training from scratch & owner's different ideas...
OK, so, the story is, we can't afford to take on any more horses long term ATM, but I believe Darcy has been up to the challenge of training his own horse for a while now & desperately wants to. So I had a bright idea, that perhaps it would be helping out a brumby sanctuary I know of, to take on an unhandled(or very little handled) beast, train it, then give it back, saddle trained, for them to rehome(knowing she's very caring about who her horses go to).
So we went to see her last week and she said she had some brumbies that were 'run'(as in, chased, roped, caught aggressively, so rather more worried about being 'pushed' & about people in general than passively trapped or in total ignorance of people) and that these guys, after some 'hard work' in the round pen, could be haltered & petted, but every time she went out to them, they behaved the same as the first time she met them - she'd have to 'convince' them to be caught. Every single time. We drove one of these from their paddock into the round yard and Darcy went in to make friends.
While I've had little chance to use an actual round pen, I do use a sort of non-threatening, low key form of 'Join Up' type affair, which Darcy has learned from me. I know that more 'forthright' methods work to get a horse caught, and have used them in the past. I just want a better *attitude & emotional response* than you tend to get with 'confrontational' methods. I think it depends on the 'stage' the horse is at & how they are emotionally, as to how much 'pressure' you put on them, and at the very beginning, (esp with a horse who's already quite nervous of people & being chased) I think it's best to use very little.
So, at first, it was just a lot just directing a tiny bit of pressure at the horse whenever he wasn't facing Darcy, then a lot of standing around, being non-threatening when the horse was 'facing up'. That went well & it didn't take long at all for the horse to learn to just stand & focus on Darcy.
Then he started approaching & retreating, little bits at a time. To start with, when he could walk 1' towards the horse & horse didn't start to leave, he'd retreat, before repeating. And he put a small amount more pressure on horse when he did leave, making that the more uncomfortable option, but not enough to cause him to do more than a slow trot, and rewarding the horse by quitting any pressure whenever the horse looked/stopped. Darcy also picked grass from outside the roundpen and dropped some on the ground just before 'retreating', which the horse was impressed about! It took nearly 20 mins before Darcy was about 1' away from the horse & he was standing wary but not wanting to leave, and took the first bit of grass from his hand, before Darcy 'retreated'.
The owner had been standing watching, saying nothing, except for to me, 'he's given him grass! - they have to EARN it to get any from me!' But by this time, obviously patience had left the building. She started saying 'you need to be more forceful & stop walking away from him.' And 'push him! Right now! Harder! No, don't stop now!' and 'No more grass! He's got to let you get that halter on before you give him a reward.' Things started going to pot then, as the horse got confused & upset about Darcy's suddenly confusing behaviour, and Darcy started being unsure of himself too.
Then she said she would come in & show Darcy how it's done. As soon as the woman went in, the horse began to prance. She got 'big' & he cantered around, before 'asking' if he could face her. At which point she said 'he is not allowed to call the shots' & pushed him harder for it. Well, you probably know the story, it didn't take her too long to have the horse standing quivering, allowing her to walk up & touch his nose. Then she walked out & told Darcy that's how he should do it. And he did try, but between not agreeing with when/how hard to 'push' and with not being at all practiced at that approach, he didn't do well, and the horse wouldn't let Darcy approach closer than 1' from the middle without moving off after that. The woman said he couldn't quit until the horse 'Joined Up' properly & Darcy could catch him. But after another half hour, with both Darcy & the horse quite agitated, I told them we had to leave.
So... standing on the sidelines, I was mostly biting my tongue, but I did say to her that we tend to have a lower key way of doing stuff, so Darcy's not experienced or comfortable with more force, and told her that the way I'd go about it was probably somewhere half way between her method & what she saw Darcy do. She said that's not using force, and you have to 'demand respect' before you can try to be friends & get their trust. She did say though, she was happy for us to come for a weekend(she wants everyone considering a brumby to spend a weekend meeting & playing with them before she will consider anyone taking one), that she was fine about people having different ways of doing stuff...
But I dunno now... Give me your thoughts please??