Horses that have been 'cowboyed'
   

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Horses that have been 'cowboyed'

This is a discussion on Horses that have been 'cowboyed' within the Horse Training forums, part of the Training Horses category
  • Desensitizing horses to leg pressure
  • Horse desensitized to harsh training

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  • 2 Post By Lakotababii
  • 3 Post By christopher
  • 1 Post By OuttatheBlue
  • 1 Post By Wallaby
  • 1 Post By OuttatheBlue
  • 2 Post By mom2pride

 
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    04-25-2012, 05:50 PM
  #1
Weanling
Horses that have been 'cowboyed'

I don't like the term- but you all know what I mean. The horse that has been spurred, yanked, etc. etc. to where they just point, yank and kick with those harsh bits and huge spurs. What are your opinions on retraining them?

Me personally- I'm a big fan of working with a clean slate rather than fix others mistakes. BUT I've been riding a lot of the horses for even more experience before I go ride at college and to keep ME in riding shape :) Well one of the horses is a CUTE little guy with one of the most level heads ever (reminds me of my own horse, so I have a soft spot for him) BUT I can tell he has been 'cowboyed' a lot.

His owner was told by said previous rider (the 'cowboyer' if you will) to ride him in a twisted snaffle otherwise she wouldn't be able to control him (also said he was rode pretty rough by this gentleman). When I first rode this horse it was very interesting. The first ride I got on, and he was ready to go off the slightest leg movement! We did circles, and got a good solid stop (that's my favorite thing to teach horses, haha. I like to be able to drop the reins and have the horse not move an inch) BUT I began noticing things... with leg pressure this horse is off like a rocket. His head was high and constantly yanking the reins out of my hands (not a pull, he's learned to give the largest yank I've ever felt a horse do!) when I asked him to back with some leg pressure he started quivering because (I assume) he's only been taught that leg pressure means forward and was confused.

I've switched his bit to a plain snaffle, and that's helped with the yanking and head being so high. I've done a lot of desensitizing to the leg and that's helped a lot too. I just can't imagine what a person would have to do to make a horse act like that! They want the horse to be shown walk trot by their kids, which I know he'll be able to do. This horse has such a great head! I've taken him up to 10 mile trail rides and nothings spooks him, even if it spooks the other horses! He is a fantastic horse. I've seen and ridden horses poorly trained, green broke, or even just barely broke before, but none that got so worked up and worried when given slight leg cues.

All that said, I do respect true cowboys and their horses- the term 'cowboyed' is just what we use around here and I think of a better synonym. I just got back from the barn and am stuck at home for a while so I thought it would be interesting to see if anyone else has dealt with this- or their thoughts. NOT to be bashing actual cowboys- this is focusing more on the actual training.
     
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    04-25-2012, 07:24 PM
  #2
Yearling
Personally I love to be optimistic with these horses that have been rough housed so to speak.

I always think of it this way: You rode him even though he was scared, has been roughly handled, and was uncomfortable with what you were doing, and yet he tried to figure out what you wanted and responded to you without aggression or acting out. That's a pretty good horse in my opinion.

Yes, it is much harder to work with a "ruined" horse because you have to train them twice, once to clean their slate and get rid of all the bad habits and improper training, and then again to teach them the proper way (although this usually happens simultaneously, it is much more time consuming and difficult). But, like I said, think positive. This horse had it pretty rough in his beginnings, and yet he is still willing to learn from you. I'd say that shows he has some real potential to be a good horse.

You will have your ups and downs, but he should not be too hard to retrain, it will just take some time and patience.

I believe the main problem you may run into is his ability to ignore pressure. The reason spurs, harsh bits, etc., don't work when used incorrectly (cowboying) is because they desensitize horses to pressure in the worst way possible. Your challenge is to get him to respond again to slight pressure.

I always keep in mind something I read in a John Lyons book. Horses can sense a fly on their skin and shake it off instantly. They can feel that pressure with the slightest touch, so harsh amounts of pressure are not necessary unless they don't listen in the first place (and that's only to teach the lightness), which unfortunately is what this horse has learned. The trick is to teach them to respond to your cues with the lightness of a simple little fly
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    04-25-2012, 07:34 PM
  #3
Weanling
I think you're mistaking cowboyers for idiots.
     
    04-25-2012, 07:39 PM
  #4
Weanling
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lakotababii    
Personally I love to be optimistic with these horses that have been rough housed so to speak.

I always think of it this way: You rode him even though he was scared, has been roughly handled, and was uncomfortable with what you were doing, and yet he tried to figure out what you wanted and responded to you without aggression or acting out. That's a pretty good horse in my opinion.

Yes, it is much harder to work with a "ruined" horse because you have to train them twice, once to clean their slate and get rid of all the bad habits and improper training, and then again to teach them the proper way (although this usually happens simultaneously, it is much more time consuming and difficult). But, like I said, think positive. This horse had it pretty rough in his beginnings, and yet he is still willing to learn from you. I'd say that shows he has some real potential to be a good horse.

You will have your ups and downs, but he should not be too hard to retrain, it will just take some time and patience.

I believe the main problem you may run into is his ability to ignore pressure. The reason spurs, harsh bits, etc., don't work when used incorrectly (cowboying) is because they desensitize horses to pressure in the worst way possible. Your challenge is to get him to respond again to slight pressure.

I always keep in mind something I read in a John Lyons book. Horses can sense a fly on their skin and shake it off instantly. They can feel that pressure with the slightest touch, so harsh amounts of pressure are not necessary unless they don't listen in the first place (and that's only to teach the lightness), which unfortunately is what this horse has learned. The trick is to teach them to respond to your cues with the lightness of a simple little fly
Haha lately I've been riding my lazier gelding where I have the opposite problem- so maybe the difference surprised me more than it would have a few years ago when I rode my more sensitive gelding.

I don't mind a horse that's quick to react, but I love being able to wrap my legs around a horse to push them into the bit without them rocketing away.

The way this horse acted though when I asked for very simple things.. He was trying VERY hard and I could tell he was expecting a negative reaction to whatever I thought was 'wrong'. He is a great horse though! I love every bit of him, can't believe some people for ruining what great horses they have.

Quote:
Originally Posted by christopher    
i think you're mistaking cowboyers for idiots.
I think you found the term I was looking for :)
     
    04-25-2012, 07:40 PM
  #5
Weanling
I've retrained many. I always take them straight back to the beginning until they stop expecting to be beaten. It can take a long time, and takes a lot of patience.
'Problem' horses are my niche.
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    04-25-2012, 07:44 PM
  #6
Weanling
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lins    
I've retrained many. I always take them straight back to the beginning until they stop expecting to be beaten. It can take a long time, and takes a lot of patience.
'Problem' horses are my niche.
Posted via Mobile Device
Surprisingly in my area I haven't run into too many horses that have been mistreated training wise! I've seen poor riding/training but nothing horrendous.

The now owners of this horse are fantastic and love him so much! He's in a great home right now, he gets lead around by these little girl who love him so much :) One of the girls walked up to me while I was riding and said, "You better not be mean to him or else...." and then 'rawred' at me. SO CUTE!
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    04-25-2012, 08:20 PM
  #7
Super Moderator
You got some really great responses here. :)

Lacey was pretty "broken" (not in a "dead broke" sense but in a "mentally gone" sense) when I got her. Her previous owners were very very back and forth with her. One moment she'd have zero rules and the next minute she was being "idiot-ed" (LOL!) for breaking a obscure rule that hadn't existed previously.

One person, the woman, her "real" owner, would let her do anything. There were no rules, it was just "what does Lacey want to do today?" all the time.
That woman's sons were the exact opposite. They expected perfection, without training, from the get go. They also wanted to do a ton of running, which is the worst idea ever with a hot young Arab.

Anyway, when I got her, she had spent 23 years with these people. Thankfully they had retired her when she was 10-15ish because she was "out of hand" so she was able to forget some of what they "taught" her.
She had learned that mistakes were the worst and should never happen, and she should never try new behaviors because they would end in mistakes and she'd probably die. If she happened to make a mistake, she could just turn into a whirling dervish and scare her rider into getting off, therefore escaping punishment! I'd just try to cue her for something with no goal in mind, she'd do it imperfectly and FREAK OUT. She thought it was a pretty handy plan. And it had worked for her!

Anyway, I learned that I needed to be as calm as she was excited. I once read someone on here describe it like this: if your energy and your horse's energy were numbers, together your total number should be a 10. So, if your horse is being really crazy and excited, perhaps an 8, you should be just as calm and laidback, a 2. If your horse is being super lazy, a 3, you should be energetic and getting him/her involved, a 7. And so on.

At first, I'd just get on and sit there (since Lacey's favorite habit back then was to freak out, via bolting and rearing as violently as she could, as soon as anyone got in the saddle), with absolutely no energy. It took a while for me to master (try 8 months! Lol) but it's almost like a sort of medative state. Like, you're present on the horse's back but you aren't really influencing the horse beyond keeping him/her from hurting themselves. You're just sitting there, not really requesting anything, just letting the horse figure out that they aren't dying and that you're safe.

At first, with Lacey, she'd get done with her original freaking out but as soon as I requested that she do anything, "Captain Freak Out" was back. For a few months, all we did was I'd sit there, on her back, and she'd go from one thing to the next, freaking out. Pretty quickly, her episodes became more and more brief but she'd still have little fits over everything.
After a few months, she finally figured out that that scaring me thing wasn't working too well so she started just doing stuff when I asked her to do it.


She's still triggered by certain things and she still isn't comfortable with mistakes but she's learned that I'm not going to push her too far or annihilate her for doing something wrong so she will give a "best effort" try at least once to most new things I ask of her. If she fails that first try, it's very difficult to get her to try again but she's coming along. Now I can push her buttons waaay past what I used to be able to, it just took a lot of time and trust. There are deep down buttons I could push, and don't, because I don't feel like dying but thankfully all her easily found buttons have been desensitized.

Anyway, just remember to keep your energy low when his is high and you'll be good, Pretend you're one of those dummies people sometimes strap to young horses to get them used to weight on their backs before their first rider gets on. Or a Buddhist Monk, horseback riding style...

Good luck with him! :)
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    04-25-2012, 09:05 PM
  #8
Weanling
Quote:
Originally Posted by Wallaby    
You got some really great responses here. :)

Lacey was pretty "broken" (not in a "dead broke" sense but in a "mentally gone" sense) when I got her. Her previous owners were very very back and forth with her. One moment she'd have zero rules and the next minute she was being "idiot-ed" (LOL!) for breaking a obscure rule that hadn't existed previously.

One person, the woman, her "real" owner, would let her do anything. There were no rules, it was just "what does Lacey want to do today?" all the time.
That woman's sons were the exact opposite. They expected perfection, without training, from the get go. They also wanted to do a ton of running, which is the worst idea ever with a hot young Arab.

Anyway, when I got her, she had spent 23 years with these people. Thankfully they had retired her when she was 10-15ish because she was "out of hand" so she was able to forget some of what they "taught" her.
She had learned that mistakes were the worst and should never happen, and she should never try new behaviors because they would end in mistakes and she'd probably die. If she happened to make a mistake, she could just turn into a whirling dervish and scare her rider into getting off, therefore escaping punishment! I'd just try to cue her for something with no goal in mind, she'd do it imperfectly and FREAK OUT. She thought it was a pretty handy plan. And it had worked for her!

Anyway, I learned that I needed to be as calm as she was excited. I once read someone on here describe it like this: if your energy and your horse's energy were numbers, together your total number should be a 10. So, if your horse is being really crazy and excited, perhaps an 8, you should be just as calm and laidback, a 2. If your horse is being super lazy, a 3, you should be energetic and getting him/her involved, a 7. And so on.

At first, I'd just get on and sit there (since Lacey's favorite habit back then was to freak out, via bolting and rearing as violently as she could, as soon as anyone got in the saddle), with absolutely no energy. It took a while for me to master (try 8 months! Lol) but it's almost like a sort of medative state. Like, you're present on the horse's back but you aren't really influencing the horse beyond keeping him/her from hurting themselves. You're just sitting there, not really requesting anything, just letting the horse figure out that they aren't dying and that you're safe.

At first, with Lacey, she'd get done with her original freaking out but as soon as I requested that she do anything, "Captain Freak Out" was back. For a few months, all we did was I'd sit there, on her back, and she'd go from one thing to the next, freaking out. Pretty quickly, her episodes became more and more brief but she'd still have little fits over everything.
After a few months, she finally figured out that that scaring me thing wasn't working too well so she started just doing stuff when I asked her to do it.


She's still triggered by certain things and she still isn't comfortable with mistakes but she's learned that I'm not going to push her too far or annihilate her for doing something wrong so she will give a "best effort" try at least once to most new things I ask of her. If she fails that first try, it's very difficult to get her to try again but she's coming along. Now I can push her buttons waaay past what I used to be able to, it just took a lot of time and trust. There are deep down buttons I could push, and don't, because I don't feel like dying but thankfully all her easily found buttons have been desensitized.

Anyway, just remember to keep your energy low when his is high and you'll be good, Pretend you're one of those dummies people sometimes strap to young horses to get them used to weight on their backs before their first rider gets on. Or a Buddhist Monk, horseback riding style...

Good luck with him! :)
Wow good job with Lacy!! I loved reading your story :) You guys must have such a great bond.

Luckily this guy isn't that bad except for some bad habits... it's more of his fear! I've never had a horse quiver from fear of the RIDER (or assumed punishment) before!

Having 0 energy is one of my strengths ;) I LOVE teaching horses to 'woah' and 'chill out'. I will sit there dead weight, with loose reins and expect the horse to stand calm. The first time this guy was nervous- he was trying to figure out what job he was supposed to do and started to panic he was missing something. If he moved, I would get him to stop, put him back in the same spot and relax again. Now he stands like a champ because he understands that is his job!

I rode one of my friends horses while she was unable to for a couple of weeks, when she came back she said she was very impressed with his 'woah!' She said she was trotting along, said 'woah' and he stopped so much quicker than before it threw her forward! Ever since she mentioned that I realized I LOVE teaching horses to 'woah' and just chill. Such a weird thing to enjoy... haha. I think I relate it to the many trail rides I've been on when an accident/something bad happens and I was on a horse that just wouldn't stand or stop adding stress to the situation for rider and horse. It's a good thing for a horse to know how to relax and trust a rider :)
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    04-25-2012, 10:15 PM
  #9
Trained
My mare has a very 'uncertain' history, but one thing that I do know about her past is that she was definitely used similar to your guy. Only she developed a very bad habit out of it, that possibly led to her being left at the place where I had gotten her from. They had intended on keeping her as a trail horse, since the boarders decided to sell her. They disclosed nothing of her history. The new owners couldn't even mount her...she bucked and bolted before you could even get a foot in the stirrup. Having dealt with "problem horses" before, I decided to take my chances on her.

When I got her, I didn't even attempt to saddle, or bridle her up, I spent the next solid two weeks just working on the ground. Catching her was atleast a half hour work out. She was used to being cornered and caught...I just let her trot around until she figured it out that standing still and allowing me to approach her was okay. I wouldn't even halter her right away, I would just rub her body all over, and if she moved off, I would let her, and just keep her moving until she stopped again. Gradually the time periods got shorter, and catching her was easier.

Once on halter and lead, she was actually pretty respectful...although she didn't know how to lunge, didn't know how to yield her fore, or hind quarters, didn't know how to do sending exercises...none of that. Picking up her feet was another small battle...she wasn't mean...she was scared; like you were going to hit her if she moved...so she would pick up her foot for me, and then quickly move her whole body away. So she learned how to ground tie really fast, as well, so I could move her feet when she wanted to do that; she caught on to both really quickly. I spent alot of time just rubbing her legs up and down with my handy stick (in case she kicked out), especially her hind legs so she could get used to someone touching her all over without being afraid.

In about a week, I had her ground work pretty well touched up; she would lunge pretty well, flexed both ways, would send between a fence and myself, yielded her hind/forequarters, etc...so I started introducing tack when I worked her...saddles and such didn't really bother her, but sliding a bridle on did so we had to spend alot of time working on lowering her head. It's her ears that bother her, mainly the right side, so even now I have to remember to spend some occasional time desensitizing, so she doesn't fall into that 'freak out' pattern.

She handled everything up to that point pretty well up to me approaching a mounting block and becoming 'higher' than her. That freaked her out for a while, but I just sent her back and forth (enter the importance of the ground work I had put into her). Instead of just standing there snorting, she had to focus her energy into what I was asking her to do...move back and forth in front of me. When she was calming down, I would have her stop...right next to me, as if I were going to mount; only I wouldn't, I would just have her stop and rest for a moment or two. When she got uneasy, I would put her feet back to work. When she calmed, I would bring her back to a halt, right where I would mount. In doing so I was teaching her 2 things; 1) me being 'higher' than her was okay 2) I was also teaching her 'where' to stop in relation to where I was standing...making it easy later on, to mount her anywhere; and it is, btw.

I continued the "mounting block" exercise for about 2 days. By that time, it had been about 2 weeks since I had owned her, and I felt after that time she was calm enough, and soft enough in all of her exercises, namely giving to side to side pressure (so I knew I could do a one rein stop if necessary!), and I got on and had a calm level headed first ride.

She's like your guy, though, even to this day, is extremely, extremely forward!!! I have to really focus her energy, and keep myself focused, and calm, so I don't 'breathe' any further energy into her! Most days this isn't an issue, but there are times I wish she wasn't so foward. She does have a good stop, and is amazing on the trail...she will literally go anywhere I point and nothing fazes her out there. But she is so sensitive to leg pressure...I couldn't imagine ever putting a spur on her; I can get her to shift just with my upper body, let alone alot of leg.

I don't understand the mentality behind folks who feel they have to control a horse with a heavy bit and huge spurs; especially the mentality behind either of those is "light, light, light" in the first place!!!! I have NO issues with people who ride in curb bits, or spurs IF they are ridden in properly...but half of horses don't experience that, sadly. And then it takes years to 'retrain' some of these horses that everytime a person gets on, doesn't mean you have to be on your toes. Sorry, rant over...

I have tried riding in mild curb bits, and while she will respond, I can tell she is much more nervous, and one of them she did raise her head and tried to run through; and this is a horse I ride trails with in a rope halter, or simple snaffle. I haven't tried one in over a year, so I'm not sure how she would be now that we have another year's of work under our belt. But really, since we don't show, in a way, I don't see a point...she is calm, obedient, and willing in what I ride her in, and that is what counts.
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