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Backing Bonnie
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Alex
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 Posted: Mon Apr 23rd, 2012 10:15 am
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Backing Bonnie
Bonnie is just over two and has been handled lightly since she was about 6 months old. Her and her paddock mate Vera (owned by Linda) who is roughly same age run with a herd of between 6 – 8 horses. They are both intended to eventually become haute ecole horses in both ridden and ground schooling. We have been training in a classical school for nearly 20 years and met Deb about 6 years ago. Since then we have been to ride with Harry Whitney and Buck with our older horses. We also spent some time with one of Buck’s students here in Australia and he has been helping us out with our young horses, since he has left for the States we have talked to Deb about posting here and getting some help as we progress Bonnie and Vera through to being riding horses. We are going to take a bit of time with this but everything we do we want to be toward the goal of them being 100% okay, using their bodies correctly and towards being trained to the high school.
At the moment we are getting together every month or so for a training session.

April 2012
At this stage we have been working on getting the horses to come forward from pressure on the rope, go back from pressure on the rope or from a shake of the rope. At this stage they are reading us pretty well and are doing the ‘equine mambo’ with very minimal, if any pressure on the rope. This is Buck inspired I must say!
I have been asking for a simple circle with a change of hands on the rope and a change of direction with a shoulder yield. I don’t know what this exercise is properly called. I have been making sure I push off my back foot and don’t step back. The bubble I imagine and use between my horse and I is working well to yield her over to the rail. We did quadrille practice a couple of weeks ago and the leg yielding and circling went very well and mostly kept time with the ridden horses.

We have also been practicing yield your head (so that your shoulders follow) and yield your butt. We are doing yield your head in preparation for the cavesson work which will eventually turn into shoulders in and pirouettes.

We have been sitting on the rail of the round yard and getting the horses to go past and then yield their hindquarters around and come back straight along the fence. I am encouraging Bonnie to stop as she gets level with me and I can get her head and neck level with me for a pat and for a few times I have got her body level and can pat her around the saddle area and put my foot on her back and give her a scratch and put my leg over her back, whilst holding onto the fence. I am just doing this one step at a time and if she moves away or swings her back side out whilst she is level with me I ask her to go on and then yield her butt and come back along the fence straight. If she stays straight she gets pats, if she doesn’t she gets moved on yielded and brought back. Is there anything else to do here?

At other times I have put the rope around her belly and worked her around in a circle and she has carried the saddle cloth around.

Every time I see her I spend time picking up her feet and putting them down whilst she is standing still. Unfortunately having her feet trimmed get in the way of this good training as this idea doesn’t go as well when hoof trimming. The amount of time she will stand with her foot up and the amount that it takes to carry out trimming unfortunately still differ.

Other things we have been doing, patting all over, no sensitive spots.

These horses are both very quiet, they do not fuss much at all and even when they do they tend to just turn to face whatever it is that has frightened them and not go far or fast. We have found that this means that we have to look closely for the signs that they might be stressed about something. They both usually get around with drooping lower lips. If they get stressed they tighten their lower lip. If they get a really good scratch they extend their upper lip. When I put the heavy saddle blanket on Bonnie for the first time the only thing that told me she was worried was that she screwed her tail to start with.


Update

Since I first started writing this Bonnie has seen the vet for an injury she did to her foot. She has had a week of antibiotics. She isn’t calm about having the rope thrown over her body since. I had not seen this as a problem previously so put the lash back in my hand and threw the rope over her neck first and left it there until she halted and then took it off. I got her to the point where I could put it on both sides of her neck and saddle area. She is also reluctant to have the head collar put on where previously she would put her nose it in when it was offered to her. What else can I do to get her used to the rope again and have her put her nose in the head collar?

She has also been reluctant to catch, this I am well used to and have practiced the methods on either the Mannering CD or the Birdie CD with my old horse Ruairi (who was a school master at teaching people how not to catch him). I am confident with time that I will be able to have her stand still again while I approach or have her come up to me when I go into the paddock, depending on my action.

I have realised since this experience that I have had plenty of times with all of the horses I have trained where they have become physically or mentally stuck, but never really where they have been actually scared of anything for more than five seconds. It is a new experience for me. It is still really very mild with Bonnie but I realise that it is a hole in my knowledge. I have her birdie at these times but I am not doing everything I can do to help her not to be scared.

rachel
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 Posted: Tue Apr 24th, 2012 02:47 am
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Hopefully she will be as lovely as your others are to handle and train. Good luck, she sounds like she has a good start.

DrDeb
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 Posted: Fri May 18th, 2012 12:54 pm
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Alex -- At long last, the time has come for me to make an answer. Sometimes when someone who matters a lot to me asks an important question, it will take me quite a long time to reply, simply because of the level of responsibility involved.

The question here for me was primarily the approach to take, because it is obviously not possible over the Internet for me to do stuff like correct your timing -- absolutely crucial though that is. I therefore must leave that to your own perceptions, and take it as my job to foster instead the perceptions.

Now I will begin on this by telling you two stories. And of course I'm not just telling these things to you, Alex, because we are being "overheard" also by several thousand other people -- part of the reason why doing this is so worthwhile, because you can bet that somebody out there is in just about the same position as you are, with a colt or filly they want to start and do a good job, but haven't got a lot of experience doing that before.

The first story relates to Leonie Kruse, who used to be my sponsor in Adelaide before she and Darren started to have their kids. After that, Leonie didn't have much time for riding and that's when Brenton Matthews and Deb Turk stepped in so generously so that we could continue the program there. But at the earlier period, when Leonie was still wanting to ride, she had this fairly young WB mare that she had sent to some local guy for breaking and backing.

Now this guy is of the common sort who have very little ability to perceive how a horse is feeling, what it is thinking, or what it might need. Not that this would have mattered too much either, because even if he had an inkling of those things, he would not have cared to fill in for the horse in any area. This is the common approach, so what I am telling you is that the fellow was not a bad human being; just common.

So, failing to read the mare adequately, he got her to where he could put the saddle on and girth it up. But when she humped up he said, "she is resistant", and when she flattened her ears and offered to bite, strike, or cow-kick when being girthed, he said, "she has an attitude". In other words, these so-called "behaviors" were chalked up as personality traits of the animal, not as total failures on the part of the human.

Leonie's first request of me was could I fix this, because Leonie, not being as much of a hand at any time as the fellow she had hired, couldn't get the mare girthed up with any safety. The luck in the situation for me, and what provided me an opening, was that the fellow -- such as is characteristic of the common "trainer" -- did not have much imagination. He didn't imagine that a horse has two sides. So every time the mare had been approached with the saddle, or had the girth tightened, it had been from the left side. I therefore had a complete blessed blank slate to work with on the right side, and it took only two sessions of about fifteen minutes' duration each to have the mare standing there on a slack rope and smacking her lips while I girthed her up. It then took one session by me, and then several more with Leonie operating, to have it be equally OK on either side. We then went on to the next lessons also (because Leonie herself had never ridden, or even sat on, the horse) to have Leonie mounting her from either side, and having her first ride, which is to say, mount from one side, sit there petting the horse, then slide off the other side; that is the first ride.

So you see, Alex, I am not supplying much detail as to HOW (technique) all this was accomplished. What I am much more interested in conveying is that the trainer fellow failed in perception. He failed to notice (probably still is failing to notice) that every WB horse has a "mad button". They get afraid like other horses do, which is what happens to a horse any time and every time it is faced with a demand to do something that it does not understand, or that it does not have the confidence that it can carry out perfectly; but in the WB, the fear transmutates into anger much more readily than in any other horses I know of except perhaps the most aggressive TB's and the type of QH that's bred for cutting.

But I do know this, so that when I brought the saddle to the mare, even though I had a blank slate there on the right side, it doesn't mean I was going to cover the blackboard with "mistakes in addition". Therefore, I paid particular attention to -- what?

This is your Question One.

Now I will tell you the second story. And this story could be about MOST horses that you will ever meet in your life -- including your own gold-colored mare. Now you know, Alex, what Harry told you about this mare when you went to see him; he told you that the mare performs, but she is tight and afraid the entire time. In other words, that mare has met somebody who believes that you can go through something bad and come out good on the other side. Unfortunately, this is completely untrue.

It is the exact same mistake as made by the common fellow that Leonie did business with. When he brought the saddle to the mare and went to tighten the girth, he never stopped at any time to ask her how she felt about it or whether she understood and accepted it. So long as she would stand there and "take it", he would keep coming on to give it to her. The more she stood still, the more she was asked to take. This is the same as when you see people trying to approach an unbroken horse with a blanket, and the blanket scares the horse. What the common person does is they wait until the horse calms down a bit and quits blowing. The animal is still rock-hard and tight, and it might be rolling its eyes, and it's holding its breath: but so long as it doesn't seem that it will actually pull back against the tie or explode, they just wait until they think they can approach without actually getting kicked, and then they approach some more. They just keep coming on until the horse "accepts" the blanket, even though it is trembling and sweating; so obviously in reality the horse has never accepted the blanket. No horse can properly process a new experience or learn from it while it is afraid. You cannot go through something bad and come out good on the other side.

So question two is this: what SHOULD you actually do when approaching the horse with the blanket? And what you do is predecated on -- WHAT perception?

Finally, after these two warm-up questions, we come to the all-important Question Three:

What is the MAIN OBJECT in starting a young horse?

I think it's much more important to answer this, and get it completely clear in your mind, than to go into any of the particulars which you asked about. Those, we can handle at any later point, after this is nailed down. You of course can use the Google advanced search function to find the old thread where I discuss this, and it will be fine if you treat this as an "open book" exam.

When you have pondered these questions and come back with responses, there will still be need for discussion. On a technical level, I hope you are planning to teach the filly to line-drive. I use no surcingle because it is very easy to quite soon get into a heavy feel when line-driving, when instead you want the lightest possible feel. Just resign yourself to having to hold your arms up fairly high all the time, so that the lines stay above her hocks. Short sessions of about 15 mins. each, with a lot of turns this way and that are the order of the day. Cheers -- Dr. Deb

 

CarolineTwoPonies
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 Posted: Sun May 20th, 2012 04:35 am
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[Note to readers: This reply by Caroline TwoPonies was made in answer to a post made by someone who initially did not understand, and then later refused to acknowledge, the positive purposes of this Forum, and whose posts were uniformly hostile in both tone and intent. This person's posts were deleted after I and others invited her to participate in a friendly and constructive way but continued to receive only snide replies that added nothing to our content or discussion. Caroline's excellent reply begins with a quotation from a post made by the hostile person. I have added these parenthetical remarks so that readers will have context to understand what Caroline had to say, below -- Dr. Deb]

"I'm wondering why people ask the advice of Dr Deb when she never answers a single question..."

Because you remember what you have to figure out for yourself. And because you learn to think and thus become more adept at observing and problem solving.

Dr.Deb's answer will make a difference in how Alex relates to this horse at every stage of its training and in every interactions she has with it or any other horse. Your answer assumes Alex already knows everything she needs to know. She does not, the horse is telling her that and she is smart enough to seek help.

Your solution is to go back to square one. Have you ever heard this expression: " the definition of insanity is to do the same thing, and expect a different result". If she goes back to square one, when another problem happens, what will be the solution, going back to square one again?

Square one does not hold the solution to every experience with this horse, otherwise this situation would not have occurred. Square one is is also very vague. Dr. B's questions and examples are very specific.

"No horse can properly process a new experience or learn from it while it is afraid. You cannot go through something bad and come out good on the other side"

This is why Dr. Deb's questions are so important.

Being patient and kind does nothing for the horse if you do not understand the horse's predicament and your patience does not answer what the horse needs the patience with. It makes the person feel good, but not the horse.

Last edited on Mon May 21st, 2012 04:27 am by DrDeb

DrDeb
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 Posted: Mon May 21st, 2012 05:28 am
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I want to add another one of my "true life stories" to Caroline's reply, while we wait for Alex to make another report. Alex, if I know her, will be thinking just as hard about her reply as I had to, in order to create the three questions that I asked her.

So while we wait -- here's the story. There is a 14 year old girl that I know who began coming to a certain stable beginning when she was about 11 in order to take riding lessons. Her mother would always accompany her and observe the lesson. Both the mother and the daughter were initially very friendly to me, and, as I often had reason to be at this stable at the same time they were there, we had a number of pleasant little chit-chats either before or after the daughter's lessons.

Children vary as to their aptitude for horseback riding, and this girl displayed no more than average talent despite "wanting" and "dreaming" of being a good rider quite a bit. She is intelligent and one could see there was a lot of desire and "try", and this is always a good thing; the girl's riding instructor noticed it, too.

Against advice, however, after only one year mother and daughter decided that it was time for the girl to have her own horse. For myself, I always advise beginners to wait at least several years -- so that they have a fair amount of experience -- before making the commitment to the care and training of their own horse. I say "training" because, of course, it is absolutely not possible for anyone -- beginner or the wisest and most experienced -- to be around a horse and NOT be training it, every single minute, for better or worse.

Unfortunately, they made another mistake too -- they bought the horse from the local licensee of one of the grade-C "horsemanship gurus". Of course they were assured that the horse was broke and safe for a beginner to ride. This may have been so, initially, at least to the degree we would expect to find in any common sales barn employing whatever approach or method; I am not saying there were any more "holes" in the training of the horse they bought than in any other horse advertised as "broke" that a person might see for sale. But because of the inexperience of the girl and her mother, predictably it did not stay "broke and safe" for very long.

I saw this coming for well over a year before matters came to a head. So did the girl's riding instructor. However, by that point mom and daughter had discovered a new wrinkle, that is, that owning your own horse costs more money than taking twice-a-week lessons. So they felt like they had no money to continue on with lessons and would just have to "train" the horse themselves. And what happened was that the horse gradually got hard to lead....hard to catch....hard to turn....hard to make it go....speeding up all the time, especially coming back toward the barn....wouldn't stand still at the mounting block -- all of our experienced readers here will know exactly this particular ball of wax, because we see it with many a beginner who thinks they can train their own horse.

Another thing we often see, and mom and daughter were no exception here either, so that when they began to get themselves into trouble, they went all around the barn asking everyone they met -- both qualified and quite a few unqualified people -- what they should do about one or another of these problems. Naturally they got different answers. They asked their old riding instructor too, but they didn't ask her nearly as much as they should have, because they knew they were "scouting pointers for free" and they were afraid if they asked her too much, she would ask them to come take care of it during a lesson, for which they would have to pay. This was the period during which they were the most friendly to me....the "free pointers" period, we might call it.

Nonetheless, I felt open to helping them, and noticing that they were getting a confusing variety of this-and-that solutions from all and sundry -- some of these "solutions" being actually dangerous, very ill-advised -- so I shifted to really trying to instruct them. And when I do that, what happens is that I begin to pose questions that are as carefully designed and individually tailored as I can make them, to provoke the student to THINK. "THINK" is the one word that Ray Hunt always inscribed his book with: by which he meant, "think BEFORE you DO anything."

And so, the next time Mom and daughter came to me saying, "Our horse is so stubborn! He speeds up all the time and won't stay slow at a trot," I replied by asking the daughter: "OK, can you tell me please -- what is it that your horse does every single time you trot it in a circle or trot it around a barrel, that is different than what it does when you ride it on a straight line?" I should mention here that their horse has very pretty and correct conformation.

But the girl refused to answer. She did not refuse impolitely; she demurred.

I understood later that the girl is home-schooled, driven by the parent to be "perfect all the time," and therefore afraid to get a "wrong answer" to an open-ended question.

The manner in which the girl demurred was -- and continues to be -- amusing. When she seemed unwilling to answer the question the first time, I smiled and shrugged and said, "Well OK, maybe you're not ready to answer just right now. So next time I see you, perhaps you'll have an answer for me then. Remember to spend some time observing your horse, honey. This is like a science experiment at school, and there is no one right answer. I just want to hear what you yourself have to say about it -- I want you to find out for yourself what the deal is on this with your own horse."

But two weeks later, and a month later, and two years later she has still not been willing or ready to answer. I have continued to tell her that unless and until she answers the first question, we cannot go on to the second question. The girl demurs by saying ever-so-sweetly "oh, yes, I just haven't had time to look that answer up on the Internet yet." At first I actually thought she was being snotty and pert by saying this; later I realized no, this really is this kid's best answer. This dawned on me the last time we were on the subject again, about two weeks ago; so that when I heard her seriously apologize for not having looked "the answer" up on the Internet, and I replied "My dear, this is something you have to find out yourself, by observation; there is no possibility of finding the answer on the Internet," the girl was truly surprised.

During the two years that have elapsed from the first time I asked the question, the girl's horse has become much more dangerous and is now balking and beginning to rear, and for a time Mom and daughter went back to taking lessons from their original riding instructor. Unfortunately they also attend clinics given by the guru's licensee, so that finally they discontinued the correct instruction they were getting from the riding instructor because they came to the riding instructor demanding that she teach like the guru, and the riding instructor refused of course! But all of this is moot -- the daughter has by now lost confidence as a rider, having been spilled a few times needlessly, and no longer trusts her horse, and it is likely that the animal will soon be sold.

I think that this is one of the very saddest failures of education that I have ever witnessed -- the failure due not only to a type of perfectionism being enforced from the parent which closes off all possibility of independent observation and thinking by the child, but also due to the peoples' inability to discern what constitutes quality riding instruction.

Such discernment is not really that difficult, either, by the way. The horses belonging to the riding instructor in this story are absolutely delightful: well-trained, sound, good movers; older animals but by no means dead or sluggish; experienced at shows, trailering, and trail riding; safe for a beginner but also enjoyable for the more advanced rider. The instructor has a half-dozen of these so that she can switch the child from one to another as the child becomes able to tackle the usual challenges such as accuracy, smooth stopping, learning to post, learning to go over or around little obstacles, canter departures on specified lead, and so forth. The instructor has, in addition, a long string of other students who have succeeded and gone on, after a period of years, to train their own horses. The guru's licensee has none of the above -- but such is the power of the media and of propaganda that these foolish people believe it.

The reader may decide which would be better for this mother and her daughter -- to work a little bit at answering a question that will allow them to begin to see their individual horse's needs, and which will set them up for a lifetime of advancement -- or to go and be spoon-fed a "method" relentlessly applied in the same way to every horse. Anyone who comes here can and should expect only the level of care and concern that goes with the first. -- Dr. Deb

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MtnHorse
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 Posted: Tue May 22nd, 2012 03:44 pm
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Can we participate and answer the questions?  If so do you want us to wait for Alex to go first as this is someone you are having a specific conversation with?

DrDeb
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 Posted: Tue May 22nd, 2012 05:24 pm
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You can participate. Alex will reply when she's ready to. I'm sure that contributions by you and others will be of value to her. -- Dr. Deb

MtnHorse
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 Posted: Tue May 22nd, 2012 08:28 pm
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Question one:  I am going to change the pronouns on this a little because I don’t want to presume to tell you what you did. So if I were to bring the saddle to the mare I would pay particular attention to the face and neck.  I know from the Birdie Book that you are big on the eyes but that just doesn’t work as well for me.  I don’t like to look the horse straight in the eye because it seems to come across as the hunters stare.  But I can usually pick up the horse’s feel from the neck.  Is it thrown up high or low?  Are the muscles tense?  Does it turn and move gently?  Then the facial expressions themselves would be my next clues.

The ears might be able to help but since this mare is worried about the saddle already, I expect she would be ears on me already.  I would be watching for acceptance and that would be signaled by relaxation or loss of muscle tension.    

Question Two:  The perception it is based on would be pressure.  By moving it closer/ farther away or making the blanket larger/ smaller I would make the pressure greater or reduced.  The overall approach would be to move the experience into a category of curiosity and playfulness, rather than tension and fear.

Question Three:  The main object in starting horse is to make them comfortably functional to do whatever they will be expected to do as a mature horse.

DrDeb
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 Posted: Tue May 22nd, 2012 10:03 pm
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MtnHorse: I do not suggest in the Birdie Book that you stare the horse in the eye. What I am telling you to do there is to simply look at the horse when you 'speak' to him in the same way that you would look at another person when you speak to them. Baucher pointed this out in the early 19th century also, that you need to control your facial expression when you are teaching a horse. So you don't stare at the horse and you make sure that you have a pleasant, relaxed expression on your face while you look at him.

It is just as necessary to control one's facial expression as it is to control any other aspect of your body when working around horses, particularly horses that are frightened, unsure, apprehensive. You control the 'tone' of your facial expression just as you control the tone of your voice. If you believe that the horse can't see or wouldn't notice or care about your facial expression, this is an error; Ollie always, for example, notices small details, such as when I have a certain shirt on that has metal buttons, when I've forgotten to put the hairclips in my hair, or if I have a different watch on. And he certainly notices if I growl or frown at him. But many people have a frown on their face all the time and don't notice it.

As to the three questions: certainly you are on the right track, but I'd like more detail. And, if you would, go back to the particular phraseology I used in asking -- often, the question will contain the hint of the answer I'm hoping you'll find. Remember I was working with a mare that had a pretty prominent 'mad button'. So for Question One, I would particularly look out for -- what?

As to your answer to Question Two -- of course we want to move the experience into one of curiosity/playfulness. But HOW is this to be done, vis-a-vis "pressure"? To help you along on this, I want you to consider which of the following would be more important:

(a) the amount of pressure applied

(b) the timing of the application of pressure, whether great or small

(c) the timing of the removal of pressure

And for Question Three -- again, yes of course, you describe a desirable outcome. But your answer does not cut to the deepest level, and it is to the very deepest level that we must get in starting or re-starting any horse. I do suggest that you use the Google Advanced Search function to go find older threads where I address this, because the old threads explain it again, and it is of such crucial importance that I think you'll find the time well spent. -- Dr. Deb

 

kcooper
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 Posted: Wed May 23rd, 2012 01:04 am
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Well, I will take a stab at this. Then we can see if I am picking up what Josh has been teaching me and what I've been learning here.

I would be inclined to go back to the beginning in a round pen and see if the horses knows that, when a pressure comes on them (whether the pressure is your presence,a flag or tarp or whatever), they know that if they soften to the pressure as their response that you, the handler, will take the pressure off of them.

For question number 1 and 2) I would be particularly paying attention to at exactly what point when I was approaching with the pad/saddle or to do up the cinch did the horse change from OK to less than OK and since that was what I was looking for I would hold steady at that spot where the change occured and with exactly the level of pressure I came in with until I got a change towards the horse becoming OK once again and then I would RELEASE pressure 100% (retreat if you needed to really make the point to them) and praise them (not gushy praise but just in my expressions and mannerisms).

So I think that what is most important is (c) the timing of the removal of pressure, but I would say that it is also really important to consider (b) the timing of the application of pressure, whether great or small because that helps you measure and identify where to hold with your pressure so that you are having the education session on the same subject!

As far as question 3: what Mountain Horse said sounds right to me but I will go out on a limb and add something different and I am probably way off but here goes..

The main object of starting a horse is that you are always working towards (at a correct pace and all things considered) building a FINISHED horse.

Last edited on Wed May 23rd, 2012 01:24 am by kcooper

kcooper
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 Posted: Wed May 23rd, 2012 01:21 am
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I have made an interesting observation about the business of looking a horse directly in the eye while you are working with them or trying to catch them.
It is not directly (but maybe indirectly) related to the original post.

I have had 3 horses that are all closely related (mentally similar) and whenever I needed to catch them (in the past) I had to keep my gaze down and walk to their flank and go for a belly scratch before I was able to put a halter on them. If I walked toward their head looking at them that was excessive pressure for them particularly and it would drive them off.

Since I'm learing how to properly round pen and catch horses that has just about quit happening. With these particular horses I have to put a bit of pressure on them to draw them to me and then from there we meet up mutually.

Last edited on Wed May 23rd, 2012 02:04 am by kcooper

MtnHorse
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 Posted: Wed May 23rd, 2012 02:49 am
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I am in a place where I do not anticipate having time in the near future to clearly organize my thoughts in a post but I want to post this for the benefit of the thread and the lazy. ;-)

I still do not know what you are implying in question one. Question two is of course that c is the most important. And question three, I am happy to report I have finally discovered that the use of a different browser has allowed the advanced search to work for the first time. I will be honest that I am still kind choking on this one but here you go:



http://esiforum.mywowbb.com/forum1/525-1.html

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. 

DrDeb
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 Posted: Wed May 23rd, 2012 05:37 am
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Kim: Yes, very good answers, and I do think you are understanding Josh very well. Most important of your responses are: (1) that the horse learns that when you apply pressure, if he softens to that pressure you will remove the pressure. (2) that the timing of the removal of pressure is most important; although the timing of the application of pressure is also important -- just not AS important. Application of pressure causes the horse to try to hunt up a right answer; relief tells him when he has found the right answer, which is always to yield in the direction indicated. (3) The bit about the both of you "having the education session on the same subject." Yes; you try not to leave the horse in any doubt about what is wanted; as Baucher put it, "your job on horseback is to SET IT UP so that what you want the horse to do is as easy and as obvious as possible."

Mtn. Horse: You have addressed the deeper question and gotten it right (sorry about the trouble with your browser). Terriffic. Excellent. Yes: the ONE GREAT LESSON, which, when learned, will make all other positive things not only possible, but likely -- aye, indeed, more than you can imagine will start coming to you from the horse, almost unanticipated and sometimes un-asked; freely given by him to you.

Now, all of you -- I want you to understand that this is not a new idea. Far from it. But to repeat, the idea itself is that there is a perfect analogy, a mirror-image if you will, of this kind:

God is to each person what each person is to be to their animal.

And the converse also:

How your animal is to relate to each person is a miniature picture of how each person is supposed to relate to God (in Judaeo-Christian belief).

And Mtn. Horse, as to 'choking on it', yes, I sympathize. I once had a student, an intelligent man, a lawyer by trade, very sincere and very fond of his horse; the horse was one of those good ol' troopers that every beginner should ideally own. The thing was, though, that the lawyer pretty much choked on it too; and this was shown when we were out to dinner together one evening and I was talking to him about this, and he fully understood what the implications and level of responsibility would be. And as we were eating there, after he'd heard this, he excused himself because it scared him so bad that he needed to go throw up. I kind of thought the guy was a bit of a coward, but then again -- there's no question about it being a big responsibility.

A lifelong commitment is what it demands; nothing less will do, and once it is made, there is absolutely no possibility of going back or trying to do only 'part' of it. Our elderly teacher used to warn us that once our horse had learned the ONE GREAT LESSON from us -- learned to believe in us at that level -- and then we didn't come through fully by lying to him or screwing him -- then we would be very lucky if that animal would ever fully trust us again or would ever be able to give himself as fully to us.

So now that this has been understood, I am going to quote you from the 8th Psalm, which was written more than two thousand years ago. Read and take courage, because (in Genesis) it was Adam's task to 'name' the animals -- in ancient parlance, that meant to 'take dominion over' them:

"Lord, our Lord -- how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory above the heavens.

Through the praise of babes and children,

     you build a fortress against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers --

     the moon and the stars, which you have set in place --

What are mere mortals that you are mindful of them?

     Human beings that you care for them?

You have made us but a little lower than the angels,

     And crowned us with glory and honor.

You made us rulers over the works of your hands;

     You put everything under our feet --

     All flocks and herds, and all the wild animals;

     The birds in the sky and the fish in the sea --

     All that swim the paths of the seas.

Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

ilam
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 Posted: Wed May 23rd, 2012 10:30 pm
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Right now that appears to be a tall order indeed. When I realized this, I didn't throw up, but I sure had some bouts of anxiety and doubts whether I could do this.

Since apparently the universe is unfolding as it should, I now got the exact horse that I asked for. I have had him for 2 months now, and when I first met him he was an unkempt, terrified of humans, unapproachable mess. He is a horse that demands this approach, otherwise only trouble looms, and it is exactly what I had been dreaming about. It was really quite bizarre how this all unfolded. Anyway, I have had to completely turn around everything that I normally do, and yes, I have made some mistakes, it wasn't pleasant, but I didn't get seriously hurt. Every time I even remotely go back to my old ways, he lets me know and when I do ok  he does too, and I have finally learned what it really means to quit on a good note.... from his point of view. He has also finally taught me what it really means when a horse fills in for you; before I only had a vague idea, because he cannot, or at least, is by far more limited in that ability than my other horse (at least at this time).

Sometimes it so feels like the blind leading the blind, but we are making progress. He isn't rideable yet, but we are doing ground work and just taking small steps. He has to let me know how to proceed. He is pretty terrified of anything coming from above (the previous owner only handled in a chute and forcibly haltered him, he had some groundwork as a 3-year-old, but something didn't going well I am sure to create the horse that I then met), while he can handle me hanging slightly over his back while standing, while moving it is a different story. I have only sat on him for one session, got on him from the fence, and he was not ok with me sitting upright, he tolerated, but his head was high and stiff. So, I tried ponying him, and after some trial and error got that working in the round pen Sunday. Not sure whether this will get me there, but I don't have the skills to ride out a bucking horse. If push comes to shove I would have to wait until November, when Tom Curtin is back in Texas with colt starting.

This is such a new and different way of being in this world for me, it feels foreign, but I can already see some of the results when I get some things working.

Isabel

Jeannie
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 Posted: Mon Jun 4th, 2012 07:06 pm
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Hi Dr Deb and all,
  I have been thinking about how people can understand the importance of the one great lesson, and be doing exercises to this end with their horse, but still be having a hard time living it in the moment to moment interactions with their horse. I see people kinda coping on a daily basis with their horse, and while they understand that the horse has trouble spots, mostly because they are causing trouble for the person, they miss on how to take care of them.

 Things like Alex mentioned: the horse putting it's head in the halter, keeping it's feet on the hoof stand, or waiting for a signal from us to do something. The person gets it done, but it could be better, mostly because the horse has never understood the pressure and release lesson from the person, or the person isn't consistent in all the little things they do with the horse. Sometimes the horse will be doing what is expected of him, like backing up when you open their stall door to feed, but their ears are pinned back, and there is no softness there, but the person only cares that they are backing up.

 Here is how two different horses could react to the same situation: you go to horse A's gate to let it out. You open the gate all the way, so that the horse could go through if it wanted to, but the horse comes over and stands looking at you next to the gate. You do whatever you need to: clean their feet, apply fly spray, there is no angst in the horse, no attempts to leave prematurely. You give the signal for the horse to leave and he calmly walks out. Or if you want to put their halter on, you stand on the side away from the gate, hold the halter out, and the horse puts his head in it for you.

You go to horse B's gate and open it, the horse attempts to go through, so you have to block them with your body, they look past you in an attempt to figure out how to get around you. If you had to do something with the horse, you would have to block them, and wrestle with them while they attempt to go where their attention has flown. You could close the gate of course, but for the sake of the example I'm keeping the physical setup the same, to show how the mental state of the horse makes for a different outcome. And even if you close the gate, you would only keep their physical body inside.

So maybe someone else has some thoughts on how you live this, or how you're having trouble living this, and it might make for an interesting discussion.

                               Jeannie


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