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Horse confidence issue.. or??
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Cynthia W.
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 Posted: Tue Oct 2nd, 2007 02:14 am
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Carole[/user] wrote: Please let's keep this thread going, is anyone else working on this?

Yes. To keep the ball rolling, and I hope more people will tell where they're at with this too:
The focus part of the mannering lesson was crucial to me and my horse.
Getting him to genuinely look at me has been *huge.*
It was so huge, I actually adapted the exact directions Dr.Deb gave, and stopped and petted him when I finally did get a coupla seconds of focus. I hope this is okay - anyway it has worked, as I've since slowly proceeded to keep on with the eight-second instructions.
Really, before, he was looking in my direction and *tuning out.*
It's taken weeks to get him to really look, and really be there, for eight seconds.
Since starting this, I've also read the book Dr.Deb (and I believe Tom Dorrance?:) like, "Kinship with all life." It's not an everyday kind of book, and I don't know a lot of people I'd recommend it to! But it made a colossal change in my assumptions. I had previously been following a program that teaches you to be "alpha" - and I think Traveler was frankly rather bored and - if it doesn't sound too weird - patronizing. He's a bright guy. I'm a fairly strong person, but nobody is alpha with this horse except by his choice.
I've also begun Mike Schaffer's program, from the very beginning, jaw flexions. Only now is Traveler lowering his head, and staying somewhat soft, for more than a second.
Dunno if it's right or wrong to keep riding him (just on trail, with friends who go up in the hills and canyons for a few hours at a time - he loves that, and loves his herd). I've ;been going there, because he's so soft when he rides up in natural landscapes away from traffic or backyards or arenas; and I want his feet to move; and also I want to go. So I hope that's not wrong.
I've explained to him from the time I got him, that I'm just trying to learn and he's a bit of a guinea pig but his life is so much better than it was I don't feel too guilty about that... and I have the impression he now feels I'm on a much more uuseful track.
I was pretty dissatisfied with the program I was following, felt I must have it wrong or something, when I came across this thread and thought - yeah, my horse isn't focussing, he's a complicated guy and he does the minimum and waits to see if the human takes it as gold which it isn't! He's not focusing, he's tuning out whilst looking in my direction - VERY far from the real thing! So I said okay I'll start from zero, which is where I am anyway.
I did feel quite cranky for a week or so in there, annoyed I hadn't had this kind of support before. (As this artsy guy I used to work with would say, "Why have I not been told?") Then came some good results (like a softer rounder horse on trail) and that makes it easier.
All best,
Cynthia

Cynthia W.
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 Posted: Tue Oct 2nd, 2007 06:20 pm
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Forgot to mention the most important part - hanging out with my horse in the light of these things (Dr.Deb's focus directions, Boone, and Mike Schaffer), I perceived that I needed to *let the horse know* either aloud or at least sending a clear thought in words or pictures, what I propose we'll do next. As you would with anyone you respect.
It sounds so obvious. But I saw I hadn't been doing that.
In riding I mostly keep channels of communication open and give him his say; but I had slid into a very unfair approach on the ground - even when I first walk into the backyard corral where he lives with the two wonderful mares that belong to the great people where he boards - of not giving him enough clear advance warning about my plan at each stage.
A goal now is to stay in touch with him as close to 100% of the time as I can get. It seems like the least. It's been surprisingly taxing (breaking a habit) and, over the last couple of weeks, rewarding. I'd say his attitude is, hm you're not the complete jerk I thought - what's in store? Horses are so amazingly forgiving. - Cynthia

Carole
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 Posted: Tue Oct 2nd, 2007 09:26 pm
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Yes, isn't the amount of forgiveness on our horses' side completely humbling. With all of my mistakes and wrong turns and stumbling toward learning my horse still wants to work with me and is happy to see me.

The most profound part of Boone's book for me was Chapter 30- Decreeing. "Thou shalt also decree a thing, and it shall be established unto thee: and the light shall shine upon thy ways." We do get back what we expect. Although I am not yet in a place to see flies as fellow expressions! I am trying to see all beings with an attitude of openness.

We're continuing with the 3 lessons, it is getting easier, less effortless. A small touch on the lead is on most days enough to send the horses back a step. But I still have the feeling that I'm a fair weather leader. In a panic or bad situation will my horses look to me for reassurance? I'm not there yet and are my doubts what make it so?

                                                                                                              Carole

Tasha
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 Posted: Thu Oct 4th, 2007 12:37 am
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Did lesson 1 with Beau for the first time. He was very distracted since the only working area available was covered in long spring grass. He tried very hard to understand what I wanted from him. My timing was very off. He kept walking forward to me and I inadvertently kept rewarding that. He also pawed the ground a few times and each time that happened I moved him to another spot as suggested by Dr Deb. I realised in the end I was asking for too much too soon and lowered the target focus time and made more progress and got six seconds of focus by the end of the session. When I took him back to his paddock I asked for his focus before I opened the gate and got it straight away.

Did lesson 1 with Rata for the second time. Again he was very distracted by the spring grass, I’ll have to find a different working area. I thought he might have remembered our session from last time and I think I was relying on that rather than figuring out where he was at. Unlike Beau, Rata kept backing up to the point where he took all of the slack of out rope and I kept having to put the slack back in.

Should I have done that, would it have been better to leave the slack out since he took that slack out himself? Again I realised I was asking for too much. Started to look for the smallest try as I should have been doing all along and that was when we started to make progress. He stopped backing up. Managed to get five seconds focus by the end of the session.

Did lesson 1 with Blizzard for the second time. I don’t think I mentioned it before but Blizzard has been hard to catch. I’d say he is a slightly more wound up pony than Snowball (a pony I made a post about a couple of years ago). It started out that if he felt any hint of my attention coming his way he would run off to the other side of the paddock. We’re now at the stage where I will ask him to do a couple of hind quarter yields and put my hand on his shoulder, give him a reward (usually a small piece of carrot) and put the halter on him and give him another reward. Anyway, onto the lesson. The spring grass was of course quite a distraction but I had little problem getting Blizzard’s attention. Remembered to look for the smallest try this time. When I saw the try I clicked and rewarded him almost before I realised what I was doing. I hadn’t been my intention to use the clicker for this exercise at all.

Took him over to a patch of long grass to hand graze. I initially stood away from him while he grazed, I became conscious that I was doing this and went over and started petting him. He was not impressed and stopped grazing. So I stood there petting him and clicked/rewarded him for not moving away from me. I kept petting him and he eventually started grazing. The rest of the session went fast because the next time I asked for it I got his focus very quickly and also for eight seconds. I clicked/rewarded him and hand grazed him. I decided to try a bit of the first part lesson 2. It didn’t take much to ask him to back up and after a couple of asks, he was backing up a few steps at a time. I ended the session there because I thought I was getting greedy. Next time I’ll be working on just asking him for just that one step and I’ll also write my notes right after the sessions so as not to forget all the details I’m sure I’ve left out this time.

Tasha
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 Posted: Fri Oct 5th, 2007 10:27 am
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I have to have a wee laugh at how slow I am at putting two and two together. Walking back from saying hello to the ponies tonight it suddenly dawned on me that I've been doing lesson 1 with Blizzard for some time now. The first thing I ask him to do when I go to halter him is to focus on me.

Tasha
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 Posted: Thu Nov 1st, 2007 09:53 am
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These may be simple lessons yet they have made such a difference with my ponies. My timing is improving though not good enough yet. I have Blizzard backing up calmly from a wiggle of the rope. Still working on backing up one step at a time with Beau and Rata, I think they are finding it physically hard. Still working on lesson one with Snowball though I don't tend to work with her quite as often as the others.

How is everyone else doing?

Dr Deb, is there a lesson 3?

Carole
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 Posted: Sat Nov 3rd, 2007 02:49 pm
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Tasha, Take a look at page 7, lesson 3 "visiting Your horse in his room" is that what you're looking for?

I work with my two on this about every 10 days or so. They very reliably stand now while I groom and massage them. We do it in the barn aisle, the arena or round pen. The thoroughbred is much more quiet and relaxed now when he's tacked up.

I have trailered them just a few times and the thoroughbred loads and unloads fine, but he comes out of the trailer very sweaty and excited . Then he does not stand still while tied. I'm going to start doing this exercise at the trailer without taking him anywhere afterwards and see if that will help him to relax there. How's everyone else doing with mannering?                                                            
                                                                                                             Carole

Tasha
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 Posted: Sat Nov 3rd, 2007 11:32 pm
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Thanks Carole, that is exactly what I was after.

Lisa
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 Posted: Sun Dec 2nd, 2007 10:57 am
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When I tried the first step with an 11 year old quarter horse he seemed to be focusing on me, his head was turned toward me and both ears. Then one ear flicked back while one stayed forward and his head didn't move. Then the other ear flicked back. His head didn't move, and his eyes appeared to be on me, but my gut feel said that he was looking at me but not seeing me, like he had put me on the back burner. I instinctively stepped slightly to my right and his ears flicked back and his head turned to me.

Was this wrong? The instructions said to correct when he moves his head and he hadn't done that, but I felt like he as not really seeing me.

Also I realized that it's tough for me to read the expression in the eyes. This is a very very dark bay with dark eyes and I was standing maybe 3 or 4 feet in front of him, so maybe I was just too close.

Thanks Dr. Deb and everyone else who has shared on this topic. This is like getting private lessons but they're FREE! When I think of how much money I've spent on lessons that were totally ineffective or just plain wrong I am so grateful for ESI.

- Lisa

Tasha
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 Posted: Tue Dec 4th, 2007 07:48 pm
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I've been working on lesson 3 with all four ponies. I now have a clear idea of their maps. Some patches on the map have disappeared fairly quickly others require more work.

Dr Deb at the end of the ranger piece, there is a list of things to do before starting a horse under saddle, one of which is the horse being comfortable with being touched all over including the interior of the mouth. Is it appropriate to work on the mouth at this stage or should that be done later?

One of the things that has improved dramatically with this lesson is being able to handle Snowball's feet in particular her hind feet and yes her right hind hoof is the worse to handle. In the past it would take two people, one to hold her head and the other to clean/trim her feet while dodging Snowball's kicks. That situation is well on its way to being completely changed, while the session wasn't perfect in that she did snatch her feet away a few times (my bad timing) I was able to clean out all of her feet and run a rasp lightly over all four of them with the lead rope draped over her neck.

This brings me to my next question and though I'm in danger of blaming the horse I'll ask it anyway---does gender bias in horses really exist? If Snowball is okay with me handling her feet but she isn't okay with the farrier, is it a case of me not having done the training correctly? A more general question, if a horse appears to be 100% okay with one person but not another, was the horse truly 100% okay in the first place?

Tasha
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 Posted: Tue Dec 4th, 2007 08:43 pm
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On second thought if there is anything such as a gender bias, I would be blaming the horse for it if I treated the bias as anything other than just another patch on the map that needed to be addressed.

Lisa
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 Posted: Wed Dec 5th, 2007 12:16 pm
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I have exactly 5 minutes to write this, 'cause I'm almost late for work, so please excuse any typos.

I tried part 2 of backing up, after making sure I had the 8 second focus and that he was backing fluidly from the halter.

What happened was that he took a step back but then immediately came forward. So I swung the lead again and he backed and then came forward.

After 3 or 4 tries he stayed back. I took a deep breath then slowly walked toward him to pet him. But he kept moving his head toward my hand, being kind of push with his muzzle, trying to get the lead rope in his mouth, etc.

I realized that this is also what he does when I'm trying to bridle him. And when I groom him. Always putting his face in my space.

What I did was use my hand and forearm as a shield, trying to let him run into that. But as soon as I dropped it, there he was coming at me again. What should I have done?  Is this a lesson prior to focus?

And one more thing ... I ran out of time, because I had to get to work.  During the week I have limits on my time, and when the time's up, it's up. Should I not work with a horse if my time is limited? That would mean, since I'm working, that I would only be able to be free of constraints on the weekends, only 2 days with my horses!

 I once had a trainer tell me in no uncertain terms that if I didn't work with a horse 6 days a week I wasn't going to get anywhere. Period. But Dr. Deb, your travel schedule is intense, so I'm assuming that you haven't always been able to get to your horses 6 days a week.

Help!  Thank you! Lisa

DrDeb
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 Posted: Thu Dec 6th, 2007 05:39 am
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Lisa, you will probably drive your horse nuts, or hurt him in some other way, if you go at working him 6 days a week. Almost never is it necessary for anybody to do that, and almost never is it a good idea. The reason the "trainer" told you this is that his or her best idea is to control the horse by wearing him out. They don't usually admit that this is what they are doing, but it IS what they are doing. "Training by wearing the horse out" reveals an almost imbecilic level of intelligence and a total lack of understanding of how important it is for a horse to (a) learn his job, not just "do" it, and (b) be totally comfortable while working or performing.

Once the horse has learned his job, you can ride as much or as little as the two of you find enjoyable. "How much" will depend upon the particular horse and how available trailriding is to you. Some horses, at some stages in their development, benefit from as much as four or five rides a week, especially if you can mix arena work with trailriding. Some horses are just delightful with only a couple of rides per week. Once the horse knows his job, he does not forget even the smallest detail of it. And, as horses age, they are often grateful to be ridden less -- they don't need any practice, and so what you ride them primarily for is to stretch the muscles and supple the joints, play with a few arena toys, and maybe check some fence or push a few cows or hop over a couple of jumps -- you tap the work lightly because there's no need MOST of the time to do more. By that point, the two of you are good friends and you keep that kind of tone, that kind of mutual respect, a certain playfulness throughout.

When I go away to teach, I'm often gone for a month at a time, sometimes two months. My horses live in the barn and in the pasture during that time. Nobody rides them, because I don't need to engage anyone to ride them for me. They are just fine until I get back, and probably grateful for the time off. If they grumble at me when I get back, it's not around "training" issues, but rather more like "so where have you BEEN already, we have missed having your company."

Obviously, I know when I buy a horse that I'm going to have to have a conversation with that horse about whether he is going to be OK with living with me. I don't take horses that "must" be ridden more than I can ride them. And then, when I do take them, I buy them or arrange for them to arrive at a time of year when I know that I will be at home for a few months. During that time, I get the horse broke silly. He will have perfect manners -- and he BETTER have -- because while I am goine, he will be in the care of other people. Therefore, he needs to:

(a) Get along with all the other horses with which he'll be turned out

(b) Present himself amicably to my farrier, offering the farrier no problems

(c) Have good manners toward the person or people who will be leading him in and out of pasture, i.e. never whirling, pulling away, knocking into them, hanging back, charging through gates, or any of the other stuff that I see other peoples' horses do every day of the week.

You see, it is totally up to me to make sure that my horse has a good life. And he is not going to have a good life if he makes my farrier mad, or hurts one of the people who I pay to handle him while I am gone, or gets into a serious kickfest with another horse.

Now to return to your other question about what to do with a horse who is pushing into your space. Using your arm as a shield is the standard thing, BUT it isn't going to work unless you get your timing down. Your arm has to be there BEFORE his head or his teeth arrive.

And it needs to be there in such a manner that when his head or his teeth arrive, they "just happen" to smack into your arm. In other words, you let him BUMP INTO HIMSELF but you ADD (subtly) TO IT.

If you don't want his teeth bumping into your arm (that could cut or bruise you), then you "just happen" to be carrying a short length of broomstick.

You see, you are never ever to go after hitting a horse. You don't commit the same sin you're trying to get him to quit doing -- which is, violating your space. You don't violate his space. But you sure as the dickens need to let him KNOW when he has violated YOURS!

So you get your timing working better. The other thing is, you need to be more aware of what your own body is doing at all moments. For example, the reason that it took you several tries to get the horse to back up, and stay backed up, is that (you don't realize this, but) you are leaning backwards or even stepping backwards when you are "telling" him to back up.

The bullfighter NEVER steps back from the horns. If he does, he gets a horn in the gut. If he backs up, he invites the horn, he pulls that horn.

So you don't lean back, and you don't step back when you are doing anything with a horse -- under normal circumstances. "Abnormal" circumstances would be that you have a  horse that is a real hardened-up case that actually charges like a bull. Then, if that's what the situation is, you dive out of the way. But short of that, you better be leaning or stepping TOWARD the horse -- you make sure that your feet point toward him, that your steps go toward him, and that your crotch or "hara" pushes toward him.

Again -- you do not violate his space. You do not charge at him. But you push that bubble every second. This sends a message that no horse ever mistakes: and the message is, "I'm the boss around here, buddy."

You do not have to be a mean boss, but you DO have to MEAN IT. This is what "clarity", "consistency", and "fairness" are to a horse. If you waffle, you are not only unclear and inconsistent, you are unfair. Buck Brannaman would say that you are lying to your horse -- which teaches him to lie to you.

To close, let us return to a teaching from Ray Hunt that I particularly value:

"If it wasn't effective, it wasn't understood.

And if they don't understand, they are confused.

And when they're confused, they get afraid.

The proof that it was understood is -- if it was effective!"

And before I close -- Lisa, by the way: surely you can think of a way to delimit or put boundaries around your EXPECTATIONS when you go out to the barn. You are the one who sets every situation up. You know when you go there how much time you have. So you figure out how to have a little interaction with the horse each day that you expect will take MUCH LESS TIME THAN HOWEVER MUCH TIME YOU HAVE. -- Dr. Deb

 

Lisa
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 Posted: Thu Dec 6th, 2007 09:57 am
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Dr. Deb.

You're so right, my timing is way off and I suspect it's because I'm not staying in the moment but rather am gettting emeshed in my own agenda. I'll also try to be more aware of my body and my leaning backward. I hadn't realized I was doing that but it feels like that will be the answer.

As far as using my time effectively, I've been thinking about it and it's the shark in me that surfaces and makes me try to rush my horse into a sharky agenda which can't be accomplished in the time I have and which comes from comparing myself and my horse to other people and their horses. This is a hurtful thing to recognize in myself. I read somewhere that you ride how you are, and that you practice horsemanship in every single situation of your life, not just when you are with the horse. I think I need to take this to heart and work more on my inner horseman.

I've ordered The Power of Now.

Thank you.  I hope someday your travel schedule brings you to my part of NC. - Lisa

 

Ailusia
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 Posted: Tue Dec 18th, 2007 07:10 pm
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DrDeb wrote: If you keep the pressure coming when the horse does this, older horses in particular may faint right over backwards. They will then lie flat-out on the ground, semiconscious or unconscious, and you will think that you have killed him. After a minute or so the horse will wake up, and then stand up.  
Could you explain this further? Have you ever seen it happening? I haven't heard about it before... is it something like when horse's head is pulled hard to his shoulder, so that it stops the blood flow and the horse faints? But how could it be when the horse is straight? Or is it rather psychological issue?
Thank you!


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