Sensitive vs Unflappable Horses
At the moment I am breaking in two horses for a client. They are the same age and have had almost the same number of sessions with me. One is a really sensitive Arab gelding and other is a very determined, unflappable Anglo Arab mare.
Temperament wise they are on the opposite ends of the scale. The gelding is super worried and sensitive and will take flight from the sound of a mosquito burping in Kuala Lumpa. The mare is the exact opposite. Nothing worries her except if you try to change her thought. If you try to get in the way of her idea she will bury you, burn your house down and sell your children to white slavers. Well, this is the way they were when I started with them. Both are much improved now that I am close to handing them over to their owners. They have both move much closer to the middle ground.
But what has been glaringly obvious is the difference in the way these two horses have progressed.
The mare took only about 3 days before I could ride her and be safe. The saddle or rider did not bother her at all. I could probably have ridden her the first day – it wouldn’t have worried her. But what has been difficult for this horse is to get her to respond to the reins and the legs without a fight. Using the reins and legs caused her to have to change her thoughts and this has been cause for a lot of resistance on her part. She fought the reins and the legs like she was angry. Asking her politely had no effect for her. I found if I didn’t firm up quickly to meet her resistance, she would plough through the pressure as if it was not there. But this meant she would also firm up. I have not met a horse with such determination in a long while. We have had a couple of major arguments that left neither of us feeling good about the other. But she believed her manure had no odour and I had to get her to at least consider that my idea was just as worthy as her idea. She is doing really well now when you consider where we started. She has always been safe, but eradicating her resistance to every little request has always been the dilemma.
The gelding has been completely different. Being able to ride him safely has been a much longer process than it was for the mare. Everything scared him. If I raised my hand over the saddle he would scoot forward at lightning speed. Pulling out a handkerchief from my pocket or touching his legs with a rope or walking behind him was cause enough for him to go into a panic. But once this instantaneous melt down started to subside as his comfort and trust built, the level of try, focus, responsiveness exceeded anything I was getting from the mare.
The sensitivity of the gelding meant he had to protect himself from me by running away anytime something new or bothersome happened. But when he learned that going along with me was a better option than leaving me, the same sensitivity could be directed into working in my favour. His sensitivity now made giving to pressure a priority rather than running from it.
I guess my point is that when you have a stoic type of horse like the mare, it’s easy to get basic learning established quickly because they are not so worried about new and strange things. You can throw all sorts of pressure at them and they accept it without too much of a melt down. This means it is easy to bully them into stuff we want them to know. On the other hand, the sensitive type of horse needs to be handled carefully when introducing new things. They need to be convinced things will be okay, whereas the stoic horses will just shrug and say “whatever.” But building softness and refinement into the sensitive horse is much easier than it is for a stoic horse. The stoic horse will always be wondering why should he bother, but the sensitive horse will be looking for how he could get it done with even less input from the rider.
In the end both horses have turned out pretty well and the owner seems very happy. Their training has progressed from opposite directions. I was trying to add the unflappable nature of the mare to the gelding without killing his sensitivity. And I was trying to put some of the geldings sensitivity into the mare without making her a “scaredy cat.”
And even though I was able to ride the mare and take her out on rides much earlier than with the gelding, I know the gelding has more potential for developing a partnership with his rider than the mare.
Side Pass Without The Rider’s Leg Aid
Yes that all makes sense about the jump! Thank you for explaining that.
Here a photo of Phantom and I side stepping.
Was it you that said you should aim to side step a horse without using leg? So am I supposed to try and side step him with just my reins? I have been using my leg but I think I recall you saying at one stage that you should just use your reins.
Thanks for the photo. It's a nice soft bend you have on Phantom and a good reach. One thing I would think about is where you put your weight in the saddle. A horse is better when your centre of gravity and his are as close to each other as possible. In the photo, Phantom is moving to his left and therefore his centre of gravity is moving left. But your weight is more centred to the right. Try to adjust your seat that you are more going with your horse. Don't over do it because they just create more imbalance. But if you want your horse to travel one direction, your seat should be shifting your weight a little more in that direction too. This is not a cut and dry argument because there is much debate in among riders about this. Nevertheless, I can assure you the closer your centre of gravity is to your horses the easier it is for him to carry you.
I do teach a horse to side step using reins (and seat) only at the beginning. This is because at the stage I begin to teach this to a horse, he only knows rider's legs mean "go" and rider's hands mean "where to go." They have no concept that the rider's leg could mean to yield hindquarters or forehand or both to the left or right. They do not yet understand leg pressure could be directional as well as energizing. So I begin teaching lateral movement by using my legs (both legs simultaneously) to tell the horse to have energy and move his feet and then I use my seat and reins to tell him to move his feet sideways. This avoids confusing the horse any more than necessary about the meaning of the legs. Plus, by this stage I have really good directional control of him through the reins with the all the hindquarter and forehand yields I have been doing with him, so it is less confusing for the horse than bringing in the rider's legs to direct the sideways movement.
Once, I have this going pretty well in both directions I can begin each movement with a little inside leg pressure before using the seat and reins to ask for a lateral step. At first this will have no meaning to the horse, but with repetition he will get the idea that he should move away from inside leg pressure.
I know some people will disagree with this approach because it is not very orthodox, but I have had really good success with it in the past. I always feel that directing my horse via the seat and reins is a priority in all my training. I know some people talk about riding their horses almost entirely from their seat and legs, with very little input from the reins. But in reality if this is true it has to be taught first by using the reins, and secondly I rarely see people who can really do this even though many say they can.
I hope that helps.
Hey Ross... it's Jodi here (who used to own Laddle). I have a new horse (well, I have had him since November 2010 but have hardly ridden him at all as he was involved in a bad float accident when he was being delivered and he is not completely recovered yet). He is a 7yo stockhorse who has done polo X, campdrafting and general stock work. I just want to do trail / pleasure riding and am not interested in competing at all (nothing's changed there!). But I DO want to have the best relationship with the horse that I can, and to do this I want him to be as comfortable as he can be. I know the various arguments for and against bitless bridles, but I would like to ride this horse bitless if possible. Up to this point he has always been ridden with a bit. I just wanted to get your opinion on various bitless bridles. I have tried a Kiayranda cross under bitless on my horse and he hated it. He seemed very confused by the different pressure. I have also tried a Kiayranda side pull and he hated that as well. I have only tried each one on him once and feel confident that with more experience with either one he would accept it and be fine. However, before I go to all that effort I wanna get the best bitless bridle I can. I have looked at the Callisto Bitless, the Steve Brady Bitless, the Dr Cook Bitless and the Light Rider Bitless and I CAN'T choose which one to go with!!! Do you use any of the above? Which do you prefer and why? Or is there something else that you would recommend? Cheers, Jodi PS The buckskin I bought 3 years ago that I was hoping you could break in is sitting in the paddock looking stunning, but is unrideable. Apparently he is just too dangerous to ride.
I'm glad now I wasn't able to start your buckskin for you.
I've not had any experience with the Steve Brady or Callisto bitless bridles. But I have tried the NoBit and Dr Cook varieties on a few horses and think they are terrible devices.
For me, I think if a person is going to ride without a bit then the reins should be attached to something that has instant and complete transference of feel through the reins. In that regard the devices that fit into that category are sidepulls, web or leather halters and lunging cavessons.
I use a sidepull made with a wide (1") leather noseband. It's used on all the horses I break in and most of the re-education projects too.
I feel that if have problems with a sidepull it is because of your horse's lack of understanding of the reins. There is nothing magical about any of the devices. They will not automatically fix a mouthing problem. Horses still need to be educated to the feel of the reins. If your horse is not soft and responsive with a bit, using a bitless device is not going to suddenly change that. So you need to not be thinking of the problem as a failure of the equipment, but more a failure of the training.
Catching In A Herd
My Questions are numerous but I will start with this one today: Catching a horse when they gang up on you. I understand WHY they don't want to be caught and I understand how to go about the catching process and it works very well in my experience when I have just one horse alone. With more than one do you just focus on the one horse you want or all ? It just so happens the one I want is the keenest to get away! (Guess I am not endangering any " horse whisperers" out there! Do I have to invest in time just to go out and read a book for a few minutes and visit them on days I don't ride or catch them? I must admit I haven't had the luxury lately to do that and I guess I might start to find the time!!! I have found perhaps that I have neglected the process when there are two horses together or even three because I am not sure if I should change how I go about catching one horse in particular. And then I just sometimes catch the easier horse to get to the other horse. The other horses can start to muck things up by herding the "wanted one" away or galloping off at the crucial time! Other times I have been able to kid them into thinking they were cornered and then they gave up and were caught. When time was the essence, this all fell apart -as they were having a rip roaring time coercing me into believing they might get caught. So I chopped and changed the process as time ticked away, to eventually "corner them" and they stood allowing me to catch them but not how I would have done so on a perfect day! They were in a small fenced off section about 60 m squared. I let them run around quite a bit, then Meg had a drink of water and I thought, right, EBONY! You are not having any water until you are caught, so I tipped the bucket out! Revenge can be sweet, even if I am not meant to be revengeful!!!!!! Would you believe Meg was the much more settled horse?! Sounds like I am doing a purler of a job on Ebony! (Hope you can read"mock" in all of this!) That's all from me for today! Amanda
I'm a little unclear what it is that you are asking. I think you want to know about catching a specific horse in a group of horses that walk away.
There is no doubt that it is a lot harder to catch a horse if it is in a herd that avoids catching. You are making the task several degrees more difficult for yourself. But given that that is your circumstance, I would pick off the easiest horse to catch as my first victim. Get him caught and lead him to a yard. The others may follow and even go into the yard too. But if not, leave your first horse in the yard and go get your next easiest horse and take him to the yard. Pick them off one by one until you have the horse you want. As the numbers in the paddock dwindle, there is less motivation to run from you because horses can feed off each other when it comes to avoiding being caught.
If the catching issue is serious and showing no sign of improving over time, you will have to separate the horses so that they live apart. You have to put time into addressing the catching issue. When we have had difficult horses to catch we put the horse in a yard where we can work on the issue. Several times a day I would go into the yard and teach the horse to face up and be caught. Then let him go and try again later. This might take a week or so before I can move the horse to a much larger yard or fenced off corner of the paddock. Then I'd repeat the catching exercise again a few times a day. Usually 3 or 4 days in the larger yard is enough to allow the horse to return the horse to the paddock with other horses. But even then I would only put him in a paddock with other horses that were easy to catch and would not run. If you put him back with horses that run away, you'll be back at square one again.
I hope that answers your question.
Annie Oakley Rides Again
Here’s a clip of mounted pistol shooting. Imagine living next door to her and trying to sell your house!
We are having fantastic spring weather - warm days and mild nights. The horses are beginning to shed their winter coats, grass is growing and bushes are blossoming. It’s a beautiful time of year.
The Alternate Training Scale
People who are interested in dressage and classical training will be familiar with the German Training Scale. I discussed it in some depth on the Horse Talk page. It is part of the German system for training horses and consists of 6 stages or elements of training – rhythm, relaxation, contact, impulsion, straightness and collection. The theory is that the elements are trained in order and each part forms the basis for the next stage of training. For example, relaxation is derived from establishing rhythm. Contact is only achieved from working on rhythm and relaxation. I’m sure you see how it is meant to work.
The German Training Scale forms the basis of almost all the competitive dressage training in the world. It is even well entrenched among many non-competition riders. The German Training Scale is to dressage what the 10 Commandments are to Christianity. Therefore, to question the scale and it’s basis is almost blasphemous in some circles and can label a person a heretic or madman.
So here I go.
In my view there are several problems with the GTS, including the order with which it is laid out. But the single biggest issue with the GTS is twofold. First, it gives people the idea that by following its rules you are guaranteed success and dressage nirvana. It is assumed that by following the system at the end your horse will be the best dressage horse it can be. But, of course, this is not necessarily true and the reason it is not true is the other biggest problem I see with the GTS. That is, nowhere in the teachings of the GTS is there thought or discussion for what it takes to achieve good rhythm, good relaxation, great submissive contact, excellent impulsive energy, brilliant level of straightness and the highest degree of collection. The variables that go into making each element of the scale the road for producing excellent results are absent from any discussion of the GTS.
So I want to propose a new scale.
The elements that should make up the new scale are focus, clarity and softness. The beauty of this scale is that it can be applied to any training, not just dressage. A rider could use it when training for reining, polo, jumping, western pleasure, hunter, harness etc.
The first element is focus. In focus we require a horse to be attentive to the rider or trainer. There is not a lot you can teach a horse if they are not paying attention. So many riders are always interrupting a horse whenever they ask something of their horse. But a horse should be paying sufficient attention that anything asked from a rider does not come as a surprise or interrupt his other thoughts. If you have a horse’s focus you’ll feel him become prepared as you start to ask something of him. He’ll know when you are getting ready and he will get ready in response.
Furthermore, if a horse becomes distracted away from the rider it should only take a quiet reminder for the horse to return his attention to the job at hand. The better a horse’s focus the less his thoughts ever leave the rider and less effort required to bring them back if they do.
The second part of focus is that not only should a rider be able to have a horse’s focus, but also he should be able to direct the horse’s focus. A rider should be able to orchestrate a horse to think about all the things he might ask. If a rider asks for a half pass, the focus should be on the half pass and where it is going. It should not be an exercise just for the feet and body, but for the mind as well. How many horses are asked to turn left yet are thinking about going right? Even in horses that are trained to the highest level with the GTS, they often are thinking about things other than the manoeuvre they are performing. They perform on auto-pilot.
The second element is clarity. Clarity is the basis of understanding that training brings to a horse’s focus. To send a signal to the horse’s mind and have that signal understood without causing emotional tension is a must for the “happy athlete” (as the FEI likes to call the elite horses). Without clarity, there can only be confusion for a horse. Confusion is the birth mother of worry and tension in most horses. If a horse is not clear on what is being asked and is not clear that he can achieve the task without compromising his safety and comfort, then there is always tension.
Clarity is an essential element to overcoming resistance. Most times it’s easy to be a strong enough rider to push through a horse’s resistance and give the appearance of a horse performing at a high level. We are all guilty of this to some extent some times. But when things are clear to a horse and offer him a good deal, there is no need to be a strong rider. The horse gives us what we want. We don’t have to take it.
The final essential element to the new training scale is softness. Softness is the love child of focus and clarity. It is the result of the first two elements being at their highest level. Softness is not lightness. Many people think that lightness to the aids is the same as softness. But in my view, lightness is a physical response to pressure of the aids and softness is a mental and emotional response to the aids.
Softness is the magic ingredient that gives us not only the correctness to the movements, but the beauty to them too. True straightness, impulsion and especially true collection cannot be achieved without softness. That’s why there are so few examples of these things for us to see. Even at the highest levels, it is rare to find a horse offering true collection through softness. Most is forced on a horse because the focus and clarity has been substandard during the training.
None of the 6 elements of the GTS have any benefit without the 3 elements I have discussed. Without focus, clarity and softness, performances become a series of bad tricks no matter how strictly the training has adhered to the GTS.
I think I can count on one hand the number of trainers I have seen who regard focus, clarity and softness as part of their every day training – even if they don’t talk about it in those terms. Some of us training horses are content for the tricks we can extract from our performances. That might be okay for people with the perfect horse that has no problems and who does not perform at a high level. But it is short changing the rest of our horses.
How Long Is A Piece Of Rope?
I just wanted your thoughts on the recommended length of a second rope that I will get made to fit out my "belly rope" kit. I have one that is about 20-22ft long, havent bothered to measure it but I know it is about that long. Is that length ok?
The belly rope should be about 21-22ft. It can be any length, but I find that if you have too long there is too much rope for me not to get tangled. If it is much shorter than 21ft, it means the horse is a fairly close to me which can out me in the firing line if he swings his bum and kicks or if the rope slides out of my hand if he pulls away. So 21-22ft is a good middle ground for me.
Horses Crashes Into Car
How would you feel sitting in the car at the time? Luckily neither horse nor human was hurt.
Negative and Positive FeedBack Control Systems
Many of you already know that I have an academic background in physiology. During my career in medical research I was required to teach a handful of courses to postgraduate science students as well as medical and veterinary students. One of the subjects I lectured on was control systems in physiology ie, how does the body keep itself working within normal parameters. By that I mean how does the body stay within a normal temperature range and regulate itself when the temperature is too high or too low. The same for heart rate, oxygen levels, blood pressure, appetite, body fluid etc – virtually every function in the body is regulated by a control system that turns it on or turns it off.
Most control systems use negative feedback loops. For example, if your temperature gets too high your body sees this and activates functions like sweating and increasing blood flow to the skin in order to lose heat and cool the body down until the brain decides your body is back in a normal temperature range. Nearly all the body functions use a similar type of control system to keep them within a normal range.
But a small number of the bodies functions don’t use negative feedback loops, some use positive feedback. Positive feedback systems are potentially dangerous because the only limitation on their function is when a catastrophic event occurs. In a positive feedback system, one event leads to a slightly bigger event, which then leads to an even bigger event and this leads to a much bigger event. It’s like there is a cascade of events and causes one causes even more to happen, rather than less (as occurs with a negative feedback system).
When I was teaching, in order to wake the students up about this boring topic I would ask them, “As physiologists, what is the most exciting thing about an orgasm?” That would get their attention. But of course the answer is that it is one of the few examples of a positive feedback loop. It starts slow and accelerates into a system almost out of control until orgasm occurs (the catastrophic event). Another example is birth where it begins with a small event and accelerates rapidly until the expulsion of the baby ends it abruptly a few hours later.
Probably at this stage you guys are about to switch off and link to something more interesting on YouTube, but stay with me because I’m about to get to the horse part.
I got a phone call yesterday from a lady who was quite upset because her horse had bolted on her and ran through a fence and into a ditch where he somersaulted onto his back. She and the horse had minor injuries, but she was very shaken and I guess her confidence is badly bruised. She described her horse as normally a quiet and reliable type that responds to the aids very well. The bolt took place over about 100m and she tried everything to make him stop. She tried turning him, pulling with both reins – but he did not listen. The lady felt her horse did not even know the fence or the ditch were there when he hit them.
With a horse (and people too), the reaction to panic has 3 stages. The first is a rapidly rising response to fear. The second is when the fear response is no longer increasing, but is steady. The third stage is a diminishing response to fear. So the reaction to fear in a panic is bell-curved.
The first stage closely mimics a positive feedback loop. This stage can be quite brief or drawn out, but it always involves an increasing reaction. As it continues it usually accelerates until something happens to interrupt it. In the case of the ladies horse, it was going to take something huge to break the positive feedback cycle. The horse did not respond to the rider’s reins. It didn’t respond to the fence as a barrier. It didn’t even respond to seeing the ditch. It took being flipped over on it’s back to break the reaction. This is a true panic or bolt.
Many of us have ridden horses that we think have bolted in a panic, but they often stop when they are far enough away from the cause of the panic. This is not a true panic or bolt. It’s just a serious reaction to something fearful. The difference is that in a true panic or bolt the horse has no conscious control of his reaction. But in a non-panic situation the horse is choosing how to react. In a non-panic situation a horse can be trained to make other choices of behaviour. He doesn’t have that luxury in a true panic.
There would have been nothing the lady could do to stop her horse and keep them both safe. She either had to bail out or ride it out until either exhaustion or a catastrophic event decided the matter.
I have worked with a couple of horses in my time where I was sure they were in a true panic. In fact, one of them seemed prone to it because she would succumb once in awhile. She was scary to ride and in the end I decided she wasn’t safe. She was going to kill herself and a rider one day.
Most horse training works on a exploiting the negative feedback systems of a horse. In the 1950s, BF Skinner wrote about negative reinforcement as a training paradigm for many animals. In reality, Skinner theories were just putting a psychological twist on the well-known physiological phenomena of negative feedback. Both are systems for regulating the function of a biological system. With negative feedback you might regulate the body temperature, but with negative reinforcement you might regulate the stop/go behaviour. They are very similar in principle.
I’m sorry if this topic has been a bit too theoretical and academic. I find it interesting, but I imagine not too many others do. Next time I’ll try to write on a topic a little less theoretical.
Leading and Motivation To Lead Better
Thanks for the spiel on my last question, it was really helpful and the ride did go well. I will file all that away and use it when I am next out and about. I am now really conscious about my stock saddle too! ( I would NOT like a horn on it though,that would make it dangerous!)
On another note, I took another girl out, this time a WORK COLLEAGUE, after she showed me what she had learnt at XXXXXX!
Sadly it doesnt seem much. Both these girls have been and still go there on a semi regular basis. Both girls focussed on getting their horses to flex their necks around to each side. You could see where the horses thought was and it wasnt where it was meant to be! When I asked why, it was to help relax the horse or they weren't really sure, maybe just to get them focused to do as they asked. Then I said, is it just building to get the one rein stop and they seemed to think that may also have been the case.
After all these visits and money neither girl could lead their horse properly (as you might expect them to) and the horses were pushy and distracted yet both owners did nothing. It was quite funny at different stages as they tried to show me what they had learnt. One of the horses just walked off, as she left the lead rope on the ground because part of what they do is get the horse to stand as they move around it I think. At least they could laugh at themselves! And I reminded them even though I was trying to give them an idea of how to improve things, I am only learning myself! I told them, they really needed to come to one of your clinics so they would know what I am talking about! Much like Janine and I! I needed you to have you there and here those words, "No, Amanda, what are you doing! Stop, stop, stop!! Give the horse to me! I will show you, AGAIN!"
The horses were not interested in showing their better sides at all! But that is probably how I look to you when I turn up to you, lesson after lesson! No improvement...............depressing stuff really. It was interesting because my work mate said " He is never like this at XXXXX!"
It is good trying to explain what I do with the horses because I find myself saying ..."Ross says..." Ross believes..." then I think, I should be giving an explanation without the "Ross..." because it is so broken recordish, if you know what I mean. But I feel I have to because it is full credit to you really that I am seeing all that I see. (And that offsider, you call lovey dovey wife! :)
I want to get better so I am more than happy to handle different horses if it helps in some way to get people thinking that what they have always done isn't working as well as it could if they had a different perspective in what is happening. I know you might cringe at what I am doing, but it's only helping friends. sort of like a trail buddy. We do a bit of groundwork if they want to, then we go for a ride. It's nice to ride with someone. I must say, alot of people just seem to pull their horses out of the paddock and expect it to be pretty well behaved once a month for the local trail ride, and wonder why they have probs!
Anyway, sorry about the lengthy reply of thanks! I have a QUESTION/comment : If a horse that isnt too good at leading, sort of just stands his ground and lags, getting slower and slower or even planting his feet, I have to improve how I go about that. I seem to struggle to get them to move because I have been focussed on moving them forward and at times that seems nigh on impossible. I try waving the rope in my opposite had quite alot, first not at them but someone has commented that "you are driving them away, that is why htey are pulling back", so I have to perfect that angle. After a m,oment or two or three I even threaten them awhile until I realise I am not doing enough and then the horse finally moves but it might have taken me whacking the saddle. It looks very ugly for quite awhile and then I stop and try again, with much the same response until I finally get some movement happening, even if they are trying to flee from me, sideways or backwards, which isnt the idea! But then I stop and start again, and in the end they are coming forward quite well.
However, I do notice, with my current horse, Ebony, that she comes forward quite rushy at times, so I guess I need to slow my energy down at times to improve the QUALITY!
In fact, I have to slow down everything with Ebony, because she was quite dead, now I have woken her up but need her to be responsive and NOT REACTIVE!
Boy, that was a rant! Should keep you going for quite awhile!
Your story about the women who have been having lessons at XXXXX is very familiar. Despite the popularity of natural styles of horsemanship, there are still many people not getting basic horsemanship skills. I almost always find that folks who send horses to me re-education are surprised when I tell them the problem starts with their horse not leading well enough.
With regard to getting a horse to lead more forward without the drag, it doesn't matter if at first they swing around to the side or run backwards. By flicking the lead rope your purpose is to motivate them to try something different other than drag behind. Getting them to try something is the first step. Getting them to try going forward comes from not removing the pressure until they come forward without a drag. It does help if you are clearer in directing what you want by the way you use your lead rope and apply the pressure, but the thing you want to teach gets taught by the removal of the pressure. You can teach horses to do amazing things that may seem counter intuitive at first, by simply timing the moment of the release of pressure precisely. You can teach Ebony to lead forward by waving a flag a few inches in front her (rather than behind her) if your timing is right about when to stop waving the flag.
So if the horse swings to the side or runs backwards, keep up the pressure just enough to keep the motivation for the horse to try something. Release the pressure them moment the horse stops going backwards or scooting to the side because that's the moment you got a change of thought - a try. Then ask for forward again. Give it a try.
Clip Of A Jumping Horse
Hi Ross :)
How is everything up there going?
Phantom is coming along well! We have been doing a lot of ground work with him and been taking it slowly. I can feel a massive change in him when i get him to focus on me and not distractions happening in the background.
Looking forward to our lessons! I'm always looking at other people riding and noticing if their horse is happy or not and thinking what i would to do change this if i was riding or doing ground work with their horse!
I have been looking at YouTube videos and a few of the girls from pony club were looking at this one, saying how good the horse looks and that the horse and rider must have an amazing bond to be able to reach this height.
Mum and i thought the horse looked so stressed coming into the jump when the rider finally let its head go, and we noticed at the start that it's head is tucked in when it's cantering around and the way the horse holds itself looks so unnatural. Also on landing the riders has to pull the horses head up so the horse doesn't flip over and the impact on landing would be terrible on the horses joints!
was wondering what you thought?
I'm glad you are doing well with Phantom. I look forward to seeing you in October and being impressed by your progress.
Thanks for the video clip.
You are right the horse is very tense and showing no softness to the reins. Notice the gaping mouth as well as the tension in the neck and hollow back. It's very common in showjumping for horses to be like this even more so than in dressage because showjumping is an adrenalin inducing sport. Horses and riders get worked up and their adrenal rush often overtakes their training. That's not to say it has to be that way - it just very often is that way.
The wall jump is huge and the reason the horse nearly lands on his nose is because of the steepness of the angle of landing. When a jump is very big and vertical (as opposed to a spread jump) the horse needs to take off very close to the base of the jump (show jumpers call this getting a horse in deep). Because he takes off so close to the jump the horse must climb very steeply with very little forward momentum. The result is that he then comes down from the jump very steeply too and lands close to the base of the jump. Therefore, there is a lot of downward force and very little forward, which causes the horse to come close to crashing nose first into the ground. I just thought I would clarify a little bit about the technique of jumping big fences.
Rider Nearly Kills Herself
In this short clip notice in the first 7 seconds that the rider nearly pulls the horse over on itself by the way she uses the left rein.
This is seriously dangerous riding. Not only should you never try to turn a horse that is rearing, but also she had no chance of doing so when the horse has a standing tie down attached to the bosal and using a shank bit.
Horse Recognition of People and Behaviours
A study was published recently by a group from the University of Renne, France to examine the importance of familiarity with both people and people’s behaviour in horses.
The study used 16 horses that had only been handled by 1 person since birth. At 2 years they were taught to stand still on a voice command. It took 5 days to ensure obedience to the voice command.
Two studies were conducted. The first was to have the person familiar to the horse appear and use the voice to command the horses to stand still. After that a person that was unfamiliar to the horses appeared and gave the command to stand still.
Although most of the horses obeyed the voice command irrespective of whether it came from the familiar person or the unfamiliar person, it was observed that the horses were much more focused in a wary manner on the unfamiliar person and less so on the familiar person.
The second part of the study was to repeat the first part, but the person was to offer different behaviours such as turning their back to the horses, looking at the ceiling, closing their eyes. The researchers observed that when the experimenter showed behaviours not familiar to the horses, the horses tended to fidget much more. This was particularly true when researchers closed their eyes.
In brief, the conclusions were that horses were more wary of strangers and even if the person was familiar to the horses the horses were less comfortable when the person exhibited unexpected behaviour such as closing their eyes. You can click here for the full study.
I think this confirms that horses are more comfortable with return and familiarity. I doubt this is a big surprise to anyone.
But I think it explains the concept that with horses it can be “darkest before the dawn” or “things will get worse before they get better” or whatever cliché you wish to use. It is often true that when a horse comes for training, all sorts of behaviours come out that owners had never seen before. I can’t tell you how many times a horse starts out difficult to catch and the owners tell me that Fluffy never does that at home.
When a horse goes for training it is taken to unfamiliar surroundings and put in a paddock with horses he doesn’t know and handled by a person he doesn’t know and exposed to all sorts of strange and unfamiliar rituals in an arena or round yard. It is not surprising that their life is turned upside down for a week or two. No wonder a horse can become reactive or harder to catch or off his feed or pace a fence line. It’s a terrible stress on a horse.
And people are no different. We are just as comfortable with horses we know well and in surroundings we know well. If we are asked to ride a new horse, our heart rate creeps up initially. When we take Fluffy to his first show, our palms can get a little sweaty and we don’t sleep well the night before.
I was once asked to ride a horse that was very reluctant to go forward. The horse had been broken in by the owner and had never been ridden out of the round yard in 3 years. The owner was too worried about losing control away from the safety of the round yard. In trying to satisfy his own need to familiarity and safety the owner had turned the horse into a shut down and confused animal. After about 3 weeks the horse was cantering all over the open spaces and even moving cattle around. Sadly, when the horse went home it went back to being ridden in the round yard again.
So people are as much a victim of the need for familiarity and predictability as horses. But it is important to break away from the comfort zone to be the best horse person riding the best horse than either of you can be. The more exposure to unfamiliar settings and the less predictable and routine life can be the better. Living life in a cocoon gets people and horses hurt. Sometimes, stretching a comfort zone can initially be difficult and cause trouble, but the long-term gains far outweigh the short-term comfort.
Horse Doesn’t Like The Bridle
I have a problem with my horses brideling. Sometimes he is okay but most of the time he throws his head up to high for me to reach his ears. Usually he waits until I have the bit just about to go into his mouth and then he chucks his head out of reach.
Do you have any advice.
You could always try growing taller, Lisa. But if that’s not an option then I guess you could teach your horse to keep his head lower.
It sounds like you have 2 issues. The first is that he won’t accept the bit in his mouth. The second issue is that in order to avoid putting the bit in his mouth he throws his head up. There is a good chance that if you solve one issue you might solve the other – but not necessarily.
I’d start with teaching him to keep his head lower. Look at the photo. It shows Michelle from a clinic (not to be confused by with my wife, Michele) bridling her horse. The horse is turning his head away, whereas your horse is lifting his head up. Nevertheless, they are the same issue.
Start with teaching your horse to lower his head and keep it lowered by applying pressure on the lead rope under your horse’s chin. Use just enough pressure to match his resistance. Don’t do too much or too little. The moment your horse gives even a fraction, release the pressure. Then try again and again, until your horse can lower his head from just a small feel on the lead rope. Now repeat the same exercise, but instead of starting with a downward pull on the lead rope, put your right hand over the horse’s poll and apply a down pressure on the top of his head. Again, don’t use too much or too little. If there is not an effect, keep the pressure on the poll but at the same time apply some feel on the lead rope to encourage his head downward. Release both pressures the instant there is a small change. Keep repeating this exercise always starting with pressure on the poll and backing up with the lead rope if needed. But once your horse is giving to the pressure on the poll alone, you won’t need to pull on the lead rope.
Now look at the photo again.
Notice that Michele has her right hand over the poll of Toby, keeping his head down. At the same time, Michelle’s left hand is on Toby’s nose directing his head back to her. You should mimic the way Michelle is holding the bridle and with her right hand over the poll. Present the bridle to the horse, while holding the bridle in your right hand and your right arm over the horse’s poll. Use your left hand to bring the bit to his mouth. If he goes to throw his head up, be block it with your right arm to encourage it stays down. Do not take the bridle away from his head until he softens a little to lower his head again. Try your best to follow his head if he throws it around and you can use your left hand to support him with the lead rope by holding it close to the knot under his chin. The moment he stops throwing his head up, take the bridle away and rub him.
You are trying to show him that softening to your pressure and keeping his head in the correct position is the easiest way out for him. Repeat and repeat several times and never take the bridle away until the horse softens to your hand and stops avoid the bridle. If he runs backward, go with him. If he turns away, bring his head back to you (like in the photo). If he lowers his head to the ground, pick it up again and ask him to hold it at the correct level.
When you can present the bridle to him and there is minimal avoidance from your horse, then it’s time to ask him to accept the bit in his mouth.
Present the bit to him and wait a little while. If he is not interested and looks around etc, you can rub his gums with a finger (or something similar) to encourage his mouth to open. Once he has taken it, wait a few seconds and ask him to drop it out again. No need to worry about putting the bridle over the ears straight away. At first just practice accepting the bit. When this is going well, you can bridle him properly.
Look at the next photo and you can see Michelle’s horse turned towards her with head lowered for the bridle. This is what your horse should look like by the time you are done.
Riding With Horses In Love
Hi Ross It was a difficult choice initally, but I feel the dressage horse looks most resisitve. 1. Because he is looking for a way out, by the look in his eyes and his head is up high. I was looking at the bit and pressure/contact of both horses and it looks like the western horse is more resistant to the bit but seems to have a better head set than the other horse and he looks more tuned into his job at hand. I can't see the ears of the other horse, but to me he looks less happy! Did I fail the exam? I am happy to resit! Ha ha. BTW I have a friend coming out who's horse is very attached to its mate, her daughters pony. When they go out riding in a group her horse just wants to keep up with the pony and the girl just turns him in circles and sounds like that is all she did. She says he doesnt have any "brakes!" I havent seen her ride yet. I TRIED TO SEARCH YOUR BLOG for what to do when you ride with someone and their horse gets unsettled as the distance increases. I remember you talking to Lee and her mum at the clinic about what to do, when they rode out with Missouri, about riding ahead but turning back before the horse gets too unsettled and then stretching that out until the horse relaxes (a long process but you need to get the building blocks right). Can you give me some pointers? We ride tomorrow at 10am! I did suggest to my friend to email you and i HAVE SUGGESTED MAYBE THEY COULD BRING THEIR HORSES TO THE CLINIC! but she rang last night and said she did not do her homework!!
I agree with you that both horses appear stressed and resistant to the reins. But as I said to another e-mailer, it's hard to know which horse is suffering the most because different horses express their level of anxiety differently. Just because one horse is leaping around and another is not, does not necessarily mean they have different levels of worry. You have to look at the whole picture and put everything you see about a horse in the context of the others things he exhibits.
There are lots of exercises you can put to use with regard to riding with others horses. As you said, having the other horse ride away for a little bit and come back before the other horse has a melt down can really help. It takes repeated practice, but it can be very effective. You also need to swap which horse leaves and which horse stays. Always start these exercises with just one or two other horses first. You can add more horses to the mayhem a bit at a time as the horse gets better. But don't start by riding out with 25 other horses.
You can also practice making the other horse not as good a place to be as the worried horse first thought. For example, allow the anxious horse to wander towards the other horse and just as he gets there put him to work by working circles around the 2nd horse at a trot. Do this for awhile and then ask him to go away from the 2nd horse. If there is much hesitation or resistance, put him back to work again for a bit and then direct him to leave again. Keep repeating this until the horse works out that being around the 2nd horse is nothing but trouble. Remember, allow your horse to choose to be with the 2nd horse or not. Don't direct him towards the 2nd horse and then put him to work when he gets there - that's not fair. But direct him to be somewhere else and if he chooses to drift towards the 2nd horse allow it and get him busy as he approaches the other horse. Let him choose not to be with the other horse by finding out how much work he has to do anytime he chooses to go there. But if you direct him to go to the other horse, there should be no trouble about that. Sometimes it's best to try these things out in an arena or enclosed and safe environment first before being out on the road or bush track.
Anyway, that's just another thing to experiment and try for yourself. I'm sure you can think of other ways to apply to the same principle.
Sorry I didn't get this to you before your ride on the weekend. But it was always going to take more than one ride to fix this problem. I hope your ride went well in any case.
I saw this video and I wondered if the words on the clip were directed at the horse or the rider?
Michele saw her first snake of the season yesterday. It was a 4ft brown snake, sunny itself near our back dam. I am surprised to see snakes this early in the season, but I guess the warmer weather is bringing them out of hibernation early. I told Michele we have to carry pressure bandages whenever we are working in the paddocks in case of a bite.
A fellow came out today with a grader to start our arena. We are so lucky with the area we chose because in just 2hrs we had a workable arena. The soil is such that we don’t need a base or an artificial surface. We don’t even need drains. He levelled and flattened a 70 X 40 m area and banked the excess surface on the high side to divert water coming from up the hill into our nearby gully and creek. For under $500 we now have a working arena. All we need to do now is to one day put up a fence around it.
For those that haven’t heard yet, I’ll be in Victoria and South Australia in October for clinics and lessons. You can check the Schedule page for dates and contact numbers.
I’m holding 3 days of lessons at Cannibal Creek Reserve in the first week of October. The sessions are filling up, but there are a few spots still available. Let me know asap if you want to book a lesson or lessons for those days.
Here is a clip about Australia stock saddles. It’s made by an American firm that sells these saddle in the US.
Let me state outright that I am not a fan of the traditional Aussie stock saddle. As the fellow in the clip states, they have secure seats. They are designed to lock a rider into the saddle. They do this by offering deep seats and poley kneepads. But in doing that it means the rider has very little ability for adjusting his/her position in the saddle. They tend to lock a rider in a position whether or not that position suits the rider or is appropriate for the type of riding or horse. They also have a tendency to put riders in an armchair position, which makes the rider’s centre of gravity behind that of the horses.
The other thing about traditional stock saddles that causes a lot of problems is that they are based on quite narrow trees. The Aussie station horse is by tradition a rangy, narrow gutted thoroughbred type. They were bred with steep shoulders and narrow chests. The stock saddle was designed with this type of conformation in mind. There are not too many horses that a stock saddle made off the rack fits anymore. For this reason, you either have to be very lucky to find a saddle that fits your horse or you have one custom made to fit your horse.
Many folks nowadays ride in a fender saddle, which are a hybrid between a western and stock saddle. The fender has a much more comfortable stirrup leather arrangement and offers closer contact with the horse than a traditional stock saddle. Also some fender saddles come with a saddle horse, which people can use to grab onto in an emergency. Personally I don’t like those stick-like saddle horns because if a rider does become unseated it is possible to be injured by colliding with such a narrow horn. I have even had a rider get the front of her bra caught on a small saddle horn – a very embarrassing moment for everyone.
Here’s a letter I got the other day asking about stock saddles.
I’m getting back into riding after having my children and I am finding my confidence is not what it use to be. I ride with my friend and who has a Syd Hill stock saddle. I used her saddle the last time we went out and I felt much more secure and if my horse did something (which he never does) I felt I could stay in the saddle. But it seemed to tip me backwards and I was a little sore after our ride. Do you think if I bought a stock saddle it would help me over come my fears?
Thanks for any advice.
It is quite normal for stock saddles to tip a rider backwards. Most people who ride in them get use to the feeling and it soon becomes normal to them, but it is not good for the horse. When you are tipped backwards you put more pressure on the cantle of the saddle and the soft tissue of the horse where pressure should not be centred. It’s a sure way to get a horse sore in his back over time.
The other part of your question about using the saddle to give you confidence with your horse is problematic. It sounds like you have a quiet horse and the stock saddle would serve no practical purpose other than to give you the feeling that you were safer. If that works for you, I guess it’s okay. But I wonder if you are only putting off the inevitable.
Confidence is a psychological phenomena and not a physical one. If you are relying on a saddle to keep you feeling safe there is always the prospect that one day the saddle won’t be enough. I believe real confidence comes from your certainty to be able to handle your horse and keeping him and yourself out of trouble. Knowing that you have the skills to help your horse from getting in a bad situation is where confidence really comes from. It’s about knowing how to stop a little worry from turning into a panic. It’s not from knowing that you can stay in the saddle in a panic.
There are many good instructors who have experience with helping riders who have lots confidence. It’s probably one of the most common rider problems. My advice is to find an instructor you like and develop the skills to build your confidence through knowledge rather than equipment.
How To Turn Enemies Into Friends
I’m hoping you can help me with my problem. I have just bought a new horse. He is very lovely. Due to circumstances, I agist him and my old horse on a nearby agistment property. They are in the same paddock, but they don’t get along. My old horse chases him around a lot for no reason. The new horse is getting picked on all the time and I can’t afford to pay for separate paddocks. I’m afraid he is going to get hurt. Is there anything I can do about it?
You don’t say how long you’ve had the new horse, so I don’t know if it will settle down or not. Nevertheless, it is the case that some horses just don’t like each other.
If they are only been together a week or two, I would probably give it a bit more time to sort out. Alternatively, you can put a third horse in the paddock. This will have the effect of dividing loyalties. Either the new horse will buddy up with the third horse or the old horse will buddy up with it. Which ever it is, it is likely there will be a decrease in the amount of bullying by your older horse.
If that’s not feasible there is a way that I have known to turn enemies into lovers. Put the new horse and the old horse into a float together and take them somewhere unfamiliar. Make sure the trip is at least 20-30 minutes long (or even longer). When you get there, let them out. Maybe work one of both of them or not. After a time, put them back in the float and take them home. When you let them back into their paddock things will probably have changed for the better. I have seen this work in every case, but sometimes you might have to repeat the exercise a couple of times – always take them somewhere unfamiliar to either of the horses.
The one problem that can result (but not usually) is that it works so well that now your horses suffer separation anxiety and can’t bear to be separated. You can substitute one problem for another. But that’s relatively rare.
I hope it works for you.
Aussie Stockman Tradition
I enjoyed this video that examines the tradition of the Australian stockman. Phil Rodey is featured as the horseman. Phil is a good bloke and very fine horseman.
Evaluation of Horse Behaviour by Professionals
Last year there was a paper presented to the International Equitation Science Conference in Sweden by Dr Sara Nyman et al. They asked professional horse people such as vets, trainers and dressage judges to evaluate the behaviour of horses that were lunged while fitted with tight reins.
The professionals were told to look for signs of mental stress such as gaping mouth, head tossing, rearing, tongue movement and any form of resistance. Each of the observed behaviours was to be given a grading from 0 to 7 (7 being the most severe expression by a horse) by the professional.
The study revealed that there was a high degree of inconsistency among the participants. People within a group did not closely agree. There was a particularly wide variation among the trainers. Likewise, the dressage judges were inconsistent, as were the equine vets. Not surprising there was just as big a variation between each group of professional too.
Nyman and her colleagues observed that professionals in each category used jargon to describe a horse’s behaviour that was different from the jargon of the other groups when describing the same behaviour. She also noted that the more experienced horse trainers gave lower ranking of severity to unwanted behaviour than did either the dressage judges or the equine vets.
Nyman concluded that there was a distinct lack of consistency both between the groups and within the groups when recognizing and describing resistance behaviour in horses.
Why is this not surprising?
In a world where people take different sides whether or not rolkur or hyperflexion is abuse of a horse or can’t agree whether foam from a horse’s mouth is a sign of a soft mouth or a stressed mouth, why should we expect people to agree on what is or is not resistance – severe or not?
It is an impossible task to have consistency among horse professionals when describing stress behaviour. There is no way to objectively measure and define the parameters, so we are reliant on people’s perception and personal evaluation.
To me, this would appear to be a major roadblock to developing a consistency in the standard of training and performance. Most horse sports consider the “happy horse” to be a part of their sport. They talk about a relaxed and calm horse as being the best horse for their sport. In some sports, judges are meant to give marks for the “happy horse”. But how can we do that if we can’t agree what is an “unhappy horse?” According to the study I just cited, we have trainers who can’t agree on what is resistance in a horse, preparing horses for competition to be judged by judges who can’t agree what is resistance behaviour in a horse. Does this sound like a good system to you?
In the end it’s the horse that pays the price for our inability to agree. It means some of us can be fooled into believing we have “happy horses” while our horses live a life of misery.
Which one of these two horses shows the most resistance? Why? You can click on them to enlarge.
Hi Ross, Was taking a look at the video of the 'waterhole ritual' - While I love hanging out with my horse, if only I could walk Rompy into a puddle and magically find inner peace for the both of us! I didnt feel much was happening for the horse, I dont think the horse felt more at peace standing under a tree with a human than without - it come across more like a meditation type, peace finding process for humans with use of horse, which is just fine and lovely so long as everyone feeling good I guess! .............was I missing something??!
I think the waterhole ritual thing is for people who need something to make them feel good. My instinct tells me it attracts troubled folk who need the companionship of something that makes no demands on them. I think they could probably substitute the horse for a puppy or bird or water buffalo and they'd get the same result. I doubt horses get much out it.
I have decided to commit my thoughts on this video. I thought it cute but “big deal” I can lie down with Archie too, though admittedly I have to lay him down. I haven’t had the luxury to hang around him til he lays down, though once I refused to leave the yard so he could roll and waited in the yard till he rolled with me in there. The horse didn’t follow her into the water, he/she followed the other horse. I didn’t see her ask the horse to do anything other than just hang out with it.
The laying down segment had the other horse in the scene again. Did she lay this one done and hope the difficult horse would follow suit?
Nice meditation tape, but light on any training. I hardly think a tiny touch on the nose as teaching the horse to like being handled, touched, brushed. How long do you wait for a horse to decide to accept you.
This video would not make me send my horse to her for training, but maybe I am just too cynical.
Thanks for your thoughts.
I agree with you in that I don't see the big deal with hanging out with your horse. It's a wonderful think to do, but I don't know that people need a trainer or a clinic to be able to enjoy that time. Plus I think you should see it for what it is - quiet time. It's the quiet time that many people need and find ways of having by different means.
I have seen video of Carolyn Resnick's ridden and ground work and I don't think it is very good. There does not seem to be a lot about her training that benefits the horse any more than average. The water ritual seems to be about people feeling good about themselves. I don't see how this benefits the horse when it comes to riding.
The whole water ritual thing confuses me. I'm sure those horses in the video would not have stayed for long with the lady if they were not on a lead rope or there was no fence around her pasture - they just weren't that into her.
I'm a tic upset and angry, which I'll get into in a bit, which might be coloring my opinions, but I spent a little time looking at Ms. Resnik's site, and I took her quiz, and I feel that she is a predator.
I've been to a few clinics by several clinicians, and by and large I love to do that. See things that I do and don't think will work for me, and I ALWAYS learn. One other thing I see is that horse clinics seems to attract troubled people and especially troubled fragile women. I mean abused scarred women that really need professional help. No doubt you know way more about this than I do. These people are very easy to take advantage of.
People like this Resnick prey on these women. Can horses help you feel better? YES!!! My own horses have prevented me from murdering several people. They do put things in perspective. But if you are truly troubled you need professional help, not a woo-woo wannabe expert. The other thing that really galls me is the financial aspect. You are quite right, hanging with your horses is something ANYONE can do, you don't need to be taught this skill, and in fact, I think someone teaching this kind of closeness would ruin it.
AND she is charging over $3000 a week!!! Sorry, that's a predator.
And now, why I'm upset. I feel stupid and inept. I'm especially kicking myself for not paying any amount of money to get myself and Tort to that clinic with Harry Whitney. But I didn't and here I am.
I've told you a bit about this very sweet TB/Connemara cross I bought last January. I bought him as I could cheerfully canter him around the greenie cross country jumps in the middle of winter. If a horse is going to be silly it will be out in the open on a 20F day. He was kind and perfect. He looked around, but that's all.
Well, it's been a roller coaster up and down since then, with things gradually getting worse., and Tort felt less and less confident, and more worried. I've complained to you a bit about my trainer focusing on his headset. I stopped taking lessons with her when she told me to ride him with drawreins. This is a little pumpkin of a horse that just wants to please. I don't need leverage I need to fix what I am doing.
The drawreins were the last straw. My current trainer has never liked this little horse, she was upset that I paid too much money for what she considers a school horse. Well I WANT a schoolhorse!! I KNOW he is a school horse that's why I bought him! I had her ride him a few time, and all she could say was how BAD he is and all the things that must be fixed. She is a very aggressive rider, and when a friend came and said the trainer had been very hard on him, I stopped asking her to ride him, although she did occasionally get on him during one of my lessons.
So... I called the trainer that I had bought him from, explained the problems. I asked if I could come take a lesson with her on one of her other horses so we could evaluate my skills and work on me. I did, and she did not see anything that should be causing the worry in Tort. She had me do some jumping, and she said I think too much, and when she had me discuss a recent news story while I went over the jumps my riding improved dramatically.
So Tort has been there a week or so. I talked to the trainer yesterday and she said I was quite correct, his confidence is shot, and he actually trembled when she got on him. This is horse she used to give lessons to five year old children. She said she needs a few more days to figure out what is so troubling for him.
So, it would be easy to blame my current trainer, but I KNOW I am the one who works with this horse the most. My trainer or her mother (who is recovering from a traumatic brain injury) do bring him in and out from pasture each day, but I am the one who is riding him, and I've stopped taking lessons. My trainer tells me she feels the horse is stressed, he runs for several minutes when she turns him out. I don't see this when I turn him out. Another factor might be the stalls. This is an old saddlebred farm, and the stalls are clastrophobic. But again, I don't see the same behavior she does.
I feel like a schmuck, as this is a very nice little horse, and I have managed to screw him up in only a few months. The new trainer is suggesting NO DRESSAGE lessons for at least six months or longer. My old trainer is not a monster. She does not wake up planning on how to ruin horses. She thinks she is doing the right things as well.
But things are quite messed up. What I need to figure out is why, and what I need to change to make them right again. The mirror is the first place I am looking but remember how I said it's possible to lie to yourself? I don't trust me either.
Any chance you have a psychic woo-woo hat that you can wear and magically see 8000 miles and figure this out?
Thanks for your thoughts re: the waterhole ritual. I know people who run therapeutic clinics for people who get to spend time sitting in a chair with a horse in a round yard. I remember one the ladies took her horse for a ride and after putting him back in his paddock with his friends, suddenly ran back to the paddock. She caught him again and lead him to a yard where she spent several minutes with him before returning him to his friends in the paddock. I asked her what that was all about. She said that after her ride she had forgotten to thank her horse for the ride, so she had to catch him again and tell him how thankful she was for the ride.
I was a little perplexed because I figured the best thank you would be to have left the horse alone with his friends. But I think that type of relationship is all about the people feeling good. Bringing the horse back to thank him made the owner feel good that she had expressed her appreciation to her horse. But that was how a human would think of it. I suspect a horse would see nothing good about being dragged out of his paddock again and have a human blabbering away with words of gratitude. So who was she trying to help feel good - the her or her horse?
I don't really know what to tell you about your horse. I think you are in a difficult position of being unsure if either your old trainer or your new trainer are really helping. Your horse won't lie to you and you can only take your cue from how Tort responds. The fact that you are now dealing with trouble that you believe was not there at the beginning means something is going wrong.
Despite the years of experience your instructors might have, in the end you carry the responsibility for the outcome. You have already shown concern regarding some things your new instructor has been advising. If, after discussing the why and wherefore of her advice, you continue to feel it's not what you want then you have no excuse for continuing to have lessons with this lady. You can't sacrifice your horse's well being for the sake of protecting your instructors sensibilities or upsetting a friendship. It's not fair to the horse.
It's also not fair to your horse to have instruction where you are working on one approach to the training and then using a different approach when you are on your own or going to your old instructor.
You have no choice here. If you accept the responsibility of owning a horse, you are then responsible for putting the horse's welfare first. You (or any of us) don't have the moral right to play Russian roulette with a horse's mental state. If you believe any type of instruction is not in your horse's best interest, then you are bound to do something about it. That may seem harsh, but your horse doesn't get a say in any of this and is the victim here. You have to stand up for him, since he can't do it himself.
Best of luck.
A Horse On The Edge … again
Just wanted to write and let you know that I had a brilliant ride this morning and I think I finally get it! I would love some feedback on my thoughts below if you get a chance.
After my ride I spent a lot of time trying to make sense of what I had felt and why it had felt so good, and what I came up with is that it seems to be all about keeping the horse 'with' you... both their attention and their intentions. Sometimes you have to wait for them to come back, other times you have to encourage them, sometimes you might have to be firm, and other times still you might have to go with them before they are prepared to come back to you - it's all a judgement call at that moment (through feel).
It's also seems like it's about finding an understanding of where that particular horse is at. I think the issues with my mare come from her not trusting me... she doesn't trust me not to push her when things get tough (either physically or mentally/emotionally), because I have done that in the past, I have overfaced her both in terms of work (physically tiring/boring), and in terms of confronting 'scary' situations, and she would rather take over before we ever get to that point.
Today when we got to a spot just like this she thought to go against me (because she was unsure) and I just focused on the feel she was giving me rather than going against her in return. She hopped a little, and tried to take the rein from me, but I just held the initial pressure and said (through my feel/in my mind not verbally) "no, it's not okay for you to take over here, if you would just try and work with me then you will find that I am not going to force you and it will be okay". At first she just gave physically (lateral flexion), but I could still feel her energy and attention going back out of her shoulder (if that makes sense), so I kept my focus until I felt her relax and her attention moved out in front of her face. Of course, once her mind came back in the direction I wanted to travel she stepped out that way of her own accord (I didn't have to ask). After that she seemed a lot more content, and much more in-tune with me and we had a pleasant ride the rest of the way.
Interestingly, at no point today did she appear cranky or angry. When she did protest a little I might have described her look as bothered, but it didn't have that really negative appearance.
I would love to know if what I am saying here makes sense, or fits at all with your experience of these things, or if I might be missing something here. It felt really profound to me, so hopefully I am not sounding like a crazy person!
Thanks and regards,
What you have described is what I was trying to convey to you in my last answer to you. You have to sort out where a horse's intent is and make it clear that you are on their side. A horse is only ever trying to do what he thinks is his best option. When he does something we don't like, it's only because we have not convinced him that our idea is better. Sometimes the convincing takes a quiet word and other times it results in a full blown argument - most times it is somewhere in between.
I'm very glad you had such a good ride and feel things are becoming more clear to you. There will be good and bad rides to come, but every one of them should help you learn something you can use to help your horse.
Putting A Horse Down
I have a rather difficult question for you regarding my friend Sandi’s 33 year old horse (Boo) and her young horse, Talic. Talic has been with Boo since he was weaned, and is very attached to him. Boo is not going to last much longer, although he is incredible for his age, Sandi has had a scare with him tonight and wants to make plans for the inevitable. Sandi has a Shetland pony that she can put in a paddock next to Talic but they haven’t been close before. Her problem is when Boo needs to be euthanized, is it best to allow Talic to see it happen and to be able to sniff the body, or do you remove him and shelter him from it all? You may not know the answer to this, but I’m guessing that you have had too much experience in this regards over the years. What’s your experience with your horses and their older mentors, or paddock mates? Do you have any advice for Sandi on how to go about things? There is probably no set answer to this but she needs some support and advice at this difficult time. I’m sorry that I have to ask about this as it is always a difficult area to discuss.
It's good to hear from you. I hope I get a chance to see you in October when I'm down for clinics and lessons.
I have been the sad position of needing to euthanize a few horses in my life. I have never thought it necessary for a companion horse to be able to see their friend put down and then be allowed to sniff the body. Because I almost always have had a horse shot by a professional, I lead the horse away from the others to a safe area. The other horses never see their friend again.
It is sad, but I think it is more sad for us than it is for horses. I have seen horses grieve, but I wonder if it is no more than because their life has changed rather than the departure of a friend. A bit like weaning. I don't think horses dwell of losing their mate. But I do think they can be upset at the change in their routine and the sense of herd that the other horse gave them.
I don't have an answer for you. I can only tell you my interpretation of my experiences. But who really knows what horses feel and what is best in cases like this?
Run Horsey, Run.
Hello Ross Sorry to hear about the bank situation. It's frightening because you hear it on the news but when someone you know encounters theft of this nature it cements how real the situation is.
I have been playing with Merlin who is Whistlers brother. Merlin is nearly four and is dead to the leg. For the first week and a bit I have mainly done ground work because I noticed that he walks with no life. He just seems to plod along and be totally shut down, he even hangs his head so low it looks like he wished it was under the ground as he walks. I found it really hard to get some energy into Merlin so I introduced a flag as I felt like I was working hard and the more I tried the slower he got. The flag definitely brought out a different side of Merlin. I worked both sides and the flag is still a work in progress, each day had started the same as the day before but his nervousness about the flag shifts much quicker. I have progressed to riding him and found that he is the same plodder in saddle. He has no life in his walk and is just going through the motions. His owner said that he pins his ears when asked for a trot and I think this is because his walk is not there and when you ask for a trot it interrupts his thought and he pins his ears but he is so sweet that that is all you get. I tried to squeeze first and he goes but with no life so I asked again, no change so I asked by releasing the reins and doing lots of annoying kicks and the minute he went I would stop but this worked for a second. I then tried a squeeze, kick, big kick and this worked but is a lot of effort and I don't think was productive. I thought about it and realized that he goes with the flag so perhaps sound sets him off. I then squeezed, he walked on I raised my energy , squeezed again then made a funny sound which made him go with life. This works for a few steps then back to plod and the ritual starts again. I thought to then grab a branch with a few leaves and use that to make some noise. What I noticed though whether it be my voice or the branch which I use slightly not aggressively is that we go from plod to trot more than plod to active walk. I slow him by going in a circle to an active walk but then we go to plod. In try to stop before the walk becomes a plod but miss the mark. Can you please bless me with your wisdom of how I can get an active walk not a plod and what I should do if I go from plod straight to trot. Thanks Irena
You are on the right track. Don't worry so much about an active walk just at the moment. Work on getting the walk to trot transition smooth and an active trot. I said in my last post that a good walk is the hardest gait of all to achieve. This is especially true of a horse like Merlin. Use the natural energy that the trot creates to get him thinking a more forward response to the leg.
Squeeze with your legs, then if there is no response, use the branch, flag or crop to get him forward. Keep repeating this exercise until you can get a nice trot just from a squeeze of your leg (we'll worry about a response to your seat another time). Don't just accept any old trot. Insist of on a forward trot - not a plodding trot. Remember squeeze, then get busy with your flag or tree branch or whatever. Busy is more effective than firm. When I ride a horse that is unresponsive to my seat and legs, I apply the crop with a flurry of activity. I don't get forceful and beat on the horse. Instead, I whack my leg repeatedly until I get a response - it might be 10 whacks in 3 seconds - that's what I mean by a flurry. I keep being busy with the crop until I get the change I want. So don't stop just because he gives any old trot. Keep using the crop rapid fire until you get a good forward trot. Merlin understands what it is to go forward - it's just that somebody has trained him it's not important. Now you have to reprogram him into thinking forward is important.
So the first task is to have Merlin going from walk to trot with just a gentle squeeze from your leg. If he goes to a plodding walk when he comes down from the trot, immediately send him forward again into the good forward trot. I mean immediately, not 2 or 3 strides later. Get the good trot and allow him to transition to the walk again. If the walk is sleepy, instantly send him forward into the trot again. Keep repeating the process until he gives you a few good walk steps. Give him a break before repeating the process again.
It won't be long before he will offer a forward walk from your seat, a good trot from your leg and canter from a little more leg. You'll be able to leave the crop in the tack room. Remember to give him plenty of rein and no contact - don't hinder his forwardness in anyway with the reins.
Let me know how you get along.
The Quality Of Gaits Of A Horse
I was reading an article on a web site a few days ago by a well-known and highly acclaimed dressage trainer and rider.
The thing that caught my attention was the claim that the quality of a horse’s walk and canter were fixed at birth by genetics, but the quality of the trot could be improved with training.
I don’t mind stating emphatically that he was speaking utter rubbish. All gaits can be improved or ruined by training. Genetics plays a role in determining the limit of the quality of a horse’s gait. The potential for how far a walk, trot and canter can be improved is determined by a horse’s genetic conformation. But anything short of a horse’s full potential is largely determined by training (except in circumstances of injury).
The dressage “master” did not explain why there is so much room to play with the trot, but so little room with the walk or the canter. He just makes the bold statement without any clarification or explanation.
In my experience, training can modify all gaits. It is largely dependent on the degree of relaxation and straightness. I have seen horses that appeared dead lame at all gaits until they learned to relax; when the lameness magically disappeared.
I do think the hardest gait of all to achieve brilliance is the walk. The trot and canter have their own degree of innate impulsion that can be used to create expression. But often the walk is quite flat because of the relatively low energy a horse brings to the walk. Often times in order to create energy to a walk and bring engagement, a rider will put a rush in the horse and ruin both the rhythm and relaxation that is so important in a quality walk. I think if a rider can train a good walk in a horse that is not naturally inclined to it, the trot and canter are pretty easy in comparison.
My own horse, Riley had a terrible trot and walk, but a naturally great canter. The trot was stilted and short and quite jarring to the bones. And the walk was like a retired trail riding horse. But both improved dramatically as Riley learned to get off his forehand and carry himself better. It required more impulsion and softening through his topline. On the other hand, Six (my mare) had a brilliant soft walk, but struggled at the trot and canter. She naturally had a terrific level of energy at the walk, but at the trot and the canter that energy led to a hurry. By getting her to soften through her whole body she became much straighter and the trot and canter have both improved beyond recognition.
In short, I think the limitation on improving a horse’s walk; trot and canter come from their genetic potential at one end and our ability to train them at the other end. I believe all gaits are susceptible to change from our influence to train them. To buy a horse on the quality of just one or two of its gaits seems very short sighted to me.
The Carolyn Resnick Video
Thank you again for running a great site, what fun to have a horse related place to go that makes me think but doesn't overwhelm me. with details I can't achieve.
FYI, the post you had the other day hit straight home for me. I've struggled for years wondering why the Timing Feel and Balance Fairy seems to have passed me by. Maybe she hasn't.
Consistency... that's a concept I can focus on, and that's something for which I can judge my own progress. It's hard (although not impossible) to lie to yourself. Thanks for the inner tube to help me float down this river of horsemanship. Maybe the timing feel and balance will start improving if I can get consistency working better.
As for the video. I don't know Carolyn Resnick from Eve, but that is a reflection of me, not her. Certainly there is a lot to be gained from learning to live in the moment. My old TB is having a tough time with heat and has abscessed to boot. I've enjoyed spending time visiting him and the herd of geriatric horses in the retirement village. All good kind old horses, happy to see your, and happy to see you walk away. Fun to watch them interact. My old boy was so sore he just stood outside the herd with his bestest friend in the world, an old chestnut mare. He wanted a drink at one point but told me he couldn't because one of the geldings was in his way. I led the gelding away from the tank, and he hobbled up. A few days and a set of shoes later, and now he can chase that gelding off on his own. (whew! hate to see the old guy sore). Point is, I don't often take the time to just enjoy him or his friends. I think that is one message from the video.
However.... I thought I was laid back but the women in the video makes me look like I just drank a gallon of coffee.
The horses tolerate her, seem to be fine with her presence but I didn't see a huge amount of interaction. Not much more than I was visiting with the old retired horses. It's great that the horses are not threatened by her, but I also didn't see that they were paying much attention to her. The old retired horses are just fine with me too, I also know that might change if I wanted to do something they weren't cracked on. I don't think they would be violent, they just probably wouldn't. I don't know enough about this trainer to know if she can ask horses to do things for her.
No doubt I've missed something vital. I will be looking forward to hearing your thoughts and that of others.
The video is of one of Carolyn's students and her horse. I've never seen Carolyn Resnick in person and have only watched some videos, read her web site and talked to folks who have been to clinics.
I guess I just don't get what Carolyn does for horses. The waterhole ritual seems to be all about people hanging out with horses. It is about helping people feel good about themselves because the horses accept them. But what does it do for the horses? I enjoy being in the paddock surrounded by my horses as I sip a cup of tea or giving each a scratch on their favourite itchy spot. It's very peaceful and enjoyable. But it does nothing for my relationship with my horses if when I saddle and ride them they are miserable. It's not hard to have a horse feel okay if you never ask anything of them. But few of us are in a position that we don't ever have to direct a horse to do something they don't want to do. Even if you don't ride, a horse still needs hoof trimming, dentist, vet care, worming pasting etc. All things that most horses would not choose to have done themselves.
I have seen videos of Carolyn riding horses and they all seem not very happy. Even in the videos where the horses are not ridden, I see horses that tolerate people but not actually enjoying the company of people - like they might enjoy another horse. So I don't get it.
There is nothing wrong with people getting pleasure from hanging out with horses, but do we need trainers, clinics, books and videos to tell us how to do that. Shouldn't that be just a normal part of owning a horse?
Maybe I'm missing something. I was hoping a student or two would write and explain it to me, but I until then the meaning of it eludes me.
Nurturing The Worry
Hey Ross, Well the rain has stopped for a while and Jess and myself finally got our for a ride today.. We were riding in the pines and as usual people mistake our lovely forest for the tip and dump heaps or rubbish on the sides of the track and as usual the horses think this rubbish has eaten several horses previously and are not going anywhere near that stuff.
As per usual we started to walk the horses tentatively up to the scary things reassuring them and patting them and telling them that it is ok. I wondered if our behaviour was nurturing the worry they had in these things and confirming that they should be worried. So the next pile of crap came along and I felt her start to tense up shorten her stride and get all hollow, so I just worked on her walk, I wanted the nice walk I just had and kept working on that. So before we got to close to the scary things she didn't get as hollow and tense as the time before, and got a bit better the next pile. We spend a lot of time reassuring our horses, but are we inadvertently nurturing the worry?
Kind Regards Kerryn
You are right that we are sometimes guilty of enabling the type of behaviour you describe. It's easy for a horse to show a little concern over something new even though it maybe a minor thing. This is the point when we can either help a horse gain more confidence or reinforce the notion that he has good reason to be worried.
There are times when we need to reassure a horse that he will survive and take the time to get him less worried. And there are times when the best help you can give a horse is to tell him to get over it and move on to push past the worry spot.
The question most people struggle with is to know when to push a horse through the trouble and when to back off and let the horse sort it out. As a general rule (not a golden rule) I have found that if a horse is genuinely worried about something and truly feels his safety is in jeopardy, that is the time to let the horse work out the problem for himself. There is always a line where the horse will go no closer without losing the plot. Don't ask him to go past that line. Give him time to try it for himself. If you try to push a horse over that line before he is ready you risk triggering a dangerous behaviour such as rearing, bolting or bucking.
How do you know if your horse is truly scared or not? In the case of most horses, if they are genuinely frightened of an object, other things will not distract them. They will become focused on the scary object. But if the horse perceives the object is not life threatening, they tend to stare and snort at it for a little while and then look at something else that draws their attention for a few seconds. Then back to the scary object and then have their attention moved to something like a bird in a tree or another horse calling or whatever. You often find the horse gets more focused on the object when you try to push him forward and then lose that focus when you stop pushing.
In cases like this, I will often push a horse past the worry spot. I don't care if he scoots around the object in a wide arc. I just ride forward as if nothing was there and I didn't even notice the horse being crooked. You have to ride with confidence.
A really common example of where this happens a lot is in the arena. Almost every arena has a scary spot. Often it's in a corner where there are bushes or shed or something. No matter how many times a horse has been in the arena they will shy at that spot the first couple of laps of every ride. In this sort of case, just ride past it - push the horse on if he tries to stop or slow down.
But you have to be careful. There is always the possibility that a horse can flip from being only slightly worried to really scared in a flash and before you know it you're riding a horse with it's front feet off the ground.
I think the biggest thing is to exude confidence in what you are asking of your horse. If you ride timidly, it can only confirm to the horse that he can't trust you because your intent is not clear. When I've taught riders jumping and it was almost always the nervous ones who rode horses that stopped in front of the jumps.
We got a phone call from our bank a couple of days ago. They detected some strange transactions on our card account. It seems we had accumulated over $4,000 of debt in Brazil in the past week. I’m very thankful for the bank for noticing it and putting a stop to the transactions, so we are not out of pocket. The bank told us the thieves made a copy of our card from information that obtained from an ATM we had used. The lesson from this is that it is worth checking your bank statements regularly.
What People Don’t See
I went to look at a horse for somebody yesterday. They were having issues and were looking for help to re-train the horse for their child.
The owner rattled off a list of things that she had noticed and wanted fixed. To give just a couple of examples, she said that the horse was pushy and walked over her and didn’t like having it’s front feet touched and handled.
I asked her why she thought he did these things. She said he was afraid to have his feet touched because she had been told he had been caught in wire when he was a foal and his legs had become sensitive to the touch. In the meantime, the horse was tied to a hitching rail and was pawing madly. I pointed out that her horse was pawing and knocking his legs and hooves on the post as he pawed. Did she really think his legs were sensitive to touch? She had no answer.
Then I asked her about the pushiness. She said he would walk into and sometimes stepped on her toes. She had knocked her in the head a few times as he swung his head around to look at something. She had tried to make him keep his distance, but it didn’t work and she figured he had never been taught to give to pressure. I asked her where in the pecking order did he stand with her other horses? She said he was second from the bottom. I then asked her does he step on the other horses feet or knock their heads? I asked how often he walked into a tree or a gate? This question confused her.
I tried to make the point that a horse does not run into a tree or step on the feet of more dominant horses because he knows there is nothing by pain and discomfort to be gained if he does. It is so clear to a horse that a tree and more dominant horses are things you go around, not through. But walking into the owner is a different matter. I tried to point out that her horse does know how to give to pressure because the other horses had taught him. They did not have to raise a sweat to get him out of the way. A flick of the ear or a glance out of the corner of their eye from 20 feet away was enough to make him move.
In the end I think the lady found my observations too confronting for her because she just wanted the horse fixed. I doubt I will hear from her again. But on the way home I was thinking about why were such obvious concepts so elusive to her? Why did she think there was something wrong with her horse and he needed fixing. The other horses had already shown her he was trainable and could give to pressure just fine. Why did she think his legs were sensitive to touch when she stood there watching him bash his legs on the hitching post?
I came home so confused by the visit that I had to have 2 malt Scotches last night!
A Horse On The Edge
Well, I am back for round two if you are up for it! Thank you very much for your previous advice regarding the float loading. I moved my mare to a new agistment facility a couple of weeks ago, and float loaded her using your advice (of being consistent in my communication and insisting that she engage in a civil conversation about the float). It was the best she has ever loaded and traveled, so I was very pleased. Once I had her attention, and had made it clear that I expected her to engage in some sort of communication over the problem, she seemed to just relax and offered to walk in on her own. It felt really good.
I have been taking things steadily at the new facility, but I have ridden her a couple of times, and have come up against similar issues to what I had had at the old facility. It appears that she is not yet settled in to thinking that this is home, and wants to head back in the general direction of the old property. I took her on a quiet trail ride with some others on the weekend, and she was really very good until we got to the turn around point so that we were no longer heading away from the paddock (which happened to be in the direction of her old place). She stopped, tried a few small rears, bit at my leg and foot, and backed me into the bushes a couple of times. When she went up I gave the rein so as not to pull her over (she will go higher if pushed), and when she got all four feet back on the ground I just stayed with the initial pressure I had on the rein to ask her to walk up the track. When she tried to bite me I just kicked my foot up and down. After a little time she relaxed and offered to walk off in the direction I was offering of her own accord. I felt that this was an improvement on past episodes.
This morning I took her for a walk around the property, and decided I might like to see if she would walk into the undercover arena. She was clearly tense about the idea, so I just waited and kept bringing her attention back to the problem. She backed up, reared, span, turned, and generally snaked herself around in any way possible to avoid having to confront the arena. I felt as though I did a good job in quietly persisting, without pushing, to bring her back each time and continue the conversation. Finally I got her to take some steps towards the arena but she then wanted to dart off away and back to the paddock. At this point I couldn't get her attention back, and decided to hop off. I led her into the undercover arena with no problem (she is extremely good with my leadership from the ground), and remounted. We did some stops and turns in the arena and everything felt good. I walked her out the other side of the arena (it is unfenced), and headed off down the track back to her paddock. She was very soft and connected at that time. I tested her stop, reinback, and left and right reins along the way and she offered no resistance.
So, my dilemma is should I persist in trying to work through these issues in the saddle, or are there exercises on the ground that I can use to assist? My difficulty in knowing what to do here results from a few things.
I really appreciate your help.
Thanks and regards,
I'm not sure I have any answers for you. The problem is that because I have not seen you and your horse first hand I am not sure if your problems stem from your horse being truly worried about the situations you put her in OR she is not so worried, but more unsure that you have earned the right to lead this partnership. In other words, are her ideas not to head home and not enter the covered arena derived from genuine fear for her life or a determined and strong will mind. From what you write I get a sense it is more of the latter - that she is not convinced that your ideas are better than her ideas and she is not going to listen. But I would hate to be wrong because my advice for either case would be very different and if I was wrong my advice could get you into trouble.
Nevertheless, I think you have to get smarter. Clearly the fact that she will rear if pushed is a worry for you - so don't go there. But equally I would be careful not to acquiesce to her demands. I think there can be a middle road - a smarter road - a less confrontational road. A thought that you might consider is to out wait your mare. For example, if she won't walk into the covered arena, take her as close as she will go without an argument and wait. Do nothing except keep her pointing towards the arena entrance. If she looks off in the distance, point her back towards the arena. If she backs up, do nothing but keep her pointing towards the arena. If she goes to wander away, point her back to the arena. If she tries to lay down, stop her from doing that with your heels and point her to the arena entrance. All you are doing is telling her that she has no job except to keep looking towards the arena. Don't ask her to go forward or not back up - just point her to the arena. At some point between 2 minutes and 2 weeks she will walk forward. Allow it and sit quietly. When she stops do nothing except keep her pointed towards the arena. It's so important that you keep her straight and you interrupt her when she looks away or tries to move away. Keep this up until she walk into the arena or as close as you think she can get that day. Honestly, it could take a few minutes or a few hours - you have to be prepared to sit there for a very long time. The second time you do it will take half as long and the third time will be so much faster.
Now I'm not suggesting that this is what I would do in your case because I don't know your horse. If I was sitting on her I might feel something very different and decide a totally opposite approach - I don't know. But I just want to give you some thoughts on how things could be done very differently. How you could work smarter without getting into an argument you might regret having started. But you have to use your knowledge of the horse and your instincts when tackling a situation that you are not sure of the outcome.
There is nothing wrong with doing more ground work, but I suspect there are issues under saddle that can only be addressed under saddle. If you feel you are too unsure about your mare then send her to the best horse person you can find and spend as much time with them as you can. Learn everything they have to teach and get some riding in on your mare while she is at the trainers.
Let me know how you go.
The Waterhole Ritual
I’d like you guys to watch this video clip and write to me with your thoughts. You can do it anonymously if you want. I particularly would like to hear from students of Carolyn Resnick, but happy to get everyone’s thoughts. I have some thoughts too, but I will hold back until I can a few responses.
I’ve added the next chapter in the epic adventures of my life with Satts to the Story page. I hope you guys are enjoying the read and getting something out the tales.
The July blog entries have been archived and can be found by clicking on the JUL box in the calendar in the side bar.
Clinics in October
I have changed plans for the 5-day clinic that was scheduled for October in Garfield, Victoria. There have been problems finding a venue that was not going to cost an arm and a leg to hire. Because Michele will not be able to participate I didn’t want to have to increase my charges just to cover the venue hire yet folks would not get as much individual attention since there would only be me teaching.
Anyway, I have decided to cancel the clinic in a formal sense and replace it with a few days of lessons at Cannibal Creek in Garfield. People can book a day and time or several days and times with me for a 90-minute private lesson that will be held at Cannibal Creek Equestrian Reserve. I will be available for lessons from Tuesday 4/10 to Thursday 6/10. You can book a session by contacting me. Fence sitters are welcome for free.
Timing, Feel and Balance?
I have been reading your web site for months now and after you recommended the Bill Dorrance book to somebody I decided I had better read it too. I have been discussing parts of it with my instructor who wants to read it after I’ve finished. Anyway, we were discussing the section on timing, feel and balance. I asked her what she thought was the most important part for a horse. I said it was timing, but she said it was feel. I figure you are the best person to ask to settle this debate. What do you think?
Also, do you have any copies of your book to sell? If not, can you tell me where I can get a copy? I love your Walt and Amos stories from Chaff Chat and your stories about Satts too. I find I can read them over and over again and still see new things that make me think. Thanks so much for all you share. Most trainers just want to tell you how to fix things, but you try to tell us how to think for ourselves. I wish more people were like that and it is a shame not more people know about you.
Trish you make me blush. There are many better horse people around than me. But I do agree that most web sites are all about either “how-to” fix something or so Zen-like that the work is more about the people’s feelings than the horse’s needs. I’m very glad you find this site worth coming back to.
With regard to my book, I’m quite short of copies. I assume you are in Australia and if that is the case, there is an excellent online shop that stocks “Old Men and Horses.” It’s called One Stop Horse Shop and I recommend them highly. If you are overseas, you can also get the book at Amazon.com in both the US and UK.
The timing, feel and balance debate is an interesting one. I’m not sure it is possible to separate them into which is more important to getting along with a horse. For starters, the best from a horse can only come from a rider/trainer having all three elements at their sharpest. It’s like asking which is more important to sustaining life – the brain, the heart or the liver. Well, you’re dead if any of those are not functioning. And it’s a bit the same with trying to help a horse achieve the best he can be if a rider’s timing, feel and balance is not up to the task.
However, if the aim to just help a horse through a specific problem then it is possible that the issue stems from just one or two elements of the trio being not good enough. You could discover that fixing a trot transition requires better timing on the part of the rider, whereas getting a horse softer in the backup may need a more finely tuned feel on the reins. It’s going to be different from horse to horse and will even vary with the same horse from moment to moment. So I don’t think it is possible to give a definitive answer to settle the argument with your instructor.
But just to throw the cat among the pigeons, I will say that if I had to choose just one talent to be good at with horses it would not be timing or feel or balance. I’ve talked about this once before, but it is probably worth repeating. I would choose consistency.
I believe that consistency is the most essential element around horses. It is my thought that even if you have poor timing, minimal feel and lousy balance but you are extremely consistent in how you apply those - given enough time and repetitions a horse can work out your meaning. There is no doubt that it will make learning very much harder for a horse if you don’t have good timing, feel and balance, but strong consistency can overcome those hurdles in many cases. On the other hand, even brilliant timing, feel and balance cannot compensate for very poor consistency in how you use them. A lack of consistency will drive most horses bonkers. The more sensitive a horse is the more consistent he requires you to be. I believe one reason some people don’t get along with Arabs is due to a lack of consistency – something these super intelligent creatures require from us.
Anyway, I don’t think I’ve helped settle your debate, but it does make for a good conversation over a glass of red wine. And I’m very pleased that you are thinking about these questions and the meaning they have for a horse. Bill’s book is an excellent read, but even there we all need to examine and think about what is on those pages rather than just accept it because Bill said it.
Thanks for your excellent question.
This photo was put up on a horse forum and I just really like it. I am posting it here with kind permission of Tashkent Friesian Stud. It’s of their Friesian stallion Django of Cacharel at the moment of suspension in a canter. It think it is really cool and I imagine the horse hovering across the ground as it performs its test – a bit like the carousel horses in the film Mary Poppins. You can click on the image to enlarge it.