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wild old thing 06-15-2012 09:43 PM

New rider needs advice on horse communication.
I've been riding for about...I guess if it's hours, I have maybe 50 hours: a week of intensive trail riding twice a day where I sat on a hearty very patient Belgian girl who did all the thinking, climbed like a champion, dived for weeds and pretty much ignored my ignorance. Lesson wise to date: I have about 15 hours with four hours english and the remainder western. I tack up groom clean up wash down, clean the stall, etc etc. basic beginner. I walk, trot, lope/canter erratically but i'm very comfortable on my horse, sit pretty well and I like handling horses. I am 65 years old and I am not small, but I am fit as hell - couldn't do this if I weren't (the saddle alone would lay me down to rest).

I have always wanted to ride but I didn't have the money or the accessibility. In fact, I am an artist and did a few paintings about riding, knowing nothing. Trust me when I say I know what I'm doing now is a pure gift.

You gotta know the first time I got up on a horse, I teared up. What moved me was that immediate willingness and stoicism, how his beautiful muscles gently shifted for me and how he instantly did his job trying to understand what I was trying to tell him.

I've learned to be still although I'm not nearly as still as I should be, but I work at it, my body is talking to him and I don't know what I'm saying half the time. And I don't know what my horse is saying the other half. So I need some help.

While I will take lessons I know that I need to learn as much as I can off my horse to understand them. You see I have a wonderful Morgan I am riding this summer. He is an excellent horse, almost perfect (he thinks). Patient. Well trained. English and Western. He's huge. And gentle. He and I are trying very hard to understand each other and we've become pretty good friends...I do everything I can to communicate love to him. Because he is worthy of nothing less.

MY PROBLEM: I thought yesterday he wasn't into our lesson. Right off the bat he wouldn't even move forward for me, nomatter whether I let up or kicked or clicked or encouraged. Wouldn't take direction, leg or hand. Eventually he went along with the lesson, but then he stumbled twice. And during the canter, I know I was sending him mis-clues but even from the start nomatter where I looked or where I pressed or reined he went where he went. Or where he thought I wanted to go. Then he took off like crazy, I got him halted but it was scary. No doubt I sent the wrong message. But I know he is sending me messages too. My instructor said (and she is a smart girl) he didn't have much patience for me yesterday. I think she is right.

My instinct was, and I know I know nothing, that he wasn't into the lesson from the getgo. I asked her in the beginning of the lesson if I should dismount and stop but she said no. I know he is well trained. He knows how to do a lesson. So maybe I was being indulgent or maybe he really didn't feel up to it. Maybe he ate something or whatever.

It was hot and very humid and we were in mud and I am not small and neither is he. So maybe he was tired? I mean he's alive and he has a mind.

Is it his job to always be there for me? Can he tell me "I"m tired"? What do I do when he does?

In any case, I think he is always telling me things. Just like I tell him things. I don't understand him yet. And I want to more than anything. He is a grand horse and I'm so loving his generous spirit.

are there books I can read? Or videos or places to go online where I can get more information about how horses think, how horses communicate and how I can better communicate with them? I know it will take riding to know how to handle myself more effectively. But in the meantime, there are only so many hours in the day and I'd like to learn what I can when not I'm up and in the saddle.

Thank you in advance,

tinyliny 06-15-2012 09:55 PM

Hi Cynthia,
and welcome to the forum. You write so very beautifully. I loved your descriptions of how the horse moved under you. One notices those things when they slow down. That's why I appreciate some long, slow walks in the woods.

anyway, I think you are becoming very empathetic to your horse, and knowing that he might not want to do antoher lesson is wieghing on your mind. I can totally relate to that. It's hard for me to demand much of a school horse when I know that he does this for so many times, over and over, the same thing.
But, his life is not bad. He is well fed, he works maybe three hourse a day, four tops, and usually more like two. That's pretty good wages ; room and board for a few hours a day of work.
And, if you allow the horse to be less than honest in his responses to your requests, then you make him duller for the next person , who may not treat his laziness with as much empathy as you do.

I try to stay "fair" when dealing with a school horse. Don't blame him for trying to conserve energy, dont' expect him to be super responsive. So, I give him every chance to respond when I ask, but, I will let him know that I wont' ask indefinitely, I will lay a little whip on him if he ignores me, then I'll go right back to "asking".
And, if he gives me a good effort, I 'll take the time to let him walk on a long rein and give him some nice wither scratches.

I cannot indulge him totally in not doing any work, but I won't expect him to be perfect. Lesson horses learn a lot of tricks that they use to protect their mouths and backs, but you can't blame them. Horses are super good at self preservation.

kac7700 06-15-2012 10:46 PM

Wow Cynthia, I'm pretty new to this too and you put this so eloquently. I've studied, I've read, I've watched videos on YouTube and don't miss a Julie Goodnight or Clinton Anderson show on RFD-TV, take lessons, and spend every spare minute I have with my horse (it's our 2 month "anniversary" today.) You put into words what I hope a lot of new horse people are feeling...I have learned that if you don't get the right answer from your horse, you're not asking the right question, but I do believe there are off days too.

I'm very curious what replies come here because I want to know too. Welcome to the forum and thank you for this.

Radiowaves 06-15-2012 11:54 PM


Originally Posted by wild old thing (Post 1550328)
You gotta know the first time I got up on a horse, I teared up. What moved me was that immediate willingness and stoicism, how his beautiful muscles gently shifted for me and how he instantly did his job trying to understand what I was trying to tell him.

Thank you in advance,

The fact that you noticed/felt/grasped/found significant what you stated in that paragraph alone is HUGE, in my opinion. I have to be honest and admit that reading what you wrote caused ME to tear up...

For me (and apparently you too), it's all about the relationship between you and your horse and the bond that is built between the two of you. Whatever else is involved, that's the core of it. I started riding when I was 10 (in the early 60s) and through western pleasure, barrels, poles, reining, various other events and a seriously large amount of trail riding, that's always been the core of it for me.

You may be a beginner, but you've already got a mighty important part of it right! :-)

Whatever you do, stick with it....
Posted via Mobile Device

wild old thing 06-15-2012 11:59 PM

Liny, ordinarily that will work: i try to ask quietly, then insist, then demand and with him it's usually where I'll ask and he'll do either instantly or within a try or two. he's not just for lessons. he's also a competition horse. I'm very lucky to have him these next couple of months.

but he was definitely off yesterday. or he AND I were.

but you are right, I know that. I am trying to be more decisive with him. but I haven't found the exact right way of addressing him or his complaints. I tend to think we are having a kind of dialogue. I do expect him to be consistent, like I try to be. but he has moments when he's not paying attention or he's feeling like he'd rather be rolling in the dirt and not bothering.

I've never been angry with him. in fact, he makes me laugh because he IS so ****ed good and makes me look good. I do get annoyed that he will balk at a go ahead and then i have to kick, which I can do pretty effectively, maybe too effectively now. he doesn't like the kick. (like I said, he thinks he's perfect.)

sometimes my legs are working so well and his flanks respond perfectly to the pressure. and sometimes it's crazy, it's so inconsistent, like he's never laid eyes on me before in his life. he has those moments, usually in the beginning of a lesson. and I'm not good enough yet to ease him out of it smoothly and quickly. I have to find the way that works instinctively for me.

so I think that's what I need to learn, to understand what he's complaining about so I can deal with it if you follow my drift. it could be he's just playing games, whining or whatever horses do to avoid putting it out. but I think sometimes its that I'm not doing it right, not speaking right, not being clear and he's telling ME something and I'm not getting it.

tinyliny 06-16-2012 12:23 AM

Well, being aware when there is a shishm in the lines of communication is certainly a great skill to have. It sounds that you are maintaining a pretty solid focus on your horse, thus you can tell when he is with you and when he is not. This is kind of rare in a lot of riders. They just assume that since THEY want to slow down/speed up, that the horse is thinking with them. But the hrose is thinking about what the other horses are doing back at the barn, or what the rustling in the bushes is all about.

It really is absolute key to riding to be aware of "where your horse's mind is". horses are programmed to keep being outwardly focussed and scan their environment for danger every 30 secs or so. We have to be aware of that and alway be aware of when our horse has left us mentally. But neither do we want to yank their attention back, unless the horse has yanked his attention far away and endangers us. If the though is still light, it may not take much at all to bring them back. It can be like a silk thread; I light hand brings it back, pull too hard and it will break.

I thought about this this morning when I tried like the dickens to get Zulu to cross the muddy creek and come to me for 'catching", instead of me having to cross it and go to him. The most of the herd came over to see if I had carrots, but Zulu stood watching. I tried to keep him watching me, and I watched his face to see the "click" when he makes the decision to move. I tried moving his rear feet a bit, because sometiems just moving a horse's feet will tip him over the balance into a decision. But, push too hard and he will decide to leave me for the open 40 acres.
So, like I said, I "broke" out his rear feet, but he did not come, and in fact, chose to start walking away. So, I crossed the creek and walked partly behind, partly in his left eye and gently scuffled the rope against my thigh to get his attention. When he looked out of curiousity, I paused and held out my hand (with small carrot, which he can barely see). He goes to eat the grass, and I gently scuffle the rope (hey! I am still here!) he looks back, pauses and then decides "well, she's not going to leave me alone so I might as well go see what she wants". He walks right up. gets carrot and some rubs. No rushing. just some petting and time together then put the halter on.

walking him the long road back to the barn, if he starts to turn back to "hollar" at the herd, I look for him to leave me mentally, and i give the rope the tiniest little wiggle, . . he comes back to me. The sooner I catch the thought that is leaving, the lighter that thought is and the easier it is to invite it back to me.

Look to your horse, where is his thought? How heavy is it?

wild old thing 06-16-2012 12:25 AM

kac and radiowaves, thank you so much for making me feel welcome. really. and you too Tiny.

I do love riding horses. communicating with animals is something I have come to rather late in my life. being a city girl, I always had some animal or another but never dogs who are intense animals to bond with. but then fifteen years ago we got a rescue dog. my first dog. a great american bulldog. what a girl she was! then we got another rescue. and another. and by luck, I've come to horses. I could kick myself that I didn't do this fifty years ago! but this will do.

I know animals talk to us - they have to, we are so imposing in their lives. I believe we have to listen, that's all there is to it. if we are going to be together then I have to learn their language. they don't seem to have a problem understanding me when they want to. that's what I learned from dogs..that they get us alright and they know how to say what they need to say. we just have to watch them. I think it's the same with all animals in our sphere...they do a real effective job of communicating - something. but I haven't learned horse yet! and I need to. :D

tinyliny 06-16-2012 12:28 AM

Call me "Tiny", if you don't mind. It inflates my ego because I am pretty overweight.

wild old thing 06-16-2012 12:31 AM

Tiny, I can tell you after that lesson he was very pensive. VERY heavy. he didn't put up a fuss for treats. (I always have carrots and an apple for him) and when I took him across the way to turn him out, instead of running off like a happy boy and rolling in the dirt, he stood there with me about three feet away, just looking at me. rosie the young mare who always greets us was there but he didn't go to her. he stood looking at me for a while. and I looked at him. I called him to me to come closer but he didn't move. he just stood for the longest time, and then turned and went out to his pasture with his friend.

wild old thing 06-16-2012 12:32 AM

hahahha tiny. hahahahah

you can call me tiny too. hahahahahahah (I'm cracking up here)

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