Unloading the Horse from the Trailer or Lorry- Human Perceptions

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.

Why the one size fits all "Horse Training Program" can be detrimental

Someone in this group recently shared the following comment to my starting vs breaking the horse post: "This really resonates with me. Today I tried a new trainer, something away from my usual showjumping. A ‘natural horseman’ trained in XXXX. I felt my horse was being bombarded with stressful pressures resulting in With him bolting in the arena as his only means of ‘release’, then when cornered, my horse smashed through the gate to escape. I have been informed my horse has no respect for me. I feel so lost."
So I thought I'd share my thoughts... Unfortunately, this isn't unique... I meet a lot of folks who have tried a "trained" professional who has learned through a specific "program."

Liberty Horse: Lining up to the Mounting Block Video

Conversations at the Mounting Block

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.

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Language influencing the Quality of our Horsemanship

"My horse is stubborn"
"My horse doesn't want to work."
"My horse is ornery."
"My horse is fine until he is psycho."
"My horse knows what he should do, but just doesn't want to do it."
"My horse loves me."
"My horse tries to scare me sometimes."

Breaking a horse vs. Starting One

I recently was working a horse and a client had brought their son-in-law, who had been raised breaking horses. It was interesting in the conversation I was having in explaining the difference in breaking a horse and created a constant containment. Besides the obviously physically aggressive manner in doing things, I was explaining when "starting" a horse how it would affect everything that would follow in the interaction with the horse.

Are you giving your horse clear indication as to what you want?

The Blinker

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.

Ponying... Continuation of the Conversation 

 I find many folks interpret the act of riding one horse and ponying the other as a way to get the unridden animal to follow the other one. This can create mindless movement in the ponied horse and contribute to what seems to him willingly complying, but is not thoughtful, mentally available interaction. 

 I use ponying as an opportunity to continue the Conversation I'd started with the horse while initially working from the ground. This includes directing the ponied horse's thought, specificity of his movement and his energy. 

 There should be no drag on the lead rope, the ponied horse should not be staring at my riding horse avoiding the world around him, and he should not feel challenged by working alongside another horse. 

 The tool of ponying a horse can expand his understanding and acceptance of spatial and physical pressure, can offer him the chance to learn to interact with the human despite another horse nearby, and allow him to search for how to address the human's input. 

 Too many folks don't prepare either the riding or the ponyied horse and things can quickly escalate into unnecessary stressful and potentially dangerous situations when concepts like softening to pressure, letting go of a thought, pausing to check in with the human haven't been established beforehand. 

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When the horse is ready to ride

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.

The Crazy Horse- Is it really the horse, or the human?

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.

Misconception of Circling the Horse

One of the most misused "techniques" I have found is how people present asking the horse to move around a circle. Whether it is for lunging, groundwork, riding one or otherwise, rarely have I witnessed a horse thinking and traveling around a circle in an intentional, soft manner. Often there is a degree of "driving" energy from the human, along with containment via the lead rope, lunge line, reins, the rider's outside leg, etc.

Commonality- Various Scenarios and Quality Conversations with the Horse

What does the mounting block, going out a gate, loading into a horse trailer, crossing over a tarp, or passing through a stream have in common? None of them are about the actual task. Instead, it is about the commonality of the Conversation and having the tools to communicate with the horse clearly the specifics of where you want their thought, focus, and then movement. Each allows for an opportunity to help the horse learn how to think their way through a scenario, rather than just physically comply.

Horsemanship Video: Horse Help

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Anticipation in the Human when working with the Horse

One of the greatest challenges humans have is the anticipation of "what will happen" when with their horse. There is a fine line of being aware of your surroundings, and things that are occurring at the moment, but to also not fixate on these and the potential outcome.

Building Trust in the Defensive Horse

A moment of trust... what the picture is really reflecting

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.