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Tricia Thomson
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Posted: Sat Sep 19th, 2020 02:52 pm
Thank you so much Dr. Deb. Although I would do anything for my horses, I fear that I have to admit that I have put my young mare in some situations that were not ideal. I'm hoping she is forgiving. Information is power. I do not want to be Italian Cavalry (LoL) or Man from Snowy River LOL - so right on that!! - although I have been a bareback rider for about 50 years and after an unfortunate accident in a saddle when I was young, I'm not sure about being attached to a horse with a saddle. I freeze and sweat in a saddle. I am fine with walk, trot, canter or flat out gallop, with no saddle. I owned a racehorse at one point in my life, and was clocked at some very high speeds with no saddle. I'll have to think about that one, but I am definitely on a mission to find Josh Nicol. This journey I've been on with these horses has been like the Celestine Prophecy. We've come a long way from the day they arrived here, completely untouchable. The learning curve has been incredible and so interesting, and I'm so glad it continues.

My fracture could have been avoided if I had found the right person in the beginning to point out that my feral mare had back and leg issues, and was not sound to ride. After a year of groundwork I started to ride her and she would explode after 45 minutes almost to the minute. I survived a few of those without knowing the problem, as the vet who check her gave me a green light to ride. It was a graduate from the Equine Science Program who pointed out to me that she needed to retire. She is now enjoying her retirement.

I'm headed out for a ride with a good friend on a calm steady horse armed with all of this new and very helpful information - with thanks!! TriciaT
DrDeb
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Posted: Sun Sep 20th, 2020 08:55 am
Tricia, I do sympathize with your early unfortunate and traumatic experience with getting caught in a saddle during a wreck. And I have to add, I am quite pleased that you did not lay it on me that you don't want to use a saddle because saddles aren't "natural"; since there is, in fact, not one single thing around modern horsekeeping that could in any rational sense of the word be called "natural". Everything is a choice, and ought to be a conscious choice.

Nonetheless, you understand that your reluctance to ride in a saddle is a completely irrational fear. It is not one, however, that I think that I will be able to "reason" you out of. People who have been through a wreck and gotten hurt or badly frightened, have a great need to figure out why what happened happened. They think about it and then they decide what must have caused it -- and then decide to stay away from that forever afterwards. Which seems very rational and very sensible, except, unfortunately, very often they "figure it out" wrong. The saddle did not cause the wreck; what causes wrecks is lack of horsemanship, and the lack of a commitment to foresee situations on the horse's behalf.

But, as I said: I will not be able to reason you out of this. Who CAN help you is a sports psychologist or trauma therapist. And so I am gently suggesting that you avail yourself of all the wonderful options that the Canadian medical system provides for you, and probably the provincial system as well. You can get psychological services and help while we Americans usually cannot.

It's important that you do this, because as I said, if you want to help your horse you will have to learn about saddle fit, find someone who can make a saddle for you that does fit both you and the horse, and be willing to spend the appropriate money. Riding in a saddle pad, or bareback, is more potentially destructive to the horse's back than is riding in a saddle that has a functional tree -- that's why, historically, treed saddles came into worldwide use.

 I did not send you to Dave Genadek in order to get you to spend money with him (he is a saddle maker) -- but Dave has a commitment to client education and to helping horses, and that's what makes him a friend of this Institute. Go find him at http://www.aboutthehorse.com and get that saddle fitting video, please. -- Dr. Deb



Tricia Thomson
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Posted: Sun Sep 20th, 2020 02:56 pm
I am completely willing to look into the possibility of a saddle - there are two other problems with that though - one is the dismount in a sticky situation. I've become very good at sliding off and standing up and I'm not sure how that would work when my feet are in the stirrups and getting my leg around the back part. Also my knees ache when I sit in a saddle too long. I've seen some nice saddles on friend's horses and I'm always curious to just sit there for a bit and try it out, but I realize it's more about the horse than my butt. I'm listening to you, and willing to look into that for sure. My horses are still growing so how often do you buy one I guess that's where the saddle fitter comes in? It's not the money. I have a friend who buys and sells saddles and another friend who is a saddle maker, so I have access to many, and I agree to have a look at that, but I am wondering what the purpose of a saddle over bareback would be? Is it Safety first or the horses back? For me it's not about natural horsemanship, it's just what I've been doing now for decades - I only have one other friend who rides bareaback. Also, our farm only had one horse saddle and I was the youngest so it was never mine to use, ... so bareback it was. I'm guessing that the day the saddle turned on the pony I was riding didn't help, but I have ridden in saddles since, it's just not my happy place. The last time I was in a round pen and felt completely uneasy.

I'm doing the hill exercises! I really appreciate your help with all of this.
DrDeb
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Posted: Mon Sep 21st, 2020 09:19 am
Tricia, you are a very honest person. Now you are telling me what actually happened during the wreck: the saddle turned, and if I hear you right, you got hung in the stirrup and dragged. This is about the worst wreck that can possibly happen, so I do not blame you at all for "associating" it with the saddle.

But it was not the saddle, was it. It was lack of horsemanship: somebody who was responsible for your safety did not help you make sure that the girth was tight, and did not walk the pony around before letting you mount, to give the pony a chance to relax and breathe out so that you could take up that last hole.

So I'm impressed by your continuing willingness to consider getting a saddle, despite bad past memories and wrong associations.

If you want to dismount by bringing your right foot over the withers, that is as easily done in a saddle as bareback. Unusual, but certainly possible, and if you want to do it that way, that's fine. However: let's be sure that your reluctance to bring your right foot over the croup is not because you're afraid your horse might buck or bolt if you touch him there in getting off. This goes right back to lack of horsemanship: I hope to teach you how to prevent all those situations wherein you might have to "slide off quickly", as indeed I suspect there have been some of those. I repeat: it never has to happen that you get into a situation where an emergency dismount is necessary.

As to your knees aching: Yes, I imagine they do; that's what happens to everybody when they don't know how to sit in a saddle, how to use stirrups, and how to select a properly designed saddle that has the stirrup hangers in the center of the seat instead of miles out in front, as most saddles are made.

This is another reason I sent you to Genadek and repeat again, you need to look at his "About Saddle Fit" video/DVD program. It does not just talk about fit, it also goes quite a bit into saddle design and what is wrong with the design of most saddles that are either individually made or factory-made. I myself cannot ride in those saddles and would not want to spend any time wrecking my body trying to ride in them.

As to "why use a saddle at all," I have already mentioned that there are two reasons: (1) For you, because you will never find the joys of refined horsemanship by confining yourself to bareback. You will never discover how you are really supposed to sit and function. Bareback allows the rider to lazily continue to sit more or less as if in a chair, exactly what the photo of you on horseback which you posted above shows. I am no advocate of "extreme" position, the silliness and pretentiousness of much of current dressage, nor the pounding which we often see in Saddle Seat, nor either the wooden posing or sot-back chair seat often seen in Western riding. This is one reason I send you to Josh Nichol; he will be able to assist you in learning how to use a saddle. (2) For your horse, because there is a reason that a saddle must have a viable tree. Weight and pressure must never affect the horse's spine; that is why there is a gullet down the center of the tree. Neither can the tree be so soft that gullet space is not maintained (as it is not, for example, in many "treeless" saddles and in a saddle pad -- no matter how thick the pad). Nor is a more rigid tree, such as the composites or the traditional wood and rawhide, going to "gouge" your horse's back UNLESS not properly shaped to fit him. And there is the rub: you will learn from Dave G. exactly in what ways most trees available today, whether that tree is incorporated into a saddle by a saddlemaker, or whether it is incorporated into a factory-made saddle, are not shaped correctly and have little to no chance of fitting your animal. So Tricia, before you begin you must educate yourself by getting the tape/DVD, as I have suggested.

Now....you didn't tell me why you felt very uneasy in the round pen. Would you explain this and we'll discuss further. Great that you're now enjoying the process of teaching your horse how to handle herself on hills. Cheers -- Dr. Deb

Tricia Thomson
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Posted: Mon Sep 21st, 2020 03:39 pm
Ok I'm certainly interested in what you have to say. I think the saddle slipping is possibly something that taught me that I didn't want to be attached to the animal in case of emergency. It doesn't keep me up at night though. The round pen is not my favourite because when all hell breaks loose - and it did (about five times) on my feral mare before the finale, I seek out a place on the ground to push off to. One onlooker said I was riding out a very violent situation with no apparent concern except to look around on the ground for
"my spot" and then I did whatever I do and landed there safely and got up. In the round pen I can't do that so I don't feel safe. As my horses get better to ride I hope I won't have that problem. I've had horses I would ride anywhere - I was spoiled with some amazing horses. These ones I own now are the youngest/wildest I've owned and I feel like I'm safer in the clear. I have a good whoa on them.

I sent a message to Josh Nicol but didn't hear back yet.

My bareback pad is from Europe - Bent Brandrup - and has spinal clearance so it's not like a bareback pad you can buy in N. America if that matters ..but had to be said. I also replaced the girth with a more expensive girth. I will talk to the saddle fitter too though.

For my posture - well I won't be going in any shows anytime - and my two fractures make it difficult for me to sit up too straight or stand for a long time for some reason. I enjoy riding bareback too, but I am going on a mission to see if I can enjoy saddle. Here are some of the comments I've heard from people who don't think I should ride bareback: You will not be able to stay on at a gallop or (2) you will not be able to pull to turn (false). In my defence, I don't think many people understand bareback as well as they did during the cowboys and indian days, but I'm always interested in the scientific answer. I can clearly stay on every situation I've had except for the last one, which my trainer said no one would be able to stay on.

I think I'd like to work on the bucking first because if I can solve that I will feel so much better. If she didn't do that I feel like I could go anywhere from there. The other thing she does is if the other horse start to run and I hold her back she throws her head and bucks on the spot. Last night I found the 2-3 ft hill and did the exercise with no problem - we will do more today. Does the breeding matter to her bucking? She is apparently from a line of barrel racing stock?

Thank you very much for the information you have provided.
DrDeb
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Posted: Tue Sep 22nd, 2020 08:42 am
Tricia: Now we are about to embark on a conversation about societal norms and how much you may have thought about the impact of those on your life, and whether you are ready to break free of those.

People commonly do put an unbroken horse in a roundpen and then ask or expect somebody to ride him in there because the roundpen does inhibit the horse from bolting and it generally also does not encourage the horse to think about jumping out. This then becomes the scene for a rodeo such as you describe.

To use the roundpen in this manner is an utter, total, and stupid mis-use of a very valuable tool. That, to begin with.

Second, the societal norm, or you could say the accepted cultural value, is that a rider who is willing to get on a horse that may or probably will buck; or a frightened horse; or a horse that is showing any sign of distress, and "ride that out of him" is a better rider. I for one, and those I learned from and those with whom I ride -- we do not accept this at all. Instead, we think it means that she is a more stupid rider.

I hasten to add that I, and all those others who are my teachers and friends with one exception, have been that stupid rider. And from the one exception, our teacher Tom Dorrance, we learned to stop doing that -- to stop listening to our former "friends" who grinned when the horse bucked -- and to move entirely into another set of values which say that you do not get on any horse until the horse tells you he is ready for you to ride him; until he invites you up there.

I am asking you: would you like to enter this world? Because you can. But you are going to lose more than your trailriding friends if you do. Of course, you will also gain a whole bunch of new friends, and you may also find out things about yourself that you needed to know, including talents you didn't know you had.

Now, it is not possible for anyone to understand what I meant by "he invites you up there" until you receive some instruction and guidance as to how to tell when that is. We begin by teaching you how to tell when it is NOT. So please answer this question: when a horse is uptight and tense, it is true that he is more likely to buck or "throw a fit" as you put it. How do you tell when a horse is uptight and tense? There are several important signs, and I'd like it if you would list those in your reply.

A second question I'm going to ask relates to something you mentioned in passing in your first post, that is, that your neighbors who are not succeeding with their horses did no ground-work. This implies that you do know something about ground-work. I attach a photo of a French fellow by name of Henri DeBuissigny who came to America not long after the Civil War, opened a stable in New York City (it was much more rural then), and became a famous riding teacher. He is doing ground-work with his very handsome American Saddlebred horse. What is the particular maneuver he is asking his horse to make, and what is its purpose? I ask because this particular maneuver is the basis for all ground-work, and also the means by which all horses may be brought under control and made to enjoy and look forward to carrying a rider or whatever else your agenda may contain for you and the horse on any particular day.

We'll continue according to the answers you give. If you don't know the answer, just say so; I ask because I cannot instruct you unless I know how much you already understand. Cheers -- Dr. Deb

Attachment: DeBuissigny ground work for Forum.jpg


Tricia Thomson
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Posted: Tue Sep 22nd, 2020 03:47 pm
I have made contact with Josh Nicol now. I think I have already been as far off the societal norm as anyone on a horse could possibly get by riding bareback for 50 years. I only know one other person who does that. Also I have been turned away from joining more events than I can count, such as the Make A Wish Ride where I had collected $1,200 in donations and then allowed to ride at the last minute so I am familiar and acceptable of my societal difference. I believe that any of my friends' criticism of me is what they think to be in my best interest, but I'm very grateful for a professional answer. I believe they are sincerely concerned and I plan to keep them as friends.

My experience has been good at the beginning when I get up on the horse - we have done five years of ground work together and she will park near a stump or anywhere I chose, and wait patiently while I get on, but when we are in a large group and one horse starts to run her reaction is to thrown her head down and start shaking it and jump up and down like she wants to run too. She will dance on the spot - clearly not happy. On the hills she will start the bucking half way up - maybe tired and wants to just stop and buck, or maybe she's trying to buck me on and thinks I'm slipping. It comes without much warning and after a nice quiet walk through the forest with her head down. We used to all go up together, then we tried one at a time which didn't change things.

My close friends are all very good riders, occasionally we have some new riders with us - all of their horses are better than my 5 yr old - even my 4 yr old is better. Some do groundwork and some don't but every single horse I've ever owned in the past would have no trouble on any of these rides except this horse - so I wonder if it's because she's so young. I have asked friends to walk up hills and we have started to do that. Maybe I keep to smaller groups where she behaves better I assume - then when do I progress? I have done about five years of ground work with Heather Nelson Liberty including haunches in, shoulders in, dressage moves for fun, walk, trot, canter on and off lunge - I've been in a Jane Stone clinic for fun on this horse, who did a side pass over a prop and completed many of the fun activities, like the bridge, teeter totter. I would like to keep my friends, who I really like a lot. I believe in the photo Henri is applying pressure to the side to ask the horse to move off the pressure? I've read Andrew McLean's book and Riding In by Bent Branderup. I'm coming at his honestly and from many angles. Now that I've concluded that I'm not wrecking my horses back (for which I thank you), I am looking for the anxiety control button.
DrDeb
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Posted: Tue Sep 22nd, 2020 04:51 pm
Tricia, all well and good; you can keep your friends that are really friends. I just would suggest you dispose of anything that is not helping.

You did answer concerning Henri de Buissigny, but you did not answer concerning how to tell when a horse is getting uptight. Or did you mean that "when she starts to buck" is the answer to that question?

I need a clarification on that and then we can proceed.

Very glad you got ahold of Josh. Did he say when/how you could meet up for a lesson?

-- Dr. Deb

JTB
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Posted: Tue Sep 22nd, 2020 07:47 pm
Hi Tricia and Dr Deb,

Wonderful post and photos!

Tricia welcome to the forum and there is a tonne of valuable information here to be absorbed.

During Covid lockdown a friend and I stumbled upon Josh Nichol's online subscription. For not much Canadian dollars you can access a tonne of videos that are simply wonderful, you can watch again and again. Josh also makes himself freely available to all on his FB page and forum if you have any questions. If I was near him in Canada, I would bust a gut to go ride with him.

Josh's work is deep work so it fits really well with the information and help available here.

Happy learning :-)

Best Wishes
Judy
Tricia Thomson
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Posted: Wed Sep 23rd, 2020 01:21 am
When she is not happy she either goes into a buck on the side of the hill or if someone rides too far ahead she tries to throw her head around - down - and around. I can try to get a video of that and the lead up to it. Her muscles tighten.

I have some videos of Josh's to watch and then I can purchase the level 2 access to his work and he will be here in November - so hopefully I can connect.
DrDeb
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Posted: Wed Sep 23rd, 2020 04:15 am
Great, great, great Tricia. And listen to Judy too: Judy had to come a long ways within herself after she started working with me -- she started out quite defensive, because she too had some fear issues and of all fears CHANGE is the most scary. But after working on herself Judy really came around and is now able to train horses.

The key to training horses is the ability to perceive them. And this is what I'm working on with you, Tricia. And be assured before I say any more, that you are NOT the first student that I've needed to point out to them that they were not very good at perceiving their horse.

This is why it seems to you that the bucking "comes out of nowhere." So let me begin by asking something that may seem way off topic: did y'all go see the movie with Benedict Cumberbach called "Dr. Strange"? I just absolutely loved this flick. It's about an absolutely self-satisfied, totally arrogant (and highly talented and skillful) surgeon who, by his own stupidity, gets into a horrible car wreck and breaks every bone in both hands -- ending his career as a surgeon.

But this guy is a fighter. He's not about to give up his high social and high income position. So -- after accusing of incompetence the (also highly skilled) surgeon who treated him after the car wreck and repaired his hands (in Strange's mind his crippled hands have to be somebody else's fault) -- he goes on a quest to find something -- ANYTHING -- that will work to get his hands fixed. Finally he fetches up with this amazing guru, a woman (Tilda Swinton "The Ancient One") in Kathmandu who shows him, in no uncertain terms, that there is a lot more to the universe than he had previously been capable of imagining. She humbles him and lets him fail by his own continued attitude of arrogance, yet in the end enables him to fully succeed. By the "magic" taught in her school, his hands become as if never injured and plus, he's able to defeat a huge threat to the universe (well, after all Dr. Strange is a Marvel Comics character).

Now there are already some lessons here if you're listening, Tricia, not because I think you're arrogant but because I know there are things that you cannot currently perceive. My skill will be in guiding you to be able to perceive them. And to that end, I draw your attention to one of the closing scenes in the Dr. Strange movie. The Ancient One has been in battle with the cosmic enemy's point-man and he has mortally wounded her. She's not dead yet, though, and there is this final scene where she's standing in a snowstorm with Strange. She has loved life and does not want to leave it, and she has the power to control the pace of time. So she stretches her final moments, prolonging her living experiences (for no one can prolong time itself). And how the producers of the movie get this across is by slow--ing--the--fall--ing--snow--flakes--down--to--a--dig--i--tal--crawl.

Now of course, this experience of having time slow down is quite real; it's just that most ordinary people are not in control of it up-front, like The Ancient One. Anybody among our many students who is reading this post is now smiling, because which of us has not, at some time, been in a wreck and noticed that when the adrenaline is way up there, the hoof flying at your head or the ground coming up at you are amazingly slowed-down. The change is not in time, but in your perception of time.

I assure you, however, that we can also learn to control our perception of time, just like The Ancient One. What this takes is keen observation -- what the martial arts schools call 'mindfulness'. One who owns horses can love them much better by learning more about them.

So here is my reply to your answer about your mare's bucking: yes, her muscles tense. But this is way, way, way down the pike from where her need to buck actually starts. You are catching on to her need to buck so late that there is no way to step in and prevent it. The Ancient One and other martial artists succeed primarily by being able to tell WAY ahead of time what punch or kick their adversary is going to throw. For that matter, that's how great basketball players succeed, too: they can read the body language of their opponents so well that the forward knows when the opposing guard is going to dodge right, thus enabling him to dodge left and go by the defense and score the basket.

So, now I'm asking you, if you have understood this and are willing, to go back into your memory -- which is a perfect tape-recorder of events as they actually have unfolded -- and see your horse BEFORE what happened happened. This is a good, wry observation that our teacher Ray Hunt always made to students who had the same problem you are having, Tricia; Ray used to say, "It ain't what happened; it's what happened before what happened happened."

So, here's a re-ask of the same question: can you tell me, Tricia, anything about your horse's body, her way of breathing, or her way of moving, that might have changed each time BEFORE she started bucking? If you really go into it, you will find at least three things before "her muscles got tight."

There is still the question about what DeBuissigny is doing in the photo, which by the answer you gave, I see that you also don't really understand; but let's leave that for next, and just handle this part first. I hope you remain willing to respond, Tricia, because I hear it loud and clear that you want your horse to stop with the bucking -- and this is the one and only way for you to help her stop it. Because you understand, by riding her right up into where she has to buck and then bailing off, you have been teaching her to buck; you have been teaching her that that is the way to solve her problem. So the longer you keep going as you are, the more impossible it will be for her to abandon this way of relieving herself, because you will have hardened it up into a life habit for her. Cheers -- Dr. Deb

Tricia Thomson
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Posted: Wed Sep 23rd, 2020 03:43 pm
Ok I'm still here with a few bruises, soldiering along. I'm working hard on my memory. If I can come out of this with no buck up hill I am a huge fan. Firstly I didn't bail on any of the bucking up hill incidents. So I'm still on at the end of the rodeo (not sure if that matters). The very first time it happened the horse at the top stopped and the horse behind us ran into us - we were in a group. I should not have put her in that place. The second time I was just with one friend and we were behind the other horse - the third time was a group where we all took turns with lots of space. All times she had already been running part way up so breathing heavier than a walk - plunging - different grades of hill. If she goes first it doesn't happen. If we walk up it doesn't happen - last time I walked up beside her because she gets so worked up (i.e. head throwing, breathing heavy, twisting her body, jumping in the air) at the bottom if we try to walk with me on her, and I end up going up sideways. I've had a few successful hills too- Where her brother (4yr) is ahead at a canter and we canter behind, up a skinny, windy, medium hill with no issue; or we canter up first and brother behind no issue except she stopped flat 3/4 way, and he ran into her.

The photo may be him getting his horses attention and connection?

I have to go to work - Let me try to think on this more unless you think I'm completely on the wrong track then please redirect me.
DrDeb
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Posted: Wed Sep 23rd, 2020 05:54 pm
Tricia, good descriptions of the situations in which bucking occurs; that's very helpful. However, what I am mainly asking for is that you look at the HORSE. Yes, she's breathing hard because you've been galloping or cantering just before, but that is not what I meant by suggesting you look for a change in her breathing.

So let me re-phrase and maybe that will help. Go back to when you were on the trail-ride and just walking and she was totally OK. What did her body feel like then? What did her breathing sound like? What was the expression on her ears? How did she carry her neck? What did her walk feel like (i.e. smooth with long strides vs. choppy with short strides)?

Now contrast that with when you KNEW she was going to start bucking. What did her body feel like then? What did her breathing sound like? What was the expression on her ears? How did she carry her neck? What did her walk feel like (i.e. smooth and long-striding, or steps getting shorter and shorter)?

Hopefully this will help you remember some details that your memory-recorder did in fact record, but of which you were not conscious at the time. Getting the details is the key to beginning to learn how to "read" your horse better.

I do not like to hear, by the way, that you go out riding with people who are so inattentive and so discourteous as to allow their horse to run into yours, no matter how quickly your horse may have come to a stop. If this happened on a foxhunt, the guilty party would be banned for the season by the master. This is what I meant when I said, "you need new friends." -- Dr. Deb

Tricia Thomson
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Posted: Thu Sep 24th, 2020 04:09 pm
I had no notice of the bucking except that I saw a hoof in my back right peripheral vision - I thought she was plunging up hill, her back was rounding maybe - breathing heavy, neck straight or I don't remember because I had to concentrate on not going over the neck to the right, and down a cliff. There were two large bucks that I recall and we stopped and stood. Right before the hill her strides were choppy, ears forward breathing possibly heavier, muscles taught. She does get choppy right before she is going up a hill or through a stream, but no buck so I don't know which time it will happen. In a stream she stops midway and paws. I'm probably just hopeless here because I could make up some stuff but I honestly don't remember and it's happened in three different situations. One day we were just walking calmly and her friend went the other path around a tree, flat ground suddenly and violently threw her head to the ground and did a fast buck, according to a friend. I will check it the next time I go out.

No that was not good - not someone I ride with often in fact I can't remember who it was. I was invited to go fox hunting in West Virginia once. I thought they banned that now.
DrDeb
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Posted: Fri Sep 25th, 2020 08:01 am
OK, Tricia, I agree we're not getting too far by taking the approach we have been; you really can't remember. But again I tell you: yes, of course you "had no notice" before the bucking started because you don't yet have the ability to notice those signs which all horses give before they feel that they must begin taking measures.

So now let me try to help you another way. The first thing is a bit of information: what those "measures" that all horses take are for, after all. Why does a horse feel that it must buck, or rear, or shy, or run off? The answer is that they have an extremely limited tolerance for internal angst and worry. They cannot tolerate having butterflies in their tummy. We humans -- especially those of us who went through the public school system, and that would be just about everybody -- learn early on to get tough, to harden up on the inside. When the teacher belittled you, when your schoolmates dissed you or bullied you, when you got a low grade on a test and your parents were hard on you about it....every single time that anything like this occurred, you hardened yourself up a little bit more. This process is so insidious and so continual that most people do not realize how far-reaching it is and how different it makes us, by the time we reach adulthood, from our horses or dogs.

And of course, the hardening-up process goes on long past school. School is only the preparation you paid for entering the working world, where your boss may very well be a jerk or an idiot, your colleagues or co-workers may very well be jealous, scheming, one-upping little diehard assasins...every single time you have had to deal with this, "stress through it" so to speak, you hardened up some more on the inside.

Horses have absolutely zero such capacity. What happens with them is, that they must let internal stress out immediately. Horses that live in a herd in the wide-open spaces take care of any buildup of internal stress in the simplest and most natural way for them, which is by running. If they have the space, a spooked herd will run about four miles, and then stop, turn, and blow. Then they forget all about it and go back to grazing. They don't hold grudges, and they don't hold on to stress.

But a horse in a roundpen, or a horse in a bit that is being ridden by somebody that knows how to stick on and pull back on those reins, cannot run away. I mean, it "could" do so but that means pain for the animal, one way or another; and so it finds some other way to get rid of its buildup of INTERNAL PAIN -- by bucking, or whirling, or rearing up, or shying, whatever comes easiest to the particular horse and in the particular circumstances.

At the same time, though, unless there is absolutely no other choice, horses do not go from zero to sixty all in one instant; they give many signs, starting a long time -- many minutes -- before all Hell breaks loose. Now, Tricia, I am telling you that your job is to prevent the buildup from ever happening by learning to catch it at these much earlier stages, when it is easy to step in and help the horse to relieve himself of it, which he will do by very little movements that even a child could handle. No rodeo, not even close.

So, what I have been trying to teach you is how to see, by observing details of your horse's body language, its style of movement, and its breathing pattern, when a buildup is occurring. And this has one purpose, to enable you to step in EARLY -- long BEFORE all Hell breaks loose -- and prevent the buildup from getting big enough that the horse has to take measures. When you learn to do that, no horse will ever buck with you again under any circumstances. UNLESS you learn to do that, you will go on blaming the horse for the problem by saying, "SHE does this". I say: she does only what YOU have set her up to do. For good or ill. So because it is for good, as well as for ill, this is also the key to your beginning to learn how to train horses.

So, I will now offer you another approach to learning to read your horse's body language a little better. Next time you're in the area near your barn where you put on your saddle pad, tighten the girth, and then go to mount the horse, I want you to report to me concerning the following, and please answer every single question, one after the other, just as they are written:

1. What did her breathing sound like when you first went to catch her from her stall or paddock?

2. At the moment you began tightening the girth, what did her breathing sound like? Did it change from what it had been before you began girthing?

3. Right after you mounted, what did her breathing sound like?

4. While you were brushing her off before you put on the saddle pad and tightened the girth, what did her tailbone feel like and look like? Pick it up in your hands and move it like a windshield-wiper, slowly. Does the horse stiffen its tail when you handle it? Can you pick the tail up and push it up over her back, like you might do it you needed to sponge off her vulva?

5. While you were tightening the girth, was there any change in the shape or feel of her tailbone? Did it stiffen or get a kink in it near the tip?

6. (You may need a friend to help you answer this one): Right after you mounted, was there any change in the shape or feel of her tailbone?

7. When you go out to meet her to catch her, does she lay her ears back?

8. Does she lay her ears back at any time when you are grooming her, girthing her, or mounting her?

9. When you have mounted and are heading out away from the barn to go up the trail, is there any change in her breathing?

10. When you are heading out away from the barn to go up the trail, is there any change in the expression of her tail or ears?

This is as explicit as I can manage to be, and so I am in hopes that this will guide you into the kind of observation which is necessary. Cheers -- Dr. Deb








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