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Horse confidence issue.. or??
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Joe
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 Posted: Thu Aug 2nd, 2007 01:20 pm
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DD, Pauline:

Another varient can be observed, both with horses and in everyday life.  It is not by any means female-specific, but is possibly more widespread in women for the very reasons that you have both described.  This is the flip-flop toggle from under-assertiveness to over assertiveness and back.  It happens when people who are generally non-assertive or non-confrontational come to a point where they must take charge.  Often enough, the related emotions will be so strong that the assertive action will be way over the top.

I ain't no shrink, merely an observer, so I merely report and can't explain.  However, I can report that I have seen horses  beaten or otherwise overdisciplined by people following this pattern.  Somehow, the humans involved lack the ability to make a calm, calibrated response.

I would worry about that in any emotional training involving horses.

Joe

Pam
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 Posted: Thu Aug 2nd, 2007 06:16 pm
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Dr. Deb,

Have a question concerning backing up a horse - which has come up while working on these exercises.

I've been working on the focus/manners exercises with my horse  for the last couple of weeks.  He has become so much more respectful of me with just a minamal of work on my part.  He is walking through gates very nicely and slowly now.  He is a fast learner and a very sensitive/intelligent fellow, I have re-discovered.   These people who say horses aren't very intelligent nor interested in us are way off in my opinion.  I have no evidence that proves that.  You reap what you sow.

I have been around trainers (you know the natural horsemanship type) who back horses up very aggressively, sometimes clear acroos the arena and for no real offense that I could detect.  I have never agreed with this method and think it is cruel and dangerous, not to mention way over the top.  You only speak of backing a horse up slowly - and every horse person that I respect does the same.  Is there a time that it is appropraite and we just haven't gotten there?   I sure hope not.

I'm still experimenting with the exercises that you have provided.  Don't want you to think I have ignored you, just busy at work.

Thanks,
Pam

DrDeb
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 Posted: Thu Aug 2nd, 2007 06:49 pm
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Yeah, they do that all the time, Joe. But where we can control it, in other words, when the emotionally unstable or immature person is in the class under the eye of the teacher, then it's the teacher's job to immediately stop the student and then re-start them again after they've come back to themselves. Pauline is describing a great program, for which I hope and assume the teacher is qualified. If she is, it will be effective. I just wish I could take the lady I met at the meeting and put her in a class where she had to learn to handle a horse -- in fact, I said as much to Wendy at the time. So the women that Pauline's friend is working with are lucky to have that resource and blessed because they chose to be there or perhaps were made to be there by a judge or family-in-crisis counselor.

As to swings from one pole of ineffectiveness to the other: Yes, I've spoken about this in the "men are hard, women are soft" thread. Women often, and men more rarely, are either afraid/unable to be appropriately assertive (and are thus ineffective), OR they are way too sharp, to the point of being mean (and are thus ineffective) -- just as Pauline is describing. And yes I do think that horses serve as "compensation" for many people on many levels; indeed that this accounts for 50% of their popularity.

That word "mean" brings up a point I think it was Pam was making: she says she saw Harry being "mean" to a horse and then realized that it wasn't that he was being mean at all. I recall one time right after Harry had been to Australia a number of years ago, when we had letters in the Forum from somebody down there who could not see it any other way -- when Harry was as firm with her horse as it actually required, the woman went ballistic and yelled and screamed and badmouthed Harry to all her friends and complained in the Forum, too. And no matter what we told her as to the truth of the matter, there was no way we were going to penetrate that lady's understanding. I've had the same type of person show up at my clinics, too.

Why this arises is, as I have said numerous times before, because the person is confused about the difference between "rough" vs. "firm". Sometimes, and I think for sure in the case I described just above, I think this confusion goes way back into the person's childhood, and fixing it therefore would require the services of a professional psychological counselor. I've told the story about "rough" vs. "firm" so many times here -- about the cowboy whose horse laid down on him when he asked it to work -- that I'm not going to tell it again because I'm sure you've heard it. But it's a perfect illustration of the concept.

We never want to be rough. "Rough" happens when the person is out of control, angry, vengeful, feeling like the horse has made them look bad in front of other people. Then all the motions of the person's body become jerky and way too big and forceful. Their timing is off, too, but it doesn't matter to them in the blindness of their anger; they're just going to come AT the horse and punish him. So the features of "roughness", or you might say the things that power it are:

1. The person is angry but does not pause to reflect, "I am very angry right now" -- the person does not look back at themselves, so to speak, internally, but just permits themselves to "become" their anger and to act solely from that

2. The emotion of anger pumps the adrenaline way up, and this makes the motions jerky, the strength too much, and interferes with the timing

3. In coming AT the horse, the person is not setting anything up to teach the horse anything. Nothing the person does in this state has any educational value, nor does it intend to have any -- instead it is intended as punishment.

But in our way of training, there is never to be punishment. A "negative" or (as I put in in the post above, when you "clobber" the horse) -- is not punishment! Do not mix up firmness with punishment! But it is so very easy to do this --!

Horses have no understanding of punishment, i.e., hard knocks that relate to nothing except the need of the knocker to be knocking on something. This is what Eckhart Tolle calls "feeding the pain body" -- feeding the person's need to pound on something as a way of assuaging his own anger. This, again, is an area of confusion in Sam's husband's original question, and it's an area of confusion for many people. Horses have no concept of punishment. They are not punishing each other when you see them kicking or biting each other. They are communicating -- strongly if need be -- but that's all. There's no anger in there beyond "hey you didn't listen to me the first time". Once the horse that's been kicked or bitten gets the message, what happens? Everybody goes back to grazing -- that's it -- it's over -- nothing gets carried forward even to the next minute.

There have been letters in this Forum in years past from people who cite instances where they saw a horse continue to aggress another horse and it seemed like the situation never got over with. The attacker just kept attacking. My answer to these people was to ask them how big they think the "personal space" of a Mustang stallion might be? If you put two Mustang stallions in a pen that's 100 ft. across, what will happen?

Well, you know what will happen -- they'll try to kill each other, and the fight is going to be prolonged and serious, even to the point of one of them actually succeeding in killing the other.

Now, what would happen if you put those stallions in a pen that's one mile across? Probably the same thing. This is because the personal space of a Mustang stallion is typically about one mile in diameter, and he is so constituted that any other male that comes within that diameter he feels he has to address that male and either accept him or reject him.

If you have personal spaces of one mile, and you have two horses in there, you then have to have a pen that is at least two miles across. Naturally when I told this to the woman who wrote in about it, she did not want to accept it, because it wouldn't work in her fantasy concept about how a person is "supposed" to keep a horse. But she wouldn't even accept it when I suggested a particular ranch up North that would happily keep her horse that was getting beaten up -- they could provide the big space at very low cost. It's always possible to solve these things if you care more about the horse than you do about yourself.

Most domestic horses don't have personal spaces or "must-defend" spaces as big as a Mustang stallion, but ALL horses have "must-defend" spaces that are at least one body-width wider than they are on both sides. This is going to come up in our next lesson in this thread, i.e. how the handler is to go into the horse's "room" with respect. But it also relates to how observers can get confused about what they're seeing apparently aggressive horses do in a group setting in a pasture. Generally, you get this unending or apparently egregious aggression when the pasture is not big enough, when there are too many horses in the pasture, and when one of the horses is a small pony vs. big horses (the pony will be aggressive in this case). Here are the situations where it is going to look like the aggressor is "punishing" his herdmates, because it may be that he will NOT stop when the other horse has said "uncle". The aggressor cannot stop because the space in which he finds himself does not permit him to "hear" the other horse's submission, i.e. because the other horse continues to be in what the aggressor is hardwired to consider "his" space.

This is always improved or softened up in aggressive horses, and in stallions, by the process of mannering, because when we go into their space we are teaching them that there is indeed a way for them to permit this. We practice them on this viewpoint, this set of reactions, and the horse says "oh, boy, what a relief". In my observation, whenever we have horses that are nut-cases in a pasture (this is where people will tell you that it was a bucket baby or it "wasn't properly socialized" as a foal), we also have a horse that does not relate properly ("isn't properly socialized") around humans. They are one and the same.

Pauline, your question on roundpenning is reasonable since you have not seen me teach roundpenning. I'm totally sure that you yourself are good at it. However, that is by no means the case with most people, and my experience as a teacher makes me very reluctant to go to the roundpen before the handler has first acquired the skills and timing that mannering on the end of a lead rope will develop. Most people have no idea of their own body-aura or the sheer strength with which this pushes on the horse. They are not aware of how their smallest change in body position can and does "say" things to the horse. Their perceptions are foggy and their timing is off. These things have to improve before I will let them in the roundpen. The roundpen is one of THE MOST powerful tools that there are, but like all powerful tools, it has a terrible tendency to backfire in the wrong hands. For this reason also, I strongly advise people to never watch the roundpenning tapes by several of the well self-advertised horsemanship gurus, because one and all, these guys misunderstand the deeper purposes, and thereby dangerously mis-apply the technique. This is why we have, in years past, had roundpenning clinics in Adelaide and Canberra, my Australian hostesses arranging this opportunity for me to get people started on it in the right way. -- Dr. Deb

Pauline Moore
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 Posted: Fri Aug 3rd, 2007 11:22 am
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Thanks for the reply Dr Deb, point taken and understood.  Agree with you about the videos put out by various clinicians, and even worse, the live demos which for very many years had put me off 'all that western stuff' - at best it was theatrical production like any other crowd-pulling paid entertainment, and at worst, I saw horses who were literally scared stiff, or having to 'yell from the rooftops' before the handler could see or acknowledge their signals of attention. 

I also personally saw a horse made crazy by these techniques, to the point where he was eventually euthanazed as a 6-yr old.  This was a WB/TB gelding with the body of a WB and the temperament of a very sensitive TB.  He was living at a place where I occasionally did some work so tracked his progress over 12 months or so.  There was nothing unusual about him as the 4-yr old I first met, but I saw several sessions where he was hounded in a roundyard.  He became increasingly difficult, bucking off anyone brave enough to get on him; the last time I saw him was when yet another well-known 'trainer' was attempting to 'ride him through it' but the tormented look in that horse's eyes will never leave me - his eyes appeared to be sinking back inside his skull.  He was put down not long after that.

I have to thank my own colt for forcing me to see the light, but even though I was quite elated to see the transformation in him, I also had a sense that to receive total trust from an animal of another species, where he saw me as his place of safety, was such a rare and honoured privilege it must never be betrayed.  For quite a long time I did not speak of this to anyone, and even now am very selective about who I explain the details to, for fear it will be misused.  I still don't know exactly how the horse perceives the actions involved or what the real meaning is, but my gut feeling is that it goes beyond the purely physical.

Maybe there will be an opportunity for me to sign up to one of your horsemanship clinics if you are doing some more DownUnder - it would be a nice change to see you working on a live horse rather than a dead one.

Best wishes - Pauline

 

Last edited on Fri Aug 3rd, 2007 11:26 am by Pauline Moore

Pam
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 Posted: Fri Aug 3rd, 2007 06:11 pm
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Dr. Deb,

Can you tell me what the difference is between sending your horse off as opposed to chasing him while round penning?  I "play" with my horse at liberty alot, rarely use the lunge line, and want to know if I am even close to do it properly.   The only round penning I've watched is on a Tom Dorrance dvd.  He uses the plastic bag on a stick to move the horse.

Thank You,

Pam 

Last edited on Fri Aug 3rd, 2007 06:12 pm by Pam

Joe
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 Posted: Fri Aug 3rd, 2007 11:23 pm
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Seems I don't know what "roundpenning," is as used in this discussion.  Perhaps it is for a different thread, or perhaps it is not something that can be communicated in black and white.  However, let me just ask -- how is "roundpenning" different from what I would describe as ordinary longe and riding work in a smallish ring -- say, 40' in diameter?  I have done the latter all my life, because the contained environment has made it easier to keep a horse's attention.  But, I have done plenty of other things wrong or sub-optimally and maybe this is just one more.

Joe

Kim L
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 Posted: Sat Aug 4th, 2007 05:27 am
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I had an opportunity to do some focus sessions. What an eye opener. I have some questions. I am repeatedly reminding the horse to stay in his room. And during the five minute session of focus when I get what I'm looking for is it okay to ask repeatedly for the five minutes? I'm looking at this lesson of staying in their room and focus as one exercise. Am I asking to much? In my mind I don't see how you could separate this out. I did this on two different horses but since I can only digest a certain amount of information at one time. I'm only going to refer to the first horse I did. On my first five minute focus session I only got good focus for a six second period of time. And I only got this a couple of times on the first session. When we went to the grazing part my gelding did not relax. He did not want to step all the way through as he grazed in fact he was grazing backwards(I felt like he was trying to position me) not really wanting me to rub on him at all. So I thought I would try to help him move fore ward a little as he was grazing. He never would step through with the front foot on the side I was standing on (I stood on both sides). When we went into our second five minute focus session he would sleep but he wasn't really sleeping he wasn't breathing good. So I would have him focus on me. I got one real good focus for 5 seconds he was going to leave me on the 6th second so I quit immediately and went to the grazing session. So this second five minute focus session did not last five minutes. This time he was a little more relaxed and he even enjoyed it a little bit when I scratched his itchy spots. When we went to the third five minute focus session. He stayed in his room pretty good but I still had to place his feet so he would be more comfortable. Right away within a minute or so I got a really good focus I could have held this for quite some time, without to much difficulty. I stopped right at 8 seconds and went to the third session of grazing. This time he was showing me his itchy spots and I would scratch them if he put that spot where my hand was. I wouldn't chase them. I felt like he was playing a game and I wouldn't play. I would love to scratch him but I wanted him to expose those itchy spots to me and ask me to scratch in a nice way which he did do. This  last grazing session lasted for 6 to 7 minutes. Even though he was more relaxed he never deeply relaxed. Did I ask for to much during the grazing sessions? Why doesn't he place himself comfortably when I put him in his room? I thought after the first time I helped he would do it himself.

Something else I was surprise at how many times I said back. It really didn't do either one of us any good. Neither one of us noticed it. I noted it only because you said not to verbalize. Is this partly because when you say it by the time it comes out your timing is late?

Last edited on Sat Aug 4th, 2007 05:51 am by Kim L

DrDeb
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 Posted: Sat Aug 4th, 2007 08:32 am
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Kim, I want you to just stop altogether -- don't try to do anything described in this thread. Just stop. I am telling you this before you either hurt your horse or get yourself hurt.

You are in much too big a hurry for lots of things. It will help you if you could, for example, correspond here by using full and correct English sentences instead of a style reminiscent of thumb-texting. I want you to show me that you are willing to take all the time that it takes. I am also looking for evidence that you are not feeling pushed or pressed by other, external factors in your life.

Perhaps I have not been clear enough as to what the goals of these exercises are. For this reason, I suggest that before you do anything else, you get Josh Nichol's articles that were published in 2006 in Equus Magazine and read them. Or else, you can sign up for "The Inner Horseman" (Associate Membership) for 2007 -- we have been given permission to reprint those articles in full, and they appear in the mid-year issue that you would then receive.

Josh's articles have pictures. That's one thing that we do not have here. Pictures often help quite a lot. But Josh also has a good way of explaining this. Really, the whole mannering sequence is simple, and should be a relaxed mellow time with the horse. Even if the horse is initially quite bothered and troubled, as in the case of the query that started this thread, if the handler knows what they are doing, the horse very quickly focuses and mellows out.

So, somewhere along the way here, I haven't connected properly with you, Kim. There should never be an increase in the horse's tension. We are not trying to "keep him in his room" for five minutes. That wasn't what the five minute units were for....I intended them as guidelines which would prevent you from over-pressuring the horse, going on too long. Five minutes is a very long time for any one thing.

The other thing is, if you have any opportunity to actually attend a clinic taught by a competent horseman -- i.e. Harry Whitney, Josh Nichol, Buck Brannaman, Bryan Neubert, or one of my own clinics -- then you should go. That will clear everything up in a very short period of time.

Best wishes, and good luck. -- Dr. Deb

DrDeb
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 Posted: Sat Aug 4th, 2007 08:36 am
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Joe, roundpenning is quite a bit different from any other "ordinary" form of riding. Why don't you start that query as a separate thread. I didn't think actually that there could be anybody in this era who hadn't acquired some awareness of what that whole thing is, if from nothing else the media. But if you're foggy on the subject, Joe, I'll be more than glad to go into it. Cheers -- Dr. Deb

DrDeb
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 Posted: Sat Aug 4th, 2007 08:39 am
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Pam -- OK, here's the answer to your query in a form that I think you will get a good laugh out of. You ask, what's the difference between "starting your horse off" (i.e. starting him into motion) in the roundpen or in free-schooling, vs. "chasing" him. And I reply, it's the same difference as if you sent your boyfriend out to get ice-cream vs. if you ran down the block after him waving a rolling-pin.....

It's not just a difference of technique, it's a difference of intention!

Cheers -- Dr. Deb

Kim L
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 Posted: Sun Aug 5th, 2007 07:10 am
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Dear Dr. Deb,
     I am embarrassed to say I thought I was using my best English. I don't like text messaging and wont use it. And I have to admit I didn't care much for English in school, maybe home ec. was worse.  While in class I did apply myself even if it wasn't my favorite thing to do.  Awhile back I was able to participate in one of your clinics. In fact you were the one to start me down this path of communication with horses. I'm not sure what I admired most about you. Your use of the English language, or what I was learning about the horse. You truly are a woman of many words. We did have some trouble connecting, this was due to a hesitancy on my part. It had been my past experience that one who used many words was most likely not to be trusted. This I found not to be true on your part. I did think we enjoyed each others conversations although we didn't have much one on one time. I have been to some of Harry's clinics. He was the one to help me with this horse or most likely I would have gotten hurt. At one of those clinics I did get to met Josh Nichols and knew he was going to be one of the better ones. To bad there are so few of them. I now have the time to commit to my horses and I know you can help me. I also hope my English will improve as we talk. In the meantime I have some reading to do and I will resubscribe to the Inner horseman. I did try last week but after going through a long line twice to get a money order only to find out they wanted cash, well I thought it  best to come back on another day. I think I might have a source for the 2006 Equus. What months were those articles printed?

shawna
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 Posted: Mon Aug 6th, 2007 05:38 am
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Dr. Deb

I tried step one today with my new youngster (2yr old Nokota cross); this was his third day in his new home and I felt that he was settled enough to get started but desperately in need of developing his attention span.

On the whole it went well; I could get 5 seconds of relaxed attention, but like one of the the previous contributors to this particular discussion I had trouble moving back from him--he wants to share a room with me and remained pretty unimpressed with my shaking the leadrope or bumping his nose.  In fact, I cut the second session short because I was getting flustered by the obvious fact that I wasn't communicating clearly to him.  When we came back for the third session I was more relaxed and we got five seconds twice with me about three feet in front of him--I stopped us after the second time he gave me that much attention as a reward.

Nevertheless, I think I am perhaps expecting too much and should break this process up a bit further, either by dividing the part where I ask him to stay in his space while I back away before going for the part where I keep his birdie with me--releasing the pressure after getting him to stay put by walking to a different part of the arena and starting again, or by not yet expecting to be quite so far away from him, but practice at two and a half feet or three feet until we get good at that and then step back. 

Is my thinking sound on this?

By the way, I suspect that my comment that I waited until the thrid day to start these sessions so that he would be "settled in" might be vestiges of old thought habits about horses, that it might be a sign of wanting to humanize him, but it did seem like allowing him a couple of days to acclimate was only fair.  He was more relaxed after a day out with new pasturemates, and surely that helped set us up for the success we had, as I really am quite pleased with 5 seconds at three feet for starters. 

Thank you so much for both this topic and this forum generally.

Shawna

Val
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 Posted: Mon Aug 6th, 2007 04:22 pm
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This morning I did the Beginning Focus lesson with Kitty and my horse, Bye.  The experience ties together many things you have talked about here, Dr. Deb, it was facinating. I hope I don't get too verbose reporting the lesson.

First, Kitty is the mare with the cribbing problem I described in the Oral Implant thread.  I had tried the cribbing deterrent method with her, and in my report on that mentioned that she didn't seem to "feel the love" from her handler, and that she wasn't ok inside.  I've been thinking about that aspect, and more and more I think that it's a fundamental thing that is going to prevent any progress.  The pings on the nose I've put completely aside for the time. Just as you told Katy Watts that she and her horse could not benefit from certain exercises because there are fundamental issues that were getting in the way and had to be dealt with first,  I think that Kitty's lack of trust in people is getting in the way of anything that is done with her.

Anyway, I took her out of her stall and did the lesson in the barn aisle.  Her buddy Bye screams for her if I take her away and I wanted to set things up to make it easy for both of us to succeed.   But I made two mistakes: I used a regular short lead, and I snapped it to her halter.  I stood in front and stepped back several paces, and a gentle shake of the lead rope was enough to get her attention.  She focussed on me immediately and held the focus for 8 seconds.  I found it easy to tell where her birdie was; however, it's going to be a challenge for me to figure out how to gain her focus without making her hyperaware of me.  There was a very fine line between getting her to focus on me and making myself a threat.  I didn't tread on the right side of the line, I am afraid.  It also took me several tries to figure out how to reward her, as she doesn't like people and doesn't like to be petted.  I ended up stepping back away from her.   Tomorrow I'll use one of our super-long lead ropes, and tie it, and try to be early instead of quick. Also small instead of big.  That's going to take some thinking about.

My horse Bye is hard for me to read.  I got a longer lead rope for him, and tied it to his halter. I did the first lesson in the aisle, and just couldn't tell if he was looking at me or not! He might have been gazing intently out at the woods for all I knew. So I took him in the "vestibule," the enclosed area between the barn and the paddocks.   He immediately went to grazing, and I had to remember with resolve what you said about coming all the way through for the horse, to make him stop and finish the lesson. I waggled the lead rope harder and harder, til it finally thwacked him a good one under the jaw. He put his head up and looked at me for a second, and tried to graze again but I waggle the rope before he moved his head.  This time he looked at me with one eye, one ear forward and one back, for about five seconds. I was surprised that he made it that long, but he did.  To make a long story short, we ended up doing three sessions, but got 8 seconds of focus that last session. My challenges with him are, again, being early vs quick, being big instead of small, and most importantly: I cannot see very well where his birdie is.   With Kitty it's so easy, it feels like she has laser beams trained on you.  Too much focus, I guess.  I hope this work will help her relax. 

I felt so ignorant. This is a great exercise, but it's very humbling. 

val

Pam
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 Posted: Mon Aug 6th, 2007 11:30 pm
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Very funny..Dr. Deb..but I wonder if it matters at all if your boyfriend doesn't want to leave your side much at all and if it's ok to chase him with a rolling pin if your husband is on his way home (just kidding)!

DrDeb
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 Posted: Wed Aug 8th, 2007 06:02 am
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Kim, it was not my intention to cause you embarrassment. The style of your writing has the "feel" of texting. There is a hurried, compressed feel to it. It isn't your English I am trying to correct -- it's the sense of compression and hurry.

You ask three or four times in your original post, Kim, whether you are "going too fast" or "asking too much" and I am replying in the affirmative.

Now, if you have attended one of my clinics, I can't remember if you rode or spectated, and I don't know which clinic it was or where; but no matter where, surely you actually SAW this same mannering sequence since I generally have students do it with their horses at every clinic. So I am rather surprised that you should be having difficulty.

But perhaps I misunderstand the difficulty. If you shake the leadline, or tug on it, or bump your horse on the nose, does he not look at you?

Did you read the directions, or look at what we did in the clinic, so that before you ask him to back up or back away from you merely by the lead-line, you have already made sure he understands how to back up from the direct pressure of your hand on the halter? Do you not remember seeing me demonstrate this on several different horses at the clinic you attended?

Was this a REAL big deal when you saw me work with the horse? Did I not go to the toughest or most bothered and troubled horse in the class, and, using that one as the demonstration, work this out with him? And then did I not also help every student in the class who was in need of help, by taking their horse and working with him for a few minutes, until the handler was more sure of how to do things? I can't remember having even a single horse under my own hand at any clinic not get this pretty fast.

So what I would have been expecting is that none of this is any big deal. This thread was not intended to be a big deal. The challenge for me was to try to write down the process, step by step. But the thing in the actual doing is simple.

One thing I am asking here not only of you, Kim, but of some of the others participating in this thread is that you not make this any bigger deal than it really is. There is no holy perfection to be attained. It's just the first (very necessary) step toward more complex and interesting things.

Best wishes -- Dr. Deb


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