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Annie F
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Hi everyone,
 

In a recent post someone asked what was meant by “draping reins.” Here is a link to a video Mike Schaffer put up recently—just a short bit of an ordinary ride that  demonstrates steady tempo in a fun way. I don't know if his reins are "draped" the way Dr. Deb means (maybe she can comment) but they certainly allow the horse to go out to a comfortable frame and carry an ongoing "conversation" between the two of them. 

Best,  

Annie F (p.s. turn up the sound and enjoy the music :-)

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oLqnZT3y4QA&feature=youtu.be

Last edited on Tue Jan 10th, 2012 09:48 pm by Annie F

DrDeb
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Annie, yes, Mike rides with draping reins.

Now, the student of which this question was asked -- that is, the repentant but still entirely muddled Sonoma -- never answered the question. This is because Sonoma thinks entirely in terms.

Note that I did not forget to finish the above sentence. I said Sonoma thinks entirely in terms.

Terms of which she does not know the meaning.

They are terms which we find in the FEI Handbook, and in many other books, and certainly in the popular magazines. They are just, however, terms; in other words, words. And they will remain mere words until Sonoma and all others like her get down to being able to live the things they talk ABOUT.

So, again I ask: lightness, collection, draping reins, self-carriage -- what do they MEAN?

We've discussed this several other times before in this Forum, and anyone willing to take the trouble can look up (by using the Google advanced search function) what has previously been said, can pull out quotes to further the discussion here.

Other points for those of you who take Annie's suggestion and click on the link and watch Mike ride:

(1) The horse is being re-schooled. He is a horse that I expect had previously been "doing dressage", i.e. in the manner commonly practiced, which went quite a long way towards ruining him. He therefore now for his recovery, requires to be ridden with intelligence and feel, and that is what we see Mike doing (why I recommend Mike).

(2) Note that Mike rides the horse a bit "under tempo" at all times. There is no push and no hustle. Therefore also, the horse is never pushed off his balance from back to front.

(3) Mike is quite unconcerned with whether the horse "tracks up". He is VERY concerned that the animal untrack, however, so you see him slip in a little leg-yield anytime the horse initiates a turn.

(4) Because of this, we also have the pleasure of watching a rider who can effectively cause a horse to carry itself straight.

(5) Note the clock-like rhythm: unvarying as it must be, which helps the horse find its balance, untangle its feet when making transitions from straightaway to lateral movement, and remain untroubled on the inside and focused.

(6) Note how many times Mike sharply LIFTS his hands. You never see him prying downward. You never see him prying backward, or exerting continuous backward traction on the reins. There is a bend in Mike's elbows at all moments. The sharp upward lifts occur when the horse (previously badly-schooled and wrongly-ridden as we have already noted) tries to brace its neck and dive onto the forehand, or else curl up the neck and duck behind the true feel. Mike instantly notices this when the horse tries it and takes immediate steps to induce the animal to put itself back into balance, where the reins can be draping, i.e. the feel flowing in both directions through the reins as should be.

This is exactly, by the way, how I ride and school Oliver; a little more progress with Mike's horse and he will stop dinking around trying to get out of balance, because he will have gained strength and confidence. This will occur simply by riding him in the manner that the film shows, and nothing else. And when that happens, it will be for that horse under Mike as it is for Ollie under me, that anytime Mike cares to ask for it, the horse will raise its back and neck just that little bit higher and he will then go in soft passage, which is delightful for all parties, including the onlooker, and a still more strengthening exercise. -- Dr. Deb

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I follow along with this forum almost daily.  And I am currently studying back issues of the Eclectic Horseman.  I am learning a lot.  I also practice yoga and I have an observation to add to your 'under tempo' observation.  With yoga; to strengthen your body you slow down the movement - I practice personally this way and have seen improvements in fitness.  I also apply this to my riding and have noticed huge improvements in our 'fitness' - better communication, better connection, better attitude, balance - on and on.  No other way.  So fruitless to go bombing around top speed in a blur -

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Dr. Deb – I haven’t yet watched the video. (Recently purchased Mike’s book “Right From the Start.”)

 

But I have a question that I have been pondering about posting for some time: I have it in my head that ‘draping reins’ come from the horse carrying the bit. My perception is a collective study of the Baucher translation from the Inner Horseman, the Bitting DVD and the great number of threads I have studied on this forum.

 

We start with contact – being able to feel the horse’s tongue in our hand. The horse, through education and correct muscle strength, learns to coil his loins and lift the base of his neck. In addition, he comes to carry the bit. It doesn’t just hang in his mouth, but he picks it up and carries it as a useful piece of equipment and communication.

 

As he grows into collection, the reins then drape but the ‘connection’ is still there because he is carrying the bit.

 

In a nutshell, and please, please, correct/teach me as needed, I want the horse to learn to carry his bit himself. Off base or on the right track?

DrDeb
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Off base, Evermore. What would you be expecting or wanting him to do inside his mouth in order to "carry" it? Make a wrinkle in his tongue, or purse his lips, or what?

No -- the feel of the bit is always there to the horse, and we want all parts of the mouth to be completely relaxed. The bit is always in contact with the tongue, and would be no matter what the rider did with the reins. The only time this might not be true is if the horse retracted his tongue, or else opened his mouth and ducked his head, so that the bit swung forward off the tongue and toward the palate.

What you're not getting is that draping reins is the sign of energy flow through the reins that goes both ways. Once again, to quote Bill Dorrance:

"You feel FOR your horse, you feel OF your horse, and you let your horse FEEL BACK to you." This says it all.

But so also does any image of Nuno Oliveira, or the video of Mike; at different degrees of accomplishment, which is especially valuable since most readers here are more where Mike is with that horse than where Nuno is with most of the horses that we have pictures of him on. This should save everybody from getting any idea that 'draping reins' are something that happens only after long training. No indeed, they happen for a rider who rides right, just as soon as the horse shows any sign of self-carriage. What the reins do is a side effect of how the horse carries himself, as is clearly explained in "The Eclectic Horseman" installment where I discuss this. --Dr. Deb

 

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What a great video.

I have a question about the horse's tail: in this video, the horse appears to be swishing his tail quite frequently. Since I can gather that it's fairly cool out so flies are probably not the reason, what can be deduced about the horse from looking at the activity in his tail? I was always taught that a constantly swishing tail, or an "overly-active" tail was often a sign of pain, annoyance or anxiety. Now, I don't see any other signs of those things in this horse. He looks very pleased and content, even in his tempo, ears in a V, back lifted, etc. The tail seems to be the most active when Mike is asking the horse for what looks like a leg yield down the long side. I have experienced horses swishing their tails when performing moves that are harder or require more strength....is this the case here?

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Dr. Deb. In my defense I dont think in terms. I like dressage for its pure factor and not for the entirely arificial specatator sport it has become. Which can be said pretty much of any equine sport outside of trail riding. Before ever starting my young horses I have studied entire libraries by Buck Brannaman, Ray Hunt, and Tom Dorrance. I have read countless books (and no NOT dressage books-I only have two of those, one being by Alois Podhaisky, of the spanish riding school in Vienna, and passage and piaffer, being the other one, obviously I am not working on passage or piaffe) I have read others, including books by XXX [totally fake guy] which were educational and entertaining. I have studied XXX [the biggest nobody of them all] which is more entertaining then anything else, although he does offer good points thoughout his studies. I have studied [XXX and XXX and XXX and on and on, not one of whom Dr. Deb recommends] to name a few, who I watched and learned from. I CAN tell a difference and feel the difference. But that feel can be dissected into "tiny" feels, and inch by inch feels, all that is still ahead of me. To me being with horses is about a mutual acceptance and respect and YES communication through feel. I may not understand new "terms" like draping reins vs slack vs taut in speech, but that doesnt mean I dont practice such when on the horse. Sometimes people are not eloquent in expressing their skills or lack thereof. I can admit freely that I have much to learn, and I will forever be learning. I am here to do that and I appreciate your forum so much Dr. Deb, it gives recovering horse riders an arena of knowldge and elightment in eliminating the dark corners of their training.

Last edited on Thu Jan 12th, 2012 01:42 am by DrDeb

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Thank you, Dr. Deb. I am sooo glad I asked! I am still ridding myself of the remnants of 'dressage training.'

I will watch the Bitting DVD again with new insight and the image of the bit just 'there' in a totally relaxed mouth.

 

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Dr Deb – because I have learned a great deal from your material and this forum I am going to raise my hand and ask these questions about contact.

 

When I pick up a feel of the horse’s mouth, I do so relatively slowly, inch by inch, left then right, on and on until I have a feel of the outside rein touching the horse’s tongue. I think of the outside rein as sort of elastic that the horse can fill out as he bends. The inside rein is used as needed then ‘released’ just enough so it is not equal in contact as the outside rein. Correct?

 

When I twirl the head I use one rein, then the other, releasing the opposite side a bit as I ask with the other rein. Am I ok with not always lengthening the reins as he lowers his head? At times I let him take the reins with each ‘twirl’ and stretch all the way to the ground, other times I just want him to relax into the length they are.

 

When I look at the pictures you have posted of people ‘waiting at the same pressure’ when riding their greenies, I find myself wondering if they are ‘waiting’ with just the outside rein or both reins?

 

Is a 'square feel' both reins held at the same amount of contact?

 

When dropping the reins to the buckle…does one do just that? Just release them to the buckle? Is there a way to do this, or just do it?

 

Thank you. There, got my questions asked. I will look forward to your insight and help. 

DrDeb
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Sonoma, you will discern from my editing of your post that:

(1) It is forbidden here to name most of the names you have named;

(2) I have no respect whatsoever for, and do not recommend, most of the so-called "teachers" or "authorities" you have studied. Would have been MUCH better if you had not seen anything of any one of them, but, there it is -- too late once again.

(3) You need to be quiet now, Sonoma, and give up your mere prattling, as I keep telling you that you know nothing, and everything you post only makes that more obvious. You've been in all the wrong places, and that does help account for much of your near-fatal muddlement. But if you will now just give up trying to "explain yourself" or "defend yourself" -- it isn't worth it because it isn't possible -- and instead go and do what you have been told. You need to begin with Lesson One, which is to start understanding Birdie and Untracking. Do not come back here again with another post until you have studied the required material, and then you may post with whatever questions about THAT AND ONLY THAT which you may have at that time.

Evermore -- As to your queries:

(1) Just pick up the feel like you would take someone's hand.

(2) It is OK to not always lengthen the reins when you have twirled and the horse seems to want to stretch. Indeed you must take care that, through your releases being a bit too fast or a bit too early, that you do not to teach him to 'snatch' or lean. So you lengthen only when he is soft, but even when he is soft, sometimes you'll have a little modification on it and ask him to turn or stop or make a down or an up transition instead, doing that while he is soft. Remember: the whole, entire purpose for twirling the head is to provoke release, i.e. in other words to help obtain softness, and it is in softness that we make all transitions. So this is what you would be schooling on or clarifying to the animal, that he CAN up the energy or bend the energy without stiffening any muscle anywhere, and that he CAN (eventually) maintain ideal balance through any maneuver.

(3) You never offer a horse a square feel, i.e. the same feel with both hands at the same time. Each hand ALWAYS, at all moments, has its own unique job; which is because the hands are connected directly to the feet of the same side, and unless the horse is in one of a very few positions or moments when the feet are square (such as at a halt, or setting for a jump), the hands are not square either. Plus, not only are the feet not usually square, sometimes the hands have something to SAY, above and beyond or different than what the flow has been up to that time; and then they must move, at least the fingers close or open, if not the whole arm move out or in or forward or back from its pin-hinge at your shoulder joint.

(4) Review the head twirling article in "Eclectic Horseman" for what Ray Hunt said about the square feel, and the relationship between twirling and softness.

(5) Dropping to the buckle: well, don't surprise the horse if he's out of balance, so that he falls over to one side or down onto his knees all of a sudden. Drop to the buckle normally happens at the end of a rein-back -- it's fairly fast, but not faster than than making sure you have allowed the horse to commit to the last movement in that particular rein-back, i.e. to tell you that he's going to move that last hind foot. You can also do up transitions on the buckle, which is a good thing to throw in every once in a while, especially if you ride 'English' or else are schooling a 'Western' horse in the snaffle or are riding on bosal/sidepull; and especially from walk to canter.

Hope this clarifies -- sounds like you're doing some nice work, Evermore. -- Dr. Deb

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Jamsession -- Yes, the horse swishes his tail, and swishing the tail is certainly a sign of irritation.

Now, what could possibly be irritating this horse?

Could it be that Mike is telling him through the mutual feel that the horse can no longer run the show (which many horses are quite used to doing)?

Could it be that Mike is also telling him that he must not fall on his forehand every time he takes a forward step (which is why, on the physical level, the animal is being re-schooled)?

Could it also be that every time the animal does fall forward, Mike aborts it by sharply lifting his hands? In short: the animal is not being allowed to take over, the animal is not being allowed to move in wrong balance. And this is DAMNED irritating to the animal, I am sure.

The kind of tail-swish matters altogether. There is a kind that is jerky and continual, which signals that it is the rider that is making the mistakes. We could also find that out by looking at what the rider might be doing. There is also the kind that we see in Mike's video: the tail swishes in response to what Mike does, it swishes once at that time, and then it's quiet again until the animal once again tries to take over or else falls back into its old habit of trying to move by first falling forward, bracing its neck, leaning on the rider's hands, and thereby trying to push the bit out of the way. Under these circumstances, I'm happy to see a swishing tail, just as I am happy to see a tantrumy four year old cry after he gets a sharp smack on the bottom. -- Dr. Deb

 

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Ah, OK. So, as with many things I'm finding, the horse often times, when being reschooled or beginning to be brought to a place where has to learn to work in conjunction with the rider rather than against him, as so many do, will insert his own opinions in the form of things like swishing of the tail etc?

I have a question pertaining to this very topic, reschooling and horse reactions: I got on my mare today for the first time in over a month, as I felt prepared to do so after spending a lot of time on my own, with my counselor, and doing some groundwork with her to begin to convince her to place trust in me. One of the issues I've always had is teaching her how to direct the abundance of energy she possess. I have previously lunged her before I got on the let her get some bucks out, but I don't think this is terribly productive anymore. It shows me that when we go in the arena, she has no interest in paying attention to me, only in running around at a mad dash and bucking...

So today I didn't let her buck or run. When she bolted I had her come back to the walk. When she demonstrated that she was fairly calm, I got on. Another horse entered the arena, and the opening of the door was enough of an invitation to her to bolt and try and run off. She reared, then bucked, and it was enough to unseat me. I caught her and got back on, and after a few minutes she tried again.

I was quiet and I didn't have any expectations when I went into the arena: only to create an atmosphere where she felt comfortable and could start to settle. She did after she dumped me and then tried again, when I believe she realized that I was staying up there, and that she may want to listen to what I have to say. All I was doing for the duration of the ride was asking for her attention, watching her ears and her inside eye, asking for light bend and asking her to step over with her inside leg (which is when I realized she really has no idea how to do this...something I will need to work on). We ended our ride with many deep sighs, chewing and the kind of headshaking you'd see from a horse who just got up from a nice roll in the dirt.

I'm assuming this response, based on your answer about Mike's horse's tail, is a similar response in which my mare is saying to me "I don't feel comfortable, I want to do it my way"...and in the end, she understood and chose to listen. Is this on the right path?

DrDeb
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Jam, if your schooling sessions or time with your horse are often as you describe here, I wouldn't trust you, either.

What are you THINKING of in trying to ride a horse that might by any stretch either bolt, or buck, or rear?

Our elderly teacher used to say: "Do you see that little kink in the horse's tail? That little kink in the tail tells me to keep my feet -- on the ground."

You are correct in thinking that you have been working in the wrong direction. By what you describe, you have indeed been doing nothing but teaching the horse to buck, run, and rear.

I have a little secret to tell you, Jam; it's a quote from one of my favorite authors, C.S. Lewis, and if you share it with your counsellor I'll bet the two of you will share a good laugh over it.

Lewis says: "Anyone who complains that they don't have any friends, and who sets out to 'find some friends', will never find any. But someone who dispassionately and wholeheartedly devotes himself to excellence in any area of life, will soon find others with the same interest, and it is from this that true friendship grows. We picture friends as people with faces in parallel, both looking forward to something of mutual interest."

The exact same thing can be said about "working to get the horse to trust you." So long as this is your objective, you will never have any horse that trusts you.

Plus, you're also as I mentioned at the top, going to have to change everything that you do during your session with this horse or any horse.

You need a good long run through the Birdie Book, I think Jam; especially the parts about the FIRST step being to get the horse to focus on you because it wants to be with you more than it wants to be anywhere else. This is the first requirement not only for training but even for safety. As soon as the horse wants to be with you more than it wants to be anywhere else, why then, it will stop running off.

I want you to think hard about this, Jam: it has been more than thirty years since I was bucked off or unseated from any horse. True, I can sit; but it isn't mainly because I can sit a hard shy that I haven't been unseated. It's mainly because first, I don't get on horses that still have any type of kink in their tail, and second because, once I do get on, I've certainly got a plan to help the horse return immediately to a state of OK-ness should he begin to spiral out of control.

A basic problem with riders who keep getting dumped is that they do not read the horse well enough to know what a horse is going to do before he does it. You need to get so that you can see, feel, and sense the 'build-up' that ALWAYS precedes a bolt, a shy, a rear, or a spate of bucking. Then when you can do that (and not before you can do it), you can step in and abort the bad situation before it ever manifests. Let's hear next post from you that you've gotten a Birdie Book and are studying it. -- Dr. Deb

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Dr. Deb, thank you so much for your answer to my questions on the reins. As always, I come away with a deeper understanding, clarity and homework! I should put homework first because, as I have found, it’s a cycle of reading then implementing and improving, then reading again with more understanding, doing a bit better, ad infinitum.

 

Jam, if I might add my personal thoughts, read again and again what Dr. Deb wrote about ‘making’ the horse do something. I wrote in under the Eye Dominance thread about one of my guys who would not turn his eyes to me. What I learned in that thread about the horse has changed so much in how I handle my horses. It wasn’t the horse that had to change; it was me.

 

This horse that wouldn’t even acknowledge me with his focus now comes to me in the pasture. I think I am no longer lower than a pile of poop!

 

 

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Thank you Dr. Deb and Evermore. I guess sometimes it takes a kick in the butt (literally...my tailbone is pretty sore) to make something apparent.

I will be purchasing the Birdie Book asap. And as a side note, I chuckled as soon as I read the C.S Lewis quote...it rings so many bells.

Dr. Deb, if I may, would the best thing to do at this point be to start reading and un-learning what I think I know, and leave my mare alone? I am in a co-op barn situation so I am responsible for all my own chores and horse care. It's impossible for me not to see my mare on a daily basis, but I am correct in thinking that, for the time being, I should leave her alone in terms of asking anything from her other than to stand every once in a while and enjoy a grooming?

I will write back once I have had a long sit with the Birdie Book.

DrDeb
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Yes, Jam, that's exactly what I would do: lots of petting and grooming. Let us know what you think about the BB. Cheers, and best wishes -- Dr. Deb

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Excellent, thank you so much. The Birdie Book has been ordered! I can't wait to start reading.

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OK, Dr. Deb, I received the Birdie Book earlier this week (although I have been at school and haven't had a chance to look at it until this afternoon).

I started with chapter 7. I have definitely realized that I had no idea what my horse was saying to me, that I was punishing her for being curious as I interpreted it as pushing boundaries.

My first question: in working with my mare in the context of the last couple weeks (just grooming, during which I have discovered she's perfectly content to stand, for the most part, while ground-tied and much prefers this to the cross-ties...) I have noticed that when free, when I go to stroke her neck or pat her, she always turns her head away towards the opposite direction.

According to your description and a plate of pictures of Harry Whitney with a young colt, this response is based in fear: maybe not wide-eyed, snorting fear, but a concern that she is not able to be 100% OK with me, so she feels the need to look around her. She is aware of my presence, but is not focused. Is this correct?

I think I need to start here, before I do anything else. I need to, as you have said, "work" by not "working", towards the point where she is 100% OK with me, that she can place confidence in me and know that I will take her feelings and fears into consideration. I think I still have concerns over my ability to properly read my mare. Indeed, you said it in the Birdie Book, that the biggest challenge for a horseperson is being able to direct your horse's attention back to you BEFORE he "teeters", or his birdie flies somewhere else. In this light, where do I begin?

Last edited on Sat Jan 21st, 2012 10:15 pm by Jamsession

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By backing off.

Anytime when approaching a horse, and you see the horse turn away so that it is looking at some point in the distance, or so that you think or actually see it start to move so that it begins to step away, you need to stop in your tracks, and cease in any manner, with any part of your body, to come any closer to the horse.

You stop softly and not abruptly. Then you softly turn 90 degrees to the side and take a few steps in that direction, and stop. When you then stop, you may look softly at the horse, or you may look elsewhere.

When you stop pushing into the horse, the horse will stop leaving --usually. However, if it goes ahead and leaves anyway, you still do what I've said, turn aside and wait a little while.

Then after a little while, if it has left and gone off to the water tank, then you can once again walk up to the horse while it is at the water tank. You come in from the side or, preferably, three-quarters from the front, so that you slice in toward her shoulder. You can keep coming at a quiet (but not sneaky and not tentative) walk just so long as the horse keeps standing there and gives no indication, not even that it turns its head or neck away, that it would like to leave.

And you come also with the EXPECTATION that the animal will continue to stand there. You are projecting to her that standing there and waiting for you is what you expect of her, it's what her job is to do.

So, you see, Jam, the reason your horse is leaving is that you are causing her to leave. You don't need to psychoanalyze it beyond that. We don't really care what else the mare might think of doing.

In Ray Hunt's "Turning Loose" video there is a great little sequence where he's got this very hard to catch horse, and after some rather strenuous roundpenning, finally the horse has figured out that it is best to stand there and wait for Ray to approach. So it faces in and Ray approaches. Ray gets about "so close" to the horse, and you see its eyes turn off to the right, and Ray says into the mike, "You see, she just doesn't know. So if I want her to leave, why then I'd just keep on coming....But I don't want her to leave, so I'll just wait. She'll come in a minute. You see, her mind, it's tipped off to the right there. Let's see if we can get it here in the middle [Ray raises his right hand like it was an axe and puts it right in front of the middle of his own forehead, but aimed at hers]. There, you see (he says) if we can just get it in the center, then she'll be able to come."

Now, Jam, this is world-master-level work, but you can understand it. I see a teenaged girl at my own barn make the same mistake you are making just the other day, while she is trying to go in one of the pens and get her gelding caught. She gets about so close, and the gelding tips his mind off to the right, turns his neck to the right, and then steps off half-turning to the right, and she just keeps on coming. She does not see, but you've got the BB and you're willing to read it and study it and so I have every hope that you WILL be able to see. -- Dr. Deb

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So, to clarify, when approaching her I am not to do anything to call her attention? I am only to approach, stop if she even looks like she may choose to leave, and then continue forward if she does what I am expecting, which is to stay put and focused on me?

When I am grooming her, and I notice her birdie has flown off somewhere in the distance, is it then appropriate to call her attention back to me, to reaffirm the expectation that I am here and now, and so she should be too?

DrDeb
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Yes, but you don't do too much; less than you probably think; just a movement of one hand; and not in a direction toward her. See how little it might take to call her attention; and see how early you can do it, almost pre-emptively. The earlier you are, the smaller you can be. Soon it will look to outsiders, and even to yourself, like you really aren't doing anything, and yet the mare will stay with you all the time. -- Dr. Deb

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OK. I have noticed my mare will immediately acknowledge my presence and hold me in her regard for a few seconds upon me entering her stall or paddock. After a few seconds she will usually turn her head and thus attention back to wherever it was before. By making small movements I can get her attention back, and she will hold it momentarily and then turn away again. She doesn't walk off, she just turns her head, and sometimes not even her head. Sometimes it's just her ears, or just her eyes. I believe I have taught her NOT to focus on me in previous "teachings", so I anticipate that the purpose of focusing her in this way is to gradually extend her ability to focus on just me and peak her curiosity in what I want to teach her.

I am reading chapter 4, and at one point you discuss the puzzle as an excellent, but limited, analogy for how we teach the horse and how he needs to learn what we are asking for. We can see the larger picture because we have the puzzle box's top, so we know the eventual outcome. But the horse does not, and so he may need several tries before he can fit the "pieces" together. I think I need help understanding the "pieces" aspect: are the pieces put together in a logical manner, i.e. in presenting the puzzle to the horse, do we start with piece #1, then move to piece #2, then to 3, and so on? Is there even such an order? I imagine piece #1 is calling the horse's attention. After that, does it matter the "order" in which we put together our puzzle so long as it makes sense to the horse?

I feel a little overwhelmed: all of this is relatively new but perfectly understandable thinking to me. I'm feeling a whole lot of emotions that I knew would surface at some point and I am both terrified and tremendously excited at the same time. As someone who typically likes lists and like the step-by-step approach, the idea of experimenting and going off the beaten path to achieve the same result is a little intimidating to me. For example, I am struggling to decide, do I bring my mare right up to the round pen and begin to ask for her birdie? Do I begin in the barn aisle where I know she can already focus and is more comfortable, do I walk up the driveway toward the round pen and stop when I feel her start to leave? I can see quieting my brain long enough to be fully present is going to be challenging!

Jamsession
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I believe I have answered one of my questions...or rather, my mare has answered it for me.

It is clear that she is not 100% OK in the grooming area, cross-tied or ground-tied. So I suppose this means I should take it one step further back, and begin in her stall.

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A friend of mine, a long-time horsewoman, is having similar problems with her horse.  She is able to go through the exact thought process you have just described, come up with the same answers to the same questions, but unlike you, has not been able to come up with an idea to fix it.  

The differences I see between your two situations is that she's uncomfortable with admitting that the rut that is supposed to work is in fact not working, she is uncomfortable facing her inner self and all the inner devils we've been talking about, and she doesn't listen to her horse at all.  If the mare isn't actively bucking someone off, she isn't being heard. 

I don't mean to sound judgemental, but having spent a lot of time on the phone with her this weekend, the similarities are fresh in my mind.   My friend wasn't asking for my help, and I wasn't able to help her, though I tried.

Val

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No, Val, you hardly sound judgmental. I have learned more about myself and my horse in the past few weeks to couple months than I think I have in years of "formal" education. I'll be graduating college this May and I feel as though I have only just started learning about who I am and what I'm capable of. Such is life, right? I am fortunate enough to have finally gotten to a place in my life where I recognize and WANT to relearn how to have authentic relationships, whether those be with people or horses. Many people never get to such a place, and so for this I am lucky.

DrDeb
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Jam, let me ask you this: would you want to be around your horse, or any horse, even though they were not paying attention to you in the sense of not being alert to your possibly being about to make a suggestion to them or to give them a direction?

When would be a time that you would want to be physically near an animal that outweighs you by half an order of magnitude, and have that animal not prioritizing your desires higher than its own? --Dr. Deb

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Jam,

Tom Dorrance said, "The last thing you learn was the first thing you needed to know."

If one is of a curious, seeking, open mind, then that person will be edging towards that "last thing they needed to know."

When a person at last embraces that this knowledge cannot be forced or hurried but is a process, when they turn loose themselves, then the journey becomes not a task but an enjoyment.

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No, Dr. Deb, I would not.

A time where I or anyone may want to be is if they are not in this journey for the horse's benefit. They are in it for themselves. They want to appear to look good, to look accomplished, to still get "somewhere". They have ambitions that they refuse to let go of.

Would you please elaborate on what you were getting at? Although, I think I may have understood based on my answer to your second question.

DrDeb
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Jam, instead of "going back" to the stall -- which is not really going back at all, but just going somewhere else -- what I'm saying is that the stall could only be a place you go back to if you were thinking "I have to get the horse out of the stall, tack it up, and then take it for a ride." How about letting go of whether or not you ever got to go for a ride?

Instead, I suggest you take the horse to a small paddock or an arena when nobody else is around there, and let the horse loose in this enclosure. Bring your grooming equipment with you in a bucket or carrier. Let the horse loose, and while it is dead loose, then you set your bucket down near the gate.

And while the horse moseys around there, maybe picking at some grass or something near the edge, then you take your first brush out of the bucket and you walk over to the horse while it is completely loose, and you begin brushing it.

And it will either stand there, or it will walk off. If it goes to leave, don't make any attempt to stop it. Just wait for it to stop by itself, and then walk up to it again and brush it some more. And you keep doing this until you're done with your first brush.

Then you go back to the bucket and change to the second brush, or the hoof pick, or the mane and tail comb, and you do the same thing: go up to the horse and groom it while it stands there. When and if it leaves, you don't pursue it, but you just catch up to it again and begin again. And you do this until it is time to put the saddle on.

Then you go get the saddle and the pad and bridle, and you hang them on the fence. And you go pick up your blanket then, and walk over to the horse with it and put it on. Then you turn away, the horse still being dead loose, and walk back and get your saddle. If the horse moves meanwhile and spills the blanket off, go pick up the blanket and shake it out and go put it back on the horse, no hurry, no fuss, no muss. Then pick your saddle up out of the sand and go put that on, too.

When you get to where the blanket is on and the saddle is on, and it's time to girth up, be sure you pull the girth up enough so if the horse takes off, it won't turn underneath. This means you need to snug it up, but probably not enough to actually ride.

Then you go get the bridle and walk up to the horse and you put the bridle on. Put the reins on over the neck first, and then put your right hand up between the ears and hand the crownpiece up. Do not stuff the bridle onto the face with your left hand -- that is a piss poor way to bridle and nobody should ever do it, even if their horse is very tall and they are very short. You always lift the bridle with your right hand, with your fingers placed between the ears, the heel of the hand resting upon the horse's poll.

So you groom, saddle, and bridle the horse entirely at liberty. The first time you do this, it will probably cost you a half-hour more than what you could have done it if you had followed your set routine. The next time, it will cost you five extra minutes, and after that, you won't want to do it any other way. Sometimes in the future you will have to have her tied up to groom and tack her, because you can't always guarantee a half-hour where you can have the pen or the arena all to yourself; so you watch for your time.

Through all of this, you will take care of your own safety. When approaching any horse that is entirely loose, you need to make sure that you always position yourself so that there is no possibility that the horse could whirl around and get you in its sights and kick you in the chest. Nor either that it could cow-kick you. Neither will you be training the horse to kick, which is very efficiently done by when the horse turns away to leave, you step rapidly backwards.

When the horse goes to leave, if it leaves by turning away, then if there is room between the horse and the fence, you step forward not back, and put your hand that is the closest to the horse's head under its neck, cradling the neck around the windpipe just above the breast. You do this very gently, and you do not use this as a way to try to hold the horse in place. You just touch them there. If you do it early, the horse will probably stop leaving. But if it leaves anyway, try to have that happen while you are slowly stepping toward the horse, or else just stand still, or else step back slowly but not rapidly -- depending upon circumstances -- but you don't invite that kick by falling back rapidly.

You will also entirely dispense, forever from this day forth, with cross-ties. They are both coercive and dangerous, so you won't be using those any more. When you do tie your horse, it will be to a secure tie-rack or hanging loop where the knot of the rope sets not lower than the height of your own breast or the height of the middle of the horse's neck. If there is no safe tie at your farm, you must speak to management about creating one. -- Dr. Deb

 

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Thank you, Dr. Deb. I will have a go at this today and report back with questions, of which I'm sure they'll be at least one. I haven't actually been trying to take my mare for a ride since she dumped me, it's only been grooming, but it's probably just as well since I've been approaching it improperly.

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OK, so I did this with my mare today, and I have to say it was a good bit of fun. I  found a much calmer and much more willing and curious horse than I have had before, and in a way that worked very well with what I was getting at. She was certainly uninterested at first: she would run off bucking and playing whenever I began to approach, but after a few minutes she stopped moving, I approached her and began to brush and from that point she barely moved a foot. And when she began to think about leaving, I was able to catch it and do as you said with my hand under her neck, and she stopped.

I will continue to do this with her. We have a covered roundpen on the farm that will suit quite nicely for this.

My next question: what shall I do to continue to build off in this? I would imagine that within a few days of this exercise, she will have come to understand that she is expected to stand still and wait until she is invited by me to move somewhere. Today I did not work with the saddle or bridle (I am in the process of finding her a more suitable bit). Should I perhaps incorporate those next, but not get on? Do I then from start to finish, with the end result being me mounting her, sitting for a minute, patting her and then dismounting?

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I tried the grooming at liberty exercise last summer in my horses pasture. I used an assortment of rubber currycombs. The one my mare liked best was a yellow one shaped like the sole of a persons foot minus the toes. She did not walk away from it. It was my softest rubber curry. I will try this exercise again to see which brush she likes the best. Her coat is pretty wooly, maybe she will stand stock still for them all. I am in Mi,we haven't had our ground freeze up yet. Only a few days of freezing temps-I've been walking around in mud most of the season so far.

DrDeb
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Jam, this is not an "exercise". It's not the kind of thing that we do a few times with the objective of fixing up something that we perceive to be wrong or undesirable about the horse, and then quit doing when we think we've got it all patched up.

Instead, it is how we live with the horse -- today, tomorrow, forever.

So you don't have any objective such as you have been thinking of, where it is first we do this today and then we do that tomorrow. Remember? You've given up all ambition to ever go for a ride on this horse. When a person truly does that, then there's no telling what they will actually eventually achieve. UNTIL the person truly does that, they will achieve nearly nothing and get themselves hurt to boot.

The most important parts of your reports are:

(1) You had the sense and the awareness to position yourself so that when the mare "seriously" started to leave, you were well out of kicking range and were not in a position that she might run into you or run over you.

(2) Unlike Darling Lil, you worked with your horse in a safe place to begin with. An arena or roundpen is good. An open field is suicide, because it gives the animal FAR too many temptations in the distance and too much room to move -- THE FENCE IS THE BIT.

(3) You had a good bit of fun and enjoyment with it, and so did your horse, once the animal realized what you wanted, which is to say, you wanted nothing that the animal itself did not also want.

So now what you do is you expand on the grooming session until you can saddle up and girth up. If your mare has a tendency to take off bucking -- which is what you are reporting -- then you will want to be quietly professional about the girthing -- step in there, tell her what you intend to do, and then pull the girth up in one smooth pull to a snugness that will prevent the saddle from turning. If you feel her tense up while you're girthing, then quietly drop the girth and remove the saddle, set it on the ground beside you, and go back to scratching her and/or grooming her while conveying that you expect her to stand still. It is NOT acceptable at any time for her to take off bucking, and so by doing this you are discouraging that reaction. You get her stopped and involved in being groomed before the idea of taking off bucking can take hold of her mind. If you have taught her, by being in the wrong school previously, to do this very thing, now is the time to get that part erased. By our new rules, she can take off bucking anytime she likes, so long as it is when you are not around.

If she tenses up while girthing, after you get the saddle off, then you go get the halter, and ask her to untrack a few times both directions. What this does is give her a very strong inducement to relax and let down. It also reminds her that the one who is controlling her hindquarters, which are both her means of propulsion and her strongest weapons, is to be you not her.

Then go back and get your pad and your saddle and put them on her while you have the halter on her. The lead rope should be over the crook of your left elbow. Put the saddle on quietly, reach quickly but quietly underneath and get the girth, thread it, and smoothly pull it up. If you feel her tense up, then while maintaining the same tension on the girth -- either by holding the latigo or if it is an English rig then by latching one buckle -- then while maintaining it at the same pressure, step in there and ask for one or two untracking steps. Do one or two steps at a time until she'll finally breathe out in a big sigh and loosen up. When she loosens up, you immediately take the saddle off. You are teaching her, by doing this, that when she loosens up the saddle will also loosen up.

Notice how this is the opposite of the person having a determination to go for a ride, rather than not caring whether they ever get to go for a ride.

I have suspected that one of the problems you have, at root, is that this horse is not really broke, so Jam, if you don't feel like you can perform all these things safely, then I want you to just go as far as you have with grooming but no farther, and take the horse and yourself to see Harry or Buck, Joe or Josh or Tom Curtin, who are highly expert in working through this and also with working with owners who are having this particular difficulty. -- Dr. Deb

 

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The only time she takes off running/bucking (which she did not today) is when I first set her loose. Before now, I have allowed her to do so (which was my mistake) to "get some energy out" before I got on her. I started to understand a while ago that this was seriously counterproductive because every time we went in the arena, the roundpen, etc., she assumed it was for her to run and would balk or pull back in anticipation, and her focus was certainly not on me. I have now gotten her to the point where she will at least wait until I let her go, but I do not let her loose anymore with the intention of encouraging her to run. That was my mistake.

Today, she was much quieter. There were some scary ice crunching noises from cars in the parking lot that she did some running around to, but she did not bolt away from me today when I let her loose. Instead, she walked off, head low and nose in the dirt.

I don't think that she would take off bucking while I am grooming or tacking up. Her demeanor the past two days has been what I would consider calm alertness. She looks at things, she may check stuff out, but a hind leg remains cocked and I can tell based on what I have learned from studying the Birdie Book pictures that she is tuned in but taking liberty to survey her surroundings, which she has the absolute right to do. She thinks about leaving occasionally, but it seems to come more from a place of "OK, I'm done with this now" than any sort of panic or fear. She is certainly not dead broke, not even close, but she has proven to me that when I get it right she's more than willing to listen and take heed. However, if at any point I feel otherwise, I will look into seeking further help as you suggested.

I will proceed when I sense she's ready to the saddle. I think I've all but completely eliminated the goal of riding or doing anything mounted: sometimes the desire still rears its head, but I'm learning and I have to say the past few days have been much less pressure-filled and FAR more enjoyable.

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Jam, how long have you had your mare? I bought a mare after having a gelding. She rode well in her original home but was mighty scared by her change in home. She scared me too, all snorty and jumpy! Took a while before all parties felt comfortable. I still have my gelding who is now 24, spunky as ever. Thank you Dr Deb for the information on older horses. I am now well prepared to keep an eye on his digestion and what to do if he colics badly and I have to let him go. I'm sorry you lost your gelding Jam. I discovered this forum Dec 2010 and have been enjoying it all, printed off the required reading and am on my 3rd reading. Soon as I am back to work I will be getting a membership here. Odd thing is I named my filly Birdy! She is the granddaughter of the above mare and is 2 this year. Keep it up everyone! This is a great learning experience.

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OK, Dr. Deb. I was unable to work with my mare for a few days since I got into a car accident last week. No damage to me, the car is another story, but I began with her again yesterday doing the same routine.

She began by running away and bucking when I released her: no surprise, since I have taught her that when I let her go it's for this purpose. Apparently it's more ingrained than I thought.

Today, however, when she tried to pull away, I stood fast and asked her to move her haunches over by stepping over slightly and tapping her hip with my fingers. I asked this a few times until she stepped over by my just holding my hand up towards her haunches, waited a moment, and then un-clipped the leadrope. She walked off instead of running off. I remember you saying in another thread once that the act of moving the horse's haunches tells the horse "I am in control of these, not you."

My question is about what I witnessed her doing once she was free to roam. I'm hoping you can help me decipher it.

She seems to have a routine: if she walks away quietly, she'll meander around with her nose in the dirt, sniffing at things occasionally, but never truly stopping. Eventually her pace will slow, she'll come to a stop, look around curiously, and then I'll approach her and start grooming. She generally does not move from where she stopped when this happens.

Today, she walked away calmly and began her routine of nose in the dirt, stopped eventually after a couple minutes, and I walked up to start grooming, but after a minute there was someone on a tractor nearby pushing up the manure pile, and when she heard the sputtering of the tractor coming closer she took off bucking and squealing. She did not attempt to strike at me, nor did she kick anywhere near my person. Rather, she walked off (albeit quickly) and then took off bucking and running.

As she ran around, she stayed going one directly in a fairly close 15 meter circle around me. I stayed still and watched; she continued to canter around, throwing a few good bucks in, but she didn't seem particularly upset or afraid. Rather, it seemed like a game. She was grunting and sometimes would throw in a squeal or two, toss her head around, etc. She stayed near me but did not aim any kick, etc. in my direction. She could have roamed anywhere in the roundpen, but she didn't. When she finally slowed to a trot, there was a quite a bit of blowing through her nostrils (head low, as if she were clearing them, not blowing in fear), and eventually the trot became a walk, with more blowing, more head shaking (like a dog would shake after a bath) and lots and lots of licking and chewing. I saw more licking and chewing today from her than I've seen in a while. It happened at all the down transitions she made after she spooked and happened often during her time running around. Her walk eventually got more languid and she stopped near the roundpen gate. I resumed my grooming.

Can you help me decipher this? I have some guesses, but I'm very curious to know what this says to you.

DrDeb
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Jam, sorry I haven't been able to get back to you for a day or two....travelling to KU for more research, and I'm grabbing five seconds here between taking microphotographs in order to make you a brief reply -- which is a question, as usual.

Tell me please, what does it mean to you when a horse shakes its head like a dog would shake? What does this gesture mean in 'horse language'?

Meanwhile until you make an answer to this or we work it out, I would advise you to be quite cautious around this mare's hindquarters. DO NOT permit her to aim her haunches toward you, and if you're in the pen with her loose, watch yourself so that you are never in a position to be kicked, struck, or bitten. -- Dr. Deb

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Well, when I have seen horses shake their heads or their bodies, as many do when they get up from a good roll or perhaps a bath, to mean it's a sign of relaxation, a way to relieve or let out stress, akin to a sigh, I suppose. With my mare it is almost always accompanied by a few licks and chews after she's had a good buck in the round pen, as if to say, "Ahh, that's better"

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Jam, what you describe MAY be what's going on. However, most usually, when a horse is shaking its head WHILE it is moving around, and especially if the head-shake is accompanied by bucking or kicking as you have just described, the correct interpretation is that the horse is saying "why don't you take a swift trip to the hot place," or "screw you."

It is, in short, a strong sign of resentment and is usually a warning of, and precursor to, an imminent attack by the horse toward whatever it perceives as an antagonist, i.e. most probably toward you.

Hence my reiterated warnings to you to be careful. I am not at all convinced that in this case, or at any time, you really read your horse correctly; and I further think that this is one of the root-causes of the problems you have had trusting the animal and the situation. Your head (which is off-base) is telling you one thing; your guts (which are hardly ever wrong in any person) are telling you another.

Lip-smacking and chewing is not always a sign of relaxation and good feelings within the horse. In some horses all the time, and in all horses under some circumstances, lip-smacking betokens worry and anxiety. In achieving a correct interpretation, everything depends upon reading the more subtle aspects of the expression, which, I can tell you, are not at all easy to capture in a photograph. This is why I have not asked you to try to photograph all the events you have been describing -- the very attempt to get the photo will disturb the genuineness of the animal's action enough that the photo becomes useless.

So, you are going to have to decide; and you are going to have to learn how to read a horse's expression by looking at photographs that were taken "as if by chance" and which are correctly interpreted, i.e., in the Birdie Book, which contains over 500 of them, including the head-shaking/aggressive expression. You must at this stage go and look at those photos, and then compare those to what your animal is doing, and then report back with how it seems to you. -- Dr. Deb

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Jam, what you describe MAY be what's going on. However, most usually, when a horse is shaking its head WHILE it is moving around, and especially if the head-shake is accompanied by bucking or kicking as you have just described, the correct interpretation is that the horse is saying "why don't you take a swift trip to the hot place," or "screw you."

It is, in short, a strong sign of resentment and is usually a warning of, and precursor to, an imminent attack by the horse toward whatever it perceives as an antagonist, i.e. most probably toward you.

Hence my reiterated warnings to you to be careful. I am not at all convinced that in this case, or at any time, you really read your horse correctly; and I further think that this is one of the root-causes of the problems you have had trusting the animal and the situation. Your head (which is off-base) is telling you one thing; your guts (which are hardly ever wrong in any person) are telling you another.

Lip-smacking and chewing is not always a sign of relaxation and good feelings within the horse. In some horses all the time, and in all horses under some circumstances, lip-smacking betokens worry and anxiety. In achieving a correct interpretation, everything depends upon reading the more subtle aspects of the expression, which, I can tell you, are not at all easy to capture in a photograph. This is why I have not asked you to try to photograph all the events you have been describing -- the very attempt to get the photo will disturb the genuineness of the animal's action enough that the photo becomes useless.

So, you are going to have to decide; and you are going to have to learn how to read a horse's expression by looking at photographs that were taken "as if by chance" and which are correctly interpreted, i.e., in the Birdie Book, which contains over 500 of them, including the head-shaking/aggressive expression. You must at this stage go and look at those photos, and then compare those to what your animal is doing, and then report back with how it seems to you. -- Dr. Deb

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Jam, what you describe MAY be what's going on. However, most usually, when a horse is shaking its head WHILE it is moving around, and especially if the head-shake is accompanied by bucking or kicking as you have just described, the correct interpretation is that the horse is saying "why don't you take a swift trip to the hot place," or "screw you."

It is, in short, a strong sign of resentment and is usually a warning of, and precursor to, an imminent attack by the horse toward whatever it perceives as an antagonist, i.e. most probably toward you.

Hence my reiterated warnings to you to be careful. I am not at all convinced that in this case, or at any time, you really read your horse correctly; and I further think that this is one of the root-causes of the problems you have had trusting the animal and the situation. Your head (which is off-base) is telling you one thing; your guts (which are hardly ever wrong in any person) are telling you another.

Lip-smacking and chewing is not always a sign of relaxation and good feelings within the horse. In some horses all the time, and in all horses under some circumstances, lip-smacking betokens worry and anxiety. In achieving a correct interpretation, everything depends upon reading the more subtle aspects of the expression, which, I can tell you, are not at all easy to capture in a photograph. This is why I have not asked you to try to photograph all the events you have been describing -- the very attempt to get the photo will disturb the genuineness of the animal's action enough that the photo becomes useless.

So, you are going to have to decide; and you are going to have to learn how to read a horse's expression by looking at photographs that were taken "as if by chance" and which are correctly interpreted, i.e., in the Birdie Book, which contains over 500 of them, including the head-shaking/aggressive expression. You must at this stage go and look at those photos, and then compare those to what your animal is doing, and then report back with how it seems to you. -- Dr. Deb

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OK, I have taken another look. The biggest thing I think I have difficulty with is seeing conflicting signs: licking and chewing is always something I've associated with the positive. For example, the photos of the palamino-looking mare who had a history of attacking people: she was being called to the drum at liberty, and the first photo showed her in a very troubled state, captioned as her thinking of attacking. Then there is another photo which shows her settling and becoming 100% OK. This is by far the hardest for me to understand. The first photo took me a while to get, and I'm still not sure I do. The look in the mare's eye is certainly troubling: it just says resentful. The second photo is still hard for me to see clearly. Her eyes look bigger, less clouded, and her head is raised instead of lowered and threatening. But other than that I have trouble reading her.

So, with this information, and looking at the photos again, it appears my mare has been showing me very FEW signs of true relaxation, trust and interest. With that said, I've heard many a good trainer say that "if a horse doesn't kick you, he didn't mean to kick you"...my mare has never attempted to kick me, and I certainly don't want to appear naive and think she won't at some point if I don't change something. I have been ignoring a not-so-good feeling in the pit of my stomach because I'm not confident in my ability to read her.

Edit: I came back because this hit me like a lightning bolt as I got up to leave the computer. I would describe what my mare is doing as sincerely annoyed, frustrated and irritated. She has little interest in me. I remembered Buck's words in the documentary on him: "the horse is the mirror to our souls; sometimes we don't like what we see, sometimes we do." I have a feeling my mare is giving me a long, hard look at what's going on in me: a lot of frustration, a lot of irritation and a lot of turmoil...

Last edited on Sun Feb 5th, 2012 01:41 pm by Jamsession

DrDeb
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Jam, the palomino mare on the drum is a decent example but I agree she is harder to read in the second photo than some others presented in the BB. Go instead and find the photos of the buckskin mare -- there's a whole sequence of them, taken at about one-year intervals from the time she was a weanling until three years old. The last photo shows Harry Whitney riding her (Buck had also seen her once between-times), and their work produced a profound change, so profound that her overweight, inexpert, and inexperienced owner could thereafter ride the horse safely.

There is also, somewhere in there, a photo of a Chestnut-colored stallion caught in the middle of a twisting head-shake threat gesture. This and the buckskin should help clarify to you what the head-shake expression means.

I sympathize with your uncertainty about whether you can correctly read your horse, because this is a skill that takes time and experience to learn. The very best advice that I can offer you on that is -- go find either Harry or Josh, and if at all possible, bring your horse with you. They (among all the others whom we recommend) do offer one-on-one instruction and help, and this is what you need. -- Dr. Deb

Shelly Forceville
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I hope it is okay to jump in here on the topic of 'licking and chewing'. I recently finished up three days with Harry Whitney where the idea of licking and chewing being a solely positive thing was raised and I am hoping it might be of some use for me to share what was discussed here (if not my apologies).

Harry pointed out that licking and chewing happens often after some sort of tension or worry in the horse where he doesn't move his mouth and it dries out (much as can happen to people too when we are really nervous). So when a horse licks and chews he does so to relax and re-wet his mouth and it is often both a sign that he has recently been worried in some way, and that whatever worry he had has decreased some.

Often a horse might lick and chew because a skillful person has helped them to feel less worried. However, another participant at Harry's clinic offered a very useful example of how licking and chewing might not be a sign that the human has done the right thing. He said he had once seen a woman having trouble with a horse at feeding time, and as she came to bring the feed into the yard the horse kicked her over and ran off. Immediately after the horse turned to face her and licked and chewed. In this example the horse had removed it's own worry at the expense of the human.

We concluded that you really have to consider licking and chewing within the wider context, just as Dr. Deb has suggested here.

Jamsession
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Thank you Shelly and Dr. Deb.

Dr. Deb, I would LOVE to have an opportunity to go and work with Harry or Josh or another one of the teachers you have recommended. At this point in time, distance, lack of transportation and finances limit me, but I hope to this summer at some point. In the mean time, if I may, I'd like to continue coming here and asking questions, and seeing if I can work more with my mare Stella myself with your guidance. I am confident I can come to understand her, and I am so willing to learn. I already have done a tremendous amount, now the hard part is applying it.

I took another long look at some of the photos as well as did some more reading of the BB. The ones that struck me the most were, indeed, the grulla filly, but I also found the series of Harry with the chestnut TB. This horse, and your descriptions of this horse, sound very much like my mare. She is TOLERANT, but not willing. She will let me get on her, and for a while now has been letting me poke around, w/t/c, etc. She has, I believe, come to a point where now she is not willing. I read the chapter containing the discussion on the five stages of grieving. I believe Stella isn't out of anger and may be somewhat into bargaining.

I have figured out, I think, that Stella is certainly not playing when she shakes: I think, rather, she is upset and unsure and is giving me the hoof while saying "I need some direction and I'm not getting it, I'm nervous and am not OK so this is how I'm going to make myself feel better" . You describe a horse who has a fair amount of aggressiveness in their personalities as something that can be very good if appropriately channeled. I believe my mare does have a fair amount of aggressiveness; the interesting this is I never saw it until we put my gelding down this past summer. I don't know if horses, like people, can "come out of the shadows" when they are given the opportunity, but I wonder if this may have happened. My gelding was the dominant one, Stella always the more "followerish" of the two.

You described that when the horse is at liberty in the pen, that if they begin to show signs, even small ones, that tell you they are angry, you must as the handler do something to express to them that this is not appropriate, whether that be a smack on the rump, an energetic, forward step towards them, redirecting their attention, etc. Would this be an appropriate place to begin now? As in, I continue to bring her to the small pen, let her move at her liberty and continue to do our grooming there, but assert when she shows signs of irritation and anger that she can feel that way but sure as hell better not direct it at me?

I think part of my issue is not just having doubts about my ability to read my mare, but also not having the intestinal fortitude to do SOMETHING, and then see what happens. I've tiptoed around this mare for a while, she knows it, hence why she's essentially saying "F off, lady". I've been afraid to experiment, something I now see is a vital part of learning.

DrDeb
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Jam, anyone who has enough money and time to own a horse also has enough money and time to pay a visit and pay the fees with Harry and Josh. So you go, and stop trying to hand me any bullshit about your abilities to do that. If this is that important to you, you will find a way.

There is not much more I can do for you here until you do that. You cannot learn horsemanship, and I cannot teach it, on the Internet past a certain point. We have reached that point, so now you need to go see Josh or Harry. This is to indicate that you seriously need to get planning right now to do that. -- Dr. Deb

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OK, Dr. Deb. One last question to bug you with: do you know of someone who is recommended by you and the folks at the Equine Studies Institute who is closer to Vermont than Harry or Josh? I know Buck will be out to Maine in September, but that is a few months out...


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You can go see Tom Curtin in Florida. I do want you to go meet Buck and at least take copious notes, sitting there all day long, every hour of every day, for the whole duration of the clinic. However, hard though he works at it and effective though I think Buck is, he does not make provision for one-on-one work and that is what you need. Tom Curtin might have more time for that; Harry and Josh set it up that way to begin with, so that in their clinics, beginners get one on one time, while only the more experienced students go in a group ride.

You must make provision for properly educating yourself and stop floundering around trying to solve what are potentially dangerous situations on your own. Nobody can really do that, though the majority of people think that they can. Some of them get kicked and quit; some of them get kicked and turn into nurses because they then become too afraid of their horses to ride them but also lack the spine to either kill the animal or sell it. Nurses exist in emotional limbo, never getting anything effective done and yet living like the neurotics and fantasists that they actually are.

So you go find Harry or you go find Josh, and there is no getting around that you need to commit to doing that. I've done all I can for you here -- now it is entirely up to you, and you'll decide about it on the basis of how important a mastery of horsemanship actually turns out to be for you. -- Dr. Deb

Jamsession
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I do plan on going to Buck's clinic in Maine in September.

In the meantime, while I am setting up to go out and spend time with Josh or Harry, what would be the best thing to do with my mare? I apologize if it sounds like I'm being totally thickheaded, I don't intend to, but I have seen enough nurse-y horsewomen in the barns I've worked at and I don't ever want to be that. I guess you could say I've seen the light and now there's no way I can go back to not seeing it.

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Jamession,
Check out 7 Springs Farm in NJ. They host several of the recommended clinicians. It is a beautiful farm and the people are always super nice and helpful. I didn't go to many clinics last year as I was focusing on driving more then riding, but this year I plan to go to a few clinics at 7 Springs. You can choose to ride in the clinics or audit. I pack food and sleep in my trailer in order to save money. I probably wouldn't have gone the first time had it not been for the encouragement I received on this forum. If you have any questions, let me know.
Clara

DrDeb
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Good idea, Indy, and I hope Jam follows up on that and Buck's clinic in Maine.

Meanwhile, Jam, I've already answered your last question: just leave the horse alone. It never hurt any horse to not get ridden. And if this accellerates your urgency to go find Harry or Josh -- in addition to the others -- well then, all to the good. -- Dr. Deb

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Harry is in TN part of May &June, at Mendin Fences.  http://www.mendinfencesfarm.com  The facility is wonderful and the owners are a treat.

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Thank you, guys, I will look into both of those suggestions.

Katherine
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Nuno Oliveira was mentioned way back in this thread, but it may be worth returning to the original "draping reins" theme. I just wanted to mention a book that has lots of excellent photos of Nuno riding schooling sessions, lunging, and working in hand, and you will see draping reins to your heart's content. The base of the neck is clearly raised in his horses and there is no ugly backwards traction on the bit.

"The Truth in the Teaching of Nuno Oliveira" by Eleanor Russell is the book. Published in 2001. No idea if it's still available.

I must admit I haven't read a single word of the book - in the 10 years I've had it all I've done is look at the photos... I think the text is a series of quotes from Nuno, translated by the author, so whether the true meaning came through translation I can't make comment on.

DrDeb
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Katherine, this is a good suggestion. People can also look for three other books featuring Nuno Oliveira:

"Classical Principles of the Art of Training Horses" and Jean Sauvat's "Equestrian Sketches" volume that features Nuno (there was another Sauvat volume that features a Nuno-imitator, a huge ego who will go nameless here -- please don't bother with that one).

Both of these books are quite difficult to find, as having been printed in very short run originally. The "Equestrian sketches" is the better of the two in terms of not only having wonderfully evocative images -- drawings that are actually better than photographs, and that's a real rarity -- but also parallel text in French written by Oliveira himself and then also well translated into English.

The other Oliveira book somebody will have to remind me of the title of -- I use it much less than these two -- yet it is the one with the red and green cover, which is quite commonly available. I use it much less because the translation from French sucks. If anyone knows where to get this book in the original French, I would LOVE to have a copy. The "Classical Principles" volume is a better English translation, but I'd still like to have that one also in the original French. The reason for this is that I believe that most of the women who helped Nuno with translations were not, themselves, of anything like the caliber of Nuno himself. They were admirers and students; but they did not really understand what the master meant, oftentimes; and sometimes, their French wasn't all that hot, either.

The same may be said for the volume you mention -- I too use the pictures in Nuno's books before anything else, because the words are somewhat to considerably unreliable. This is an ongoing problem with all equestrian works written by master-horsemen in any language; quite a bit tends to get lost in the translation, but pictures, like music, are universally understandable, at least to those with enough experience to realize what they are looking at. -- Dr. Deb

 

CarolineTwoPonies
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Amazon France has a good selection. They do deliver for the most part though there are exceptions amongst the used book sales people. There are a couple of books with various degrees of green and red covers. Are you thinking of the 30 years of correspondence between Michel Henriquet and Nuno Oliveira? Hope this helps.

http://www.amazon.fr/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?__mk_fr_FR=%C3%85M%C3%85Z%C3%95%C3%91&url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=nuno+oliveira+&x=11&y=20

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No, it was "Reflections on Equestrian Art." That's the most commonly available Nuno title, and I see from having just looked it up that it's available at Amazon.com. Thanks for the reminder that there's a French Amazon.com too -- when I get some time, I'll have to cruise over there! -- Dr. Deb

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Jam, while you are waiting to see Buck and/or Harry, Tom Moates is a student of Harry's, and has written a few books from the perspective of a novice with an earnest interest in getting better with horses. " A Horse's Thought" and " Between the Reins" are available through Eclectic Horseman, and along the same lines of the above posts, in addition to the text, he has photos of both himself and Harry working and being around horses. You will learn a lot by looking at those photos, and noticing the differences between the two horseman in their body language and general confidence level around horses, the very things that horses notice.

  Best wishes with your journey, Jeannie

DrDeb
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Jeannie, your post brings up in a kind of oblique way something very important: that the 'earnest horse owner' who will wind up succeeding is none other than the person who is able to observe in detail, as horses themselves observe; but also, as the 'earnest student' observes who wishes to become a professional scientist. Our elderly teacher talked very often about 'observe....remember....compare'.

He did not himself know, I believe, that this same mantra of 'observe, remember, and compare' was first taught by Galileo.

No one can learn to 'read' the body language of horses who does not devote himself or herself to first observing many, many horses doing many, many things. You have to be able to notice it before you can interpret it; then finally you also learn to interpret it. -- Dr. Deb

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I believe it was Aldo Leopold who told of an ordinary elderly lady who had studied for many years, house sparrows that came to her feeder. She observed the details of their lives so well that scientists would consult her on sparrow behavior etc. He referred to her as being a "citizen scientist". I think of this lady often when I am studying my horses.

Kuhaylan Heify
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Dear All: I was wondering about the literal draping reins stuff. There's a picture on,one of the u.s.e.t's web sites of a German immigrant doing an Uber Streichen ( loop the reins and stroke the horses neck) I was wondering if so doing is an adaption of the French Descente de Maine- Descente de Jambes. I suspect not so because, while they do occasionally speak of Uber Streichen they don't- as far as I know say Aufhellen Menschlicjes Bein( freeing or lightening of the riders leg)
Mike had quite a lengthy discussion a while back about certain internationally famous show riders forcing the lift out of the horse back and bopping their horses in the mouth with the bit with every stride.
Also George Morris talked two years ago in his Oregon clinic about the differing national,' schools,' of thought about how to use the reins. He said that the Germans don't really get specific about how the rider should use their hands, while the French do.
best
Bruce Peek

DrDeb
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Bruce, 'descente de main' means 'release the reins' or better, 'release your hold on the reins'. Ditto, 'descente de jambes' means 'take your leg off' or 'stop squeezing the horse with your legs'. This is made abundantly clear in Beaudant's report of his correspondence with Faverot de Kerbrecht concerning this phrase as used by Baucher.

The older, and far better, name for what you are calling 'oberstreichen' is "showing the horse the way to the ground." It has nothing in and of itself to do with descente de main, because one does not release the reins in order to induce the horse to perform this stretch-in-motion. Rather, one combs the reins, which is to say, plays the reins as one would play a big bass fish who is hooked but wants to run the line; one puts one's thumb against the reel to produce a certain amount of friction, which might vary from less to greater depending upon the feel that the fish gives.

This is not a mystery to the person who will practice rather than merely intellectualize and talk ABOUT it rather than getting out there and trying it. And remember, it is absolutely crucial that while playing or combing the reins, that you keep your hands UP -- the hands must be at the level of the rider's natural waist, or higher, and the rider's elbows must be bent. Not only is it impossible to play the reins without a bend in the elbow -- once you try doing this, Bruce, you will find that the horse's reaction is quite strong and may surprise you. That head will go RIGHT down -- but NEVER if you lower your hands, i.e. try to pull it down.

In showing the horse the way to the ground, you are SHOWING him, not forcing him or putting him or shaping him. He must shape himself, and he will, with pleasure, if you will just permit him. Remember: 'descente de main' means "stop pulling", "stop putting backwards pressure on the reins". Playing the reins involves this but you don't drop the reins abruptly; instead retain a certain amount of feel, which is supportive but in no way restrictive -- something the horse can enjoy, respond to, and work with. -- Dr. Deb


Kuhaylan Heify
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Dear Dr. Deb: many thanks for the clarity.. I'll give it a whirl this morning.
best
Bruce Peek




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