need advice on join up/gaining trust
My husband and I recently rescued an abused 3 1/2 year old gelding who has obvious marks of abuse on him (scars at base of head/reck from a rope, scars on face). We have been working with a good friend of ours who trains horses one of the first things he said to do is to get the gelding to join up with us. We are able to lunge him off line in the round pen and and control his speed by simple voice commands. We can do this without the means of a carrot stick or lariat. Just by staying behind the drive line, stepping forward if we want him to speed up and clucking. He will even slow down for if we tell him easy. He gives all the signs that he wants to join up, head lowers, ear is toward us, mouthing, but as soon as we stop, he will stop and look at us but will not come close. By observing him, it is like he is having an internal debate, he wants to but can't bring himself to move. If you take a couple of steps toward him with your back/shoulder to him, he will move off again. We keep repeating the process, and our friend says it will come with time, but I am not sure that we are doing it correctly. Although, our friend came out and showed us how to do it, it is easy to make a mistake and he had to drive out west for his job for a month. We have only been working with him for a couple of weeks. Am I expecting miracle results? Many of the videos watch seem to show the horse joining up during the first session, but I also don't know how many times that horse has been worked or how trained the horse is. I am not a professional trainer, but my husband and I want to build the bonds with our horses instead of sending them away to be trained. Any advice or hints or information will be greatly accepted.
Horses that are afraid of people will take a lot longer to join up. Join up comes from the horse saying "What do you need" When he stops and looks at you turn your back on him. Walk over to the other side of the pen. Let him be. Pretend he is not there. Then turn back around and move him off again. Repeat a around 10 or more times. Once he starts to look again on his last stop. Turn your back on him. But dont walk away. Turn around, look at the ground. Not at him. Turn and do a weaving pattern in front of him. Here watch this.
Can I ask what you hope to attain through join up? I think join up works for a fair number of horses. I think it works particularly well for unbroken horses off the range. I am not convinced that it works as well for horses with a lot of miles under them. If you are doing so with the sole intention of gaining your horses trust than there are other better ways. The first one would be hours spent with the horse, grooming and feeding him. It sounds like your horse regards as a lunging exercise and not as a trust gaining exercise.
I would say join up is good but powerful. You can get into a horses head really easily and if you don't know what you are doing you can cause a lot of damage. You are playing with pressure and release and the release is more important then the pressure. I have also had some horses that just don't do join up. They are fine horses and we get along quite well, they trust me but we gained that trust by time spent with them not a great 20 minute join up session.
Agree with Rookie, that I wouldn't do 'Join Up' with this horse, at least not if you don't have a VERY good understanding & feel for what's going on, and you don't have a definite goal, aside from gaining trust & asking the horse to come to you/follow you. I too think there are far better, easier ways to accomplish those things. If you do have that definite goal of what you want him to learn by chasing him around a round pen, I would work on gaining his trust first anyway.
The 'signs' you describe are just signs of submission/resignation, hopefully signs of understanding that you want him yielding, not trying to kill him:lol:. 'Joining Up' is your game, your aim, not his. 'Drawing' him to you or otherwise motivating & reinforcing him from approaching you will teach him to come to you, if that's what you're after.
I'd personally be starting with a horse like this by just hanging out with him, doing 'stuff' around him, getting him trusting of being close, allowing to be touched/brushed, handled, etc, teaching him first that you're a Good Thing to be close to, that he's safe & it's Nice for him to have you do stuff with him, before I'd start asking him for Work.
will he let you walk up to him and pet him when he is off line? If you walk up, pet him just a couple of times and walk away, does he give any inclination of follwoing you? Join up does not have to go over the same "script" of "run horse around and around until he give certain signs, turn your back and wait for him to walk up to you". That scenario is pretty typical, but often it is not required to run the hrose until he is begging to give up. And sometimes, when you remove the pressure, the horse does not feel that he wants or needs to be closer to you.
I might try moving the hrose around a bit, slowing and speeding your body language to see if he moves forward and backward as you ask, with very pronounced releases of the driving pressure after each time the horse makes the desired change. You ask for a change, he makes the change, you let him exist in the change a bit. You ask him to go forward at a trot, he trots, you stop drivng and let him float forward, no pressure. as he is spiralling downward, you ease into a stop of your own feet (not abruptly), and as the horse turns to look at you , but before he has planted his feet still, back away and try to draw him toward you. often times , if the feet are still moving when the handler puts on the "draw", the horse will come much easier. If the hrose comes to a stop, puts his head up and is trying to figure out what to do next, then you've lost the momentum.
IN such a case, you have to make him move his feet again, in effect, you must create a situation where he must decide what to do, but he must do something other than just stand there.
you can back away, back away and move in an arc toward his hind end or whatever, but do something that gets him to move his feet. When his feet get unstuck, then try to back away and draw. It's ALWAYS easier to draw a horse that is NOT at a standstill.
If he is just standing there, raise the whip or line, and shush a little noise. he will start, and maybe take a few steps. you do nothing. you didn't say "go forward" , you said "move your feet and think again". he stops, looks at you, you wait a bit, watch the wheels go around in his head. if he looks like he might come, step back or arc around to the horse's hip to draw him. If he turns and runs away, shush the rope/whip loudly to say "NO! that was the wrong choice!" dont' chase him but do enough that it feels bad to him. let him go and stand and wait for him to stop and look at you. he's waiting to make another choice. try to draw again, if horse won't move, shush him to move his feet but dont' chase.
IT's basically, I move your feet to get you to make a new decision. I stop and let you think about what decision to make. I am quiet so that looking at me, and thinking about me feels good. I encourage your curiousity by moveing back. When you choose to move away from me , I make that uncomfortable. When you choose to look at me, I will encourage you to join me. It's peaceful when you look at me and even better when you come to me.
The main reason why our trainer told us to start with join up is because he is a difficult catch in the pasture. He will only come if we have food such as grain or treats. The trainer says that we don't want a horse that will only come for treats. Once we finally get him he is fine with being led and groomed, but it seems more like he is tolerating it then enjoying it, thus the trainer believes he needs to realize that we are good to be around and fun to be around. Even if we just go out and sit with him he entirely ingore us. Of course the other to want to be with us, but he will always stand off. you will see him glance at us like he wants to be in on the action, but doesn't want to join.
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As usual I completely agree with Loosie and Rookie, I don't think join up is the ideal solution for you.
Honestly, I find join up to be more affective for horses with little human respect - it's a good way to get them looking to you for what to do, it's a good way to earn their respect and getting them behaving. It's good for horses who haven't had much experience with humans in general.
But what you say about your horse tells me he's not any of those things. To me it sounds like your horse knows being caught will result in having to work, or other less than wonderful things. He sounds unmotivated.
Personally I would spend time hanging out in the horse's paddock (maybe cleaning it up?) Or just reading a good book. At some point your horse will come by to see what you're up to. Spending time with them not expecting anything of them is really wonderful for them. Even being brushed is a 'job' to some horses. There's a big difference between grooming and enjoying and 'being brushed' on the cross ties. Spending time with him where he's not expected to do anything will make him enjoy your company a bit more you don't always equal work.
I would also spend some good serious time doing wonderful things with him, maybe take him out grazing if his paddock doesn't have grass. Or if you know he has a particularly itchy spot, go into his paddock and scratch it until his nose is wriggling like crazy, then leave and go about your day. Sometimes, when you go up to him, you're just looking to love him - not make him work. I guarantee you'll see a difference.
Honestly it wasn't until I started working at a lesson barn that I met a single horse that didn't want to be caught - but most horses I worked with before that were my own or the rescues.
Even if you can think of ways to make his work more enjoyable I think that would help a great deal.
Respect is earned by moving his feet. Trust is gained only with time.
Personally, I don't like the term "join-up". Yes, you want to have the horse want to be near you. They want to be in a herd. You don't see the lead horse doing join-up with other horses, do you? No. They establish order and get respect of the other horses.
The issue of catching really isn't that hard to fix except it does take some time. Approach and retreat. Approach and if the horse moves away, follow. Once the horse stops and/or turns toward you, retreat. Rinse and repeat several times. Once the horse lets you get next to him and touch him, touch and walk away. Far away. You could even call it good for the day and repeat the next.
Once you are able to catch with ease, don't make the mistake of catch, work, release. You will get a hard to catch horse again. Vary what you do. Catch, feed, work release. Catch, groom, release. Catch, work, release. Throw in a couple just catch and release. Catching to feed regularly does work but they can get upset if you don't feed them. They do like routine.
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Sorry, couldn't help myself for a minute - sometimes the sarcasm needs to be let out!:twisted::wink:
Thanks for all the advice. My husband and I are going to start approaching it a different way now. I believe many of your thoughts and ideas will get us over the hump that we need to get over.
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