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Alex
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Backing Bonnie
Bonnie is just over two and has been handled lightly since she was about 6 months old. Her and her paddock mate Vera (owned by Linda) who is roughly same age run with a herd of between 6 – 8 horses. They are both intended to eventually become haute ecole horses in both ridden and ground schooling. We have been training in a classical school for nearly 20 years and met Deb about 6 years ago. Since then we have been to ride with Harry Whitney and Buck with our older horses. We also spent some time with one of Buck’s students here in Australia and he has been helping us out with our young horses, since he has left for the States we have talked to Deb about posting here and getting some help as we progress Bonnie and Vera through to being riding horses. We are going to take a bit of time with this but everything we do we want to be toward the goal of them being 100% okay, using their bodies correctly and towards being trained to the high school.
At the moment we are getting together every month or so for a training session.

April 2012
At this stage we have been working on getting the horses to come forward from pressure on the rope, go back from pressure on the rope or from a shake of the rope. At this stage they are reading us pretty well and are doing the ‘equine mambo’ with very minimal, if any pressure on the rope. This is Buck inspired I must say!
I have been asking for a simple circle with a change of hands on the rope and a change of direction with a shoulder yield. I don’t know what this exercise is properly called. I have been making sure I push off my back foot and don’t step back. The bubble I imagine and use between my horse and I is working well to yield her over to the rail. We did quadrille practice a couple of weeks ago and the leg yielding and circling went very well and mostly kept time with the ridden horses.

We have also been practicing yield your head (so that your shoulders follow) and yield your butt. We are doing yield your head in preparation for the cavesson work which will eventually turn into shoulders in and pirouettes.

We have been sitting on the rail of the round yard and getting the horses to go past and then yield their hindquarters around and come back straight along the fence. I am encouraging Bonnie to stop as she gets level with me and I can get her head and neck level with me for a pat and for a few times I have got her body level and can pat her around the saddle area and put my foot on her back and give her a scratch and put my leg over her back, whilst holding onto the fence. I am just doing this one step at a time and if she moves away or swings her back side out whilst she is level with me I ask her to go on and then yield her butt and come back along the fence straight. If she stays straight she gets pats, if she doesn’t she gets moved on yielded and brought back. Is there anything else to do here?

At other times I have put the rope around her belly and worked her around in a circle and she has carried the saddle cloth around.

Every time I see her I spend time picking up her feet and putting them down whilst she is standing still. Unfortunately having her feet trimmed get in the way of this good training as this idea doesn’t go as well when hoof trimming. The amount of time she will stand with her foot up and the amount that it takes to carry out trimming unfortunately still differ.

Other things we have been doing, patting all over, no sensitive spots.

These horses are both very quiet, they do not fuss much at all and even when they do they tend to just turn to face whatever it is that has frightened them and not go far or fast. We have found that this means that we have to look closely for the signs that they might be stressed about something. They both usually get around with drooping lower lips. If they get stressed they tighten their lower lip. If they get a really good scratch they extend their upper lip. When I put the heavy saddle blanket on Bonnie for the first time the only thing that told me she was worried was that she screwed her tail to start with.


Update

Since I first started writing this Bonnie has seen the vet for an injury she did to her foot. She has had a week of antibiotics. She isn’t calm about having the rope thrown over her body since. I had not seen this as a problem previously so put the lash back in my hand and threw the rope over her neck first and left it there until she halted and then took it off. I got her to the point where I could put it on both sides of her neck and saddle area. She is also reluctant to have the head collar put on where previously she would put her nose it in when it was offered to her. What else can I do to get her used to the rope again and have her put her nose in the head collar?

She has also been reluctant to catch, this I am well used to and have practiced the methods on either the Mannering CD or the Birdie CD with my old horse Ruairi (who was a school master at teaching people how not to catch him). I am confident with time that I will be able to have her stand still again while I approach or have her come up to me when I go into the paddock, depending on my action.

I have realised since this experience that I have had plenty of times with all of the horses I have trained where they have become physically or mentally stuck, but never really where they have been actually scared of anything for more than five seconds. It is a new experience for me. It is still really very mild with Bonnie but I realise that it is a hole in my knowledge. I have her birdie at these times but I am not doing everything I can do to help her not to be scared.

rachel
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Hopefully she will be as lovely as your others are to handle and train. Good luck, she sounds like she has a good start.

DrDeb
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Alex -- At long last, the time has come for me to make an answer. Sometimes when someone who matters a lot to me asks an important question, it will take me quite a long time to reply, simply because of the level of responsibility involved.

The question here for me was primarily the approach to take, because it is obviously not possible over the Internet for me to do stuff like correct your timing -- absolutely crucial though that is. I therefore must leave that to your own perceptions, and take it as my job to foster instead the perceptions.

Now I will begin on this by telling you two stories. And of course I'm not just telling these things to you, Alex, because we are being "overheard" also by several thousand other people -- part of the reason why doing this is so worthwhile, because you can bet that somebody out there is in just about the same position as you are, with a colt or filly they want to start and do a good job, but haven't got a lot of experience doing that before.

The first story relates to Leonie Kruse, who used to be my sponsor in Adelaide before she and Darren started to have their kids. After that, Leonie didn't have much time for riding and that's when Brenton Matthews and Deb Turk stepped in so generously so that we could continue the program there. But at the earlier period, when Leonie was still wanting to ride, she had this fairly young WB mare that she had sent to some local guy for breaking and backing.

Now this guy is of the common sort who have very little ability to perceive how a horse is feeling, what it is thinking, or what it might need. Not that this would have mattered too much either, because even if he had an inkling of those things, he would not have cared to fill in for the horse in any area. This is the common approach, so what I am telling you is that the fellow was not a bad human being; just common.

So, failing to read the mare adequately, he got her to where he could put the saddle on and girth it up. But when she humped up he said, "she is resistant", and when she flattened her ears and offered to bite, strike, or cow-kick when being girthed, he said, "she has an attitude". In other words, these so-called "behaviors" were chalked up as personality traits of the animal, not as total failures on the part of the human.

Leonie's first request of me was could I fix this, because Leonie, not being as much of a hand at any time as the fellow she had hired, couldn't get the mare girthed up with any safety. The luck in the situation for me, and what provided me an opening, was that the fellow -- such as is characteristic of the common "trainer" -- did not have much imagination. He didn't imagine that a horse has two sides. So every time the mare had been approached with the saddle, or had the girth tightened, it had been from the left side. I therefore had a complete blessed blank slate to work with on the right side, and it took only two sessions of about fifteen minutes' duration each to have the mare standing there on a slack rope and smacking her lips while I girthed her up. It then took one session by me, and then several more with Leonie operating, to have it be equally OK on either side. We then went on to the next lessons also (because Leonie herself had never ridden, or even sat on, the horse) to have Leonie mounting her from either side, and having her first ride, which is to say, mount from one side, sit there petting the horse, then slide off the other side; that is the first ride.

So you see, Alex, I am not supplying much detail as to HOW (technique) all this was accomplished. What I am much more interested in conveying is that the trainer fellow failed in perception. He failed to notice (probably still is failing to notice) that every WB horse has a "mad button". They get afraid like other horses do, which is what happens to a horse any time and every time it is faced with a demand to do something that it does not understand, or that it does not have the confidence that it can carry out perfectly; but in the WB, the fear transmutates into anger much more readily than in any other horses I know of except perhaps the most aggressive TB's and the type of QH that's bred for cutting.

But I do know this, so that when I brought the saddle to the mare, even though I had a blank slate there on the right side, it doesn't mean I was going to cover the blackboard with "mistakes in addition". Therefore, I paid particular attention to -- what?

This is your Question One.

Now I will tell you the second story. And this story could be about MOST horses that you will ever meet in your life -- including your own gold-colored mare. Now you know, Alex, what Harry told you about this mare when you went to see him; he told you that the mare performs, but she is tight and afraid the entire time. In other words, that mare has met somebody who believes that you can go through something bad and come out good on the other side. Unfortunately, this is completely untrue.

It is the exact same mistake as made by the common fellow that Leonie did business with. When he brought the saddle to the mare and went to tighten the girth, he never stopped at any time to ask her how she felt about it or whether she understood and accepted it. So long as she would stand there and "take it", he would keep coming on to give it to her. The more she stood still, the more she was asked to take. This is the same as when you see people trying to approach an unbroken horse with a blanket, and the blanket scares the horse. What the common person does is they wait until the horse calms down a bit and quits blowing. The animal is still rock-hard and tight, and it might be rolling its eyes, and it's holding its breath: but so long as it doesn't seem that it will actually pull back against the tie or explode, they just wait until they think they can approach without actually getting kicked, and then they approach some more. They just keep coming on until the horse "accepts" the blanket, even though it is trembling and sweating; so obviously in reality the horse has never accepted the blanket. No horse can properly process a new experience or learn from it while it is afraid. You cannot go through something bad and come out good on the other side.

So question two is this: what SHOULD you actually do when approaching the horse with the blanket? And what you do is predecated on -- WHAT perception?

Finally, after these two warm-up questions, we come to the all-important Question Three:

What is the MAIN OBJECT in starting a young horse?

I think it's much more important to answer this, and get it completely clear in your mind, than to go into any of the particulars which you asked about. Those, we can handle at any later point, after this is nailed down. You of course can use the Google advanced search function to find the old thread where I discuss this, and it will be fine if you treat this as an "open book" exam.

When you have pondered these questions and come back with responses, there will still be need for discussion. On a technical level, I hope you are planning to teach the filly to line-drive. I use no surcingle because it is very easy to quite soon get into a heavy feel when line-driving, when instead you want the lightest possible feel. Just resign yourself to having to hold your arms up fairly high all the time, so that the lines stay above her hocks. Short sessions of about 15 mins. each, with a lot of turns this way and that are the order of the day. Cheers -- Dr. Deb

 

CarolineTwoPonies
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[Note to readers: This reply by Caroline TwoPonies was made in answer to a post made by someone who initially did not understand, and then later refused to acknowledge, the positive purposes of this Forum, and whose posts were uniformly hostile in both tone and intent. This person's posts were deleted after I and others invited her to participate in a friendly and constructive way but continued to receive only snide replies that added nothing to our content or discussion. Caroline's excellent reply begins with a quotation from a post made by the hostile person. I have added these parenthetical remarks so that readers will have context to understand what Caroline had to say, below -- Dr. Deb]

"I'm wondering why people ask the advice of Dr Deb when she never answers a single question..."

Because you remember what you have to figure out for yourself. And because you learn to think and thus become more adept at observing and problem solving.

Dr.Deb's answer will make a difference in how Alex relates to this horse at every stage of its training and in every interactions she has with it or any other horse. Your answer assumes Alex already knows everything she needs to know. She does not, the horse is telling her that and she is smart enough to seek help.

Your solution is to go back to square one. Have you ever heard this expression: " the definition of insanity is to do the same thing, and expect a different result". If she goes back to square one, when another problem happens, what will be the solution, going back to square one again?

Square one does not hold the solution to every experience with this horse, otherwise this situation would not have occurred. Square one is is also very vague. Dr. B's questions and examples are very specific.

"No horse can properly process a new experience or learn from it while it is afraid. You cannot go through something bad and come out good on the other side"

This is why Dr. Deb's questions are so important.

Being patient and kind does nothing for the horse if you do not understand the horse's predicament and your patience does not answer what the horse needs the patience with. It makes the person feel good, but not the horse.

Last edited on Mon May 21st, 2012 05:27 am by DrDeb

DrDeb
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I want to add another one of my "true life stories" to Caroline's reply, while we wait for Alex to make another report. Alex, if I know her, will be thinking just as hard about her reply as I had to, in order to create the three questions that I asked her.

So while we wait -- here's the story. There is a 14 year old girl that I know who began coming to a certain stable beginning when she was about 11 in order to take riding lessons. Her mother would always accompany her and observe the lesson. Both the mother and the daughter were initially very friendly to me, and, as I often had reason to be at this stable at the same time they were there, we had a number of pleasant little chit-chats either before or after the daughter's lessons.

Children vary as to their aptitude for horseback riding, and this girl displayed no more than average talent despite "wanting" and "dreaming" of being a good rider quite a bit. She is intelligent and one could see there was a lot of desire and "try", and this is always a good thing; the girl's riding instructor noticed it, too.

Against advice, however, after only one year mother and daughter decided that it was time for the girl to have her own horse. For myself, I always advise beginners to wait at least several years -- so that they have a fair amount of experience -- before making the commitment to the care and training of their own horse. I say "training" because, of course, it is absolutely not possible for anyone -- beginner or the wisest and most experienced -- to be around a horse and NOT be training it, every single minute, for better or worse.

Unfortunately, they made another mistake too -- they bought the horse from the local licensee of one of the grade-C "horsemanship gurus". Of course they were assured that the horse was broke and safe for a beginner to ride. This may have been so, initially, at least to the degree we would expect to find in any common sales barn employing whatever approach or method; I am not saying there were any more "holes" in the training of the horse they bought than in any other horse advertised as "broke" that a person might see for sale. But because of the inexperience of the girl and her mother, predictably it did not stay "broke and safe" for very long.

I saw this coming for well over a year before matters came to a head. So did the girl's riding instructor. However, by that point mom and daughter had discovered a new wrinkle, that is, that owning your own horse costs more money than taking twice-a-week lessons. So they felt like they had no money to continue on with lessons and would just have to "train" the horse themselves. And what happened was that the horse gradually got hard to lead....hard to catch....hard to turn....hard to make it go....speeding up all the time, especially coming back toward the barn....wouldn't stand still at the mounting block -- all of our experienced readers here will know exactly this particular ball of wax, because we see it with many a beginner who thinks they can train their own horse.

Another thing we often see, and mom and daughter were no exception here either, so that when they began to get themselves into trouble, they went all around the barn asking everyone they met -- both qualified and quite a few unqualified people -- what they should do about one or another of these problems. Naturally they got different answers. They asked their old riding instructor too, but they didn't ask her nearly as much as they should have, because they knew they were "scouting pointers for free" and they were afraid if they asked her too much, she would ask them to come take care of it during a lesson, for which they would have to pay. This was the period during which they were the most friendly to me....the "free pointers" period, we might call it.

Nonetheless, I felt open to helping them, and noticing that they were getting a confusing variety of this-and-that solutions from all and sundry -- some of these "solutions" being actually dangerous, very ill-advised -- so I shifted to really trying to instruct them. And when I do that, what happens is that I begin to pose questions that are as carefully designed and individually tailored as I can make them, to provoke the student to THINK. "THINK" is the one word that Ray Hunt always inscribed his book with: by which he meant, "think BEFORE you DO anything."

And so, the next time Mom and daughter came to me saying, "Our horse is so stubborn! He speeds up all the time and won't stay slow at a trot," I replied by asking the daughter: "OK, can you tell me please -- what is it that your horse does every single time you trot it in a circle or trot it around a barrel, that is different than what it does when you ride it on a straight line?" I should mention here that their horse has very pretty and correct conformation.

But the girl refused to answer. She did not refuse impolitely; she demurred.

I understood later that the girl is home-schooled, driven by the parent to be "perfect all the time," and therefore afraid to get a "wrong answer" to an open-ended question.

The manner in which the girl demurred was -- and continues to be -- amusing. When she seemed unwilling to answer the question the first time, I smiled and shrugged and said, "Well OK, maybe you're not ready to answer just right now. So next time I see you, perhaps you'll have an answer for me then. Remember to spend some time observing your horse, honey. This is like a science experiment at school, and there is no one right answer. I just want to hear what you yourself have to say about it -- I want you to find out for yourself what the deal is on this with your own horse."

But two weeks later, and a month later, and two years later she has still not been willing or ready to answer. I have continued to tell her that unless and until she answers the first question, we cannot go on to the second question. The girl demurs by saying ever-so-sweetly "oh, yes, I just haven't had time to look that answer up on the Internet yet." At first I actually thought she was being snotty and pert by saying this; later I realized no, this really is this kid's best answer. This dawned on me the last time we were on the subject again, about two weeks ago; so that when I heard her seriously apologize for not having looked "the answer" up on the Internet, and I replied "My dear, this is something you have to find out yourself, by observation; there is no possibility of finding the answer on the Internet," the girl was truly surprised.

During the two years that have elapsed from the first time I asked the question, the girl's horse has become much more dangerous and is now balking and beginning to rear, and for a time Mom and daughter went back to taking lessons from their original riding instructor. Unfortunately they also attend clinics given by the guru's licensee, so that finally they discontinued the correct instruction they were getting from the riding instructor because they came to the riding instructor demanding that she teach like the guru, and the riding instructor refused of course! But all of this is moot -- the daughter has by now lost confidence as a rider, having been spilled a few times needlessly, and no longer trusts her horse, and it is likely that the animal will soon be sold.

I think that this is one of the very saddest failures of education that I have ever witnessed -- the failure due not only to a type of perfectionism being enforced from the parent which closes off all possibility of independent observation and thinking by the child, but also due to the peoples' inability to discern what constitutes quality riding instruction.

Such discernment is not really that difficult, either, by the way. The horses belonging to the riding instructor in this story are absolutely delightful: well-trained, sound, good movers; older animals but by no means dead or sluggish; experienced at shows, trailering, and trail riding; safe for a beginner but also enjoyable for the more advanced rider. The instructor has a half-dozen of these so that she can switch the child from one to another as the child becomes able to tackle the usual challenges such as accuracy, smooth stopping, learning to post, learning to go over or around little obstacles, canter departures on specified lead, and so forth. The instructor has, in addition, a long string of other students who have succeeded and gone on, after a period of years, to train their own horses. The guru's licensee has none of the above -- but such is the power of the media and of propaganda that these foolish people believe it.

The reader may decide which would be better for this mother and her daughter -- to work a little bit at answering a question that will allow them to begin to see their individual horse's needs, and which will set them up for a lifetime of advancement -- or to go and be spoon-fed a "method" relentlessly applied in the same way to every horse. Anyone who comes here can and should expect only the level of care and concern that goes with the first. -- Dr. Deb

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MtnHorse
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Can we participate and answer the questions?  If so do you want us to wait for Alex to go first as this is someone you are having a specific conversation with?

DrDeb
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You can participate. Alex will reply when she's ready to. I'm sure that contributions by you and others will be of value to her. -- Dr. Deb

MtnHorse
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Question one:  I am going to change the pronouns on this a little because I don’t want to presume to tell you what you did. So if I were to bring the saddle to the mare I would pay particular attention to the face and neck.  I know from the Birdie Book that you are big on the eyes but that just doesn’t work as well for me.  I don’t like to look the horse straight in the eye because it seems to come across as the hunters stare.  But I can usually pick up the horse’s feel from the neck.  Is it thrown up high or low?  Are the muscles tense?  Does it turn and move gently?  Then the facial expressions themselves would be my next clues.

The ears might be able to help but since this mare is worried about the saddle already, I expect she would be ears on me already.  I would be watching for acceptance and that would be signaled by relaxation or loss of muscle tension.    

Question Two:  The perception it is based on would be pressure.  By moving it closer/ farther away or making the blanket larger/ smaller I would make the pressure greater or reduced.  The overall approach would be to move the experience into a category of curiosity and playfulness, rather than tension and fear.

Question Three:  The main object in starting horse is to make them comfortably functional to do whatever they will be expected to do as a mature horse.

DrDeb
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MtnHorse: I do not suggest in the Birdie Book that you stare the horse in the eye. What I am telling you to do there is to simply look at the horse when you 'speak' to him in the same way that you would look at another person when you speak to them. Baucher pointed this out in the early 19th century also, that you need to control your facial expression when you are teaching a horse. So you don't stare at the horse and you make sure that you have a pleasant, relaxed expression on your face while you look at him.

It is just as necessary to control one's facial expression as it is to control any other aspect of your body when working around horses, particularly horses that are frightened, unsure, apprehensive. You control the 'tone' of your facial expression just as you control the tone of your voice. If you believe that the horse can't see or wouldn't notice or care about your facial expression, this is an error; Ollie always, for example, notices small details, such as when I have a certain shirt on that has metal buttons, when I've forgotten to put the hairclips in my hair, or if I have a different watch on. And he certainly notices if I growl or frown at him. But many people have a frown on their face all the time and don't notice it.

As to the three questions: certainly you are on the right track, but I'd like more detail. And, if you would, go back to the particular phraseology I used in asking -- often, the question will contain the hint of the answer I'm hoping you'll find. Remember I was working with a mare that had a pretty prominent 'mad button'. So for Question One, I would particularly look out for -- what?

As to your answer to Question Two -- of course we want to move the experience into one of curiosity/playfulness. But HOW is this to be done, vis-a-vis "pressure"? To help you along on this, I want you to consider which of the following would be more important:

(a) the amount of pressure applied

(b) the timing of the application of pressure, whether great or small

(c) the timing of the removal of pressure

And for Question Three -- again, yes of course, you describe a desirable outcome. But your answer does not cut to the deepest level, and it is to the very deepest level that we must get in starting or re-starting any horse. I do suggest that you use the Google Advanced Search function to go find older threads where I address this, because the old threads explain it again, and it is of such crucial importance that I think you'll find the time well spent. -- Dr. Deb

 

kcooper
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Well, I will take a stab at this. Then we can see if I am picking up what Josh has been teaching me and what I've been learning here.

I would be inclined to go back to the beginning in a round pen and see if the horses knows that, when a pressure comes on them (whether the pressure is your presence,a flag or tarp or whatever), they know that if they soften to the pressure as their response that you, the handler, will take the pressure off of them.

For question number 1 and 2) I would be particularly paying attention to at exactly what point when I was approaching with the pad/saddle or to do up the cinch did the horse change from OK to less than OK and since that was what I was looking for I would hold steady at that spot where the change occured and with exactly the level of pressure I came in with until I got a change towards the horse becoming OK once again and then I would RELEASE pressure 100% (retreat if you needed to really make the point to them) and praise them (not gushy praise but just in my expressions and mannerisms).

So I think that what is most important is (c) the timing of the removal of pressure, but I would say that it is also really important to consider (b) the timing of the application of pressure, whether great or small because that helps you measure and identify where to hold with your pressure so that you are having the education session on the same subject!

As far as question 3: what Mountain Horse said sounds right to me but I will go out on a limb and add something different and I am probably way off but here goes..

The main object of starting a horse is that you are always working towards (at a correct pace and all things considered) building a FINISHED horse.

Last edited on Wed May 23rd, 2012 02:24 am by kcooper

kcooper
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I have made an interesting observation about the business of looking a horse directly in the eye while you are working with them or trying to catch them.
It is not directly (but maybe indirectly) related to the original post.

I have had 3 horses that are all closely related (mentally similar) and whenever I needed to catch them (in the past) I had to keep my gaze down and walk to their flank and go for a belly scratch before I was able to put a halter on them. If I walked toward their head looking at them that was excessive pressure for them particularly and it would drive them off.

Since I'm learing how to properly round pen and catch horses that has just about quit happening. With these particular horses I have to put a bit of pressure on them to draw them to me and then from there we meet up mutually.

Last edited on Wed May 23rd, 2012 03:04 am by kcooper

MtnHorse
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I am in a place where I do not anticipate having time in the near future to clearly organize my thoughts in a post but I want to post this for the benefit of the thread and the lazy. ;-)

I still do not know what you are implying in question one. Question two is of course that c is the most important. And question three, I am happy to report I have finally discovered that the use of a different browser has allowed the advanced search to work for the first time. I will be honest that I am still kind choking on this one but here you go:



http://esiforum.mywowbb.com/forum1/525-1.html

Pregnant Mare Anticipating Foal

Dr Deb:

There is a cure for this error, and it lies at the deepest level in your system of beliefs. When you are handling a foal, you have NO goal, just as when you are handling an adult horse you have NO goal. You are, instead, having a conversation with a creature that has just recently come into this world, whose senses are exquisitely acute, and whose mind and understanding are unformed. In handling a foal, you are primarily working to form the horse's mind and to cause him to understand the ONE GREAT LESSON that should come from the human to the horse. This ONE GREAT LESSON is the SAME -- and equally effective -- whether you teach it to him as an infant or whether you teach it to him at six years old or twenty:

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

Can you do this? Can you take this on? This is the question for every horseman, at every stage, working with every horse no matter what age it is. When you take this responsibility on, knowing it for exactly what it is, then you have entered the world of horsemanship. 

DrDeb
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Kim: Yes, very good answers, and I do think you are understanding Josh very well. Most important of your responses are: (1) that the horse learns that when you apply pressure, if he softens to that pressure you will remove the pressure. (2) that the timing of the removal of pressure is most important; although the timing of the application of pressure is also important -- just not AS important. Application of pressure causes the horse to try to hunt up a right answer; relief tells him when he has found the right answer, which is always to yield in the direction indicated. (3) The bit about the both of you "having the education session on the same subject." Yes; you try not to leave the horse in any doubt about what is wanted; as Baucher put it, "your job on horseback is to SET IT UP so that what you want the horse to do is as easy and as obvious as possible."

Mtn. Horse: You have addressed the deeper question and gotten it right (sorry about the trouble with your browser). Terriffic. Excellent. Yes: the ONE GREAT LESSON, which, when learned, will make all other positive things not only possible, but likely -- aye, indeed, more than you can imagine will start coming to you from the horse, almost unanticipated and sometimes un-asked; freely given by him to you.

Now, all of you -- I want you to understand that this is not a new idea. Far from it. But to repeat, the idea itself is that there is a perfect analogy, a mirror-image if you will, of this kind:

God is to each person what each person is to be to their animal.

And the converse also:

How your animal is to relate to each person is a miniature picture of how each person is supposed to relate to God (in Judaeo-Christian belief).

And Mtn. Horse, as to 'choking on it', yes, I sympathize. I once had a student, an intelligent man, a lawyer by trade, very sincere and very fond of his horse; the horse was one of those good ol' troopers that every beginner should ideally own. The thing was, though, that the lawyer pretty much choked on it too; and this was shown when we were out to dinner together one evening and I was talking to him about this, and he fully understood what the implications and level of responsibility would be. And as we were eating there, after he'd heard this, he excused himself because it scared him so bad that he needed to go throw up. I kind of thought the guy was a bit of a coward, but then again -- there's no question about it being a big responsibility.

A lifelong commitment is what it demands; nothing less will do, and once it is made, there is absolutely no possibility of going back or trying to do only 'part' of it. Our elderly teacher used to warn us that once our horse had learned the ONE GREAT LESSON from us -- learned to believe in us at that level -- and then we didn't come through fully by lying to him or screwing him -- then we would be very lucky if that animal would ever fully trust us again or would ever be able to give himself as fully to us.

So now that this has been understood, I am going to quote you from the 8th Psalm, which was written more than two thousand years ago. Read and take courage, because (in Genesis) it was Adam's task to 'name' the animals -- in ancient parlance, that meant to 'take dominion over' them:

"Lord, our Lord -- how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory above the heavens.

Through the praise of babes and children,

     you build a fortress against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers --

     the moon and the stars, which you have set in place --

What are mere mortals that you are mindful of them?

     Human beings that you care for them?

You have made us but a little lower than the angels,

     And crowned us with glory and honor.

You made us rulers over the works of your hands;

     You put everything under our feet --

     All flocks and herds, and all the wild animals;

     The birds in the sky and the fish in the sea --

     All that swim the paths of the seas.

Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

ilam
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Right now that appears to be a tall order indeed. When I realized this, I didn't throw up, but I sure had some bouts of anxiety and doubts whether I could do this.

Since apparently the universe is unfolding as it should, I now got the exact horse that I asked for. I have had him for 2 months now, and when I first met him he was an unkempt, terrified of humans, unapproachable mess. He is a horse that demands this approach, otherwise only trouble looms, and it is exactly what I had been dreaming about. It was really quite bizarre how this all unfolded. Anyway, I have had to completely turn around everything that I normally do, and yes, I have made some mistakes, it wasn't pleasant, but I didn't get seriously hurt. Every time I even remotely go back to my old ways, he lets me know and when I do ok  he does too, and I have finally learned what it really means to quit on a good note.... from his point of view. He has also finally taught me what it really means when a horse fills in for you; before I only had a vague idea, because he cannot, or at least, is by far more limited in that ability than my other horse (at least at this time).

Sometimes it so feels like the blind leading the blind, but we are making progress. He isn't rideable yet, but we are doing ground work and just taking small steps. He has to let me know how to proceed. He is pretty terrified of anything coming from above (the previous owner only handled in a chute and forcibly haltered him, he had some groundwork as a 3-year-old, but something didn't going well I am sure to create the horse that I then met), while he can handle me hanging slightly over his back while standing, while moving it is a different story. I have only sat on him for one session, got on him from the fence, and he was not ok with me sitting upright, he tolerated, but his head was high and stiff. So, I tried ponying him, and after some trial and error got that working in the round pen Sunday. Not sure whether this will get me there, but I don't have the skills to ride out a bucking horse. If push comes to shove I would have to wait until November, when Tom Curtin is back in Texas with colt starting.

This is such a new and different way of being in this world for me, it feels foreign, but I can already see some of the results when I get some things working.

Isabel

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Hi Dr Deb and all,
  I have been thinking about how people can understand the importance of the one great lesson, and be doing exercises to this end with their horse, but still be having a hard time living it in the moment to moment interactions with their horse. I see people kinda coping on a daily basis with their horse, and while they understand that the horse has trouble spots, mostly because they are causing trouble for the person, they miss on how to take care of them.

 Things like Alex mentioned: the horse putting it's head in the halter, keeping it's feet on the hoof stand, or waiting for a signal from us to do something. The person gets it done, but it could be better, mostly because the horse has never understood the pressure and release lesson from the person, or the person isn't consistent in all the little things they do with the horse. Sometimes the horse will be doing what is expected of him, like backing up when you open their stall door to feed, but their ears are pinned back, and there is no softness there, but the person only cares that they are backing up.

 Here is how two different horses could react to the same situation: you go to horse A's gate to let it out. You open the gate all the way, so that the horse could go through if it wanted to, but the horse comes over and stands looking at you next to the gate. You do whatever you need to: clean their feet, apply fly spray, there is no angst in the horse, no attempts to leave prematurely. You give the signal for the horse to leave and he calmly walks out. Or if you want to put their halter on, you stand on the side away from the gate, hold the halter out, and the horse puts his head in it for you.

You go to horse B's gate and open it, the horse attempts to go through, so you have to block them with your body, they look past you in an attempt to figure out how to get around you. If you had to do something with the horse, you would have to block them, and wrestle with them while they attempt to go where their attention has flown. You could close the gate of course, but for the sake of the example I'm keeping the physical setup the same, to show how the mental state of the horse makes for a different outcome. And even if you close the gate, you would only keep their physical body inside.

So maybe someone else has some thoughts on how you live this, or how you're having trouble living this, and it might make for an interesting discussion.

                               Jeannie

Shelly Forceville
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Jeannie,

I think the great issue here is that most people have trouble letting go of their own past or future. They are either hung up in the past, caught up in some fear or guilt or anger related to dealing with the horse, or they are hung up on the future, what they want, their goals, their ego, what they want or think they need to get done.

When someone has these hang ups (as all humans are prone to) they cannot be in the moment to look after the horse's feelings. Most people do not stick it out when problem's arise (such as your horse B scenario) because of these hang ups. If they can let go of their own needs then they can give the horse what he needs. So maybe you have something you need to do with horse B, but if you get hung up on this before you sort this thing out then there will be trouble.

In order to know when the horse is okay versus not okay you need some feeling for the horse, and you can't feel very well when you are not right there in the moment.

At least this is what I am beginning to understand.

Jeannie
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Yes, Shelly, exactly. The human has an agenda which actually gets in the way of them seeing the horse and their needs right at that moment. I've gotten into a heap of trouble over the years, and it is always later, when I think about what happened, and what I could have done better, that I see where I went wrong. I try to apply this next time, but if you're not Buck or Harry working with a great number of animals, it takes a long time to sort out.  The other day my horse was jumped up about something, and it was only when I thought about it later did I realize that my timing  could have been better, so I'll keep that in mind for next time.

  The longer you stay at this, the more appreciation you have for the insights of Tom Dorrance, and how he saw this, the same thing that was in plain sight for everyone to see, but somehow they missed it. He would probably say that the people who are getting their horses in trouble are working further down the line than they should be.

 As a side note, I have to say that I am always amazed at how many people come on the forum, as earlier in this topic, and cannot see the irony in the fact that they cannot do the very thing they want their horse to do: figure out how to adjust to a situation which requires looking at your own perceptions differently enough that you can learn what someone is trying to teach or show you. We don't always present ourselves to the horse in a way they they care to listen to at that moment, but they are better at picking up the important message and letting the other troubling thoughts go, than people are. They are better at learning to learn than we are.
          
                               Jeannie

Alex
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Hi Deb, and all.
I have spent quite some time thinking about this post and watching both horses mentioned therein. I really appreciate it as it is helping me through a lot of big moments in my learning.

The answer to question one, I would pay attention to the moment and spot when the mare tensed up, stop on this side of it until she relaxed and then retreat. So following this thought when I have seen Bonnie and have approached her I looked for if she had a tense moment – she did and raised her head and neck slightly – this leads into question two, what should I do when approaching the horse? I stopped at the point that I first perceived the tension. I stayed at that physical distance and then walked in a semi circle toward her rear. She would then either un track and come toward me or bend her head and neck in toward me. There were no further signs of tension with me walking up to and around her and with a couple of comings and goings and use of half circling around until see untracked I could get her to bend in or come toward me as I approached. When I did this the perception I used was sight but I hope that my intuition and feel gets better and better!

What is the MAIN OBJECT in starting a young horse?
Connection to the feet through the rein
Connection to the feet via the legs
Ability to direct the birdie
No touchy spots
Being 100% okay with all of the gear associated with riding.
I like what kcooper said about starting a young horse in that you are working toward building a finished horse so I would add that the things I do with the young horse are to make sense through to the ridden work and for the rest of their life. So the things I do on the ground lead to things that will help the horse under saddle.

Elle (the gold coloured mare) – This fear can only be because of me. I have owned this horse for 17 years and any fear is either because of me or because I have not known how to address this and help my horse get through it. There is no somebody else involved. I am the one who needs to and is responsible for making it go away.
After watching Harry ride this horse I thought that the reason for her worry was a lack of clarity on my behalf. I saw her offer all kinds of things to him in a worried kind of a state. He clarified those things for her by being very exact and very persistent if she was on the wrong track. When she got it he just sat and rode. This bought calm to her.

I have spent a lot of time thinking about this situation and what to do about it and I asked the girls at quadrille yesterday to help me. Most of them are posters or readers of the forum. They asked me to trot around the group of horses in the middle and also down one end of the arena. I learnt a number of things by this:
- I don’t normally ride in a place that has any “pull” or attractive spots and not so attractive spots. At home and just about anywhere else Elle is with me and the circles feel the same the whole way ‘round. Yesterday with the horses she had been doing quadrille with the circles definitely bowed in their direction. This was a good experience because it is something I have no doubt I will have to think about with Bonnie. So as I came around the circle toward the group I would need to soften her onto the circle and then as she went away from the group just let her move.
- There was one moment where the horse went into a canter and got all unbalanced and tense. The girls were all yelling out keep going keep going, because they are the encouraging, supportive sort and in this moment they helped me greatly, though not in the way they had probably expected. I realised though this was a fantastic example of what could be “going through bad to get good”. If I had kept her going like that I would have been trying to soften her through tension and discomfort. Instead I went back to walk and helped her soften again. I didn’t canter again but if I had of I would have looked for softness and even if I had only gotten one good step that would have been enough.
- Another thing I have realised is that when you get good work is to ride the horse forward and out of it. My habit has been to get a good moment and stop. I don’t know why but it is not always the best thing for the horse.

I don’t think I am fully through sorting this out but I am going to start by not going through bad to get good and at this stage to me that means not going through tension to get relaxation whether that be of the mind or the body. I am going to be as clear as I possibly can. I think my mental picture is usually pretty clear but when it comes to giving the physical signal I think I try to say too many things with the same physicality. I think sometimes my enthusiasm to dance is ahead of my horse………….I will try to align the mental pictures, my physical communications and this goes all the way down to how I breathe. Any other suggestions would be most appreciated!

DrDeb
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Alex, this is a wonderful set of thoughts, and it's going to be very helpful to others.

The best realizations you've had are:

-- To realize that 'pushing through' is a very, very bad idea. This is a commonplace belief in all the dressage barns -- that when the horse tenses up you have to 'go more forward'. An error every time. You were absolutely correct to ignore the other girls' suggestion to 'keep going keep going', and instead stop or walk, get everything sorted out until you got the softness back, and then start again.

-- 'When it comes to the physical signal, I think I try to say too many things with the same physicality.' Great statement, and so let me repeat that back to you as what it means to me, Alex: it means not that you are trying to do too many things at one time, but that you are in too much of a hurry. You are compressing too many things into too little time -- in other words, you are 'hustling' your horse.

-- Realize that 'hustling' the horse is one of the most effective ways to scare a horse. This may be where a lot of Elle's tension is coming from. Falling down terrifies a horse. If you hustle her, you are almost by definition not feeling the feet -- you are 'going right by the feet'. You are not waiting for the feet; you are leaving without her feet! This does not give Elle enough time to get her feet into whatever position they would need to be in, in order to perform whatever movement you're asking of her. So when Harry was 'clarifying' to the horse when he rode her, this is what that all amounted to -- he would indicate to her where he wanted her to place the FIRST foot -- just that one foot -- and then shut up so to speak and give her TIME to respond. Naturally she began to relax then, because she quit having to worry that, not having her feet in the right place, she might fall down.

-- I give you an 'A' for Question One, i.e. what would you be looking for and how would you respond to any rise in tension you perceived when roundpenning Bonnie or working her in the halter. Yes indeed, you learned this from Wayne Anderson -- what you do is you walk crosswise their head and/or somewhat toward the inside haunch, so as to induce the horse to untrack and thus step over behind. This in turn causes them to turn their head toward you, focus on you, and hence relax and soften up and be wanting to hook on and follow. All good. And even better is the part where you say that IF your timing is somehow off, which it inevitably will be at times, or IF the filly just is for whatever reason not able to respond, so that she remains tense, you note this and stop coming at her. You just stop where you are until you see the tension drop, and then instead of coming at her you go crosswise her head. What you DON'T do is just bull in there and force yourself on her, which is only going to raise the level of tension and cause her to want to flee even more. Ray Hunt used to say, "waal, if I wanted her to leave I'd just keep coming!"

So this is also what I did with Leonie's WB mare -- like most WB's, that mare had a pretty good sized 'angry' button which it is just stupid to push. So I'd wait until she would be ABLE to give me permission to go in, and then I'd pet her -- it's like petting a goddam bull. But she liked to be petted just as much as any bull does too, and when they like it they'll get to kind of leaning on you. So I'd wait until she was telling me she was really liking it and wanting it like that, and then I'd deliberately quit. Then I'd softly walk off a few steps and see if she'd come begging, which they mostly will, even bulls and stallions. And if they begged then I'd go back to scratching. Pretty soon I could walk in there anytime because she'd be looking forward to seeing me. She had found out that, by golly, there was something I could do for her.

This all took something like ten minutes. Then as I said, I went mostly to the right side, put the saddle up there sort of in-between scratches and rubs, and then take it off before she started telling me she hated it. And repeat a couple of times and then reach under and get the girth and latch it enough so that if she was to bust in half, it would not turn under; you have to pull it up that tight the first time, but even so you're not abrupt. And scratch her. And again, take it off BEFORE she got to hating it. And scratch her some more.

So in another ten minutes, maybe less, I could saddle her and girth it up and she was telling me this would never be a problem for her. Then I took the saddle off and climbed up on the rail and worked her back and forth some. Brenton Matthews was there watching and he often tells the story that this is when he started to respect me and think I might know what I was doing, because this mare also would have jumped in my lap if I hadn't. She had that look in her eye, where she was aiming to go. So this is another exmaple of the very same thing -- yes I would flag her because that was my objective; she needed to be taught to move her haunches from side to side better. But I do it only enough to just get the first point across to her, and I don't stupidly or blindly continue until she has to jump forward into my lap. Instead of that, I climbed down from the fence and just flagged her back and forth from the ground a while, while holding the lead rope myself. Then in another few minutes I went back up the fence and she was OK. If she hadn't been OK, I'd have climbed back down again as many times as necessary until she was OK.

Next day we went back to saddling, and I saddled her from the right and then went to saddling her from the left, which was the side that had already been damaged as far as her consciousness went. When I went to put the saddle up there the first time she cast me a grumpy look and I said to her, "yeah, I understand," but left the saddle on there four or five seconds while she was still looking grumpy, and only after that took it off. In other words, a little bit of grumpy feelings wasn't going to kill either of us and -- important point -- I didn't leave it up there like I was going to 'push through' and somehow expect her feelings to improve with the saddle up there. I left it up there just about as long as I figured she could deal with it without getting any MORE grumpy. Sometimes this is all you can do.

Carrying the saddle over my arm, I then asked her to hook on and follow me a few steps, then stopped, petted her with my free arm, and slung the saddle back up there. This time she said, "oh, that scratching feels pretty good," and I replied, "yeah, I thought you'd forgotten about that." So I scratched her a while and then, before we got back to being grumpy, I took the saddle off. It took longer on the left side but within a half-hour the problem was done with, for good, and Leonie has never said to me that she's ever had a problem with it since. This is the internal narrative and blow-by-blow, which is what it takes or what the student will have to see and "feel", to learn this stuff.

-- The only re-think I would ask of you, Alex, in this whole thing, relates to the One Great Lesson. That answer has already been given in this thread, and I would ask you to re-read that part. There is NO purpose in starting any young horse that relates to any aspect of its future work. The reason for this is that a horse is a horse, and all horses have the capability or potential, innately, to perform any type of work whatsoever, whether that be simple 'hacking' or the High School. So we are not worried at all whether Bonnie will be capable of carrying a saddle, packing a rider, understanding the meaning of the bit, being broke to harness, happily allowing its feet to be picked up, or able to dance a pirouette or a piaffe.

The ONE AND ONLY purpose for starting a colt -- the one great reason for all of our actions -- is to teach the animal that we are its god. We are to be to our animal what God is to us: all-caring, always present, never asleep. God knows what you need at all moments, and you are also to do your best to know what your animal needs at all moments. God knows what you are thinking at all moments, and you are to do your best to know what your animal is thinking at all moments, including what its desires are from moment to moment. And the greatest desire, the overwhelming, all-encompassing desire that you are to foster in your animal is exactly what God wants of all human beings: that "you shall have no other gods before Me", which when we translate that into horsemanship terms means that you make it, by every action you ever take around your horse, so that the horse would rather be with you than anywhere else.

Let us have another report as soon as you have more to say. I did ask you whether I could post content of your last EMail to me, but that was before I noticed this reply sitting here -- this is much better as being far more complete. You're doing great, Alex. Cheers -- Dr. Deb

 

 

Dorinda
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Hi all

I think it only fair to admit that I was one of those gals that spurred Alex on because there were some moments that Elle was really showing signs of softness so instead of saying 'yes' good leave it at that over exurberance sent in. I too have learnt a very valuable lesson in all this.
I have just finished watching 'A Day with Tom Dorrance' and I can absolutely see how much he is a mentor to those he has touched. What a great teacher so calm yet precise. Feel & timing was the key messages and not to get the horse into trouble. Yes definately not a good thing to have Alex's horse feel troubled in the canter and getting all off balance and yes to calmly asking her to regroup. The other key point that Tom made was that when the horse is troubled in what ever is going on it is important for us to be alert to it and fix it 'before it happens'. Again timing & feel is so important. He also was always working on ways to help the horse be at one with the rider so that the horse preferred to be with the rider than anywhere else.

I loved this movie and I loved listening him talk.

Good on you Alex for sharing and we are all learning heaps from this.

Cheers
Dorinda

SuziQ
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This is such an insightful post, I am learning loads.

I have 2 questions:
- with regards the WB 'mad' button, is this a genetic predisposition? I can certainly relate to this as I have a WB X and I definitely have to take things one deliberate step at a time.
- secondly, Dr Deb refers to flagging in order to help Leonie's mare yield her hindquarters better. Could you describe the 'flagging' exercise please?

Thanks.

DrDeb
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Suzi: A flag is very often a razor in a monkey's hand. I am qualified to use a flag. So is Harry Whitney, Buck Brannaman, and others whom I recommend. I have learned however to be very cautious about permitting or encouraging students to use them, because they are very easily and frequently mis-used.

Buck has students use flags under his direct supervision or the supervision of local horsemen, who are qualified, whom he knows.

You too can learn how to use a flag properly by submitting yourself to direct personal instruction. Very briefly, the primary use of the flag is as a drag or Birdie-caller. This was its function in the place of its origin, which is the bullfight. The second use of the flag is to make it possible to touch a horse with a touch that resembles the human hand, under circumstances when it is handy not to be standing very close to the horse. Such circumstances might be when you were teaching the horse something that requires you to simultaneously touch him both at the front and rear ends of his body; or when working with a horse that might kick or strike. The third and MINOR use of the flag is as a driving aid. Unfortunately this is all that most people seem to be able to imagine.

What I am telling you is that if you have a horse with troubles similar to Leonie's, then you need to do what Leonie did, and bring the animal to me or Buck or Harry or Tom Curtin or Wayne Anderson or Josh Nichol when we're down your way. This will get you started and teach you what you'll need to know about it, while heading off at least some of the danger. As I say I have learned to be very cautious about permitting students to have flags, as I have done what I THOUGHT was a good job of explaining to somebody how to use it, and then have them come back the next year with the horse in deep, deep trouble which they drove them into with the flag.

As to the 'mad button', you bet it's genetic -- in other words, it can be and normally is passed from sire and dam to foal. The mad button is related to the horse's degree of aggressiveness or 'push', which certain kinds of horses are deliberately bred to have. WB's need a one-track mind (so breeders think) to keep them from losing focus in the dressage test or when jumping. So do TB's to keep them from running off the track. So do QH cutters to keep them focused on the cow, and to make sure they dominate the cow. I know ways to teach any kind of horse to focus, and I certainly do prefer a sweeter, less-aggressive horse. That type of horse, if it gets afraid, just seeks to escape; it doesn't come AT the handler or rider. But when a horse with a 'mad button' gets afraid, it also gets angry. You therefore need to learn to recognize this and techniques for dealing with it.

Think about this quote from Ray Hunt, which I repeat here in the Forum often:

"If it wasn't effective, it wasn't understood. And if they don't understand, they get afraid." -- Dr. Deb

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Hi Dr Deb and all,
"Pregnant Mare Anticipating Foal

Dr Deb:

There is a cure for this error, and it lies at the deepest level in your system of beliefs. When you are handling a foal, you have NO goal, just as when you are handling an adult horse you have NO goal. You are, instead, having a conversation with a creature that has just recently come into this world, whose senses are exquisitely acute, and whose mind and understanding are unformed. In handling a foal, you are primarily working to form the horse's mind and to cause him to understand the ONE GREAT LESSON that should come from the human to the horse. This ONE GREAT LESSON is the SAME -- and equally effective -- whether you teach it to him as an infant or whether you teach it to him at six years old or twenty:

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

Can you do this? Can you take this on? This is the question for every horseman, at every stage, working with every horse no matter what age it is. When you take this responsibility on, knowing it for exactly what it is, then you have entered the world of horsemanship. "



I have been mulling this over for a bit and whilst this has stuck in my throat for ages, I am at the door way so to speak and I am about to choose forward, commit or step back from the door. I have one question that I want to be sure on, before I take the step. Do I understand correctly that once you make the commitment to the one great lesson, it doesn't make any difference whether the horse you are starting the journey with is 4 or 12 years old. If the horse says, X is bothering him, you take care of it even if he is a baby or an older horse?

For better or worse (for the horse) I have ended up with a 4 year old gelding, before I go any further I want to be clear within myself I am doing the right thing for him. I keep wondering if I should get an older horse as I feel such a beginner, I have oodles of theory, and little 'hands on experience' on the riding part of things.

Is it really fair to 'practice' on the green horse or is that all we will ever do on any horse...practice and learn?

I would appreciate a 'poke' from anyone here. Dr Deb I am very pleased you are to return to NZ. I look forward to seeing you next year! Kind Regards Judy

DrDeb
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Judy, I'm glad you wrote in, and as I know you fairly well, I will respond to your query as I have responded to other queries of yours in the past. This is because I notice that every time you ask a question, it is always the same question; and it always, I believe, goes back to the same root problem, which, as you and I have discussed here before, is that you are afraid of horses -- or, more precisely, afraid of "what the horse might do that I Judy cannot anticipate or control."

This is what all thinking adults who are possessed of normal adrenal glands are afraid of, so there's nothing particularly odd about you.

Your husband has previously jumped in here and added that he thinks you're also afraid of setting clear boundaries for your animals because Judy is afraid that her animals will not love her if she does.

This is one of the commonest problems with women who own horses, so there's nothing particularly odd or rare about that one, either.

So now you've got a new horse, and it's young and green and you're wondering if you can "do right" by him. I'm not wondering, Judy. I KNOW you can do right by him -- but ONLY if you can find a way to get over or get past the two problems or phobias that I have outlined above.

To get over the first, you have to be able to "read" the horse well enough to be able to tell what it is going to do before it does it....every time.

To get over the second, you have to be able to love yourself. When you do love yourself, you will be able to love your neighbor, and "neighbor" certainly does include your animals. To love an animal, as to love a child, MEANS to be willing to set and enforce clear boundaries. Animals and children that lack clear boundaries do not feel loved, do not feel safe, do not feel that the world makes any sense. It is the adult who is supposed to explain the world and help the animal or child find their place and their order in it.

And to address your query directly, Judy, it doesn't make the slightest difference whether this process starts the day the horse is born, the day it is weaned, as a four year old, or a twenty year old. If this DID matter, Judy, why then I wouldn't bother with you, as you have nearly as many gray hairs as I do.

Big Christmas gift, this. Have a merry one down there where snowmen make no sense at this time of year! -- Dr. Deb

JTB
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Thanks Dr Deb, You are right re the grey hairs!!! Thanks again for you time. Seasons greetings to you. It is 29 degrees today and we are basking in the glow, yipee! See you in April.

DarlingLil
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Great thread.




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