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I recently had a horse arrive from Montana for training and it was a good reminder of some things I've noticed over the years.
Frequently, especially if loading the horse initially was stressful or concerning for both human and horse, when folks arrive somewhere they tend to want to rush when unloading and "hurry" to get the horse to the new stall or pasture.
Thought I'd share my version of asking a horse to line up at the block.
This is not about the act of the mare lining up, this was the first time I'd asked her to do so without touching the reins. This is an example of what the interaction can be like when pre-establishing effective tools to offer two-way clear communication.
The Quality of the Conversation affects the outcome of the task, such as when mounting.
Reminder I do my LIVE weekly #chitchat from the farm video on FB on Wednesdays, 8am pdt, 3pm gmt. Join me in the private group on FB HERE . If you miss the live version, it will be available for replay at later times.
If you'd like to learn more about improving the Conversations and partnership with your horse, there are lots of Remote Horse Coaching options including video sessions, group coaching, horse webinars and more.
I use a comparison of driving a car similar to riding.
Imagine making a turn in your vehicle.
First, you'd use your blinker or turn indicator.
Then you'd turn the steering wheel a specific amount to get the tires lined up with where you want to travel.
Last you'd add a varying degree of the gas pedal.
With horses, it should be the same.
Give warning as to where you'd like for them to move.
Turn their head towards the direction making sure the are looking and thinking towards the designated spot.
Then add energy to have them move towards where they are looking.
Most folks with their horse have no blinker, very little steering and a whole lot of gas pedal.
Then they critique the horse for not getting it right.
In this shot, I'm using my left "blinker" to get Sally's thought to her left, as seen with her left ear acknowledging me.
When the horse is ready...
People often ask how do I know when a horse is ready to ride and I'll tell them, "The horse will tell me."
Today I was working with Sally a mare who has some riding experience but carried a lot of containment and obedience. In our Conversations I opened the door for her to purge... and there was a lot she had to say. So her time here has been working on her learning to be able to express herself in a reasonable way without being obedient and then hyper-reactive.
I see a lot of animals labeled the "crazy horse." Are there some horses that due to human mishandling have reached such an extreme place mentally and emotionally that they would be unsuitable for the average horse handling skills the general equine community has? Yes.
He is a common example of a horse who had been taught to tolerate uncomfortable situations. So he has a great "poker face" for when he is bothered, he doesn't act like the horse who expresses every emotion they are experiencing in a physically scary way.
The problem is this creates a pressure cooker of emotions in him until it becomes too much and "all of a sudden" he gets dramatic. So to change this pattern of obedient and tolerant behavior, I have to break everything down into very short, specific segments to help him learn to think through and sort out how to process in real-time what is being presented, and then to let go of anticipation.
This is not about making him tolerate the chaos, noise, dragging, etc. but rather for him to sort through his anticipation and concerns to learn how to just be aware of his surroundings and hang out with me.
He went from tolerant, to avoiding to eventually becoming curious about what was actually happening nearby. I had to help him go through his "checklist" including trying to leave, being mentally checked-out and avoiding, to becoming watchful, breathing, and finally getting interested in what I was doing. This comes down to clear Conversations that always offer a release- spatially and mentally.
Would you like to find out how Sam could help you improve the partnership with your horse? Click HERE to learn more about the seven-day online course "Reading the Horse" or click HERE for Remote Horse Coach options.
Though the rain was pouring down yesterday, the day prior was gorgeous. In this part of the world where the weather can change every five minutes from hail to sunshine, you learn to take advantage of it!
Sally, one of the desert horses that arrived to spend the summer with me had never seen trees, grass, wildlife, etc. before arriving at the farm. Though she's been settling in, everything in her world has changed.
As I was in-between my endless mowing and weed eating and spring chores, I saw a very different Sally standing out in the field. The horses were out grazing in the infield, a place she'd initially go nowhere near as the movement in the branches of the nearby trees due to the wind and wildlife had kept her on-guard eve in her opportunity for letting down.
As I go through my "checklist" of questions to owners with horses that arrive for training, one of the important ones is in regard to the horse's sleep patterns. Noticing if/when/how long the person actually sees the horse sleep.
Since arriving I'd seen Sally sleep, but not in a deep state and for very short periods of time, and only in the night time pastures. But this past week there was a big shift in her mentally. Simple, subtle moments where she'd offered on her own to be much more thoughtful, less emotionally reactive, and able to try in a reasonable manner.
I have found that the quality of the Conversation with the human affects the horse when they are on their own. And then I saw her... I'd turned out horses, but had to gently "re-direct" them to another pasture while they were loose. Sally had made a wrong turn into one area, I called her by name off the grass, she quit eating, came over to me, checked-in, then I pointed and I directed her to the correct pasture. She calmly walked off and resumed grazing. A few other horses had moved off further away, but she didn't engage. Even her body looked softer and more relaxed as she grazed.
And then a short while later, I watched her gently lie down, comfortably viewing the world around her, then settling-in as she took a nap. I headed over to say hi when she'd perked up again. Though she loved scratches for all her itchy spots when standing, she always had a tightness to her body, muscles, and breathing. But as I walked up at this moment, calling out to not startle her, she acknowledged me softly. I watched her, for any concern at my presence. There was none. So I came over and scratched on her and then took a seat.
Was this about capturing a fun picture? Not at all. This was an awesome moment in time that reflected the shift in her perception of the new world around her and me. This was a huge moment, for her to be completely "exposed" laying in the middle of a field, with a human nearby, and not have any fear or containment. This trust is what the equine partnership is built upon.
But it doesn't come from being "nice" to the horse, nor being "hopeful" in the communication. I had to present, and ask Sally to address many of her fears, anticipation, reactivity, and defensiveness in recent sessions. I had to offer her a safe place to express and purge her concern without critiquing her for feeling that way. I couldn't force anything to "happen" but I could offer every interaction to be a quality Conversation.
Does her trusting me as she lies down mean she is "finished?" No. But it is one of the many contributors that will and does affect Sally's journey to her becoming a thoughtful, willing, and confident equine.
But today I want to talk about something I've noticed over the years. Horses that come in for starting, re-educating, or refinement in their training are at various levels of exposure, confidence, and experience. They come from all over the country and are of many different breeds.
I believe socialization, freedom of movement, exposure to natural elements, and wildlife are important aspects of their education. They are kept in wooded area pastures at night and during the day are allowed to graze in herds in open grass fields.
I often joke I'm a grounds maintenance keeper and work with horses "on the side." I like to keep things neat and tidy and spend hours trying to keep up with the facility. So I notice things, like WHERE the horses poop.
Over the years I've realized there is a commensurate "evolution" in where horses decide to pass manure when they are out grazing during the day time in relation to their training.
In the beginning soon after they arrive, they poop wherever they may be grazing at the moment. As their mental availability and thoughtfulness starts to increase in our sessions together, they start to intentionally move closer to places where manure has been passed in the past. Then as they become more available and willing in "trying" and "searching" during their interactions with me, they start to consistently walk to a specific place to pass manure when grazing, in the same place, each day.
Even with me cleaning up manure daily, they will return to nearly the identical spot to relieve themselves, whether or not other horses have passed manure there recently.
I find the more mentally quiet and emotionally relaxed a horse is, the cleaner they are in where they decide to intentionally poop. If I hadn't noticed this consistently happening over the years with so many horses, I would have categorized the individual horse as a "messy" or clean horse.
But upon closer intentional observations, I have concluded that it, just as with all things horses do, is not an accident. It is yet another reflection of how their interaction with the human affects what their mental and emotional state is when they are on their own.
Alternative Horsemanship with Samantha Harvey Remote Horse Coach shares a moment captured impromptu on the farm. In this unrehearsed video she shares what Conversation with the horse... or five... can be like. Learn more about the "Reading the Horse" Online Course HERE
*What do you see?
*Where are your thoughts?
*When do you get distracted?
*When do you rush?
*When do you avoid?
*When do you anticipate?
*When do you become "hopeful?"
*When do you critique?
*When do you quit?
We are all human and we're not always 100% mentally and emotionally present even if we are physically standing next to or interacting with the horse. It takes effort to have an intentional awareness to learn to change our own patterns in our thoughts and behaviors, but first, we must become aware of what they even are!
So whether you think back to past events with your horse or the next time you head out to spend time with him, start to slow down and ask yourself the above questions.
This isn't about self-critique, but it helps to break down the excessive "chaos" you may be bringing to the time spent with your horse.
Valuing where your own thoughts are will help you understand your own physical responses to your horse. The more you allow yourself to slow down your thinking, the increase in "time" you'll experience to sort out your options in specific communication offered to the horse.
This takes effort, intention, honesty within yourself, and practice. It helps to peel back the layers of "stuff" that often convolute the human ability to "see" the horse without critique and judgment.
Reminder... "Reading the Horse" online course is starting in June! https://bit.ly/horsecourseonline
You can enjoy a brief video clip here
This builds unintentional mindlessness in the human and the horse or "autopilot" responses between the two. If this is the case, the human may miss when potential concerns begin to build in the animal until "all of a sudden..." he does something and it totally surprises the human.
In other cases, the person may see what the horse is physically doing, but not put value to the behavior or recognize the connection in what is currently happening to where it may lead in future actions of the horse.
Often folks are also hopeful. People will "wait" until the horse is committed to an unwanted response and then attempt to intervene at his peak concern. What the human may not have realized is that their initial pause or delay in communication with the horse has taught him that he is "on his own" in a stressful situation. The problem is this consistently, (often unintentional) unsupportive response from the person, teaches the horse that when concerning moments arise, he needs to fend for himself. As he does so, it can create an overwhelming feeling in the handler or rider.
So remember even the seemingly most "mundane" interactions are teaching and conversation opportunities between humans and horses. If folks prioritized quality interaction with their horse during these times, they would be diffusing and diminishing potentially dramatic and dangerous ones in the future, without even realizing it.
Keep in mind horses do not one day randomly become "trained" or reasonable. Even with a horse that has had years of training, someone can "undo" the training depending on how they interact.
Every moment the horse spends time with a human is a continuous learning opportunity. The person can teach the horse either desired or undesirable responses depending on their approach.
What has the quality of your conversations with the horse been lately?
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May 17-23, 2020
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Why should I take this course? Many horse enthusiasts truly want the best for their horse. As with everything, there can be a steep learning curve, irrelevant of how many years that you have been around horses. Every horse has something new to teach us. As a client of mine once said, “You don’t know what you don’t know.”
Ask yourself the following questions- Do you:
Struggle with the “same” issue(s) with your horse?
Feel overwhelmed by your horse’s behavior?
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Experience your horse resisting your requests?
Feel like your horse ignores your communication?
Have a horse that is a “hard” keeper?
Have a horse that has “issues” with every day handling such as with the farrier, vet, trailer loading, catching, tacking, mounting, riding out, or?
Have a horse that is really great, except for _____?
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I had a horse... one of those "I didn't mean to acquire him" types... one of those the hoarding breeder got out of control and ran out of money with a bunch of malnourished pregnant mares... one of those orphaned colts as a consequence. I tried to say no... but Pico wound up with me. He was Curious. Not the most confident nor athletic with his clubbed foot, but he sure did keep everyone entertained.
|A horse that is curious about training...|
- How functional were/are you?
- Were/are you in a frame of mind to learn something new?
- How was/is your patience levels?
- How long could/can you focus?
- Could you/can you physically stay still, get comfortable, or relaxed?
With current world events, I've been doing a lot of Remote Horse Coaching. For folks that have access to their horses, one of the "spring" themes seems to be horses that were going "fine" and then "randomly" or suddenly started stopping, where they abruptly quit moving forward, either when led or ridden.
I find 95% of folks misuse a round pen, whether under the guise of "exercising" or teaching conditioned responses, an example being the lesser of two evils is to turn, face the human, and be caught rather than made to run; which is a bullying tactic. The problem with teaching conditioned responses and patterns is the day you change the routine, the horse does not know how to react because his responses have been obedient versus thoughtful. Sometimes, this creates him throwing a tantrum or seemingly becoming a fire breathing dragon instead of the horse you're used to.
|A client's mule from a few years ago...|
We could gain a lot more out of our relationships if we practiced listening and hearing more, especially when comes to interacting with the horse.
I was recently asked a great follow up question and thought I'd share my response here. Paraphrasing here, I was asked what happens if you try to be aware and support your horse 99% of the time, but "miss" the 1 % when a horse's behavior catches you off guard. Is it just horses being horses or? So I thought I'd share my answer in today's post.
Yesterday in preparation for embracing truly remote isolation for the next few months, I had to pick up three different horses (all currently at private, remote desert locations) and bring them to a fourth private farm to meet the vet.
I haven't taught in person in the last month, and these horses will be making the 1,400-mile journey north through country most folks in the USA have never even been to. Do you know what it is like to drive for 300 miles on one road and only pass a few other vehicles? My rig is self-sustained, including with enough fuel so that we never have to engage with another human to make the entire trip! We will summer in isolation in the heart of the rocky mountains.
People often ask "what kind of horse training do you do?" I say, "I work with people and horses."
In the traditional world of horses, not categorizing yourself meant that you didn't really know a whole lot about anything. Nowadays I find it quite ironic how many students I have that many of my clients come from "specialized" trainers but are having major issues on fundamental basics with their horses and the specialized trainers are unable to help them through the situations other than forcing the horses into submission through fearful and aggressive tactics.
When: Saturday April 4, 2020 @ 11am-noon pst
Where: Closed, private Facebook Group
Cost: $20 USD or £16
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What you get:
This will be a one-hour, live, interactive, four-part webinar that will address:
- Assessing the horse
- Assessing the human
- What do defensive thoughts look like physically?
- Changing Patterns in Humans & Horses
Discounts: Have a friend you want to join in with? Use code
Will there be an opportunity to ask questions? Yes, if you are participating during the LIVE event version.
This was an unexpected moment I captured in the pasture with a client's three horses. One is a rescue paint mare, another is a filly brought in from the wild, and the last is an endurance Morab mare. Each horse has their own confidence and curiosity levels that they offer in their human interaction.
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Many times when I'm teaching a student, if a tense moment arises, I will instruct them to pat their horse.
This is not for the sake of being "touchy-feely," rather for the release that happens within the rider when they touch their horse.
Question: I have just recently changed stables where I teach hunt seat. All of my students have also made this change with me. This new barn has some older lesson horses who have been allowed to follow closely behind each other. I have never allowed this and have always had my students ride separately and independently. These horses know absolutely nothing about steering! When my students attempt to steer they pull in whatever direction they may wish to go, usually into a corner or into the center of the arena. I've tried having them ride straight and then apply leg aids along with either a direct or indirect rein but to no avail. The students are getting frustrated which I am trying hard to avoid. At this point both the horses and riders need reinforcement! I'm open to any suggestions you may have. Thank you very much!
My horse is really good... except when I ask him to ______.
I often go out to ride concerned about who will be at the barn or stable...
I can only do ____ with my horse if I first _____ with him.
When I first bought my horse he was great, but now I feel unsure about how he will react to things.
I've been riding for 30 years, shouldn't I know enough by now to stop taking lessons?
My friends' comments when they try to help me at the competition/on the trail/at home schooling just stress me out to the point that riding isn't fun and I'm now avoiding going to the barn.
I feel overwhelmed in where and how to get my horse to respect me.
When I rode as a child I had no fear, now it seems to be a constant in the back of my mind and overshadows enjoyment in time spent with my horse.
I dutifully work my horse, but it seems the more I practice something the worse my horse gets.
When I'm sitting in the saddle I'm exhausted after just a short ride.
Samantha Harvey Remote Horse Coach assists riders in transforming their equine partnership. Her direct and specific support offers realistic and empowering strategies. It can supplement your current riding program or be used to build a foundation. She teaches skill-sets to address mental strategies, translate and address horse behavior or issues, and how to overcome hindrances in achieving riding goals.
*Fear * Trauma *Competition Anxiety *Lack of goals *Bullied by your horse *Reactive Horses *Disrespectful Horses *Improving Your Bio-mechanics in the Saddle *Building Confidence in Yourself and Your Horse * Improving your horse's attitude * Creating Trust in your Horse *Interpreting Behavior
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