Bandit, Cowboy & bsms...muddling through together - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 2219 Old 09-18-2015, 03:15 PM Thread Starter
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Bandit, Cowboy & bsms...muddling through together

Previous threads closely related here:

This post on the second thread got me thinking:

Originally Posted by anndankev View Post
It may be time to start a thread for Bandit.

Rather than for Mia's replacement.

I'm not suggesting to cease caring and thinking about Mia, or forgetting, or even 'moving on'.

Only to look at Bandit on his own merit. Not holding him up to another.

I grew up across the street from a family with 9 children. The Mother was asked how she managed to divide her love between all of them. Her reply was that she did not divide her love, she multiplied it.
Saying goodby to Mia has been like a grieving process. It has taken a long time for me to stop comparing Bandit to Mia...and I probably will at times always, since Mia was the center of my horse riding world for 7 years.

But Bandit is his own horse. He can get nervous and light on the front and want to move enough to create some buffer space, but he isn't likely to explode out of total calmness. He isn't perfect (and neither am I), but he has a good 'try' in him. He trusts people to do good things for horses. He deserves to be respected for who he is, and not be "Mia's replacement"! Besides...Mia will never be replaced. I made the mistake of looking at the pictures in the thread of her leaving, and danged if I didn't get some sand in my eye again...

I also got a third ride in today on Cowboy. He's 13 hands, gets uncomfortable at times but I cannot imagine him losing his mind. He puts a smile on my face, which is the most important thing a horse can do.

So this thread will be my journal of trying to ride Bandit and Cowboy. Cowboy, for the next week or two. Bandit banged his knee in the middle of the night about a week ago, and his knee is still tender. The next day he managed to cut it in a couple of places and they are still healing. He puts weight on his leg, but there is a slight limp at times. If I was on him and he decided to spin and dance, I'm pretty sure it would re-injure the knee. So he is on corral rest now.

Folks sometimes talk about a good training program. None of my horses have had a "good training program". Never will, now that they are with me. I'm not interested in a dressage horse, reining horse, cutting horse, jumping horse, western pleasure horse or any kind of judged horse.

What I'm after is more of what Barry Godden called (IIRC) a Gentleman's Riding Horse:

Originally Posted by xxBarry Godden View Post
The horse should :
go anywhere its rider asks:,
at any pace over any terrain alone or in company,

The full description might read:
The horse should readily respond to all of the riderís instructions.
and to actively pass: over highway, along a road a lane a path or a track
at: ground level or along the top of a ridge, through woodland or open countryside
at any pace: Walk: active or extended;
rhythmic or fast trot: medium or extended
Canter: collected or extended
Gallop : fast or flat out

on any surface ie : tarmac, grass, stoney path, cobble stones or rock,
through puddle, flood water or wadeable stream

alone or in company of: other riders of every ability from novice to expert;
at the front of the line, in the middle of the line or at the end of the line

amongst pedestrians, cars, motor cycles, push bikes, lorries, tractors
under birds, kites, balloons, aircraft or helicopters

in wind and rain or thunderstorm despite plastic bags, umbrellas, road signs, footballs

in the presence of barking & aggressive dogs, goats, pigs, donkeys & mule

The horse should show neither fear nor aggression to any human, be they male, female, child or adult.

The horse , whilst under saddle, should permit the touch of any human
whether male, female, adult or child.

The horse must stand on the kerb, awaiting instruction to cross a busy and fast arterial road.
It must pass over a narrow bridge across a motorway
It must pass through a tunnel laid underneath a motorway
It should hold its line of march down a high street or a country lane with passing places
It must wait upon command at traffic lights or other stops signs.
It must stand attentively whilst its rider converses with passers by
It should move forward and move backwards to permit the opening of field gates
It should never ever, whirl or bolt in fright, in fear or as an evasion.
It should hop over ditches, streams and fallen trees.
It must submit to being tied to a hitching point without pulling back whilst patiently awaiting the return of its master.
It must stand to be mounted.
It must ride on or off the bit.
If the rider loses his/her balance, it must pick it up and compensate.

The riderĎs job is to set the route, the horseís job is to carry safely both itself and the rider over the terrain, whatsoever that may prove to be.
If asked to trot, then the horse should trot, uphill or downhill until asked to change the pace.
If asked to halt, the horse should come to a halt and then stand awaiting itís masterís pleasure
Never should it evade the bit nor jerk the reins from the riderís hands.
If the reins are dropped onto the horseís neck and no further instruction is given, then the horse should make its way at the walk back to the stable by the shortest.

Under no circumstance must the horse, balk, rear, buck or swerve for any reason - except in circumstances when the horse might realize that the way ahead is unsafe for example in land prone to bogs. Neither should the horse snatch succulent plants from the hedgerow however tempting.

All in all, the horse should be judged to be well mannered.

Sadly in the XX1st century , horses truly warranting the title
ďA Gentlemanís Riding HorseĒ are very hard to find.
Invariably they have to be created,

(Post #1 on the thread is also a good read)

Another thread long gone by with food for thought:


Anyways...I'll never get a horse to a Gentleman's Riding Horse status, but it pretty well sets out my goals. The idea of Cowboy or Bandit being a Gentleman's Horse would probably shock the average Gentleman, who might find them both a bit lacking in appearance:

But then, let's face it - I'm not overly endowed in the looks department either!

So having said goodby to Mia, and then having found her hard to say goodby to, let me try to focus on Bandit and Cowboy & I learning things together - muddling through, since none of us are particularly proper!

Riders ask "How?" Horsemen ask "Why?"
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post #2 of 2219 Old 09-18-2015, 06:55 PM
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Bsms enjoyed reading your post. I think you are doing fine with your horses, you enjoy being with them and that's what counts.
Reading the requirements for a Gentleman's horse was interesting. I think now with the mare I have that she comes as close to this as any horse I have ever had. She is such a good horse and fast becoming one of my best ever, most favourite ever horse that I have ever had, especially gratifying as she will be my last horse.
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post #3 of 2219 Old 09-19-2015, 03:07 PM Thread Starter
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My wife actually volunteered to go for a short ride with me today. I can't remember the last time she rode. She sometimes finds Cowboy a little intimidating (even at 13 hands), but she had heard me singing his praises and said she would like to ride him.

I kept the ride down to 40 minutes since she hasn't ridden in ages. Cowboy waited patiently while she mounted. He didn't argue any on the way out. Cowboy led the way (as he usually does with Trooper), although I kept Trooper close behind and sometimes beside Cowboy. We just went along a dirt road near us.

About 15 minutes in, she made the comment that Cowboy was more fun than Trooper because Trooper carried you from A to B, but Cowboy seemed to enjoy being out and about - more eager, looking around, more involved. I agree, although Trooper & my youngest daughter get along well. You can see Cowboy looking around and thinking as you ride him. It may be the first time since we got Cowboy that he's been ridden two days in a row.

Nothing special, just 40 minutes of strolling along, looking around...but she said she had fun. And a little post ride grooming/grazing - something my horses seem to understand:

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post #4 of 2219 Old 09-19-2015, 03:20 PM
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I love Cowboy. He's adorable and seems like a blast.
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Do not tell me I can't...because I will show you that I can.
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post #5 of 2219 Old 09-19-2015, 03:32 PM Thread Starter
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Now that I'm riding him, I'm beginning to appreciate what an excellent horse is hiding inside him. With some practice and conditioning, he could be an excellent trail horse. He's so low to the ground and yet so well balanced and careful of his footing that he gives confidence to his just KNOW he is not going to fall and not going to run away in a panic - probably the two things new riders (does this make me a new rider?) worry about the most. It is easy to relax and enjoy the ride...and a relaxed rider is a better rider. He's the sort of horse who has me - Mr "I Love Stirrups" - thinking about dropping the stirrups on a trail ride.

I'm thinking by this winter we might need to stuff some saddle bags with sandwiches, hay pellets and a bottle of Lambrusco and head out for a few hours...

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post #6 of 2219 Old 09-19-2015, 08:05 PM
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When I started to think that the previous name of my journal stopped representing fully what I was writing about, I asked a moderator if they would replace it with the more representative new title I'd come up with. So I went from "Life in a Trotting Stable", which was initially meant to be about the place in Lake Clifton where I grew up and the horses that are still there, to "Trotters, Arabians, Donkeys and Other People" - as I was starting to include my wider riding life and what was happening at the small farm my husband and I are developing here in Redmond, where we also run donkeys. That way I got to keep all my journal writing in the one place - like Wallaby, who changed the name of her journal after her Arabian mare died and she started over again with a new horse - which made me realise that title changes are possible!
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post #7 of 2219 Old 09-20-2015, 11:31 AM Thread Starter
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I read "Discovering Natural Horsemanship: A Beginner's Odyssey" by Tom Moates yesterday. At about 160 pages, it didn't take long. Well before the halfway mark, I was shouting at the book, "Get on and RIDE!" Groundwork, groundwork, groundwork - just ride!
"Essentially all respected clinicians agree not only on the fact that groundwork is the key to safely training a horse, but that some combination of these exercises should be done every time you ride. If it is your horse you are about to ride, groundwork tunes up the minds of both horse and rider and reestablishes the relationship you have...Honestly though, groundwork alone is so rewarding its enough to keep me working with horses every day."
He later mentions doing 20 minutes of work before riding. He was new to horses in his 30s and describing his learning process. I understand. I was new at 50. But if I had been his horse, I'd have killed him to make him stop nagging me! He discussed at length his problems with mounting a horse, but he also describes it as getting the horse's permission to mount. Hmmm...I'm not huge on dominance, but I'm also not huge on letting the horse decide if today is a good day to go for a ride.

I could imagine the conversation with Mia:
"So, Mia...if it isn't too much bother, and if you feel like it, may I get on your back?"

"If you have to ask, the answer is no. I don't carry squishy wimps."
The only time in 7 years that Mia bucked was when my youngest daughter tried to use her for a lesson. My youngest was sitting on her like a passenger, and the instructor said that after 5 minutes Mia stopped, then very deliberately bucked hard until she came off. Then Mia just stood there: "You are unworthy."

I think much of NH comes down to this: "all respected clinicians agree". It is tough to hold a clinic where 4,000 fans go ride with you for 10-15 miles. It is tough to sell the idea that trust comes with time, and is earned by being trust-worthy, not by round pen gimmicks.

Horses need a leader. A leader doesn't stand around and say, "So...what are we doing today?"

On another thread, SueC wrote: " "If you think about it, the babysitter who continued to mentor from beside or in front of the young horse was taking exactly the same physical, and psychological, position as the mother of a foal will."

That is an excellent one-sentence statement of what I would call real natural horsemanship - horse training that works with how horses naturally learn things. If I dismount, then lead Bandit past a scary thing with me between him and the scary thing, I'm not just teaching him the scary thing is not scary. I'm teaching him I care about his well being and will protect him - to the point of putting myself at risk.

A horse in a strange environment needs to learn what is scary and what is not. It would naturally learn that from its mother and the herd. But if you take a horse raised in the very open country of the Navajo reservation, and put him in a place where he often can't see very far and where there are garage door openers and chain saws and things he never learned about, how is he going to learn?

It seems to me he needs training, not domination. He needs to be introduced to the new world by someone "older and wiser" and taught the ropes. That ought to build a trust that isn't built in round pens. Shouldn't "Natural Horsemanship" involve some measure of "natural"?

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post #8 of 2219 Old 09-22-2015, 12:38 AM Thread Starter
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This response I started on another thread is getting out of hand. The more I write the more I want to write, and it relies heavily on things I've been learning over the last 6-8 months, first with Mia and now with Bandit...and some with Trooper. That isn't fair to the OP of the other thread, so I'll move it here.

It is in response to this post by tinyliny:

Originally Posted by tinyliny View Post
...I do not think that ground work or round pen play is all bad, nor is it worthless for a horse who is already pretty good under saddle. a lot of the time, a horse is not as good under saddle as people think, and probably not as good in the round pen, either.

however, I will agree that for most people, working in the round pen is as much for them as it is for the horse.
I can think of it more as a "let's see if . . " sort of place. I want to see if a horse will choose to come in, if he'll allow me to send him away, and how will he leave? on autopilot, or with an ear to me waiting for further instructions? how does he feel about being asked to move, then to move faster, then to slow? is he resentful and sticky, or is he goosing out fearfully?
that reaction will practically perfectly duplicate the reaction you'll get on that horse when you are in the saddle. so, at the very least, round penning gives te human a test cycle to see what sort of horse is in front of them today...

"That reaction will practically perfectly duplicate the reaction you'll get on that horse when you are in the saddle."

I disagree. Here is why:

There is an old phrase. "Horse sense" dates back at least as far as 1805 in England. The Cambridge dictionary says it refers to someone with "practical knowledge and good judgment about ordinary life". Writing in modern times, and I suspect with scant experience around horses, they assume it is connected to horses meaning country, and the crude supposed wisdom of county folks.

But after 7 years around horses, I think it means the sense that horses have - a surprisingly practical approach and one that, given time, can see thru a lot of artifice ("a clever trick or something intended to deceive"). It is pretty easy to fool a horse once or twice, but I think horses show, over time, good sense in assessing people and their intentions.

It is one of the reasons I believe you build trust by being trust-worthy. Gimmicks work in an arena for a week-end show, but don't hold up over the years.

And while Mia could not sidepass to save her soul in an arena, she never failed me when I had a reason to ask her to do it on a trail - maybe because the trail provided context and it thus made sense to her.

If I asked her to do 5 Figure-8s in the arena, she became frustrated and irritable. If we did them waiting for Trooper to catch up to us on a trail between cactus, she relaxed.

She also was extremely calm when next to me on the ground. That was not true in the saddle. It is true of Bandit too. If he is very afraid of something, I can dismount, put myself between him and the 'danger', and he understands that I'll be eaten first. When I'm on his back, he's not convinced - reasonably enough.

I was taught round pen work almost before I rode horses. I took lessons in how to do round pen work several YEARS before I took riding lessons. Mia was the last of my horses to work with a professional trainer, and by that time I was getting skeptical.

I understand doing round pen work with an unbroke horse or one who is worried about being near people. I've seen it done, done it, and seen good progress.

But I don't think it has zip to do with "respect", "leadership", or even enjoying a person's company. Since my horses live in a corral, I spend a lot of time in their company in a "round pen" - sort of. You know the best way to do join up with them (other than carrying a bucket of pellets with me)? Just stand near the corral fence and talk with my wife. If the two of us are talking, the horses frequently come over and pay close attention.

An experienced farrier told me he never tries to catch a horse in a corral. He just talks to the owners and lays out his stuff and ignores the horses. Then (most of the time) the horses come to him. That might not work in a pasture, but I've done it often enough in our corral.

But if I want to be seen as the leader from the saddle, then I need to establish my bona fides in the saddle. And it seems to me - and I'm struggling to figure this out - I ought to do it the way Mia did: take charge, but then also establish a track record of taking care of my horses. I need to show them I understand the difference between scary and scary-looking. I need to show them I won't put them in a spot where they will be hurt.

I think tinyliny's thread on Harry Whitney ( )brings up a good point by Mr Whitney. Horses crave clarity. They do not like uncertainty. So when I ride them, I need to be as clear as possible about what I'm after.

OR - I can let them work on things by themselves. It goes back to Tom Roberts idea of letting a horse go past scary things on a slack rein - giving them freedom, and support, and letting them work out at least part of it for themselves. But when doing that, I need to be emotionally clear - sending a message of "I know you can do it" and total confidence in my horse. If I don't overwhelm him by putting him in a situation he can't handle, then the horse will learn confidence in himself and trust in me - in himself, because he succeeds, and in me, because I knew it all along.

I think THIS is what creates willing teamwork between horse and rider.

If my horse senses something that worries him, I don't tell him to "Shut up and color!" I respect his concern. We look at it together...for 5 seconds. If it is nothing, I tip his head away and cue him forward. In essence, I say, "I see it, it isn't a problem, let's get on with work". But if the horse is too scared to get on with work, then I try to set him up for finding out I was right all along.

I limit some options very forcibly, if need be. We do not spin around. Any spinning WILL end up with us still facing the threat. We do NOT try to run away. I might ASK him to turn 180 and walk 75 feet, and then ask him to turn 180 back to the threat...but we will NOT run away. I limit those options.

But WE then face it together. If it is bad enough, I'll dismount, put myself in between, and then let the horse move closer one step at a time WITH me - and knowing I'll be eaten first. When the horse eventually realizes it is nothing bad, I mount up and we move on - in mutual agreement that it wasn't bad.

If I can do it without dismounting, all the better. On one of our last rides before Bandit hurt his knee, it took 5 minutes for us to go 100 yard in the face of a terrifying garbage can. But I wasn't worried, we did not turn around, we did not run away, I waited, he assessed the threat, I told him it was OK and he could do it...and we eventually got past it. And THEN we walked away. Together.

No one episode will win the battle. And since this is something I started trying with Mia, and am now still working on with bandit...well, it might fail. But it is based on my theory that horses have "horse sense", and that to get my horse's trust I must be trust-worthy.

And that won't happen in a round pen, because the round pen is too artificial and the horse knows it. The principles of "join up" work to convince a horse that something that seems scary is actually something you can relax around. But I don't see how any amount of round pen work will ever show the horse I (or humans generically) deserve his trust.

A horse would need to be an IDIOT to think that - and frankly, it seems to me much of the horse training I read about ASSUMES the horse is an idiot. I could be wrong on this, but I think building a willing partner requires me to assume my horse has a brain and he uses it with some degree of effectiveness!

BTW - I'm reading Tom Moates SECOND book now. He has, in his second book, concluded traditional round pen work involves dominance rather than trust, and he has a chapter saying "natural horsemanship" is a myth. But he also obviously still values round pen work for experienced horses. I haven't finished the book, but will post here when I do. It is MUCH better than his first book.
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post #9 of 2219 Old 09-22-2015, 02:51 AM
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I think your point of view is intriguing and i agree that trust must be earned by proving that we are trust worthy. But I feel I can accomplish that any where, be it out on the trail or in the round pen, by always being fair and consistent. Being fair meaning -- never asking the horse to do something he is not ready for, making sure i properly prepare him for things in life so that he's not thrown into a situation where he has zero idea where to look for release, not putting the horse in a situation to get hurt, making sure the punishment fits the crime and when correction is needed, getting in them a right out quickly forgiving and moving on. Those are just some examples.

I use the roundpen for a number of things, even with older horses, mainly 'checking up'(my saddle has way better feel and timing than my hand will probably ever have). I like the fact that i can leave them alone to figure things out on their own and i believe it helps them step up and take responsibility for themselves instead of me having to be right there all the tine babysitting and constantly applying corrections. I'm a big believer in letting them work it out themselves whenever possible.
I do like to work on lope to trot transitions a little when they're checked up, as it is one of the most (if not THE most) important piece of the puzzle when teaching sliding stops, spins and rate on a cow. In the round pen the horse can work out how to balance himself in the transition without me interferring on his back and i can see exactly what his feet are doing (i don't always trust my feel. I oftwn question myself)
Doug Williamson has a drill he does in the roundpen where he can teach a horse to go into a reiner spin with just a cluck from him and they will keep spinning until he says woah. I have yet to master this drill; according to Doug most people never do. I will also use the roundpen to take some of the fresh off one that has sat for a bit and is likely to get stupid with me if I just climb on. I don't try to tire them out, just looking to get their mind focused and on me.
Any work i do with them in the round pen (or anywhete really) I'm always careful not to over do it. I don't like standing in the round pen, I'm pretty sure it's only a mile from the sun. I'd much rather ride. So when i do need to do work in there,i always have a clear goal in mind and i try to look for the first place the horse shows signs of getting it and quit there. I want round pen sessions as short as possible.

I feel like thequote you posted from Tom Moates first book ahould read something more like:"Essentially all respected clinicians agree that we lack the experience and ability to really teach anyone the more nuanced and advanced skill involved in sucessfully work and training a horse from it's back. Otherwise we'd be successful upper level trainers. But we're just guys who know how to sell people crap, sooo excessive, mindless groundwork it is!!"
I'm sure someone's going to be butthurt about me making fun of their NH gods like that, but for real have you seen some of those guys try to actually ride a horse? Underwhelming is putting very nicely.
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post #10 of 2219 Old 09-22-2015, 03:01 AM
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Well, then I 'm just gonna say that what I've been doing in the round pen is for me. it makes me a better rider /handler of a hrose. especially recently, as I've learned a bit more about waiting a bit and making sure the hrose isn't searching for the answer before I jump in and "correct him". that bit of waiting for him, allowing him to think aobut and maybe struggle a bit has made a big differnence in the way the horse feels to me. in fact, today, I was really aware of how he changed his feeling in minute ways. there's just a way the skin goes from tight to lose , that tells you he's feeling better about things.

and, approaching the encounter with the paradigm that you are going to try and help them feel better, that gets ME to be more aware of what I am asking. it improves my clarity such that I need to do less and less, and THAT ALONE makes the horse feel better.

in fact, as I think about it, my whole time with horses has been about being able to do more and more by doing less and less. horses really HATE it when we put in more pressure than necessary, and especially when they were ready to respond to a lot less. it's a real affront. that's not to say that I won't put on a fair amount of sudden pressure to a hrose that is sleepwalking. HE wouldn't have responded to less, so if it upsets him, that's his own fault.
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