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Backing Bonnie
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Shelly Forceville
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 Posted: Tue Jun 5th, 2012 12:19 am
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Jeannie,

I think the great issue here is that most people have trouble letting go of their own past or future. They are either hung up in the past, caught up in some fear or guilt or anger related to dealing with the horse, or they are hung up on the future, what they want, their goals, their ego, what they want or think they need to get done.

When someone has these hang ups (as all humans are prone to) they cannot be in the moment to look after the horse's feelings. Most people do not stick it out when problem's arise (such as your horse B scenario) because of these hang ups. If they can let go of their own needs then they can give the horse what he needs. So maybe you have something you need to do with horse B, but if you get hung up on this before you sort this thing out then there will be trouble.

In order to know when the horse is okay versus not okay you need some feeling for the horse, and you can't feel very well when you are not right there in the moment.

At least this is what I am beginning to understand.

Jeannie
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 Posted: Tue Jun 5th, 2012 05:09 pm
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Yes, Shelly, exactly. The human has an agenda which actually gets in the way of them seeing the horse and their needs right at that moment. I've gotten into a heap of trouble over the years, and it is always later, when I think about what happened, and what I could have done better, that I see where I went wrong. I try to apply this next time, but if you're not Buck or Harry working with a great number of animals, it takes a long time to sort out.  The other day my horse was jumped up about something, and it was only when I thought about it later did I realize that my timing  could have been better, so I'll keep that in mind for next time.

  The longer you stay at this, the more appreciation you have for the insights of Tom Dorrance, and how he saw this, the same thing that was in plain sight for everyone to see, but somehow they missed it. He would probably say that the people who are getting their horses in trouble are working further down the line than they should be.

 As a side note, I have to say that I am always amazed at how many people come on the forum, as earlier in this topic, and cannot see the irony in the fact that they cannot do the very thing they want their horse to do: figure out how to adjust to a situation which requires looking at your own perceptions differently enough that you can learn what someone is trying to teach or show you. We don't always present ourselves to the horse in a way they they care to listen to at that moment, but they are better at picking up the important message and letting the other troubling thoughts go, than people are. They are better at learning to learn than we are.
          
                               Jeannie

Alex
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 Posted: Sun Jun 10th, 2012 07:20 am
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Hi Deb, and all.
I have spent quite some time thinking about this post and watching both horses mentioned therein. I really appreciate it as it is helping me through a lot of big moments in my learning.

The answer to question one, I would pay attention to the moment and spot when the mare tensed up, stop on this side of it until she relaxed and then retreat. So following this thought when I have seen Bonnie and have approached her I looked for if she had a tense moment – she did and raised her head and neck slightly – this leads into question two, what should I do when approaching the horse? I stopped at the point that I first perceived the tension. I stayed at that physical distance and then walked in a semi circle toward her rear. She would then either un track and come toward me or bend her head and neck in toward me. There were no further signs of tension with me walking up to and around her and with a couple of comings and goings and use of half circling around until see untracked I could get her to bend in or come toward me as I approached. When I did this the perception I used was sight but I hope that my intuition and feel gets better and better!

What is the MAIN OBJECT in starting a young horse?
Connection to the feet through the rein
Connection to the feet via the legs
Ability to direct the birdie
No touchy spots
Being 100% okay with all of the gear associated with riding.
I like what kcooper said about starting a young horse in that you are working toward building a finished horse so I would add that the things I do with the young horse are to make sense through to the ridden work and for the rest of their life. So the things I do on the ground lead to things that will help the horse under saddle.

Elle (the gold coloured mare) – This fear can only be because of me. I have owned this horse for 17 years and any fear is either because of me or because I have not known how to address this and help my horse get through it. There is no somebody else involved. I am the one who needs to and is responsible for making it go away.
After watching Harry ride this horse I thought that the reason for her worry was a lack of clarity on my behalf. I saw her offer all kinds of things to him in a worried kind of a state. He clarified those things for her by being very exact and very persistent if she was on the wrong track. When she got it he just sat and rode. This bought calm to her.

I have spent a lot of time thinking about this situation and what to do about it and I asked the girls at quadrille yesterday to help me. Most of them are posters or readers of the forum. They asked me to trot around the group of horses in the middle and also down one end of the arena. I learnt a number of things by this:
- I don’t normally ride in a place that has any “pull” or attractive spots and not so attractive spots. At home and just about anywhere else Elle is with me and the circles feel the same the whole way ‘round. Yesterday with the horses she had been doing quadrille with the circles definitely bowed in their direction. This was a good experience because it is something I have no doubt I will have to think about with Bonnie. So as I came around the circle toward the group I would need to soften her onto the circle and then as she went away from the group just let her move.
- There was one moment where the horse went into a canter and got all unbalanced and tense. The girls were all yelling out keep going keep going, because they are the encouraging, supportive sort and in this moment they helped me greatly, though not in the way they had probably expected. I realised though this was a fantastic example of what could be “going through bad to get good”. If I had kept her going like that I would have been trying to soften her through tension and discomfort. Instead I went back to walk and helped her soften again. I didn’t canter again but if I had of I would have looked for softness and even if I had only gotten one good step that would have been enough.
- Another thing I have realised is that when you get good work is to ride the horse forward and out of it. My habit has been to get a good moment and stop. I don’t know why but it is not always the best thing for the horse.

I don’t think I am fully through sorting this out but I am going to start by not going through bad to get good and at this stage to me that means not going through tension to get relaxation whether that be of the mind or the body. I am going to be as clear as I possibly can. I think my mental picture is usually pretty clear but when it comes to giving the physical signal I think I try to say too many things with the same physicality. I think sometimes my enthusiasm to dance is ahead of my horse………….I will try to align the mental pictures, my physical communications and this goes all the way down to how I breathe. Any other suggestions would be most appreciated!

DrDeb
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 Posted: Mon Jun 25th, 2012 09:56 am
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Alex, this is a wonderful set of thoughts, and it's going to be very helpful to others.

The best realizations you've had are:

-- To realize that 'pushing through' is a very, very bad idea. This is a commonplace belief in all the dressage barns -- that when the horse tenses up you have to 'go more forward'. An error every time. You were absolutely correct to ignore the other girls' suggestion to 'keep going keep going', and instead stop or walk, get everything sorted out until you got the softness back, and then start again.

-- 'When it comes to the physical signal, I think I try to say too many things with the same physicality.' Great statement, and so let me repeat that back to you as what it means to me, Alex: it means not that you are trying to do too many things at one time, but that you are in too much of a hurry. You are compressing too many things into too little time -- in other words, you are 'hustling' your horse.

-- Realize that 'hustling' the horse is one of the most effective ways to scare a horse. This may be where a lot of Elle's tension is coming from. Falling down terrifies a horse. If you hustle her, you are almost by definition not feeling the feet -- you are 'going right by the feet'. You are not waiting for the feet; you are leaving without her feet! This does not give Elle enough time to get her feet into whatever position they would need to be in, in order to perform whatever movement you're asking of her. So when Harry was 'clarifying' to the horse when he rode her, this is what that all amounted to -- he would indicate to her where he wanted her to place the FIRST foot -- just that one foot -- and then shut up so to speak and give her TIME to respond. Naturally she began to relax then, because she quit having to worry that, not having her feet in the right place, she might fall down.

-- I give you an 'A' for Question One, i.e. what would you be looking for and how would you respond to any rise in tension you perceived when roundpenning Bonnie or working her in the halter. Yes indeed, you learned this from Wayne Anderson -- what you do is you walk crosswise their head and/or somewhat toward the inside haunch, so as to induce the horse to untrack and thus step over behind. This in turn causes them to turn their head toward you, focus on you, and hence relax and soften up and be wanting to hook on and follow. All good. And even better is the part where you say that IF your timing is somehow off, which it inevitably will be at times, or IF the filly just is for whatever reason not able to respond, so that she remains tense, you note this and stop coming at her. You just stop where you are until you see the tension drop, and then instead of coming at her you go crosswise her head. What you DON'T do is just bull in there and force yourself on her, which is only going to raise the level of tension and cause her to want to flee even more. Ray Hunt used to say, "waal, if I wanted her to leave I'd just keep coming!"

So this is also what I did with Leonie's WB mare -- like most WB's, that mare had a pretty good sized 'angry' button which it is just stupid to push. So I'd wait until she would be ABLE to give me permission to go in, and then I'd pet her -- it's like petting a goddam bull. But she liked to be petted just as much as any bull does too, and when they like it they'll get to kind of leaning on you. So I'd wait until she was telling me she was really liking it and wanting it like that, and then I'd deliberately quit. Then I'd softly walk off a few steps and see if she'd come begging, which they mostly will, even bulls and stallions. And if they begged then I'd go back to scratching. Pretty soon I could walk in there anytime because she'd be looking forward to seeing me. She had found out that, by golly, there was something I could do for her.

This all took something like ten minutes. Then as I said, I went mostly to the right side, put the saddle up there sort of in-between scratches and rubs, and then take it off before she started telling me she hated it. And repeat a couple of times and then reach under and get the girth and latch it enough so that if she was to bust in half, it would not turn under; you have to pull it up that tight the first time, but even so you're not abrupt. And scratch her. And again, take it off BEFORE she got to hating it. And scratch her some more.

So in another ten minutes, maybe less, I could saddle her and girth it up and she was telling me this would never be a problem for her. Then I took the saddle off and climbed up on the rail and worked her back and forth some. Brenton Matthews was there watching and he often tells the story that this is when he started to respect me and think I might know what I was doing, because this mare also would have jumped in my lap if I hadn't. She had that look in her eye, where she was aiming to go. So this is another exmaple of the very same thing -- yes I would flag her because that was my objective; she needed to be taught to move her haunches from side to side better. But I do it only enough to just get the first point across to her, and I don't stupidly or blindly continue until she has to jump forward into my lap. Instead of that, I climbed down from the fence and just flagged her back and forth from the ground a while, while holding the lead rope myself. Then in another few minutes I went back up the fence and she was OK. If she hadn't been OK, I'd have climbed back down again as many times as necessary until she was OK.

Next day we went back to saddling, and I saddled her from the right and then went to saddling her from the left, which was the side that had already been damaged as far as her consciousness went. When I went to put the saddle up there the first time she cast me a grumpy look and I said to her, "yeah, I understand," but left the saddle on there four or five seconds while she was still looking grumpy, and only after that took it off. In other words, a little bit of grumpy feelings wasn't going to kill either of us and -- important point -- I didn't leave it up there like I was going to 'push through' and somehow expect her feelings to improve with the saddle up there. I left it up there just about as long as I figured she could deal with it without getting any MORE grumpy. Sometimes this is all you can do.

Carrying the saddle over my arm, I then asked her to hook on and follow me a few steps, then stopped, petted her with my free arm, and slung the saddle back up there. This time she said, "oh, that scratching feels pretty good," and I replied, "yeah, I thought you'd forgotten about that." So I scratched her a while and then, before we got back to being grumpy, I took the saddle off. It took longer on the left side but within a half-hour the problem was done with, for good, and Leonie has never said to me that she's ever had a problem with it since. This is the internal narrative and blow-by-blow, which is what it takes or what the student will have to see and "feel", to learn this stuff.

-- The only re-think I would ask of you, Alex, in this whole thing, relates to the One Great Lesson. That answer has already been given in this thread, and I would ask you to re-read that part. There is NO purpose in starting any young horse that relates to any aspect of its future work. The reason for this is that a horse is a horse, and all horses have the capability or potential, innately, to perform any type of work whatsoever, whether that be simple 'hacking' or the High School. So we are not worried at all whether Bonnie will be capable of carrying a saddle, packing a rider, understanding the meaning of the bit, being broke to harness, happily allowing its feet to be picked up, or able to dance a pirouette or a piaffe.

The ONE AND ONLY purpose for starting a colt -- the one great reason for all of our actions -- is to teach the animal that we are its god. We are to be to our animal what God is to us: all-caring, always present, never asleep. God knows what you need at all moments, and you are also to do your best to know what your animal needs at all moments. God knows what you are thinking at all moments, and you are to do your best to know what your animal is thinking at all moments, including what its desires are from moment to moment. And the greatest desire, the overwhelming, all-encompassing desire that you are to foster in your animal is exactly what God wants of all human beings: that "you shall have no other gods before Me", which when we translate that into horsemanship terms means that you make it, by every action you ever take around your horse, so that the horse would rather be with you than anywhere else.

Let us have another report as soon as you have more to say. I did ask you whether I could post content of your last EMail to me, but that was before I noticed this reply sitting here -- this is much better as being far more complete. You're doing great, Alex. Cheers -- Dr. Deb

 

 

Dorinda
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 Posted: Tue Jun 26th, 2012 12:06 pm
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Hi all

I think it only fair to admit that I was one of those gals that spurred Alex on because there were some moments that Elle was really showing signs of softness so instead of saying 'yes' good leave it at that over exurberance sent in. I too have learnt a very valuable lesson in all this.
I have just finished watching 'A Day with Tom Dorrance' and I can absolutely see how much he is a mentor to those he has touched. What a great teacher so calm yet precise. Feel & timing was the key messages and not to get the horse into trouble. Yes definately not a good thing to have Alex's horse feel troubled in the canter and getting all off balance and yes to calmly asking her to regroup. The other key point that Tom made was that when the horse is troubled in what ever is going on it is important for us to be alert to it and fix it 'before it happens'. Again timing & feel is so important. He also was always working on ways to help the horse be at one with the rider so that the horse preferred to be with the rider than anywhere else.

I loved this movie and I loved listening him talk.

Good on you Alex for sharing and we are all learning heaps from this.

Cheers
Dorinda

SuziQ
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 Posted: Wed Jun 27th, 2012 07:17 pm
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This is such an insightful post, I am learning loads.

I have 2 questions:
- with regards the WB 'mad' button, is this a genetic predisposition? I can certainly relate to this as I have a WB X and I definitely have to take things one deliberate step at a time.
- secondly, Dr Deb refers to flagging in order to help Leonie's mare yield her hindquarters better. Could you describe the 'flagging' exercise please?

Thanks.

DrDeb
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 Posted: Wed Jul 4th, 2012 07:30 am
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Suzi: A flag is very often a razor in a monkey's hand. I am qualified to use a flag. So is Harry Whitney, Buck Brannaman, and others whom I recommend. I have learned however to be very cautious about permitting or encouraging students to use them, because they are very easily and frequently mis-used.

Buck has students use flags under his direct supervision or the supervision of local horsemen, who are qualified, whom he knows.

You too can learn how to use a flag properly by submitting yourself to direct personal instruction. Very briefly, the primary use of the flag is as a drag or Birdie-caller. This was its function in the place of its origin, which is the bullfight. The second use of the flag is to make it possible to touch a horse with a touch that resembles the human hand, under circumstances when it is handy not to be standing very close to the horse. Such circumstances might be when you were teaching the horse something that requires you to simultaneously touch him both at the front and rear ends of his body; or when working with a horse that might kick or strike. The third and MINOR use of the flag is as a driving aid. Unfortunately this is all that most people seem to be able to imagine.

What I am telling you is that if you have a horse with troubles similar to Leonie's, then you need to do what Leonie did, and bring the animal to me or Buck or Harry or Tom Curtin or Wayne Anderson or Josh Nichol when we're down your way. This will get you started and teach you what you'll need to know about it, while heading off at least some of the danger. As I say I have learned to be very cautious about permitting students to have flags, as I have done what I THOUGHT was a good job of explaining to somebody how to use it, and then have them come back the next year with the horse in deep, deep trouble which they drove them into with the flag.

As to the 'mad button', you bet it's genetic -- in other words, it can be and normally is passed from sire and dam to foal. The mad button is related to the horse's degree of aggressiveness or 'push', which certain kinds of horses are deliberately bred to have. WB's need a one-track mind (so breeders think) to keep them from losing focus in the dressage test or when jumping. So do TB's to keep them from running off the track. So do QH cutters to keep them focused on the cow, and to make sure they dominate the cow. I know ways to teach any kind of horse to focus, and I certainly do prefer a sweeter, less-aggressive horse. That type of horse, if it gets afraid, just seeks to escape; it doesn't come AT the handler or rider. But when a horse with a 'mad button' gets afraid, it also gets angry. You therefore need to learn to recognize this and techniques for dealing with it.

Think about this quote from Ray Hunt, which I repeat here in the Forum often:

"If it wasn't effective, it wasn't understood. And if they don't understand, they get afraid." -- Dr. Deb

JTB
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 Posted: Sun Dec 16th, 2012 02:56 am
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Hi Dr Deb and all,
"Pregnant Mare Anticipating Foal

Dr Deb:

There is a cure for this error, and it lies at the deepest level in your system of beliefs. When you are handling a foal, you have NO goal, just as when you are handling an adult horse you have NO goal. You are, instead, having a conversation with a creature that has just recently come into this world, whose senses are exquisitely acute, and whose mind and understanding are unformed. In handling a foal, you are primarily working to form the horse's mind and to cause him to understand the ONE GREAT LESSON that should come from the human to the horse. This ONE GREAT LESSON is the SAME -- and equally effective -- whether you teach it to him as an infant or whether you teach it to him at six years old or twenty:

The WHOLE PURPOSE for "starting" a horse is to cause the horse to believe that whatever trouble he gets in, whatever discomfort he may be experiencing, is something that YOU WILL NOTICE AS MUCH AS HE DOES AND TAKE STEPS TO RELIEVE. The ONE GREAT LESSON is that you teach the horse to refer his every trouble to you, as if you were his refuge and his god. And that he shall have no other gods before you.

Can you do this? Can you take this on? This is the question for every horseman, at every stage, working with every horse no matter what age it is. When you take this responsibility on, knowing it for exactly what it is, then you have entered the world of horsemanship. "



I have been mulling this over for a bit and whilst this has stuck in my throat for ages, I am at the door way so to speak and I am about to choose forward, commit or step back from the door. I have one question that I want to be sure on, before I take the step. Do I understand correctly that once you make the commitment to the one great lesson, it doesn't make any difference whether the horse you are starting the journey with is 4 or 12 years old. If the horse says, X is bothering him, you take care of it even if he is a baby or an older horse?

For better or worse (for the horse) I have ended up with a 4 year old gelding, before I go any further I want to be clear within myself I am doing the right thing for him. I keep wondering if I should get an older horse as I feel such a beginner, I have oodles of theory, and little 'hands on experience' on the riding part of things.

Is it really fair to 'practice' on the green horse or is that all we will ever do on any horse...practice and learn?

I would appreciate a 'poke' from anyone here. Dr Deb I am very pleased you are to return to NZ. I look forward to seeing you next year! Kind Regards Judy

DrDeb
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 Posted: Sun Dec 16th, 2012 03:20 am
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Judy, I'm glad you wrote in, and as I know you fairly well, I will respond to your query as I have responded to other queries of yours in the past. This is because I notice that every time you ask a question, it is always the same question; and it always, I believe, goes back to the same root problem, which, as you and I have discussed here before, is that you are afraid of horses -- or, more precisely, afraid of "what the horse might do that I Judy cannot anticipate or control."

This is what all thinking adults who are possessed of normal adrenal glands are afraid of, so there's nothing particularly odd about you.

Your husband has previously jumped in here and added that he thinks you're also afraid of setting clear boundaries for your animals because Judy is afraid that her animals will not love her if she does.

This is one of the commonest problems with women who own horses, so there's nothing particularly odd or rare about that one, either.

So now you've got a new horse, and it's young and green and you're wondering if you can "do right" by him. I'm not wondering, Judy. I KNOW you can do right by him -- but ONLY if you can find a way to get over or get past the two problems or phobias that I have outlined above.

To get over the first, you have to be able to "read" the horse well enough to be able to tell what it is going to do before it does it....every time.

To get over the second, you have to be able to love yourself. When you do love yourself, you will be able to love your neighbor, and "neighbor" certainly does include your animals. To love an animal, as to love a child, MEANS to be willing to set and enforce clear boundaries. Animals and children that lack clear boundaries do not feel loved, do not feel safe, do not feel that the world makes any sense. It is the adult who is supposed to explain the world and help the animal or child find their place and their order in it.

And to address your query directly, Judy, it doesn't make the slightest difference whether this process starts the day the horse is born, the day it is weaned, as a four year old, or a twenty year old. If this DID matter, Judy, why then I wouldn't bother with you, as you have nearly as many gray hairs as I do.

Big Christmas gift, this. Have a merry one down there where snowmen make no sense at this time of year! -- Dr. Deb

JTB
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 Posted: Sun Dec 16th, 2012 04:02 am
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Thanks Dr Deb, You are right re the grey hairs!!! Thanks again for you time. Seasons greetings to you. It is 29 degrees today and we are basking in the glow, yipee! See you in April.

DarlingLil
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 Posted: Fri Feb 13th, 2015 04:10 am
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Great thread.


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