This is the Alternative Horsemanship with Samantha Harvey Remote Horse Coach's official blog. She shares her horse training approaches and strategies regarding horse behavior, proactive horsemanship, empowering equine partnerships, the rider's mental approach, and confidence-building in equestrians.
Sam also offers Horsemanship clinics worldwide, Horse webinars, online horse courses, Equine Retreats, Group Coaching Videos, Daily Training posts, & Individual Remote Horse Coaching.
Please join me for my new group conference call series!
Date & Topic:
Saturday April 12th 10-10:45am PST Mental Availability in both Horses and Humans
Saturday April 19th 10-10:45am PST Humans Having Intention
Saturday April 26th10-10:45am PST Clarifying communication between Humans and Horses
How long is each call?
Each call will be 45 minutes and each one will be recorded so that if you are unable to participate during the entire call or if you’d like to replay it at a later date you can.
How does it work?
After registering (see below) you will be provided detailed instructions for calling and participating. It will be a relaxed discussion based on the designated topic followed by Q & A from participants time permitting.
Does the call cost anything?
I am charging $5 via PayPal. The conference call is long distance so call charges are according to your telephone carrier.
How do I register?
Once your payment is made via PayPal you will receive a confirmation number. Email me the confirmation number from your payment, and I’ll email you the conference call information. That’s it!
Can I register for all three calls at the same time?
Yes, click the PayPal link below and you will can pick your payment option for one, two or all three calls.
I will send out reminder notices to participants the Monday and Friday before each call.
Thank you for your participation. I look forward to speaking with you soon!
I am the first to admit that I’m quite resistant to most
“step by step” methods of training.I
find that although what/how you ask something of your horse may “seem initially
clear” with a one, two, three type of instruction, due to the focus of the end
goal, it also limits a person’s perspective in seeing what is ACTUALLY
happening in what I call “real time.”Often
the horse doesn’t act/react as shown or explained in the article or TV show,
and the person is at a loss as to what to do next with their horse.If there is a lack of understanding as to the
how, whats and whys someone is doing something with their horse, it leaves a
lot of room for miscommunication.
So as I hear, read, or witness the ever popular
“desensitizing for the general public” strategies offered, my stomach literally
knots up as I imagine the novice, inexperienced or under-educated horse owner
heading out with the best of intentions in attempting to help their horse with
a “spooking” or “scary” issue. In trying to imitate the article’s instruction
or the DVD’s “how to” series, instead of a successful outcome, all too often there
tends to be a massive amount of chaos, insecurity and fear instilled in the
horse (and often owner), whether or not it is immediately apparent is another
As an owner realizes the predicament they and their horse
are now in, often they turn to trainers like me, who must then “undo” (in both
human and horse) what had been previously taught, and re-educate to build
confidence and trust between the human and horse.
As much of the modern day “work with your horse” or strive
to create a “partnership” using gentler techniques than those methods taught in
decades past, the reality is, if you
aren’t handling, watching, and experimenting with numerous horses on a regular
basis, the chances are your timing, understanding and communication will be
lacking.If you are “brainlessly”
following a step by step instruction guide on how to work with your horse there
usually isn’t much thought given to any of those three crucial pieces in your
relationship with your horse.
Of course it is much easier to appeal to the mass of horse
owners by offering specific step by step generalized instruction, but it leaves
so much unsaid.There are those folks
who think their horse is “ready” for ____________ and so may follow a guide referring
how to _____________.What they may not
realize is they are missing the initial tools or clear communication that must
be established before they attempt ____________ with their horse.
And what most folks aren’t either seeing or understanding,
is evening if a trainer is doing a step by step “live” demo, the trainer’s
timing and feel are going to be very different than that of an amateur’s.Rarely do I come across a horseman who can
communicate with humans as well as they can with a horse.
So this leaves gaps between what a student thinks they are
seeing, and a lot of “stuff” that may be happening that the student doesn’t
even realize is occurring, has been addressed/shut down/prevented, and then the
trainer has moved on.And with horses,
the difference in the final outcome in relation to communication offered at ten
seconds versus a minute later can be huge.But people don’t realize that.
In society we are taught to look for results.The bad news is this mentality seems to blend
into our horsemanship.Did my horse
CROSS the (tarp, bridge, water)?Rather
than evaluate, how did my horse FEEL
about the (tarp, bride, water)?Even if
the horse physically crossed, jumped into/onto, loaded, etc. does not mean he
felt good about it.And each time he
complies with something the person wants, but feels worse afterwards, the human
is unknowingly teaching the horse to become defensive and resistant.
So six months down the road when the horse “suddenly”
decides to quit complying, often the moment he chooses to quit tolerating what
the human is asking, isn’t the moment of the “issue” but is rather the moment
the issue has come to a head.The real
“issue” started six months earlier and each scenario after that just reinforced
the increasing fear in the horse along with his worry and defensiveness, even
if he may have initially seemed “fine” because he had physically accomplished
the task presented.
Perhaps I am being an idealist when I believe that folks can
actually DO a lot more with their horses than they realize.I truly believe if we took society’s
expectations of “accomplishment” away from our thinking when approaching and
working with our horses, we’d actually get a lot more done with an increased
amount of quality and trust between horse and human.
I think according to the last statistics I read, out of the
entire riding community, about 85% are amateur or pleasure riders.If that is the case, then why can’t we mentally
and physically slow down and REALLY start to learn about ourselves and our
horses?What “end result” is so
important that we choose to sacrifice the quality of our partnership with our
horse for it?
From teaching small children to enthusiastic equestrians in
their 80s, I am always amazed, at the almost immediate visible sign of PHYSICAL
relief in a human student, when I suggest the idea of “removing” any level of society
inflicted “must accomplish” myths in regards to their horsemanship and riding.
It is like a weight has been lifted, that person can suddenly
just focus on BEING with their animal, and now, without the self-inflicted
“rush-y feel” within themselves, can start to see clearly what exactly is
happening with their horse.I know that
sounds a bit odd.But the more “stuff” people
try to do, the less they literally see.
I always refer to the novice or inexperienced horse person
as being able to be the most “clear” about what they see in their horse.This is because the person has a clean slate,
and hasn’t had years of unknowingly being desensitized to ignore horse
behaviors whether it be by good intentioned “horse folks,” through lessons or
just friendly opinions.
I’ll give you an example:
If a horse is tied and swinging back
and forth on the lead rope, an inexperienced horse person might pause and be a
little wary about the horse’s hind end moving all over the place.I’ve heard many folks in this scenario voice,
“I wonder why he is doing that?” as they try to stay a safe distance from the
The “experienced” horse person on
the other hand all too often seems to “blow off” behavior such as this with
either a justification, “Oh, he just does that,” or a physical reaction such as
slapping the horse on the hindquarters until he quits moving.And the horse may respond and stand still,
but was the real problem the movement and was it fixed?No.The movement is a result behavior, or symptom, due to some
anticipation to what is about to happen can cause “busy horses” beforehand.
This whole blog came about in my mind today as I worked a 10
year old 17H half Arab/Warmblood gelding.He’s big, he’s super athletic and he has a lot of baggage.A majority of all his human experiences as a
youngster were about “submission” both towards the human and physically towards
foreign aids such as draw reins.His “method
of survival” was to either ball up physically to avoid reprimand, or to get
really, really, really big and dramatic.
As a result, he had so much mental stress, he had physical
issues.Once the physical wear and tear
on his body was decreased and addressed, taking on his patternized (see past blogs
for more on that subject) responses as a way to get through something was the
He has boarded on and off at the same property for several
years; in some parts (where he has the opportunity to graze five to six hours a
day) he looks as quiet and calm and happy as can be, yet there are other areas
he will explore only if other horses are around, and still other places irrelevant
of other horses present or not, he will not travel of his own free will.
He is such a great example of a horse that you could
manhandle (to a point) into submission for the sake of accomplishing a task
(i.e. we must ride next to the scary orange trees with the noisy birds in them.)But I believe his current behavior, fear,
insecurity, worry, defensiveness, spookiness, etc. is the continuing result of
his initial training as a youngster.Too
much asked, too soon, too harshly, too many human goals.And here he is YEARS later (without much
riding or handling in between) and he still carries a very strong defensive “survival”
mentality.I believe his “restrictive”
initial education handicapped his willingness to try.
My goal is that he can slow down mentally (which will in
turn slow him physically) and not just in a scenario but rather to THINK
through each scenario I present.To teach
him how to learn to try, and help him realize his efforts will be recognized
(giving him a break to mentally to process every time he addresses things in a
reasonable manner) and to help him to learn to let “it” (the stress, worry,
concern) go rather quickly.
My goal on this windy, blustery day was to help the horse
feel better.It didn’t matter if it was
for him to feel better in the open, by the trees, moving slowly or picking up
the pace.Feel better both near and away
from the other horses.I was very, very
proud of his efforts today.You could
see his brain thinking, his eyes blinking, him experience an emotional roller
coaster as he explored brainlessly reacting vs. thinking through what I was
asking of him.For the most part things
were quiet and slow.Other times as he
was exploring his options, there was big and dramatic movement.Each
time he got big and mentally checked out, he succinctly shortened the time of
being “lost” through his own decision to quit brainlessly fleeing the scene if
he was unsure.
Each time he’d fall apart he’d literally grunt (due to
inconsistent breathing,) he’d jump with legs going in four different directions;
he’d appear on the edge of I-just-want-to-explode physically.It was like he had to peer over the imaginary
“ledge” and then chose to step back.By
allowing him to TIME try, to think, and not critique him, the more he kept
letting down.Then he’d offer to stay mentally
present longer and could focus, causing the feeling to flee to decrease, until
finally it evaporated.
Through all of his dramatic, “light switch” changes in his
emotions and physical behavior, I was imagining how many folks could seemingly “steal”
a ground work session with a horse like this.He had been taught in steps, and if you presented things in that manner,
he’d resort to his old mentally shut down self but would appear physically “quiet”
So rather than address any real problems, you could very
easily gloss over his “issues” if you stayed within the imaginary safe
boundaries he felt existed.But if you
decided to one day present a new, random goal, he is a horse that could very
easily hurt you in a heartbeat.Not out
of aggression, but out of resorting to survival mode.
So irrelevant of your experience, history with your horse or
other equines, take a few minutes and evaluate what it is that you’d like to
get out of riding or working with your horse.Then you might ask yourself if what you want is an ego or emotionally driven
desire?You may also present yourself
with investigating if you’ve noticed any fear(s), insecurities, gray-area
moments, etc. as you work with your horse.Start to recognize if you’ve created/presented any patterns or routines
in either you and/or your horse’s interaction.Notice if there is anything you “always do” and then ask yourself
Experiment with slowing down your own brain, ideas, and
goals to become more present.I joke
that horses have A.D.D. but humans are even worse when it comes to lack of
mental presence in general, and certainly when it comes to their horsemanship.Start to search for quality in the most basic
things, such as catching your horse, leading your horse, grooming your horse,
tying your horse.Remember that
everything is connected.
Another example I’ll use:
The draggy horse (thinking
backwards, heavy or slow in movement) on the lead, is already telling you his
lack of mental availability for the upcoming ride.Why not address the unavailability and resistance
on the ground BEFORE you ride?
An extra five minutes on the ground
could change the overall feel of the ride.
So the next time you head out to “work” your horse, perhaps
change the semantics to “play, have fun, explore” with your horse.If you find yourself starting to say, “My
horse…” Try and change it to “I can help my horse…”
The next time someone rushes you, or offers an unasked for
opinion while you’re exploring how you work with your horse, kindly reply, “I
appreciate your suggestions but I’d like to experiment on my own for a few
minutes.”Most folks will be taken back;
nobody uses the words “experiment” and “horse” in the same sentence.People have been taught to fear change, to
quit thinking and to quit asking questions.I’m not sure why people give in to those mannerisms (or lack thereof) but
it has damaged many relationships between horse and humans.
Give yourself one week of experimental interaction and see