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Backing a Young Horse
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Tricia Thomson
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 Posted: Wed Sep 23rd, 2020 12:21 am
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When she is not happy she either goes into a buck on the side of the hill or if someone rides too far ahead she tries to throw her head around - down - and around. I can try to get a video of that and the lead up to it. Her muscles tighten.

I have some videos of Josh's to watch and then I can purchase the level 2 access to his work and he will be here in November - so hopefully I can connect.

DrDeb
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 Posted: Wed Sep 23rd, 2020 03:15 am
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Great, great, great Tricia. And listen to Judy too: Judy had to come a long ways within herself after she started working with me -- she started out quite defensive, because she too had some fear issues and of all fears CHANGE is the most scary. But after working on herself Judy really came around and is now able to train horses.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tricia Thomson
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 Posted: Wed Sep 23rd, 2020 02:43 pm
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Ok I'm still here with a few bruises, soldiering along. I'm working hard on my memory. If I can come out of this with no buck up hill I am a huge fan. Firstly I didn't bail on any of the bucking up hill incidents. So I'm still on at the end of the rodeo (not sure if that matters). The very first time it happened the horse at the top stopped and the horse behind us ran into us - we were in a group. I should not have put her in that place. The second time I was just with one friend and we were behind the other horse - the third time was a group where we all took turns with lots of space. All times she had already been running part way up so breathing heavier than a walk - plunging - different grades of hill. If she goes first it doesn't happen. If we walk up it doesn't happen - last time I walked up beside her because she gets so worked up (i.e. head throwing, breathing heavy, twisting her body, jumping in the air) at the bottom if we try to walk with me on her, and I end up going up sideways. I've had a few successful hills too- Where her brother (4yr) is ahead at a canter and we canter behind, up a skinny, windy, medium hill with no issue; or we canter up first and brother behind no issue except she stopped flat 3/4 way, and he ran into her.

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

I have to go to work - Let me try to think on this more unless you think I'm completely on the wrong track then please redirect me.

DrDeb
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 Posted: Wed Sep 23rd, 2020 04:54 pm
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Tricia, good descriptions of the situations in which bucking occurs; that's very helpful. However, what I am mainly asking for is that you look at the HORSE. Yes, she's breathing hard because you've been galloping or cantering just before, but that is not what I meant by suggesting you look for a change in her breathing.

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

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

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

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

Tricia Thomson
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 Posted: Thu Sep 24th, 2020 03:09 pm
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I had no notice of the bucking except that I saw a hoof in my back right peripheral vision - I thought she was plunging up hill, her back was rounding maybe - breathing heavy, neck straight or I don't remember because I had to concentrate on not going over the neck to the right, and down a cliff. There were two large bucks that I recall and we stopped and stood. Right before the hill her strides were choppy, ears forward breathing possibly heavier, muscles taught. She does get choppy right before she is going up a hill or through a stream, but no buck so I don't know which time it will happen. In a stream she stops midway and paws. I'm probably just hopeless here because I could make up some stuff but I honestly don't remember and it's happened in three different situations. One day we were just walking calmly and her friend went the other path around a tree, flat ground suddenly and violently threw her head to the ground and did a fast buck, according to a friend. I will check it the next time I go out.

No that was not good - not someone I ride with often in fact I can't remember who it was. I was invited to go fox hunting in West Virginia once. I thought they banned that now.

DrDeb
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 Posted: Fri Sep 25th, 2020 07:01 am
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OK, Tricia, I agree we're not getting too far by taking the approach we have been; you really can't remember. But again I tell you: yes, of course you "had no notice" before the bucking started because you don't yet have the ability to notice those signs which all horses give before they feel that they must begin taking measures.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





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