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Capparella
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My question is in regards to verbal communication with horses.
I have looked at some sonograms of various horse vocalizations published by zoologist/ethologist Lucy Rees.
What is very interesting to me, and that she notes, is that mammals tend to have a similarity in both pitch ascension, dynamics, and meter which tend to convey certain meanings. When we mammals are pleased, a certain cadence of ascending and descending pitches presents itself.
I have recorded some of the horses’ vocalizations, and at times have used one that was calling to locate the herd when I was searching for them on the large property of woods.
I played the recording a few times, and I got a call response and was able to locate them.
My question is regarding my own vocalizations when I am working with horses. For sure, body language seems primary in our communications, as does feel, and the ineffable deeper communication of intention/presence.
I read in an older thread about people talking to their horses, and it being a sign of nervousness or trying to create some sort of impression for others to view.
I do find myself talking to horses quite often (as in good boy during a pet when we got something really together)-I felt this was normal for me, as I am by trade a vocalist and music teacher. I am almost always alone when working with them, so it is meant as a adjunct to the more salient means of communication.
In the aforementioned author’s work, it is stated that « tone of voice is immensely important to a horse…this cannot be overstressed. » So obviously, if one does speak, to anyone for that matter, that is important.
After reading the thread though, I started to wonder if it was meaningful to the horse, or just me expressing myself. Would the tendency to be verbal somehow decrease our awareness of the subtler somatic communication going on?
When watching some clinicians such as Buck for example, he will say something like « no, don’t you push on me, now there, that’s good. » Perhaps though he is doing that for the benefit of the students, and not something he does when alone.

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Dear Capparella: A most thoughtful and insightful post. To answer in reverse order, I think Buck, like most teachers, is vocalizing as he does for the benefit of BOTH the horse and the audience. If he didn't use the appropriate tone of voice, the horse (who is quite unaware of the audience as "an audience"), would not respond correctly; and if the horse did not respond correctly or as Buck intended, then the demonstration would serve neither the audience's needs nor Buck's.

If you teach music as well as play or sing it, then you actually already know this, I suspect; anytime someone with expertise teaches, they are in a kind of split-brain state, where half of their consciousness is on the students, but the other half on the horse they are riding or the piano they are playing. I notice this with the choir director at my church; we are a big lot of amateurs for the most part and we require help of various kinds from him at almost every moment. He plays the piano while we're learning the piece, and since most of us can't read music, myself included, this requires him to play a given phrase over and over: first bases, then tenors, then altos, then sopranos; then bases and tenors together; then altos and sopranos together; then all four voices together; and when we get that put together, then on to the next phrase. Often we work through a piece more or less from rear to front, tackling the hardest parts first: and we know we've gotten pretty far when he finally says, 'OK, let's do this a capella' or else 'OK, let's try it from the top.' I do this same thing also when I teach from horseback, but I could not do it if it weren't for the fact that, like our choir director, I can play my 'instrument' almost with my eyes closed, totally by feel, not needing to fix anything about my own 'playing' while I demonstrate or lead for the benefit of the riders in my class.

As to vocalizing too much: yes, I have said that numerous times. What I am noticing is that many students, particularly women, chatter continuously and meaninglessly to their horse, and they do this to either relieve (bleed off) stress or else to cover the fact that they feel afraid. By 'stress' I mean fear: they are afraid of their horse, they are afraid to get right up close to his body, they are afraid (once they mount) of what he might do that they wouldn't see coming and wouldn't be able to stop or control. I had one lady in a clinic one time, mounted on the nicest and most broke old Arabian mare you could possibly imagine, who could not bring herself to raise the walk above 2 1/2 mph., and when on the ground could not come closer than arm's length to the body, and could not pick up a foot: and yet claimed (as almost all of them claim when they first experience my efforts to help them) that they are not afraid of their horse! This is one of the most basic problems that beginners have that a regular practice of ground schooling helps to cure. Learning to groom the horse at liberty is also enormously helpful.

The first step in stopping the robotic chattering is to teach the student how to perform the basic ground schooling exercises of untracking, head-twirling, and correct longeing. And the second step (I usually build it in there pretty early) is to simply order them to shut up. This because they have to become aware that they are doing it, they have to hear themselves -- just as they also have to become aware of their body dynamics, feel, and intentionality. Beginners have problems because they are UN-aware; and by 'beginners' here I include a lot of people who have been around horses for ten, twenty, thirty years or more. Whenever they start becoming aware of themselves would be the first day of the rest of their life, as the saying goes.

Like you, I also use tone of voice and I do talk to my horses, especially quiet words of praise; but I don't chatter continuously. Chattering teaches the horse to ignore the handler/rider, just as a flickering lightbulb that you can't turn off is so irritating and so meaningless that within a few minutes your subconscious will be doing its best to shut it out of your consciousness. Does the husband whose wife continually nags him listen to her? No, he tunes her out; and if he makes a response, it's something robotic like 'yes dear'. This is the kind of ride and responsiveness the jabberer typically gets too -- horse's mind only one-tenth on his job, giving only just enough attention to the rider/handler to get by without actually being punished. Obviously, we would much prefer that the horse always listen carefully to our communications, verbal or otherwise, and respond to them as if they were vitally important and interesting; and so another reason not to jabber, and indeed to keep silent as much as possible, is so that when you do speak, the horse will most certainly listen.

I also use mostly low tones of voice and low volume: so that if I ever speak sharply and loudly, my animal stops whatever he is doing instantly and turns to me for suggestion or direction: and I teach him that if he does not do this, there will be physical consequences in the form of some sharp maneuver required, which serves as an attention-getter. This is all in line with the principle that horses will work on a TEENY gradient -- a teeny difference between handler pleased and handler displeased. You do not have to hit him over the head with a bottle, in other words, any more than you have to gouge him with a spur anytime you want him to move -- UNLESS you are a loud, dull, robotic jabberer all the time.

This is analogous to what Buck says about adjusting the height of the bit in the horse's mouth: many English riders/Pony Clubbers are taught to adjust the bridle-hanger so that the bit sits so high that there are one or two wrinkles at the corners of the lips. But the very design of the snaffle bit, especially when it's used with courtesy and as a tool of communication rather than as a brake, is to work on the commissures of the lips. So Buck says: why would you want to take all the slack out of the lips before you even start? But again, one of the things that our school of horsemanship changes in many people who get into it, is they come to realize that they have (in every way and not just verbally) been shouting at their horse all the time, for years.

I have a neighbor who has a yappy little dog. As soon as the dog is turned out in their fenced yard, it yaps at everything and anything; it barks nearly continuously. So they let it out to do its business and the whole neighborhood knows and wishes they would hurry up and call the dog in. Apparently however, the people that own the dog find the continual barking just as irritating as everyone else, so pretty soon we will hear the lady of the household step to the threshhold of the open door and shout at the dog to come -- in the crudest, meanest, coarsest tone of voice imaginable. Naturally, it totally ignores her and it is quite a little scene and a problem every single day for that lady to get her dog to come to her. If I were her dog, I would not come to her, either.

So, when I walk out to my gelding's pen, I don't have a tape-recorded 'call' but I do have my own voice, and what I do with it is I call his name in the English language; and immediately I follow that with the sort of 'chuckle' that horses make when they are glad to see each other, or you. And the moment I call Ollie's name, no matter what other horse he's with, or whether he's at the back of the pen, up comes his head and his ears, and he arches his neck and he starts to 'chuckle' back, or whicker, or even whinny quietly; and by the time I get to the gate, he's at the gate, too. So we teach them our language, and they teach us theirs. The main idea is not to talk 'down' to them, but as J. Allen Boone says in 'Kinship With All Life', to make the bridge level. -- Dr. Deb

Capparella
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Thank you! I understand now that you were addressing unaware, unproductive chatter.
I have experienced this from some of my students-when they are afraid of actually playing/singing a piece (making mistakes) they tend to chat and fidget-basically do anything but actually play the instrument. That state of mind extends through the body, so they become uncoordinated and stiff in their movements.
Your answer addresses much deeper issues than mere vocalization.
The story of the lady in the clinic is interesting. I had a lot of fear when I first started-but I was very upfront about this with my teacher from the beginning. I don’t understand why a person wouldn’t just admit this to their teacher of all people-for when they do, the teacher can truly help them.
I have also seen experienced (in years, not in awareness) horse folk who present a sort of « false bravado » I suppose this is just a different manifestation of underlying insecurity. I am sure good teachers see through all that as well.
I have only used the voice recording when out on the large acreage and can’t find the herd. I would love to be able to call a horse out of the herd.
The only experience I have with calling one horse up was when I was feeding an elder retired mare while her person was out of town. I would call her name, and she would appear at the gate soon after.
Obviously this wasn’t to be with me, but because she knew she was getting her bucket. She quickly began recognizing the sound of my car and before I ever entered the long driveway in I could see her making her way from the woods on up to the gate.
When I go out to the pasture to find Benjamin, I do call his name, and he acknowledges me, but he does not come to me. I have tried to draw him, but so far have only gotten a step or two in my direction.
I would love to have Ben respond to my call as Ollie does to yours!

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Dear Capparella, this is what the roundpen is primarily for: to teach the horse to come at call. Do you want to discuss this further? Have you tried working in a roundpen? -- Dr. Deb

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That would be wonderful! Thank you for this opportunity.
Yes, I have worked in a round pen a bit-the round pen is large though (I am thinking 100 ft). So this may make it more a riding arena than a round pen. That's all that's available though.
In fact, per another forum thread suggestion, I did all grooming and tacking at liberty in there this past week before working in it pre ride.

Last edited on Sat Apr 8th, 2017 05:17 am by Capparella

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I hope it's ok to speak up here, I just wanted to say that I also did not have access to a standard round pen in the past so I would set up my own round pen size area WITHIN a well fenced area, such as a riding arena or a pasture. I used what I had on hand, barrels and jumps poles worked well or I used step in plastic fencing posts and used electric tape or one strand of cotton clothesline as my round pen fencing. My mare was very respectful of electric fencing so she never tested the clothes line or electric tape(I never had it electrified of course). She was trained and gentle so these options worked well for us. Obviously this would not be a good option for horses who are not trained, gentle and respectful electric fencing. In this way we were able to do all our round pen work.
Have a lovely day,
Adrienne

Last edited on Sat Apr 8th, 2017 06:59 pm by Adrienne

DrDeb
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OK, Capparella, let's begin with a fundamental question: what is the MAIN purpose of roundpenning?

In other words -- why a "round" pen? What's so special about it being round, as opposed to square, triangular, or rectangular?

And Adrienne -- sure, it's OK to jump in, for you or anybody. Your observations and situation are in fact relevant to Cap's question: we'll get to those in the next few posts. -- Dr. Deb

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Oh no-fearful I will flunk this already. Well, there are no corners. A horse will feel trapped in corners. I know this is not the answer.
They would be "orbiting" around the central director...meaning the director of movement.

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and the center would be the place of peace, where the teacher/director would call them to.

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I am tempted to look this up, because I'm sure I have read about it. But I'm not going to. Because if I'm missing something fundamental it might just make a great big change for me.
All I can think of is the rounding out of the horse when we do groundwork, untracking, circling straight on the circle, and the same in the saddle, when things come together and movement is united.
I should've waited and put these three responses in one post. All I can get is a feeling-of centripetal force (as opposed to centrifugal force which would be driving). Both feel to be working in a round pen.

Last edited on Sun Apr 9th, 2017 05:44 am by Capparella

DrDeb
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Guessing, guessing, guessing, guessing....and fear of failing. All inculcated and habituated in people by our horrible public schools.

Now I am going to warn you, Cap, the same as I warned Shea: DO NOT go beyond the question actually asked. Do not guess. Do not flounder. Do not re-post with further guesses which are attempts to get an 'A', because there is no 'A' to get.

There is only just to sit down with yourself and think about it. Your answer should be brief. If you review the thread just above this one where I am doing something similar with Shea, you will see that his answers get quite short after the second warning. Only at that point does the lesson begin to proceed smoothly. Have a little faith in me, Cap: I am not here to hurt or embarrass you. You MUST fail -- somewhere along the way -- you MUST get it wrong: because you came here asking, and not as an expert, didn't you?

So now I am going to ask the first question again, and give you another chance to answer:

Why a ROUNDpen, as opposed to square, triangular, rectangular or some other shape?

And this is actually a second question, but it's linked pretty closely to the first: what is the PRIMARY purpose for working a horse in a roundpen? -- Dr. Deb

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there's nowhere else to go

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Very good answer, Cap. Right....and if the roundpen is of the 'pickle barrel' or 'round barn' type, with walls higher than 8 ft. and built of solid wood, no windows -- there is also nothing else to look at or think about except what is present, or what is going on, on the inside of the pen.

So the use of these tools, I think we can conclude without further ado, must have something to do with keeping the horse's mind on whatever is going on INSIDE the enclosure. And even when the roundpen is just made of aluminum panels or a wooden fence, or for that matter unelectrified white tape or string, or even at the most minimum, the 'pen' is not a pen at all but just a low kerb like a circus ring -- so that the horse can look out and thus has more tendency to get distracted or to try to make a plan for escape -- even then, we hope he does not, and the objective is to get him to think "in" rather than "out" or "flee the premises".

Now this is important and it's half the answer to 'why use a roundpen'. However, your answer does not address the question of the shape. Why round, do you think? -- Dr. Deb


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No corner to stop/face away. Person always in field of vision when round.

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Right. And you had essentially gotten this right on your first shot, above, Cap; I just wanted you to repeat it because it's so tied up with the first question, i.e., what is the main purpose for going into a roundpen with a horse anyway. If you have a square pen, a green or confused or frightened horse will have a great tendency, if he runs, to run up into a corner and get "stuck"; and if the operator isn't pretty careful, the horse will have a tendency to jump right out of the pen in the corner. We don't use triangular pens either, though an equilateral triangle is a fine shape considered on paper, simply as a shape; it's as good as any other shape, but we don't use it to train horses because the angles in the corners are acute and would certainly tend to "trap" the horse.

Now, this does not mean that a square pen cannot be used at all; indeed the first American "horse whisperer", John S. Rarey who was active from the 1840's through 1860's, never used a roundpen. But he had a certain approach to using square and rectangular pens which we will consider a bit later, because that approach and that mode of thinking are highly valuable.

Round-shaped pens are an import to the US via Mexico, and to Mexico from Spain. And the Spanish got them from the Romans. Indeed there is an ancient Roman fort in England that has a nice 60-ft. roundpen built into one wall, and this particular fort was the central location where all the colts procured by the Roman Army's equivalent of the Quartermaster General were sent for initial breaking and training. And before that --? Ahh, that goes back into antiquity so far that it actually antedates the domestication of the horse. The takehome from this is that roundpenning, when it is done right, represents very, very, very ancient knowledge, which some in the past, and a few still in the present (vis., the Knights Templar of Spain) regard as sacred.

Now the key phrase just above is "....when it is done right". And this gets us back to the fact that nobody should ever (in my book) even be allowed in a roundpen who has only viewed videotapes by some of the well self-advertised horse gurus -- none of whom have the slightest idea of what the roundpen is really for; and all of whom not only abuse horses, but teach other people who view their videos to abuse horses. And I say "abuse" advisedly: because the roundpen is quite strong medicine exactly because of what you answered correctly about above, Cap: it is strong medicine because it compels the horse's attention and prevents him from escaping, so that if the operator applies too much pressure, pressure at the wrong time, pressure for the wrong reasons, or pressure unrelated to release, the horse will certainly be harmed. As Harry Whitney has observed, "if a horse cannot flee physically, he will flee mentally." And we have already seen that the roundpen is "close quarters" from which the horse cannot escape. So these false gurus and their misguided followers wind up using the roundpen to cause horses to shut down or worse.

Our elderly teacher used to say, "when working with a horse, it takes SO LITTLE to get that horse to obey." And this is true at all times, under all circumstances; but especially true in the roundpen. The roundpen is, as I said, very strong medicine; so the operator or handler must have the realization that this is so and also be capable of, and committed to, using the lightest possible touch: even "touch" by non-touch, i.e. by an awareness of the thread and the bubble.

So again with these thoughts in mind, I return to re-phrasing my first question. You have rightly said, Cap, that the primary purpose of the roundpen is to get the horse to pay exclusive attention, or you can say focus on, the operator. But there is another answer I'm trying to draw out of you. I mean, in the sense of what we are trying to accomplish with the horse once he DOES pay attention. We will assume that once your horse is in the roundpen with you, he can and does pay attention to you. What are you going to do with that? What is the main and primary purpose of calling your horse's attention to you?

If you've studied "The Birdie Book", you can certainly answer this question in terms of the horse's "birdie". -- Dr. Deb




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Very interesting history of round penning!

Thankfully I have viewed very few of the "exhaust the poor horse with chasing him round-no feel, timing, or consideration until he gives up." The only ones I view are of Buck, Ray, and Tom (Tom's are schooling people in the round pen work).

The little round pen work I have done was under the supervision of my teacher. My teacher steered me to this forum, the Birdie book, Mannering CD's etc, from the beginning of my education with her, so I have them and refer to them often.

"What is the main and primary purpose of calling your horse's attention to you"...
My understanding is that I want him to look to me for guidance. He is to look to me for safety. He is to look to me for the answer. If there is trouble I am responsible for for finding the solution. He is to give me trust in the care of his body, mind, and spirit, and I am to prove myself worthy of his trust. My aptitude in this regard is the foundation of our relationship.

In terms of Birdie this means to me that I am to essentially call the attention of his Birdie to myself, and I am the caretaker of keeping it with us.

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OK, Cap, pretty close to what I was trying to draw out. The MAIN PRIMARY purpose of working with a horse in a roundpen is to teach the horse to come to the handler at call.

This is tied in with the utility of having the pen be round: for when it is round, it has a tendency to help the horse look in.

And what a horse is looking at will be what he is thinking about -- very simply. He can only be thinking about one thing at a time, so the roundness of the round pen helps him think about the handler, who is more toward the center of the pen.

Now, I need to help you clean up or clarify your concept of the Birdie too. The Birdie is not the horse's body; it is the leading edge of the horse's "beam" of attention. As we commonly speak, you can "give" your attention to something or someone, as can the horse; thus, the Birdie is the leading edge of that attention which he gives. He gives his attention -- often from some distance. His attention is therefore to be thought of as something that can be projected from his body, something that can "fly out" from his body -- hence the term "Birdie".

And this analogy, or metaphor, is also extremely ancient. In Christian thought, God's Birdie is the Holy Spirit, the "helper" that Jesus after his resurrection promised to send the disciples: Jesus was seen ascending into the clouds, but the Holy Spirit came as the breath of a great wind, filling all the house, on the day of Pentecost; or, you might have said, it came as the wind of a great pair of wings. In every Catholic church, and many other denominations, hanging by golden chains over the Baptismal font we find the Holy Spirit symbolized by the icon of a dove. And this is the essential reason that some Catholic sects, vis. particularly the Knights Templar, regard roundpenning -- and especially, the moment when the horse hooks on, meaning gives his birdie to the operator -- as sacred.

Before this, in pre-Christian Europe we find Odin with a pair of ravens, one for observation, one for foretelling the future....Odin would send them out so that he could pay attention to the whole world or to things far from his physical presence.

And before that, we find the b'a and the k'a, the birds of the soul and the spirit, in Egyptian tomb iconography....their belief being that when the b'a died, the person died indeed; but the k'a, the spirit, could fly out from the person as in meditation or in astral travel or out-of-body experience, and then fly back when the meditation was done, and the person would then resume normal daily functioning. And it is, incidentally, due to the confusion in the ancient Egyptians' minds between bats and birds that we get all the mummies-come-alive spooky stories, and all the legends about vampires -- that they lie in their tombs during the day, but that the spirits of the dead fly out at night: for the ancients saw bats flying out from the tombs at dusk, and they thought these were the "birdies" of the dead.

So you have the Birdie which is SEPARATE from the horse's body; it can be sent out volitionally by the horse, by his unmerited goodness and generosity to us which is what makes the moment of hooking on sacred; or it can be separated FROM him, either by wicked action on the part of an operator who knows about this stuff but has a twisted and perverted attitude; or else separated from him by the ignorant action of handlers who are totally unaware that this is how everything actually and most deeply works: the reality that is behind, and much deeper and more significant than, the mere physical actions of either the handler or the horse.

Now, after you've chewed this over a little, you can tackle the next question, which is:

Given that the main and primary purpose of working with a horse in a roundpen is to teach the horse to come at call, what would you think would be the smarter way to go about this -- working with the horse by taking him in there and causing him to run, or taking him in there and, if you see that he is inclined on his own to run (for whatever reason, which might be prior experience which has caused him to think that's what he's supposed to do, or else fear, or a combination of both), to interfere with that, to slow him down as much as possible, and even to stop him (without touching him, and without getting yourself run over, of course). Which is better? To cause him to run, or to help him NOT to run? -- Dr. Deb




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This history is fascinating! It makes me want to re read Joseph Campbell’s work.
My brother is an ornithologist, and he has shared many interesting folklore metaphors regarding certain species of birds. He also taught me how to call them. Ornithologists often use this technique in field study. It’s much more practical to call them to you for study-particularly in the jungles of South and Central America where he studied for many years. When you first see it, it looks like magic. He calls them, and they come flocking in and surround you in a circle-again, that circle/mandala.

I had an experience, during my dog’s passing-I do not think she was ready to pass, yet the vet insisted her condition warranted euthanasia. The first injection did not work, and it took a second. As I held her body and she passed, I saw a transparent tear drop shaped vitality, like a viscous energy, rush out of her body. I knew it wasn’t physical matter, but I saw and felt it. I was so astonished I gasped to my vet « did you see that!!!! » It is something I will never forget, and though having gone through the same experience with another dog, and a horse, have not seen again.

So in regards to the question of which is better-this is what I am thinking:

To help him not to run. It seems though, that that process could involve helping him to run. As in, if he is not able to give you his attention, that you would want to help him by directing his feet, his direction, and looking for a signal that the Birdie is considering the person. I notice when I have watched Buck or Ray, it seems that they sense the attention of the horse coming to them just before or right as you see the physical motion of an ear or eye towards them. Then it seems that they « pull » the horse in, like an invisible vacuum thread. Sometimes the horse can’t stay for long. So it seems to me in sending the horse out again it is like saying « I know what you need to do, and so I will encourage that and direct it. » Pretty soon the horse starts looking towards them quicker, more often, and can stay longer.

My understanding is that in physical life the body will follow where the Birdie goes-or try to. When care taking the farm, a tree fell on some fence. Several of the herd got out into adjacent pasture. I was fixing the fence while the remaining rest of the herd restlessly paced near the hole the others left through. I could feel their riveted attention towards that other pasture, but also with me blocking them from entering my bubble while fixing the fence.

The example above is included because to me it is relevant. The feeling of the Birdies for the horses that got out was very intense. The hole was there, the Birdie was in the other pasture. I was not close by when they got out but I imagine it would have been difficult to stop them. It was easy to catch them back up once they were united with their Birdie in the renegade pasture. The horses still inside seemed half out half in. Their Birdies seemed to be on the hole-not as far out in other words. Once it was fixed, their Birdies seemed to go back to their bodies in the pasture. So in making myself a part of where their focus already was (the hole), and then creating a structure (the fencing), was a physical action to contain the Birdie. So it seems that in calling the Birdie I would want to make myself as appealing as that other pasture was, but I might have to start by getting the attention on the hole in the fence.
Of course, I am not a destination like the pasture, but an interactive being with a Birdie of my own, so this may be a poor analogy. There does often seem to be glimpses of profundity in the mundane though.

DrDeb
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Yes, Cap, if we are to fulfill the true purpose of the roundpen, it is always better to help the horse not to run.

Not that some of them sometimes won't need to. So, if that is what you perceive, that they absolutely do not understand that your presence in the roundpen is NOT to get them to run/drive them around the edge of the pen in a circle, then you find a way to lower your feathers, up to and including turning your back on the horse or walking out of the pen. A little bit later in this dialogue we will get into details of how to cut the horse off without getting yourself run over. You will need to learn this because you will almost undoubtedly have to do it.

99% of the time, horses that as soon as you take the halter off them in the roundpen go straight to the edge and begin running, are doing it out of nervousness, anxiety, or fear: and this fear has been TAUGHT to them by the incompetent people who have handled them in the roundpen before. Those would be the people who "learned how" to roundpen from the videotapes I mentioned previously, wherein the idea is to "run the horse until his lungs scream for his legs to stop." You know, the guy who originally said this we used to see quite a lot of at the horse expos; and when we, and some of our students, pointed out to him that this is not at all the right approach, and then demonstrated to him how to use a roundpen properly, first thing you know, he was denying that he'd ever said it. So much for the "expertise" of the well self-advertised.

What Ray Hunt said over and over again was, "fix it up and let them find it." This does NOT mean that you encourage the horse to run. Because -- remember? -- what we are in the roundpen to accomplish is to teach the horse to hook on to us, to give us his Birdie, to turn in towards us and to come to us at call. So THIS is what we are hoping he'll find when we do fix it up. And all our "fixups" or "setups" should be designed with this one objective in mind.

What people misunderstand when they watch Ray on old videotapes, or when they watched him when he was alive -- he'd stand in the center of the pen with his coiled lariat and slap his leg with the coils, and the colt would run. And so the people thought that this was the purpose, to get him to run. But you see, what was not said -- not said on the video, and usually not said at the live clinic -- was that horse had already been set on the path of ruination, and so all it knew was to run when there was any kind of pressure. So it ran.

And Ray would just wait for him in the center of the pen, occasionally slapping his leg with the lariat coils, or occasionally a 'swish' with a flag. This was not to get the horse to run, but instead it was related to and aimed at the inside hind leg. Ray would slap or 'swish' with the flag when he saw that the inside hind leg was coming out more from under the body shadow than it had been -- this is the signal, the early signal, that the horse is thinking outside the pen, and usually at this moment you can also see that he is looking outside the pen, and you can perceive that he is THINKING outside the pen -- this is what Harry Whitney would have you focus on. When that's the situation, in the next moment the horse is either going to turn-tail to the handler and possibly kick at him, or else turn to the outside and then go running the other direction. So BEFORE things went too far, Ray would slap or swish, which looks like a driving aid but is not.

Now, this leads us directly to our next question, which is:

What is the primary purpose of the flag -- and here I mean anywhere and at all times, but especially when it is used in the roundpen? -- Dr. Deb


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My understanding is that the flag is an extension of the supporting hand. It is saying « think about what the leading hand is asking » So in groundwork I put feel down the lead rope and ask him to think what I’m asking, and he might try a few things and get a release for the thing I’m asking « yes, that’s right » in which case the flag wouldn’t be used. If he is not thinking I may try a swish to say « think more about what I'm asking you to do. »

I want to make sure I’m clear about what you described Ray doing. He is using the swish, timed with the inside hind leaving the ground, to disengage the hindquarters. This would help the horse get out of troubled flight mind and engage in thinking-or at least change the « engine » enough so that flight/panic is paused, and he can be redirected.

So in the « especially when it is used in the round pen » part of the question, I would say it is to be an extension of the person to direct movement (yield the hind) or to increase the bubble of space if the body presence itself does not succeed in that, to direct a movement.

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Not so much, Cap. This is a spot that very many people are very confused on. I want you to think about your own answer -- because what you are doing with the flag is you are using it for pressure or even punishment, i.e. it is applied until the horse seems to be thinking (or doing) the right thing, then stopped when he seems to get it (or starts doing the right thing). Tell me, Cap, in all honesty -- how is this ANY different from "run him until his lungs scream for his legs to stop"?

You're a very thoughtful person, but sometimes this can lead to making something more confused and more confusing than it really is. There is one PRIMARY purpose for the flag, and Ray was demonstrating it. And I have come very close to giving away the answer in the post above, where I describe what Ray was doing.

What is the PRIMARY purpose for using the flag? Give it another try, or else just say, "I don't really know." -- Dr. Deb

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Oh! Ok, lets see if I am clear about my previous answer and what you are saying. So I have been using it as more pressure, which is the same thing as driving-merely a difference in degree of intensity of pressure. And I had the impression Ray was applying pressure to ask the horse to yield to it. So I need to go to a completely different place in my thinking.

So while I DO say, I don’t really know, I want to try to answer to see if my thinking is moving in the right direction.

PRIMARY purpose for using the flag-To get the horse’s attention

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Yes, Cap, that's right: the PRIMARY purpose of the flag is to get the horse's attention.

So, when Ray was out in the pen slapping his leg with the coiled lariat -- as you can see him doing on the old "Turning Loose" videotape for example -- he is not concerned with causing the horse to run. He is not trying to drive the horse. And, when the horse in that particular video clip actually jumps out of the pen -- he gets hung partway over the aluminum panels for a moment and pretty well wrecks a couple of them -- that had nothing to do with Ray's intentions, but only with what the colt had learned before meeting Ray. If you had spoken to Ray about it, I'm sure Ray would have said that it was unfortunate that the colt did that; luckily he wasn't hurt. But sometimes they are going to have to do that before they find a better and easier path for themselves. This is the part of "fix it up and let him find it" where we have to "let HIM find it".

After the colt jumped out, they put him into a small, rectangular pen -- because he'd wrecked the only roundpen they had -- and he still tries to run away. A lot of time elapses which was actually edited out of the tape. The colt is seen to be wringing with sweat, running sweat -- not because Ray has been driving him, or meaning to drive him, but because he has still continued to "run worried" for quite some time. Finally, the colt tries something he hasn't tried before: he throws Ray his Birdie; very briefly; very cautiously; and lo and behold, the slapping stops and Ray slows his steps way down. Experiencing this relief and release, a few seconds later the colt tries it again; it works again. And on the third try, the animal is coming up to Ray on his own volition and licking the back of Ray's hand. At which point, Ray turns his back -- the colt's head is near Ray's body -- and slowly walks toward the camera and the crowd, and the colt follows as if upon a lead rope. Ray pets him a little on the neck. And somebody in the crowd says, "wo, that really worked," and Ray replies, "yes, but it took him an hour. Sometimes these things can't just happen in a moment" -- and the crowd laughs.

Now what I want you to notice here, Cap, is there IS pressure and release. But it's pressure to get something -- the primary thing, which is the horse's undivided attention -- which most people aren't looking for and therefore don't plumb the depths of. And it has NOTHING to do with whether the colt runs, or doesn't. The previously-handled colt runs because its previous handlers themselves misunderstood what the flag is primarily for, and therefore they taught the horse to run when that never needed to be part of the picture.

Conversely, it is a truism which Ray often mentioned, and you'll also hear Bryan Neubert say this because he's had a lot of experience starting BLM mustangs, that the perfectly wild horse that has just been brought in out of the wayback and who has almost zero prior experience with humans, does not run, or not much. Instead, he may go a little ways but then stops and stares at the handler. So the approach to these horses is much, much simpler; they come along rather easily with a truly knowledgeable handler, because they realize that the handler wants them to do the very thing they are inclined to do. Once they lose some of their fear, it's a relatively simple matter to get them to untrack (there is, Cap, by the way NO SUCH THING as "disengaging the hindquarters", and we do not use that term in this school).

On the level of getting their undivided attention, there will be some refinements. What the knowledgeable handler is going to do when the horse has learned to pay full attention, immediately upon seeing/hearing a single swish or a single coil-slap, is seek to reduce that -- to get it down to where the horse comes to attention with a single crinkle, and finally (perhaps some years down the pike) -- a gesture with one hand or one finger, the handler's head tilted or his chest lifted. And this is done by demonstrating to the horse that unless he gives his whole, undivided attention, there will be an EXPLOSION of flagging. And again, if you have to explode, it's possible the colt will run; you try to meter the explosion to make it big enough to be very memorable to the horse, and yet not actually drive him over the pen. This again is where the mustang is easier: he's easy to impress. Once he learns that as soon as he pays total attention, there will be zero further pressure and maybe even some positives like getting petted and scratched, he will be for the rest of his life perfectly and sincerely interested in what you're doing and what you have in mind for him and you to do together. Notice that it is the horse that has previously been hardened up by incompetent handling that is much more likely to need an explosion; with a mustang freshly brought in, the crinkle -- indeed just the presence of the handler -- is already an explosion, and the need then becomes for the handler to be able to get SMALLER, not bigger. This is another topic for future discussion.

But to go back to our present topic -- and the fact that you and others reading this are almost certainly going to be working with previously-handled horses -- I do emphasize that word SINCERELY. Somebody once said of Harry Whitney, "Harry always gets closure." Yes. You have to do that; you have to plumb the depths; you have to learn when the horse is cheating you, holding back something. This takes experience and it takes a person who is capable of being very firm -- kindly. Ray had that and Harry has it; so does Buck; and all I can say is "watch them and try to see what I am saying here".

I will remind you of the story I've told a couple of times in this Forum about the colt I rode in the horsemanship class at the Tom Dorrance benefit. This colt had been started by what can only be called a "lesser light" -- who writes books on this subject but who really does not know -- he sings a pretty line that many people, again, are confused enough because they think this is all supposed to be a "kinder, gentler way" and all sweetness and light with no need for firmness. Because this guy really doesn't understand this, he typically produces "cheaters". At the event, our friend Josh Nichol had gotten on this colt because they thought I was going to be late for class -- but I wasn't late, and so when I walked up, Josh signaled to me, 'Do you really want to do this'. And I had observed him a few minutes on this colt and knew exactly what he meant. So, out loud (we were within earshot and in sight of the guy who had started the horse, so our conversation had to be carried on telepathically almost) -- out loud I said, "Josh I'm here. Would you mind holding my off stirrup so I can mount?" And he dismounted and I mounted. And again, standing down by the right stirrup -- out of sight of the colt's owner -- Josh mouthed the words, "Are you sure you want to do this?" And I smiled and nodded, and Josh said, "OK, Deb, go to it."

Then I focused on the colt, and I said to the colt, "If you pull one single shenanigan during this class, I WILL kill you." And the colt said to me, "Ohhhh.....what a relief....FINALLY somebody who puts out a boundary that I can perceive and respect." And I had a perfectly, totally, wonderful ride in that class with Ray. One year later, I was at another event and the colt and his owner were there. The owner's apprentice was riding the colt, and at a certain point it took her up into one of the corners of the arena and balked in there and put its head down and blew a snort and bucked her ass clean off. This is why Buck says, "don't be thinking this is all sweetness and light." And I want you to really think about what Ray said: "if it wasn't effective it wasn't understood."

Now, Cap, I think you'll be able to grasp all that is said above, so it's time to go on to the next part. Once the horse gives its complete, total, undivided, and sincere attention to the handler, it is POSSIBLE to go on to any number of other things; IMPOSSIBLE if he doesn't. So let's assume he does. Most of the time, the next thing you will want to teach the horse is to untrack when you ask. This will require a shift in the meaning of the flag, because as we have emphasized above, the PRIMARY use of the flag is to obtain the horse's attention: it's a birdie-catcher, it's a butterfly net of the spirit. But it does have the secondary use of being a driving aid -- in a kind of a way. Anytime you use a flag, it is going to call the horse's attention. So you can use it purely for that, but it's helpful if you can call the horse's attention to his own inside hind leg. You want him to think about that leg. And yes, you do use your body aura (how you step, where you step) and to some degree even the flag itself as "pressure". And you press on that inside hock as he walks or trots around in the roundpen.

The hope is that you're merely going to have the effect of getting the horse to untrack some; it doesn't even need to be a complete untracking, in which case the horse would wheel around to face you. It only needs to be a little -- at first, just not carry that inside hind leg outside the body-shadow; then at the edge of the body-shadow; finally, horse still walking or trotting, slightly inside of the body-shadow, at which point more of a curve will have appeared in the horse's body. You "aim" the flag at the inside hind leg, just as Ray was "aiming" the coiled lariat there -- his hope being, to induce the horse to untrack -- to loosen up, to "turn loose" -- rather than brace up and run off. Do you see again here why the teachings of the well self-advertised gurus are so extremely destructive?

So here is your question to answer for this round, Cap:

If you have nothing attached to a horse's head -- as he is loose in the roundpen -- how do you get him to turn toward the handler? What are the causes of turning, and what is the mechanism of turning?

I hope this is being fun and useful to you and everyone. I think it is very good to get into this subject deeply. -- Dr. Deb






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Very much fun and extremely useful, thank you! There is a lot of depth to understand in all your comments and stories-I see there is much being woven into these. I am trying to be brief in my responses, and highlighting, for myself to soak upon, these other aspects which the handler must understand and embody to be effective.

ANSWER: I believe the answer is in the paragraph above the question. The handler already has his attention, and the horse would untrack hisself to turn. As said in that paragraph-a complete untracking would cause the horse to wheel around and face the handler. So how you get him to turn, the cause and mechanism would be that combination of undivided attention and the handler inducing the horse to untrack.

I do not have Turning Loose-it seems to be currently unavailable and I have been looking for it everywhere. I watched Back to the Beginning, and Through the Corral Fence. In the first, Ray is in the round pen with a colt. In the second, Tom is using a flag with a student who is mounted.
I am seeing a lot more watching them now than before, and I suspect, the more I learn the more I will see.

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OK, Cap, you're coming along just fine. Yes -- anyone who has been reading this thread will find that, if they go back now and review "Turning Loose" or any of the other video/DVD's that show either Tom Dorrance or Ray Hunt using the flag or the roundpen; or any of Tom's clinics where he asked that a drag be pulled -- that person will now "see" with new eyes what the flag or the drag are really for. Notice again how badly most people misunderstand all this, especially the part about "how little it takes to get the horse to understand," as Tom many times reminded us.

So now it's time to move on to some practicalities relating to your actual technique, or what to do once you get in there with the horse. I'm going to explain this as if you were riding the horse; in the next set of posts we'll relate it to actual roundpenning and/or groundwork, but I think it'll be easier to understand if you imagine you're riding the horse.

Once upon a time in most of our horse-obsessed lives, we all took lessons. Some of us took the lessons at home, from knowledgeable parents or grandparents who also rode; some took them as children, teenagers, or adults at some riding school or pony club; but we all had to begin at some point, and in general, one of the first things we were all taught was "how to steer". And how the vast majority of us were taught to steer was by what is called "plow reining", which is to say, if you want the animal to turn right, you pull on the right rein, and if you want him to turn left, you pull on the left rein.

Now, there is nothing at all wrong with this, so long as the student is also reminded not to jerk or hammer on the horse, to be as gentle as possible with him, and told that even the snaffle bit is quite a lot of so-called "control" and pressure.

Students who intend to ride "western" are then usually fairly quickly moved on to riding a horse bitted in some kind of curb device, and told to ride most all the time on a slack rein, because continuous pressure from the curb bit hurts the horse, is liable to make him want to toss his head, and eventually makes him dull. And during these initial lessons in the curb bit, the student is told that she is being taught to "neck rein", which means that now if she wants the horse to go to the right (assuming the rider is holding both reins in the left hand), she is to move her left hand way across until it is at least several inches to the right of the mane, so that the left rein presses on the left side of the neck and that causes the horse to turn right. And if she wants to go to the left, she is to move her rein-hand to the left until it is at least several inches to the left of the mane-bed, which causes the right rein to press against the right side of the horse's neck and the horse thus turns left.

I imagine that everyone reading this is familiar with this particular drill, because what I am describing here is the common run of things; what we usually find at most stables in most parts of the USA. My point is that NEITHER of these methods of turning is very good or correct. The best part about plow-reining is that it is at least very clear to the horse what is wanted. The best part about what is usually called "neck reining" (as described above) is that the student is usually reminded to work on a slack rein, using the least amount of bit pressure possible and slacking up again as soon as the horse has complied.

What's wrong with plow-reining is that it is simply a way to drag a horse around by its head; it is not very sophisticated, it ignores and may actually block the functioning of the rest of the horse's body, and if it is continued forever, results in a horse that is both dull and continually "on the forehand".

What's wrong with neck-reining (as above described) is that it too winds up simply being a way to drag a horse around by its head; and it has the great disadvantage of also twisting the head. If it were practiced correctly, it would be far more sophisticated than plow-reining, but unfortunately when practiced as above described it is garbled, misunderstood and mis-practiced; for it is not the rein against the neck that is to make the horse turn, but rather the neck against the rein. Riders who have been "neck reining" by moving their hand across the mane-bed, pulling the slack out of the rein they want to exert the pressure, and thinking that this is what the horse is supposed to turn FROM have the whole concept exactly....backwards.

So....somewhere along the line, one must HOPE that students get introduced to the right way to turn; one must hope that they notice how horses turn when they are at liberty. Turns are always initiated from behind, never from the head. They are initiated as we discovered in the last post in this thread, by the inside hind leg stepping under the body-shadow. In other words, the CAUSE of a horse turning is that he brings the inside hind leg obliquely forward, so that the hoof of that leg lands under the body-shadow, and this causes his spine to arc, all the way from his croup to his poll. You could say that the turn is "unfurled" from back to front. So, to be very clear, if the horse steps under the body shadow with the left hind leg, his body will arc so that the left side is concave, the right side is convex; in other words, he will arc in a way that sets him up for a left turn.

The great revelation that the student should get out of this is that the hands are used very little for turning. The hands have very many functions, but one of them that can and should be abandoned as early as possible is the function of dragging the horse into turns. The proper role of the hands in turns is direction (the inside hand) and support (the outside hand). The inside hand may need to "echo" the rider's inside calf; the outside hand is there to sympathetically receive the results, to RECEIVE the bend, not initiate it.

When the turn is initiated properly, the first and primary aid applied is the calf of the rider's inside leg, i.e. the leg on the side she wishes the horse to turn toward. Let us say that she wants her horse to turn to the left, in which case her left calf caresses, touches, or lightly bumps him, by which she says to him, "as you bring your left hind leg forward, swing it somewhat to the right, so that the hoof lands under the body shadow."

How much under the body shadow it must go is related to how tightly she wants the horse to turn, and what sort of turn is being made, i.e. a volte vs. a pirouette vs. some kind of leg-yield or expansion of the circle; but please note, in terms of inches stepped across, it is never really very much. The horse should NOT EVER for this purpose cross the inside hind leg over the outside hind leg; at the very most he will place the inside hoof in front of the outside one -- and generally not that much. The whole distance from the edge of the body-shadow to the midline in an average-sized horse is only a matter of perhaps six inches -- a little more than the width of one hind hoof! So, what I am saying is, a little of this goes a VERY long way; you really only need softness and the willingness to comply. What you are NOT doing is prying on him, crowbarring your leg into him, or shoving on him in any manner whatsoever: it takes very little.

Now, when the horse does softly comply with this request from the rider's inside calf, as noted above his body will, all by itself or you might say as a side effect of the untracking, assume an arc or curved shape; this is known as a lateral bend. When the lateral bend unfurls from back to front through his body, if the rider has kept her hands upon the reins, and the reins are adjusted equally -- this is your next question, Cap -- what will the reins do? What will your hands feel?

For clarity's sake, let me put this into the form of a multiple-choice question. Let's assume once again that it's a left-hand lateral bend we've caused the horse to assume. He's bent so that he's concave along the left side of his body and convex along the right side, in other words, he's set up for a left-hand turn. Let us say we began with the horse plumb straight on a straight line, rode him that way up the center line of the arena, and then before we got to 'A' we caused him to assume that left-hand bend. If while we were upon the center line, we took care to be sure that our reins were adjusted exactly equally -- and we do not change the position of our hands at all -- the moment the horse assumes the lefthand lateral bend, what will our hands experience?

(a) The left rein will become more taut, the right rein will become more slack.

(b) The right rein will become more taut, the left rein will become more slack.

(c) Both reins will become more slack.

(d) Both reins will become more taut.

(e) Nothing will change at all; the reins will feel the same as they felt when we were riding on the center line with no lateral bend.






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I think (e) would be correct. The rider’s body would be turning with the horse, with arms square to the rider’s torso, equally distant from his head. So the hands would appear to move in relation to space, but not to the horse, as they are both turning.

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Cap, your thinking is off on this one. Try another option.

Remember what we were primarily talking about in the above post, and focus on exactly what the question asks. What we were primarily talking about is that the hands give up their role of pulling on the reins, so that there is no backward traction in either rein at all, at any time. The turn is initiated entirely from the rear. The horse is convex along the outside of its body. What did I tell you that the outside hand does? And if the outside hand does what I said, and the horse is laterally bent as described, can the feel in the reins remain equal? -- Dr. Deb

Last edited on Tue Apr 18th, 2017 06:59 pm by DrDeb

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I originally was going to say (b), because that is what I actually have felt when I ride this. That may be incorrect as well, but I will go with why I thought so and then changed it.

When I go into the left turn, it seems there is some tautness on the right rein. I had thought this something like the channel of a hose, with water pouring through it on a curve. There is more "pressure" of water against the outer curve part of the hose. This is from an idea I got from Sally Swift/Centered Riding (which I sure could have misunderstood).

I was a little confused about the condition of not changing the position of our hands at all, because I think the horse will need more rein on the right and less on the left in the turn, otherwise, you’d be bracing against the turn. In the turning of the rider though, it seems that the outside rein would have the effect of being long enough not to brace against him.

I thought about the left rein being taut and that did not seem correct as that is the door of direction I'm trying to keep "open" so though my arm would flow back with the turn of our bodies, I would not think you would want tautness there unless he needed a little help guiding the front into the turn.

So I thought about it some more-what SHOULD be happening. Buck mentioned at a clinic that you should practice riding with no reins, to see if you can get to where you can guide with only your legs.
Each ride I do a little of this. I drape the reins on the horn, and do shallow serpentines trying to guide with only my legs. If I am not effective after about 5 steps I will slide my hand down the inside rein and ask his head to turn slightly, so I can see his inside eye. That indicates that the above tautness on the inside rein would be present, but only if necessary to ask the front into the turn.

In further pondering the question, I then walked around doing circles (I am not with a horse today) and tried to feel in my mind’s eye what the best result would be. That if the front turned into the curve flowing from the movement from the back and I am turning too, the correct result would be (e).

I hope I am not too wordy here, but wanted to explain my thought process to illuminate where my errors in thinking might be.

So if I give up the overthinking and just go with the logic of the convex shape then the taut feel would be on the right (supporting) hand.

Last edited on Tue Apr 18th, 2017 07:45 pm by Capparella

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That's right; the correct answer is 'b'. I suggest you go use the Google advanced search function (see directions in a thread above) with keyword 'sailboat' or 'hawser', and read my previous posts that give the sailboat analogy. The life in the body, and the untracking inside hind leg which drives it in this case, is like the wind coming over the sailor's left shoulder as she sits at the back of the boat. The wind balloons the sail; the hawser goes around the outside of the belly of the sail and it RECEIVES the wind. The sailor, holding the hawser, feels the wind tauten the hawser.

Remember: the feel in the two reins is almost never to be equal -- extremely rare instances when it might be equal, but even then probably not. The two hands have different jobs at all times; you are never to present a horse, not EVER, with a "square feel". The job of the inside hand is to direct, which sometimes will mean a brief moment of traction to the inside (not backwards for a very long time, until the horse is quite advanced and then it is safer); until that time, you use an opening rein, rein position no. 1 in the French school. You direct until you get the inside eye, and attached to that is almost always the inside forefoot. The function of the outside hand is to support, and it will certainly not be able to support if you twist your body around in the saddle so much that your outside hand moves forward enough to slack the outside rein WHEN the horse is amidst bending. You don't twist in the saddle; you just sit, same as always. You don't sit contrary to the bend but you also don't try to create bend by twisting, for there are no 'aids of the seat' used that way. So you just sit; your outside hand is just where it always was with respect to the withers or the pommel; and you just WAIT. And what you are waiting for is for the feel to arrive; for the horse to put his outside lips, his outside neck, and his outside forefoot into your outside hand.

And this is what neck-reining, i.e. a bearing rein, actually is and should be. The rein 'bears' against the outside of the neck, not because the rider pulled her hand off to one side or the other of the mane-bed, but because the horse flexed his body into the rein. When that positive feel arrives to you FROM HIM, there is much that can be done with it; and that is a matter for later on in our discussion.

The process that we have now learned is called 'riding by the diagonal aids', and it is how you will be riding 99% of the time for the rest of your life. Once again: the inside hind leg initiates, the outside hand receives. When the inside hind leg initiates, it not only initiates the lateral bend in the horse's spine, all the way from the croup forward to the poll and even the nose and mouth; but it also causes the horse to bear more weight upon the outside pair of his legs, especially the outside hind leg. And this is how a horse is straightened, on the physical level. Please go back and review 'Lessons from Woody' (http://www.equinestudies.org, click on Knowledge Base, then click on the appropriate button on the righthand side of the page). When the horse is being ridden on a straight track, and that is the intention, then he should bear equal weight on left and right pairs of legs, and use his hocks equally. When the horse is being ridden on a curved track, and that is the intention, then he should bear more weight on the outside pair of legs -- how much more being a function of how tight the curve is meant to be, and whether any leg-yielding is being asked at the same time.

Now, let's go on to relate all of this to your roundpenning experience. Obviously when you're not riding him or line-driving him, there is no outside rein. This is another reason for the roundness of the round-pen; the wall of the pen serves to take over to some degree the supporting role that would otherwise be proper to the outside rein. But it is only a proxy, and again, this is another reason not to push the horse into a run -- the wall can't help you much then, because the momentum of the horse simply blasts it away.

In roundpenning we must seek, rather, the function of the inside rein, which is to direct. You have already learned that the function of the flag is to draw the horse's Birdie. And you have learned that all turns are (properly) initiated from the inside hind leg. What, then, is the aid sequence to get the horse to turn inward toward the handler in the roundpen?

I'm going to have to let you answer this, Cap, and not be able to answer you back possibly for a few days, for I'm about to go to the airport to go to New Zealand and may be out of Email contact part of that time. So you can hold up or answer, either one, and we'll continue when I return. -- Dr. Deb




Capparella
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So the attention of the Birdie is connected, untracking occurs, and the horse is bending. I am thinking the handler creates an opening (like the opening inside rein) to draw the inside eye and forefoot-by creating space-a step backwards perhaps, a receiving stance and angle of the body. The momentum of the bend has already been created, by untracking and there’s the bit of support of the outside (the roundpen), as well the redistributing of weight (more weight being especially on the outside hind).

This would seem to me to quite naturally result in a completion of the turn, a rebalancing of weight, and the horse is then facing the handler. So the aid sequence would be to induce untracking, and to draw the inside eye to complete the turn towards the handler. I am thinking the handler takes a step back to create a vacuum of sorts to invite the horse. The effect being in some way akin to a boomerang (possibly a poor choice of analogy, but it comes to mind).

I hope all is well in New Zealand. I printed out and am studying Lessons from Woody, and did find a couple sailboat and hawser entries via Google Advanced Search which powerfully illustrates the receiving component of the outside rein.

I think I have been twisting in the upper body somewhat, and found significant improvement once correcting that.

It is interesting to me as I review the previous posts to note that the answers are in fact quite obviously embedded in all the information given-if we have but eyes to see and ears to hear! When I am teaching musical composition theory, I know the underlying pattern, but I must teach it in pieces. The student then has to understand each piece that relates to the whole. It often takes a while to glimpse the underlying pattern of connection to all the bits. Ofttimes the connection of the bits is grasped and then lost again, then reassembled in a sturdier way.

The times of feeling obtuse, being a beginner in horsemanship, is overwhelmed with reward by the glimmers of understanding that occur when directed to the proper course. Thank you for the continuation of the thread, and I am hoping others are benefitting greatly as well.

Capparella
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Hi Dr Deb,

It may be that you are too busy to get back to this thread, but I did want to mention a few things-hoping I am not too verbose.

Turning Loose (Ray Hunt DVD) is now available again-for anyone else who has been waiting for it.

In addition to the Knowledge Base materials, I have recently been reading Right from the Start (Michael Schaffer) and Riding with Life (Melanie Smith Taylor). As is usual for me every time I learn something I realize how little I know and the huge amount there must be to know.

In my last post, what I meant by eyes to see and ears to hear is my slow realization of what listening (true observation) really is. My martial arts teacher is working with me to really feel my partner-to not anticipate, to respond in the moment. I am hoping it will help me with my horsemanship. For instance, when I am working on counting feet (knowing where the feet are while I’m riding) I find it so obvious that I can’t believe I didn’t feel it as deeply before. Then I lose it. I go into seeking mind and can’t find it again quickly. This happened through this thread as well as other areas of learning horsemanship.

I have gleaned, with what I’ve been learning here of the round pen work, that there is a very deep thing happening, and you’d better be sure you’ve got it understood before you start doing it-as you’re probably going to make a lot of mistakes, and cause some confusing miscommunication.

To that end I’d like to know which direction to search to get more information into the history of round penning. Would this be found via the Vaquero tradition-preceded by the matador/bull fighting? I did read Conquerors, but do not own the book-and I do not recall that being a large focus of that book.

Certainly words can only hint at a real understanding, which must be felt and experienced. I am hoping a deeper intellectual understanding would help me concurrently with my real life experience.

My teacher put a pedestal/drum into the arena for me to use. I shared the thread with her, and she was fairly pleased, excepting my use of the word disengaging, which is never correct. I asked where I might have gotten it from, as I have very little exposure to the self proclaimed guru folks. She said I may have gotten it from someone talking about a one rein stop, but it is never correct. And that many people spew terms and words with no real meaning, and indicate a complete misunderstanding of some important concepts.

That is particularly striking to me of the insidious nature of many bits of information one obtains when one is seeking to understand and is a sort of blank canvas as a beginner.

The forum is a great opportunity-many thanks!

DrDeb
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Right, Cap, I have been very busy, as I said in an above thread. I'm out of the office until after Cal Expo in mid-June. Then I go back home and see how my tomatoes that I planted just after I left last week are doing.

You don't need to know about the history of roundpennning in order to roundpen well, or with insight. That research is entirely my own, is based on extensive reading in archaeology and history, and is not yet published. But yes, it ought to make you want to feel like re-reading old Joseph Campbell (his book on the comparative mythology of heroes and especially the book "Transformations of Myth Through Time").

You don't ask a specific question about horse training and it does sound like your work with your own teacher is going well, so that's the other reason I didn't answer. When you get to a stuck spot, write back with ONE SINGLE QUESTION if you feel that I can help you.

Also, on a technical level: when asking your horse to turn in toward you off the wall, mind your leading shoulder -- see how pulling that shoulder and arm back works with your particular horse in making him feel that there's plenty of space for him to come toward you into. Cheers -- Dr. Deb

 

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Thank you-minding the leading shoulder is an important piece and helps the « I want to come in, but » hesitancy.

I have been quite surprised at how effective the information in this whole discussion has been. I do not have a natural talent with horses.

I recently listened to the Birdie Basics CD, and realized I will be working with all we have talked about on every occasion-field, groundwork, etc.

I do have a question. This is not regarding Ben, but two other horses I am doing groundwork with.

Question: I will work with horse A, and upon taking the halter off I am trying to be very clear that we are done with our work for the day. Horse A then seems to still be hooked on, and is following me everywhere. It is not pushy.

I go to work with Horse B, and Horse A is still following, but not getting in the way, so I go on to work with Horse B. Later I release Horse B. Now I have two horses following me. By the time I get to the gate, they hang out for a bit then go to the herd, but it feels « rude » somehow of me to ignore them though we are done with our time.

I have tried to figure out why Ben knows we’re done for the day and establish a similar boundary with them, but it still happens when I release them to the herd.

It feels like we are « leaving the thread hanging on » and I am not sure if that’s at all proper.




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