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post #3031 of 3092 Old 07-18-2019, 10:09 AM
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Originally Posted by Dragoon View Post
...I have little to teach him, but he has much to teach me! Perhaps he knows MY name...
A wonderful and perceptive approach to riding!

I get uncomfortable with competition involving horses. Littauer's phrase about artificial solutions to artificial problems comes to mind. By the 70s, Littauer seemed very uncomfortable with what competition had done to jumping. Approaching 2020, I'm uncomfortable with most high level competition. We humans ruin things.

Riders ask "How?" Horsemen ask "Why?"
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post #3032 of 3092 Old 07-18-2019, 10:56 AM
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Gotta, I actually know exactly what you mean. It would be hard to explain; you did a good job. There is a point though where I know I can handle a horse. Before that magic happens I am leery. I donít know what the horse will do in certain situations and I am careful and held back. One day you suddenly know. You know you can ride that horse because you know the horse now.

Cash and I are verging that point now. I find myself doing things that I would have worried about before. The only hold back for me from completely being there is going outside doing working things alone. I know I can ride him alone from here to somewhere and he wonít get lonely. I am almost certain it would be that way at work, but I havenít done it yet. I have gone away from everyone of course, but not out of sight. I think he wonít mind, but Iíve had enough horses panic in that situation that it leaves me leery until Iíve actually done it.

I have reached that point here though. We do scary things and I trust him and he does me too now.

@Dragoon I think Mouse does know your name. I think probably you know his name too. Old broke horses seem easier to find that magical spot with, so that maybe it goes unnoticed. The way you talk about Mouse I think you definitely know him in that way. After all, you put kids on him! You couldnít do that if you didnít trust him.

Am I not your own donkey, which you have always ridden, to this day? Have I been in the habit of doing this to you? - Balaamís Donkey
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post #3033 of 3092 Old 07-18-2019, 08:27 PM Thread Starter
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@Knave , I think you and Cash are going to be great partners.

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Originally Posted by Knave View Post
@Dragoon I think Mouse does know your name. I think probably you know his name too. Old broke horses seem easier to find that magical spot with, so that maybe it goes unnoticed. The way you talk about Mouse I think you definitely know him in that way.
@Dragoon , that's great you read that book so you know what I was talking about with the names. It's not a new concept with that author either, and I've read similar things in other books like the Hobbit. Also there are a lot of things about names, the meaning of names and changing names in the Bible.

Since your horse is teaching you, there is obviously communication and a relationship. Even how he teaches you is part of his name I think. If he's patient or only up to a point, how he lets you know things are right are wrong, etc.
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post #3034 of 3092 Old 07-19-2019, 06:52 AM
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Originally Posted by gottatrot View Post
It would be nice if that were the case! No, actually it wouldn't, because then horses would just be machines. We'd miss out on all the nuances of their individual personalities.

I've been realizing lately that something has changed with Hero and I, in the past several weeks. It's a little bit difficult to categorize, but I think we're going to make better progress now. You might say he's shown me everything he's got, and it's made me feel that I have an understanding of his reactions.

It's hard to explain, but I've been through this with all three of my horses. You don't know at first the extent of all their reactions. To be safe, you don't push at certain times because you don't want to go too far. There's always this nagging insecurity because you're not sure how far this horse can go. For example, if Hero reared and I scared him, would he flip over? If he got really upset when another horse left him behind, would he explode or fall down? Etc.

I've been riding Hero for about a year and a half, so it's almost surprising to notice this change. But even though it's taken a very long time, I think he is finally starting to really listen to me. It reminds me of my Papillon, which people say they are great dogs but terrible puppies. I remember saying Gilligan this and Gilligan that and his eyes were just glazed and inattentive. A day or two after his first birthday, I said "Gilligan" and he looked into my eyes and focused like "Yes? What did you want?" Before that it was all noise to him.

Hero must have tried to bite (or bite) me a couple hundred times at least, and received a reprimand. Whatever I did seemed ineffective. Except now he doesn't try to bite me. Sometimes if he's really upset he'll flap his lips at me or move his mouth toward me, and then if I wave my hand he'll overreact and be very contrite. He's stopped threatening to kick me. He's letting me groom him and come in close and put my hand over his head and nose, and sometimes he looks in my eye and it's a very sweet look.

People say the horse has to respect you or you need to dominate the horse. I was thinking today that it's more like the folklore about naming, or knowing the true name of something. In one fiction book I read, if you knew the true name of something you had power over it, and that was because you understood all the properties of whatever it was; if it was a person, you understood their emotions and motivations and all about them. Even though it's been quite a long process, I'm beginning to understand more of the bigger picture of Hero.

If he gets really upset, he (like most horses) wants to trust that I will be bigger than that. Bigger than his bucking or panicking or rearing. He wants me to tell him what is up, and then to take comfort from that. That is really hard to do, even if you're extremely confident and secure and think you're willing to risk whatever. There's still a small part of you that is waiting for the really bad thing to happen.

But the past several weeks, I've seen how if I am truly "above" what is happening, it makes a big difference. For example, on the beach the other day something was really scary and Hero got really tight, scrambly and started leaping around under me. I just said "It's fine," whopped him one smack with the crop, and he was literally calm within 5 seconds and back into a nice walk. But I actually felt deep down that it was fine, and he knew that. It's not as simple as "confidence," but you actually have to know the horse well enough to get there.

Yesterday I was pushing him to do very adult horse things in the field, riding in small circles with some lateral movement, fast transitions, and backing. A loud car went by while his brain was engaged, and so he felt overwhelmed and reared. I leaned forward, looked him in the eye, and very slowly bopped him on the cheek, which he thought being whapped on the face was a severe reprimand. Five seconds later he was back into the work, focusing and calm. I felt comfortable pushing him back up to see if he would reach that point again, but he didn't. He didn't want to get face bopped again.

And I don't think it's what I'm doing, but what is different is that he is thinking about how what he is doing is creating a response from me, so he is not just reacting and thinking I am just flying along with him, but instead has gained the focus to relate my reaction to his actions. Like most horses, he does want to please, so he is beginning to pull himself out of his emotions and changing behaviors based on my feedback. As long as I was even a little fazed by his behaviors, he was not able to join me in calm analytical space. Suddenly, I'm seeing his eye, and his thoughts, and he's processing things along with me.

I really believe it's not just about being a strong leader, or getting a horse's respect. You have to know the horse, and sometimes the horse has to know your name too. Trust can take a very long time. And even if they trust you, they might know that you can't quite trust their responses at times, and that you're being wary and safe. Which you absolutely have to do so there's just no short cut. That's why I believe a partnership can need to develop over a long time with a horse, especially if the horse has had previous experiences with other riders and trainers where they've been let down.

Something about Hero's "true name" is that he is a bit like that hysterical woman in the old movies. It's so politically incorrect now, but they used to say "Get a hold of yourself!" and slap someone across the face. Honestly, it sounds silly but Hero is like that. He panics, I say "Get a hold of yourself!" with a smack, and then he does.
Gottatrot- I really like your thoughts and insight, it makes me think. And I really respect that you take on unconventional difficult horses so you get it. And I think that sort of knowledge is something I respect in a horseman above all else. Horses have their own identity and ways of being, there isnt a one size fits all methodology that works and I think with experience and riding a variety of different horses, as well as unconventional horses you really get an education that I think most trainers and people severely lack.

I think some horses it takes longer, if ever to let a rider into their mind and let the rider ride them. If Hero has an unknown background and you got him from a rescue, if he was mistreated or ran around without skill I could see where he lacks trust. I know I've ridden horses from lesson programs that really have to be convinced to let you into their mind and to influence their body. Worse if they were psychologically mistreated, then it's like sometimes they let you in but then if something happens they go to a purely reactionary place and you cant reach them. But that's amazing that now he is reaching to you when he is unsure or nervous, rather than reacting!

But I agree horses like Hero, you cant just MAKE them or bully them or fight them for respect or dominance. It's like a hand in hand process where yes you'll get some ugly moments and they'll challenge you and at moments it's dangerous but you keep going step by step, correcting the bad behavior and directing them towards the behavior you want and accept them, rather than trying to make them into something they arent just being patient and guiding.

I think special and unique horses just take more time to figure out and get on your side, I also think as a rider/handler we have to accept we'll never be in total control but we learn to trust each other more. But when you get these horses on your side, no horse will try harder or show more heart. I think when you have an unconventional horse, people just assume it's because you're doing something wrong or dont understand what you are doing to reach a horse or that there are extra steps in training. A lot of trainers throw these horses away because they're too much work, take too much time and they dont have the emotional sensitivity. I think a horse like Hero needs you and needs someone who listens and at the same time says look I get it but you still need to listen and be here with me. I really think people are so judgmental with an unconventional horse because there are so few of them. So those people lack the experience to understand the horse has a mind of its own. And have not truly encountered a unique horse and a lot of times peoples trainers havent truly encountered a one of kind type of horse either. And it makes the journey hard but when you make head way, it is so rewarding.

Point being I think when you have an unconventional horse you learn something unspoken in each other, maybe that is their name? Im not sure I understand but I think for example Wonder is very loyal to me. I dont know if I know his name but I can reach his "radio station" and he listens when I engage him vs some other people he closes off his radio signal. He will do a lot for me, he still voices his opinions and will tell me to F off. Im also sure Hero will do a lot for you that he wouldnt do for anyone else.

A natural horsemanship trainer taught me, when we engage with a horse. We need to show them we are different and open up communication using energy and the mind to communicate. It isnt just pressing buttons or something physical but all riding and horsemanship begins with the mind and communicating to the horse that we are different, that we hear them and wish for them to begin emotionally and mentally before an aid become physical. If that makes sense but that sort of what knowing the true name meant to me.

I'll also say in regards to upper level competition horses, a lot of those horses dont have room in this world without being that level of horse because they have an intensity and drive that they need a job and purpose every day with someone who can handle that kind of horse. My horse for example couldnt just be a trail horse or something you just hack out. He isnt happy just sitting in a field eating grass, he needs a job. A trainer of mine who used to ride in the UK knew a mare who was only happy when working, even sat in a field eating grass she wasnt happy but the work made her relax and find peace.

I think it's like a difference between say a border collie who NEEDS a job or behaves badly vs a lab or greyhound who is totally happy being a couch dog. Some horses and people are the same, they NEED a job and hard work. Not all horses are happy being trail horses and quite honestly a lot of those high level competition horses are so well treated and well managed but the horse's are really difficult (not all but more common to find unconventional horses at the top than the bottom). They're often the horses who'd be put down in most other situations because they are too much and are dangerous in the wrong hands. I know my horse would rotate homes until he ends up at a slaughter house. His behavior gets SO bad if he isnt properly managed or ridden by very experienced, tactful riders every ride. I can put anyone on him at a walk but trot or canter that rider HAS to know what they're doing or he decides he doesnt steer or brake anymore. Every test he gives is testing whether or not he respects you enough to listen. If a rider/handler became aggressive with him and tried to dominate, there is a lot of aggression in his personality that would come out.

I think gottatrot knows this very well but with certain horses they have different behavioral characteristics based on what you nurse in them and the energy you carry in yourself, as well as what behavior you correct. And some horses behave very badly, if they dont have a direction for all their mental and physical energy. It kinda reminds me of a border collie or german shepherd.

I think competition has it's place and some of the horses at the top levels need that space, else no one would work with them. Like my trainer explained to her clients that I tolerate all of Wonder's attitude, difficulty and problems because he is so talented. I also love him and couldn't live with him ending up at slaughter or euthanized because that's what happens to horses like him. My friends in Denmark who have done high level competition have told me, Wonder is the sort of horse you dont pull out in front of any client because then people think you dont know what youre doing but then when you pull them out at GP everyone goes oh who is that? That's a cool horse. And that's what pros do when they see a talented horse who is unconventional, they wait a long time before they show them in public. My point being without competition, where do these horse go? And where do they end up? People say competition is bad but it makes a space for horses people wouldnt tolerate, unless they had talent and they end up in the right hands.
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post #3035 of 3092 Old 07-19-2019, 10:43 AM
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Without competition, a lot of horses would go away. One way or another.

88% of land in Nevada is publicly owned. 75% in Utah. 60% in Oregon, and around 55% in Arizona and Wyoming. Those include state and federal land. Federal only is smaller:


It is hard for me to comprehend places where riding is restricted by private land. It is also hard for me to comprehend horses bred for a specific sport. I'll admit I don't really like the practice. OTOH, that is what has GIVEN us the modern horse! There would be no Arabians or Quarter Horses or Appies if humans didn't breed for specific goals. So...where to draw the line?

And here is a question: Is @gottatrot drawn to special horses, or does gotttrot CREATE "special horses"? Bandit's previous owner viewed him as a fairly submissive horse. You had to be ready to beat him past things at times, and ride out the bucking fits, but if you did...he'd submit and go. Bandit was always on edge when I got him, even just hanging out with other horses. It isn't just his body that has changed in the last 4 years. He still spins up emotionally sometimes, but only for what seems good reason to him.

Part of me - and this is heresy on HF - would like to get out of horses. Now that it is just my wife & I, finding someone to take care of them if we go somewhere for 4 days is tough. I'd pay good for it but no one wants the job. But Trooper & Cowboy are 20+. Who would want them? And while Bandit is 11, he's gotten used to having a vote. But honestly? Lots of people want horses who do NOT think. Who have no vote. ATVs with legs. Point and go horses, which Bandit is not. Not now.

If horses could choose their sports, I'd be happier with horse sports. Too many are required to do a given sport and that makes me sad. The idea which I've seen often enough on HF: "He has 23 hours a day to do what he wants. This is MY hour. He OWES me!"

I find the entire lesson horse thing appalling. As done here, horses move around in endless circles, trotting or turning and always expected to give total obedience while riders learn the horse has no say in anything. It seems a horrible way to train riders and a horrible way to treat horses. When I took lessons, it was 100% about the rider and 0% about the horse.

We teach people to ride like that and then wonder why they do. I suspect there are a LOT of special horses out there, a lot of "unconventional horses", but they are required to put on an act. Some tolerate needing to act better than others. And of course, since we breed horses to be submissive, we probably have a lot of naturally submissive horses.

Riders ask "How?" Horsemen ask "Why?"
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post #3036 of 3092 Old 07-19-2019, 11:12 AM
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Isnít that everyoneís fear @bsms ? We fear we are the cause of some issue our horse is having. Even when we logically know, like I know with Bones and his self-mutilation, that it has nothing to do with us, we wonder.

Gotta works consistently to try training which minimizes the difficult behavior. Itís not to make a horse with no choice, but to make a relaxed horse willing to work as a team. A horse who is bucking or showing some sort of stressed behavior is helped by learning to relax.

I am a very nervous person. Anxiety rolls into me like the hottest horse. Itís not fun and I donít like it. I work to control it and am not often successful, oh maybe outwardly I seem calm, but I am mostly nervous. Bones is like me. He has been better than I at successfully overcoming it in most situations.

In teaching him to deal with his anxiety, I would hope I became more like his therapist for a time frame. I didnít want him to become an atv, but I did want him to be able to process life in a healthy way.

On another note, horses bred for something tend to crave that thing. Put a cow in front of Bones and he lights up, everything in him coils and he is pure excitement and athleticism. Like a border collie dog (at least the ones I know bred to work), he needs his job. I imagine it is hard to have a happy border collie if they are not working livestock.

Am I not your own donkey, which you have always ridden, to this day? Have I been in the habit of doing this to you? - Balaamís Donkey
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post #3037 of 3092 Old 07-19-2019, 11:41 AM
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I think I wasn't clear. I think gottatrot MAKES "special horses" because she brings out their inner nature. I think Mia would have been a "special horse" regardless of who rode her, but what she taught me has made Bandit somewhat "special". When we allow a horse choices and try to find what matters to the horse, the horse becomes free to be who he is. But along that path, there will be symptoms of tension showing up in many horses. Emotions they were punished for before that they then need to learn to control themselves.

In another thread I read today, the idea was expressed that if your horse bucked in response to spurs, you should punish that intolerable behavior. I understand not making that behavior profitable, but I also think we ought to ask WHY the horse is reacting that way - and look to ourselves and our "requirements" first. Given the scars on Trooper's sides, I have no idea how to train him to using spurs. Nor do I see any need. I'm not saying spurs are wrong, but I find the idea that every horse needs to know how to be ridden in them very strange.

The idea that spurs are needed to make a horse soft is foreign to me. Maybe I don't have the right experience. I think UNDERSTANDING and WILLINGNESS makes a horse soft. I have no objection to spurs but do object to the idea that every horse needs to be ridden in them.

When my horse understands what I want and why I want it, he is very soft. Instinctive, even. We obviously don't achieve that goal all the time, and I prefer Bandit giving me the Middle Hoof Salute when he wants over softness anyways. And he obliges!

I think there are a LOT of special horses, waiting to find a rider who will allow them to be special. A skilled rider may do that while doing dressage or reining or trail riding, although I think the latter matches most horses inner nature easier.

We should try to make special horses. Not treat special as bad.

Riders ask "How?" Horsemen ask "Why?"
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post #3038 of 3092 Old 07-19-2019, 12:45 PM
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I get it now! Sorry for the misunderstanding @bsms . I thought you used the ďspecialĒ horse as almost a negative. Like Bones is ďspecialĒ because he has a neurological condition. People insult me by calling him ďspecialĒ often. So, my panties twist easily with that word.

Isnít it dumb how when you are insulted it can change the whole meaning of a word? I know special is a good thing, and when I use that word I mean it as defined, and yet when someone else uses it I hear it in the way it has been used around me.

Am I not your own donkey, which you have always ridden, to this day? Have I been in the habit of doing this to you? - Balaamís Donkey
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post #3039 of 3092 Old 07-19-2019, 01:05 PM
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BSMS- I like your point of maybe these horses seem special because they are allowed a voice and not shut down.

I think some horses dont tolerate attempts to make them shut down, submit and bow theirs heads of submission. Mine does not, even when you are reasonable sometimes he acts out in ways that may be considered dangerous. His no is usually a loud response because he has a mind of his own and acts on it, unfortunately he cant be stopped once he's decided what he is going to do. I havent met a person who can, I think that is his spirit and who he is. You cant make him obedient, unless he decides to be. But I also dont think that's safe or ideal to have a horse like that. I dont think it is okay behavior but it's not really something that can just be stopped. It's how he expresses himself. I think his F** you button would be much worse with someone who tried to bully or pressure him. I have no doubt he would rear and flip on someone or would become a very aggressive, hostile horse. He needs a voice, with a voice his behavior is MUCH better. Not perfect but he is kind but he also cant be allowed to get away with certain behaviors else he is dangerous and not safe to ride. Cant just throw the reins away and expect him to walk, trot, canter around or he refuses to steer or brake at all. He just does whatever he wants, thinks whoever is on his back is an idiot and unworthy of respect and then he becomes hostile on the ground. So he has to kept in line but also respected. It's a fine line.

I think there is a really good point in your message, why do we train horses to submit and shut down. A lot of riders and trainers do trying to force submission, rather than having a conversation with the horse. gottatrot has a conversation with the horse, so they start to show their true selves and feel safe in being able to have a voice and safe in having their own personality. But I also think some horses are so distinctly their own personality and self that the agreement you receive from them is because they agree to it and you cannot mold those horses into whatever you want because that is who they are.

I remember the horses in Germany and the ones we received from Germany were quite shut down and didnt display much personality for a while. It felt almost like they were robots programmed to do a job and didnt connect mentally when you rode them. It was like they had mentally shut down from being programmed to be what they were trained to be. As months went along they developed more personality and came out of their shell. I dont think they ever had especially quirky or difficult behavior. Just more personality. One went to a trainer I dont like at all and came back mentally scarred. SUPER spooky and scared of everything. Scared of a rider's leg and it was really sad because he was such an AA friendly, sweet, anyone could hop on kind of guy to absolutely meltdowns and panic attacks. He was sort of worked through on that but he'll never be the same.

But I also think there is a fine line of safe and good to work with, as well as being fair. Sometimes you do have to have an argument or discussion and it isnt pretty. Horses allowed to get away with too much tend to act out like a spoiled child when they're told they cant just do whatever they want and need to listen. I think the respect goes both ways of the horse feeling like it has an identity and has respect, along with being respectful and good to the rider/handler.

When I used to help raise foals, as well as handle colts and stallions. I had to be VERY VERY strict with my handling and management of those horses because a small mistake like missing a glance from their eye could result in them striking me in the head or ripping my face off. The foals werent like that but needed a clear, strict system of behavior then they were fairly easy. But with the studs if I missed it happening by microseconds because the timing of each correction has to be SO quick and SO escalated. Or they'll get you and it has to be EVERY time they give a look like that or the behavior becomes worse. Some horses have to be that carefully managed and cant be given a voice because then they are dangerous.

Knave-I agree. Sometimes we blame ourselves but we cant stop everything, we just do our best because we love our horses. Bones is lucky to have you, I think he knows it too. Horses like that need someone who love and understand them. Then they thrive. What humans and animals work well together and how they pair together fascinates me.

Last edited by DanteDressageNerd; 07-19-2019 at 01:17 PM.
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post #3040 of 3092 Old 07-19-2019, 02:03 PM
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Mia needed a rider who would sometimes go toe to hoof with her. Not to beat her into submission, which wasn't happening. But to make it clear the RIDER would not be cowed into submission either. She was also a much hotter horse than Bandit.

Where I ride, Bandit is much safer. Much closer to my skill level too. From today's entry on my journal:

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Originally Posted by bsms View Post
...Sometimes a horse's problem is like a cactus spine under the skin. You may not be able to see it but it is causing pain. And sometimes you just need to persist until the spine gets close to the surface. Then you can remove it, or maybe a blister will form and pop. When it comes to the surface, you are healing. You can't heal until it comes out in the open.

Some horse bad habits are like that. They fester away underneath. They cause inner tension. Given some freedom, the bad thing will come to the surface. And then it may look ugly. But it is healing. You don't take an axe to a blister. At the most you use a needle. Then you give it time to heal...
Bandit was incredibly tense when he got here. I was told he loved racing other horses. I honestly don't think he did. I'm sure he can be competitive. Mia sure as heck could be! But I think Bandit was responding the way Cowboy does if you put him in a round pen. He acts the way he is expected to act (like a puppy dog) because it is the only way he gets relief. I think Bandit mostly raced because he had to. But I think he prefers hiking. He sure as heck is relaxed and receptive in a way he wasn't when he came.

Bucking is something we worked thru. Although he may buck tomorrow. The ultimate goal is to teach him more productive ways to express himself. But once a horse knows how to buck, they will always know. IMHO.

Riders ask "How?" Horsemen ask "Why?"
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