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Sam
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Hi

I'm Sams worse half, I used to be horsey, but now prefer wheels and welders.

Now, bare with me.

Take a herd of 20 horses that all live together 24/7. They eat together, play together and chill out together, they're full time together !

Now, queue the herd up to go through a freshly opened gate or go out with a slab of hay and see what happens. I've seen horses that are mates with each other and who play with each other, kick out and bite and threaten their buddies and they really mean it. Not suprising I guess, after all, they are ANIMALS. What I don't understand is why modern "Horsemanship" what ever that is, seeks to humanise them and tip toe around them less one hurts their delicate feelings, Whats all that rubbish all about !

I was holding Sams horse recently, it bit me, it got a firm slap on the muzzle for that, Sam was'nt happy her horse received a slap. If that horse had bitten another horse, especially an alpha horse or one above him in the pecking order, he probably would have received a decent kick and fair enough too. Surely the most dominant alpha horse in the herd has to be the human, at the very least, for safety's sake.

If you ask a horse to do something that its easily capable of,  has done many times before, and  knows exactly what your asking of, ie, going on a horse float,  but does'nt want to do it, some will make excuses that its not "mentally prepared to go on" or "its birdie's gone", come on, its having you on, its being disrespectful like a little kid thats been asked to clean up its bedroom but won't do it.

Perhaps its a female thing, I guess in the past, horses were mainly a mans domain, perhaps we are natually abit harder which has to be better then you Gal's being too soft. I guess its not your fault. its bred into you Gals,  rather like the kid and bedroom scenario, you ask the kid to clean up but theres no  respect ?  the kid thinks its your horse and says no, but I bet it will do it when its father gets home !

You've got to be kind but firm with these ANIMALS, yes they are ANIMALS, it is NORMAL for horses to be told what to do by others and phsically assaulted i.e bitten or kicked if they don't do whats asked or don't do it fast enough or even just for the hell of it because their mates feeling grumpy, you probably would'nt ever be as mean to them as their mates are,  and I serioulsly doubt you'd ever offend them.

Who's the OWNER, your meant to own the horse not the other way round, so harden up!

Right, got that off my chest, I guess I'm ready for a good hiding now !

 

DrDeb
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Dear Sam's Other Half: You will not receive a hiding from me, sir, nor will I permit anyone else corresponding here to give you one. In short, you will not be allowed to provoke a fight by baiting or asking for one. So, to other correspondents reading this: you may respond to this, but you may not approach this as a "men vs. women" thing, nor may you defend our approach to horsemanship in any way. What this man needs is information, not a "hiding".

Now, back to you, sir. The thoughts you are expressing are commonly, if silently, held by very many people, and not just men only but some women too whom I have met. They think their wives have gone a bit loopy, or gone "soft". They may have, in fact. But that has nothing to do with what we are trying to teach.

I also want to tell you that your thoughts are very understandable to me, as I originally came from the same type of thinking.

However, what you think this particular style of horsemanship is all about MIGHT be "off" in several areas. In other words, your wife Sam is doing her best to understand what it's all about too, and to do what has been suggested to her by me. And this is how a person does learn.

However, the very fact that Sam is herself a student, and not the teacher or the teacher's teacher, ought to give you some pause.

In actuality, your post raises numerous issues that I would enjoy discussing with you in a back-and-forth kind of way. As I write this, it is 3:00 in the morning, and I have just dropped by the Forum before I turned my computer off and turn in for the night -- I'm up this late because I went with some friends to see the local premiere of the latest Harry Potter movie. What fun! But I'm at the limit of my energy for today.

So what I'll do here is just begin the discussion between us by telling you a fact: this style of horsemanship has nothing whatsoever to do with being "nice" to horses. It is not about being "nice". It is about being CLEAR.

In order to be CLEAR to horses, we need to understand how they think, what drives them to do the things they do. They also have a language, and if we hope to be CLEAR to them, then we also need to understand and speak the horse's own language.

That ought to relieve your mind a little: we are not trying to teach Sam to be loopy or mushy or "soft", or take away from her her commonsense ability to put manners on her horses.

And in trade for that, I'd like to ask YOU to do a bit of homework before we speak here again. I want you to take a second look at when you see horses "fighting" in a field, like as you say for example, when they "fight" over some food, and one bites or kicks the other. What I want you to go and observe is the exact timing of the bite or the kick. Specifically: does the bite or kick come BEFORE or AFTER the other horse might have had a chance to grab the food?

This is the level we are trying to teach your wife to function at, too, so if you do this homework, it will be of direct benefit to her. You can together go out there and watch, and be very scientific about what you observe. So you'll see one horse get ready to grab some food, and then there's the bite or the kick from the other horse. Does the bite or the kick come BEFORE or AFTER the first horse goes to grab the food?

You correctly observe that we are teaching your wife to think and act "like" a horse -- we are teaching her how horses actually think, so that she will be far better able to control the horse. After you report back in, we will be able to determine whether your suggestion, that you give the horse one upside the head or a good toe in the belly, AFTER it bites you, is likely to be the most effective approach.

Best wishes -- Dr. Deb

Kallisti
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:P

Sam's 'worse' half, is it *just* the horsey issue?

:)


I think the response you'll probably get, - taking your biting example first - is that if you're 'tuned in' and 'feeling ok' then you should be able to correct the issue before it happens, and that could occur without the use of physical cohersion.

i.e. you can be proactive, as opposed to reactive.

I'll leave it to Deb to explain her Birdie theory example for biting, which would be a more proactive approach than the reactionary example you are describing of 'it happens' (bite), 'so you slap' (react).

Which leads to the oft quoted 'You gotta know what happens before what happens happens' (Ray Hunt - correct me if I'm wrong there?)


 

Could you also please explain more of the context of your discussion - because I think that's what you're hinting at, but it's not apparent in your post. Perhaps you could continue by answering the following questions:

  • You've alluded to animals/humans and differing treatment - are you proposing that the use of physical cohersion as a means of achieving a goal is different between humans and horses? ('Animals' for the sake of the argument) 
  • Are you proposing that the use of physical cohersion whilst interacting with animals is ok, in some contexts? (All contexts?)
  • In what context are you proposing that the use of physical cohersion whilst interacting with animals is ok?
  • To what degree of severity of physical cohersion are you proposing in your interactions with animals?
That'll help us understand where you're coming from a little more. I assume the examples you've provided aren't the sum total of the situations in which you'd propose the use of physical cohersion. (Yep, I'm repeating that term for a reason).
 



As they all say here in Melbourne, don't sweat it 'darl, girls love their ponies and they're quite happy - I know it's frustrating for the super rationals at times.

Surely you've taken advantage of that fussing attention from time to time yourself? My guy was clever enough to harness it for himself - he can trigger it pretty much at will these days... ironing shirts... cooking yummy dinner... helping with building computers... (Although you'll have trouble if you're stealing her forum access I'm sure).

You never know, sometimes we all appreciate an honest take on the situation - even if we don't necessarily agree/comply it'll still get processed and assessed against our values system.

Keep smiling,


renoo
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This is like the fourth time I'm trying to write an answer, during this while I managed to read two answers already...

I'd say it might not be about being nice, but rather about not being "violent"? you don't want to end up hitting your horse with a whip when its trapped for being naughty some time ago...

 

Pam
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I have never seen a horse punish another horse...have you?   To me, hitting a horse for biting or kicking is a punishment, and totally ineffective.   I would much rather learn to know in advance what my horse is most likely to do in any given situation and do something to circumvent him taking over or leaving mentally.  This is where timing comes in.  Since I am not as physically as strong as my horse I have to be quicker.  This is just logic.  When I am able to have great timing and prevent my horse from doing something undesirable he looks at me like I am bigger and stronger that him and believes it.  He would never kick me or bite me in retaliation once I have made a point.  Horses just don't behave like that... but people do. 

So, I am not trying to be a softy, I am trying to survive and thrive in a horses world the smartest way I know how,  which is to meet them where they live.

Pam   

DrDeb
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OK, Kallisti, Renoo, and Pam: your replies are fine but hold off a little if you will, and let Sam's Other Half respond. Nobody ever learns any of this stuff by being told ABOUT what it's all about. And Kallisti, I understand what you're trying to do, but your point by point "academic analysis" isn't going to help this man at all, I am afraid -- and it may function to just make him want to quit reading all the verbage. If you're going to act as the teacher, you have to style your answer to what is most likely going to get under the skin of the particular person you're talking to.

I am trying to set this up so Sam's Other Half finds out for himself. So, if you want to post on this thread, think about what you could say that would help Sam's Other Half to sort out some of the many issues that he brings up in his original post -- one by one, not all at once. My asking him to go and make some exact observations addresses the first, and simplest, of these. Let's see what he makes of it, and let's also see what Sam has to say about how her husband responds to what I've suggested he do. -- Dr. Deb

Sam
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Hi again, Sam's worse here.

Oky Doky Dr Deb, I envisaged that your response would include reference to "what came first" and I agree that in most cases, blatant warning signals are given before agressive kicking and biting etc. A distinction between the intensity of agressive behaviour should be made here, seldom have I seen anything to match a horses agression when food is involved. Was interesting to watch 4 ponies yesterday, Sam's large pony spent at least 5 minutes chasing a small pony for no apparent reason than it did'nt want it near its other bigger mate. Now you will say the smaller pony was warned, did'nt heed the warning, so was chased until it understood. However, even if the smaller pony stopped and stood 20 metres away the bigger pony still took off toward it, launched at it and chased it again. You may well say the smaller pony still did'nt understand what the bigger was saying, he meant "Get right out of my sight and don't come back" and you might be right. To me it all seemed abit vindictive and just bullying for the sake of it with a little of "Keep away from my mate". However, now lets turn to how the smaller pony feels. It can't be that delicate and sensitive or emotionally hurt as it would have removed itself from the situation. It must have experienced this situation before but chose to ride it out. Therefore, it must have made a conscious decision to except the discomfort and aggression from the larger pony. (the paddock is at least 6 acres could easily have stood elsewhere). Therefore, pain, discomfort and being made to do things you don't want to do, is NORMAL horse life.

I said before, their are 2 smaller ponies in this mob of 4 that have been together for a least 2 months. The smaller grey pony appears to absolutely hate the other black one, according to Sam. The grey pony is never seen close to the black pony, whenever the black pony ventures anywhere near the grey pony, it is firmly chased away by the grey pony who will also spin around and fire phantom kicks in the general direction of the other. So horses must posses the notion of hate and being dis-liked, this must be NORMAL in the lives of horses.

What is interesting here is Sam will yell and tell the grey pony off as it shows aggression to the black pony and will feel sorry for the black one. Sam, being human, has decided that the grey pony has done something wrong, but, is she right ? I say no, as this is NORMAL horse behaviour. Humans are the only species in the world that believes that you should not cause suffering or pain to each other or animals, and quite right too, with exceptions.

Horses have shown through their NORMAL everyday behaviour that being asked, being told and being disciplined is excepted as how they live, they do it too others and have it done in turn, to them.

So, why is it wrong to retaliate with force if a horse bites you, I know I should have seen it coming (one minutes he's nuzzling all smoochy, next ge's biting ?), but what message does that send to the horse if you just accept it and do nothing. The horse would have dominated me as they do to each other to improve their status in the herd hierarchy, instead he got one back from me just as any horse of a higher status would do. I let him know its not alright to hurt me. Its not OK to say I should have seen it coming or I should have read the warning, I doubt that would mean diddly quat to an alpha horse who'd just nail him for doing it whether he saw the warning or not. I don't feel I hurt this horses feelings, I don't feel he hates me or will hold a grudge, I feel he excepted it in the normal horse way.

If a stubborn horse is shown so he understands, than asked, than told to do something like getting onto a float, whats wrong with using reasonable force to get him on, its nothing different to NORMAL horse behaviour.

Thank you for the opportunity to respond.

DrDeb
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Dear "Sam's Other" -- I hear all that you have said, and it's all valid from the point of view that I understand that you hold. As I mentioned before, I used to hold a point of view very similar to yours, and so this is why I understand where you're coming from.

However, although you've said quite a bit, you have not in fact answered the question I asked you to answer, which was:

Did the horse that did the biting, chasing, aggressing, or kicking do his aggressive thing BEFORE or AFTER the one he bit, chased, or kicked got to grab the food, or got to stand next to his mate?

We can't decide whether it will be effective for a human to come back and hit a horse after the horse has bit them, until we've observed what real horses really do to each other. The effort here is to be sure that nobody is "importing" their own beliefs onto the horses.

Horses are just horses -- specimens, if you like, for our present purposes. We are here to investigate. After we have the data, then it seems to me that you will be in a better position to decide how you want to relate to what Sam is doing and also to what we do here.

I am not even asking you to like it. Neither am I trying to outsmart you, trap you into agreeing, or anything else like that. I'm just asking you not to get ahead, nor to try to argue ahead of the data. Just report what you saw, please, and answer the question I actually asked without going into anything else. This should take about one or two sentences. When that's done, we can build things one step at a time from there.

Best wishes -- Dr. Deb

 

Sam
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Sam's worse here

OK, Sam has 17 ponies in one herd behind an electric fence which is moved twice a day.

Observed their reactions to each other when fence was moved to reveal new graze of grass.

Ponies almost always used a warning using flattened ears - nosed pushed forward and jerking up ito say "move" or "get out of my way" before being made to move.

Some ponies were just pushed out of the way, head held high on the mover.

All ponies seem totally aware at all times which other ponies were around them at any given time, always on the lookout for who to avoid and who to boss.

So to answer your question Dr Deb, in most cases warnings by way of assertive gestures are given before any physical action, but from what I've seen, not always.

Thank you for the opportunity to respond

Joe
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If it is OK to speak up, I think I see a few things in this thread, of which the most important is the observation that while horses do use physical coersion amongst one another all the time, it is generally done before the behavior to which they object, and not after.  If one animal spots another in his space, say, or near his food, or breaking the pecking order of the herd, the first thing is the warning body language, which can then quite rapidly move up into real violence if the violator persists.

Your point, if I follow, is that we should be tuned in enough to warn off or divert undesirable behavior.

On the other hand, I have seen these things get out of control, and seen horses severely injure or try to kill one another -- and I have seen personal grudges between certain animals that lasted for years.

Joe

Sam
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Hi Folks,

Sam the first here....now I have gotten over the initial shock of my 'other half' going on 'my' forum and even though I am starting to think I have multiple personalities and am not sure which 'Sam I am', I am delighted with  himselfs interest in my ponies and have learnt so much from Dr Debs reply to his searchs.  If I pop over to the other thread with regards to teaching tricks/movements (I think it was the all relaxed till turn to home one)  I get it now.....when I have taught my sensitive horse to wave and get on the drum, I have been totally CLEAR on what I am asking, I reward the tiny tries, I have a clear picture in my head and my steed tries his big heart out and stays calm and focused.  Pretty much anything else I ask of him is muddled with fear, scary pictures and not present thoughts.  Wow, no wonder the my horse gets tense.   I have two mottos now for when I am with my horses, remain present and be CLEAR in my requests and intentions.  I am not going to comment on too much on what my other half has said as this is his 'path' to travel.  But I will say I would never yell at my ponies, What I would say to kicking pony is, 'Darling, don't be mean to kickee'!!!!  Thanks everyone for the comments.

Best Wishes

Maggie.....he can now be Sam!

DrDeb
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Dear Sam I Am and Sam I Am Too (Two): This whole thread just brings a big smile. I think you are fortunate in each other, as you are both supporting each other despite somewhat different perspectives. You would not BELIEVE the number of married couples I have known, in which the wife was "horsey" but the husband was not, where the husband not only did not support the wife, he positively worked to undercut her. But we do not have to deal with that here.

Joe, of course it's OK for you to respond. The only thing I was forbidding was getting this into a bar-room type of conversation, which is just going to devolve into "he sez she sez." Your reply is right on, not only that the bite or kick almost always comes "before" -- but also in saying that if the one "spoken" to doesn't get it, then the biter or kicker will increase the level of aggression. Sam's Other actually said this too, so I know that the observation for this aspect has gone in, and we can now turn to another of the points that he originally brought up. My intention is finally to answer Sam's Other's somewhat plaintive question, which was, "so what good does it do to hit him if he's already bitten you."

OK, so on we go. Sam's Other -- you might be amused to know, sir, that our teacher -- he was an elderly gent in his 80's when I met him, and by the time he left us he was 94 -- used to say that in his experience, it was the MAN who usually had to be told to firm up, and the WOMAN who had to be told to tone it down. In other words, it was the man that was "soft" and the woman that was "hard", or maybe I should more precisely say, too SHARP with the horses.

I think this is true, and I think I know why: because many women who get into horses are anxious, or the people they hang out with actually pressure them, into getting in over their heads with horses, so that the woman feels that she needs a man's strength to get the job done, and yet she does not really have a man's strength. Now, I myself am a big gal -- five foot ten, not quite 14 stone, and at 55 years old can still press 150 lbs. When I was young (before I blew out my shoulders), I could pitch a baseball from deep center field smack into the catcher's mitt. I also played a pretty good grade of tennis for a couple of seasons, and there was a day, when I was in my late teens, when I could hit a service so hard that it would bounce, then smack into the chainlink fence at the back of the court, get caught in there and hang trembling for a heartbeat, and then pop through.....so when I took up horses, which was in my 20's, that's what I did or tried to do with them too: I was WAY too forceful with them. And the reason for this was that, just as in baseball and tennis, I was over-compensating for the fact that I was not actually born male. Not very smart, you know, but we all have to learn and grow.

Now in the case of a man, I think it's often the opposite. For when he passes out of boyhood and the teen years and he comes into his full strength, if that man has had good parents then he knows that with that very strength he could hurt somebody. And that makes him reluctant to use it. The only men I have seen who would go full-on with a horse were brutes who were not well raised. I once watched a man beat a stallion into the dust with a length of chain fixed to an axe-handle, and another man I knew killed a horse with a two-by-four piece of lumber. But these are rare exceptions, and you, sir, do not belong in that class no matter how much you talk in your initial post about men being "hard".

In fact, I don't think you even really mean "hard" in a literal way. What I mean is, I want to now refer you to the dictionary. This was a regular practice of our teacher, and it's Ray Hunt's practice also, to remind people to try to select exactly the word they mean to use, so as to get across to the other party the exact meaning intended. And every time I have ever heard a man at a clinic ask Ray about making something hard, Ray (who is a gruff old cowboy and no effite literati) will say, "you don't want to make anything hard; you make it difficult. If you make it difficult, the horse can learn from that. But if you make it hard, you'll get him scared."

And THIS I enjoy very much -- because if you think about it, then you see that if you're going to make something difficult (rather than hard), then it is difficult to make it difficult! It takes a lot of thought and planning! So you've got a horse that already has some obnoxious habit that you want to change. Your job is then to make it difficult for him to do that thing. How exactly do you plan this out? And can you make it subtle, not requiring force (though you may reserve force if it is absolutely needed)? That's the art and the science in a nutshell!

Ray Hunt has a famous maxim, then, which I think you haven't heard:"You make the wrong thing difficult, and the right thing easy. But you put the emphasis on making the right thing easy." You will find, sir, as Sam your wife has already found, that making the right thing easy takes even more brainpower, even more planning, even more insight and foresight, than making the wrong thing difficult. In fact, this becomes a lifestyle -- and one that's filled with fun, joy, learning, companionship, and all the positives that come with horse ownership.

I'll close with a little story (can't resist this): Just this very evening, I was out at the place where my horse is boarded ("adjisted" as you would say), for the purpose of taking some photographs of him and a couple of his herd-mates. My horse knows to stand still or back up at the slightest touch on the halter-rope. His herd-mates will also stand up square to have their photo taken, but the handler has to push on them physically and that makes a lot of re-poisitoning necessary and it takes way more shots to finally get one good one. My horse puts his ears up and arches his neck without needing somebody standing outside the frame waving their hat. One of the other horses wouldn't really put her ears up for any amount of hat-waving. This is just a wee example of what "making the right thing easy" can help you do -- and hey everybody, my ego's the same as any other horse owner's -- Oliver looks just positively magnificent in the photos, and you'll be seeing them in the mid-year "Inner Horseman"! So another bottom line is: horses that know their job thoroughly and who perform it without any fear or tension ALWAYS look magnificent. That translates, very practically, into "fame and fortune" no matter what public venue your horse appears in.

Best wishes -- Dr. Deb

Sam
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Hi

Sam's worse again

I know you know that I'm not advocating whacking horses with 4X2's or chains etc, Mongrels do that with tiny idiotic brains.

I am suggesting though, that horses have a natural rule book that they live by, every second of their ADULT life.

That is that they respect those higher placed them selves and that they do what ever they need to do ( bodily gestures followed by physical actions) to keep those of a lower status and those weaker, down below them.

Why is it wrong for humans to use the very rules that horses use in their world when we deal with them ?

Admittedly they're not very imaginative, are extremely primitive and are not very clever or inspiring, but they do work.

Man decided what looks good and what does not. We decided that one horse kicking another is not nice, We decided one horse stealing another horses food is not nice.

I accept we don't really know how they feel emotionally about it, but we know the rules are theirs rules and that they accept them and constantly use them.

I am not convinced that if a subordinate horse warned, then bit a higher ranking horse, that he would not receive any retaliation because the bit horse did'nt see it coming and thought it therefore unfair to retaliate, I just don't see it working like that.

Thank you for the opportunity to respond

Joe
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Sam and DD:

Venturing a few thoughts here:

Absolutely true that the beasts have a pecking order that is established with hoof and tooth.  I have watched the process many times.  The largest beast does not always win.  There is often a great deal more noise and posturing than there is actual violence -- ALTHOUGH some horses will try to kill one newcomers or violators of the order.  Once the order is established, the lower ranking beasts will generally follow the higher ranking beasts.

I believe that we humans do fit into the pecking order as well.  Once the animals accept our position, they will try to follow us and they will to an ever greater extent, rely on us.  Once we have that reliance, and even while it is developing, training is a matter of comunicating to another species that is not primarily voice/sound oriented, and is frankly not that bright by our standards.  This is one reason why dogs are easier for many people than horses -- dogs aren't that bright either, but they are far more voice oriented.

However, we cannot establish ourselves in the equine order of things by the use of force.  In a fair fight, we will lose against the smallest of them.  DD says she is a big gal -- well, I am a real big guy at 6''5" and 225 lbs.  At 53 I am not what I was, but I am still pretty well preserved and in fair shape.  I have been on the wrong end a few times, and prefer not to do that again.  So, the only thing for us to do is to use our superior brain rather than our inferior stregth, and project calm authority and leadership.  Horses get that just as well as humans do.  Think about how some business, political and religious leaders have "presence."  People notice and defer when they come into the room, even before they speak.  So it is with animals, who read calmness and confidence instantly -- and also instantly read fear and uncertainty if that is what you yourself feel.

I believe that the essence of horsemanship is composed of five things: a) that calm projected confidence that gives humans leadership in the equine order of things; b) sensitivity to the animals means of communication, most of which involves touch and body language; c) patience; d) strategic planning as to how to get the beast to learn or do what is desired; and e) enough balance, biomechanical knowledge and conscious control over your body that you do not impede the animal or send random or meaningless signals.

DD's obesrvations parallel my own when in comes to male/female response to horses, except that females do tend to get gooier.  However, there is an inherent male trait that works against us -- and that is to trust to strength where finesse is needed.  This tends to happen in training and in crisis.  It is not a matter of brutal training, although some of that goes on.

For example, a smallish friend of mine who was a true horsemaster before his leg was crushed in a wreck on an in-and-out on top of a mound, has done much training of mounted police.  Oddly, most mounted police are not from horsey backgrounds.  they get promoted into the job from patrol units and the like.  Cops tend to be pretty tough guys (although often wonderful people and very gentle in other aspects of life).  They are in good shape with lots of gymn muscles, are not afraid of physical danger, and are used to the idea that they can physically contol the situation.  Still, they can't out power a horse.  My friend puts them up without stirrups until they realize that muscle will not keep them on at a good reaching trot.  He uses that experience as a way to impress on them that control through strength including wrenching the bit, is not the way to go.  Once they let go of strength as a tool, they start to learn, and to try to understand and communicate with the 1000 lb thinking being underneath them.

Cheers!

Joe

Last edited on Sat Jul 14th, 2007 10:01 pm by Joe

Sam
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Awesome read Joe, thoroughly enjoyed it.

However, my point is not to try and out musle horses, we hav'nt a hope in hell of doing that without the use of ropes, posts and hobbles etc no no, thats not what I'm saying. We've had over 30 horses and ponies at one time here on our property. Sam now has 19 Shetland and 2 other riding ponies. I've seen the smallest Shetland of less than 35 inches take on and bluff his way into superiority over a 15.2hh solid riding horse. He did'nt use his superior strenth because clearly he was heavily out gunned in that department. He was however very firm with the little he had and it worked.

Make no mistake, I'm not suggesting we beat or get heavy handed with horses, I am suggesting thats there is nothing wrong with being firm when required using physical force if required to drive home a point, its no different to how horses treat one another.

Cheers

Joe
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Right.  One of our Arabians, a gelding of about 14-3, +- 800 lbs, completely dominated a 16 -2 1200 lb Thoroughbred grandson of War Admiral. He(the Arab) was about 23 years old at the time.  Dancer just does no tolerate anyone else at the top of the order (humans excepted).  In fact, several years ago and before I had him he found himself in a pasture with two Suffolks, and actually picked a fight with both of them at the same time.  They beat him up very badly, but when next he saw them, he wanted at them again.

All that spirit makes Dancer a remarkably sensitive and high perfrmance animal, even as an old man.

Joe

Last edited on Sat Jul 14th, 2007 10:09 pm by Joe

scruffy
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This is an interesting topic
Made me think of this video clip, how the handler did too much too late

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PWya5A--k6k

Pauline Moore
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Hello Sam's Other (would be very nice if we could address you by name now that we're all getting so well acquainted?) -

In your first post and also your most recent, you have referred to a subordinate horse warning and then biting a senior ranking animal without the victim seeing the attack coming.  I'm wondering if you have actually witnessed this happening, as I can't remember ever seeing a scenario where any horse is so completely unaware of it's surroundings that it can be caught out like that.  A horse might well observe the warning and choose to ignore it, which is the equivalent of a challenge, but to us it could easily appear that a horse was attacked for no reason.  Equines have escaped predator attack for millenia by being alert to, and able to read, the tiniest subtleties of body language that all of us would miss totally.    Also, I've never seen a lower ranking horse attack a higher ranking animal in an established group, and it can take weeks or months in some cases to establish hierarchy, but if you have definitely seen that, then I'd be interested to hear about it. 

Most of us at some time or other, have probably resorted to force in an attempt to fix an immediate problem, only to find the 'fix' doesn't stick and then next time even more force is necessary, and then more again, until we end up in a contest with the horse we have no hope of winning - the horse gets labelled 'dangerous' and we get to claim on our medical insurance.  This is a lesson taught to me by young thoroughbreds in my early days as a therapist.  I'd be called to a racing stable to do some bodywork on a 2- or 3-yr old colt and find myself alone in a small stable (there's never anyone to hold a horse for you or even lead them out for assessment, just a notice on a board in the entry saying something like 'Pauline - third horse on the left', one of many reasons I gave up trying to help racehorses) with a young, very bored horse who saw me as the day's entertainment.   Inevitably these youngsters were very 'mouthey', wanting to nip or bite at every opportunity and my first reaction was to do as you did, a slap on the muzzle.   I very quickly understood that this was exactly what the youngsters wanted, the more I slapped, the more they tried to nip - to them it was a great game just like they would play with another horse over the stable door if they could, but of course I didn't know the rules of the 'game', could not hope to match their speed or resilience, and was putting myself in danger even though the youngsters were just playing.  With an older horse who is not playing, the dangers are that much greater.  That experience taught me that force is never effective as a permanent solution to anything, it is so much easier to work on the basis of having the horse not want to bite or kick us, and that doesn't mean avoiding the issue or the situation.

Best wishes - Pauline

Sam
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Hi Pauline

Sam's worst again

I should point out that I'm not a tattooed muscle bound orangutan who thinks violence is the answer and woman are any less equal then I.


Your first point deals with subordinate horses biting etc higher placed horses. I accept that in almost all cases the other horse will see it coming and either move or stand up for himself. My point is if he did'nt see it coming do you really think he'd just walk away without relaliation, he's being attacked, his ranking is being challenged, I don't think so. No I hav'nt seen it happen because I guess it would be rare for it to occur. Its easy to witness a skirmish because the noise and dust draws you to it when it happens, but what precluded the event is often unknown unless you just happened to be looking

Your right, most of us will have used force to "fix an immediate problem". However, if in your words "the fix doesn't stick" I say its cause you hav'nt been firm enough. I can honestly say that I cannot remember a time when firmness did'nt fix simple things like a nip or a hard head rub or simple acts of stubbornness. etc. As for your problem with the nipping thoroughbreds, I 'd say your problem persisted because you did'nt slap them firm/hard enough.

The whole point of my starting this discussion asking "Are we becoming to soft" seeks to minimise the danger you elude to in your reference to an "older horse who is not playing". If you are not firm enough you are telling the horse either you're too weak and weaker then him, or that it OK to do whatever it is that he is doing. If you allow other people into close proximity to your horse you owe it to ensure that the horse is as safe as possible and has the manner to respect all humans and their space around them. If you let a small nip go as just playing, don't be suprised if you get a decent bite one day. Accept here that I'm talking about SIMPLE bad manners and SIMPLE stubborness like he does'nt want to go on the float. I know from experience, that being hard and firm works for simple issues and makes for a safer horse. All I'm asking is that the "softies" of you out there, get over the "I love my horse" wishy washy stuff, and realise that your horse is an animal not a cuddly toy !

Thank you for the opportunity to respond

Wendy
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Hi Pauline,

Great post, again.  When I was training as an Equine Massage Therapist our group spent a lot of time in racing stables.  It potentially was quite a hazardous situation for the reasons that you mention.  Often the other members of the group weren't at all experienced with horses (being of the human bodywork variety).  I usually worked on the more 'difficult' ones.  You need to be 'on your toes' at all times.  You learn to read very subtle shifts of weight, often only through your fingertips as you cannot always be watching while you are working on a horse.  You learn to breathe with the horse and communicate with him through your touch on his muscles, asking him to let you help him.  You put your body into his space while you are doing this, all the while concentrating on not triggering a reflex that might cause him to strike out.  There are many nuances in sometimes making yourself bigger so that he can keep concentrating on what you are doing and not go off into a place away from pain, and sometimes making yourself, and your touch, so small - for the same reason.  To get good results it is not merely going through the motions of making 'moves' but being able to work closely with the horse, in a two way cycle.

And to Sams other Half,  maybe you could get into 'doing some stuff' with the ponies and play with reading some of their body language.  Sometimes I see horses nipping at their handler and it seems more like they didn't like being held tightly.  So if you smacked it after the fact and then went back to doing what you always did ......  Sometimes though, when I am working on a horse and I am around a muscle that is causing discomfort and I just touch a spot that is reactive the horse might sling his head in my direction as if to say "careful there".  This tells me to back off a bit and then work back in towards it and usually this will release the muscle off.  The horse will probably be quite happy to let you work it the second time.  So in a case like this, if you chastised him for 'going to bite you' he would probably tighten up, move away and you would have missed the opportunity.  Then you would also have to work much harder to get the relationship back again. 

I am not very good with words and probably a lot of us who are used to being around horses a lot aren't.  Most of our communication with our animals is non verbal and to a casual observer there may be nothing much happening.  But there is.  It isn't that we are 'crackpots' or going 'soft'.  It is more like we have evolved a higher means of communicating with our horses that cannot necessarily be picked up by other people. 

It is so good that you are questioning this though.  Are you thinking that there might be something in this that you aren't getting from your inanimate machines???  They are much more black and white aren't they?

Cheers,

Wendy

   

Pam
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I agree with Wendy about horses nipping because the handler gets too close when it is not wanted.  My horse nips at me occasionally and it is always because I am bothering him while he is eating or I am too close to his face while walking/standing.  I find that when he gives me a little nip he is warning me to back off and I do.  It is usually because I am not paying attention as well as I should not because I think he is a big soft cuddly toy.  If you give then a smack when they are asking you to back off aren't you then doing the opposite of what is required at the time and in escence not really listening.  I don't think horses like people around their faces too much and becasue they usually have such good looking faces I think we tend to gravitate there.  I know if I do something to warn say a friend to back off and they don't that it could escalate and that coudl be pretty bad for everybody.  However, I have been around those few individuals that think they can do or say anything they want to others and if youd dare stand up to them then you are the agressor. Well, I say they get what they deserve in that case, and it is darn near impossible to ever want to have a relationship with them.  Because  I do back off when I get a little nip from my horse I haven't ever gotten what I call a bite from him and I don't think I ever will.  How else can they tell us?  Do we have a right to impose our will on them at all times?
I want a relationship with my horse so naturally I want the two-way communication, and that doesn't mean he gets to act like a brat, or hurt me.... nor I him.

Pam I am


Joe
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Without really knowing how anybody here really relates to her or his horse, and keeping in mind the very real difficulties of subtle communication via the web, I am a little concerned here.  Dr. Deb once, in a long lost post on the old forum, reminded everyone that their animals were not babies, they were adult animals, and that they had to be controlled for the safety of themselves, their owners and other humans.

With the caution that I am not suggesting anything about anyone on this forum, and stipulating that I have no idea how anyone here relates to horses, I do occasionally get a feeling that perhaps the line between close and subtle (higher, if you will) communication and understanding, and babying, can sometimes get blurred.

One person's "relationship" animal, used to having its own "space" and communicating through nips and shoves, could easily be dangerous to someone else.  The animal must respect humans.  Disrespectful behavior will degenerate over time. 

The human must control the animal.  I am certainly not suggesting physical violence and brutality.  However, regardless of how it is done, the horse must know where the lines of acceptable behavior are.  Those lines must be bright and visable in its mind.

Joe

Sam
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Hi Wendy and Pam

Great this forum stuff is'nt it !

Now this is NOT a personal attack on either of you.

I have inserted your reply Pam into mine because yours is the first example that shows what I feel you should not do.

I agree with Wendy about horses nipping because the handler gets too close when it is not wanted. My horse nips at me occasionally and it is always because I am bothering him while he is eating or I am too close to his face while walking/standing. I find that when he gives me a little nip he is warning me to back off and I do.
WHAT WHAT WHAT are you teaching him to do here ? You clearly must see yourself at a lower status then your horse ! You have taught him how to move you away, that he does'nt have to do whats asked and that HE is the boss. You've taught him that its OK to nip/bite you and that this is an acceptable way for him to communicate with you.

I
t is usually because I am not paying attention as well as I should not because I think he is a big soft cuddly toy. Now hang on here, We've already basically agreed that a lower status horse seldom is firm with an Alpha horse, I'm not suggesting you should'nt pay attention, but if you are established as the Alpha yourself, the likelyhood of you being bullied is greatly reduced. Off course, if you are of established lower status you will have to pay attention at all times, without fail.

If you give then a smack when they are asking you to back off aren't you then doing the opposite of what is required at the time and in escence not really listening.I'd smack him as hard as I felt necessary because I'm listening. He's trying to dominate me, it might be a nip now but could be a real bad bite another day, so I'm going to let him know to NEVER do that to me.

I don't think horses like people around their faces too much and becasue they usually have such good looking faces I think we tend to gravitate there.
Tell the Vet who comes to treat your horses teeth, eyes or head wound not to touch your horses head because he's taught you not too ! I feel "hard luck horsey" you may not like your head being touched but its the one thing above all that I need to be able to control so (after desensitizing it first), get used to it.

I know if I do something to warn say a friend to back off and they don't that it could escalate and that coudl be pretty bad for everybody.
Yes thats the idea ! You don't go around bullying your horse but if he trys to bully you like you are warning your friend, is it not better to put your horse back in its place quickly and sharply before things escalate.

However, I have been around those few individuals that think they can do or say anything they want to others and if youd dare stand up to them then you are the agressor. Well, I say they get what they deserve in that case, and it is darn near impossible to ever want to have a relationship with them. Because I do back off when I get a little nip from my horse I haven't ever gotten what I call a bite from him and I don't think I ever will. How else can they tell us? Do we have a right to impose our will on them at all times? Yes we do, horses impose their will on each other every second of every day, wheres the difference ? We buy them, BUT NEVER "OWN" THEM, However, when we choose to "own" them they must learn not to harm us.
I want a relationship with my horse so naturally I want the two-way communication, and that doesn't mean he gets to act like a brat, or hurt me.... nor I him.

You obviously have a great relationship with you horse that you seem to be happy with. All horses are dangerous. Yours potentially alot more as he appears to think he can do what he likes regardless of what you want. Thats a terrible road to go down.

Can I now feel justified that my original observation that some you Gals might be becoming increasingly softer and softer and that these gals own bad mannered horses (that bite and nip), that are horses that are superior in the herd to them, that dominate these Gals when they choose, are potentialy more danderous to them and others.

Machines are not all black and white either, but that's a whole new forum.

I don't really care how you Gals treat your horses. I basically have nothing to do with them now, but am required on occasions to help out. It at this time that I expect horses to have at the very least manners and respect. It does appear that a new type of owner is emerging, one that has lost sight of the basic fundamentals in favour of the friendly, do no wrong, don't make him do anything cuddly wuddly horse. And no I'm not jealous, no complaints at all in that department.

We guys quite like you Gals for obvious reasons! So keep safe..............................................................

Appreciate the oportunity to respond.


Pauline Moore
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Hello again Second Sam - you're really no fun at all - there I was building up a terrific picture of a hairy orange ape and now I have to scrap that and start all over again!

Joking aside, methinks we are talking at cross-purposes and have a lot more in common than you might guess.  There would be few participants on this forum who would consider it acceptable for any horse to bite, kick or in any way threaten their human handler (Sorry Pam, I do have to agree with #2 Sam on this point, even a mild nip tells me your horse is unclear about some aspects of his relationship with you).   If we take that as an agreed common ground, then what we are really disputing is the 'how' of communicating to the horse that this is unacceptable behaviour. 

Your view appears to be that we should act like another horse would act if a prior warning was ignored and use physical force of some sort, saying that in your experience this has been a permanent solution in dealing with a particular horse, although you do not specify what type of horses you have used this method on.  The point I was trying to convey in my last post was that this will not work on all horses, but I did not clarify what I really meant - my error.  Although I spoke of the young TBs, which was quite amusing when I understood what was actually happening, I am grateful to them for making me find a better way (Wendy gave an excellent  description of the realities of working on the average racehorse - any therapist is expected to be able to handle any horse, get the job done with a visible improvement or the bill doesn't get paid and the reputation is shot) before I got to work on some older, sore, cranky, intolerant racing mares and stallions.  The racing industry as a whole gets some very bad press, but I never saw any trainer mistreat any horse and certainly never saw anyone slap or strike a horse.    Race trainers are not known for being touchy-feely, cuddly-toy types, they have exhausting jobs, appalling hours and bad pay where a horse is a money-making commodity, but most of them have found that using force does not get the best performance out of the horse.

Breed does make a difference.  The so-called 'cold bloods' which would include many of the pony breeds, the draughts and some of the warmbloods are better described as non-reactive.  These horses respond to confusion and unclear signals with a sort of 'if in doubt-do nothing' philosophy which is frequently misinterpreted as stubbornness or low intelligence, they are also unlikely to retaliate to physical force from a human handler although just the other day I did hear of a vet being killed by a Clydesdale mare at the end of her mental tether.  At the other end of the scale are the 'hot bloods', the thoroughbreds, arabians and iberians for example, who could also be called 'reactive'.  Many of these horses are sensitive in the extreme, quick to take offence and act accordingly.  It's not unusual for a racing TB stallion to be handled by men wearing body armour using steel rods instead of lead ropes to keep them out of striking distance.  They would not go to these lengths if a 'good firm slap on the muzzle' was all it took to make the horse comply. 

Gender also makes a difference.  Whatever the breed, a gelding is the least likely horse to injure it's owner in retaliation to rough handling.  Mares are generally less tolerant, and anyone who challenges a stallion might as well book their hospital bed before they start.

We seem to be discussing hypotheticals in speaking of a horse not seeing an attack coming.   I have not seen this, you have not seen this,  I doubt that anyone has seen that happen as I can't believe any prey animal would be as unaware as we are.    We get bitten or kicked and think it came 'out of the blue' from an unpredictable animal, another horse would see the warning signals a mile away even if they then chose to ignore them.

There is a way to interact with horses that does not require any agression or retaliation on our part, but produces a quiet compliant horse with no desire to kick or bite, regardless of breed or gender, but we haven't even begun that discussion yet.

Best wishes - Pauline

Joe
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Pauline:

It appears that we do agree, at least in general.  I certainly read with respect anything you post -- for one thing because some execises you prescribed for another animal were simply wonderful for my old Arab -- and results like that earn you respect even though we have never met.

Your comments about the hot bloods brought a smile.  I grew up amongst Arabians, who, as you know, are pretty sensitive and reactive.  Of course, not knowing better, I just thought of them as horses and related to them as they required.  I also had a Standardbred as my principal riding horse during my teens when I actually had time to ride and not just write about it on the web.  The Standardbred was pretty reactive, too.  Then one summer when courting my wife I spent lots of time at a T-bred breedding operation owned by her best friend's parents.  Talk about reactive!  We used to give a snap to the halters of Arabs who were engaging in minor misbehavior, or ignoring us.  Arabs would usually get the message.  T-bred yearlings and two-year olds could (and you didn't know when) blow up, and then heaven help you. And I have had a few scary experiences with stallions.   In a fair fight, horsey wins every time.

Still, Sam's point about letting the animal dictate "space" by means of nipping shoving, etc, with which you also seem to agree, was really the point I was trying to make in my last post. That kind of behavior is unaceptable and can become dangerous.  It is not enough to say that people who don't "get" it and are consequently hurt, should have known better.  Taken to an extreme, that is similar to keeping a dangerous dog and saying theat people should just know to stay away.

That said, taking a hypothetical horse over 5 yrs of age, with a lack of good manners, if the occasional hard smack is not the way to go, where DO you start?  Lets talk nipping and biting first.

Joe  

Pam
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Sam,

I fail to understand your point about dominance. 

I didn't say my horse NEVER lets me touch his face or head.  Also my vet has no problems with him.  She would tell me if she did.  When I need to do something like clean his eyes or face he is just fine with it.  He often puts his head in my arms and rests it there.  He is very gentle and sweet.  My horse does not push me around and he is not a bully.  To my knowledge he has never hurt anybody either.  In fact he is so cooperative he let me put a man's batman costume on him last Halloween and we rode like that....and won best costume... I might add. 

I don't see how an occasional nip from him is going to lead to something bigger, like kicking or biting.  You have not proved to me that I can expect this.  So what do you think the horse is thinking when he nips at me?  Is it not possible that I am in the wrong when he does that.  Or are you saying that doesn't matter?  I think that is what you are saying.

When I first got my horse, about 3.5 years ago, I boarded at a barn that was owned by a woman who tried to teach me to be afraid of horses because she was.   I won't go into details but as it turned out the horses should fear her because she hurt one in particular by backing him up fiercely into a wood bench, in an attempt to teach him ground manners.  He was just a baby and didn't deserve that treatment.  But I am sure in her mind it was justified.

I understand teaching manners to horses and my horse has manners.  But what I think I hear you saying (and lots of people) is that I should fear horses.  Sorry, but I just don't, and trust me I have a very fun horse.

Pam

Joe
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Pam:

I know you replied to Sam and not to me, but here are some thoughts anyway:
  1. You have no reason to fear horses, and certainly should not learn to.  In fact, they read fear in a millisecond and assume that if you fear them they should fear you.  I have been around horses, and lots of them, all of my life, and have never feared them -- although there have been certain animals of whom I was very wary, and certain circumstances in which I was downright afraid -- for example the time a green hand had something (we never knew what) go wrong with an Arab stallion who reared and came after him.  The hand lost his balance and was supported by the leadline attached to the animal who wanted to strike him.  I ran around the corner and took the lead, then had to dodge forelegs and hooves that were not only striking out but also being brought together like a hammer and anvil.  I was as afraid then as I have ever been.  That stallion was normally quite calm, BTW.
  2. Although you should not fear them, you should respect them not only as fellow creatures, but as immensely powerful animals whose actions can rapidly harm you or others.
  3. Horses do not have and cannot fathom humal emotions or relationships.  You and your horse can certainly build a relationship of mutual respect, trust and reliance but deeper feelings of love only go one way and cannot be relied upon to modify animal behavior.  Keep in mind that regardless of what lots of people think about it, we have no idea of how horses experience emotions, or why.  Dr Deb has written an excellent and throught provoking book called The Birdie Book just trying to explore equine attention, consciousness and focus.  Deeper emotions are impossible to fathom in another species (maybe even just in another gender).  Heck, we can't even imagine very well how horses percieve physical reality.
  4. I agree with Sam and Pauline. Nipping to move you or cause you to act is unacceptable, and can lead to other disrespectful behavior.
  5. It doesn't matter how good your relationship is otherwise.  The animal must behave respectfully and within bounds all the time.  Nipping is out of bounds.
Cheers!

Joe

Last edited on Wed Jul 18th, 2007 11:04 pm by Joe

Sam
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Hi Everyone,

This is getting more and more strange, I find I go online to firstly post a reply to a friend who lives 20mins away and now I find I am posting a reply to someone who lives in the same house as me, I am talking to them via America!!!! All causing a bit of a laugh. It has been really interesting talking horses with my other half. If he had raised this 'thread' a year or so ago I would have stuck my head in the oven. I still can't answer all he fires at me but its great, I just say go put that on the forum, thanks so much for all your feedback,folks it is wonderful. Like Cyruus 44, I had been living the failure story, and suffered badly from 'NOTSMD' (No one to save me disorder!) it is a bitter pill to swollow to discover the superhero with his undies on the outside of his clothes is not going to save you. The help must come from with in. I did cheat a bit as I enlisted the help of an amazing life coach. Anyway I toddled off down the path of treating my horses as 'cuddly wuddlys' (of course Shetland ponies are cuddly wuddlys) and poor old 'Sam I ain't' bravely kept his mouth shut as I would come in crying and feeling like a failure coz I had hurt my horses feelings and put both me and my horse in the poopie while at it. I must say this little journey was a massive learing experience as there truly is an ability for us to 'feel' and understand horses in our very souls at times. But, I have now discovered the horse/pony finds you of no benifit to be in that place all the time when dealing with them.

Pam I am, your horse sounds lovely, in the past my sensitive horse has put a yukky look on his face and swung his head around to me to say 'don't touch me there' and like the good student I am I'd back off, and coz I was afraid of hurting him and upsetting him it got to the stage I could only brush him and do his feet. Now here is where I have cheated majorly and turned to the Birdie Book as this is exactly what my aim with my horses is now, coz it was never an option for me to 'hit' them after they have bitten or kicked. A direct quote from the Birdie book, " The lessons for horse owners: speak to your horse to create a change early, deflect and redirect--before the horse "takes over" Getting your spoke in early eliminates the necessity of hitting, fighting, wrestling or disiplining. To be early you have to be able to see where things are likely headed and that in turn requires you to pay attention to your horse 100% of the time."

I have seen a lower ranked mare accidently give the highest ranked gelding (ex stallion) in the herd both barrels, (five black ponies standing in a row...she made a grave mistake.) It all happened in a split second, she kicked him, realised what she had done, look of horror on face, started to run, he ran after her and nailed her, you can bet she will never make the same mistake again but she was terrified, I wouldn't want to bring out this sort of 'respect' in my horse/pony. Normally this highest ranked gelding never kicks he moves the others with facial expressions and little nips on forelegs, if his sheer presence doesn't move them first. BUT he is not the herd leader, this falls to a young mare, full of wisedom, calm confidence and shining intelligence. She is not high ranked but they defer to her decisions for going 'places', it is all soooo interesting. Also with my Shetlands as foals I never reprimanded them for mouthing me etc, yes I admit coz they were too damn cute, but lucky for me the herd took care of this for me and they don't mouth now, they just out grew a lot of these behaviours.

Anyway have stuck my oar in Sam I ain'ts thread, this is all such fun. All your posts have been wonderful.

Kind Regards

Sam the first.

Helen
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Phew, only my second post on this forum, but I find this a really interesting topic - not least because I've wondered about it myself - and feel like putting in my bit.

Sam I ain't, it's great that you're really trying to understand and question what is going on. You thank the forum for allowing you to reply, but I would like to thank you for replying in such a reasonable and cohesive manner. I've been on quite a few forums and in many of them would not be a bit surprised to find the poster of this thread replying with a post such as 'Well you're all just idiots anyone can see that you have to be boss of your horse' or some such. So yay for civilized conversation.

On to what I wanted to say: I think your point about needing to be the Alpha horse in your 'herd' is a good one. However - I can't remember if it was in this thread or another, but I think it must be another since I didn't see it here on a quick scan - Dr Deb made an excellent point in saying that the horse must be caught between the thought and the deed. This seems very important, at least to me. More on that later.

The system we all use to train horses is based on pressure and release. Horse training is nothing like dog training, where the command is given and then a reward is given for the correct response. Something different in the psychological system of horses means that they respond better to pressure of some kind being given, and then the pressure being released when the correct response is given.

With skilful training, horses can learn to associate more subtle signals with pressure. It is in this way that some horses can be controlled with only shifts of weight or touches of rein. The horse learns that if it responds to the lighter signal, the pressure (which it wants to avoid) does not come.

Back to the thought and deed business: it seems to me that whether intentional or not, Sam I Ain't is using a similar principal to the pressure/release in saying that shows of dominance by the horse should be responded to accordingly. The horse learns that a nip or kick receives pressure, so it doesn't nip or kick.
Sadly, in my experience, for some reason the horse brain doesn't work that way. Perhaps because horses are so very good at reading each others' body language. Anyway, the point is that it is incredibly rare for a horse to be 'punished' after the deed. It almost, almost always happens when the horse goes to make the action, but before they actually do.

Seems to me that if a horse does think itself dominant to you, that is where the pressure needs to be applied: between thought and deed. If we want to get in on the horses' pecking order, we need to learn to read their body language 'like a horse'. It can also be possible for them to read ours: many horses I know will respond to a tensed body and raised hand as well as a slap. I have yet to decide whether this is a good thing, but on the whole I think it can be useful to have a human equivalent of flattening your ears and baring your teeth.


*Please note that although in many cases it is not phrased as such, all of what is above is just an opinion from someone with no formal training in such matters. :)
Thanks for such an interesting discussion!

Sam
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Sam I ain't here

Just 2 points from the last posting.

I totally agree a horse should be caught between the thought and the deed, however, if you miss it, does that mean you do nothing ? - and if so, What message do you think the horse will get from your lack of action ?

Secondly, you mention the word "punished".     If I bump a horse, smack, whack or whatever its NEVER a punishment. Its not anger or given with malice, its just meant to be an unpleasant result to his undesirable action. I want him to learn he should'nt do that, rather like the first time he touches an electric fence or rubs his head on barbed wire, rather like us touching touching something very hot or shutting your fingers in the door, you just learn to be careful and not do it. It just IS what happens.

Your right about the forum, its a great tool, very interesting and very very civil.

Thank you for the opportunity to respond

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Yes, I can understand your logic of undesirable action = undesirable consequences. I just think (though I can't prove it) that in a horse's mind such a punishment it pointless and unconnected to the action. For an electric or barbed fence, the reaction is literally instantaneous. I feel that the so-called 're-action' on our part has little or no effect. Perhaps, if the unwanted action was common enough and the reaction very swift, it might have some impact. But with common misdemeanours such as the occaisional nip, etc, it won't help.

I agree though that it does feel wrong, if by chance you are caught out, and the horse does get away with it, to do nothing. Any thoughts, anyone?

Joe
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Sam you ain't:

Here's the problem -- horses do not seem to connect any ex post facto negative consequence withthe action that caused it.  To give a broad example, if a horse breaks away from and runs off and then you catch and punish him, what he learns is that if you catch him, he will be punished.  In setad, you must be calm and pleasant when you catch him -- a major act of self control -- and make being caught agreeable.

I have never been able to satisfy myself as to how long a delay is enough to undo us.  Is it a minute, ten minutes, a few seconds?  All I can say is that the tims seems to be short, and that the response has to be just about simultaneous if it does not precede the action as discussed above.  So, an electric fence works, because every time the beast touches it, at that exact moment, he gets shocked.  I was once on a (naturally shod and worked, no show stuff) TWH stallion who chose to rear for some reason.  By pure conicidence there was an electric fence wire that ran overhead from the charger in the barn our to the fence.  The animal connected  his occipital crest with the wire while rearing, immediately dropped to the ground, and never reared again.

ANyway, I think part of the answer is that our reflexes ae not fast enough to provide a simultaneous response, and that is sub-optimal anyway.

Joe

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One trainer I know said you have 3 seconds, after which it's too late.

As I get better in being early, when things happen and more than three seconds elapses, I return to head twirling, disengaging etc, until softness returns. One lesson this type of approach to horsemanship has taught me (and a good lesson it is too), is to let go of that emotion and return asap to softness. Forgiveness - it's a good thing to practice!

 

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As in many things, emotion is the enemy of judgment.

Joe

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Helen - I agree with you that a nip is just a misdemeanor.  I am aware that you have to do a correction in between the thought and the action and that is why I don't smack my horse for a nip.  It is pointless to him.  Because I am who I am and still learning so much about horses I figure I should just let it go until I have a better solution.   I have on occasion smacked my horse for a nip and only out of peer group pressure (I think Dr. Deb mentioned this earlier in the thread) not because I believed it to be effective. And guess what, it didn't cure him of his desire to occasionally nip at me.  Sometimes the pressure from other people can be a bit much and I can succumb to it.   And as lots of people think, which is not true, I am not worried about hurting my horses feelings or that he won't like me anymore.  I am concerned about being effective.  When I do something I want it to count, otherwise I am just like background noise to my horse.   I want him to understand in his own horsey way.   Call me a dreamer....

This has been a most enjoyable thread. Thanks for getting it going, Sam.  Everybody has been so good! 

Thanks,

Pam

Last edited on Thu Jul 19th, 2007 10:42 pm by Pam

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Hi all this is a fantastic thread full of info and help for all of us even if only used to ask ourselves some questions.

I hope an not speaking out of turn here but here in NZ I saw Dr Deb show us how to deal with a horse that was reluctant to be held and trying to nip ears back. She held her hand in that horses mouth till the horse realized there was no use trying to nip the hand was there with pressure and horse not able to bite like that so horse stopped trying.

I see Sam aints view of a person attempt to be safe by having respect from their horse (enough respect that they wouldnt nip in the first place but if they did and they did not see it coming there would  be some response from the affected person or horse) May be in the way Dr Deb showed us as above or as previously suggested head twirling or movement in some way.

Thanks for the good reading Cathie Julie 

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Hi All,

I'd like to give this one another go: advanced warning, been in 'head' space all day, no horsey(s) till tomorrow (city girl).

We have a phycologist friend who's a lot of fun to talk with. Recently, he discussed with us something called a 'nominalism', a trick of language if you will.

A nominalism occurs when you use a 'doing' word in a past tense, or make it absolute, a thing. The best example I can give you in the english language is the one he gave me: a waterfall. In some cultures, there is no such word as 'waterfall', instead, the word roughly translates to 'waterfalling'. So a nominalism is when we take a doing word and make it absolute, or a thing.

Without bogging everyone down further in definitions, (unless asked) can I pose the following question to you all. It's not loaded, I'd like to hear what you all think :)

In discussing 'the nip' are we making a fatal mistake of moving out of the present? What I mean is, perhaps the answer to whether or not to slap/retaliate could be answered so that everyone's answering right...thus:

If the horse is 'nipping', then a slap is appropriate.
'Nipping' implies either that you've caught it between the thought and the act as suggested, or Sam I ain't could be right also. 'Nipping' may also be when the nip has occured, but the horse is still in the space of nipping, i.e. the behaviour is continuing, he hasn't 'dropped it'.

If the horse has 'nipped', then a slap is inappropriate
'Nipped' could be after he's actually nipped and 'dropped it', or after he stopped thinking about nipping.

I'm hoping this brings us back to context - and keeps discussions in the present, as opposed to the past tense. We're all expousing the validity of 'being present' with our horses, yet we're not 'being present' with our discussing (yep, that's one right there).

Keeping present, or should I say present-ing,

[ FWIW this arose during some training - it's useful to use the 'ing' tense in negotiating. It's not a 'negotiation', which implies a fixed reality, it's 'negotiating', which implies much more flexibility in working towards outcomes/outcoming ;)]

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Thank 'ee kindly, Joe, for the feedback - it's always nice to know something has worked.

There are many readers of this forum who are better qualified than I to describe the nuts & bolts of how to relate to horses so they do not want to kick, bite, nip or barge over their owners, all these behaviours have the same origin and the same solution.  It is only in the last couple of years that I have discovered this new way of handling horses so have all the enthusiasm of the newly converted, but wish I had known this 20 years ago.  I can only speak of what works for me and hope that those more experienced will chip in to fill in the gaps that I will inevitably leave.

Over recent years I have several times heard Dr Deb speak of horses needing to 'know where it would be OK for them to stand' - heard the words but did not grasp their full meaning until I started experimenting with roundpen style work, which was something completely foreign to my English heritage.  In this country I had seen demos by the Queen's Cowboy, the orange-stick Man and local look-alikes, all of which seemed to me to be bullying the horse so I dismissed  such people as of no interest.  My best teacher has been my old thoroughbred who died late last year.  He was one of those strong-minded geldings who could control an entire herd with barely the flick of an ear and in the 14 years he was with me, I never saw him touch another horse, but he was the undisputed leader wherever he went.   I spent hours watching this old horse casually but confidently push other horses away from their hay piles, allowing them only a moment or two at each pile before he would again move them on.  There was no fuss, no threats, no arguments - he gave the impression that it had simly never occured to him that any horse would challenge him, so they didn't, life was very peaceful for every horse when he was in charge. 

Three years ago I acquired a young colt, and when he got to around 2 yrs old started ignoring me during the English-style groundwork we had been doing easily for quite a while, his attention everywhere but with me.  I had done a fair bit of starting young horses previously so was surprised by this and realized that he was only going to get bigger and stronger, while I would not.  I well remember the day when his front feet started to lift off the ground, and he tried to dash away from me.  I decided there and then that I had to change my approach completely.   I had an old cattleyard to work in, so I took off all his gear and copied the mannerisms of the old TB.  Totally ignoring the colt, I wandered about the yard busying myself with picking up stones, then I started shooing him away with a doubled-over lead rope swinging vaguely in the direction of his tail as I especially wanted the stones beneath his feet.    This went on for a good 1/2 hr - overkill for sure, I really didn't have a clue what I was doing, but he certainly became very interested in what I was doing.  At that point I started asking him to trot around the yard, frequently changing direction, and kept him at it with my eyes never leaving him until I felt I had his undivided attention.  Once I had that, I stopped everything, looked away from him, then casually walked up to him and made a huge fuss of him, spending a long time just stroking and scratching him.  He was a totally different young horse, standing perfectly still beside me, completely relaxed in every way, uninterested in all the distractions around us.

That day was such a revelation to me, I could hardly believe the power of what had just happened.  You'll all be relieved to know my technique has improved a lot since those first fumbling efforts so now it takes only a couple of minutes, if that, to ask for and receive the full attention of any horse I'm with.  Once that has been achieved, all question of biting or kicking just disappears - the horses are so relaxed they look almost sleepy, the ears are floppy and lower lip droops, they exude contentment and trust, staying with me although there is no restraint to keep them there.

With my own horses, this is the starting point for every session we have together, no matter what I have in mind to do later - if I cannot get and keep their attention while on the ground, there's little chance of doing so from the saddle.  The colt is now rising 4, still entire, and a joy to have around.  He's lost none of the cheeky exuberance that sparkled from his eyes the first time I saw him, but there is no possibility of him biting or kicking.  I've used this method with some of my client's horses also; last year I told the story of the wily old TB gelding who for years had been sedated by farriers in order to trim his back feet, no amount of threatening or hitting stopping him from kicking violently.  It took less than 5 minutes to gain the trust of this horse as described above, he then stood quietly relaxed, untied, while his back feet were easily trimmed.

I believe that this is what Dr Deb meant by a horse wanting to know where he can stand (but I hope she will correct me if I am wrong) - as I see it, the horse finds comfort, safety and contentment in being close to a person (or another horse) who acts as though they are in charge, it's as though all the worry of responsibility for their own safety has been shouldered by someone else.  I think that horses who scrap with each other over hierarchy, or with us by nipping, shoving or kicking, are not entirely sure of their safety,  feel quite anxious about life as they are just not completely sure of their position or role in the herd.  This was the gift of my old TB, showing me how to take on the posture of quiet confidence that horses can recognize as a source of security, and I still miss him greatly.

Clarifying our relationship with our horses so they are clear on exactly what their position is, has a domino effect throughout the entire herd, but it's getting late on a Friday night so I'll save that story for another day.

Best wishes to all - Pauline

Last edited on Fri Jul 20th, 2007 01:13 pm by Pauline Moore

Joe
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I hope DD WILL weigh in if we are going astray, but your latest post helped clarify some things for me.  I think you are much further along that I on the thought/ practice that I expressed above about projecting calm confidence and control. Let me express the same in human terms if possible:

Much of my professional practice in business life has been to turnaround or "fix" businesses that are not performing to the owner's satisfction.  Honestly, there is no possible way for one person to do this -- it takes a team; a motivated team, and the team is going to be made up of the people who are already working there.  A good part of what I do is to "project" (for lack of a better word) calmness, confidence, and "being in chargeness."  People respond to this with a great boost in morale which in a team setting in like the difference between being in the dark and turning the lights on.  It does not involve yelling at people or bullying or anything of the sort.  It is "presence," confidence, calm, and as I said before, the projected certainty that someone is in charge.

This, when projected in a way that horses understand is what I think you are saying.  Without going into war stories, I can say that although not as far along as you by a long shot, I have found this to be true.  I'd say that the horses understand what I project to them, but my projection is kind of crude and inefficient, if that makes sense.  I think the trick is to learn more about how to read them, and how they best read us.

Sam
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Hi, Sam I ain't again, and yes this is an intersting thread.

It does seem through reading the replys that there are 3 different owner groups here.

The "professional" owner that has as Joe says has "presence, confidence, and is calm and projects certainty that someone is in charge. Pauline wrote about her old TB horse ".  There was no fuss, no threats, no arguments - he gave the impression that it had simly never occured to him that any horse would challenge him, so they didn't, life was very peaceful for every horse when he was in charge. Should every horse owner not aspire to have that manner, that status, be that leader ?

Pauline also wrote " as I see it, the horse finds comfort, safety and contentment in being close to a person (or another horse) who acts as though they are in charge, it's as though all the worry of responsibility for their own safety has been shouldered by someone else. Can't argue with that either, all makes sense to me. I bet most professional owners and trainers  don't have horses that bite and kick etc, for they have the experience, dedication, will and nounce  to know how to lead and be around horse.

Clearly though, there IS another type of owner that are NOT leaders. The 'Dominated". Pauline again wrote Clarifying our relationship with our horses so they are clear on exactly what their position is, has a domino effect throughout the entire herd.  Can't argue with that.  Pauline also wrote "I think that horses who scrap with each other over hierarchy, or with us by nipping, shoving or kicking, are not entirely sure of their safety,  feel quite anxious about life as they are just not completely sure of their position or role in the herd.  Sure I say, but not the last bit. Its perhaps not their lack of position or role with-in the herd but with-in their human interactions. The lack of experience and desire or perhaps the too easy and "soft" going nature of this type of owner could easily result in a horse that misbehaves, not the horses fault, it has no leader.

There is a third group, "The Wooly Woofters" who own horses because they're just "Big cute cuddly teddybears" They can own bad mannered horses with little respect  and more vices and its the  horse that is the leader.

To you horse owners in the first group I salute you, I've seen in person and on videos, owners like you, and your magical to watch and your horses are indeed lucky.

 Those in the last group with no aspirations to lead should give up ownership and buy a cat.

Those in the 2nd group should do all you can to improve your knowledge and skill and realise you must lead with clear leadership and be the Alpha horse. That way you'll teach your horse not to bite and I won't have to get all primitive and smack/whack him for doing it.

Just to finish, Kallisti wrote "If the horse has 'nipped', then a slap is inappropriate
'Nipped' could be after he's actually nipped and 'dropped it', or after he stopped thinking about nipping.

It will come as no surprise to any of you that I DO NOT agree with that. We do not know for sure how long is too long. The next day is too long, but who's to say how long they think about what they have done ? Can you say definitively ? If it  took me 2 seconds to react to his bite than thats how long it took. Hard luck. He did'nt bite again, it worked. It might be 6 months before I touch a horse again, it might be tomorrow. If his owner has'nt shown leadership, has'nt shown domination and got on top of what he's not allowed to do and I get nipped again, I'll dominate and correct as before. At the end of the day, its up to you Gals and Guys to do a better job and produce safer horses for you and non horsey people like me, to be around, simple !

Thank you for the opportunity to respond.

Joe Sullivan
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Sam:

The kinds of owners you mention do exist, but the universe of owners is more complicated than that.  Not to go into too much detail and hijack that thread, but there are plenty of professional trainers with whom no one should leave a horse, and plenty of amateurs who control their animals as described.

As to timing, I kind of fall in the middle on this argument, but leaning heavily towards Pauline.  I have seen a sharp snap on the halter have very good effect, and think I have seen the occasional good slap work, usually with an abrupt, harsh word (not necessarily unprintable --could just be HO!).  However, there is just no doubt in my mind that anticipation and cutting off or making the undesirable behavior hard for the animal is far better. 

Sappiness about horses is rampant.  My theory on that, in brief, is that few people actually live with the beasts anymore and know them AS ANIMALS.  Rather, they know them as horsie-in-a-box, a pretty utility vehicle that is brought out of a stall for them for an hour or two when they feel like riding.  If you don't really know the beastie, you can easily project lots of nonsense onto him that is rooted only in your fertile and romantic imagination, including above all, anthropomorphisation.

Pauline Moore
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Second Sam queried the comment I made about our relationship with the horse having an effect on the role of that horse within the herd, so I need to tell part 2 of my story to explain what I mean.  This will take a while so anyone who is already bored with my ramblings might want to skip to the next thread.

If the events with my colt as a 2 yr old was an eye-opener, then the orientation of my learning curve rocketed to straight vertical with the arrival of the colt's sire a few months later.  I was not looking for and did not need another horse, but as soon as I saw the ad for the colt's Dad, the decision was made that he must join us - pure emotion and no logic but I have never regretted the choice.  To make matters worse, this 8 yr old was unbroken & unsocialised - like most breeding stallions he had been isolated since yearling age - and I had the crazy idea that he should learn to live with my 2 TB geldings and his own colt.    The story of his integration kept my friends riveted to their Inboxes for weeks, but as part of that process in the first few days, I would lead each of the geldings up to the rails of the yard that housed the stallion.    The younger TB who is still with me, was certainly intimidated and not at all keen to approach the yard.  The old horse I referred to in the previous post was extraordinary in his reaction, or lack of it, I should say.  On one side of the rails was the stallion doing his best to be threatening - up on his hind legs, striking, trumpeting, charging at the rails (I might have admired the performance if my knees weren't shaking so much...), on the other side of the rails, only an inch out of touching distance, stood the old TB with one hind leg resting, looking utterly bored.  He did not for one second even acknowledge the existence of the stallion, just gazed straight through him.  After 2 days of this, the stallion gave up trying to impress the old horse, and instead became very interested in him.  To cut a long story short, there was no difficulty at all in having the stallion live with the 2 geldings, the old TB was still very much in control.  Different story with the colt however, his brazen cheekiness was breathtaking.  In the first few moments of their being together in the same paddock (despite all my admonishments that he should just stand still and allow Dad to sniff him all over) Superbrat initiated a boxing/shoving match whilst still chewing the large wad of hay that was hanging out of his mouth both sides.  Next came the 'chasie' game in a large circle around the 2 geldings who were more interested in their hay - he'd kick out at the stallion, then gallop off, after a couple of laps he would dive in between the geldings for protection and a breather, then dash out and start the whole thing again - had never had such fun in his life.  It took the stallion nearly a week to isolate the colt and banish him to exile at the other end of the paddock - now he was left with the dilemma of how to take the leadership of this little herd from the old TB but still stay friends with him, spending his days trailing after the geldings, tolerated but not fully accepted.

There was no real change for the next 2 months - the old TB was still in charge and the colt was still in disgrace, and I was beginning to despair that he would ever be accepted back and that I would have to abandon any thoughts of having them all live together.  During this time, I had done very little with the stallion beyond routine feeding, hoofcare etc - I was still unsure of myself and him and gave priority to having them all integrated, so I now thought I might as well get on with doing something with him, nothing was changing in the paddock.    Over the next couple of weeks I cautiously tried a few different approaches with the stallion, finally doing almost exactly as I had with the colt some months before and was very happy to find that day for the first time an almost identical response despite his entirely different nature - his focus was with me completely and he became very soft and relaxed.    This is a day I will never forget as on that same day, just 2 hours later, the stallion calmly and confidently took possession of the old TB's pile of hay - the leadership had changed and everyone was happy, no fuss, no arguments etc, and within 2 days the colt was accepted back into the herd.

I am still stunned to think that resolving my relationship with the stallion was the key to all 4 of them being able to live harmoniously.  I had no idea that certainty of role was so important for them, and that without that their own relationships could not be fully settled.  It gives me a great deal of pleasure to think of my beautiful old TB being looked-after by a devoted and protective stallion for the last year of his life.  The colt and the stallion are now good mates, sharing the friendship of the other gelding - it is such a privilege to be able to watch how they interact, learn from it, and use it to help me communicate with all horses.

Sorry this has been so long, but in summary I think it is exactly as you said, Joe, the more we can learn to read them and understand how they read us, the better the chance that we can enjoy everything horses have to offer with complete safety, for ourselves and others, and the less chance that horses will be abused for behaving in a way that is natural for them but misunderstood by us.  We speak of intercepting between the thought and the action - but is it not even better to ensure the horse never has need for the thought?

Best wishes - Pauline

 

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Hi Pauline, 

I really liked your post.  I too, have a young colt.  Your story is both good reading and informative for me.  The socialisation of colts/stallions and their relationship with their handlers is something that I am starting to explore.  I'm careful to care, but not treat him as a pet.

Thanks for your story,

Marion.



 


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Hi Pauline

Believe me, from a now non horsey person, I enjoyed your response.

However, and you might have guessed this would happen, I'm not 100% convinced your observations were totally correct. You wrote "his focus was with me completely and he became very soft and relaxed.    This is a day I will never forget as on that same day, just 2 hours later, the stallion calmly and confidently took possession of the old TB's pile of hay - the leadership had changed and everyone was happy, no fuss, no arguments etc, and within 2 days the colt was accepted back into the herd.

You could not and would not have seen ALL that happened between your horses prior to the stallion finally taking control, There are 24 hours hours in a day, 12 of which you'd would'nt know what was happening and 12 during the day when you may happen to see something. If the TB and stallion did have a time of reckoning, this may have lasted just afew seconds which you would have had little chance in a 24 hour day of witnessing. Sorry to be the one that spoils a great story, but there is another less magical and idyllic reason  for what happened.

You also wrote Pauline "and the less chance that horses will be abused for behaving in a way that is natural for them but misunderstood by us.  We speak of intercepting  between the thought and the action - but is it not even better to ensure the horse never has need for the thought?

Are you not just making excuses for horses here ? Are you saying if they do something wrong blame the human, as whatever it was they did , it is something natural to them and we should have understood it, we'll yea, thinking about it your right. The horse wants you to move so naturally he might ask you to move then kick you or bite you too tell you too move and its us, the humans fault for misinderstanding his natural behaviour and receiving the kick or bite. YEA RIGHT !,  He should respect you enough not to do it in the first place.

I except some people abuse horses, what I do not accept is an isolated slap or a whack being defined as abuse.

Horses naturaly do this and naturaly do that so thats their excuse ? Horses live in our world which is not natual to a horse but they have adapted over the centuries to it. How natural is it for a horse to have a rider on its back or to pull a cart, or be put in a horse float or have metal bits nailed to its feet ? Domesticated horses live by our rules so why cloud some of our rules by adopting theirs ?

Appreciate the opportunity to respond


Pauline Moore
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Right on cue, Sam #2 - I knew someone would tell me I'm dreaming but just before you write me off as another of the 'woolly woofter' brigade, I'll have to tell you how I know the stallion and the old TB had not exchanged roles before that day - I was trying to keep it short, believe it or not.

For those first few weeks of the stallion's presence in the paddock, one way (amongst many) for the old TB to reinforce his authority was to deny the stallion any contact with the other gelding (he's my friend, you stay away from him).  Any time there was any activity in the paddock, even me just going in there to do some chores that took me close to where the horses were grazing, the stallion would become anxious and start to dance around the geldings, nothing threatening to them or me, but clearly upset.  Whenever this happened, the old TB responded by placing himself between the stallion and the other gelding until everything had settled down again.  On 'That Day' I referred to above, this same charade was played out when I went to fetch the stallion early afternoon, so I know up to that point there had definitely been no change in the hierarchy.  Sure, 'something' else could have happened within the next 2 hours that I did not see, but if it did, it was still after my session with the stallion.  From that time on, there was no more anxiety behaviour from the stallion when anything was going on in the paddock, and no more preventing access to the other gelding by the old TB.   To a less dramatic degree, this same sequence is repeated with every horse whenever I take this approach, they all become extremely relaxed, the eyes are soft, sleepy looking, completely content, motionless.  There have been no exceptions, either with my own horses or with others I have never previously met, and I'm still learning - anyone can do this.

I did not say that an isolated whack is abuse (I was speaking in general terms, not thinking of you or anyone else specifically).  I've done it myself and much as I would hope I never do that again, no-one can be certain what they will or won't do until the situation actually ocurrs, so I don't judge or condemn anyone for using force, just think there is a better way.   I thought I had already stated clearly that I do not ever think it acceptable for any horse of any age, breed or gender to nip, bite, kick or shove their handler, even though that is part of the interaction between themselves.  When horses bite or kick each other, it is after a warning or a series of warnings have been given, but we may not have seen or understood those warnings, no different to a dog growling a warning before a bite, except that horses can't growl.  I also do not think it acceptable for a horse to be giving us a warning or a dog to growl at us, but that doesn't mean I want my horses or my dogs to behave with a rigid robotic compliance because they are scared to do anything else. 

We all have a choice how we go about dealing with issues like safety around animals but we have to understand that with each choice there is a consequence.   Woolly woofters might well find themselves with a few injuries here and there that they hadn't reckoned on.  Others who prefer to use an occasional slap or whack should keep their fingers crossed that they never are tempted to use that method on a horse like the Arab stallion that Joe told us about - it would have taken a great deal of skill for Joe to save that situation with no-one getting killed. 

There are other consequences also.  For those who think of a horse as a sort of furry motorbike substitute, then an expressionless machine-like obedience is probably exactly what they want.  Those who want to see the artistry and magnificence that is hiding inside every horse, will choose a training method that does not supress any of their natural joy of life.

When I watch the 2 stallions at play,  my greatest ambition is attempting to replicate from the saddle even a tiny fraction of their spontaneous beauty - might never get there, but it's a lot of fun trying.    We all have a choice to make.

Best wishes - Pauline

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Sam, I find it really annoying that you need to put us horse owners in three categories or neat little boxes.  Horse ownership is alot more complicated, like Joe mentions.   Even though I don't agree with a slap in the face for a nip, although I have done so,  I wouldn't call it abuse either.   I'm just looking for a better way.  You seem to think a slap is the only way and are not really open to suggestions.  I'm here to learn, not be dictated to.  How about you?   

Pam 

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Hi everyone,

So Pauline, you say that leadership belongs to the one who can move the other horse to where they want it to be.  So the 'slap in retaliation for the nip' method could be likened to a lower order member of the herd pulling faces while moving to where a more dominant horse wants it to be.  After all, you don't see a horse double up in pain if it gets kicked by another.  With that sort of pain threshold a flick on the nose isn't likely to cause undue trauma. 

In the same way that you have differing levels of dominance within the horse herd, there are differing levels of dominance in the human herd.  A good balance would be matching horse to human at a ratio weighted slightly in favour of the human. 

If you looked at it this way it is more like a scale and less like compartmentalising (Is that a word?) Obviously when you are just starting out you would be well matched with a horse from the lower end of the dominance scale, then it would be up to you if you wanted to move up from there.  As we are hearing (from Paulines' stories) not necessarily all horses want to move up the hierarchy either, but that harmony within the ranks will prevail if we lead from the front.  

Good discussion isn't it?

 

    

Pauline Moore
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Wendy - you raise two interesting points here that we haven't taken into account.

The first is that in purely physical terms, even the strongest man, with his bare fists, will not be able to put much of a dent into any horse's pain threshold compared to the damage they inflict on each other.  When I was thinking of abuse that is at the end of the wedge starting with a slap or a whack, I was not thinking of any physical pain that might (unlikely) be felt by the horse.  Although I didn't specify, I had in mind the confusion  and incomprehension a horse would feel who had no idea why he had just been hit.   There has been talk earlier in this thread of time lapse between cause and effect.  There is an Australian researcher, a neural biologist, who recently got his PhD on equine behaviour and learning, who says he has proved that there is only one second, maximum, between an action by the horse and a consequence from a handler, in order for the horse to connect the two together.  I think Kallisti was referring to something like this in her comments about nipping/nipped.  Few of us have that speed of reaction - by the time we've said 'Ouch' and then raised our hand to slap, that second has long gone.  I suspect that the perceived effectiveness of this training method for some non-reactive horses is in fact the horse maintaining a wary distance (mentally if not physically) from the handler lest they again be hit for (as they see it) no reason.    Any prey animal is a master at reading intent in a potential predator - the slightest anger or aggression from us will be seen by the horse before we are aware of it ourselves, leading to confusion and anxiety in the horse - a confused and insecure horse is a distressed horse, the first one to become tiger-tucker if in the wild.

This leads on to the second point about dominance and submission which we have skirted around in this thread.  I don't think leadership is the same as dominance, but what is everyone else's view?

Referring back to my old TB, I can't say that I saw him as a dominant type, but a brilliant leader - yes.  All horses wanted to be close to him, he was their place of security and safety.  Joe talked about the business rescues he was involved with and how effective it was to project a calm, confident leadership role - I doubt that he, or anyone else, would have thought of him as dominant.  There are a lot of celebrity horse trainers who brag about their domination of the horse and teach their fans to do likewise, but personally, I don't want that type of relationship with my horses,  I want them to feel free to express their individual characteristics. 

I've been thinking about this quite a bit over the last few months as I've observed the different type of relationship that my colt has to his Dad and to the gelding - both are definitely well above him in the pecking order.  Although Dad and Junior do play together daily, it is always at the initiation of Dad, the colt is required to play whether he likes it or not.  Play with the gelding is most often started by the colt, in fact it seems to be the highlight of his day if he can provoke the gelding into chasing him, but they always end up sharing a mound of hay at feedtime, the best of friends.  Whenever the colt has been off by himself for a short while, for a snooze or whatever, his return is always marked by his Dad walking out to meet him in a highly collected body posture (this might happen a dozen times a day).  The stallion will then press the side of his face against the jowls or upper neck of the colt - this is often the start of a few minutes of play activity - roughly translated I think he is saying 'Welcome back Junior, nothing has changed in the 10 minutes you've been away, I'm still the boss'.  The colt's role in this is to never, ever, take on that collected round body posture - that would be taken as a challenge I believe, submission being indicated by his lack of collected posture.  The only time I have seen the colt adopt a highly collected posture was when Dad was out of the paddock, sedated, having his teeth done.  The relationship between the colt and the stallion could well be described as one of dominance, the colt is wary of Dad, although they give the impression of being good mates, he is never cheeky and never initiates any contact.   Despite the gelding being clearly senior to the colt, Junior feels a freedom to be his true cheeky self, seeks the company of the gelding and looks to him for safety and security.

What I'm thinking is that if submission equates to a neutral body posture (neither collected nor in flight mode), then it must be very hard for a horse whose rider is demanding a highly collected body posture when the relationship between that horse and rider is one of dominance and submission.  Given a choice between the two types of relationship between my horses and me, I would opt for the latter  - think I'd rather be seen as a leader, than as being dominant.

Feel free, anyone, to tell me I'm dreaming again.

Best wishes - Pauline

 

 

Joe
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Very interesting post, Pauline.  Not knowing the answer to your question, I can only add the thought that some horses appear to make collected movements just for the fun of it  while at liberty, and regardless of the herd.  That being the case (if it is), there may be a material difference between a "directed" collected movement as in your old TB with Jr., and other, "general" collected movements.

Here is something of an analogy:  If I playfully swat one of my richly deserving children, he or she will laugh and scamper.  If I make the same movement with the same force with the tone and body language that they are "in trouble," he or she will cry.  Same movement, same energy level, different context, very different result.

Taking small exception to the idea that the strongest man cannot make a dent in a horse with bare hands -- in college I worked and hung out at the school stable most of the time.  There was a band of mares and geldings in the pasture who were fed grain from a long common table.  One of the horses was a stock little guy of about 14 hands named Chalky -- probably a cross-bred pony of some kind.  Chalky was low in the pecking order and had to sneak in to get his food, often using nips to shove other animals aside. One day my roommate Kenny was spreading out the grain, when Chalky nipped him good and hard.  Now Kenny was a monster, much bigger than me (and I am 6'5" and then at 17 years old weighed about 185 -- now at 53 about 225).  Kenny was very powerful.  In high school he had been an all-Louisiana tackle in American football.  He could lift a hayrick off the wheels on one side by himself and hold it while we removed a wheel.  When Chalky nipped him, Kenny in a burst of temper yelled in pain and swung around and punched the animal in the jaw, good and hard.  Chalky actually sagged and swayed.  He certainly backed off, and he did not nip Kenny ever again.

Now, of course, we would not consider this a Good Thing, and we would argue that Chalky's subsequent manners were the result of fear of Kenny.  So be it.  At the time we thought it was pretty funny.

I'd say that Kenny crossed Chalky's threshold.

Cheers!
Joe

Last edited on Tue Jul 24th, 2007 02:42 pm by Joe

Marion
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Hi Pauline,

As I was reading your post, I was starting to think about whether a horse being collected under a rider would be assuming the leadership role between horse/rider.  Then you verbalised what was in my mind, too!

There are instances of riders (eg Bettina Drummond, Reiner Klimke) who achieve collection, at the same time as keeping the leadership role.  The horse must be taking his cue from the rider.

You know sometimes the feeling when you want to stretch, or dance, or do yoga, or something physical and you feel that your body is beautiful? And you feel (unselfconsciously) that your body is also looking beautiful, performing in the way that God/evolution designed it?

One day my mare trotted up to me, then performed piaffe, just in the moment.  I felt I was witnessing true beauty and that this was a gift to me, her sharing some kind of joy in the grace of her body.  I had a feeling of 'oneness' with her.  I felt that she was 'offering her beauty to me'.  It never occurred to me that she might have been trying to dominate me - quite the opposite.

When we ride and achieve collection, for a fleeting moment, are we equals in a partnership? Is there give and take? Or is the line of leadership blurring, is it still clear?  Does the horse know the boundaries so very well and in that, joyfully (and with discipline) express himself?  When a horse achieves true collection under saddle, is it a spiritual celebration of his strength and beauty and his partnership with his 'leader', his rider?

I'm not sure that true collection can be grudgingly (conjugage the verb correctly! LOL) given.  Physically, yes, but it doesn't look/feel any good without the participation of the spirit of the horse.

Joe
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Marion:
I worry about to much attribution of emotions to horses.  We humans have so much more bandwidth for emotions that a fraction of what we feel would overwhelm them.  I wonder if we sometimes lose track of the animal nature of the horse?
Joe

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Joe,

It sounds like your friend was very effective in getting his point across and it cured.  He operatted from instinct, which comes from a very deep place within, verses being very emotional.  I think horses understand that language.  What they don't understand is when someone gives a non-committal slap for a nip or bite.  I see people slap their horses because other people are watching and expect them to do something, and because they don't want to look ineffective (this goes especially for women trying to look tough in what is perceived as a man's world), but they are ineffective and they don't fool the horse for one second.  I think if one is going to do something to a horse for a behavior it needs to have meaning behind it, like the example you use with your children,  otherwise you are just a boring nag.  I have no problem with that.  That way it is over and done with.

I remember getting spankings from my father as a child verses my mother.  My father's spankings worked (and they were infrequent) because I never did what he was mad about again.  On the other hand my mother's went on deaf ears because of the lack of  meaning behind them.  I knew she spanked only because she thought she should, not because she wanted the behavior to end.  I would consider my mother's treatment abusive and not my father's.  In the end I respected my father for his honesty and caring for me.    

Pam

Sam
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Sam I ai'nt

Well, especially Pauline and Joe, you have answered my questions and you've given me faith  that not all of the so called "natural" horse people are tunnel visioned and lacking in common sense.

I've learn't, as expected, that there are soft owners out there but I hope through some of these threads that they will have learn't who they are, and that it is exceptable, in certain circumstances, to use some force in reprimanding your horse for serious vices. We should ALL except that ALL horses are ANIMALS and in order to keep things safe,   we are the Boss.  Some of you (and you know who you are) are so wrapped up in feeling good by having your pet toys and  excusing mis-behaviour as keeping it "natural. To those people, I hope you've had cause to re-think.

Has been interesting and believe it or not, I have learn't a thing or 2

Better let Sam have her forum back for good.

Have fun and keep safe everyone

SAM I AIN'T

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Hi Everyone,

I hid from this thread after himself mentioned 'woolly woofters' it all got a bit too hard for me!! But it has been sooo interesting, I am thrilled to hear all about Pauline's boys all together in their herd, what lucky, lucky horses.  The saddest thing ever is to see a stallion on his own.  This has been an very interesting thread for me as it really brings a 'something' to light for me.  We are all 'guided' for want of a better word by our own beliefs at that particular moment in time.  There is no right or wrong way but there might be better ways, but we might not be ready to hear them yet.  If I return to the incidenct that created this thread, himself believed he was doing what was right at that time, I do not have to join in with this belief as Pauline (I hope it was you!) said we all have choices about what we do.  I am very 'aware' I have become very soft on my horses and am learning that I can be clear to them with my intentions, they are not going to die and neither am I.  I also choose to believe that horses do have a vast range of emotions that  aren't the 'same' as humans but there never the less and I also feel that if Marion believes her mare performed for her at that moment, she is free to take that as the gift it might have been intended.  Same for Pauline and her helping her stallion intergrate into the herd.  These forms of communication between horse and owner are what keeps me in horses and now I choose to find the balance with retaining this belief and looking at things from a horses point of view without  buying into the 'not helpful' interperations of what my equines are saying.    Have fun folks, lots of learing going on here.

Best Wishes

Sam the first   (Ex woolly woofter).......mostly:)

Joe
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I've learned from this thread, too.  It has been excellent overall.  Part of learning is figuring out that you don't know somethng and need to learn it.  That is where I am.  I am very far from being able to read and anticipate horses consistently.  But this thread has clarified some things, and opened up some new ones -- which it how learning works.

Would agree fully that animals do have a significant range of emotions, although I would argue that they are far more limited than our own.  Whether they "give" as in make a deliberate gift, or merely find it agreeable to do things with us is something we will never know.  I am not sure it matters, either.  The bottom line is free, motivated cooperation.

Also agree that there are better ways that we might not necssarily be ready to hear yet.  It takes a while for things to sink in, even with an open mind.  When I started on this forum, I was considerably put off by a certain snobbery that existed in some former participants, that was coupled with what seemed to me to be a spacey, wooley-woofterish use of language about merging souls and so on.  It all seemed very lala and new ageish.  Had it not been for herself's scientific credentials, and the very good sense displayed in her writings, I would have laughed and passed by.  I did wince a lot, and I pulled back for a while, but for some reason did not leave.  Sooner or later, at least part of what DD is talking about began to connect and the light was turned on, at least at low wattage.  I am now ready to hear, and consequently learn, more.

Joe

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Sam I Ain't,

I am one of the people you put in the "softie" box and I am fine with that title.  I think people like yourself can underestimate us softies though.   That is your nature to do so.

Pauline Moore
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Hello Marion - I was not intending to imply that a collected body posture in a horse is always a sign of domination, I'm sure your mare was not being dominant, perhaps just feeling good and wanting to play.  I occasionally see the gelding collecting himself strongly in play with the colt, but neither of them would dare to do so when approaching the stallion who could be said to have a dominant relationship with them, rather than the leadership role the old TB had with them .   I have not personally seen either Drummond or Klimke so cannot comment directly, but maybe their relationship to the horse was one of leader rather than boss.    The brand of collection currently favoured by the dressage world is different to the collected posture adopted by a horse at play in the paddock, so is not relevant to what I was thinking about.   If I'm interpreting correctly the scenario I see daily with my horses (and that's a big IF - could be quite wrong) in which a neutral posture indicates submission in the presence of a dominant, senior ranking animal, then I wonder how a person who has established a dominance over their horse could expect to have that same horse take on the highly collected posture that (maybe) is indicative of at least a challenge to that dominant person.  This would be quite different to the person who has established a leadership role with a horse and then invites that same horse to take on the highly collected posture in a spirit of play.  Hope this is making sense - to me it's just another reason for finding a better way to handle horses than the use of force.

If you're still looking in, Second Sam, thanks for all your input - this has been a good conversation, we've all learned something.

Best wishes - Pauline

 

Marion
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Hi Pauline,  I really like the way you write about things, and what you were describing resonated with some of the things that I have been thinking about.  I think my mare that day collecting herself, was her having a joyous moment, but I didn't feel that she was wanting to dominate me. 

I had not thought of the difference between being 'the leader' or 'the boss' of the horse.  This sounds to me like two very different ways of being with your horse.  I would like to be the leader, and also, encourage the kind of posture that is displayed by the horses in the paddock at play.

I too, have wondered how a rider who has insisted on complete dominance (including the spirit) of their horse, achieves a highly collected posture of their horse.  Can it be possible?

To me, it is a balancing act of discipline and play (for me, too).  Also, recognising my horse's limits (and mine).  I want to encourage her expression, but keep her 'with me'.  I have to be running a kind of emotional feedback loop every second, and stay focussed.  I need to be very clear in what I am asking.  In the act of trying, perhaps my horse is 'expressing' her response to what she thinks I am inviting.  I wouldn't feel that she was dominating me, but hopefully, communicating with me.  I don't want to completely dominate any horse, but I want to feel safe and confident that we understand each other.

I absolutely love watching her when she canters and plays - she is so graceful - to harness this and have her perform on request...

This is the first time I'm verbalising these thoughts, I've wondered a lot about motivating my horse.


 



Joe
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Pauline Moore wrote: The brand of collection currently favoured by the dressage world is different to the collected posture adopted by a horse at play in the paddock, so is not relevant to what I was thinking about.  
Pauline, how can yo fail to see the natural grace in todays dressage?  Is it the overbent "collection" driven by leg aids that wave around like upside down windshield wipers in a really bad rain storm?

Joe

Zareeba
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Hi all,

This is a very interesting thread, although I think it teaches us more about humans than about horses!

There is a lot of talk about 'dominance' and ‘hierarchies' in this thread, but in my view these are red-herrings. When we talk about what is 'normal' for horses, how do we define 'normal'? Do we mean normal as in the way they behave in natural family groups (not 'herds') as seen in feral horse societies, left to get on with their lives without interference? If we do, then the concepts of 'dominance' and 'hierarchies' are virtually meaningless, and aggressive behaviour is minimal - friendly behaviour is much more common (see Joel Berger's 'Wild Horses of the Great Basin' and Marthe Kiley-Worthington's 'Horse Watch - What it is to be Equine' and my own books 'Let Horses Be Horses'  and 'Understanding horse Behavior' for starters).

If, on the other hand, we mean 'normal' as in the behaviour of horses in domestic settings, then a great deal depends on the management of a particular group. It also depends how you define 'dominant'! As for the so-called ‘alpha’ horse – this is another red-herring. If one horse is consistently more aggressive than others, then it may tell us a great deal about that horse, and possibly about how the group is constituted and managed, but it means nothing in terms of ‘leadership’ or social dominance.

As D.A. Welsh points out, ‘An important distinction is to separate true leadership from forcing, and from being first; just because a horse forces others out of his way does not mean that he is the leader, nor is the first one in a walking group necessarily in charge.’ ([size=D.A. Welsh, Population, behavioral and grazing ecology of the horses of Sable Island, MSc Thesis,  ]Dalhousie,  USA
,  1973  pp.205-206)

 This is borne out by the findings of various studies of feral horses.  For example, Telane Greyling, a zoologist who has spent the greater part of the last 13 years among the feral horses of the Namib desert, observing and recoding the behaviour of these horses, fully concurs with what I have said in the last two paragraphs  (Greyling, T.   The behavioural ecology of the feral horses in the Namib Naukluft Park   MSc Thesis  University of Pretoria   1994; also various personal communications with me on this subject)


 

Furthermore, I do not believe that horses can ever think of us as just another (rather funny-looking) horse – unless they are malimprinted (and ‘imprinting’ does not mean what popular ‘gurus’ say it does!).

I do not think that frequent expressions of aggression can or should be regarded as ‘normal’ – they are a sign of something amiss in that particular equine society. Aggressive behaviour is many times more common in domestic groups than it is in feral groups - there are many reasons for this - see the books mentioned above for more detailed explanations than I can give here.

Also there seems to be some confusion about what constitutes punishment. Sam I Ain’t says:

‘If I bump a horse, smack, whack or whatever its NEVER a punishment. Its not anger or given with malice, its just meant to be an unpleasant result to his undesirable action.’ But, Sam, if a horse perceives your action as unpleasant then it is punishment , regardless of your state of mind. Punishment given without anger or malice is still punishment. It is the perception of the animal – and how it affects the animal – that counts, not the intention behind your acts.

In 'Understanding horse Behavior' I wrote:

‘Punishment is often confused with negative reinforcement, but as I said earlier, they are not the same thing. In fact they could be said to be opposites, because negative reinforcement acts to increase the likelihood of behaviour being repeated, whereas punishment (in theory at least) acts to decrease it. We can either introduce something unpleasant as a punisher (positive punishment) or we can deprive the subject of something he or she likes (negative punishment).

‘Many people believe in punishment-based training, either because it is what they have been taught, or because they believe the use of punishment is an effective way to train animals. However, punishment is not really a very good training method. We can use it to tell a human or non-human what not to do, but we cannot convey by this means what we do want them to do. Even if we use it just to get rid of an unwanted behaviour, that behaviour may simply be replaced by another, equally unwanted behaviour; the punishment will do nothing to motivate the subject to switch to the kind of behaviour we do want. In terms of motivation, punishment is therefore rather a hit-and-miss affair. It must be administered immediately and be sufficiently strong to act as a deterrent. The degree of punishment has to be greater than the animal’s desire (or need) to do whatever he is being punished for; or, as with excessive negative reinforcement, the subject may do as we wish, but make only sufficient effort to avoid punishment or the stimulus. Or he may simply make greater efforts to avoid being caught!

‘People often use punishment illogically. One often sees a rider giving their horse a smack with a whip because he has refused a fence. Such riders will often justify their actions on the grounds that the horse was being naughty in refusing, and they want to ‘teach him a lesson’. Quite apart from the fact that the horse might have refused because he was afraid of the jump or unsure whether he could tackle it, how is he supposed to know that his refusal was the reason for his punishment? And how can he know that in order to avoid punishment next time, he had better jump any fence his rider points him at?

‘Another common scenario is that in which a rider will punish the horse for some misdeed when he is back in the stable. This is even more illogical than the rider hitting the horse for refusing a jump. How can the horse possibly know what he is being punished for? The same objection applies when people deprive a horse of his dinner because he has been ‘naughty’. Many people justify such actions on the grounds that ‘it worked because the horse never did it again.’ How do they know he would have done it (whatever ‘it’ was) again anyway?               ]

‘Behaviour analyst Murray Sidman has written at length about the damaging side effects of coercion and punishment, which extend far beyond the circumstances in which they are used. However, this does not mean that we must never use punishment. There may be situations – for example if a horse is behaving aggressively and we do not have enough information to know what is causing the aggression – where we need to take action in order to avoid injury. As Dr Sidman points out, in such situations “…common sense tells us that we have to use whatever effective means are at hand.” But as he goes on to say, the occasional emergency “may justify punishment as a treatment of last resort, but never as the treatment of choice. To use punishment occasionally as an act of desperation is not the same as advocating the use of punishment as a principle of behavior management.”’

So- except in circumstances which present a ‘clear and present danger’ - before resorting to punishment we should always try to find the cause of the undesirable behaviour. The horse may be trying to tell us that all is not well with some aspect of his world; if we punish him, he may simply stop trying to tell us, until the situation becomes so intolerable that in desperation, his behaviour really does become dangerous (so what do we do then? Punish him again?). Or – as in the case of many colts who nip – unwanted behaviour may simply be a form of attention-seeking, and a slap (or whatever) just encourages the behaviour. There are many better ways of changing or preventing unwanted behaviour than the use of punishment.

It is not a matter of being ‘soft’ or ‘hard’, but of taking the trouble to understand why horses behave the way they do – and in order to do this, we have to discard all the rubbish talked by people who say we have to take on the role of the ‘alpha horse’, make ourselves the equivalent of the ‘herd leader’ or similar babble. Read the books mentioned above (yes, I know 2 of them are mine, but I have researched the subject by making my own systematic observations as well as reading reams of scientific material). Then study the ‘nuts and bolts’ of how horses (or any animals) learn. There are at present no really good books specifically about learning in horses (Debbie Marsten’s ‘How Horses Learn’ is very good in parts but seriously flawed in others, especially in the definitions of reinforcements). So I would recommend Karen Pryor’s ‘Don’t Shoot the Dog’, even though her notions of giving the aids in riding seem crude to say the least – even so, this is a good introduction to the processes of learning. I would also thoroughly recommend ‘How Dogs Learn’ by Mary Burch and Jon Hailey.

As for the belief that horses respond better to negative reinforcement than to positive reinforcement, I can assure you that this is not the case! But I’ve already gone on about this far too long…

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it is always the goal to use a soft hand and work smooth an gentle around our animals this does not always happen an some times we get caught of guard we just like with our animals should get out self back into that frame of mind an workmanship all good old horse handlers have made their mistakes and learnd from them

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Hi Pauline



I love reading and hearing about your horse encounters, I was very sad to read about the loss of your old TB, he held an amazing presence, that impressed me very much.

I was'nt going to leave any comments, but reading through the last dozen or so threads, I just had to put my tiny 2 cents worth in (for those mentioning horse smacking) about my own gelding, whom guaranteed will give you a double barrel in the blink of an eye if you dare raise a hand to him, but give him a clear and confident instruction and he will respond with the upmost respect and grace.

I have watched him time and time again respond to people who dont "speak his body language" come off second best (myself included in the beginning), and watched him respect those who do understand, but as I said earlier I only have 2 cents worth to add and maybe my boy is one of a kind, but you certainly couldnt get near this horse if your intentions were to give him a quick slap to pull him into line.

Regards

Karrina

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Newbie here, so take it easy.

Say, Sam's other half, what if the "conversation" goes on after you slap the horse?  What would you do if he felt you deserved an answer in the form of a more vicious bite, strike, or full on charge?

I am not at all opposed to discipline and pecking order, but if you do not know the animal well and are not paying attention, how do you predict what the creature is possibly going to do next?

Glad you are humble and curious enough to ask.
cheers :)

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Sorry Zoya,  Sam I ain't is in his shed fixing stuff and not looking at the horses at present!!!  Who knows something might trigger his return.  I have made the most humbling discovery today, as usual a lesson from both my horses has rocked my world. 

I thought I had been helping Muffy come to terms with the girth and saddle......as per Dr Debs suggestions in another thread...well I started out following these suggestions but I didn't like the results as they were upsetting Muffy and an upset Muffy upsets Sam ( as he might not love me anymore)!!!! 

 He was bucking when the girth was done up and I didn't like it so I have spent ages teaching Muffy how to stand still while the girth is done up, thus bottling the emotions that needed to come out, needless to say the horse has the final say and he now distends his penis when girthing and THAT tells me he is not okay with the whole deal.  So the lesson from Muffy leads me to Giant Shetland and the Birdie book.  Muffy on the whole offers me a lovely  feel and presence, its a bit gutting to finally have it dawn on me Giant Shet feels awful and dead most of the time, and appears to be stuck in Bargining.

Now here is the crock, its as plain as the nose on my face, only I can get the knowledge to help these two beautiful animals, so I have to throw out the baby with the bath water and ditch a lot of stuff I thought I knew about horses, get a back bone and explain to myself and my horses that life isn't always a bunch of warm fuzzies! 

Big lesson learnt thanks to my four legged teachers and their wonderful translator Dr Deb, who like the horses, tells it how it is.

Thanks Dr Deb

Regards Sam

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Am resurrecting this old thread as it is what I was reading before I just went out to visit with my horses and I believe it will be of more help to others having all of this together rather than starting a new topic.

The past few weeks, I’ve been pondering what’s going on with my 15 yo TWH gelding and me. We’ve made tremendous headway in the past two years: no more pacing and he no longer feels like a tank on for separate tracks in different directions. (Thanks to this forum, DD’s articles and CD’s, hours upon hours of watching Buck’s DVD’s, asking the horse, and a lot of mindfulness.) (Oh, and discarding most everything I learned back east ‘English” growing up.) I started with a seeing-red, fetal position fear of riding three years ago and now Harley and I are riding all over my place, and we even hook up and trailer out for trail rides. Yes, I’m still afraid on some level--it’ll never go away--but my confidence grows every time I ride. Which was the key to it: just getting on every day. And singing. The bunny who lives at the lower pasture knows Mary Had a Little Lamb by heart.
I remember the day a little over a year ago that Harley and I were going down the trail by the lake. It’s just a half mile loop around the pasture and barn and through a bit of woods. This was all I could stomach “venturing out” for a long time, and a triumph for me. My baby step version of trail riding. That day though, I realized I was enjoying the lake for the first time, not looking for boogey men living solely to scare my horse! It was also the day that Harley, when we came to where a trail heads away from home, looked up the trail, cocked his eye back at me with a question, and I said, “Okay. Let’s do it.” He knew it was time. He’s an incredible trail horse. So you see, he has babysat me.
There is no question that Harley is bonded to me, (or the key to the pellet bin I control!). Mom says he watches for me when I come and go and when I’m away on business he stares at the house. Last time we went trail riding, he whinnied when I walked away from the trailer and went into the little restroom building, both before and after the ride.
But lately, due to both his behavior on the ground and under saddle, I’m beginning to think something else is going on here. Could it be that as I have gained confidence and am asking more of him, he sees our comparative roles changing? The word I would use is that he’s challenging me.
Last week I had treats in my pocket to snag the minis who were in the pasture with the big horses. (I only give my horses treats in their feed buckets. I know treating works for others; not me.) They can’t stay on grass long, so I catch them and leave the two big horses out. This time Harley followed me up with them and obviously caught a whiff of my pocket contents. He was all perked up. I put the minis outside the gate. (Puppy dogs, they just hang there and wait.) He followed me around, turned on a dime at a perfect distance from me as I turned, backed in perfect unison with my steps, forward as well, moved away fore and rear… all at a perfect distance… all off lead. I could have asked him to go fetch the newspaper! My point is he knows what I want him to do. We obviously have body language down.
An example of him challenging me on the ground: In the past few weeks Harley has bent away from me when I go to brush him and even cocks a hind leg. (There is nothing wrong with him. Vet was just here and he’s sound and to be sure I touch him and have had others at odd times and he shows no sensitivity whatsoever.) Yesterday I tied him in the arena and brushed him gently, reminding him of proper behavior. A few stern “eh-EH”s and he stood. Then I put the rope halter on and lead him, walking backwards in front of him. Stopping, going forward, backing... All with body language, aiming for clarity and consistency. It was fascinating facing him so I could see every move and even thought before it became action.
As for under saddle, when I first started riding him I was simply thankful that he stopped. Now I require him to stop when I want, straight, not dropping to rub his head on his leg, and softly. (He loves the whole soft part! He came from that long shank, sit-on-the-loins background.) I sense that he’s not too keen on having more required of him.
This morning I found this thread. Upon reading what Pauline wrote about the colt, I headed out to the arena and adjoining woodlot where the horses are turned out. To make it a non-event I hung around a bit checking on the two minis. Then I started picking up rocks near and then around Harley. I picked some up, walked over the fence and threw them over. Went back, made my way to Harley, concentrating on the ground. Sure enough, he started following me. At one point he was curious as to what was in my hand. When I showed him he used it as an excuse to nip at me. I anticipated it and sent him off when his mouth was in mid-reach. He came back once I went back to picking up rocks. Then something amazing happened: I started herding him. I had never been successful before. I don’t have a round pen, which kept him out of my reach. Or so I thought. When I stood up from rock gathering I had in mind “You are going to move away from me toward the fence.” And he did. I was to the side of his hindquarters. I must have gotten larger because he kept moving and then I began adjusting myself more toward his hind or shoulder to get him to move as I wished. And then I asked him to move faster. He did. All collected and pretty! Gosh, we could really work on his smooth gait this way! I did get concerned when he reared up a little as I’d never stood by a rearing horse, but we were keeping a 6 foot or greater distance. It was an incredible feeling of connection.
My filly, Delight, came along and wanted to join in. I went back to rock picking. Didn’t want two of them running around me horsing around. Frisky in the record cold.
So, my thinking is that as I’ve become more confident, Harley is resenting being asked for more, for me taking the leader role. Has he seen me more as an equal until now? The two experiences—the treat-in-pocket liberty performance and today’s Rocking Liberty Interlude—tell me we are in a transition and that the where we’re going is within reach. In the first case the bribe gave me presence. In the second it had to be that I found my personal presence, as Pauline experienced. This horse has given me the incredible, unimaginable for me, gift of okayness on horseback. I want to be sure I am reciprocating for him. Thoughts please!

DrDeb
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Just TAKE the leadership role, Jodie, because it is the human's proper role. You take it without regret, without guilt, without needing to make any explanation to anybody or to your horse. You take it firmly and you take it all of the time.

The horse has no resentment. Horses do not 'test' or 'challenge' people. They do not 'resist'. When people try to say this, they are projecting their own ideas ONTO the horse. Or, sometimes at the same time, they are blaming the horse for their own lack of skill and perceptivity. 

The horse has only one motivation, and that is to survive. More than anything else, he wants to be comfortable and at peace. If you threaten his survival, or even make him uncomfortable -- because you're late all the time, because you don't see the world as he sees it, and therefore you're "not there" to deflect or eliminate things or situations that worry him -- then he will have to take measures.

So you ride your horse where it is safe to ride it, where you're sure you can foresee problems and act to deflect them. Once that's established in a riding arena, you can then go outside of the riding arena, always choosing the safest environment, which means a road or trail that you have pre-screened by walking it or driving it slowly in a car with the window down. You know ahead of time what will be there.

You choose your trailride companions with extreme care. If they don't obey the rules of our own school here, if they are repeatedly discourteous or stupid, you give them a pass. Ideally you go out with one single friend who is working on the same goals and objectives that you are, perhaps a little farther along the path than you are.

If you go out away from the horse's feed bunk about "so far" and he becomes restive and gives signs that he'd like to stop, then review the material in "Mannering Your Horse" on what to do about that. -- Dr. Deb

 

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Thank you Dr. Deb for your reply. Sometimes we just need permission, and that's what you gave me. Okayness with myself, which will give him okayness.
Harley is perfect on the trail, goes away from other horses, over anything, etc. We have a couple of great buddy horse/rider pairs. (Actually I prefer riding alone. Some say it's unsafe, but to me it's all about BEING with my horse. I keep my cell phone on my body.)
So yes, it is about me. I had already taken out my notes from my first go-round at soaking in Mannering and reread them. It's time to spend some more time with it first hand. That really is the key for me. I read and reread and watch and re-watch and listen and re-listen. It isn't that I don't get it when I read or listen. There's a readiness factor involved. It feels like a beautiful surrender when, even weeks or months later, 1+1=2 and the click happens. (Or perhaps it's more like subtraction. We humans make things so complicated.)
Thanks so much!

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2 weeks ago I had the privilege of attending a Buck Brannaman clinic here in NZ.
A lady with a horse far to bigger deal for her to handle, was pulled aside and Buck handled the horse.
When I started this thread, my choice of title topic referring to not being hard enough, was perhaps a poor choice of words. However, watching Buck demonstrated exactly my point of view and the one I was attempting to put across. Buck uses the words firm but fair and he was exactly that with this horse.
After 5 minutes this big dis-respectful walk over you horse was where he should be, below Buck in status, mindful and respectful of him. Was the horse "fixed", I doubt it, will the lady still have problems- of course she will, but if Buck was able to change her mindset to being firm but fair and for her to realise her status is way above the horses, then there is hope.
When Buck asked something of the horse he rode and horses he handled and had to go to phase 2 or 3 to get what he wanted, he'd say " there's no hard feelings horse , its nothing personal, it just you didn't do what I asked, and I did ask nicely" sums it up really, firm but fair !

DrDeb
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To Sam's husband: Yes, Buck has found a good way to put it with 'firm but fair.'

Our teacher Tom used to say:

"You do all that it takes, but no more than it takes."

Our teacher Ray used to say:

"How much does it take to get a stick that's balanced across a wire, to teeter off the wire?"

These are koans, especially the last one; they require thought and internal work to understand what they mean. Who wants to get run over? Nobody, so it's obvious that "all that it is going to take" would be at least that much.

The commonest mistake I see people make is not understanding the second koan: when the horse pulls on them with 50 pounds, they think they're being 'nice' by blocking that pull with 49 pounds; or, they think they're being 'dominant' or 'superior to the horse' by pulling back with 51 or more pounds. How much does it take to get the stick to teeter off the wire?

So the one thing that you have misunderstood here is the business about 'dominance' or 'the horse being far below' Buck. That is not what Buck is offering; that's just what you're hearing.

Every person in right relation to their horse has a title, or we might say, a series of titles. One right title is Teacher. Another right title is Guide. Another is The One Who is Responsible for All Setups.

But the final title, the one that subsumes every other title, is that the handler is, to the horse, God. Not God the Creator or God the Father, because humans don't have that ability; but God as to all other things, in the sense of the ultimate authority, the ultimate teacher, the ultimate guide, and the one who is ultimately responsible.

God is not "far above" you or me; He is right next to us, and within us intimately. This is the right relationship between the person and the horse. It is not one of distance, as in far above and far below; it is one of Authority, as in Innocent and without moral sense vs. Responsible and capable of foresight and foreplanning.

It is your wife's failure to take the proper responsibility for her horse that continually gets her into trouble, and that fuels her continual sense of unease and uncertainty as she relates to her own horses. This is also why she's OK handling cattle or other peoples' horses (or at least, relatively OK) -- because she knows that she is not responsible for them, or not in the same way. -- Dr. Deb

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I haven't been on the forum for ages, so much in the pipeline, all very exciting. I haven't been about to find you on Facebook, Dr Deb. Could someone please post the link for me to follow. Have lots of favourite links will, dig them out as I remember the title. This caused much discussion in our house hold! Happy New Year. Cheers Judy

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Judy, the one and only reason for the existence of the Facebook page is to direct readers here. You therefore should stay here! Cheers -- Dr. Deb

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Lol!!! Was going to click the buttons on your Facecloth page to send more folk to you, but real happy to be here!!
Jx

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Bumping for saving :-)




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