"The level of honesty the horse offers us is unrivaled. No ulterior motive or hidden agenda. What they offer is a reflection of their current mental, emotional, and physical state. The hardest part for humans is not to respond with an emotionally based critique." Alternative Horsemanship with Samantha Harvey
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When I get a call from an owner about a potential horse to participate in training, a lot runs through my mind during the conversation.
Years ago I was asked to do demo, but the horse they brought was having a really hard time.
He'd never left home, never been away from his pasturemates, nor been around a crowd, PA system or indoors. He was running around slamming himself into walls of the demo round pen.
The spectators collectively leaned back as I walked into the horse's chaos.
Did I "perform" or stay stuck on worrying what I was supposed to be showing off that day? No. The only thing that mattered was helping this scared horse find a safe place mentally, emotionally and physically.
Did I have a flag, ropes, whips, or gadgets? No.
It was such a wonderful opportunity to teach people about what an initially seemingly overwhelming scenario can turn into if the human supports the horse rather than critiques him.
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A picture can tell us so much. This horse was new to the handler, was catagorized as a very "experienced and confident" animal. We had the opportunity to assess him at a clinic.
One of the greatest challenges in my job is finding the balance of how to best help the human so that they can better help their horse. Horse trainer quote
In case you need to hear it...
A past student years ago had these bracelets made for me after hearing me incorporate the saying in my teachings..
I usually give them out at the end of my Horsemanship clinics. Good on you...
For showing up.
For persisting through the challenges.
For seeking change within.
For not just accepting surviving.
For having to become honest with yourself in order to make long lasting changes.
Good on you...
I was recently asked about the "Alternative Horsemanship" and why I use that to describe what I do. So I thought I'd share with the group my answer...
The interpretation of "Alternative" Horsemanship is relative to your current perception and word association... as the human student's awareness and recognition of believing the horse's communication evolve, so does their translation of what Alternative "is."
Enjoying the moment...
Even though there's always something "to do" on the farm, I've been intentionally working towards slowing my own thoughts down.
Yes, I check one thing off the list and add four more projects.
But that is irrelevant to the horses. As is time.
Learning to recognize and change how we respond to triggers that create an "urgency" in our own human patterns of thoughts, emotions and behaviors can completely alter the relationship with the horse.
The human can still have clarity, intention, and a goal, yet without adding the chaos that appears when the Conversation with the horse becomes a dictatorship rather than two-way communication.
I spy... Can you find the new arrival?
He and his human counterpart recently participated in a Full Immersion Clinic and she decided to bring him in for training to be started under saddle.
His past is unknown as she acquired him at auction a year ago. The only thing clear was he was very reactive to the world around him.
Part of my goal to help prepare him for life is to help him learn how to think through scenarios, search for options, and to keep trying in a reasonable manner, even if what he originally offered wasn't what was desired.
One of the things in seeing a horse like this is a reminder of when I come across horses that are as cute as he is, is that often the human's emotions have clouded the perception of what the horse is expressing in his own emotions and is being reflected in their physical behavior.
This causes unintentional filtering of how a person interprets horse behavior, causing passive support towards the horse when he really needs proactive interaction and guidance.
Would you like help in assessing your horse to clarify how to approach working with him? Find out more HERE
Often I talk about the Conversation with the horse. This applies throughout any interaction with the horse. Recently I was asked about correct head postion.
The "search" is when we ask the horse to learn how to focus mentally and then physically offer a specific response, in other words, much of our Conversations with the horse is about them searching for what we are presenting.
I've had a lot of inquiries about video coaching lately... It is such a great opportunity for learning. Some folks are concerned initially about how complicated it will be, it isn't.
Reviewing The Release
Changing Worried Horse BehaviorsHelping the Horse with Worried Eyes Question:
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.
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Sam Harvey's equestrian and horse training tactics apply to both competitive and pleasure riders. Her adaptable distance learning format can be used to supplement a rider's current horse training program or used by itself. She has had proven success in working with a variety of equestrian students worldwide, irrelevant of their chosen riding discipline or years of horse experience. Her students vary on a wide spectrum from those facing equine-related trauma or fear to those needing the mental edge when competing at the international level.
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 of them can be like. Join her on your journey of Horsemanship Learn more about the "Reading the Horse" Online Course HERE
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?
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.