Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Trust Me It's Just You

I love when people tell me that their horse misbehaves, or bucks or bites ONLY them. These are the horses that I work with and then I have my advanced students work with so that I can evaluate if it's the horse's issue or the owner's. Nine times out of ten it's the owner. The horse will usually not misbehave if you really make it do what you're asking and gain it's respect. I worked TWO horses today with that same deal

The first one is a well broke mare and the owner couldn't get her to lunge and then once under saddle couldn't get her to move out. So I worked with her for 10 minutes then we were soon loping around the arena. The owner gets so frustrated as to why she can't make her horse obey her and I tell her the same thing every time. STAY CONSISTENT and DO NOT TAKE NO FOR AN ANSWER!!!! If you want her to move make her move, if you want her to lunge, do not give up until she does what you've asked of her, only then can she rest and get praise.

The second one is a more timid owner with her first horse, same idea she had to make her horse lunge around her, but she wanted me to do it first. So I showed her what to do and how nicely her horse was responding, the I had her take over and her horse was ALL over her. I showed her again and again, but it was something she couldn't grasp. It's OK to tap your horse on the rump with a carrot stick if you need too!!!

Our horses are not made of glass, they will not break or get hurt the way I train (I can't speak for every trainer), but the tasks I have them complete and will have my advanced students have the horse complete will not harm the horse in anyway. It can be MORE frustrating to an owner when they see that their horse goes better for someone else, but it's because when it's your own "sweet, precious, baby horsie" you have trouble making them behave. Some owners just can't bear to discipline their horse. BUT Respect for YOU as the owner and the herd leader is IMPERATIVE to the safety of you and your horse. Sometimes that means your horse may need a spanking, sometimes your horse may need to sweat and sometimes you may need to push a little bit harder, but in the end the rewards will be 100 times greater and you'll both be able to enjoy each other's time and company.


Best Horse Gifts said...

My last session w/ trainer proved most of what you are saying in this post.
Consistency is SO huge isn't it? And getting over myself doesn't hurt either! ;)
Thanks for another great post.

GoLightly said...

Well said, TreX!

applause, applause!

phaedra96 said...

Those people are the same ones that make you want to leave a restaurant because their little darlings are hideous. I disciplined my dogs, my children and my horses. The cow and pigs were a lost cause.....

Equus said...

Nice post; I find it is ALWAYS the rider. Don't get me wrong, horses need to be "developed" into calm, brave, smart partners (some moreso than others!), but it is up to us to work with the horse and develop them. It is never the horse's fault for acting like a horse. I admit though, as a horse trainer, I do have a bit of trouble swallowing the "you have to make him". This is 1,200lbs of pure muscle here. When it really comes down to it, it CAN'T be forced, and shouldn't be. This is not to say I do not EARN my horses' respect, nor that I am not assertive. I do and I am. However I don't think that punishment or force is necessary. Sure it might work, but there are betterw ways. That is the only area where I feel I differ from you some in this post.


kestrel said...

Um, the 'have to make them' is a concept. No I cannot stuff horsie onto the trailer, but I CAN make horsie decide that it's easier to go on than it is to keep argueing. It's interesting that it's often spoiled people who turn out spoiled horses. Sometimes they do mirror us.

Equus said...

...or you can form a partnership where the horse doesn't feel the need to argue in the first place. There are other ways ;)

I've never made the connection between spoiled people and spoiled horses...not sure if I agree with it or not so I'll have to keep my eyes open and see!! Lol.

GoLightly said...

"It is never the horse's fault for acting like a horse. "

Um, if he's biting/kicking/doing something dangerous to my person, or just flat being obstinate, usually/often because of the twittering owner nearby, you can bet your sweet bippy they can and do respect a smack. It's the noise and the posture you present, not the physical force.

It's touch and timing that counts. Very few actually have it.
Touch can be very powerful, timed just right.

I guess times have changed since my horse time.
There were many owners with "spoiled" horses,simply because the owner was inexperienced, or unsure, or whatever.
Much of my riding time was spent straightening out these horses. Then they'd go back to the owner. It was up to the owner to continue the program. But without the timing/touch, it often was for naught..

Animals recognize leaders.
Followers may be friends, but they are not respected the way a leader is.

If the horse is "acting like a horse" by crowding and bullying you, you are not his leader.

Same under tack.

But yeah, that's probably ALL changed, right?

bhm said...

I agree with GL. A tap or a smack is nothing near the kick or the bite that horse use regularly to communicate to each other. It's the owner's obligation to keep the horse safe to handle around people.

Equus said...

GL, that is not exactly what I meant when I said "acting like a horse". You cannot blame a horse for acting like a horse, however that is not to say you cannot be an assertive leader who commands respect.

I understand how smacks work, I've been involved in the horse industry for 20+ years and have a pretty good grasp on horse behaviour. I've met the spoiled horses too and they took a good session or two to learn that it was not okay to walk on top of me (so don't worry, that has not changed since your time!!). I just do not find it necessary to hit a horse to present myself as a leader to them or to teach them to act respectful. Instead of "punishing" the action (the kick/bite/etc), I solve the root of the issue - respect by getting them to do things like move their feet.

You are right though that timing is everything (and it is something that is difficult to teach into a person) and that touch, timed right, can be everything. I just disagree that touch, in response directly to a specific action, is usually necessary. Do that to our Warmblood and you're only going to get retaliation; do it to one of our Thoroughbreds and you'll instantly lose his trust and have a bigger problem on your hands.

"But yeah, that's probably ALL changed, right?"

A horse can still act like a horse, it does not mean that I am accepting the behaviours you mentioned. I'm just trying to point out that there are other ways to earn a horse's respect. I feel like we are both talking about the same end goal - I am just trying to point out that there are other means of achieving it.

A horse can be kept safe to handle without a smack; in fact many horses I have met were MUCH safer WITHOUT smacks. These well-timed "smacks" were what ruined our one Thoroughbred on the track - he was an absolute (dangerous) mess when we initially bought him.

GoLightly said...

No kidding.
Every horse is different, just like people. Of course there are those that will benefit from proper handling, period. That's where they got into trouble in the first place.

Add the weird people, you have troubles.
I'll give you an example.

Owner & my boss trying to load a TB/Warmblood mare. Apple of this owner's EYE. Oh, she was so WORRIED that her poor beastie would chip a hoof or lose a follicle. Oh, don't HURT her, she sez to my boss.
I'm standing beside the trailer, a four-horse side entrance, gorgeous easy trailer for loading. Lovely wide ramp, solid as a rock. Mare is dancing around like a ballerina.

I'm minding my own business. Mare is NOT loading. Nope, no thanks.

Mare swings herself into me, broadside, she's wearing an over-stuffed blanket.
I slapped my arm against the blanket. Made a noise.
Mare walked on immediately.

Of course, not ALL horses respond to physical touch, but I would wager that most do. It is how they communicate amongst themselves, after all.

With horses badly spoiled/started/handled with the over-physical/badly timed ways of the ammie or the novice or the cruel, or the ignorant, absolutely, these horses will benefit from you leaving them alone for awhile, until THEY start LookinG for your touch. You must clear their RAM memory,if you will.

Horses love touch, done right. Done wrong, you get the nutbars, and the spoiled etc.

Do not underestimate touch. Don't avoid it, thinking you might lose his trust. You'll lose the respect first, which is more important.

This attitude kept me alive, anyway.
I'd probably get kilt today:)

kestrel said...

A lot of training depends on what the horse's job is going to be. I would NEVER train a horse to strike out, because our horses are lesson horses and are frequently around children. That cute trick of "shake hands horsie" could get a kid killed.

Moving the feet? Absolutely. Unless you happen to be on a 6 inch wide trail on the side of a mountain. Pulling a mule string.

The cute trick of "climb up on the object so the human will tell you how cute you are" has gotten quite a few horses into trouble.

I've seen way too many horses that misbehave to get attention from their owners when they have been trained using certain techniques. As with any training method, if the horse turns out to be a fruit loop the training was not properly done, and it doesn't matter what theory was used to train. It boils down to training the individual horse in a manner that it understands. Use whatever training tricks you can think of until you find one that works.

If a horse crowds me I want to be able to touch it and push it over to where I want it to stand. I do not want to have to resort to swinging leads and other BS. Especially when we're in the middle of doing a job like moving cattle.

Too many training styles are geared towards making the horse into a big dog who does not have a job or work ethic. Ground work used to be a step towards actually riding the horse, unless they were going to be circus trick horses.

My goal is to train horses that are safe, kind, and happy rideable, and understand the world around them. I do not want to have to tolerate some spoiled, "pay attention to me, do it my way or I'm allowed to hurt you" horse any more than I want to be around a biting dog or a spoiled kid. My definition of spoiled, by the way, is beings that think the world should accommodate them, and if it doesn't they feel entitled to resort to obnoxious, spiteful or dangerous behavior to get their own way.

There are a lot of training styles and theories. As long as horse and rider understand each other and work happily together, what does it matter? I am sick and tired of the closed minded people I have met who leap to judgment because someone else trains differently.

Amy said...

Good post, but I have something to add. My mare has been a pissy spoiled brat for a while. It's not that I was scared to discipline her- she has earned many smacks and pops with a whip from me. It's that I lacked the skill set to do it effectively.

I now have a wonderful trainer, who, by the way, believes that whips and crops are rarely necessary if you simply learn how to ride the horse. Licorice had several come-to-jesus meetings with her that involved *no* hitting... however, if she takes a nip at me or swings her ass into my space, you better believe she's getting a smack.

Anyway, my trainer is teaching me better ways to ride and communicate so that I can try other things before I swing the lunge whip or flog with the over-under. In a way, it's about being much more assertive and avoiding the problem, instead of being clumsy about my cues and then correcting aggressively, which is what I was doing.

kestrel said...

Developing timing takes a lot of time.
Knowing when to discipline and developing the instant ability to assess the problem and deal with it appropriately is a life long learning experience. Is it fear, confusion, pain or disobedience? Each situation has to be handled in a different way, and some horses can cycle through all modes in a minute, so our reactions have to be up to the task and embedded in our muscle memory.
Tools are just that. Tools. Used appropriately they are wonderful, used incorrectly they are dangerous.

bhm said...

Equus and Amy,
This isn't what TreX is talking about. Of course there are a number of ways pf disciplining a horse. We all realize that and employ those methods. Trex is talking about the fad of not disciplining horses and the consequences.

Good posts GL and Kes.

Amy said...

I understand that, but isn't not disciplining your horse effectively the same as not disciplining the horse at all? The end result was the same, my mare was a balking, bucking, refusing mess. Doing the wrong thing or doing something at the wrong time is just as bad as not doing anything at all.

Equus said...

I agree that most horses do respond to physical touch, I just - again - think that there is another way to do things first. Mare doesn't load? Sure, a smack does the job, but if you can make it so that the horse isn't questioning your leadership in the first place and just loads, you get a happier horse. Of course if a horse swings herself into me though, I am going to touch - to prevent her from injuring me. However I am then going to "fix" the reason she thought it was okay to run me over in the first place (earn her respect).

I actually do still touch the horse who has been physically abused - I don't let them "sit" usually. It is about the body language and how you touch (the whole process and thinking behind it all) as opposed to the actual touch. However I never touch a horse - abused or not - in "punishment".

Assertive but never aggressive.

"Moving the feet? Absolutely. Unless you happen to be on a 6 inch wide trail on the side of a mountain. Pulling a mule string."
That's why you don't go on that 6'' trail on the side of a mountain pulling a mule string without prior and proper preparation. That type of scenario is the LAST place I would like to be smacking a horse. Especially a horse I have taught to be light, sensitive, respectful, and trusting.

"The cute trick of "climb up on the object so the human will tell you how cute you are" has gotten quite a few horses into trouble."
Definitely a misused "trick" that has been misused from its original intentions and purposes. Too bad. A horse should never be "climbing onto things" without permission.

"If a horse crowds me I want to be able to touch it and push it over to where I want it to stand. I do not want to have to resort to swinging leads and other BS. Especially when we're in the middle of doing a job like moving cattle."
Personally, I'd rather the horse not crowd me in the first place (prior and proper preparation), or that he move off at least with the slightest body language.

"I am sick and tired of the closed minded people I have met who leap to judgment because someone else trains differently."
I have to agree. As a NH/classical trainer, I get it a lot. It becomes rather annoying after the first time.

My goal is not to "train" a horse but to develop the horse and to develop a partnership with said horse so that the horse is safe and a pleasure to work with. We do everything from the ground up :)

kestrel said...

Um, like I said. Being lectured by an NH'er or ANY trainer who claims to know 'the one and only way' is dreary indeed! People who insist on just repeating the new guru's fashionable techniques without realizing that the guru's own program has undergone many changes over the years, frequently don't understand or respect an individual horse's personality. Our reactions must be guided the horse's reactions.
I believe in using a common language, and calling an item what it is. Any interaction with a horse is training it, as they have their own social structure that does not include us unless we initiate interaction in some manner. A rope halter is similar to a war bridle in action, and a stick with a lash is a whip. The tools must be used carefully and with respect, or they are razors in a monkey's hand, as GL puts it!
Yes. It would be a no brainer that the horse on the trail absolutely MUST be perfectly trained. A trail horse MUST respond in a trained manner to touch. You are advocating "don't touch your horse." That makes no sense at all.
I want my horse to be soothed by touch, and respond in a safe manner when the out of control amateur, bear, or dog appears. Or the horse is distracted by a guy 200 feet down the cliff, in a wetsuit, in the river checking redds.
A touch to move a horse is not hitting the horse. A disciplinary smack, judiciously applied, is no different than putting pressure on the horse with a 'game.' I have noticed that PP is now warning people to not abuse the games and torment the horse with them. Good.
I do everything from the ground up, as do horsemen from every discipline, as has been done for centuries. That is not a new concept. Read Bill Dorrance.
In the real world of working horses circumstances arise when you don't have time to do anything but react, so you and your horse must be one. I very seldom find that in an NH horse. Usually the horse is entitled and spoiled.
PP is a very talented rider and trainer, but the stuff I see amateurs trying to emulate, following his advice, frequently gets horses and riders hurt.
Years of experience with horses will lead most trainers to the same conclusions, with variations in verbiage or small details, it's all a human and a horse in harmony.

kestrel said...

Oh, and Amy, I totally agree with you. Doing the wrong thing can be worse than doing nothing. NH techniques can work very well when put into a framework by an experienced trainer. Again, that's why I want to use precise language, because frequently we are saying the same thing. Let's not make human communication more difficult, but find the common ground.

Equus said...


"You are advocating "don't touch your horse."

"That is not a new concept."
The only thing "new" is how BNT's have packaged the training - to their credit though, it has allowed a great many people to see and treat their horses differently. On the other hand, not ALL individuals from ALL disciplines train their horses from the ground up. They should, but many do not, or do it incorrectly.

"In the real world of working horses circumstances arise when you don't have time to do anything but react, so you and your horse must be one. I very seldom find that in an NH horse. Usually the horse is entitled and spoiled."
I am very much aware of the real world of working horses - I live in it constantly. You and your horse MUST be one, definitely. It is a shame you have "seldom" found it in a NH horse though. I invite you out here to Alberta ;)

My point(s) seems to be flying over your head, so I'll stop there. I am not here to debate with you, but rather to enjoy Trainer X's posts. I simply had wanted to initially comment that there are other ways out there as well and that I disagreed somewhat with SOME of what she was saying (though for the most part, she was BANG ON). You are definitely grossly misunderstanding MY methods with my horses and are making a lot of very incorrect assumptions of myself, my techniques, and my horses. Keep your eyes open, and enjoy :)

kestrel said...

Speaking of errors of communication...you are quoting Kestrel, not GL. Don't blame her for my points of view! ;)
Your view points are going "over my head?!" Hardly. I'm simply pointing out some of the potential pitfalls inherent in following any BNT's advice to the exclusion of all else, and asking for clarification. My posts were not directed at you personally, so I am making no assumptions about you or your horse training. I ask from simple curiosity, what high level performance horses have been trained using PP's methods can you name? Stacy Westfall has won some major classes, so logically I would use her methods, plus I find her teaching manner safer, more accessible, and MUCH less expensive!
To reiterate, there are a lot of methods out there. Find one that turns out well mannered, happy horses that are safe and enjoy their jobs, suit your skill level and the horse's temperament and that's the goal.

bhm said...

You do realize that NH was taken from other training traditions and that it's nothing new only new packaging. You are not tell people anything that they haven't heard before. What gets on my nerves is the arrogance that comes with NH.

Equus said...

O'Connors, Karen Rohlf, Ian Miller (NH, not PP), etc. There are many out there (including competing at the Olympic level - PP helped one para-lympic rider specifically).

I wasn't blaming GL, just making a simple late-night mistake.

Equus said...

If you would like more "names", contact the Savvy Team.

"I'm simply pointing out some of the potential pitfalls inherent in following any BNT's advice to the exclusion of all else"
I'm just confused how this even came up or what it has to do with the convo.

GoLightly said...

oh, this is humourous, in a pathetic kind of way.

Ian MillAr, and, um, he's been riding/training/winning for a very, very long time.
Very savvy business man.
Can you spell endorsements?
Of course you can.
You're from Canada, and you can't remember Ian's last name? How many Olympics has he ridden in?

meanwhile, I read things on forums like "My horse SUDDENLY OUT OF A CLEAR BLUE SKY, dumped me/dragged me/stompled me. We had achieved level xxx. What happened?"
For shame, equus. Get over yourself. You do a novice no favours by encouraging a lack of assertion.

"aggressive". pah.

Assertion starts at the beginning of the conversation with the horse.
My conversation went like this.
Horse: OOOH, I am dancing with joy and nerves and my owner's long-standing ineptness.
Me: Get on the fciking trailer.
Horse: Oh, okay.

Savvy can be read and typed about. It cannot be bought, which is where frustration amongst the wannabe's flourishes, and the sales of the bogus training aids soar.

NH came up, because as usual, someone has to say, "Oh, MY horses would NeveR (fill in the blank), because I've bonded to his brain".
Until he acts like a horse, and kicks you in the head.

Let's put it this way, equus.
The barn is on fire. You must load this horse now. He won't load. Do you spend time making him move his feet, or do you touch him?

I did NOT "smack" the mare. As if I could have done anything other than make a noise.We were late, she needed to load.
Mare was never a problem again, with loading. Her owner remained a problem, forever.

As would any horse, who was allowed to say, "No, I don't WANT to", like a spoiled child.
You would stop and chat about it? Show him he can move his self sideways?

This whole convo makes me wonder, because it sounds as if equus believes it's all about NO physical force, not necessarily the reasoning behind the force. A touch can carry a lightning bolt. A growl can stop a kick.
You can't buy that kind of knowledge, it comes with experience and TALENT.

TOO funny.
I wasn't aware that so MANY horses in Albertaahhhh were so perfectly broke. Y'all must type in those super secret private forums. Funny, how "private" Alberta likes to be.

Ian Millar. Look him up.
NH Master? He already WAS, m'kay?

VERY Savvy in business. Look that up, too.

But yeah, horses are SO different now.


Equus said...

Do you REALLY have no better argument than a simple spelling error?

You have no idea who or what I am about, so do not assume I "teach novices lack of assertion". In fact I am constantly preaching the opposite. I get too many horses whose owners lacked assertiveness and the horses therefore learned they could walk all over their owner. It's got to be one of my biggest pet peeves to re-train. Which IS why I AGREED with Trainer X for the most part (what are we even arguing about again?).

That's right GL, I do NOT believe in physical FORCE. I never said I do not believe you can never touch a horse. You most definitely can. I just disagree with HOW it is done most times. Just as one example, physical FORCE was what got one of our TB's in trouble on the track (and I can assure you it never "made him behave" there), and lack thereof is what has turned him into a better-behaved horse who is no longer spiteful, unruly, or pushy (or scared). I definitely "touch" him, I just do not smack him in punishment. I don't have to.

Equus said...

By the way, I have never attacked you, I simply voiced my opinion in an original comment, just as you did. If this is simply a matter of difference in opinion, why stoop to the personal attacks GL? Can you not just agree that there are others out there who may handle horses differently than you with equal success?

bhm said...

I still don't think that you understand what GL is saying. Both her and Kes are saying that they realize that there are many ways to work with a horse and that assertiveness is taught in basic riding classes. If it's not then someone has not been taught well. The techniques and perspectives that you use is not unique to NH. In fact, it was appropriated from Classical dressage.

NH endorsements are meaningless because the endorser is being paid for his support. I've seen Ian Miller wave flags at his horses, but none have ever played the seven games or any other NH routine.

bhm said...

It's not a difference of opinion that's irritated everyone. It's the assertion that only you know and that your training is somehow radically different from everyone else's. We are all very aware of what NH teaches and choose to see it for the gimmicky fad that it is.

Equus said...

"The techniques and perspectives that you use is not unique to NH. In fact, it was appropriated from Classical dressage."
I KNOW. I have mentioned the same myself.

I never EVER implied that my training is somehow radically different from EVERYone else's. I just do not believe that. Read my posts.

This "argument" was not about my training method being different. It's not, it's been around for centuries and the type of training I do is being used by thousands globally. This is not something new and it is not something unique to me. That has NEVER been my point. Please just read my original post for goodness sakes.

kestrel said...

Lighten up girl! Your original post

"However I don't think that punishment or force is necessary."

is an absolute statement. We're just trying to warn you that with horses that kind of absolute can get you into trouble or hurt. In a perfect world the statement would be true. However, in the world of horses you really are going to run into one that will only respond to a swift solid smack (and then let it go) so to limit your options is dangerous. Especially since you teach.

After all, a smack, making the horse move it's feet, round penning, tapping with a whip, knotted halters, all are 'punishments' in that they make the horse uncomfortable until you get the reaction you want. You make the right thing easy and the wrong thing difficult for the horse.
I've seen abused horses that were never ever hit, but were nagged and tweaked to death. That type of horse appreciates the fact that they are not going to have to sit in the corner and listen to the teacher drone all day.

Equus said...

Karen Rohlf

"Force and battling have no place in my training method."
Walter Zettl

"...your horse becomes willing to do what you ask, and your horse problems are solved naturally and without force or punishment. You and your horse learn to work together in alignment with the horse's nature..."
Pat Parelli

Nope, I think I'll stick to a lack of force and punishment.

"We're just trying to warn you that with horses that kind of absolute can get you into trouble or hurt."
Thanks, but no thanks. I appreciate your care and compassion though for my well-being. I have been working with horses my entire life and "that kind of absolute" over the last 6 years (since I got into classical/NH) is what has kept me safe (MUCH safer than prior), successful with horses, and constantly learning.

"in the world of horses you really are going to run into one that will only respond to a swift solid smack"
Haven't met one yet that ONLY responded to a swift solid smack, in all my years working with and being around horses. There were times when that was all that was available to me, but it wasn't solving the root problem and I was aware of that and worked to change it (if the situation allowed).

The type of work I do on a horse does not involve nagging (in fact it is about the total opposite), tweaking, or punishment (what you are referring to is pressure, not punishment in response to a specific action the horse does).

Like I said, thanks for the warning, but it is not necessary. I spent years riding and working with horses in a manner that paralleled your ideology and one day I found the horse it DIDN'T work on - that horse FORCED me to change because force and punishment did NOT work whatsoever (in fact, it made his behaviour worse) on him...still doesn't to this day.

Take care :)

kestrel said...


bhm said...

You are correct about punishment. If you use negative deterrents such as a rope halter, carrot stick, or moving the feet, it works on the principle that a horse will choose a different behaviour to avoid the punishment. With deterrents there's no way to avoid punishment.

bhm said...

If you don't use deterrents(punishment) then you are left with reinforcements. I don't see you getting far with just treats and pats.

kestrel said...

BHM, thanks! Any good training program uses a combination of both incentive and deterrent/punishment, and any time we influence the horse we are training them, good or bad. Changing the terminology does not negate our influence.