Laying a horse down, WH article - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 22 Old 04-11-2012, 10:20 PM Thread Starter
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Laying a horse down, WH article

Every time I think I hate Western Horseman magazine they manage to pull a half way decent article out of their a$$.

For those not familiar with the practice of laying a horse down there is a article touching on how it effects the horses brain if done correctly.
There had been a thread started maybe about two months ago on the subject, however there was quite the debate between laying and throwing, the actual reason why, what it achieves if done correctly, and the dangers for someone who has not ever been taught how to do so properly. I was glad that in the article it was stressed that this was a method that could not be taught by book or dvd.

Anyhow, good read for anyone that wants to learn a little about the reason/thinking behind doing so....

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post #2 of 22 Old 04-11-2012, 10:36 PM
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I'll check it out. WH seems to have improved over the last year and I've been giving it a read again.

I've only laid down 3 horses in 30 to 35 years. None in the last 10. It seemed to help them and my bag of tricks was otherwise empty of things to try with those 3.
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post #3 of 22 Old 04-11-2012, 10:40 PM
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I used to lay a lot of horses down. It really messes with their heads. Since I quit training for the public and do not have to 'turn around' a lot of really spoiled 'rogue' horses, I do not find it necessary.

It does far more to a horse's psyche than you could ever imagine.

I will have to look up the WH article. I quit subscribing to it several years ago. I really liked it back in the 60s, 70s and early 80s. I still have some old copies from the 60s. But, it ain't what it used to be.

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post #4 of 22 Old 04-12-2012, 02:47 AM
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Originally Posted by Cherie View Post
It does far more to a horse's psyche than you could ever imagine
I've wondered about this from time to time. Could you expand on it?
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post #5 of 22 Old 04-12-2012, 04:47 AM
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<-- I'm interested as well. Thank you in advance, Cherie.
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post #6 of 22 Old 04-12-2012, 07:46 AM
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When laying a horse down you are putting it in a very vulnerable position. Ever notice in a herd of two horses that they take turns rolling. Even when lying down to sleep, one will usually stand guard. Altho I haven't read the article, I know that when laying a horse down because of a troublesome attitude one must wait for the big sigh. When held down, the horse knows he's going to die and the big sigh is acceptance of the fact. That is when he can be let up. When he gets up he has new respect for the person who rescued him. When a horse will voluntarily lie down for a person that horse is expressing an enormous amount of trust.
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post #7 of 22 Old 04-12-2012, 08:07 AM
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Originally Posted by Cherie View Post
I used to lay a lot of horses down. It really messes with their heads....
...It does far more to a horse's psyche than you could ever imagine...
Sincere apologies for completely lacking any understanding/frame of reference for the term "laying a horse down" and what it means in terms of training.

I am guessing that it has to do with Western riding/training, and with my, (for all intents and purposes), 100% English riding/hunt/jump background, I find myself at a total loss regarding the term and really wanting to understand that which can A) really mess with horse's heads and B) "do" something to their psyche!

Naturally any training imparted onto any animal (or human for that matter) does have the capacity to "mess with the trained being's head" because their "usual" or "normal" behavior is being changed and something else is being artificially "inserted" into it's place, which to me is both fascinating and must be, IMO, undertaken with the utmost of knowledgability and professionalism.

The "laying down" issue seems to be cloaked in an aura of mystery to hear the way it is being talked about...thus,I feel I must know. Thanks in advance, and sorry to sound/be so naive about this!

(Oops...please see my "edit" below...despite having now seen the post right above mine and now feeling more silly than I did BEFORE :0) I am still interested in any additional information to add to what I have now read above! Thank you so much...)

"I'm too busy working on my own grass to notice if yours is greener"

Last edited by Back2Horseback; 04-12-2012 at 08:16 AM. Reason: Saw above post...wasn't there when I posted mine. Sorry!
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post #8 of 22 Old 04-12-2012, 10:04 AM Thread Starter
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I have laid quite a few horses down myself...I was taught laying one down as a method for starting colts actually. (Back2Horseback, laying a horse down is exactly what it sounds like. people do it different ways but I use a leg rope around the saddle horn and a lead rope on a halter or snaffle bit rein to lay the horse down on its side. I think there is a video on YouTube of Craig Cameron you could watch to give you an idea)

It made for gentle colts and I was outside gathering cattle on the fifth ride usually. My husband and I had to halter break and gentle a pile of ranch colts, untouched by humans ranging in age from two to five years of age. We did a little experiment and laid half of them down the other half we did not. We found the ones that were laid down progressed faster in their training and were much more accepting of new situations.

The nay sayers of this method claim that it breaks their spirit which is untrue. I have always said that it switches the brain from reacting to thinking. I am kinda right, it is more of a chemical reaction...but now they have some scientific evidence as to what actually occurs in the horses brain...this paraphrased from the WH article:

"There is a structure deep in the horse's brain called the amygdala. It is involved in fear responses. The amygdala is connected to the hypothalamus, which acts like a thermostat to reset the nervous system after the amygdala responds.

So when one part of the horse's brain reacts with a fear response, another part releases chemicals to bring the brain back to a balanced state.

Typically when we work a horse we gradually stimulate the amygdala, then allow the hypothalamus to reset the nervous system. The process is called 'down regulation'. In other words, it takes more stimulation to get the same reaction fro the horse.

Think 'desensitization' and you have the horseman's word for 'down regulation'.

laying a horse down produces an enormous fear reaction because it puts the horse in a vulnerable position. If all goes well, chemicals released in the brain by the 'thermostat' will reset the nervous system so that it begins to take much more to cause a fear reaction.

People see a profound change in the horse when it has been laid down properly because it has been so down regulated that most lesser experiences no longer produce fear responses."
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post #9 of 22 Old 04-12-2012, 10:31 AM
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Very interesting. I've seen it done gently and produce amazing results on disrespectful horses and I've heard of it done horrific "cowboy" style, with the end result being a broken spirited horse.
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post #10 of 22 Old 04-12-2012, 10:31 AM
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I think you're spot on about how vulnerable they are. My horse, Ro Go Bar, got cast trying to roll a few months before we put him down--severe arthritis, etc.--and was frantic trying to get back up again. My 2 dogs were frantic trying to get him up, too, circling and barking which I'm SURE further frightened my horse, BUT they both alerted me to the problem.
NOW, my dogs are convinced that my young herd is gonna die when they drop and roll, and I have to constantly call them back to leave them alone.
We finally got 2 people behind and one in front and helped him up. He had decided to roll in a spot with a lot of loose dirt that I had recently tilled for gardening.
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