.

So, Andrea, let us hear from you whether you are interested in committing to doing just as I suggest that you do. If so, then we'll begin to tackle the problems you outline one by one until they are all gone.

Best wishes -- Dr. Deb

eirualaerdna
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 Posted: Fri Jul 20th, 2007 08:51 am
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I most certainly am interested in committing myself. In all reality, I have committed myself from the moment I sought help toward helping myself understand her, in an attempt to find a way to end what looks to me like a whole lot of unnecessary unhappiness and stress on her, all other horses around her, and all humans that deal with her. She shouldn't have to be looked at like a "bad horse" and I don't want to have to just "deal" with a horse that I know has potential to be a great FRIEND as well as mount. So yes, THANK YOU for the opportunity. I'm here to learn.

DrDeb
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 Posted: Sat Jul 21st, 2007 08:38 pm
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Dear Andrea: Well, very good. With this transmission, I am going to start conveying to you a specific process, or set of lessons, that you can do with your horse. I will appreciate it very much if, after you go and do as I suggest, you report back in here with any questions or just to let us know how things went. I am more willing to do this at this time, because your question is one that I have responded to numerous times in the past -- SO many times, in fact, that I finally decided that the smart thing to do would be just to post a document up in "Knowledge Base" so that instead of having to write it down again and again, I can just refer people to that. So as I correspond with you and anyone else who wants to respond to this thread, the document will get written.

MANNERING A HORSE

This is a simple set of rules. It’s the first thing that you need to teach your horse after you meet him (weanlings up through any age).

 

The benefits of having a perfectly mannered horse are many. All aspects of living with the horse become far more pleasant for both you and the horse, not to mention safer for anyone else who may be nearby. In addition, the horse will become much easier for both your farrier and your veterinarian to handle.

 

Teaching manners is a simple process. However, it will probably differ from what you have seen other people do or what you may be used to doing yourself.

 

For a successful outcome, you must commit to totally abandoning some old habits:

 

(1)   Reaching out to push on your horse’s body in order to position him

(2)   Using a whip

(3)   Giving the horse “voice commands”

(4)   Talking to other people, or to yourself, when working with your horse

(5)   Being in any kind of hurry

(6)   Teaching manners for any reason other than to help the horse have a better life.

 

Reasons for Abandoning Old Habits
 

(1)   Reaching out to push on your horse’s body in order to position him: The approach here is to teach the horse to position himself. He’ll never learn this if you are trying to do his job for him. Furthermore, the horse is big, heavy, and strong; if he does not position himself out of his own understanding and cooperation, you cannot push or pull him anyway. You cannot “win” against any horse by using physical force, whether that force be small or large. We will be working with body-language, timing, and your ability to perceive what the horse is going to do before he does it. This approach succeeds every time.

 

(2)   Using a whip: I am asking you to put the whip away temporarily. The whip has its uses, but is not appropriate here. Most people who use a whip (or a flag) do not realize how easy it is to use it far too strongly. We will therefore be substituting equipment that is less likely to provoke a fear reaction in your horse (fear in the horse blocks his ability to learn). You must practice with the new equipment until your skills are perfect.

 

(3)   Giving the horse “voice commands”: I meet many people who tell me their horse is “trained to voice commands,” and yet only one in a thousand of these horses would actually respond to a voice command. The owners are, thus, just kidding themselves – their horses have not been systematically and thoroughly trained to respond to voice commands, and since that is the case, attempting to control them by voice commands is fruitless. What is especially amusing is watching owners change their tone of voice (deepen the voice, “bark” the command, or shout) – they think they are being “more authoritative” – in actuality, the situation becomes more and more ridiculous, like watching an Italian try to give street directions to an American tourist, when the American understands no Italian. Horses are much better at learning body language than voice commands – in mannering our horses, then, we will make use of the horse’s strong point, which is body language. At a later time, it will then be possible to teach voice commands, if the owner so desires, so that they really work.

 

(4)   Talking: Many people babble when they work with their horses. I believe that to a great extent, this is an attempt to self-comfort – in other words, the owner or handler is actually somewhat afraid of the horse or the situation, and they babble in order to let out some of the buildup of their own fear. Owners are also often acutely aware of anyone watching them work their horse, and some people babble a whole narrative, the content of which is a stream of explanations or excuses, meant to be overheard, about why their horse is the way he is or why he isn’t coming up to snuff. All of this can quite profitably be abandoned. Talking to yourself or anyone else cuts down on your own ability to focus on your horse. You will need every ounce of focus that you have in order to keep your horse focused and learning. What would happen in a schoolroom if the teacher continually talked to herself, or to the principal, while looking out the window?

 

(5)   Hurry: Animals do not have the same sense of time duration that we humans have, and they cannot read a clock or watch. They do not have appointments for later in the day. They do not have a family to raise or a job in town. Through your own behavior, you must not import these concerns to your horse. They are fruitless because the horse has no means of responding to them, and they seriously interfere with your ability to focus so as to help your horse focus. When you go out to the barn to work with your horse, you must schedule 2 hours for every task that you think will take 1 hour. And two hours is about the minimum for a barn visit no matter what you plan on doing. Under the same theme of “hurry” or “time pressure”, by the way, we will also list cell phones, pagers, the telephone, or any other thing that may cause you to want to multi-task. Don’t bring small children that need minding to the barn. Turn your cell phone and pager off before you go get your horse.

 

(6)   Giving your horse lessons for any other reason than to give the horse a better life: Right – what other kinds of reasons do people have? The primary bad one is that they will only commit to a process to the extent that they believe that it will cause their horse to make them look better (to themselves, to their neighbors, to a judge, etc.). If this is where you are really at, let me tell you right now that none of what I am about to say will work (and also, incidentally, nothing that any other teacher suggests to you will work, either). If you want to be a winner, then you serve the animal’s needs first and THEN see what may shake out of that.

 

Rules for Mannering

We are going to teach the horse three simple rules:

 

(1)   He must “go to his room” when asked, and stay there until permission is given to leave his “room”. (The horse’s “room” is an imaginary square that you draw around his feet. The square should be a few feet wider and longer than the horse’s body).

 

(2)   He must permit you (the handler) to enter his “room” at any time, and to touch and handle any and all parts of his body (gently, with respect).

 

(3)   He is only allowed to enter the handler’s “room” when specifically invited to do so.

 

Process for teaching Rule no. 1

 

Step One: Beginning Focus

Goal: To teach the horse to focus on the handler when requested

Time allotment: Five minutes’ work, five minutes’ rest; repeat work and rest three times; total time 30 minutes.

 

Put a halter on the horse that has an extra-long lead rope. The lead rope should be at least 8 ft. long and could be 12 ft. The halter can be leather, nylon, or rope. It is much better if the lead rope attaches by a lanyard knot or is in some other way securely tied to the halter, rather than having the conventional bullsnap attachment. If your outfit has a bull snap, it is still workable but not as kind to the horse. Adjust the halter so that it fits snugly.

 

Lead the horse to a safe working area, such as an empty paddock, roundpen, riding arena, indoor hall, etc. The area should have a fence or walls around it.

 

Bring the horse to a stop. Position yourself so that you are facing the horse. Try to get as far back away from him as you can without him following right up next to you. Look at your watch and note the time.

 

Hold the lead-rope in whichever hand suits you best. For the next five minutes, attentively watch your horse’s ears and eyes.

 

Every time the horse looks anywhere BUT at you, shake the lead rope until he looks at you or faces you again.

 

You may need to do more than shake the rope; it may be necessary to yank downward on the rope to give him a bump on the nose. Do as much as necessary (but no more than necessary) to get the horse to re-focus on you.

 

In the five minutes’ time allowed for this work, the horse may look away numerous times. You must catch it every single time. The more reliable you are at catching it, the less force you will find that it takes to get him to re-focus on you.

 

After the five minutes is up, walk up to the horse, pet him, lead him to some other place, and let him rest or hand-graze for five minutes. Pet on him the whole time. (“Petting” means stroking or scratching his favorite spot, not slapping or pounding).

 

Remember you are not to talk, to the horse, to yourself, or if possible to anyone else. Use the five minutes’ rest time as a time of silence in which you think about what has just happened, and think how you could have caught the horse looking away a little sooner in some cases.

 

After five minutes’ rest, go back to the place of work and do another five minutes of asking him to focus on you. Rest again, and repeat once more.

 

End the session by taking the horse back to his stall or turnout area. Pet him before you let him go.

 

Evaluation: Did your horse become more able to focus on you by the third five minutes’ session? As he becomes more focused, he will also become calmer. Your goal is to get it to where he can look at you or “hold you in his regard” for at least eight continuous seconds. Most horses start out with the ability to focus for only a second or two on any one thing. You are teaching your horse that he doesn’t have to scan the environment so frantically or compulsively. He can, instead, focus on you and count on you being fully present so as to protect him from potential harm. This is HIS main concern. Once YOU start acting as if you might be reliable, only then will the horse start becoming willing to trust you and follow your suggestions and direction.

 

Do you need more sessions? If the two of you didn’t get eight continuous seconds on the first day, then have another set of five-minute lessons on the next day. Eight seconds will soon be easy.

 

When to Quit: As soon as the horse can, and does, calmly focus on you for eight continuous seconds, walk up to him, pet him, and rest for five minutes. From then on, you only need to re-request focus before you do any task (but realize – “doing any task” would include EVERY ordinary thing around the barn, such as opening and going through a gate, stopping, starting, turning, going into and out of the stall, etc.). As your horse’s ability to focus increases, YOUR ability to do the same will also increase, so that you don’t have to stop every time and “formally” ask for focus – it will simply become a habit for you to check your horse all the time to be sure he’s focused for the thing you’re about to ask for. If he isn’t, then you certainly must stop and formally ask for focus.

 

Bottom Line: Never try to do anything without you being focused and the horse being focused.

 

Big Realization: Focus is the root of calmness. Calmness comes from focus.

Sam
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 Posted: Sun Jul 22nd, 2007 06:52 am
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Dear Andrea,

Good luck and have fun on your new journey, you will not travel alone, there are many of us learning along with you. 

Dear Dr Deb,

I watch with much interest as the latest addition to knowledge base is created. I am finding the abandonment of old habits and not useful beliefs the hardest to master.  A work in progress.  Thanks once again for sharing your knowledge and time with us.

Kind Regards

Sam the first.

eirualaerdna
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 Posted: Sun Jul 22nd, 2007 09:39 am
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It is 1:33am and I just got home from a LONG day. I took that horse from 2 cities away to a stable 3 minutes from my house. She took 5 hours to get into a trailer. It is time to start a new life for this horse, very obviously. She is much happier where she is now, and I plan on making it better by they day. Tomorrow I will be working with my 5 day old foal, and with that horse (Tahoe) and I will report what I have experienced with her when I get home. THANK you for your time and guidance, we will both appreciate it, no doubt!

Sam: thank you for the good wishes. I wish you the best on your journey as well!

Marion
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 Posted: Sun Jul 22nd, 2007 09:43 am
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I'm going to take this up, too.  I'm very interested to see if my horses and I can do this.


When I feed my two, I put their food down, and they must stand square about 2 feet from their bowls and give me both their eyes, but only for about 2 seconds.  Then I bow my head and step away and as I move away, they move up to their feed and eat.  I started doing this as sometimes my teenage children feed the horses for me and I was very particular that there would be no pushing by the horses against the children, or anyone else who would feed my horses for me if I was away.  When I put the feed in their bowls, I watch their feet to see if they are moving closer, if they step closer, I give them they 'eye' and that is usually enough to make them step back.

I am curious if they will hold 'in regard' for 8 seconds.

Marion.

 

eirualaerdna
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 Posted: Sun Jul 22nd, 2007 09:51 am
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Marion: I don't do what you do during feeding, but I am training one of my mares to do something different because I don't like her pulling food from my hands. Generally, I open the door, and she gets excited, so I put my hand up, flat towards her and push through the air towards her (never touching her) and kiss at her. She moves back about 5 feet and stands, waiting for me to drop the food in the container, but I think I might try to train the way you have done it. It sounds a little better. I have also noticed that bowing the head works for dogs and horses as a way to tell them they are allowed to proceed. My dog responds well to it.

Sam
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 Posted: Mon Jul 23rd, 2007 06:52 am
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Dear Dr Deb,

I am a bit bamboozled after heading out to the paddock to play with my two lovely lads today, I feel so much has happened in a short space of time but I am not sure of my interpratations.  As my other half so kindly phrased it, I am coming from the side of the 'Woolly woofter' and trying to be clear with my ponies and not killing them with excess empathy.  It was with a clear mind and lovely sunshine, I toddled out there today, to 'Manner my horses'.

 

Horse one, Mr Sensitive, unusual for him lined up to be first, pick me, pick me.  I put him in his room, and went out four feet in front of him, squared my shoulders, his response, pricked ears, clear bright eyes little triangle shapes to the upper lids then change to soft eyes, mouth and nostrils soft and hanging, (he gets a stress dimple, in his top lip if not okay) body attentive with out tension, for eight seconds straight off the bat.  I found he would cock an ear away if I looked away, as soon as I looked back he would look back at me, took very little effort on my part to hold his attention.  I was so proud of him.

Horse two, Giant Shet. First time in 8months, he stayed sleeping in the sun while I went about playing with other horse, he normally rises as soon as he sees me.  Not real thrilled about being caught but put up with it (Uhoh, I think I see the first instance of my 'problem') From here on is the work of the 'drama queen' part of Sam, so read on with warning as old useless beliefs have reared there sneaky head. eg my horse is damaged, I am useless blah blah blah......There is no proof to these beliefs!!!   I popped him in his room,  his response was, cock a leg, ears turned to the rear, eyes very hooded, mouth hanging but nostrils 'full', I wiggled that rope, made silly noises, slapped my thigh, waved my hat, did a little jig, he wasn't present.....I wasn't anywhere in his mind, (Had his birdie flown to the other realm, or am I being a woolly woofter and reading too much into  a so called 'disrespectful pony')  I just dropped the rope and watched him from 12 feet away, nothing changed, except his wiskers would wiggle and an eyelid would move a fraction.  If I moved in to pet him, he'd shift his weight and that was about it.  After a bit of thought I wandered off and dug out a 'clicker' (those dog training thing) and a supply of apples.  He hadn't moved far from where I had left him so attached his lead rope and put him in his room.  I expected a response to the clicker as its a funny noise, mild flutter of eyelids, put apple under nose, eyes opened but kind of 'hard' ears further to the rear.  I was running out of ideas about now, as I didn't know if I should feed a grumpy face, was it better than no attention though?  I took him for a walk and he followed with no drag, and I asked him to walk beside me, as soon as he offerd a quisitive face, ears pricked, eyes triangled, mouth soft, I gave him an apple.  He could only hold this form of attentiveness for a fraction of a second.  I didn't keep this up for very long as it seemed such a very big deal to him so I didn't do the full 30mins with him, it was 3-5-3-5,  He didn't feel like a scratch so his reward was me just standing next to him or popping him on the drum eating apples.  In the last three mins he could look at me out of one eye for a nanosecond, with ears out to the side, eyes triangled, nose full but lips hanging.  I was also so proud of him as this nanosecond seemed like the biggest thing ever to him.

So what I am asking here is, am I reading too much into this session.  It would appear my 'problem' horse is not really much of a problem and my 'riding' pony is deeply not okay within himself.  I am now speechless.

 

Advise greatly appreciated.

Best Wishes

Sam I am, Horse one and Horse two. 

Last edited on Tue Jul 24th, 2007 01:58 am by Sam

Marion
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 Posted: Mon Jul 23rd, 2007 08:38 am
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Wow, good work Sam!  I had something similiar - my gelding, who is the companion for my mare, held my gaze for 8 seconds, straight off!  I do very little with him.  My mare, the 'star' of the paddock, well, I had to jiggle, bump her nose, move her feet a little, by the third go, I got 3 seconds, then 5, then 8.

It seems, the horse I give more attention to, and make more of a fuss over, gives me less attention. Hmmm.

 

Val
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 Posted: Mon Jul 23rd, 2007 03:32 pm
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Sam wrote:
 I am finding the abandonment of old habits and not useful beliefs the hardest to master.  A work in progress.  Thanks once again for sharing your knowledge and time with us.



Amen to that. Two quick comments:

Yes to the abandonment of old habits and beliefs.  It's so difficult! One belief I have always held, and is broadly accepted as true: always talk to your horse; those that talk to their horses succeed far more than those that don't.  This one will be put to the test by this thread.

Secondly, on Dr.Deb's rule #1, you don't move the horse, the horse moves the horse. I'd like to add an observation, having used her instructions above to stop my horse from investigating some other people's horses in a public venue just yesterday (talk about good timing for this thread!).  It was the only effective thing I've ever done with him to control him, which is a huge lesson in itself.  But my main point is that I think the it worked because when I caused him to move himself, the change I observed was "the change that comes from within."  It wasn't about not having to push a big heavy horse around; it wasn't about teaching him to stand in one spot, it was about seeing a change in him where he understood and conceded, and that was that.  

I also felt his hind feet through my reins for the first time on that ride, and my head is so full I don't know where to start processing it all.  :-)

Regards and warmest thanks,

val

eirualaerdna
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 Posted: Mon Jul 23rd, 2007 05:06 pm
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I didn't have as much success as some did. Although, a slight bit of progress. This mare really has trust issues and although she will be submissive (licking lips, nodding head) she has a terrible stubborn streak. Nothing will be done unless it's her idea. However, yesterday I made progress with her.

The first 5 minutes went as expected. I got attention for about 1-2 seconds each time I asked for it. Second time I did it, it came up to about 3-4 seconds. Last 5 minutes, she started putting her head to the ground, walking forward, and pawing. She got very impatient, but I did get about 6 seconds from her. Also, she came back to focus quicker when I moved the lead. After that, on the way back to her stall, I asked her to step closer to the 2 horse trailer (she is terrified of it, wont get within about 6 feet of it). She started to back up and almost rear, when I asked her for her attention again, looked straight at her, and she came down and looked at me. I shook her lead line, held her gaze for a moment, and asked her to step forward. I couldn't get her to go all the way, but I didn't want to try. She took a few steps closer, and I praised her for her effort to listen regardless of her fear. She is going to take a long time...

DrDeb
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 Posted: Mon Jul 23rd, 2007 08:41 pm
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Andrea -- You need to drop the judgements that come from the human perspective, as I mentioned to you in my initial set of instructions. No horse is stubborn. Her apparent "stubbornness" is your own lack of experience, timing, and focus. What the horse is, is ignorant. She will remain ignorant until your own skills come up a little better. In recognition that this is the true state of affairs, I can assure you that it will be very helpful for you to stop judging HER.

She just is what she is. She just responds with some response -- or with some other response. You respond to her response. That's all. So from here on out, I want to hear no "stories" that you make up about what is driving her, or her bad past history (they are all inaccurate and useless anyway) -- and NO judgements -- OK?

You are trying to cram too much in. Stay away from the trailer or any other thing the horse has trouble with, and do JUST AS YOU HAVE BEEN TOLD. This means: confine your sessions with her to the quiet, walled-in or fenced-in arena. Keep the sessions short, uner half an hour, and the individual "bouts" to five minutes or less. Educate her on ONE thing at a time. Anything else, and you are not only "multi-tasking" yourself, but you are also (realize this!) forcing the horse to multi-task, too!

If the horse goes to pawing (a sign of frustration), realize that what she is frustrated with is your failure to release pressure early enough. Examine yourself to see if when you go to shake the rope, you STOP shaking it as soon as her eyes return to you. Never give a horse "one for good measure". When the horse's eyes are on you, the rope needs to be DEAD SLACK and YOU need to be supremely centered, calm, and quiet -- make your own body totally relax. And smile a little bit, because it is a wonderful thing to see a horse in the process of learning.

By the way, pay no attention to other peoples' ideas about "looking the horse in the eye". There is no special way that you need to look at a horse. You just look at the horse with your normal way of looking. No attempts at "mean" or "pointed" looks. No special gestures, either. All of these stagey superficialities are very far from real focus, which is what you need to be bringing to your horse, before your horse can bring any of it to you. Your expression should be that of the Buddha -- pleasant smile, pleasant feelings on the inside, all the time. Always ready to praise the slightest try. This goes along with "no judgements".

If the horse goes to pawing, right in the act of her doing it you should firmly but not roughly turn and walk off to one side, asking the horse to lead after you. Go twenty or thirty steps, stop, pet her, and then start over in the new place. This is how you apologize to a horse for your own timing being so far off. It will also gently help her to re-focus and be willing to try to give you another try.

Realize that my suggesting to you that you do five-minute "bouts" is merely a guideline. If the horse tells you that she cannot go five minutes, make it three or one. What I am trying to get you to do is to pay attention to what the horse NEEDS. In doing this, you will always still be able to achieve your own goals, which are important.

Please write back again and let us know how it goes. -- Dr. Deb

 

 

 

eirualaerdna
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Joined: Thu Jul 19th, 2007
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 Posted: Mon Jul 23rd, 2007 09:43 pm
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Unfortunately, I didn't read this before I went out today to work with her. I plan to employ everything you said as best I know how. However, I do want to tell you that I learned something from her today. She isn't stubborn, nor is she anything BUT reacting to things in a way that makes complete sense in her mind.

I walked with her to the area as usual, asking for her focus whenever walking through gates, ect. On our way, she was paying no attention to me, and rather to the sounds of other horses. So, I stopped a few times on the way to ask for her focus back. When she gave it to me, we walked on. I noticed that her attentiveness to me increased through the day significantly, and so it wasn't difficult to get what I wanted across.

In the beginning of the day before we entered the arena, I wanted to take her to a post to tie her so I could pick her feet. The post was next to a flapping auning and a small building, and the arena. As I was leading her there, I had her focus, then she lost her focus and stopped dead. Normally, I would have seen her as being stubborn. In leu of trying to get both of us focused, I didn't assume anything, I just reacted to her. She didn't want to go any further, so I backed her up, stood in front of her, and asked for her focus. We held focus for about 5 seconds, then I turned to her side, still looking at her, and asked her to step forward with me. Immediately, she dropped her head a little lower, looked at me, and walked 2 steps. This wasn't nearly far as I wanted, but it was progress, so I stopped, pet her and let her relax for a second. Then, I got her focus, asked for another step, and she tried to back up and rear. I let slack into my lead immediately in reaction to her, and she stood sound. I asked for focus again, stood in front of her, and when I had focus, I turned slightly to her side, and backed myself up toward the space I wanted her in, and she walked with her nose close to my chest to the place I wanted her at. I pet her, let her relax and check out the space. After that, she was fine and I could pick her feet.

Several times through the day we did things this way, to do simple tasks it took a long time. To get through a gate and not have her run me over, I had to ask for focus and repeat the task until I was being clear, and she was responding.  By the end of the time I spent with her, she was waiting for me outside gates until I was through, and going through when I asked, then pivoting herself so I could close them. I know I haven't gotten to redo the things I did wrong on the first day yet, because I just read what you said. But, you did say to ask for focus before any task, including going through gates, walking, stopping, ect. I think I figured out part of what you said, which is to stop judging, and instead to react at the right time, in the right way. I'm working on reacting at the right time and in the right way, but I think I've just about accepted the idea of not judging, now I have to train myself to always think that way.

Sam
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Joined: Tue Jun 12th, 2007
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 Posted: Tue Jul 24th, 2007 02:11 am
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Dear Dr Deb,

Thank you for taking no notice of the previous post, I have locked 'drama queen' away, she is of no use to me and my horse.  Today I turned myself over to the wise one and we had the biggest fun. Have rechristened giant shet as Hindsight as he is my great teacher. ( Yesterday before I put the halter on he said I am not happy, I am not okay.)  We played in the round pen at liberty.  I had a flag made of a bit of horse tail, as soon as he looked at me I took all pressure away completely by the end of our session it was no big deal for him to look at me for 8secs with ears pricked, eyes curious and bright, mouth soft nostrils still a bit full but over all fantastic.  Yippee, thank you for starting the thread, Andrea.  And to Marion and Val thank you for your kind words and encouragement, much appreciated.

Best Wishes

Sam I am


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