Bonding, trust, respect and other word games
 
 

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Bonding, trust, respect and other word games

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  • Bonding games with spooky horse
  • Respect bonding

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    04-14-2013, 05:12 PM
  #1
Banned
Bonding, trust, respect and other word games

As the demographic for this board skews younger and younger and more towards the non-horse owner or first time horse owner, I see this words used (and misused) more and more often in the title and text of posts.

Here is my two cents, based on my experience, on those terms and what they actually mean in terms of practical training.
First, bond, as is “How do I bond with my horse?”, “Do we have a good bond?” and “He would never kick me, we have a bond.” A lot of video and DVD trainers make this sound magical and mystical. It doesn’t have to be. A bond comes from time and training, and training without fear, confusion or pain. That’s it. Spend time with the horse, asking it, in a clear and unequivocal manner, to do incrementally more complex tasks. Do this while rewarding the correct behavior and avoiding pain and fear, and you’ll create a bond. You can do it with twirling lead rope, rope halters and carrot sticks if you like or you can do it the traditional way good horseman have for centuries; you can do it from the ground or you can do it from the saddle. Feeding treats doesn’t create a bond, it creates a treat hound. Nothing wrong with feeding treats if you wish, but if your horse whickers when he sees you, it’s because you’ve conditioned him to anticipate treats, not because of your “bond.” If you don’t increase difficulty by increments, but repeat the same exercise that the horse has mastered over and over until the horse is bored, guess what? No bond, just a ticked off horse.

Trust goes hand in hand with “bond” and is built much the same way. Time and training without pain or fear. However, a lot of horse people misunderstand what creates pain and fear. They think of the obvious; such as violent abuse; but don’t think about badly fitting tack, clashing aids, poor riding, incorrect shoeing, teeth issues, subtle lamenesses or muscle issues causing more pain than a beating. They wouldn’t ask a horse to jump through a flaming hoop; but don’t understand how walking onto a trailer, being ridden double, crossing water, walking on uncertain footing or having someone or something run up behind them creates more fear than that flaming hoop.

How do you know if your horse respects you? Does he do what you what him to do, within reason, promptly and cheerfully? No jumping through flaming hoops necessary, but does he pick up his feet without fuss, move away from pressure, and lead without coming into your space? Go forward promptly when you ask for forward? Or is hoof picking and leading a bit of a battle, handling for the vet and farrier a struggle? Are you an ask-tell-demand handler or an ask-whine-beg-plead-promise treats handler? Do you allow the horse to say “No, I won’t do it!” to you? Have they said “No” and gotten away with it? There’s your answer.

In Littauer’s system of riding and training, the goal of elementary level is authority over the horse and he describes exactly what that means and why you can not progress in riding and training without it. But the word “authority” is out of fashion, because it sounds harsh. Nobody likes that word, or “dominance” or “assert control” because they just sound mean. But guess what? It’s a word game. When Littauer was talking about authority over the horse, he’s talking about exactly the same thing today’s online and DVD trainers are talking about when they use the term respect. I don’t think that’s a coincidence, I think trainers trying to market their products understand that bond, trust, respect and partnership are much more palatable to their target audience than authority, control or dominance even though they mean the same thing.

Some examples:

All three of my current horses will walk up to me in the pasture to say hello, without being called and without food. Does this mean that they love me? No, not in the romantic, emotional sense; but in the horse sense maybe it does. I am the alpha horse in their herd, and they associate me with security and comfort. So they like be close by me, in the same way horses will stay close to the alpha in a herd. But that doesn’t mean they’ll go get help to when I’m stuck in a well, or that they spend their days drawing my initials and hearts on their horsey notebooks.

I bought the little gray horse in my avatar for my business as a 4 year old with 30 days training on him; my intent was to make him up as either a suitable horse for a student in my program or a school horse. He was a sweetheart, though he hadn’t had much handling, no one had ever hurt or scared him, so he was a lovely little guy to bring along, smart and willing. So, in the spring of his 5 year old year, after a long series of schooling shows, hauling out to clinics and cross country schools and a couple of combined tests, I entered him at Beginner Novice in a little unrecognized Horse Trial. At this venue, there was a long section in the middle of the cross country course, over a ridge, where you couldn’t see any of the rings, schooling areas or trailers. In fact, the only things you could see were the jump judges. And as we’re galloping along on XC, I am suddenly aware that the little horse is VERY alert, and that I could feel his heart pounding through my boots. He was anxious because while we certainly worked on hacking out alone and working away from the group; we were in a strange place, doing something new and suddenly he couldn’t see any other horses. I was worried that I was asking too much of him, but when I put my leg on, he went forward, and when I pointed him at a fence I could feel him focus a little, as if he was saying “Whew! This, I know how to do!” So in the end, he jumped around clean, it was a good experience, and he went on to do well at some recognized horse trials in the coming weeks and move up to Novice in short order.

Did he continue to perform while anxious and worried because of our bond? Because of trust, respect and partnership? You could say that. Or you could say that I had trained him properly, exposing him to lots of different things in a logical sequence while gradually increasing difficulty, never allowing him to say no and thus building confidence. Same thing, right? Just word games.

Please don’t think I am mocking people with romantic notions about love, trust and partnership with their horses. I was a young, romantic, emotional horseperson once, and somewhere there’s an embarrassing short story I wrote in high school about an incident on the trail being proof that a horse loved me and that I was his true owner, not the annoying lady who paid his board. I was not immune to that sort of thinking, and shedding that way of thinking was a process that took years. What I am telling you is that the sooner you see horses and training as they really are, rather than the romanticized, idealized notion of what you want them to be, your riding and training will improve.
     
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    04-14-2013, 06:45 PM
  #2
Green Broke
Exactly.

I also take issue with the desensitizing that so many do, so much so that they flood the horse, and may well make him more fearful instead of calm.

I use rub rags for grooming. By time horse has had that around and on him, over and over, he is pretty chilled out about things, and since it has been handled the same way all the time? It does not worry about new things.

This is why I could lead a Saddlebred to the ring, leg up trainer after having passed a multitude of people carrying balloons, pushing strollers with screaming kids, weird hats, umbrella, and making noise and past the Carnival rides on the Midway.

Because the horse knew I was in charge, and that all of it was just something else to deal with. And I didn't give him time to get upset, nor did I pay any attention nor try to soothe horse either. Just did what needed to be done.

Babying, soothing, or being excessive in trying to despook a horse all can make your calm horse into a trembling idiot, fearful of everything that exists.
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    04-14-2013, 07:13 PM
  #3
Showing
Fantastic post, Maura. Excellent.
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    04-14-2013, 07:21 PM
  #4
Started
I am wondering if there is a happy medium between, the guy on the Budweiser commercial that sends his horse to Budweiser and hasn't seen him for three years, attends the parade the horse was being driven in, walks away thinking the horse would not remember him, only to have the horse run down the street to him....and.....the guy that treats his horse like a robot with no concern of the horse's well being, only to win the competitions he is in and never even cares to talk to his horse????

I say this because I always go back to my first horse....a crazy 16 year old QH mare who was never ridden because anyone that tried to get on her bareback would get thrown and she would not stand still long enough to ever get a saddle on her. Of course, I did not know all of this information when I got her, as a new horse owner, who was clueless from every direction. I trained her myself, since the trainer got hurt the first time she tried to lunge her and she refused to work with her again. I had no experience and just kind of went with the flow of things how I felt I needed to. This horse eventually let me get a saddle on her and a bridle. She wouldn't let anyone else. I slowly started riding her and eventually we were trail buddies. Again, she wouldn't let anyone else ride her....or even handle her pretty much without going bezerk and even hurting someone. She was a flighty spooky mess of a horse and I had so much trust in her. I wish I could give my current two horses, who are polar opposites, the same trust sometimes. So, if my QH and I didn't have a bond, what is the logical explanation? I mean, I had no horse training that probably even made sense at the time. I had no order or training that would make sense to the horse probably. She had never gone to formal training of any kind, except for that one day.
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    04-14-2013, 08:35 PM
  #5
Green Broke
Maura, you made my day!

I believe that a "bond"(I dislike the word) comes from correct training and putting it to work just like you described. I find the same with my horses and dogs. The proof is in the pudding, my horses actually become easier to catch with the more work they get. Whereas you hear the complaints about "my horse is hard to catch because he knows he is going to get rode" or "we don't have a bond". The thinking is completely ass backwards, in my opinion.
Give direct, clear training and a job that gives purpose to the training! With that becomes a horse that wants to work and looks forward to you showing up with a halter rather than a handful of cookies.
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    04-14-2013, 08:48 PM
  #6
Started
So I guess it would be safe to say that she reacted to me because of the consistency of interaction between the two of us? I can see that. I was very consistent with her. So would obviously react very different with people who weren't consistent with her which were very few.

It's just wierd though, because this horse would overreact to everything and be the most scared horse on a group trail ride. However, it would turn out that the other 'well trained people/horses' would be the ones who would get in trouble. My horse was nervous and scared, but she never did anything to get me in trouble, as a beginner rider. She would chomp on her bit, trot and jig with her eyes as big as saucers. But she would never bolt, buck, rear etc.

Now, if another rider rode her, she would buck or reach around and try to bite their feet in the stirrups. If I would lead her on the ground, she would be quiet and do exactly as I asked. If another person would, she would spin circles and whinny and run over them.

Like I said, I have my two great horses now, that are faaaaaar less dangerous....and I don't have that same confidence. It is developing and it's getting there, but not like with my QH mare.
     
    04-14-2013, 09:10 PM
  #7
Green Broke
Quote:
Originally Posted by Oldhorselady    
So I guess it would be safe to say that she reacted to me because of the consistency of interaction between the two of us? I can see that. I was very consistent with her. So would obviously react very different with people who weren't consistent with her which were very few.

It's just wierd though, because this horse would overreact to everything and be the most scared horse on a group trail ride. However, it would turn out that the other 'well trained people/horses' would be the ones who would get in trouble. My horse was nervous and scared, but she never did anything to get me in trouble, as a beginner rider. She would chomp on her bit, trot and jig with her eyes as big as saucers. But she would never bolt, buck, rear etc.

Now, if another rider rode her, she would buck or reach around and try to bite their feet in the stirrups. If I would lead her on the ground, she would be quiet and do exactly as I asked. If another person would, she would spin circles and whinny and run over them.

Like I said, I have my two great horses now, that are faaaaaar less dangerous....and I don't have that same confidence. It is developing and it's getting there, but not like with my QH mare.
Somewhat similar story...
Went to try out for a job with a trainer. He saddled a big bay filly and said lope her a round. I noticed her a little tight, I walked her out to the track, circled her twice in both directions and climbed on. Rode her with no issues. Come to find out, the guy who started her and the previous three lopers had problems with her and bucked them all off. Did I have a "bond" with the filly? No, I just let her be and I had no idea that she had bucked everyone off and expected a fight when they climbed on. Everyone else picked at her, trying to fix the problems. Some of it was just being oblivious in my younger years, but I didn't go to picking at her and trying to get something out of her, I just rode her for a couple of months. THEN came the training and the job. A lot of that comes from feel and understanding of what the horse needs. It is all about getting in the head. I suspect you, like the bay filly and I, at the time you didn't realize that you were doing the horse a great service by leaving them alone by getting along and going along, then the training and understanding came with time not necessarily a bond.
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    04-14-2013, 09:16 PM
  #8
Super Moderator
I have never owned a horse, so maybe a "bond" hasnt' been a concern of mine. But, one does build an understanding of and with the horse. But , that takes time. I think it takes at least half a year to feel like you have the beginning of this "understanding". Not a bond, per se, but a place where you have a much better sense of how a horse will respond to any kind of situation they find themselves in, and how to get the most oout of them.
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    04-14-2013, 09:18 PM
  #9
Started
Quote:
Originally Posted by COWCHICK77    
Somewhat similar story...
Went to try out for a job with a trainer. He saddled a big bay filly and said lope her a round. I noticed her a little tight, I walked her out to the track, circled her twice in both directions and climbed on. Rode her with no issues. Come to find out, the guy who started her and the previous three lopers had problems with her and bucked them all off. Did I have a "bond" with the filly? No, I just let her be and I had no idea that she had bucked everyone off and expected a fight when they climbed on. Everyone else picked at her, trying to fix the problems. Some of it was just being oblivious in my younger years, but I didn't go to picking at her and trying to get something out of her, I just rode her for a couple of months. THEN came the training and the job. A lot of that comes from feel and understanding of what the horse needs. It is all about getting in the head. I suspect you, like the bay filly and I, at the time you didn't realize that you were doing the horse a great service by leaving them alone by getting along and going along, then the training and understanding came with time not necessarily a bond.

Yes I agree with taking your time and not expecting too much from them. The trainer, barn owner, my daughter were all ready to throw a saddle on her the next day after bringing her home and expecting her to go right into 'training'. Within two days, that was all over and they were all telling me to sell her and she would never be ridden, she was too dangerous. I was in no hurry to ride, still recovering from my broken ankle from my first trail ride on a leased horse. I didn't expect to ride, maybe ever. Also, with me being new to horses, I took things very slowly and always did the same thing because I was trying to learn too...lol. No matter what, that horse was such a special horse to me. She taught me so much, whether it was real or mental. I had her for six wonderful years. She never hurt me once.
     
    04-14-2013, 09:34 PM
  #10
Showing
Fantastic post and I very much agree. I'm absolutely an ask, tell, demand person. I also don't care for the word bond, at least not in the sense that some are looking for. I think a lot of the current trends in a way glorify a type of relationship, more like a friendship and I think that gets a lot of folks in trouble. I don't need nor seek a "bond" with my horses, I want a horse that does what I say, when I say and at what speed I asked for. When you have that type of working relationship with your horse, that illusive "bond" that most are looking for is just par for the course and comes in form of a well mannered, responsive, tuned into you horse.
     

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