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Questions after attending clinic
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Redmare
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 Posted: Fri Jun 9th, 2017 03:32 pm
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I finally got a chance to go actually ride with one of the ESI recommended horseman, Tom Curtin, this past weekend. It was an incredible 4 days, I'm still processing all of the information I garnered from riding and watching; my notebook is getting quite full! However, there are some things Tom talked about that I'm hoping, Dr. Deb, you can help me fill in the gaps on.

1 - There was three mornings of colt starting, with most of the horses being between 1.5 and 3yo. Someone asked Tom a question along the lines of "what next?" for these young horses once the owners return home with them. Tom said he's both started the horse and then let him alone for a year or so before coming back to him as well as moved right on to working with the horse under saddle. Now, these are quite young horses: I am very familiar with your piece on skeletal maturation, so it got me thinking about if I'm missing something...Tom talked about a couple of the horses he brought having only had 10-12 rides (or less!) on them (these were 3 year olds) but these horses were as soft, relaxed and responsive as could be!

2 - The horse I brought is not one I own, I am working with him for someone else and he came with some troubles. This horse resented going forward: he resented a driving aid from the ground on a long line and resented the leg under saddle. I had not cantered this horse yet under saddle due to the significant resentment he had about being asked for a strong effort forward, so Tom had me hustle him at the trot and get him trotting as fast as he could go until I felt him say "But Abbie, I just can't trot any faster, I think I might have to canter!" to which I'd respond "that's a good idea" and let him break into a canter. I'd let him alone until he broke to the trot again, and then I'd hustle him until he offered to canter again. By the end of three days (and now back at home) the horse very happily took a rhythmic, easy canter with no fuss and minimal "hustle". I didn't think to ask Tom about why the word "hustle", but I know he chooses words carefully...I'm thinking that here the "hustle" was never about getting this horse to canter, indeed I wasn't really to care if the horse did canter at all. I cared about raising the life in that horse until it became HIS idea to canter, and I just gave him permission to do so. So is it the INTENTION here that made all the difference? I have seen plenty of horses "hustled" into a canter: they do so resentfully, off-balance and at a very quick pace. This horse took a few tries to find his balance, but he now steps into a lovely canter quietly and calmly. I think previously this horse was "hustled", but it was done so with the human's INTENTION upon cantering the horse with no thought as to how the horse felt about it. I think what Tom showed me how to do was just set it up for the horse and let him find it on his own.

3 - Still regarding the canter: the first several times this horse took the canter from the hustled trot he bucked, not to get into the canter but a few strides in. When he did he'd break to the trot and Tom had me hustle him again. The bucking became less and less until he no longer did it. Now, when Tom had me continue to hustle the gelding after the bucks, I kept thinking of what Ray said along the lines of "you can't take the horse through something bad and come out OK", but I trusted Tom and so I did what he said knowing it'd work out. What was the difference in this situation? Are we again looking at intention, and the fact that if I'd been intending to get the horse to canter, he'd likely still be bucking? Is it that the horse came to realize that intention and thus got OK with raising the life because it became his idea?

I am so glad I was able to have this experience...the depth at which I'm still processing this is amazing and humbling. Tom says hello, by the way!

JTB
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 Posted: Sun Jun 25th, 2017 06:38 am
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Hi Redmare,
I hope you don't mind me adding onto this thread but I took my pony to Dr Deb's clinic this year and it too was an amazing learning experience. It has taken me a while to process all I learnt but I too have some questions I haven't been able to answer--


Dear Dr Deb,

Thanks again for coming down to NZ this year, I had such fun at the clinic and got to feel so much, learnt lots but I have a puzzlement that I am having trouble clearing up.

At the clinic you set things up for me and my pony so we could have a good ride and learn. You noticed her ‘sticky feet’ and got the other riders to spread out around the arena. She always has had ’sticky feet’ or is a better term a ’sticky mind’?!

I mentioned she swallows her Birdie and you said something along the lines of she’s a mare and I bought her! Most of our riding is on our own and I still can’t figure out how to get her to barf up her birdie when she swallows it. I don’t see the point of “getting after her” when is it down in her guts and her mind is there too and there is no energy to work with. I feel I am missing something. I wonder if she could benefit from the Lesson of the spur or is there some way I can grab her mind before she feels the need to swallow the birdie.

I have been trying to keep her busy, lots of transitions but somewhere along the line she decides enough is enough and sucks back. I just have to think let’s change the footfall to trot now and she is sucking back. How do I help her see moving her feet as a good thing like she did at the clinic.

If you get a moment to nudge me in the right direction it would be much appreciated.

Stay cool, it sounds so hot over there.

Kind Regards
Judy

DrDeb
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 Posted: Sun Jun 25th, 2017 11:50 pm
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OK, Redmare I'll answer yours first and Judy's after that as they are different questions about different aspects of the clinics you attended, or relating to different problems with the horses. Go right ahead and write back if you still have questions after reading these replies or don't understand something I've said.

Redmare, you asked three things, and here are my responses to those in order given:

1. Who said being two years old would prevent the horse from being a completely happy camper, if handled well and correctly at that age, just as if he had been well and correctly handled at any even younger age? There are two year olds who are so physically immature at that age that nobody should ride them, due to their weediness; just as there are miniature ponies that nobody should ride, due to their tininess at whatever age; and just as there are some horses, of whatever breed or type, that nobody should ride at any age because they have a screw loose mentally. Tom is perfectly capable of judging which those are and advising you of his findings; this is one thing that qualifies him to teach. So his judgement regarding whatever two year olds you saw him start was that those two year olds were physically mature enough to handle all aspects of that process, which involves all the ground handling preparation, plus saddling, mounting and dismounting, and brief rides. Then you also heard Tom say, "after this three-day clinic experience, you can just as well put these two year olds up until they're four." In other words, he's telling you the truth, which is, after having been handled well and correctly at the clinic, they've not only learned the right responses and the right attitude, they'll also remember those lessons and retain that good attitude for the rest of their lives. "So they're started, so they go" Harry Whitney always says. And Tom has done, and so advised you, exactly as Ray Hunt, Buck Brannaman, and Harry Whitney would do, who also know the business well and do it correctly. In short, most two year olds can stand three or four days that it takes to start them under saddle. What they cannot stand, which is what Tom and the other guys are telling you, and which is what I also have told you in the "Ranger" piece, is that they cannot stand to be WORKED at that age: i.e. put into training for any form of competition, or asked to do more around the home, farm, or ranch than basically ride down to the mailbox and back. They need the time to mature, so that you can start them at two so long as it is just STARTING; but WORK begins when they're four and they're well on the payroll at age six.

2. Cantering is not a speed, my dear. Cantering is not faster than trotting. Cantering differs from trotting merely in that it involves a different coordination of the limbs, resulting in a different order of footfall. Cantering is not "more advanced" than trotting or walking; it's just different than trotting or walking. All normal unmounted horses canter, and all those horses already know how to canter. So it's not them that need to change; just your thinking, and for that matter, the whole industry's. "Hustling" in the form you did it at Tom's clinic was not done in order to punish the horse, or even for the sake of teaching him to go FASTER, because cantering is not faster than trotting. Tom flagged the horse on in order to teach the horse that the rider's leg is to be taken seriously; it is to be obeyed every single time throughout that horse's life. And what the leg means is NOT "go faster" but "wake up", "pay attention,"  or "get ready" --because the rider is about to ask for something different.

This is hugely important: HORSES DO NOT GO 'FORWARD' BECAUSE YOU KICK OR SQUEEZE WITH THE LEGS. They learn to go forward, i.e. to give energy and to prepare to give energy, or as we say 'to raise the life', because they DO NOT WANT to be kicked or squeezed with the leg. It is very difficult to get most students to understand this, because what you are used to is that stepping harder on the gas pedal of your car makes the car go faster. That is ABSOLUTELY NOT how it works with a horse. Once you understand what I am trying to say here, though, your horse will perk up, raise the life, pay attention, and prepare to obey (whatever you say next) whenever you so much as tweak a calf muscle or step down a little firmer into one stirrup. And the way that the horse learns this is, you apply LIGHT pressure with the legs, you give him two heartbeats to get with it, and if he does not, in comes Tom and swats him on the butt or flags him. Pretty soon you ask LIGHTLY and as soon as your leg so much as moves, the horse gets himself ready.

So at every one of the clinics given by those who are truly representative of our school, you will see the clinic leader flag or swat horses' behinds when the horse does not GO FREELY FORWARD or FREELY RAISE THE LIFE upon the mere threat of the application of leg. The rider must learn never to apply more than a couple of ounces of leg pressure, because most horses would love to sucker you into a role reversal, where YOU wind up doing a ton of physical work while the horse winds up doing all the planning.

3. Horses often buck (not usually very hard, just kind of a hiccuppy higher lift to the rear end) when they are first learning to carry a rider at the canter. The buck gives them extra "air time" which allows them to get their hind feet into coordination with their front feet so that the result is a canter. Your animal bucked less because he got better at the coordination, and also got better at putting fully enough weight on the outside hind foot, upon which crucially depends the canter departure. Every canter stride after the departure is another departure too. You will materially assist the horse in learning this by consciously sending your feel and your "intentions" down into the outside hind limb. Horses that enjoy cantering, and there are a lot of those, will often learn to make a beautiful quiet departure merely from this "intention". -- Dr. Deb

DrDeb
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 Posted: Sun Jun 25th, 2017 11:58 pm
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OK, Judy, now your turn.

In your case, it's going to need to be a "question and answer" session.

As you know, your brown pony named "Little" is herd-sour. This means WHAT in terms of her birdie? And it results in WHAT in terms of her behavior?

This is an example of the operation of the very most important and very most basic LAW of a horse's life. WHAT is that law, which I have sometimes called "Whitney's Law"? Can you state the law please, which I have repeated at every clinic, usually several times, each year for the past decade during which you have been attending clinics. -- Dr. Deb

JTB
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 Posted: Mon Jun 26th, 2017 06:09 am
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Whitney's Law
'To the extent that the body and the Birdie are separated the horse will manifest signs of stress and misbehavior.'

Herd sour: In terms of her Birdie... I have left it behind and her thread is getting stretched.

Her behavior is sucking back, reluctance to go in the direction I would like to go and if I don't listen she will up the ante and threaten to rear. I think she is scared rather than 'stubborn'.

Regards Judy and Little

DrDeb
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 Posted: Mon Jun 26th, 2017 07:33 am
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OK, Judy, so far as "note-taking," that's right, but you seem to be blanking on an idea of what is to be done about the problem on a practical level.

What I have done in our clinics, by asking the other riders to surround you, is simply avoided having to solve the problem. When there is a horse on every side of your horse, Little is not particularly sucked in any one direction, and this allows you a semblance of an opportunity to experience what the others, whose horses are less troubled, have been having fun with. But make no mistake, it is merely a crutch and the real problem has been "ducked".

I choose to handle your barn-sour and herd-sour horses this way -- I'm using the plural because ALL of yours have been this way over the years -- because you are not the only person at the clinic and we have very limited time. If we were to focus on clearing up this difficulty during the clinic, it would result in Judy getting all the time and attention, and other people, who have already solved this problem and who want to go on to learning canter departs or leg-yields or other skills, can't do that while they politely wait for Judy to catch up DURING THE CLINIC on what she should have been doing AT HOME. This is the difference, you see, between conducting a clinic and what I would do if I were with you week to week like a normal riding instructor. When all the instruction is compacted into clinics, the instructor must depend upon the student not only to take good notes, but to grasp the principles and ACT UPON THEM independently during the 11 months and 3 weeks out of every year when I am not with you.

I know you've attended Buck's clinics in NZ. And I know from talking with Jenny that the occasion has arisen, more than once at his clinics, where it was necessary to help a horse to (as Buck puts it) 'get a divorce' from the herd.

Can you describe to me what Buck does to accomplish this? (Incidentally, we did this at my clinic for several people, including yourself, during the first several years, when the group was at a very elementary stage where many people were having this type of problem; do you remember?)

You are correct, you have tried to ride Little away from the herd, or away from wherever else her desires are attached; you have ridden her BODY away but you have not made sure that her birdie came along with her body, and this separation, which you force upon the horse by your desire to ride "out" no matter whether the birdie is coming along or not, is what stretches the thread and causes the horse to defend itself, even to the point of violence.

How does Buck's technique get the horse's birdie to come unstuck from the herd and fly back to the horse's body, so that the two are united? In short, what, exactly, are you to DO -- when we are not merely "ducking" the problem by giving you a crutch consisting of a circle of horses surrounding you?

As you know, only when the body and the birdie are united will there be peace and equanimity inside of the horse. Then the thread is not stretched, and you can go anywhere, so long as the horse packs its birdie along at each moment of each ride. -- Dr. Deb


JTB
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 Posted: Mon Jun 26th, 2017 08:34 am
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Buck has spoken of the horse's divorce at his clinics, unfortunately the one that had a brilliant example of it was the clinic I didn't get to! As I understand it, the herd bound horse is ridden on a loose rein/not steered but has to work/is kept busy by the rider among the gathered herd. She discovers this is not a very comfortable place to be so starts to look for other options eg looks up the arena, here the rider gets quiet and horse starts to think someplace else might be more comfortable for her. The horse might need to return to the herd for more work but each time she leaves the herd she finds peace, and the time in the peaceful place gets longer in duration. This keeps going till the horse chooses to stand at the other end of the arena and rest quietly. This may have to be repeated. From a Birdie point of view this process calls the horse birdie to her and away from the other horses.

I seem to remember from your clinics the horse was kept moving among the herd, with the rider being a bit active in the leg and as soon as the horse showed a desire to leave the herd all was quiet for as long as the horse could stay away from the herd. I can only vaguely remember this so have done my best to recall.

Both of these call the horse's Birdie by making her desire darn hard work, and the horse herself starts to look for another option that will provide peace and comfort. As the rider is doing nothing but supporting the horse she is ready to tell the horse 'yes' that is the answer, so the horse keeps her birdie with her as we head away from the herd.

So as far as Little and I go, my job is to identify where her birdie is, if it is not where I want to go, who cares, we are off to catch a birdie. I will go to where her birdie is and make it 'work' so she looks for someplace else to go. I keep doing this each ride-- until she can keep her birdie and I can start to direct where we might go as she will be calm and obedient because she has her birdie and I am not stretching her thread.

Thank you.
Judy


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