Keeping your horse from losing its good training
   

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Keeping your horse from losing its good training

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  • Keeping a well trained horse trained

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    03-04-2014, 12:31 PM
  #1
Foal
Keeping your horse from losing its good training

We got a very well trained horse about a year ago. She ground ties and was very solid in often spooky situations for a horse. I even trimmed our trees from her back when we'd had her for a month or so and she sat calm while I reached up with the loppers and while branches fell around us. Its not that things didn't make her nervous, its that she behaved and followed directions regardless.

Fast forward a year and I believe she's doing fantastic. She still neck reins, she's learning to move off of leg pressure alone, she still ground ties etc...but when I tried to trim our trees this year, she danced around and was difficult. Now I'm not sure trimming trees from horseback is the safest idea to begin with...but it certainly felt safe last year and did not this year.

I'm looking for some advice about whats needed here. She gets ridden regularly and does her ground work nicely. She has not been ridden off of our property for the last year however. She's for my young daughter to ride and I'm just not comfortable allowing her to ride off property just yet - though that is a goal of ours. I do her ground work and have worked with her on moving just from leg pressure. She's a very attentive, docile horse that learns quickly. The only problem we've had with her until now has been related to the farrier. She lets both me and my daughter lift her feet (she lifts them for us when we ask) and work with them with picks, hoof knives, files etc but she would get excited and disobedient with the farrier. He's been our farrier for years and her reaction was on first sight of him rather then from how he works with her. We only recently got that under control by having me lift her feet and position them on the hoof stand. Once I placed her foot, she'd let him work on them, but if he tried to lift her hind feet, she used to kick him, dance away etc. Now she's letting him lift her hinds and work on them without problem. I assumed her behavior was a problem with farriers in general and related to shoeing, but I have no idea really. She was shod when we got her and we switched her to bare foot which she does very well with, even on gravel.

I've never sacked her out at all and I'm wondering if that's whats missing here? I was told before that I should ride her off property some to keep her training level up and I haven't...though I certainly can if its needed. I never sacked her out because she seemed so solid under stress but I can see that was from her training, not her inborn personality. Our other horse thinks feedbags, tarps etc are toys for him to play with, she sees them as things to accept because she's told too.

Since she's my little girls horse, I'm now wondering if I was mistaken about this horse being a good choice for a little girl. If we can get her training back to where it was when we got her, is this horse likely to make a decent horse for a child? Most importantly, what do I need to do to get this horse back to where she was about scary things?

I've been watching a lot of videos and reading a lot about sacking out and I think its something I could successfully do as it doesn't sound a lot different from working with autistic children to overcome hypersensitivities and fear, and I'm successful in that. Is it about the same or do I have a wrong imagine of sacking out?

I can call in her original trainer if needed but I'd prefer not to. I'd much prefer it if we can keep her training up to where it should be ourselves.
     
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    03-04-2014, 07:58 PM
  #2
Yearling
You've got to work on your own skills in handling and training horses. It all comes back to this: the horse performs to the level of the person. The same applies on the ground as under saddle. If you want the mare to maintain a higher standard of behavior and confidence, all those things have to come from the rider. The good news is that as you get better at horses, what you become in the process becomes its own reward! (a horseman).

Sacking out can be good so long as the horse isn't too overexposed and can help in other areas than just getting used to plastic bags in and of itself. Watching DVDs is great - and the more different teachers the better. Finding those similarities in methods and wrestling with their apparent contradictions. I love those contradictions - every time I find one it serves as a reminder that there are a thousand different ways to do anything that may all work depending on the horse, the person, the situation, the past, the future, the color of the plastic bags or whether the wind was blowing that day or a raccoon jumped out of a bush at you. Get all the information from more knowledgeable people that you can, but at the end of the day trust your own judgment. Listening to those gut feelings you get around horses and 'situations' that happen with horses will keep you safe. Do what you can succeed at with her. A horse's training never ends. You maintain it throughout her whole life.
     
    03-04-2014, 08:19 PM
  #3
Green Broke
Quote:
Originally Posted by Saengchwi    
She has not been ridden off of our property for the last year however. She's for my young daughter to ride and I'm just not comfortable allowing her to ride off property just yet - though that is a goal of ours.
....
I've never sacked her out at all and I'm wondering if that's whats missing here? I was told before that I should ride her off property some to keep her training level up and I haven't...though I certainly can if its needed. I never sacked her out because she seemed so solid under stress but I can see that was from her training, not her inborn personality. Our other horse thinks feedbags, tarps etc are toys for him to play with, she sees them as things to accept because she's told too.
Sacking out never hurts, but if your goal is to ride her off property, you need to concentrate on putting in lots of off property miles. You can desensitize your horse at home to a million things, but to a horse, home is always a familiar and safe place, and the outside world is not. There are no shortcuts here.
     
    03-04-2014, 08:24 PM
  #4
Green Broke
A horsie's training is not a permanent thing. What you did last year is pretty irrelevant - the horse forgot all about it months ago.

Consistency is key. The horse needs to be handled and ridden the same way with the same rules and expectations every time. It sounds like the hrose's work level and demands placed on her have dropped.

Are you just getting on and making her w/t/c and calling it a day or are you putting expectations on her when you ride?
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    03-04-2014, 08:53 PM
  #5
Yearling
What is "sacking out"?
     
    03-04-2014, 09:51 PM
  #6
Trained
Firstly, agree with all of above. 'Training' is fluid, as it is with us or any animal. Very basically, if the horse was well trained a year ago, she won't forget those lessons... but she can learn others, inadvertently, perhaps contradictory, through lack of consistency, bad timing, whatever. Also if she wasn't very well trained back then - as in she learned all that, but hadn't done enough to be truly solid, then she still needs consistency & many experiences to get her solid.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Saengchwi    
I even trimmed our trees from her back when we'd had her for a month or so
I think you're right that's not a safe thing to do - sharp tool in hand, branches that may fall ON her or hit her...

It is fantastic if she is truly confident with stuff like that, but do also consider the way in which she may have been previously trained - ie. 'sacking out' & other training is often done in a way that causes a horse to be forced into something that it's not ready for & to 'shut down' mentally, so appear calm when it may not be the case. She may have still been a bit 'broken' in spirit & so extra 'calm' for a while in her new environment/people, which could explain the change.

Quote:
but when I tried to trim our trees this year, she danced around and was difficult.
There's the other thing about that - what have you done in the meantime? Have there been lots of non-confrontational experiences of 'scary' stuff you've proven safe to her, or has she not had to face anything like that for the last year?

Quote:
She has not been ridden off of our property for the last year however. She's for my young daughter to ride and I'm just not comfortable allowing her to ride off property just yet
Certainly understand your feelings, but agree with others that if you want her to be good when out & about, you need to get her out & about. As much as possible. How old is your daughter & what sort of skill level(I'm guessing young beginner)? I certainly wouldn't take her out with your daughter riding solo to begin with unless your daughter's already a good rider, but if she's already been out in hand or ponied quite a bit & has been fine(if not, do that first - lots), and she's good for your daughter to ride at home, then I'd probably take her out on lead, in hand or ponied, if you have a well trained horse to lead from.

Quote:
Hes been our farrier for years and her reaction was on first sight of him rather then from how he works with her.
I would guess from previous experience of Men With Tools... but don't underestimate how intuitive horses can be to what people are really like.

Quote:
is this horse likely to make a decent horse for a child? Most importantly, what do I need to do to get this horse back to where she was about scary things?
Is the horse a good kids horse? Well, I think it's easier to tell by forums when the horse is NOT, but we can't really tell you that from what we've got here. With LOTS of good, calm, confidence building training(for daughter as well), most horses can become quite solid & confident enough for a beginner to be *reasonably* safe on, but of course it depends on yours & your daughter's handling too. So be particular about how good your daughter gets too, don't just focus on the horse, & don't be shy to look for a good instructor or such too(I do find personally that motherly emotions get in the way of teaching kids). But especially if you're not sure of yourself & you want her to be kid-safe, then I'd definitely want hands-on help, not just from a forum.

I would absolutely teach both the horse & your daughter to be very solid(automatic) about 'one rein stops' - that is, bending the horse to control her. I think it's absolutely vital to *teach* the horse calmly & gradually to do this, rather than try to force it to(not least because a grownup can have enough trouble forcing a panicking horse, let alone a child). The aim is for it to be a 'calming signal' as well as for control - so shouldn't be associated with fear or force, at least until it's very solid - and practiced often enough at different speeds & environments, that the response becomes automatic, unthinking, to both rider & horse. Calming for rider too, because the mindset is 'relax, exhale, stop'. Then, if/when needed in 'a situation', you or your daughter will have a good chance of picking up one rein & quickly & calmly getting control of the horse & calming her down.

Just have to say, very proud of the first time we've had to put this to the test with my own daughter/pony - they've had LOTS of practice doing it as a training exercise, pony is pretty calm & has been there done that, but this weekend we had our first 2 big scares, in one ride. One was a Harley roaring down on us, the other a pack of 3 dogs galloping at us up a road, as the owner drove beside them. First experience my daughter had him bent & controlled before he panicked, so it was scary for them both but came to nothing. The second came on us around a corner, by surprise & the pony had spun & started to bolt before my daughter even realised, but within about 10 metres, she had him turned around & standing with his nose bent round, while the dogs sped past. ...She did choose to get off after that tho, with wobbly legs!

Quote:
I think its something I could successfully do as it doesn't sound a lot different from working with autistic children to overcome hypersensitivities and fear, and I'm successful in that. Is it about the same
How interesting! I imagine it'd be the same, because you would want to work with autistic kids in a non-confrontational way about it. But I'm not sure what techniques you use. Essentially, be it with kids or horses, autistic or otherwise, I would work on the premise of introducing them to something 'scary' in very small doses, at an intensity they can handle - ie. Push their comfort zone but not by much. Approach & retreat & with repetition, the... beast will become comfortable with that stimulus & you can go a bit further, to gradually 'stretch' that comfort zone.

As with kids, *well timed* positive reinforcement can get you far, both with desensitising & other training.

If you haven't heard of her, you may be very interested in a behaviourist called Temple Grandin who is also autistic. Her studies & insights are fascinating. She has a number of books, but there are a number of online articles by her around the traps too.
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    03-04-2014, 09:57 PM
  #7
Trained
Quote:
Originally Posted by frlsgirl    
What is "sacking out"?
Desensitising. Getting horses used to 'scary' stuff. People call it that I think because they often used to use an old feed sack or such to rub/bump all over the horse.
     
    03-05-2014, 04:17 AM
  #8
Foal
Quote:
Originally Posted by loosie    
It is fantastic if she is truly confident with stuff like that, but do also consider the way in which she may have been previously trained - ie. 'sacking out' & other training is often done in a way that causes a horse to be forced into something that it's not ready for & to 'shut down' mentally, so appear calm when it may not be the case. She may have still been a bit 'broken' in spirit & so extra 'calm' for a while in her new environment/people, which could explain the change.
When we first got her she liked to stand very still and quiet near the fence. She didn't move around at all until we allowed our little pony out with her. Then she'd follow the teeny one around like a shadow. Now she moves about freely, she likes to run, jump and kick up her heels in play and she no longer sticks to the other horses. They do like to hang out together, but she moves freely from them as well. When I take her out of sight of them, she doesn't seem to care at all...although our old boy hollers his protests until we bring her back. This change in her behavior was a gradual thing.

Our other two immediately began exploring their new worlds when we got them and felt very free to let us know what they thought of it all...very different personalities!

Quote:
Originally Posted by loosie    
There's the other thing about that - what have you done in the meantime? Have there been lots of non-confrontational experiences of 'scary' stuff you've proven safe to her, or has she not had to face anything like that for the last year?
Sadly I have done absolutely nothing on the scary stuff area. I tried her patience when we first got her with all kinds of stuff. She would stand still in the same way she'd stand still at the fence when free. Theres little scary stuff going on around here unless you count the occasional high wind. We haven't even had a real thunderstorm in the last year.

We do ground work of some w/t/c, but mostly its asking her to back, stop, stay, come on cue. Give left, give right. She's doing very well on these so I recently started asking her to keep pace with me on a loose lead. Nothing much, just asking her to adjust her speed to match mine on foot and stop and go when I do. Things I feel confident my kid can also do with her. If I understand the reason for ground work, its primarily to get the horse focused on you and used to taking direction from you? I don't know if what I do is adequate, its just the things I felt would be good to do. Maybe I need to go review groundwork stuff too. Any recommendations here?

Quote:
Originally Posted by loosie    
Certainly understand your feelings, but agree with others that if you want her to be good when out & about, you need to get her out & about. As much as possible. How old is your daughter & what sort of skill level(I'm guessing young beginner)? I certainly wouldn't take her out with your daughter riding solo to begin with unless your daughter's already a good rider, but if she's already been out in hand or ponied quite a bit & has been fine(if not, do that first - lots), and she's good for your daughter to ride at home, then I'd probably take her out on lead, in hand or ponied, if you have a well trained horse to lead from.
Young beginner. She just turned nine and while she's a little monkey, she's short on muscle and her sensibilities are a touch younger then her age.
I hadn't even thought to pony her! I like the idea.

Quote:
Originally Posted by loosie    
Is the horse a good kids horse? But especially if you're not sure of yourself & you want her to be kid-safe, then I'd definitely want hands-on help, not just from a forum.
I still don't want to call in her original trainer but hopefully some of the people here where we live can give us a reference or two. How do I judge if a trainer is any good other then gut instinct or word of mouth???

Quote:
Originally Posted by loosie    
Just have to say, very proud of the first time we've had to put this to the test with my own daughter/pony - they've had LOTS of practice doing it as a training exercise, pony is pretty calm & has been there done that, but this weekend we had our first 2 big scares, in one ride.
Definitely reason to be proud there! The thought of my daughter in a situation like this makes me feel like someone plunged me into ice water! But I wouldn't have gotten her the horse at all unless I really do believe she can handle this kind of stuff in time and with practice.

Quote:
Originally Posted by loosie    
But I'm not sure what techniques you use. Essentially, be it with kids or horses, autistic or otherwise, I would work on the premise of introducing them to something 'scary' in very small doses, at an intensity they can handle - ie. Push their comfort zone but not by much. Approach & retreat & with repetition, the... beast will become comfortable with that stimulus & you can go a bit further, to gradually 'stretch' that comfort zone.

As with kids, *well timed* positive reinforcement can get you far, both with desensitising & other training.
Its very individualized to each child, but say they have difficulty allowing others to touch them, then you might start with a soft bristle surgical brush and gently brush them with it some each day until eventually you can brush them all over for an extended period of time. The goal is for them to reach a point where they relax during this. Then you might switch to a vibrating massager. If they can't accept even a soft surgical brush at first, then you might start them off by getting them to interact with beans or bird seed. If you can't get them to play with the beans or bird seed, then maybe you can get them to sit in a tub of it and play with toys while you trickle some over them here and there. Or you get them interested in a toy, then make the toy dive into the beans so the child has to reach in to get the desired toy. The key is to not push them too far or too fast but do push them enough for them to grow...yet not so much that you increase the sensitivity or aversion. The process tends to create trust and a bond as well between the child and the therapist and it can have a cascade effect in helping a child release multiple fears, not just the targeted problem. The younger the child and the more variety of stimulus they're successfully exposed too, the more likely a domino effect will happen.

A lot of what I'm reading seems to be the exact same concept applied to horses...but here and there I'm coming across stuff that makes me wonder if what I'm thinking is not demanding enough. Especially with a full grown, adult horse. Especially because this horse is for my kid. Nervous mommy wants a push button horse for her delicate little sweetheart!

Quote:
Originally Posted by loosie    
If you haven't heard of her, you may be very interested in a behaviourist called Temple Grandin who is also autistic. Her studies & insights are fascinating. She has a number of books, but there are a number of online articles by her around the traps too.
Temple Grandin is amazing.
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    03-05-2014, 05:47 AM
  #9
Trained
Quote:
Originally Posted by Saengchwi    
The key is to not push them too far or too fast but do push them enough for them to grow...yet not so much that you increase the sensitivity or aversion. The process tends to create trust and a bond as well between the child and the therapist and it can have a cascade effect in helping a child release multiple fears, not just the targeted problem.
Precisely the same for good desensitising & training of a horse... or dog, cat, whatever. If you keep this in mind, don't reckon you'll go far wrong.
     
    03-05-2014, 08:18 AM
  #10
Foal
Why haven't you gone off riding after the very first tint I back a horse I hit the trails builds a very confident horse and there is no better place to train than on trails in my opinion, but you have to consider I don't do anything in round pens
     

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