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Questions on trailer loading
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Shelly Forceville
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 Posted: Wed Jun 27th, 2012 12:18 am
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Hi Dr. Deb,

One of the many things I have been re-learning since finding your teaching and that of the other recommended teachers is how to float (trailer) load a horse. I have been struggling with trailer loading for years with my mare mainly because I never recognised in the past that it was my poor thinking and technique that was making it hard for her, rather than something difficult about the horse herself (the only difficulty about my mare is that she does not suffer fools). Even after recognising all of that it has still been a slow process because a lot of these habits are really hard to break.

Because the progress has been slow I have thought many times about writing in here to ask for help but have hesitated because I knew that really if I took some time I could figure it out - particularly with the knowledge that the failing was mine and not my horse's.

After reading a few really important discussions on this forum, and making the same mistakes many times over (mainly shutting my horse in and taking her somewhere when she was still very far from okay with being in there in the first place), it has FINALLY sunk in that I need to let go of all my wants in this thing and just help my horse out.

Since then I have been bringing the float out and practicing both weekend days, every weekend without fail. I have probably done two months worth now without any set backs.

I have watched Buck's trailer loading DVD, and have searched for and read as many posts as I could find on this forum about trailer loading, and have read Josh's article on the subject, however I still feel a bit confused.

My approach recently based on what little I know, has been firstly, to pay very good attention to my horse. If I lead her towards the float (or ask anything of her anywhere now) and she stops breathing or shows any sign of not being okay about it, I stop, figure out where her mind is and do whatever seems appropriate to bring her to an okay-ness. Sometimes she is fearful and I ask her to 'let go' of that thought as Harry would say. Other times she is distracted and I ask her attention back. In the first case I usually ask her head down as Josh suggests in his trailer loading article. In the second case I slap my boot or jiggle the rope or whatever suits the moment.

Secondly, I have been paying closer attention to the response I get to the directions I am giving, BUT without asking for anything more than a good feel. For example, if I ask her towards the float and she gives me a heavy feel on the rope I have been using Buck's idea of offering a good deal and then following up with a not so good deal. The good deal is to follow the weight of the rope in my hand. The not so good deal is a tap or a flick with the end of my rope. I am very careful with this not to insist that she goes anywhere, just that she changes her attitude. If she hustles up a step I quit and reward her. If she goes right up in also great.

Based on these two 'techniques' (not sure if I should call them that) I have gotten us to a point where she will now send up lightly and stand at the angle (it is an angle load) in position with me either standing out at the fender, or up at the top of the ramp. Occasionally we back track from this a little but she mostly has the idea.

She knows that I expect her to walk in and stand up in position from a light feel. She generally walks up with an ears up curious expression. Sometimes she will go up with a couldn't care less, relaxed expression, and other times she will go up with a slight tenseness and I can see the birdy is already back outside the float. I am thinking now that I probably haven't been addressing this last response adequately (i.e. I have just continued directing her up in that state).

Once in position she more or less straight away looses her okayness. It is this part that I am a bit confused about how to work through. The sign she gives me that she is not okay is that she goes still (frozen up/quiet breathing) and drops her head. Her birdy seems to go in her throat at first and then very soon after if I do not catch that it will fly out the back and she will make to exit. If I try and do anything once she is already thinking about leaving it tends to make her panic.

When I do notice in time I have been asking her to lift her head or turn her head to one side or another. Often this leads to her investigating the float further with her nose or lifting her head and standing still a little more relaxed for a moment. I can see she is trying really hard, but she still seems to be holding on to some worry.

I am pretty sure a lot of this relates to the fact that I have broken her trust before by just shutting her in. I think she is nervous about what I am going to do. However, if I absent myself from the picture completely (hang the rope over the divider and walk out for example) there seems to be nothing keeping her in there and she will just take herself out again.

I have worked at this in the past by sending her straight back up as soon as she comes out, and this does tend to get her thinking about staying in longer but she is still doing it with worry.

I think I am finally at a point where another perspective could be really helpful. What do I need to do from here to help her to really turn loose to being in the float?

Dorinda
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 Posted: Sun Jul 1st, 2012 12:40 pm
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Hi Shelly

I haven't watched Bucks DVD on trailer loading and would love to at some stage.

Have you seen A Day with Tom Dorrance.? There is a section on that about float loading a mare who was troubled about going into the float. She had reared at one stage and banged her head. He does use small amounts of hay to help her and also a technique of using a rope behind. Not touching the mare but causing movement behind. He gets Larry to ask her forward onto the float and then back searching for the moments where the mare finds safety in the excercise.


Hope this helps.

Cheers
Dorinda

Shelly Forceville
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 Posted: Sun Jul 1st, 2012 11:49 pm
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Hi Dorinda,

You are welcome to borrow my copy of Bucks Trailer Loading DVD (I will bring it to the next Quadrille if you like). It is only short and features a young horse who hasn't been on before so it's not a 'problem loader', but gives a good example of what it should look like.

I haven't seen 'A day with Tom Dorrance', but I would very much like to, particularly given the trailer loading content. It would be really helpful to see the approach taken.

I did think perhaps I should be putting some hay in the float for her, but usually she is too worried to eat, or snatches at the hay then runs out, so I'm not sure about how to approach this.

I also played around on the weekend with exploring where she was most okay. Instead of letting her go all the way in if she was looking unsure I had her stop a few steps short and wait there, or go half way and back out, this kind of thing. She definitely was more relaxed than usual. So perhaps I have still been asking too much.

I'm guessing I'll probably get this on my own if I am patient enough, but I would be a lot more confident if I had seen how someone with some skill at this did things. I think I will have to get a hold of a copy of that DVD.

Cheers,
Shelly.

Last edited on Sun Jul 1st, 2012 11:53 pm by Shelly Forceville

Dorinda
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 Posted: Mon Jul 2nd, 2012 09:59 am
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Hi Shelly

If I remember I can bring my laptop and you can watch that section on float loading.

Have you tried backing your mare into the float. This seemed to work with Maggie. Reversing her up the ramp seemed to help her with her fear of being surrrounded.The other thing she did was turn her head around so that she didn't have to walk up that extra step. Smart girl. To over come this I would do the same sort of thing that Tom did for the mare in the DVD and create a spot of bother at her evertime she would turn her head around. She then got the idea that it was better to stay front & centre. The thing that still bothers her is backing out. She still rushes off but will now stop and wait on the ramp if I ask her whereas previously she would just barge off. I am trying to work on the one step at a time theory.

I love in the Buck movie where Buck has a black horse just walk in the float at the mere suggestion as he tips his head down. Awesome


Cheers
Dorinda

Val
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 Posted: Mon Jul 2nd, 2012 02:51 pm
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Is she comfortable unloading from the ramp? i mean, have you tried stopping her when she only has one or maybe both front feet on the ramp, and backing her out from there before she's all the way in?

Shelly Forceville
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 Posted: Tue Jul 3rd, 2012 05:38 am
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I have tried backing her in the past with success, but haven't done so for a while, so perhaps this is something else to experiment with.

As far as unloading, I did try some more of this last weekend where I was asking her to go part way in, then back out, or part way in then one step out, then back in... all different kinds of scenarios. Mostly she will do all of this as I ask her to and you can see she is trying really hard, but she is still worried about it.

It's as though I am doing all this stuff with her in the float but never REALLY getting through and changing her thoughts.

Anyway, I am off to the US for a month as of next weekend so I will check in again after that.

Thanks all.

DrDeb
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 Posted: Wed Jul 4th, 2012 06:56 am
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Shelley, when you get back from your trip: work with her outside the trailer, asking her to do the following sequence: back a couple of steps, then 'roll back' the forequarter over the hindquarter. This is a particularly effective combination 'asana' which Buck Brannaman (like our teacher, Ray Hunt) used constantly.

Do it one time to the right, one time to the left, then lead forward a few steps, rest and give a big bunch of petting. There is no better 'asana' (I am lately preferring this term to 'exercise' -- much better term, stolen from Yoga) for reaching down into the depths of their being to help them let go of worries.

Remember, however, that it is not the 'asana' that makes the magic work. The asana is just a tool. It is your own awareness and focus that makes it work, that is, that gives the confidence to the animal through helping it to first focus properly, and then turn loose.

After repeating left-right-forward three or four times, then review driving the mare -- that is to say, longeing properly, which is driving. She needs to absolutely be good about going by your shoulder. If she is muddled on that part, she'll hang at the doorway, and at other times you will not be able to get her to pick up whatever foot you need her to when you are directing her from the back.

There is a new Tom Dorrance book out, written by Tom's widow Margaret. It has many still photographs in it, the contemplation of some of which were turning points for me when I first saw them in Tom and Margaret's house many years ago. The book is composed wholly of reports in the form of letters written by people who knew Tom and who rode with him. Many of them were riding with him when I also was, and I remember those same stories because I was there to see them happen. For those who were not there, it is still a good book and I would recommend it. Go get it at http://www.tomdorrance.com. When it arrives in your mailbox, find the page where there are photos of Tom loading a mare into a two-horse straight-load trailer. One photo has him holding the lead line. The other photo shows the mare getting in without Tom holding the lead line. The caption says "....as Tom directs the feet." I want you to look at those photos and think about what that caption is saying -- how you could achieve that ability to 'direct', whether you held the lead rope or not. -- Dr. Deb

 

Shelly Forceville
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 Posted: Thu Aug 2nd, 2012 12:53 pm
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DrDeb wrote:
Shelley, when you get back from your trip: work with her outside the trailer, asking her to do the following sequence: back a couple of steps, then 'roll back' the forequarter over the hindquarter. This is a particularly effective combination 'asana' which Buck Brannaman (like our teacher, Ray Hunt) used constantly.

Do it one time to the right, one time to the left, then lead forward a few steps, rest and give a big bunch of petting. There is no better 'asana' (I am lately preferring this term to 'exercise' -- much better term, stolen from Yoga) for reaching down into the depths of their being to help them let go of worries.

Remember, however, that it is not the 'asana' that makes the magic work. The asana is just a tool. It is your own awareness and focus that makes it work, that is, that gives the confidence to the animal through helping it to first focus properly, and then turn loose.


Well I have tried this 'asana' since arriving home the other day. The first few attempts I found that Blue was slightly irritated by the request. When I stopped and thought things through I realised I was not really asking her a step at a time and was rushing the movement.

The next time I tried to give more attention and feel to each individual step and to take care of where her weight needed to be for each step, and this seemed to work out much smoother, more relaxed and I felt as though she appreciated the asana better. Then when I stopped and petted her she took a deep sigh and relaxed.

Interestingly we were having trouble with this same asana under saddle previously (this was one of the exercises that Buck had us do at his last clinic here). I'm guessing that I was rushing through it in the saddle also, and not really looking after each individual step.

After repeating left-right-forward three or four times, then review driving the mare -- that is to say, longeing properly, which is driving. She needs to absolutely be good about going by your shoulder. If she is muddled on that part, she'll hang at the doorway, and at other times you will not be able to get her to pick up whatever foot you need her to when you are directing her from the back.

When I was at Buck's clinic here early in the year he was helping a women in the colt start that had a pushy, poorly mannered big mare that was dragging her all over the place. He had asked all the participants to work their horses around in a small circle on the lead line but this mare was either lagging behind, or pushing out in front of the owner. Buck was explaining that the horse needs to keep level with the handler. He spent some time with that horse helping her to find that there was one good spot she needed to be and if she would keep herself there then things would be easier.

When you say that my horse absolutely needs to be good at going by my shoulder, is this what you mean? That when I drive her, in a circle or anywhere that she understands that I expect her to stay with me, not ahead nor behind?

There is a new Tom Dorrance book out, written by Tom's widow Margaret... When it arrives in your mailbox, find the page where there are photos of Tom loading a mare into a two-horse straight-load trailer. One photo has him holding the lead line. The other photo shows the mare getting in without Tom holding the lead line. The caption says "....as Tom directs the feet." I want you to look at those photos and think about what that caption is saying -- how you could achieve that ability to 'direct', whether you held the lead rope or not.

I have spent a bit of time today thinking on this. I have the book here and have looked at the pictures. I think there are more than a few things that contribute to the ability to direct a horse with or without a lead rope as Tom is doing in those pictures, and the more I think about it the more complex it seems to get, but I will have a go at explaining what I think goes into being able to direct a horse like that.

Firstly, I think you need to be able to gain the horse's attention. You can't really see in the first picture, but in the second picture it is clear that the horse is paying attention to Tom - you can see by it's expression that it is listening to and watching him for his directions. From what I am reading in the stories in the book Tom was always paying attention to the horses, and taking measures so that they might pay attention to him. I think what I have been doing is pushing Blue too far so that she is not able to pay attention to me because she is too busy being worried about her environment.

Secondly, I think you need to be real clear. Clear in understanding where the horse's thought is at. Clear about what you are asking of the horse and why, clear in your body language - your position, energy, timing. In both pictures of Tom it looks as though he is not really doing a lot, but it seems to be that what he is doing with his energy, his feel on the rope and with the flag have given the horse confidence that stepping up into that float might be okay, and even a good idea.

I think once I am able to really let go of my desire to get my horse in the float - to get my horse to do the task - that my energy will be better and that things will come more easily.

I was thinking that I might practice some driving/lunging tomorrow, and also perhaps take Blue up to the wash bay and work a little with directing her in that confinement, experimenting with paying better attention to where she is at and when she gets worried.

Hopefully I am on the right track here.

Shelly Forceville
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 Posted: Tue Aug 7th, 2012 03:36 am
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Well I played around with some of this stuff over the last couple of days and I am starting to feel a bit clearer about where I am muddled with all of this.

As far as my horse being absolutely good at staying by my shoulder... this was a no. When I actually paid close attention to this I found that Blue is often inclined to lag behind me. I spent some time with this until she was much clearer on that expectation, but clearly I will need to be paying better attention to this in the future. I can see how she might 'load up' (into the trailer, wash bay or any area) better once this has been sorted out.

After clearing this up a little I asked her up into the wash bay. I spent the first 15 minutes or so not getting anywhere with this until I realised I had forgotten to pay attention to her breathing. Seems I was ignoring the most subtle sign that she was not okay. As soon as I remembered about this things became a lot easier.

What I did then was ask her to step up into the wash bay, and watched and felt carefully for when her breathing was about to change. At that point I stopped her and backed her out until a point where her breathing returned to normal. We did this back and forth for some time.

I think this was very much an exercise in me learning how to get some feel and timing more than anything. The extent to which she would offer to walk into the wash bay seemed to be directly connected to how well I was paying attention to her and how she was doing. Also, the more I looked after her and the less I pushed her the more it seemed like she was beginning to feel some trust for me again (which makes sense).

I feel as though I can now REALLY see the value and importance of focusing on helping the horse to feel okay whatever we are doing or wherever we are at. In the past I would have felt happiest when my horse achieved a quantifiable milestone, such as getting all the way in there. Now I think I need to learn to feel happiest about the qualitative milestones, i.e. how okay my horse is about whatever we are doing or wherever we are going.

To this end the, although I got Blue to step right up into the wash bay several times towards the end of our practice, the real achievement was when at one point she stood half way in and completely relaxed, blew out, cocked her leg and had a snooze. At this point I felt as if I could have dropped the rope and walked off, or mounted up, or popped a balloon and she would have stood there just fine.

I will be hunting up more opportunities to get Blue to this state in future in whatever we are doing, and will have a look at the horse float again next weekend perhaps, with all of this in mind.

Shelly Forceville
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 Posted: Tue Aug 14th, 2012 03:56 am
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I had two sessions around the float over the weekend, and again feel as if I have learned some things.

In the first session on Saturday we had some really soft, good moments, probably the best I have seen her with the float for some time. However, after taking a break I tried her again and things had changed. She didn't want anything to do with the float after that and I wasn't getting through to her feet much at all. She didn't appear worried, but my thought and her thought at that time were at odds. I quit at that point to have a think about what was happening and I discussed the session with my good friend who had come along to observe.

My friend suggested that it seemed as though I just went on too long, that she had thought when I took a break that that probably should have been it, because what we achieved before was so nice.

I realised that I had thought this too when taking the break but carried on anyway, mainly I think because I was enjoying the practice so much... unfortunately I don't think Blue gets nearly as much out of our long sessions of float loading as I do (not yet anyway). In short, I got greedy.

On Sunday I did another session with my friend along to watch. Again we had a nice soft session. Blue responded softly to my directions, tried hard, and I think I did a reasonable job of noticing when she was tending towards not being okay and helping her out of there. This of course seems to be making all the difference. Before I was the one causing the worry, now hopefully more and more I will be the one taking it away.

I made a point to quit this time at the very first inclination I had that it might be the right time. I figure from now on with any of our work if the thought "I should/could quit now" arises that I will go ahead and do so straight away.

Anyway, I feel as though I have this pretty much under control for the moment. I will keep practicing in this fashion and report back again if I get super stuck.

If I have completely missed the point I trust Dr. Deb will let me know soon enough. :)

JTB
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 Posted: Sun Mar 31st, 2013 03:38 am
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Hi All,
Have just found this thread again, how is the trailer loading coming along, Shelly?

What started as a trailer loading question is turning into another completely different question.

Dr Deb, I am now wondering if I have am reaching new levels of insanity. I am hoping to bring my gelding to you clinic in two weeks time. Due to other commitments I couldn't not do, I feel I am running out of time to get my horse prepared enough to haul him there. After purchasing the green horse, I soon discovered he wasn't really any form of broke. As I work on loving myself enough, facing my fears, I have found just taking each day as it comes a great relief. It is not really about the horse it is about my approach to the horse. So if I am having a bad day, he gets a pat, if it's a good day, we have all kinds of enjoyment. But it doesn't look like much.

We arrive at the trailer...when I collected him, we lead him in and shut the gate and brought him home. No problems. Now it looks like I have completely stuffed him up. I have just picked up a few holes I need to work on from this thread. I have Buck's trailer loading Dvd and of course today's session I violated the first rule, he was not 100% okay when I approached the trailer. Of course I have learnt for next time. It is still not about the trailer.

It is all about the pressure I am putting on myself, and quite frankly I don't want to try and live up to my high expectations, I am not Buck or Harry and I certainly won't be Buck or Harry in two weeks time! If I get my horse 100% ok about the float, coooolll I will be there with him, if not me and my note book are there with bells on. How do I now deal with the pressure of friends and loved ones who don't get why I am not just stuffing him in the float, taking him on outings to see other horses and indoor arenas and going for rides. I just start feeling like a total failure, and start to second guess myself, maybe he will be better off with someone else blah blah blah.

Does anyone else tackling this conscious horsemanship get this kind of pressure, or am I just making it up and using it as an excuse not to float my horse anywhere at present?
Kind Regards Judy

DrDeb
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 Posted: Sun Mar 31st, 2013 04:53 am
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JTB, nobody said you ever had to come to a horsemanship clinic; and nobody said you had to bring a horse with you.

You can come and spectate and that will be just fine.

You can borrow a horse off somebody else if you like, and ride that one.

You can also not come at all. Totally up to you -- you should pick the option that works best for you and feels most comfortable.

Putting pressure on yourself is a real bad habit -- one which nobody but JTB can get JTB over.

So you decide what you'd like to do, and then we'll either see you or we will not see you at the clinic. -- Dr. Deb

kcooper
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 Posted: Mon Apr 1st, 2013 04:42 pm
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Hi Judy,

I just read back over a bunch of your other posts and the responses and I now remember from reading them the first time that they struck a cord with me. I notice that in many of Dr Debs reply's that this quote is included in it:

"The WHOLE PURPOSE for "starting" a horse is to cause the horse to believe that whatever trouble he gets in, whatever discomfort he may be experiencing, is something that YOU WILL NOTICE AS MUCH AS HE DOES AND TAKE STEPS TO RELIEVE. The ONE GREAT LESSON is that you teach the horse to refer his every trouble to you, as if you were his refuge and his god. And that he shall have no other gods before you."

I thought I might share what adopting this principle looks like in action in my life. I work pretty steadily with Josh and it is the main theme in me finding success.

If I have established that I am my horses god then I have to think about what God is to me.
I believe that, among other things, God is all knowing and the same yesterday as he is today. So I know for sure that no matter what kind of ordeal I get into or create for myself in life that he does not adopt my frenzied attitude about it and... he will show me the right way out.

I know that when I first realized that there was so much about horses that I hadn't been reading that it shot my anxiety through the roof and any skills and confidence I did possess were completely overshadowed and when I did handle my horses I got completely sucked into whatever frenzy they were getting into but worse....I fed it with mine and made it grow!! In my opinion that is the polar opposite of what we would like to think God is for us!

So, what has helped me fill the role as god for my horse:
Josh said 'do you know what a metronome is?'
Yes I do.
So then, adopt a rhythm and keep it.
Its actually helpful for me to keep that metronome/rhythm going all the time. (The excess white noise and anxiety that I had going on inside made me do things like lose my keys and bruise my shins ect.... to much human 'doing' and little or no human 'being'.) But definitely I want to adopt it the minute I make the move to go get a horse. I believe they can feel what you are putting out the minute you make a move for their pen. If you have created a list of things you want to accomplish with them and you are already worried that something will go wrong they are going to feel that from you and figure that there is something to be worried about.
So I know for me that when I feel my rhythm breaking up or else the horse gets bothered by something and I am tempted to get sucked into their tone rather than being the 'tone setter' the first thing I do is re-centre myself and establish my rhythm again. Most often I have to get more basic with my request, such as "ok horse, you may be having a bit of a melt down but you aren't going to have it on top of me." ...all the while keeping that same rhythm and demeanor...the demeanor of a leader...the demeanor of God. That, for me, has been the biggest practical help in overcoming my issue of anxiety and it opens the doors for my skills to show up... the horse thinks to himself "Hey, I got all bothered there and it didn't effect you one iota!...maybe you are a offering a better deal than giving into whatever it was that was bothering me would have been!" And the more times I show up for my horse as the better deal, all the while being steady, rhythmic and unchanging the more my horse is OK in my presence.

There are tons of places where this kind of birdie calling leadership can be established where the odds of you or your horse getting hurt are low... and the more you do it the more confident you are about doing it. For instance: Josh has a Coverall brand arena... it snows a lot up where he lives and so a certain amount of snow can build up on the roof but its kind of a translucent plastic like canvas and its surface is slippery so when the snow gets to that certain amount it starts to break loose and slide off... its quite loud and scary and thankfully it happens often...it is the perfect environment to practice being god-like and remaining fluid, rhythmic, steady and unchanging for our horse. I swear that when they notice that its about to happen that they look to me first now to see if my eyes are getting big, if my breathing has stopped, if my muscles are clenched... if not then they just keep right on truckin at what ever we were doing.
So anyways, I just wanted to offer you an example of how I am getting over my proneness to anxiety.
I know I was watching Bucks 7 Clinics dvd...the problem solving ones.. and there was a clip where Buck was teaching his horse to move off a feel up to the fence that he was sitting on and he was teaching how to become OK with Buck tossing a lariat over the horses saddle and dragging back over as he recoiled it, he said "this horse kicked that Hondo the first 200 times I did this"... "and then he just missed kicking it one time and then went right back to kicking it again" . I mention this because a lot of the anxiety I was bringing to the table came from the unreal, finished type horse expectations I set for myself and the horse... and it was a real relief to hear Buck say what he said. Keeping that metronome going in my head has helped me to be in the moment with the horse instead of worrying about ways it went bad last time or ways it might go bad the next time.

One last thing, Joshs place is like this all-round GREAT environment. So now that I've been going there lots we are getting to work on the athletic component to leadership and not solely working on establishing OK-ness as our main goal (because the horse stays OK), but when I am back home and I travel to an arena or some other place it is very likely that instead working on say grade 3 lessons like we had been doing at Joshs, we have to adjust to fit the circumstances and just help the student get to the school and work on establishing that rhythmic emotional leadership and helping our horse become ok.

Dr Deb, I sure hope it was ok to share that ... it was a lot to spew out but like I said I felt that I might have something to offer in what I am experiencing myself.

Kim

Last edited on Mon Apr 1st, 2013 04:57 pm by kcooper

JTB
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 Posted: Sat Apr 6th, 2013 03:18 am
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Hey Kim,
Thank you so much for your reply. Much appreciated and really gave me lots of food for thought. Enjoy. Kind Regards Judy

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 Posted: Wed Apr 10th, 2013 12:50 pm
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Shelly Forceville wrote: DrDeb wrote:
Shelley, when you get back from your trip: work with her outside the trailer, asking her to do the following sequence: back a couple of steps, then 'roll back' the forequarter over the hindquarter. This is a particularly effective combination 'asana' which Buck Brannaman (like our teacher, Ray Hunt) used constantly.

Do it one time to the right, one time to the left, then lead forward a few steps, rest and give a big bunch of petting. There is no better 'asana' (I am lately preferring this term to 'exercise' -- much better term, stolen from Yoga) for reaching down into the depths of their being to help them let go of worries.


Is there a video link anyone can share of this 'asana' being done? 

*star*


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