Always need to ask for GOOD energy: Thought for The Day
Just wanted to write about what happened today. Why? Why not. What the heck. I train horse owners and their horses using NH methods only. If anyone reading this has any comments or questions, I'd be happy to further explain whatever is in question.
This particular horse got me to thinking that a lot of times people think they're applying the Nh stuff and really they're just going through the motions, but they're not asking the horse to really bring their end of it, you know? The horse doesn't offer much energy, and may get sluggish, seem resentful, bored, etc...and it really may just be the simple lack of asking for enough energy to direct it through the exercises. I see it often enough, and this horse,...wow...really drove the point even further...how important it is to ask for good energy. No settling for plodding.
Worked with a horse today that really resents being told what to do. Ask her to go forward and she tells you where you can stick that request.
I asked, go forward (on the ground) and she's humping up to buck. She kicks out. She's pissy. I'll call her Paint. Cause she's a Paint.
Paint is used to the owner asking (on the ground) with the same level of pressure...whip is up and tappity tappity tapping. The owner walks around to be able to tap the hip and the horse sluggishly walks forward, her feet shuffle, she's not putting any effort into this at all. Nothing nada. Zip. Zero. Zilch. Tail swishes, head shakes. The owner then picks up the rein and takes out the slack and moves the hip over....all with this sluggish energy....so the horse is just being pulled through the exercises, basically. Anything asked....the horse says, "here's blah for energy" and the owner pulls her through the steps, rewarding her with a release.
In the saddle...the owner has "stolen" rides off Paint. Cause Paint doesn't know the meaning of giving to pressure. Paint feels pressure and braces. Not a ride-ready horse, far as I'm concerned. We gotta go to basics and rebuild the foundation.
To Paint, pressure before today meant....it's there and it doesn't go away even when she responds. Pressure is something to resent. Pressure makes her wanna buck or cow-kick or rear straight up or do anything and everything you don't want a horse to do....to find a release from that pressure that makes no sense.
How else is she supposed to get the release? If she walks forward as asked, the whip is still up and it might still be tapping her hip a second too long, or maybe she gets a whack on the rump for not going fast enough.
She leans against the bit until her neck is stretched as far as she can stretch it. Her nose roots out. She stays like that to find a release.
She's bucked her owner off. She started out with a mucho lousy basic training. She was saddled and bucked out. But the buck never left her and if pushed past a plug walk, she loses it. Goes into reactive/instinct mode.
She's been nagged. Lied to about pressure.
Pressure is supposed to be something to teach the horse to figure out what is being asked. To teach the horse to hunt for the answer. Here's some pressure, figure it out. You've got six choices: forward, back, up, down, right, left. Pick one and if it gets you a release of pressure, then at that moment, it's the right answer. Memorize the pattern of the "ask" so you know what answer belongs to what question.
So, how did Paint get to hating being told what to do? Pressure was applied and the release was never given at the right time.
On the ground, she learned to buck and rear and kick to get a release of pressure. It works. She does this...the person backs off out of fear...there's the release.
She'd get distracted and go into fits. She's rearing and bucking and carrying on. Really intimidates the owner. And rightfully so. She ain't no little pony. She's a stout grown up five year old baby-brained horse.
She's not mean. There's not a mean bone in her body. She's just totally helplessly clueless about pressure.
She's unbroke about pressure. She's emotionally unbroke. She stays stiff and braces against pressure. Which of course is normal, right? She's just being a horse. Push against or pull away from pressure.
How am I going to fix this?
Teach her to give to pressure (relax to pressure). When you feel pressure, make your choice....if you buck, rear up, kick out,...the pressure will remain the same. No change. Meaning, I'm not going to punish but I am not going to stop asking. I ignore what I don't like (stay safe of course) and I focus on what I do want. I want to see her go forward. I want to see her move her hip over. She does this, I release. There's the release.
So, those "bad" choices don't get any release of pressure, so why bother with that? She'll make her own mind up that they are pointless and she'll stop doing them.
Make the right thing easy. Focus on what I do want. I want her to go forward (ground work). When she goes forward at a nice fluid walk...not poopy energy....she gets a release. Pressure will go up like a volume knob (point/"kiss" cluck, tap the air, tap the body part I'm talking to, tap it louder and louder ... no whacking... til she moves forward, a moment of release, then pressure again for the poopy walk to turn into a moment of good brisk fluid walk....release! Total release there)
Already, the first lesson, she learned that when she bunched up (during the ground work) and bucked (crow hopped) and kicked out and reared up in the air and turned into Tigger on crack..... the pressure was waiting for her....steady....waiting....and she started to decide that maybe this stressful instinct reaction wasn't worth all the hassle. Maybe if she just moved her shoulder away and walked and trotted and loped around in a circle, she would find that release. And there it was. Every time. Also, got a release when she'd stop by way of moving her hip over (disengage), crossing the back feet, and stopped her front feet completely (plant and pivot) and faced me.
She's a fast learner. Which is why she got into so much trouble with her initial crappy training and now with her owner (who has good intentions just not training to turn this around for the better). Paint caught on very quickly that pressure meant nothing and when she was told to do more than what she felt like doing (just wanna do a poopy walk!).....she'd try what mother nature told her to do....buck, rear, kick....
But now she's learning that she doesn't need to do that. It's too stressful to go to instinct. If she wants to find a release, she has to think and she has to put the effort into hunting for the release. If she does this, she gets the release. Every time. And there's no poopy energy. That means pressure. Good energy, means a faster release. And an easier release. With enough reps, she'll take this easy way out every time. Just give. Just relax.
More important....give me good energy with every try. You can do the step but that's not good enough. Gotta put some effort into it. Give me the energy and I'll direct it.
Already her mood improved, but of course, she'll need a lot more help to get over this hump.
Last edited by Calamity Jane; 03-18-2009 at 10:38 PM.