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Comfort/Discomfort in training

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    12-09-2012, 06:28 AM
I am pretty sure that in Fillys' case it is a feeling that she is loosing dominance that is the issue. She was hand reared appearently, and as a young foal "allowed to wander around the yard like a dog". Thus she was taught very little respect by other horses. She was never out with them.

We have come a long long way in our time together. If you read my blog you would find that my wife would wear a body protector when playing online with her at the start, and the difficulty level of the day could be measured by pints of the beer in the pub afterwards for me :) .

The hind quarter yield problem is just a last vestigial part of that extreme behaviour. Folks at the yard who are most definitely NOT natural horsemen and have been very anti our practising it are even coming up to us and saying what an amazing change they have noticed in Filly since we managed to buy her and therefore have complete control over her handling.

I merely mentioned the current yield problem as an illustration of the topic. I know we will overcome it, it will just take time patience and understanding of her point of view to achieve it. Over the process of training her I have found that the ideas I put forward in this post have helped me emotionally to do what is required to make progress. The idea that I am doing it "for Filly and with Filly" has been important to keep emotional control in difficult situations.

One of my instructors, who has just come back for working in Pat Parellis barn with Pat himself, says that Filly is in the top 3 most challenging horses he has ever met and he has known her since I started with her. He has also said that he thinks Filly and I are perfectly matched. Not sure what to make of that :) !!
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    12-09-2012, 11:36 AM
Super Moderator
Thats interesting as my oldest horse was also hand reared by the amateur family I bought her off. They had encouraged her to behave like a puppy but without even the discipline that a responsible dog owner would give. By age 3 and 15 hands she was dangerous yet not at all aggressive - she simply had no idea of groundrules and they had used peppermints and sedatives to handle her when they needed too. I came on the scene when they asked their vet - also my vet to euthanise her. He knew us well and asked me if I would give her a chance. The rest is history. She is now 21 years old.
She had never seen another horse so had no natural social skills. Our old, firm but fair gelding sorted that out in just a few minutes and I took a 'leaf from his book' because she never stopped adoring him despite him making no allowances for her bad behaviour.
Like your wife I also needed what my husband described as 'full body armour' the first few days I handled her. She kicked and bit him twice in those days simply because she was a spoilt brat used to having her own way and never been forced to see that it wasnt acceptable
I was not prepared to spend weeks/months tip toeing her around her, she had to learn fast so we could be safe around her.
I am NOT suggesting you follow my example because she's your horse and I've never even met her
On Day 3 when she tried to kick out at me when I asked her to move over in her stable I hit her very hard with a whip. It was no more (actually less) than the 'discipline' she'd received from our gelding
She was totally shocked, she didnt see that coming
From then on she has been the most wonderful, honest horse you could wish for and even though she is very ticklish and would no doubt love to kick me or nip me when I insist on brushing those areas she would never dream of doing that
bsms and Pegasus1 like this.
    12-09-2012, 02:23 PM
I would have LOVED to put her out with other horses and let them sort her out. However she was not my horse at the time and I was bound by the wishes of the carers of her.

She was not even their horse. The owner was a friend of theirs and had gone bankrupt. They were keeping her at their yard to help the owner out. At the time her breeding meant she was a very expensive foal. Her sire was Phoenix Reach and so it was her potential that was worth a lot. The carers just let me play with her, as they had not the time and felt that any training, even Natural Horsemanship, was better than none.

When they did try to put her out with other horses she tended to get badly hurt. Wound up in a metal horse trough once I understand, so were naturally reluctant to risk her given she didn't even belong to them.

I once was holding her chatting with a friend when a normally very mild mannered 17hand Andalusian launched itself at her from 40 or 50 feet away dragging the owner behind him. I have no idea what vibes she had given out to provoke that attack, she seemed to be just standing chilled, relaxed and not moving by my side when the attack occurred. But obviously she had done something to upset him.

Thus I had little choice but to do it the human way if I wanted to help her out, and I desperately wanted to. James Roberts actually advised me that with owners and carers like hers there were some horses that one could not help and I shouldn't try. It's the only time I have not heeded his advice and I am so glad I didn't. After lots of heartache, when she was taken from me for six months, she is now mine (or I am hers, not sure which) and no one can separate us.

Since I bought her 10 weeks ago she has been to James Roberts who did exactly what I wanted to do so long ago. He put her out with three young geldings. After the first very noisy night out together they all settled and became good friends. She seemed to be herd boss very shortly after that first night, but a fairly benign one.

Back to out yard and many people are noticing and, unprompted, telling us how her behaviour has improved since this experience. Some of course cannot accept that it is due to anything James or I have done and just say how she is getting calmer as she gets more mature.
    12-10-2012, 10:59 AM
Super Moderator
It sounds as if she was bred for racing - did she ever race?
Its a general thing with any horse that's got a value for competing, showing, racing even some hunters that the view is 'two horses in a field is one horse too many' If a horse gets blemished that's the end of its showing career at top level in the UK and try explaining to a client that they can't compete or hunt that weekend because the horse got kicked in the field - people accept the risks of accidents actually out there doing something. I'm lucky that my lot all get on really well as I wouldnt tolerate a horse being off work all the time because its been kicked & lame and I wouldnt want to see one constantly covered in bites either
I'm inclined to think that horses do communicate with each other as I've seen so many weird examples of it, I wonder if a horse that's never been with other horses - even its own mother - have to learn this language somehow?
James' opinion on (badly) hand reared foals is shared with any vet I've ever known, The vet I used at the time I got Flo made me promise to only allow her a realistic amount of time to learn safe behaviour and then I was to let her go - he even said he would 'do the job' free of charge as he'd got me into it.
I'm not one to literally humanise horses but with her especially I found that it was like raising a child in some ways, you set the rules and you have to stick with them. She has way more character than most horses and learnt very quickly - she wanted to learn, she gets bored easily so too much repetitive stuff would make her fractious - like she feels its an insult to her intelligence and as she's very excitable and a 'fizzy' ride that was something I had to work around.
I can tell you - all the time you think you're 'reading' these horses they are doing a far better job of reading you!!!!
She has never bothered about having other horses for company and is happy to be on her own if she has to be, she never relied on another horse for confidence either but instead relies on me, if I point she goes - I know I hate this word - but I have never had to desensitise her to anything, whatever I throw at her she accepts no question.
When we went to collect her we were armed with all sorts of ideas, we were afraid to sedate her in case it affected her balance travelling so couldnt get a headcollar on her so we backed the horse box up the the stable we'd got her in by putting feed in there and she just followed me on. She never knew a horse mother so I became her human replacement
She had never been apart from us from the day I had her - if we went on holiday my father in law who she regarded as family would take care of our horses and when she had to spend the month in quarantine when we came to the US even though her two friends were with her and happy she became increasingly depressed and refused to eat towards the end.
**One thing does occur to me - TB's especially are very prone to stress ulcers and it sounds as if Filly has been through a lot of upheavals - they will make a horse very tender and sore in the area I think she is disliking having touched. Might be worth discussing with your vet or just treating her anyway as wouldnt hurt anything
Pegasus1 likes this.
    12-10-2012, 01:56 PM
Interesting story. Similar to mine in some ways. Sounds like we have both worked through the problems and had a happy result.
I've asked about ulcers and the vet and my holistic chiro both thought it unlikely, but I will keep it in mind. I added a bit of clicker (using my tongue to click) to the hind quarter porcupine game today. Worked like a treat and we had the best yields and then the best ride I've ever had.

The clicker treat method would not have worked earlier as she was not calm enough about the yield to pressure to even think about a treat. I could never have got the timing right earlier. Well, I might have made the click at the right time, but she would probably have not noticed it and then got the treat with no bridging cue that she was conscious of. In that situation I would have been in danger of rewarding her for the wrong behaviour.

Like I always say I am not only Parelli motivated. Parelli does not advocate using treats that much. Just as motivation for certain horsenalities. I think because it is actually harder to get the timing right for positive reinforcement (clicker training) than it is for negative reinforcement. Much of my info on the use of positive reinforcement comes from a book called "Don't Shoot the Dog" by Karen Pryor . I should add that my sister is a top dog trainer and they use it extensively.

Maybe the use of positive reinforcement is the subject of a new thread though. What do you all think ?

Edited to add : Yes Filly was destined for the race track, but fortunately for me has some conformational issues that meant they soon gave up trying to train her realising that she would not stand up to the rigours of racing. I have been advised that I can do what I like with her in future, jumping, dressage, reining so long as I don't race her.
    12-10-2012, 03:01 PM
Super Moderator
Maybe the use of positive reinforcement is the subject of a new thread though. What do you all think ?

Well its likely to be good for some argumentative debate!!!
All these things are really about getting the right balance and understanding why the horse isnt obliging - doesnt understand the commands or is just being plain defiant to go from one extreme to the other
I use the tongue clicking thing but when I think about it I've used it forever. I ask a horse to walk alongside me for the first time, say 'walk on' cluck cluck and then lots of praise, maybe a treat, so they associate the noise but on the reverse thinking of that - if I say 'cluck cluck' and they refuse to move they then get the growl or maybe a swift slap depending on the reasons for not moving.
I was able to back Looby (my pinto) around several corners and obstacles last week with just hand signals and the clucking - no headcollar - which for a horse that went into meltdown not that long ago if you even suggested something like that was pretty amazing - she looked so pleased with herself afterwards like she knew she'd achieved something.
You can't punish a horse for not understanding that's a trainer error.
I do use treats and lots of praise for learning but once that learning is established it becomes an expected response so the treats stop as does the praise though they always get praise at the end of a session or a trail ride - I'm pretty sure horses know when you're happy with them and that seems to give them a feeling of contentment. Our little barn has a very relaxed atmosphere
Thanks for the link to the book - I'll read through it better later on
I wouldnt dismiss the ulcer thing but see how she goes and then decide
I am sending you a PM of someone on Youtube you might find interesting
    12-16-2012, 01:07 AM
A couple of thoughts:

I recommend Bill Dorrance's book, "True Horsemanship Through Feel". Bill talks about the way of yielding the hindquarters that connects to the future task of hindquarter yield horseback, vs just demanding the yield, which'd be pressure where your leg'd be rather than the flank.

Also, perhaps Filly needs to find meaning in the request; it seems like now, she's saying, "what earthly reason do you have in asking me to move my hind?" Bill talks about connecting the task to the horse's mind.

Of course, I highly recommend the entire book! My theory is that "feel" is an invitation to the horse before one starts to pressure. If you can get it done by the invitation alone, of course, you would.
    12-16-2012, 10:40 AM
Originally Posted by Northern    
A couple of thoughts:

I recommend Bill Dorrance's book, "True Horsemanship Through Feel". Bill talks about the way of yielding the hindquarters that connects to the future task of hindquarter yield horseback, vs just demanding the yield, which'd be pressure where your leg'd be rather than the flank.

Also, perhaps Filly needs to find meaning in the request; it seems like now, she's saying, "what earthly reason do you have in asking me to move my hind?" Bill talks about connecting the task to the horse's mind.

Of course, I highly recommend the entire book! My theory is that "feel" is an invitation to the horse before one starts to pressure. If you can get it done by the invitation alone, of course, you would.
Thanks Northern. I've been meaning to read that book, but heard it is really difficult read and wanted to wait until I had enough knowledge to understand it. Maybe I do now.

As for the purpose, it's funny you should mention that. Now I have a softer feel to the yields I have been playing with purpose. For example I have been placing a pole on the ground and getting her to straddle it with one front leg and one hind leg either side of it using just steady pressure from my fingers. This as an exercise we had done with Bonitao until the point we could do it ridden as well.

It is good for the human and the horse. It teaches the human great timing with releasing the pressure. Too soon and the foot does not cross over the pole, too late and both do .
It gives the horse a purpose to the exercise (not quite true they don't know why we want a foot each side, but the task gives us purpose that translates in our body language to giving them purpose), and a defined end point to the exercise. As an added benefit it gets the horse used to having an object under them which helps when out hacking and crossing logs, or jumping in the school.

I do other such purpose driven exercises as well, but that is an easy one to describe in writing.
Northern likes this.
    12-16-2012, 05:34 PM
I'm still meditating on what the differences & samenesses are between PNH & Bill's way (& Bill wouldn't argue with Tom's way ;)). I'd love to hear your take, after you read the book!
    12-17-2012, 04:26 PM
Pegasus, horses quickly learn that it's the click that counts and that a treat is forthcoming. Horses trained with this method often learn faster and look forward to doing what is right. My horse could spook and bolt in a heartbeat. Clicker training taught him to keep his hooves glued to the ground. When I introduced the plastic bag it was initially to my side. I'd rattle it and if he stood still I c/t. It gradually came closer and as long as he stood c/t. Before long I was rubbing him and c/t until I'd done his entire body c/t. The next day this work was repeated except the bag was now attached to the end of the lash on the lunge whip. I was able to get the bag high up over his back, slide it over his head, under his belly, continually clicking and treating. The following day, with no preliminary work I flapped a much larger piece of plastic high over his back. The look on his face was "I'm standing still, gimme the ****ed treat". He had become bored with it all. I did the same with spray. That was two years ago. Last summer I'd show him the bottle and spray him all over. He was at liberty to leave but his feet stayed glued to the grounds. That deserved a treat. So try c/t again. BTW if you are nervous about making a mistake she will be also. Horses forgive our mistakes as long as it doesn't involve pain.

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