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Blaze
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Hi Dr. Deb,

I'm in the process of setting up one end of my arena for winter work. I have the resources to set-up one third of my "seasonal" riding  area with non-slippery footing and lighting. I also have safe panels for the fencing.

I'm wondering if there is any advantage or disadvantage to setting up my panels in a square configuration or as a roundpen. My horses all average 14.2/14.3 hands. I'm thinking a 60 foot or perhaps 66 foot pen would be an adequate size.

This area will mostly be for lunging, ground work, improving the walk, and transitions. Any extensive trot/canter work I will trailer to an indoor or ride out if the weather is clear. One horse is green -  all 3 are for the most part very quiet.

I found this thread where you discuss use of a roundpen and the sizing: http://esiforum.mywowbb.com/view_topic.php?id=456&forum_id=1&highlight=roundpen

I did a quick internet search that didn't reveal too much other than perhaps historically a square pen or manege was used.

Aside from setting up my training area I am curious about how the use of a roundpen came into being. Do you cover this in your book Conquerors by chance? Or know of any other resources I could study?

Thanks for your time.

Erin

 

DrDeb
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Erin, a roundpen is not really to be used for any of the functions you mention. If you want to longe your horse, you can do that better and more safely in the open arena. Improving the walk also needs to be in a large area. Transitions are, likewise, not specially helped by reducing the amount of space.

The one and only real purpose of the roundpen is for the development of liberty work. We use the pen at a sixty-foot diameter so as to make it, on the one hand, big enough that a totally green horse or a mustang can be in there with us and yet not be so close to us that it scares him so bad that he feels he needs to jump out. We have it not any amount bigger than sixty feet across so that in teaching a horse that has had a little time and is no longer terrified, we don't have to walk ten miles and wear ourselves out.

The pen CAN also be smaller than sixty feet; Allen Pogue has posted several times to say that he likes a smaller pen for certain purposes, as most of his work is to develop horses with a definite "circus" set of skills. Small pens are used with horses that have no fear at all and that are learning specialized skills, such as turning figure-8's at liberty, rearing on command, jumping through a hoop, or working in a liberty troup with other horses.

The walls or rails of the pen serve the purpose of preventing the horse from running away or increasing the distance between him and us. He has to be "about so close" to us or else our statements to the horse become ineffective. He has, in short, got to be close enough that if he throws us a thread, and we accept that thread, that the thread will not be broken in the next instant because you push just a little bit too hard and he gets scared and runs off and breaks it.

The pen confines the horse to being in the classroom with us; the pen is the classroom, in which he is -- gently enough, but firmly enough too -- compelled to pay attention to whatever lesson we are offering.

The reason that the roundpen is not a good place to either longe or ride, is the factor that I call "fence effect". To a horse, the perimeter fence has a force field coming out of it. That force field causes the horse to want to displace either the midpart of his body, or else the midpart and the haunches together, toward the center of the circle. This is tantamount to moving crookedly, and that would be one thing you would not want to practice. Therefore, you go outside of the pen -- out to the center of your larger riding area, where the horse is not very close to any fence -- and that is where you will have the least fence effect and the greatest chance of having him learn to go straight on the curved line.

When you are working with a horse in the roundpen for its justified purpose, you will of course be balancing the "push" you give to the inside hind foot with the "pull" you exert by calling the horse's head and forequarter. In this manner, totally at liberty, you teach the horse to come in off the rail toward you. Learning this balance is the key to all roundpenning and all liberty work -- that the untracking of the inside hind leg drives the horse to straighten, even against fence effect; drives the horse to curve his body correctly, thus bringing the forequarter in to face you. And then in that moment when the horse looks at you and throws you the thread -- his Birdie comes to you -- then you learn to accept the thread and pull on it, gently, just as if you were pulling gently upon the lead rope, and the whole horse then comes to you, softly and submissively, forgetting altogether to lead with his haunches or stiffen them in any manner at all. Learning this balance is for you the primary purpose of roundpenning, and teaching this response is for the horse likewise the primary purpose.

Why you have a round rather than a square pen is a consideration for working the frightened, very green, or mustang horse. If such a horse is in a small pen and he starts running, and the pen is square, he will like as not run up into a corner. There he will "stick", not being able to figure out how to go off to his right or left, and in some danger of choosing the worst option (especially if you in your own greenness press forward toward him the least amount too much) -- he will jump over. To jump out of a roundpen generally the horse has to be a lot MORE motivated and/or terrified, and to get it done they will have to cut clear across the whole width of the roundpen. In a square pen, they can get bunched up in a corner and just pop out from where they are standing -- not a wreck you really want.

So, long and short, I wouldn't bother if I were you with building any kind of restricted area at all, unless you are (1) desirous of learning how to start mustangs, (2) desirous of learning how to work with a more experienced horse at liberty, and (3) are under the direct supervision at all times of somebody who is expert at roundpenning. Please pay attention to no. 3: very great harm is done every day by people who get a videotape from some well self-advertised guru or other and then figure they "know" how to roundpen. The man most well known for producing such videotapes does not, in my opinion, have anything like a correct or full grasp of the power of the razor that he has taken up. -- Dr. Deb

Blaze
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Thanks for the reply.

Nope, not wanting to work mustangs!

I have used a smaller enclosed area under guidance from a knowledgeable teacher for groundwork exercises. It really opened my eyes to how sensitive and perceptive horses are and how "loud" a lot of people are. I think I know who you are talking about in number 3 in your response - that particular person and others like them make me want to puke.

It sounds like If I wanted to continue with doing liberty work a 60 foot round pen would be a good set-up.

All 3 of my horses are responive to being called off the rail and squareing up to me - I hesitate to use the term "hooking on" because I've heard a lot of people use it to describe different things.

The way hooking on was explained to me is there are 3 different ways to execute it.
  1. Your horse comes off the rail and squares up to you - like you explained - drawing the outside eye in, while the inside leg steps under. This would be from any gait you requested the horse to do so.
  2. As you're petting your horse and walking around its body that you could walk from the left to right (or R to L), step off and your horse will turn to follow you - without the use of a lead.
  3. If memory serves me correctly - once again while you're petting your horse you step away and they follow.
What are some other types of things a person can work on at liberty with their horse? I'm really hoping to get a pedestal built or repurpose something I can use as a pedestal. I've used my mounting block but it only has enough room for front feet only.

If there is another thread somewhere in the forum that outlines a progression of liberty exercies I apologize and I'll try and hunt it up.

What is a good size for a riding arena?

Thanks again,

Erin

DrDeb
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Blaze, a horse hooks on when it sends or gives you its Birdie. No matter how far its Birdie may fly out from a horse, the Birdie is always connected back to the horse by the Thread. Thus, if the horse gives you its Birdie, and you walk off carrying the Birdie, then you are also pulling on the horse via the Thread. So long as neither you nor the horse breaks the Thread, you will be able to lead him around by means of the Thread, just as if you were holding a lead rope. Or more so; Ray Hunt used to say that when the horse really committed to giving you a strong Thread, it was 'stronger than any chain'. This is a picture -- a metaphor, a teaching tool -- to help you see what you are doing and what the horse is doing when he hooks on.

There are not three ways of picking up the Birdie; there are an infinite number of ways. This is stuff you don't just do in a roundpen; you do it every livin' minute you're around the horse. If the person doesn't do it, they don't have any real control -- they just think they do, and that's because they are still living and perceiving on a merely surface level. When you live in a way where you're expecting to communicate with the horse by means of the Birdie and the Thread, then you're living on the same level or in the same world as the horse, and you will thus actually be able to communicate with him in a way that is just as sure and certain as if you were conversing verbally with a human friend.

Blaze, there is no 'progression of liberty exercises.' Remember? There are no levels; there is no such thing as a level. So what you do instead is you go be with a teacher who knows how to do liberty work properly, i.e. by means of the Birdie (whether they actually talk about the Birdie or not, you will be able to see and tell whether they are working by the Birdie). And from the teacher you learn a variety of things that a person MIGHT do with their horse at liberty.

When you can teach a horse one of these maneuvers, so that he executes it softly and cheerfully, then you can go ahead and teach him another one. You teach them one at a time, or I should rather say, you teach the essential parts of one, which you will then, when the time comes, find to be applicable also to several others. These essential parts are to be practiced to repletion, and they include stopping, moving forward, untracking, drawing in, sending away, waiting, stepping back, and stepping the forequarter around. These are the building blocks out of which everything conceivable is built. Success in doing any of these things depends heavily upon your ability to apply pressure at the right time, your understanding that the removal of pressure is the greatest reward, and above all, your ability to combine these two concepts so that you remove pressure at the right time.

The practitioner who becomes good at THIS, will not need food treats in order to train what are called "tricks". This does not mean that food treats cannot be used; but they must never be used in lieu of applied pressure and the perfectly timed removal of the pressure when the horse realizes what is wanted and complies.

So, as you see, I continue to tell you that you do not need, and probably should not be using, a roundpen -- unless your teacher is right there with you. Otherwise, you will find that you will be practicing these essentials just as much from the saddle as from the ground. Once the horse follows a feel on the bridle, it does not matter whether he is at liberty or mounted.

As to the size of a riding arena, go have a look at your neighbors' pens and see if you can see what would work best on your own property. You know as well as I do that riding arenas vary greatly in size and shape, and there is no one ideal size. It all depends on the ground you have and what you're expecting to do with your horse, with or without cattle. You need to have enough room so that there is plenty of room, and if you have friends or boarders at your place, or if you plan to sponsor clinics, then you'll need to take that part into consideration too.

Nuno Oliveira used to say 'if you can't train your horse in the confines of a 20-meter circle, then you can't train a horse.' -- Dr. Deb

 

Blaze
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Thanks!

AdamTill
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Liberty work can be anything you do normally with tack...just without the tack.

When I think of really good liberty work, I remember a video I saw of a ground driving session where a horse was being worked on long lines that weren't there. The horse was walking about three feet in front of the handler, and would go through the gaits, bend, and collect in perfect harmony with the handler;  it was as if someone had gone in after the fact and erased the lines from the video. The best part was the fact that this wasn't the horse's regular handler, but a visiting clincian instead.

I like to try to confirm the things I work on by asking my horse to do them loose in the field before I bring him in - just for fun, really. If he's willing and able to do them there, I figure he both understands them and enjoys the work.

I got to work with Josh Nichol again last week, and he helped to refine some of the details that my horse and I had been working on (sticky shoulder as a result of some spacial confusion between us for one, and more effort by the inside hind in our lateral work). After the first day was over, I went out to his paddock to feed before heading home, and Tindur was willing to go through our entire lesson again with no tack involved. I could ask him to release a few blocks in his neck through the "rein", connect that "rein" to his hip, and start up in a lateral step rather then flowing into it. Very cool stuff, and skies the limit really. When the horse is working off a feel rather then a physical connection, "liberty reins" feel just a real as normal ones.

Jeannie
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It is ironic that the more people rely on equipment -- fences, halters with chains, ropes, cross-ties,etc -- to control a horse, the less likely they will be able to communicate with, and therefore, actually control the horse.

Allen Pogue
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Hello Blaze et.al.

 Dr Deb wrote:

 These essential parts are to be practiced to repletion, and they include stopping, moving forward, untracking, drawing in, sending away, waiting, stepping back, and stepping the forequarter around.

The picture attached illustrates an easy way to practice all of these exercises using a corner of a square pen, a pedestal and a pair of whips..

 The method is quite simple to execute and the result easy for the horse to understand.  What you do is to first lead the horse around the  square pen and 'introduce'  him to the corners, where you halt, perhaps walk a few steps back, or turn inward to proceed to the next corner. After a relatively few repetitions, add a pedestal as pictured,  set near a corner and ask or show the horse to turn inward and step up.. praise lavishly, reward with a cookie if you choose ( this does expedite the process, it is like getting a paycheck) .

 In the beginning it is usually easier if you use a lead rope to draw the horse out of the corner and forward towards you ( on the otherside of the pedestal.

Now after a couple of sessions you should be able to  dispense with the lead rope and use a pair of whips.  I choose to use a 60" straight guider and a long lunge.

 Just like I have seen every great circus trainer do.. The reason is that to use one whip is like tying one arm behind you back, you will have a 'weak' side which the horse will immediately notice and take advantage of. The lunge is used to send the horse forward while you maintain a wide ,safe working space. the guider is used to indicate direction or the strength of your intention.

 By this I mean  when the tip of the guider is held high it garners more of the horse's respect or attention.. when it is lowered it indicates that you are more 'satisfied' with the horse's compliance. When you place both whips under your arm in a reversed position and approach the horse open-handed it indicates completion.

 The basic reason we incorporate a pedestal is to give the horse a very obvious piece of real estate that is 'his'.. something a flight species is in need of.

 Once a horse has become accustomed to standing boldly on 'his' pedestal then you can  begin to ask for more actions, like walking the hind quarters around, saluting -- first one leg then the other, stepping up with all four, then stepping off with just the front. or perhaps just a 'smile'..

 Prof. Jesse Beery wrote in his horse training pamphlets that a horse only understands "actions and objects", he did not elaborate on the fact that they also can understand  'associations' of the two. Though I am sure he understood this quite well.

 It is creating useful associations that make early training progress at a relatively rapid pace.. The horse pictured is a big rawboned Mustang that had very little interest in doing anything a handler asked. The picture was taken 3 sessions into this 'trick'.

Allen

 

Attachment: Spirit on ped.JPG (Downloaded 591 times)

rifruffian
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Interesting post, Allen.....especially for me  the paragraph referring to the position of the tip of the guider. I had 'accidentally' found this out when manoeuvring with my lunge whip.

Last edited on Sat Sep 26th, 2009 04:13 pm by rifruffian

Blaze
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Thanks for the reply Allen.

The thought that the pedestal is to be the horse's own piece of property is a good one.

To me it seems like when I go watch my mom work her agility dog. All of the handlers bring along their dog's crates or x-pens and they have their own spot to chill between exercises.

Are your pipe panels painted or do they tape on them? Are the colors for a decorative touch or do they have some sort of meaning training wise?

Thanks,

Erin

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Allen,  I have fond your insights into how horses learn  to be great food for thought. I was inspired to get a large heavy board with a rubber mat on top after seeing your photos of the plie bow. Now when I bring it out, my horse puts his front feet on it and looks around for me, so he can do his bow, so clearly he is associating the object with the trick.
     I was curious if your horses who know the " rules" ever correct the other horses who might be doing their own thing?
                             Jeannie

Patricia Barlow Irick
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I have two square pens to train mustangs. One is 20x20 and the other is 24x24. The corners give the mustang somewhere to get farther away if needed. I rarely use the 60 ft round pen we have here unless it is to train following at liberty. The corners of a square pen automatically teach the mustang to turn if you give them a tug each time they get to the corner. The USFS is going to provide me with four 12x12 pens for training..... one of the problems I have had is that the horses are all kept in common pens and sorting the trainee out gets adrenaline levels up.

We just finished up our first roundup and adoptions we placed 40 horses in adoptive homes and have 8 left. The old horses that were trained were all adopted and they were no harder to train than the foals and yearlings.

Round pen abuse is extremely common. People don't understand the concept of "release" and just get fixated on chasing. Developing running away as a habitual response is a very common problem the round pen creates.

DrDeb
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Patricia, the problem is certainly not created by the roundness of the roundpen. It is created by the ineptitude or ignorance of the handlers.

I never use a small square pen, as I indicated initially in this thread, and I get along just fine with whatever horse I'm working on, mustang or 'bothered and troubled' or somebody's buggered-up "pet" that they have nearly ruined by teaching it to run away. I also never use two sticks, like Allen advocates, the reason being that I don't need ANY stick. I've never felt like I had either of my hands tied behind my back. My teacher once suggested to me, very gently, that "....Debbie might not need a flag." Understatement of the year.

The point is this: I respect both you and Allen, and what this discussion brings out is that the 'Art of the Thread' very much depends for its execution upon the kind and amount of inner energy that the handler brings to the situation. So I don't use two sticks because I can create a very strong Thread without a 'guider'; and, as my teacher said, as for the stick on the driving side -- well, just Debbie's energy might be plenty. Yet Ray Hunt, whom you all know I respect, often used a flag, and so do many others who are carrying on Ray's legacy, and I would gladly send anyone to them for help or instruction.

For me, though, I have had to cultivate my own style. This reflects a saying of my teacher's: "This is something I had to do by myself, for myself." There is a way to send energy out of your hands. I have been very interested in this phenomenon or human capability, and have lived it and developed it within myself, and attempted, through the Birdie Book, to share some of it with other people.

I can also coach someone else to improve their roundpenning skills. I call this 'close coaching'. They very often don't realize all that needs to be realized about every detail of their body position when they are in the roundpen with the horse....this is the real root cause of the problem you mention, Patricia. They also don't read the horse well enough, so they don't see when the penny has dropped. If the student will comply and try their very hardest to do exactly as I tell them when they are in the pen, with my voice to guide them they are soon able to stop inadvertently teaching their horse to run away, and they soon become able to call him in and then produce proper, calm 'up' transitions with no flee in there as they learn to send the horse away. Gradually then I withdraw my voice support and then they can do it on their own, and not only that, they can do it whether they are in the roundpen or in any other kind of pen. I call this 'learning the principle of the thing.'

Now you on the one hand, and Allen on the other, have goals that are to some extent different than my own when working with horses. You also have chosen different sorts of horses to work with. I'm interested in hearing your approaches and you both have been good help here.

Just remember that it's the operator, not the equipment. If the operator knows what they are doing, they set their own situation up to succeed, and every person who reads this thread needs to remember that.

Cheers -- Dr. Deb

Allen Pogue
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Hello Dr. Deb  et.al.

  Always seems appropriate to give the good Dr. her say, and then let it sit a while so all the interested members can digest and integrate the knowledge.

  To answer a couple of questions:

Jeanie, Do the older, more experienced horses attempt to correct or guide the young ones?  Absolutely!

Patricia,

 I understand the delimma of having to move semi-wild (or is is semi-tame) horses from paddock to pen from training. The solution definitely is not individual 12x12 pens for training.

 An alternative would be an aisle way, or alley way that connects the turnout living area to the training area so that you are not required to first catch and then lead the half-tame horse.  12x12 is WAY too small.. You have to allow the horse just enough room to move ( safely away from the handler) and yet not so much that he can get up a good head of steam and try to launch himself over the panels, if pressed too hard..  the actual size will be dictated by your training style.  In any event the panels should be at least six feet tall.

 Erin,

    The pipe fence (and buildings) are painted red,white and green as a reminder that every day is like Christmas when you have a trick pony in the barn. Also the white sections make the fence much more visible in low-light conditions.

   Another consideration is that I want to inspire others to look at their own situation and make it such that when you go out to play or work with your horses you have a clean, tidy, bright, lively environment that is 'uplifting' .. The idea is to have fun all the while knowing in your heart that you have gone the extra mile for your horse's benefit and safety.  

Other exercises you can begin with are limited only by your own imagination and yet more importantly, IF you provide an enriched environment your horse(s) will soon begin to use their own imagination and start to come up with new behaviors that (if  you are clever and quick) are worth capturing.

  I cannot take credit for the best  Liberty 'tricks' my horses know. They evolved from the horse's  ideas. Now sure perhaps at first it merely was an evasion tactic, but the important fact is, that it was the horse's idea. I simply saw the opportunity to "put a button on it" and get the horse to repeat it.

   Something I have learned is that if, in the beginning, a new behavior is the horse's idea then consolidating it into a learned behavior is extremely easy. The alternative is impress your ideas upon the horse, which usually is not quite so easy.

 I find it very curious to know that this is the corollary to Ray Hunt's dictum:

 "Make your ideas the horse's ideas" ..

The corollary version for Liberty schooling might be stated as:

 "Allow the horse's ideas to become your ideas".

 after all Liberty schooling really is: "The Realm of Equus".   

 Specific/ Basic exercies:

First and foremost, teach the horse to respond to his/her name. IF the horse does not absolutely know their name they cannot be held responsible when you call them out and they ignore you.

 From that the horse should come when called and go when commanded. They should 'go' at whatever pace you ask. They should understand to quicken or to slow the pace on cue and yet not change gait. To halt on cue, and remain in place as long as you require.  

 To reverse direction.

 To circle about a specific locus (a center point). This could be a traffic cone, a pedestal  or in the final analysis any spot on the large perimeter of the ring you dictate. This is the making of a pirouette or waltz at Liberty.

 To work "into pressure"  this means that if you assume a position well in front of the moving horse's inside shoulder while walking backwards. The horse is expected to continue forward even though you are putting pressure on it to perform. This typically is increased amplitude of the action or lift of the front legs (shoulders and body). To do this the horse has to have adequate drive from behind, this requires that you use the long lunge whip in a low flicking motion to maintain or create the necessary impulsion all the while indicating to the front legs with the guider that you also are asking for more activity.

 This type of training is a great exercise in mental agility and composure.

 From this exercise you can delve into the intricacies of creating the classical Spanish Walk, and then variations of the trotting gaits. With a naturally endowed horse you can go so far as to achieve the terre a terra at Liberty. This is a beautiful Baroque gait where the horse punctuates each stride of a galopade with a levade. This taken to an even higher level of activity and the horse can execute a lancade (the Lance) .. where with each strident levade instead of tucking in the forelegs the horse strikes out with an alternate  foreleg.  This is such an exaggerated action that when it happens you have to stop ever so briefly (in your own mind) and shake the cobwebs out and give the horse his due reward for such a performance.

The way I have been able to explore these possibilities has been with the use of a single pillar also called a "circus pole' or in old  California, "The Palo Verde".. I choose to call it a Liberty Pole.

 The idea is that the horse is connected via a 13ft lead rope to a 7.5' tall pillar with a swivel on top. This allows the handler to assume different positions relative to the horse's body and  direction of movement and yet the horse is still 'connected' to a center point (the pillar). The handler (whose hands are free) can be in front, to the inside, to the outside or even stand completely to one side while the horse circles the pillar on his own.

 It is "through' these lessons that the horse regains his complete Liberty. Hence the name: The Liberty Pole.

 Here are four of eight principles I learned from a high school master that guide my thinking while schooling horses in this manner:

1. Have the horse's attention and respect

2. Prevent the evasions

3. Use repetition to relax the horse into the new exercise

4.  Proceed from the simple to the complex.

now, thinks about it and go have some fun with your horses!

 regards,

Allen Pogue

Dripping Springs, Texas

Attachment: 03-11-06 G ATER SPANISH TROT.JPG (Downloaded 478 times)

DrDeb
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Allen, that is an absolutely MARVELOUS picture. I admire the way you get results -- you know how to apply pressure so that the horse is clear as to what you want him to do, and you can raise the 'excitement' level in the horse enough that he really gets thinking about doing his very best, his utmost. Yet at the same time he never tips over into hysteria, panic, or fear. This is a high art and one reason I'm glad to recommend that people who want to start their horses on a circus style of training go to you for instruction.

There are some details in the photo that I want to be sure that everyone sees:

1. The horse is tied to the Palo Verde pole. You can just see the red-colored lead rope. Note that it is SLACK. Before Allen could even think of asking the horse for this much energy output, the horse would already have to know how to trot around the post in the ordinary, more relaxed manner, while tied to it -- so that he knows never to take the slack out of the rope.

2. The horse is "straight on the curve". Note the shoulder and ribcage bulge slightly to the outside. The neck curves to the inside. There is no hint that the hindquarters might swing out, or that either pair of legs (particularly the hind pair) might cross.

3. There is no "flee" being expressed by the horse. He is not running AWAY from Allen's green driving stick; he is RESPONDING TO it. This must be learned long before you ever tie the horse up to the pole, or to anything else for that matter.

4. Allen is not touching the horse with the stick. This, also, has long since become unnecessary or indeed would be "way too much". Students MUST learn how much energy they are putting forth at any given time -- this is the reason to forbid sticks to students in the beginning; so that they do not become dependent upon the stick as the silly people with clickers are dependent upon those gimmicks. The sticks are not gimmicks, though, when the operator knows himself deeply enough. Then, they become 'focusing rods' that can direct and concentrate the energy that is flowing out of the handler's arms and chest. Whether sticks are used or not, it is not the STICK the horse is responding to, but the projected energy; it is my belief that this is, in fact, primarily what horses 'see' -- what they really go by.

5. Notice the dark colt tied up to the neighboring pole. He is watching and learning. I wish the photo didn't cut him off....I think the expression on that horse's face is just as interesting as the one on the face of the red horse performing. Allen has said he thinks the "watching and learning" thing makes his work with the "next horse" much easier....they have already learned from the first horse that (a) it is something horses can do (b) it won't hurt them or get them in any other kind of trouble if they do it (c) what the signals from Allen probably mean.

Great thread, folks, and thanks for the big help, Allen. -- Dr. Deb

Allen Pogue
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 Hi Dr Deb,

 Here is another picture that perhaps shows more clearly some of the elements you spoke about.

 Thank you for the kind comments, more often than not I just throw these thoughts out there hoping that some of it might make sense to someone willing to get out there and try something new with their horse.

 I got the idea of schooling around a single pillar from Pluvenile's book, Le Menage Royal ( written in 1633, so it sure ain't anything new).. but what really got me thinking was making the acquaintaince of a old high school trainer in California whose arms had become so arthritic that she could no longer raise them above her shoulders.  I am quite sure that over the years having horses jerk her around didn't help.

 Now what I do in the beginning is to run an extra-long lead rope ( about 25 ft) thru a brass ring that is clipped onto the swivel. The rope is clipped to the horse's halter and come to my hand via the ring. In this way should the horse have a lapse of reason and pull back I can give him enough room or slack that he does not get into a panic . Then over time they all learn to accept the situation as completely normal.

Another variation of this is to not use a halter at all. I use an extra-long lead rope and make a figure-of-eight around the horse's barrel and neck. Then clip the pillar lead to the neck section. This completely frees up the head and neck and the horse tends to move in a more upright manner.

Allen

Attachment: 03-13-06 Dos.JPG (Downloaded 615 times)

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This is all fascinating. Thanks Allen for always being so generous in sharing your pictures and thoughts.

I really liked what you said about your farm colors. What a nice thought. I agree that you can have things set up functional and safe - yet look nice too and that is also important.

I really like your bay colt that is standing in the background.

That is my dream cross of horse. I have always had Arabians and over the last few years have taken an interest in the Iberian horses.

I've checked Dr. Deb's book, Conqueror's out from the library and drooled over the pictures. I'll admit to being confused over which breeds are what - what is baroque, what is Iberian. I was too busy admiring the pictures to study much.....

Someday when myself and my pocketbook are ready to move onto a new horse that is the direction I want to look.

Erin

 

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Yes, thank you, Allen, for the wonderful photos and insights into liberty training.Of course, now I would like a pillar. I have been using the tall construction cones to create gates to go through on either side of a circle or single cones to serpentine through in a line. I also use a neck rope,and find that if I concentrate on untracking his inside hind, while pulling on his eye with the Thread, as Dr Deb calls it, I find he pulls himself together much better than I could using a halter.
    I have found that teaching him cues at liberty has resulted in much more communication between us than any type of equipment could provide. In my avatar photo, he was participating in a friend's photo shoot. I was out of the frame cuing him to stay in his room, as Dr Deb would say,  on 40 acres without grazing or moving for at least 45 minutes, as these shoots tend to go on awhile, with many people hovering around and holding up reflective screens. In this photo I am asking him to arch his neck up, as it makes for a pretty picture.
             Jeannie

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As indeed it does, Jeannie. I'd be willing to bet that if, at the end of the shoot, the whole crew kind of faded away but left their photo "umbrellas" in the same pasture with the horse, he would not have fled the scene. Rather, I would bet he would have quietly gone over and nosed each one and flipped them over and maybe stomped on them, until he was sure he knew all about them. The open look of curiosity on the horse's face is a valuable lesson to all who read here....he's really interested in what's going on, without one bit of fear. It's a good picture of a horse that's "not in trouble." Cheers -- Dr. Deb

P.S. Very glad to see from your post that you understand what the Thread is. And yes: liberty work is far more powerful than work in tack, although it doesn't replace work in tack, and (especially) riding without tack is not to be made into a goal. What is so valuable about it is that, with the right kind of practice, the person comes to feel their inner life and energy, and comes to know that they can project it and direct it; so that when they then take up the reins, it is not anymore "just reins", but hollow reins filled with "feel" or "the life" inside of them, and the person knows that this is the Thread, which is stronger than any leather strap, and stronger than any chain.

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Dr Deb , Yes, I have found that the more you work with the Thread, the stronger it gets; so that you can dismount, leave your horse and disappear down a gully to move a cow out, and the horse understands that you are still there ,even though he can't see you. You are in his mind so strongly, that he waits patiently for you to return. He is not worried, but maybe watching the area where he last saw you with interest.
        The liberty work has taught me that whatever I may have at one point perceived as resistance, has turned out to be me being unable to explain something in a way he could understand. Once he understands what I'm asking, he is happy to cooperate, and so I get frustrated with myself occasionally, as I try to figure out how to present things so he sees what is in my mind. I have also learned to leave things for a bit, and that door will open on it's own later.
        The ground work always seems to flow over to the riding, I think for them, there is little difference.
                                   Jeannie

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I have been experimenting recently with the thread and seeing what I could do to make it stronger. One of the interesting things I found, was when my focus is on a specific purpose, the horse becomes curious and wants to become my partner in my purpose. So an example from the other day: outdoor areas were really soupy after a rain, so I went into the indoor. My mare hasn’t had a lot of exposure in there and she was quite preoccupied with all the sounds happening out of sight.

 

I busied myself with walking around setting up cones, moving them, sorting them, etc. Mindless really, but I operated with a plan all the same. Cones up in a certain configuration, then layed on their side, then moved to another part of the arena. Periodically I would pause, to work out the next part of my plan. My mare was on a lead and accompanied me in my task. Her “job” was to touch her nose to each cone as I placed them, then we’d purposely head for the next one. After several minutes she was right there with me. She didn’t get the “point” of the game, but it was interesting to her all the same. The activities outside the arena were of no interest anymore.

 

Previously, if I had focussed on her, and tried to take her attention away from the outside more directly, it was difficult if not impossible to break the thread between her and what was going on outside. But then I realized, I didn’t need to break THAT thread, I needed to build a new one.

 

Sometimes I think that with cow work, the rider is so purposeful in their activity that they create that same kind of situation.

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Dr. Deb,

I can't remember if it was in a thread, or in one of the Inner Horseman - it seems like you related a story where you were out on a ride on Painty? And you placed an imaginary cow in front of him for both of you to concentrate on. If I remember correctly you had turned for home and his birdie wanted to head for home straightaway.

I used to exercise endurance horses for extra money when I was in college. This particular gelding I rode a lot would get out in the open and really, really want to go. Someone suggested I imagine I was riding upstream through a chest high stream and that we really had to slow down and push through it.

Whatever it was - and I'm sure it was 99% giving me something to focus on - worked. That horse really became my partner - or vice versa. I was really sad when they sold that horse and being a recent graduate couldn't afford to bring him home with me.

Erin

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This has been an interesting discussion and I was very interested to read it now that I am catching up on things. We had good luck finding adopters for most of the horses. Only five left out of the 45 we started with and now we are just waiting for the next batch to be captured and delivered to the corral.

Allen, you inspired me to look at the old manuscripts on pillar training a few years back and these photos are wonderful. Pillars are so paradoxical to me.... a very solid fixture to achieve total lightness. I know horses can learn from observation, but I think they have to learn to learn from observation. Talk to us more about your experience with this.

In regards to the 12x12 pens... For most training it would be too small, but I am doing "clicker" training through the fence panels and am not inside with the animals. They spend 3-4 days in this part of the process. I just stay in the alley between the rows of pens and dispense hay. It is a pretty effective way to give them the idea that humans serve a purpose and expect some kind of performance. Some of them just immediately become like old gentle ranch horses. They graduate from the small pens when I can pet them. The requirements for this gentling contract is that they be approachable and leadable.  The problem with group pens is that the behavior of the group sinks to the fear level of the wildest horse and they all learn to run away.

Round pens are very good if your mustang hides in corners as a way to avoid you. Square pens teach the animal to turn corners and bend more. We found that our 10x100ft alley is a good place to work on leading once the horses don't mind you being next to them.  It's nice having a variety of pen shapes to work in.

If you are interested in the process we use, we documented it in this video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rX80GcAEATE

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Patricia, I want to pick up on the part in your post about using a clicker and take this opportunity to clarify, because I have in other places called clickers "a gimmick". Let me use a story to get my point across.

One of my acquaintances in the horse industry is an older gentleman by name of Jorge DeMoya, who grew up in Cuba before Castro came into power. Jorge was taught by his grandfather how to breed and train the Cuban Paso horses, and by the time I met him he had become a master of the craft.

Now as a native Spanish speaker and an educated man, Jorge had read Juan Segundo's treatise on bitting, which was written in 1801 when Segundo was appointed bit-master to the King of England. Segundo set forth in his treatise a blueprint for a tongue-loop bit that would have a mouthpiece that would swivel forward or back totally independently of any action made with the shanks.

In tack shops today, you can buy a bit that is called a 'Segundo' bit. Externally, it looks like Segundo's drawings, but the mouthpiece is in fact fixed with respect to the shanks, as it would be in a Spade or a Texas grazing curb or a Weymouth. The reason for this is that although Segundo's idea was brilliant, a method by which the bit he actually specified could be built did not, at the time, exist. And I also think that many manufacturers of what are called 'Segundo' bits never actually looked at Segundo's original writings, and they just built their bit in imitation of bits called by that name that they had seen somebody else build.

But by the 1980's, when Jorge was thinking about this, the technology to build the specified freely swivelling mouthpiece/port did exist, and Jorge HAD read the original and understood it fully. And he also had the means to start-up a company. So he began to manufacture a bit that he called the 'Maestro', and because we were friends he gave me one so that I could try it out with Painty Horse. Jorge also gave one to Harry Whitney.

Well, Harry and I both tried the Maestro on our horses and it worked absolutely great. We also both -- very judiciously and cautiously -- would occasionally offer a student attending a clinic a ride in it, because this bit can materially free up a horse who has been having trouble raising the base of his neck. Both Harry and I can cause most horses to raise the base of their neck whether the animal is tacked up in a sidepull or a snaffle -- but that does not mean that the student can. So when appropriate we would sometimes make use of the Maestro, for short periods, with selected students on particular horses, as a learning aid.

Now, there came an occasion at about this time when I attended a clinic taught by our elderly teacher. And I brought the Maestro along to show him. He took one look at it and said, 'gimmick'.

I did not consider it wise to dismiss my teacher's ideas, no matter if they conflicted with my own experience. I mean, when you have the greatest horseman in the world willing to advise you, it's good to listen to him and take what he says seriously. So instead of being offended, or contravening anything he had to say, I instead asked myself: 'so why does he call this a gimmick when he knows very well I've been getting good results with it.'

And the answer to that turned out to be -- as he confirmed to me later -- 'Debbie, I wanted you to learn this yourself, so well that it went right down into your guts.'

So what is the definition of a 'gimmick'? A gimmick is a crutch that you continue to use when you no longer need a crutch; or when you shouldn't be using a crutch at all, rather should be doing it straight out of your own juices without any mechanical device.

There is no other way to find out how powerful your own juices are, or what you might be able to do when there is no one else and nothing else to help you. This is the only way I know of in any other walk of life too, to achieve mastery. And my teacher knew that mastery was my only real interest (I think he'd heard me say how BORED I am when I hear people say they got a '62' on their dressage test, for example. He would nod his head rather solemnly and say, 'yes, many people are willing to settle for very little.')

So now you will understand why I call clickers 'gimmicks'. It is not a proscription. You are using the clicker in a context where it is really needed and a really good idea. Nobody would want the mustangs you work with to have to exist in a state of fear or confusion one moment longer than absolutely necessary. You can't touch them and you have a lot of them that have to be processed -- and their lives depend upon this, because if they don't get 'broke' they probably won't get adopted.

You are, in fact, using the clicker in almost its original context -- clicker training was invented by people who work at the 'Sea World' type of shows, where they cannot make their voices clearly distinguishable to the Orcas and the dolphins in the noisy environment of the enclosed pool. And nor either can the trainer be next to, or keep up with, the animals; so there has to be a way to communicate with them over a distance of space.

So there is nothing wrong with what you are doing. But it also isn't the way I would choose to TEACH the usual type of student, who has a horse that it's more or less no trouble to be around. The preferred long-distance mode of communication is not the clicker, but the voice.

I cannot tell you how many gazillion times I've had students tell me, 'well my horse responds to voice commands', when the animal clearly does no such thing, and in fact evinces not even basic manners or respect for the owner/handler. With this student, the very first thing I'm going to do then is tell her that she must not speak to her horse at all: because before the voice can have the slightest meaning, or any precision in its meaning, the person is going to have to be made as aware of every nuance of her voice and of her choice of words to speak to the horse, as she will FIRST have to be made of her body-position. When she can handle the horse well by body-position and the projection of energy alone, and has been broken of the habit of continually chattering to the animal -- meaningless noise and waste of energy -- then we can think about actually teaching the horse to respond promptly, thoroughly, accurately, and every single time to commands given by the voice.

And the same goes for whips, guiders, sticks, flags -- my teacher used to say 'yes, those kinds of things just seem to stick in the person's hand,' meaning, once you give most people a whip they are inclined to go ahead and use it. Unwisely, of course, and to the destruction of both the training process and their relationship with the horse. But, as I said previously to Allan, once the person knows himself well enough, then he can take up various types of tools and the effect will be good.

My teacher never proscribed the Maestro, or flags, or whips, or clickers; but he often said -- and not only to me -- 'most people probably don't need them.' -- Dr. Deb

 

 

 

Patricia Barlow Irick
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Thank you Dr. Deb for giving this a lot of thought. I am very aware of your stand on clicker training and voice cues..... actually I really do think about it some times and ponder now what would happen if I didn't talk to this horse or I tried to do things differently. I think its actually good for mustangs to get used to the noises of the chatty primates that bring them food. Their adoptive owners are almost sure to chat at them anyway. It does not speed the process to gentle mustangs in silence at any rate, though at a higher level of training it might certainly be distracting.

Knowledgeable people, such as yourself, give those of us in the trenches hypotheses to test. The whole birdie thing is a case in point. Sometimes a mustang will just latch on to your mind and do just what you thought it should do with hardly a tish of training. It's suddenly floating along beside you like a Kentucky Derby winner. The horse is just doing and going from your mind energy alone. I am quite sure that this is where you talk about sending the birdie. Its magic and it happens with untamed horses sometimes. But I wouldn't have recognized it if I hadn't had the concept of the birdie planted in there by reading your writings. That is a really heady and addictive state of being in partnership, and its beauty makes you crave to find it again.

Allen Pogue
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Hello Patricia,

    A few years ago I watched a program on PBS about capturing and taming wild elephants in Southern India.  The wild herds were invading villages that due to increased population had encroached on the elephants traditional grazing land.

 The mahouts (elephant trainer/drivers) were imported from Northern India where they had been plying this craft for a thousand years or more.

 The wild elephants were actually lassoed and tethered between two very large trained elephants, then they were force marched into a small palisade enclosure made of trees the size of telephone poles.

Once inside this tall enclosure there was barely room for the elephants to turn around. The mahouts then used long light poles to prod and nudge the elephants into compliance. The first thing they taught the elephants was to kneel down then to raise and retract their trunk to receive a large ball of rice passed directly from the mahout's hand to the elephants mouth.  The narrator explained that this was how the 'connection' was established.  (sound familiar?)

Regarding encouraging allelomimetic in horses I am sure there is a domesticated intelligence component at work, that is, an inborn desire to interact with humans. I believe by providing an enriched environment from the beginning any normally curious horse will reach out to experience the input that is available.

   Likewise most likely the horse has "to learn how to learn", this is best accomplished by keeping the horse's feet still so his mind can be active. I will attach a picture of how we have our big round pen set up with cross ties just outside the perimeter.  I got this idea from watching Sacha Houcke jr. go through a green saddle breaking session with a troupe of Freisians at the circus. With a team of assistants he went down the line saddling one horse after another and very briefly leading it around the circus ring while all the other horses were held side-by-side just outside the ring curb, all facing inward where they could observe the lesson.

 When possible I use a young assistant horse to help train foals in a 15'x30' schooling stall. Having a horse that is as close to the age of the untrained foal as possible seems to give the best results.  What I am talking about here, is asking the foal to stand his/her ground on a pedestal (or sit on a bean bag) while the other horse is asked to march around. Also other behaviors like standing side-by-side (on a pedestal) and saluting or smiling or picking up objects are easier to teach if the age difference is small, (probably because) there is less of an intimidation factor. The idea here is to teach the young horse to act either independantly or as part of a team depending on the lesson. These early lessons work wonders in developing the horse's total confidence and thus reliability.

However when it comes to precise Liberty schooling in a larger pen then a older, ring-wise (unrelated) mare gives the best results, they are tolerant up to a point and yet decisive when repremanding a foal that is not going along with the program.

 It is the use of two-whips that afford the handler an enhanced ability to sort out individual horses or call forth specific behaviors at a distance. The visual cues from the whips are easily understood by the individual who you are cueing and disregarded by the other horses. This is especially true if you call a horse by his name to single him out. Now I also use the cue "Everybody!"  when I want attention from the troupe.

Here is a link to a video archived on GOOGLE that may show some of what I am talking about.

 http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-4524077804788350324&ei=w1bPSvqRAojMqgKw-oWvBA&q=allen+pogue+equine+expo+of+texas&hl=en#

 Erin, You asked what is Baroque and what is Iberian?

 Dr. D can correct me if this is wrong, but a simple answer would be that Andalusians, Lusitanos and Sorraia are Iberian, add these breeds to Lippizan & Freisian and you have the Baroque types.

Allen

Attachment: Hasana at Liberty.JPG (Downloaded 374 times)

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Allen, thank you for sharing the informative video. Even if people don't plan on doing circus type work with their horse(s), there is much to be learned by watching your training methods. You have taught your horses that certain words have meaning, to which they need to respond, especially that their name requires their attention on you,in preparation for a command. I have noticed that most people talk too much to their horse in an attempt to get them to do something, or quit doing something, without having taught them that a word has any meaning. This seems unfair to the horse, who is usually nervous anyway, or they would be doing/ quitting whatever it is you want them to be doing/quitting. 
    I've had my horse for a number of years now, but  before I owned him he had learned to release himself from any sort of pressure put on him (just leading him was a challenge) by getting bigger and stronger than the person handling him and getting away. This resulted in stronger equipment being used until he put his owner in the hospital and out of commission for quite a while. 
          When I first started to work with him, I wasn't sure how to proceed, but I got a rope halter and after a ride I would spend some time trying to show him he could do certain things a little at a time. I think we both enjoyed these sessions, and I had been trying to tie the word " wait" and the concept of waiting to him not pulling back on his lead rope if some pressure was put on it. We had gotten to the point where he could step on his rope, I would say" wait", and he would wait for me to release him. One day he was tacked up and I ran into the barn to get my gloves and when I came out he had wandered off and was grazing when his reins slipped over his head and formed a figure 8, which he stepped into. When he started to lift his head, he proceeded to start jumping around and rearing up because something had caught him. My first instinct was to run and close the gate so he couldn't get out on the road, but half way there I stopped, turned towards him and yelled his name. He stopped moving and looked right at me. I said "WAIT" with my hands out in the cue I had been teaching him. He sighed, started grazing again and stepped out of the rein loop. I was a bit stunned by what had just happened, but I knew it was important, and it was how I was going to be able to work with this horse. After reading Dr Deb's writings, I realized that he had thrown me his Birdie, and together we had gotten him out of trouble.
   Jeannie

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I thought it would be interesting to take some photos where you are working  with the Thread on a particular movement with tack, with a neck strap and with nothing but your hands, to compare how the horse looks in each photo. I'll try to do that; in the meantime, here is one where the neck strap is being used as if you were riding from the ground.
           Jeannie

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Using Dr Deb's criteria that the horse must be calm and correctly bent on the circle while reaching under the body with the inside hind, rather than fleeing while being counter bent, my friend took a few photos of working on a circle using the cones as gates. In the first photo he is looking at my friend, but I think it shows that he is calmly participating in the exercise.
               

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In the second photo he has pulled himself together a bit more.

Attachment: PB050011.JPG (Downloaded 198 times)

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When I don't use anything but my hands, he tends to get creative, offering to do movements and then looking at me to see how that went over. Allen is correct in saying " make the horse's idea your idea" because some of it is pretty good. It started to rain after this, so we didn't get to do the riding photos. If anyone else is interested in posting photos of working with your horse in this way, I would love to see them.
            Jeannie

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DrDeb
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Here you go, Jeannie. You can also see live motion of me working with Oliver on the drum incorporated into the "Conformation Biomechanics" DVD program. It is a short clip, functioning as part of helping people understand what crookedness or side preference is; but I am also showing, and commenting, about how you use the thread to pull the feet up.

And as long as we're here, I want to add a story -- Allen P. is going to love this, but so will anyone else who would like their horse to learn how to use the teeterboard. The teeterboard or see-saw can be scary for the horse, even after a lot of preparation where you set it up so that it doesn't teeter or only teeters a little with a rubber tire stuck under the high end. But the day must come eventually, of course, when you take the tire out, and that first time where it tips down all the way can be something the horse has to deal with for a while until he's OK with it. So anything that one can do, I think, to cushion this would be great.

And of course -- as Allen often notices -- some of the best improvements come up entirely by chance. Now we all know that the horse gets to liking stepping up on his platform -- so that in a fairly short time, the platform or circus drum can get to be a comfort zone for the horse so that he prefers being up there to almost anything else. Well, that's great too as far as what he's telling you about how confident he feels; he feels very confident when he's on his drum.

So, about two weeks ago the guy who takes care of our arena went to groom it with the little tractor and the chain harrow, and to do that he first has to pile all the ground poles up and he usually also tips my circus drum up on edge. I have to add that this guy is not overly fond of me, and I think he kind of resents having to tilt the drum up....mine is rather heavy, being made all of wood, and instead of having legs it has a flat base made out of a half-sheet of 1/2-inch plywood.

So he finished his work in the arena and then he just sort of threw my drum back down, and it landed somehow on a biggish rock, which I did not notice. Then when I went out that evening and played with Ollie and he went to step up on the drum, well of course it tilted all over the place like crazy. Like one of those "tiltboards" they give football players to improve their balance -- a circular board with a hard hemisphere attached to the bottom -- just like that.

Well, old Ollie got up there and this did not faze him a bit. He sort of looked down and said, 'oh, that's sort of wierd', but he just adjusted his hind feet and did not act spooked and did not try to step off. So, I thought 'far out, let's see if we can build on this,' and walked over there and asked him to lean one way and then lean the other way, which of course tilted the thing to the max and he still did not mind at all. Then I asked him to actually pick up one foot like you see in this photo, and then the other, and he was still cool. This is what we normally do and I think what Ollie does there is he just figures it will be OK if it tips because it was always OK when it did not tip.

This goes along with another story too -- how when I was working with Painty on the teeterboard I took what I thought was plenty of care to give him lots of time and no hurry or pushing to get him to teeter it....so we worked with the tire under it a long time, and worked going across rather than along it to give him a lot of confidence. Then one day when I figured we'd had a pretty good ride, I got off of him and let him loose in the same pen where the teeterboard was. And he immediately went over to it and gave it the most thorough inspection by smell and by licking and by pawing. It was very clear to me that though I thought I had given him lots of time, I had not given him all the time he needed to be really sure that the thing was not going to hurt him or get him into some kind of difficulty that he could not get out of. This is what they worry about.

So Ray Hunt's aphorism 'make your idea his idea' is a great phrase to know; it has a lot of meaning that goes quite deep.

It is a lot of FUN to work with horses this way, though, isn't it?! Cheers -- Dr. Deb

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O what fun. Here is one of mine on the pedestal. It was her first time and she had lived with me for only one week! I do this a lot with my horses and really enjoy how they learn and how much fun it all is. I admit I am an Allen Pogue devotee!

 

Jacquie

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Here is another. This pony loves the pedestal very much. He is not OK at shows, but at every other situation he is totally OK. He loves being big on the pedestal as he is a small pony but he is very clever and has learned a great many tricks now.

 

Jacquie

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This is Fox on the pedestal. He loves it on there!

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Now Storm. He is a Lipizzaner and his retraining is still ongoing. The pedestal has helped him understand how to relax when being asked to 'do' something. Previously he panicked when asked to 'do' anything. He is an over acheiver. Fox is an over acheiver too, but has not been frightened by being over presssured.

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Hi Folks,

   I am attaching a picture taken last week of a two-year old Arabian practicing the "end of the trail".

 Now when I can get him to pose "with his nose as low as his toes" then it will be a finished trick. I can lure his head into position up close, so now I need to put it on cue and for him to hold it .

Allen

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Great pictures, folks....but remember, the POINT that Jeannie was after was to see if you could post photos that show the "thread" -- that show the (otherwise! or normally!) invisible tie between handler and horse, by which the handler can pull, or push, on the horse's bodyparts, in order to tell him or help him to move in certain ways. Show us photos that show us the supposedly unshowable -- that which is visible only to those who can see what the horse sees! 

Because the POINT was NEVER to "get the horse to do things", including to get him to stand on a platform or drum. That was not the point and that is not what is to be praised! Even though we enjoy it and the horse enjoys it -- the mere getting up onto the drum is not what is feeding or empowering that joy!

The drum is one situation where the tie between rider and horse or handler and horse becomes so necessary, so crucial, as to become visible even to the crude eye of the camera. The POINT is that having perceived that, then we are to take the concept and the process that we have learned around the drum and expand that until it covers every single aspect of our interaction with the horse, whether on the ground or in the saddle. -- Dr. Deb

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You have explained that very well, Dr Deb. I think this is a very hard concept for people to understand, as we tend to be goal oriented, and working with the Thread is a process which can't be rushed. If Ollie hadn't been completely comfortable getting up on his drum, suddenly having it move around would have startled him. I have noticed that it takes quite awhile for horses to really get comfortable with, and understand the point of new lessons.
        I have had people say," oh, I want my horse to do that", but you can't jump in there with that one thing, the horse and you have to build this communication up over a period of time.
 Caption for the photos: all the calm pretty horses!

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Hello everyone,

  Recently I did a display with my horses at the Annual Minlaton Ag Show.

This photo is of my gelding Lucre standing on top of a steel stand and on a tyre rim with a wood and rubber top.

  All the best ,

  Brenton

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Hi Folks,

Hey Brendan good job with the end of the trail pose. You have it just right!

 So Dr. Deb wanted to show the thread, perhaps this picture will suffice. It shows three horses performing three different pedestal tricks simultaneously.

 The bay on the left is walking his hindend around while his front feet are on a pedestal with a revolving top.

The chestnut on the far side of the ring is doing a slow spin while remaining on the pedestal.

 The near chestnut is walking his front end around while his hind feet remain on top of the pedestal.

 What I have been able to do is to use the same vocal command of "Around" to teach each different trick. The horses know exactly which trick to do on each pedestal (or with each different pose).

So that it is possible to cue three horses  simultaneously with one vocal. If I need to add a little "ummph" to persuade the  horse to keep in sync with the others then I merely flick the 18ft long lunge in their general direction while calling the horse by name.

Allen

  

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DrDeb
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Yes Brenton! That's a perfect 'end of the trail' and Lucre's TAIL is so cute, balancing his head there! LOL

And Allen, yes of course your work is spectacular. And I agree, your photo does show the thread at work, for the thread is the tie that exists and remains between the handler and the horse or horses. Brenton's photo shows it too.

However....neither of these pictures is still what Jeannie's photos show, nor what the one of me and Ollie shows. I think it is not necessarily the easiest photo to take, nor would most people take the photo that shows what I want exactly on purpose. Because what I am hoping to have posted here is the odd little photo that just happens to catch the moment when the horse is looking to the human for direction: the expression of their eye and their body that goes with that. Or how a person might move their body or their arms, or the guider or a flag, and the photo happens to catch how the horse focuses on that and follows along, as if pulled by an invisible thread, when the flag is moving back. Or if you're up on your horse schooling Spanish Walk, how the lifting of your hand can visibly be seen to help the horse lift his feet, as if the hand were pulling the feet up by an invisible thread. This is what the photo of Ollie and me shows.

The idea is NOT to show us the perfect finished product -- we all know that there are several people in this thread who are professionals, whose horses are no embarassment to be shown to the viewing public. What we see in a circus exhibition is FINISHED PRODUCT, and it is even part of the expected standard that the audience shall not be able to see how it is done; they just see the horses go from one trick or one maneuver to the next, and the focus is on the tricks or the maneuvers.

What I am hoping to solicit here, however, is PROCESS -- the stage, Allen, before your horses understand you as well as they now do, so that they can work from voice alone, with no body gesture on your part. Because one of the ideas here in this Forum, and one of the reasons I'm always so happy to get posts from you and Brenton and Pauline and some of the others who are pretty far along, is that we might help the people who are LESS far along to see how you get it to the finished stage.

I admit it's difficult to find photos that "show the unshowable", which is the thread; and yet, the thread can be visible at times, and potentially in ways that would help students quite a lot.

So here's another one of a young friend of mine playing with old Painty -- Jonathan wasn't too tall, so he figured if Painty was going to stand up on a drum, it might work if HE climbed up on a drum, too! Little Jonathan and Painty just totally enjoyed each other, and you can, I think, really see the thread between them in this photo. -- Dr. Deb

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Hi Folks,

 In lieu of the picture "showing the unshowable"  I am attaching a picture of the actual 'thread' I use to communicate with horses in the training process.

 In a previous post I mentioned that when I need to add an extra level of attention getting action I flick the end of an 18ft long lunge in the direction of the horse as I call him/her by name. The picture is of the snap that tips the end of the lunge.

 If you look closely at the picture you can see that the 'business end' frays predictably into a feather-like structure.

It is colored green for extra visibility and it is woven extra-thick and soft, so that on the occasions when I touch the horse it absolutely cannot sting, therefore the horse can learn to trust and not fear it. In time and with practice a horse can learn to read our intention and  respond (up to a point) to the power of thought, which is the only thing I know of that is faster than the speed of light.

 When I say "up to a point", this is will depend on the distance you are away from the horse, the level of animation and  precision you are able to achieve.

 I just wanted to further this discussion by showing a picture of the physical 'thread' I use to 'send' my thoughts (directives) into close proximity of the horse when I am either too distant to have effective influence or the horse is choosing to ignore them.

Later on today I will look through  archived pics and try to find one that shows the 'moment' that Dr. D is looking for.

Allen

 

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I love all the photos of the horses, it really is amazing what these animals will do for us.
 Allen, you make a good point about having to use something like the green rope to be extensions of our bodies/energy at times, because we are not horses. If you watch horses interact, they can have a large influence on each other without any physical contact. In order to become significant to them, we have to be able to have that same influence. When horses take over, they are telling us we are not significant to them, so we have to recognize that and respond, or there can be no working with the thread.
 In a little twist, I thought I would note that horses use the thread to get us to do things for them. When I went out to bring my boy in from the pasture this morning, before we started in, he reached back and scratched a spot in front of his hind leg, then stood there. This is his signal that he has a tick in that spot, so I got busy looking for it and took it off. If I can't find it the first time, he will repeat the gesture, and if I keep looking I will find it. Hah, I thought, he just got me to do something for him by directing my Birdie!
      
      Jeannie

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Yes, Jeannie. This is exactly how it works, about him getting you to look for the tick. Painty used to tell me in a similar way when he needed his sheath cleaned, and then when I got his message correctly, he would stand there with a big smile on his face, holding one hind leg up the whole time I was working with the bucket of warm water and the sponge, to make it still easier and more obvious for me.

Similarly, there is Baucher's saying, "the rider's primary job when on horseback is to make what he wishes the horse to do as easy and as obvious as possible for the horse." The unfortunate fact is that -- unless we are able to learn better -- we humans tend to be so focused on our goals or our own agenda that we forget to create setups that make our desires obvious and physically easy for the horse to do. For us to do this requires that we become able to see through the horse's eyes -- how else would we be able to perceive how to make things obvious and easy for him?

And yes, Allen -- I've responded to you before by saying that the guider, the whip, ropes, or other inanimate objects, can be used to focus or direct the inner energy which is what actually empowers the thread -- the energy that gives the thread its existence. But I am never as interested in this physical stuff as I am when it is done with nothing but the "life" that can be made to flow out of the palms of the person's hands, out of their heart area, out of their hara, or out of their whole body as a diffuse "glow" or "bubble". Since you are well read, you probably know that this is the value system among circus professionals, too: the man who can do the liberty act without harness, without whip, and without guider, is esteemed more highly than the one who uses this equipment, even though there is nothing wrong or unprofessional about using it. Vis. Bartabas and Zingaro, for example; such work is hugely compelling. The horse, you see, does not himself carry any guider, and yet he manages (sometimes, anyway, with some people who are tuned properly) to get our attention and direct us -- and also other horses, as Jeannie points out.

When I teach, I encourage students to play with getting their horses to move or respond with just bodies alone, reserving sticks of all types as a second line of communication, especially where the sticks are to be used for "pushing" or "enlivening" functions. Jeannie makes a valid point in noticing that the physical equipment can, for some people or at some times, be needed to make ourselves 'big' enough or meaningful enough to the horse, so that he gets with it and responds with respect.

BUT -- I want students to fully know who they are. Some people are not going to have as much "life" and some have more, but everybody has got to know who they are when they get around horses. I want students to learn to feel their own inner energy and to develop their ability to focus and project it, and the best way to explore this area is to take away all mechanical aids. Many people do not "believe" that there even is such a thing as this focusable energy -- their unbelief does not bother me at all, so long as they are willing to do what I tell them when they're in class, and go along with it even if they think it is bullshit. When it starts working for them, which it always will if they will just hang in there good-naturedly, then they start believing. So I don't care what they tell me they believe, because in the beginning they do not know what all the possibilities are.

The one place where I regularly use a stick is to fix up a flag to use as a drag or "Birdie catcher", and this I might use fairly soon on a horse that tends to get distracted pretty easily or who has a wandery kind of mind or an "I-don't-care" sort of attitude. I also use birdie-catchers to demonstrate to "unbelievers" that, whether THEY think there is inner energy or such a thing as a thread, THEIR HORSE BELIEVES.

I'll tell one story here about the inner energy or "life in the body" as Ray and our elderly teacher named it, and how it goes into daily life outside the stable. When I go over to England I sometimes ride in a car with a certain friend of mine who is "technically" a good driver, i.e. few accidents or tickets. Some of the roads up there are narrow, high-crowned, graded the wrong way on curves, and the cars go very fast. Even so, I am OK about driving with most of my friends on those roads, but this person not only has a lead foot but would also absolutely, categorically deny that there is a God or that there could be such a thing as the energy of which we are here speaking.

Now, when I go out to get in my own car, the first thing I do is send my "feel" out so that it penetrates all parts of the car, right down to the tires. Unless I do this I cannot tell well enough to suit me where the wheels are; without it, you might say, I don't have a good enough feel of my car against the road. Well, my friend in England has NO feel of the car and let me tell you, riding with that person is TOTALLY SCARY. My friend puts the whole burden on the car, as if it were the car that could do anything! And I'm not the only one who has noticed how scary riding with this person is! It is not just that my friend goes fast; other drivers go fast too and I'm OK riding with them. So what I do is try to compensate somewhat whenever I get in my friend's car, by sending out my own "feel" and hoping that my friend will then feel that energy through the car -- coming back through the steering wheel and the pedals! Surely this is what the poor horses have to do a lot of the time too!

Ahh, yes. Well, we all may be screwballs here but I think really not. Cheers -- Dr. Deb

 

 

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There is an excellent spot in Buck Brannaman's groundwork DVD, where he actually "rewinds" the footage to point out to the viewer a small gesture he makes.  The horse is loose, turning to the inside; Buck ever so slightly weights himself and moves his hand slightly to grab the thread and bring it to him.  He notes that had he not done that, the horse would not have "hooked" on to him and come up to him.  He goes on to "ground drive" the horse without any halter, lead, etc.  Yet, one could swear there must be lines on the horse, for it drives better than some horses in a bit & bridle--and this is just a filly who has barely been handled before.  It is a great visual on the thread.

Brenton-- how did you attach the wood top to your wheel rim pedestal?  Did you have to weld brackets on?

--TGWLH

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That sounds great, I may have to buy that one.  I am going to audit Buck for the first time tomorrow.  Very much looking forward to it. 

Dr. Deb I love the "birdie catcher" phrase.  Great visual and reason for an aid if you need to use it.

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thegirlwholoveshorses wrote:
Brenton-- how did you attach the wood top to your wheel rim pedestal?  Did you have to weld brackets on?
Hello
--TGWLH
I cut a circle of strong wood so it fits flush with the top of the rim ,then drill hole in it and just wire it securely to the stud hole so the wire is not visible and cannot hurt the horses. I then screw rubber to the wood so it completely cover the steel.At the Gawler AG Show [South Australia] ,one year it rained just before our morning performance making the rubber slippery on my stands and when Lucre ,at liberty climbed onto the stand he slipped ,but he continued the performance although worried. When we did the same act in the afternoon performance I told the audience about the morning act and said that if Lucre refused I would not continue. This part I would have loved to have on video. When I asked him to continue he looked at me with a worried expression but climbed up and when he was on the top, again he looked at me, and I am sure he was smiling. Two separate horse people in the crowd  noticed it too and came to me after commenting about it . I think his birdie was with me then !  I too have been scouring my photos for the special one showing the thread but to no avail. I will keep tryingBrenton 

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Dr Deb --Just found this photo. Is Chyna's birdie on me , and is she just thinking "Get of my back you idiot " !!!!

Attachment: Chyna & Lucre sitting & on stands 020.jpg (Downloaded 329 times)

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Another of Chyna focussed on the ball she is kicking

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Caddy ,another mare we bred,  focussed on the cattle .


  Brenton

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This is Helen competing on Moonshot and her birdie is on the beast too

  Dr Deb ,are these the type of birdie photos or am I on the wrong track

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Brenton, these are great photos. All of them show the Birdie and the Thread to different degrees. See, this is what I was after: not just cute photos of horses up on the pedestal, the finished product per se, but the connection between rider or handler and horse. And cow.

If you don't mind, Brenton, here are the captions that I would supply for some of your photos:

What Chyna is thinking with you up on her back there: "Brenton is my foal; and don't foals do the silliest things!" Her expression there is "motherly love" which is what you always get with the best mares. See the photo I attach to this below: different mare, much less skillful rider....same exact expression.

In the campdrafting photos, yes I am interested in Helen's expression and focus and the horse's, but also the COW has something to say there. And what is going on, almost beneath the rider's nose in this photo and also in the one where you are the competitor, Brenton, is that a DEAL has been "worked out" between the horse and the cow, whereby the horse says to the cow, "I am going to push you around there, and you better do what I say," and the cow replies, "OK I am going to let you push me around there and I will not try to knock your front feet out from under you." This is why it is so very important to have that certain kind of horse for either campdrafting or its American equivalent, which is "working cow horse class" -- the horse has got to believe in itself so much that it feels almost "genetically superior" to the cow. The horse has got to be able to "dominate" the cow, because if he does not, the cow will most certainly dominate the horse.

The rider comes in on this too; you have to be a pretty darned good rider in order to compete in campdrafting. The person has to be very confident and believe in their horse also, but also encourage their horse by their own ability to focus. You are saying to the horse, "I mean to get this done, we need to get this done together, and I'll go after it 100% and you come along with me with that kind of try too."

On my favorite bullfighting tape, Angel Peralta says, "the rider makes the horse more than the horse makes the rider." He also says, "in bullfighting, there is no room for dishonesty; the very act of bullfighting plumbs the depths of truth in a man." Any type of work with cattle will call on the person to that same extent.

I also want to highlight that viewing Buck's colt starting DVD, where he runs the footage back to point out that ever-so-small yet ever-so-crucial body gesture and body meaning, is key teaching and a marvelous opportunity for everybody interested in this to learn the most important stuff. Because it is the SMALLEST STUFF that tends to matter most. If the handler or rider is still riding on big, gross stuff, and that's all that the person can perceive or all that they think about, they will miss what Ray used to call "the small spot" -- they will "ride right on by the small spot" as he used to say. But it is in the small spot that the softness lies. All horses, at all times, would vastly prefer working out of the small spot. But if the person misses the small spot, they will then usually go right on up to a much bigger spot which (unfortunately!) will also usually produce results. But who cares then about the results!!!!!!!!

This is why PERFORMANCE, per se, ought to mean almost nothing to us. What is to be applauded and praised is NOT that the horse got on the drum; rather, HOW he got on the drum, how he feels about it, the excellence of his expression. That he did whatever he did while remaining 100% OK on the inside is what we should clap for, but that is not how the world at large works as we all know: most people remain unable to perceive anything below the surface, which is just the fact that the horse "did something".

Perceiving, energizing, and working with the Thread is the path to a much deeper understanding of what the true potentials might be of our interactions with horses. -- Dr. Deb

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Aha, I get what you want to show here now. I think this may be a '3 way birdie' pic with us all focussed together on learning spanish walk.

 

Jacquie

Attachment: Sunny, me and Flo.JPG (Downloaded 297 times)

Last edited on Sat Nov 14th, 2009 07:12 am by Jacquie

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Yes, Jacquie, exactly. It is in moments like this that horsemanship happens; not generally at shows. Very good -- Dr. Deb

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   This might be a good thread for a little Pooh philosophy from " The Tao of Pooh", by Benjamin Hoff, as I think Pooh philosophy and horsemanship go so well together:
 " Those who do things the Pooh way find things just happen in the right way, at the right time. At least they do when you let them, when you work with circumstances instead of saying, "This isn't supposed to be happening this way", and trying hard to make it happen some other way. If you're in tune with The Way Things Work; then they work the way they need to no matter what you may think about it at the time. Later on, you can look back and say, " Oh, now I understand, THAT had to happen so that THOSE could happen, and THOSE had to happen in order for THIS to happen...." Then you realize that even if you'd tried to make it all turn out perfectly, you couldn't have done  better, and if you'd really tried, you would have made a mess of the whole thing."
            
                         Jeannie

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Here must be what can only be described as a united and a joyous birdie illustration then!

This photo makes me really laugh! Sunny and Flo were laughing like mad too!

Jacquie

Attachment: Flo and Sunny jumping a ditch.JPG (Downloaded 272 times)

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What lovely photos! Thanks all for sharing. I especially love Jeannie running with her horse, Dr Deb with Ollie on the drum and Jacquie's last two - for the Spanish walk you can really see the horse concentrating and doing her absolute best to figure out what you want. And the last photo shows probably the only kind of united birdie moment I've ever felt - that lovely time when you know the horse is just as keen to fly over the jump as you are.
What a fabulous thread.

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  It occurred to me that the process of thinking and searching for the correct response which is going on in this thread parallels the same thinking and searching that happens when we make a request of our horse. Dr Deb has asked for something and folks are offering what they thinks she wants. When she says," that's very nice, but not what I want right now", they think and search some more and then say,"so is this what you want?" She says," yes", or," closer but no", and then there is the aha! moment. And then you get your release and everyone is pleased all around. Love it!
          
                            Jeannie

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Jeannie, yes, how fine of you to notice. I also appreciated your quote from the Tao of Pooh, one of my favorite books -- given to me by my old friend and teacher, Robert S. Hoffmann, who was quite consciously trying all the time to find the Tao and live it. A great and lasting example for all of us students he was, too.

But to get back to your observations about people -- if anyone has looked at the 2007 "Inner Horseman" disk and read the article about the Ray Hunt clinic in Pasadena: there you will find the expected photos of Ray, and of the horses and their riders who were the "ring" participants. But there are also dozens of photos of the REST of the participants -- that is, the people in the gallery who were listening to Ray and who were just as affected by what he had to say and by what he was showing the riders and horses to do, as the horses and riders were themselves.

Right in this thread we can do some of that, too -- has anyone noticed the gallery in Brenton's photo of Chyna pushing the ball?

There are several people in the gallery that, it seems to me, are getting more out of the demonstration than the others. They are the ones who most strongly send a thread from themselves to the horse, and they are also the ones that if it were up to me to pick someone to work with, I'd pick them first. Who are these individuals? -- Dr. Deb

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Well, I would have to say it is the children.
             
                                     Jeannie

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I would agree that the children look the most interested. However, everyone is looking at the horse. There's just something about the kids - especially the young boy sitting on his knees.

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Hm, I'd say the tall man with the plaid shirt and grey hat, and the elderly lady sitting on the ground on the left. 

Val

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I was thinking the man in the plaid shirt & hat and the boy kneeling behind the horse.  They both struck me as intently focused-- not just enjoying the action, but mentally focused and their energy seemed to be drawing their bodies toward the horse.

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The little boy with the black sleeveless jacket on is absolutely captivated.

The man in the black shirt standing behind Chyna is craning round to see what is happening, so he must be very interested to understand whats going on.

The blonde lady with a turquoise sleeveless top looks astounded!

The lady in grey on the RH side is intent on the action.

The plaid shirt man with a hat on is very interested too.

Actually, nearly everyone seems pretty interested. Hardly surprising really - Chyna is clearly quite a wonderful mare.

Jacquie

JTB
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Fabulous thread!




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