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Draping Reins?
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DrDeb
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 Posted: Fri Jan 13th, 2012 06:07 pm
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Yes, Jam, that's exactly what I would do: lots of petting and grooming. Let us know what you think about the BB. Cheers, and best wishes -- Dr. Deb

Jamsession
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 Posted: Fri Jan 13th, 2012 06:43 pm
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Excellent, thank you so much. The Birdie Book has been ordered! I can't wait to start reading.

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 Posted: Sat Jan 21st, 2012 09:32 pm
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OK, Dr. Deb, I received the Birdie Book earlier this week (although I have been at school and haven't had a chance to look at it until this afternoon).

I started with chapter 7. I have definitely realized that I had no idea what my horse was saying to me, that I was punishing her for being curious as I interpreted it as pushing boundaries.

My first question: in working with my mare in the context of the last couple weeks (just grooming, during which I have discovered she's perfectly content to stand, for the most part, while ground-tied and much prefers this to the cross-ties...) I have noticed that when free, when I go to stroke her neck or pat her, she always turns her head away towards the opposite direction.

According to your description and a plate of pictures of Harry Whitney with a young colt, this response is based in fear: maybe not wide-eyed, snorting fear, but a concern that she is not able to be 100% OK with me, so she feels the need to look around her. She is aware of my presence, but is not focused. Is this correct?

I think I need to start here, before I do anything else. I need to, as you have said, "work" by not "working", towards the point where she is 100% OK with me, that she can place confidence in me and know that I will take her feelings and fears into consideration. I think I still have concerns over my ability to properly read my mare. Indeed, you said it in the Birdie Book, that the biggest challenge for a horseperson is being able to direct your horse's attention back to you BEFORE he "teeters", or his birdie flies somewhere else. In this light, where do I begin?

Last edited on Sat Jan 21st, 2012 10:15 pm by Jamsession

DrDeb
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 Posted: Sun Jan 22nd, 2012 03:22 am
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By backing off.

Anytime when approaching a horse, and you see the horse turn away so that it is looking at some point in the distance, or so that you think or actually see it start to move so that it begins to step away, you need to stop in your tracks, and cease in any manner, with any part of your body, to come any closer to the horse.

You stop softly and not abruptly. Then you softly turn 90 degrees to the side and take a few steps in that direction, and stop. When you then stop, you may look softly at the horse, or you may look elsewhere.

When you stop pushing into the horse, the horse will stop leaving --usually. However, if it goes ahead and leaves anyway, you still do what I've said, turn aside and wait a little while.

Then after a little while, if it has left and gone off to the water tank, then you can once again walk up to the horse while it is at the water tank. You come in from the side or, preferably, three-quarters from the front, so that you slice in toward her shoulder. You can keep coming at a quiet (but not sneaky and not tentative) walk just so long as the horse keeps standing there and gives no indication, not even that it turns its head or neck away, that it would like to leave.

And you come also with the EXPECTATION that the animal will continue to stand there. You are projecting to her that standing there and waiting for you is what you expect of her, it's what her job is to do.

So, you see, Jam, the reason your horse is leaving is that you are causing her to leave. You don't need to psychoanalyze it beyond that. We don't really care what else the mare might think of doing.

In Ray Hunt's "Turning Loose" video there is a great little sequence where he's got this very hard to catch horse, and after some rather strenuous roundpenning, finally the horse has figured out that it is best to stand there and wait for Ray to approach. So it faces in and Ray approaches. Ray gets about "so close" to the horse, and you see its eyes turn off to the right, and Ray says into the mike, "You see, she just doesn't know. So if I want her to leave, why then I'd just keep on coming....But I don't want her to leave, so I'll just wait. She'll come in a minute. You see, her mind, it's tipped off to the right there. Let's see if we can get it here in the middle [Ray raises his right hand like it was an axe and puts it right in front of the middle of his own forehead, but aimed at hers]. There, you see (he says) if we can just get it in the center, then she'll be able to come."

Now, Jam, this is world-master-level work, but you can understand it. I see a teenaged girl at my own barn make the same mistake you are making just the other day, while she is trying to go in one of the pens and get her gelding caught. She gets about so close, and the gelding tips his mind off to the right, turns his neck to the right, and then steps off half-turning to the right, and she just keeps on coming. She does not see, but you've got the BB and you're willing to read it and study it and so I have every hope that you WILL be able to see. -- Dr. Deb

Jamsession
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 Posted: Sun Jan 22nd, 2012 04:25 pm
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So, to clarify, when approaching her I am not to do anything to call her attention? I am only to approach, stop if she even looks like she may choose to leave, and then continue forward if she does what I am expecting, which is to stay put and focused on me?

When I am grooming her, and I notice her birdie has flown off somewhere in the distance, is it then appropriate to call her attention back to me, to reaffirm the expectation that I am here and now, and so she should be too?

DrDeb
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 Posted: Mon Jan 23rd, 2012 03:05 am
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Yes, but you don't do too much; less than you probably think; just a movement of one hand; and not in a direction toward her. See how little it might take to call her attention; and see how early you can do it, almost pre-emptively. The earlier you are, the smaller you can be. Soon it will look to outsiders, and even to yourself, like you really aren't doing anything, and yet the mare will stay with you all the time. -- Dr. Deb

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 Posted: Mon Jan 23rd, 2012 11:36 am
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OK. I have noticed my mare will immediately acknowledge my presence and hold me in her regard for a few seconds upon me entering her stall or paddock. After a few seconds she will usually turn her head and thus attention back to wherever it was before. By making small movements I can get her attention back, and she will hold it momentarily and then turn away again. She doesn't walk off, she just turns her head, and sometimes not even her head. Sometimes it's just her ears, or just her eyes. I believe I have taught her NOT to focus on me in previous "teachings", so I anticipate that the purpose of focusing her in this way is to gradually extend her ability to focus on just me and peak her curiosity in what I want to teach her.

I am reading chapter 4, and at one point you discuss the puzzle as an excellent, but limited, analogy for how we teach the horse and how he needs to learn what we are asking for. We can see the larger picture because we have the puzzle box's top, so we know the eventual outcome. But the horse does not, and so he may need several tries before he can fit the "pieces" together. I think I need help understanding the "pieces" aspect: are the pieces put together in a logical manner, i.e. in presenting the puzzle to the horse, do we start with piece #1, then move to piece #2, then to 3, and so on? Is there even such an order? I imagine piece #1 is calling the horse's attention. After that, does it matter the "order" in which we put together our puzzle so long as it makes sense to the horse?

I feel a little overwhelmed: all of this is relatively new but perfectly understandable thinking to me. I'm feeling a whole lot of emotions that I knew would surface at some point and I am both terrified and tremendously excited at the same time. As someone who typically likes lists and like the step-by-step approach, the idea of experimenting and going off the beaten path to achieve the same result is a little intimidating to me. For example, I am struggling to decide, do I bring my mare right up to the round pen and begin to ask for her birdie? Do I begin in the barn aisle where I know she can already focus and is more comfortable, do I walk up the driveway toward the round pen and stop when I feel her start to leave? I can see quieting my brain long enough to be fully present is going to be challenging!

Jamsession
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 Posted: Mon Jan 23rd, 2012 03:37 pm
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I believe I have answered one of my questions...or rather, my mare has answered it for me.

It is clear that she is not 100% OK in the grooming area, cross-tied or ground-tied. So I suppose this means I should take it one step further back, and begin in her stall.

Val
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 Posted: Mon Jan 23rd, 2012 04:52 pm
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A friend of mine, a long-time horsewoman, is having similar problems with her horse.  She is able to go through the exact thought process you have just described, come up with the same answers to the same questions, but unlike you, has not been able to come up with an idea to fix it.  

The differences I see between your two situations is that she's uncomfortable with admitting that the rut that is supposed to work is in fact not working, she is uncomfortable facing her inner self and all the inner devils we've been talking about, and she doesn't listen to her horse at all.  If the mare isn't actively bucking someone off, she isn't being heard. 

I don't mean to sound judgemental, but having spent a lot of time on the phone with her this weekend, the similarities are fresh in my mind.   My friend wasn't asking for my help, and I wasn't able to help her, though I tried.

Val

Jamsession
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 Posted: Tue Jan 24th, 2012 12:55 am
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No, Val, you hardly sound judgmental. I have learned more about myself and my horse in the past few weeks to couple months than I think I have in years of "formal" education. I'll be graduating college this May and I feel as though I have only just started learning about who I am and what I'm capable of. Such is life, right? I am fortunate enough to have finally gotten to a place in my life where I recognize and WANT to relearn how to have authentic relationships, whether those be with people or horses. Many people never get to such a place, and so for this I am lucky.

DrDeb
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 Posted: Tue Jan 24th, 2012 04:31 am
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Jam, let me ask you this: would you want to be around your horse, or any horse, even though they were not paying attention to you in the sense of not being alert to your possibly being about to make a suggestion to them or to give them a direction?

When would be a time that you would want to be physically near an animal that outweighs you by half an order of magnitude, and have that animal not prioritizing your desires higher than its own? --Dr. Deb

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 Posted: Tue Jan 24th, 2012 01:40 pm
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Jam,

Tom Dorrance said, "The last thing you learn was the first thing you needed to know."

If one is of a curious, seeking, open mind, then that person will be edging towards that "last thing they needed to know."

When a person at last embraces that this knowledge cannot be forced or hurried but is a process, when they turn loose themselves, then the journey becomes not a task but an enjoyment.

Jamsession
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 Posted: Tue Jan 24th, 2012 02:17 pm
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No, Dr. Deb, I would not.

A time where I or anyone may want to be is if they are not in this journey for the horse's benefit. They are in it for themselves. They want to appear to look good, to look accomplished, to still get "somewhere". They have ambitions that they refuse to let go of.

Would you please elaborate on what you were getting at? Although, I think I may have understood based on my answer to your second question.

DrDeb
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 Posted: Tue Jan 24th, 2012 07:06 pm
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Jam, instead of "going back" to the stall -- which is not really going back at all, but just going somewhere else -- what I'm saying is that the stall could only be a place you go back to if you were thinking "I have to get the horse out of the stall, tack it up, and then take it for a ride." How about letting go of whether or not you ever got to go for a ride?

Instead, I suggest you take the horse to a small paddock or an arena when nobody else is around there, and let the horse loose in this enclosure. Bring your grooming equipment with you in a bucket or carrier. Let the horse loose, and while it is dead loose, then you set your bucket down near the gate.

And while the horse moseys around there, maybe picking at some grass or something near the edge, then you take your first brush out of the bucket and you walk over to the horse while it is completely loose, and you begin brushing it.

And it will either stand there, or it will walk off. If it goes to leave, don't make any attempt to stop it. Just wait for it to stop by itself, and then walk up to it again and brush it some more. And you keep doing this until you're done with your first brush.

Then you go back to the bucket and change to the second brush, or the hoof pick, or the mane and tail comb, and you do the same thing: go up to the horse and groom it while it stands there. When and if it leaves, you don't pursue it, but you just catch up to it again and begin again. And you do this until it is time to put the saddle on.

Then you go get the saddle and the pad and bridle, and you hang them on the fence. And you go pick up your blanket then, and walk over to the horse with it and put it on. Then you turn away, the horse still being dead loose, and walk back and get your saddle. If the horse moves meanwhile and spills the blanket off, go pick up the blanket and shake it out and go put it back on the horse, no hurry, no fuss, no muss. Then pick your saddle up out of the sand and go put that on, too.

When you get to where the blanket is on and the saddle is on, and it's time to girth up, be sure you pull the girth up enough so if the horse takes off, it won't turn underneath. This means you need to snug it up, but probably not enough to actually ride.

Then you go get the bridle and walk up to the horse and you put the bridle on. Put the reins on over the neck first, and then put your right hand up between the ears and hand the crownpiece up. Do not stuff the bridle onto the face with your left hand -- that is a piss poor way to bridle and nobody should ever do it, even if their horse is very tall and they are very short. You always lift the bridle with your right hand, with your fingers placed between the ears, the heel of the hand resting upon the horse's poll.

So you groom, saddle, and bridle the horse entirely at liberty. The first time you do this, it will probably cost you a half-hour more than what you could have done it if you had followed your set routine. The next time, it will cost you five extra minutes, and after that, you won't want to do it any other way. Sometimes in the future you will have to have her tied up to groom and tack her, because you can't always guarantee a half-hour where you can have the pen or the arena all to yourself; so you watch for your time.

Through all of this, you will take care of your own safety. When approaching any horse that is entirely loose, you need to make sure that you always position yourself so that there is no possibility that the horse could whirl around and get you in its sights and kick you in the chest. Nor either that it could cow-kick you. Neither will you be training the horse to kick, which is very efficiently done by when the horse turns away to leave, you step rapidly backwards.

When the horse goes to leave, if it leaves by turning away, then if there is room between the horse and the fence, you step forward not back, and put your hand that is the closest to the horse's head under its neck, cradling the neck around the windpipe just above the breast. You do this very gently, and you do not use this as a way to try to hold the horse in place. You just touch them there. If you do it early, the horse will probably stop leaving. But if it leaves anyway, try to have that happen while you are slowly stepping toward the horse, or else just stand still, or else step back slowly but not rapidly -- depending upon circumstances -- but you don't invite that kick by falling back rapidly.

You will also entirely dispense, forever from this day forth, with cross-ties. They are both coercive and dangerous, so you won't be using those any more. When you do tie your horse, it will be to a secure tie-rack or hanging loop where the knot of the rope sets not lower than the height of your own breast or the height of the middle of the horse's neck. If there is no safe tie at your farm, you must speak to management about creating one. -- Dr. Deb

 

Jamsession
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 Posted: Wed Jan 25th, 2012 12:36 pm
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Thank you, Dr. Deb. I will have a go at this today and report back with questions, of which I'm sure they'll be at least one. I haven't actually been trying to take my mare for a ride since she dumped me, it's only been grooming, but it's probably just as well since I've been approaching it improperly.


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