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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Previous threads closely related here:

http://www.horseforum.com/horse-riding/mias-last-day-bsms-580473/#post7464529

http://www.horseforum.com/member-journals/branded-brandy-final-name-bandit-mias-581034/

This post on the second thread got me thinking:

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:

GENTLEMAN’S RIDING HORSE.
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 rider’s 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 rider‘s job is to set the route, the horse’s 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 it’s master’s pleasure
Never should it evade the bit nor jerk the reins from the rider’s hands.
If the reins are dropped onto the horse’s 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
“A Gentleman’s Riding Horse” are very hard to find.
Invariably they have to be created,

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

http://www.horseforum.com/horse-training/anger-matter-carrot-stick-41675/#post477391

Another thread long gone by with food for thought:

http://www.horseforum.com/horse-articles/post-traumatic-fall-disorder-fear-riding-49041/#post565611

And: http://www.horseforum.com/horse-memorials/joe-very-special-horse-one-kind-183233/#post2365017

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!

:cheers:

:riding:
 

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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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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
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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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
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 rider...you 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...

:winetime:​
 

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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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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
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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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
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:

...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...
http://www.horseforum.com/natural-horsemanship/cant-join-up-622649/page2/#post8027241

"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 ( http://www.horseforum.com/horse-training/harry-whitney-619937/ )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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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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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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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
"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."

I suspect we all learn lessons, and some lessons are learned from different angles. With me, riding Bandit, there are a lot of things just in our neighborhood - riding down residential streets - that stress him more than what is in the desert. That makes sense, given that he has roamed loose in a herd on the Navajo reservation. The desert makes more sense to him than a residential area.



With Mia, last winter and spring, I was trying to trust her to work her way past things on a slack rein. We were making some progress, but I was still focused on 'getting past' instead of 'figure it out with my support and encouragement'.

With Bandit, I've been trying to give the time it takes to let him work it out - with some constraints from me. No spinning, no running away...but what else can you think to do? The lady I took lessons from had some faults, but she said something that stuck with me. She said we cannot MAKE a horse make the right choice. But we can reject his wrong choices and wait for him to make the right one.

If Bandit was calmer, I might need to find a way to do that in a round pen. But since he does get nervous just walking through a neighborhood, I can use that as a teaching moment:

"You are nervous. I am not. We won't run away, but what else can you think of to do? Let's work on this together." I never did that with Mia. But after reading some of the HF journals and thinking about what is going on, I'm trying it now. I'm trying to teach him to think about things and respond sensibly.

"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."

So a 57 year old guy is trying to assume the role of a mother horse. :eek_color: A foal assumes the mother will take care of him and knows best. I need to teach Bandit that humans are like his dam - knowledgeable about the world AND willing to guide and protect him. But like the dam, my goal is for him to 'grow up' instead of 'join up' - to learn for himself AND to accept that when we go out alone, he is NOT alone. That we are alone together. We are a herd.

"There's just a way the skin goes from tight to lose , that tells you he's feeling better about things."

I agree. With Bandit, it is extreme - from neck vertical to neck at 30 deg. From back like an I-beam to relaxed.

But riding Trooper the other day, it was much more subtle. Trooper was severely spurred by a cowboy. He doesn't like guys. He'll obey men, but he doesn't enjoy our company. Trooper's spur scars:



On another journal thread, folks have speculated that a horse who has been overloaded with pressure finds the mere presence of a human to be pressure. In Trooper's case, maybe he finds a guy with a type A personality stressful - not because I'm DOING something to him, but because I am what I am.

" 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."

Arguably, Trooper has been grossly offended, then. By a guy. And probably by me, too. I rode him a lot during the time I stopped riding Mia. But my goal was all about ME - MY balance, MY learning to ride. After all, Trooper was an obedient horse. What more could I ask?

But Mia & Bandit & Cowboy are showing me that if I ask more, I sometimes get more. I've been working with Bandit to get him to "talk to me" - to feel free to let me know he is worried, or concerned. That he is free to look around, and if he sees something of interest we can look at it together. And work together to handle it.

Trooper does great with my youngest, who is probably the least demanding rider I've ever seen. Maybe 16 year old Trooper needs to learn what I've been trying to teach 7 year old Bandit - it is OK to talk to your rider even if your rider is a type A guy!

"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."

If I had read that sentence two years ago, I'd have thought you had lost your mind. Now I think maybe you've found it. Maybe I'm finding mine, too.

I cannot speak to those who compete with horses. But for those more interested in trail riding or even just arena riding for fun, getting a horse who feels free to talk with you, who interacts with you and who is engaged in what you both are doing together - THAT feels like 'horsemanship' to me. Not just riding, but understanding and interacting with the horse. Teaching the horse confidence with humans. Getting a willing partner instead of just an obedient servant. To go from being the command center to the coach...
 

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I cannot speak to those who compete with horses. But for those more interested in trail riding or even just arena riding for fun, getting a horse who feels free to talk with you, who interacts with you and who is engaged in what you both are doing together - THAT feels like 'horsemanship' to me. Not just riding, but understanding and interacting with the horse. Teaching the horse confidence with humans. Getting a willing partner instead of just an obedient servant. To go from being the command center to the coach...
We started with arena and trails for fun 35 years ago, with our family's first two horses. (Dad had ploughed with horses as a young boy, and been taught by the farmers he worked for in order to help support his family during the war, when his father was in a Siberian prison camp for years, to drive carriages and ride bareback on the carriage horses as well.) This was exactly our ethos, and it seems it's a far more common ethos in Europe than in Australia or the US. Lisbeth Pahnke-Airosto sent me a recent copy of Ridsport (Swedish horse magazine) for which she wrote some features. She and her team have just finished arranging the 2015 European Championships for ponies in Showjumping, Dressage and Eventing (and Lisbeth was happy that the Swedish got the bronze medal :)). She also pointed out to me an article on horse education written by a Bulgarian trainer she works with, and I'm not surprised that all the photos show happy, relaxed horses and humans who have a very obvious affection for their horses (the biggest photo shows the trainer and horse cheek to cheek with the most marvellous expressions on their faces). Now I just have to translate what he's actually saying from Swedish to English!

Anyway, Lisbeth Pahnke-Airosto wrote a very influential and educational series of horse novels based on her own experiences, that guided and inspired many young riders in Europe, including yours truly, from the 1970s onwards. It was this very ethos that was embodied in her books and that she passed on to many of her readers. Lisbeth Pahnke-Airosto can speak to this ethos working wonderfully in competitions - Showjumping has been her personal favourite. And our family can confirm that this ethos also works marvellously in competitive harness racing, which my father has now done for 30 years (coming runner-up in the Triple Crown Classic with his very first horse as a qualified trainer-reinsman back in 1986, and having had a row of successful horses over the years). I can confirm it works marvellously for competitive endurance, ridden gymkhana events like barrel and bending races, and dressage and horse shows, which I participated in with my late Arabian mare, who was the first horse I trained from scratch, and educated to saddle and harness according to this ethos... which was an ethos that was also shared by my instructor in the European riding school where I learnt to ride at the age of nine.

Nobody I knew in Europe ever did "join-ups" or anything like that, and we've never done that either. The European style of training is very different. It has a spectrum ranging from kind to cold like anywhere, but in my youth I was surrounded mostly by people with the kind approach, who, it was my observation, never seemed to have the same sorts of problems with their horses as the ones who didn't seem to prize making a genuine connection with their animals, and who were in it mostly for ambition.


I'm just going to post the two photos that went with that baby-sitter quote bsms has been citing, so people can see for themselves what that looked like in harness education:

This is my father and me in the mid-1980s training Classic Juliet to go in the cart when she was somewhere between one and two years old, which is the usual age we were getting young horses used to a cart.



At the critical stages we always had two people with a horse. Here I elected to drive and dad to lead. This was her first lap around the sand track with a driver. She'd been long reined extensively in preparation and had been familiarised with the cart. Next stage after this would be my father driving and me babysitting at the head, without a lead rope, just for the horse's confidence. The person at the head got pretty fit! :smile:



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. We found that this helped the young horses' confidence no end, and they soon did independently what they had been taught initially with their babysitter present - just like in a herd learning situation. (In a herd, the inexperienced horses will never be pushed to the front in a scary situation - they will be shielded by their mothers, and other mentors. Yet many humans will, unnaturally, push the horses to be the first when there is a scary situation...instead of protecting them.)

I make a similar argument about the helpfulness, in certain situations, of getting off a riding horse and adopting the same physical and psychological position when dealing with something scary or new. I always find the horse really relaxes if it sees me touch the thing of which it is so frightened. Pretty soon, in most cases, if you give it time and are relaxed about it (and don't try to
force the horse closer), the horse will be approaching and sniffing the scary thing itself.

Italicised parts were excerpts from the original post. To me, of course, this is all second nature and makes complete sense in a way that some of the ideas I've seen on horse training really do not. Some of them seem to completely ignore that the horse is a sentient being with intelligence and dignity, and no less an intrinsic value than a human being actually (although many people subscribe to the humans-as-the-pinnacle-of-life idea...well, I don't, and as a result of not looking at horses with low expectations, I see how magnificent they actually are). :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
I don't think working WITH the horse is as rare as some DVD trainers make it seem. There are ranches where a cowboy will spur a horse bloody like was done to Trooper, but there are many ranches where the cowboy would be fired on the spot. Trooper's home ranch assigned him to working sheep because that was what he was good at, while his sire was assigned to working rough cattle because that is what the stallion loved to do.

I think the 'total dominance' approach is more common in competitive sports. If you are riding like this, the horse MUST be engaged:



Emory H. Sager, of the Shoe Bar, on "Old Blue" his favorite cutting horse, working the herd out on roundup grounds. Shoe Bar Ranch, Texas, 1912

Erwin E. Smith Collection Guide | Collection Guide

If you do a search for pictures of cutting horses, you won't seen much resentment. They mostly look like this random Internet picture:



I honestly haven't seen any resentful looking horses on a trail ride. I certainly have been on a horse who became scared during a trail ride. I've been on tired horses. But I haven't seen or ridden one who seemed to resent the ride.

A person can take it to the opposite extreme. Tom Moates second book was better than his first, but it still drove me nuts. Near the end, he describes riding a horse he's owned for years.
I grew completely aghast to find out that with every step or two, Niji left me mentally...Before, what I considered to be a horse willfully following my lead as we rode ten steps calmly and happily, instead was really nothing more than Niji going where he wanted to go. I just happened to be up on his back and wanting to go to the same place by coincidence. Then, when I asked for something different, his mind was long gone elsewhere and he wasn't real happy about changing it...

...I started to ride after that sideline help by checking in with Niji every step or two. Literally, I advanced a step and lifted one rein a little to see if his head gave to the ask instantly...If his mind was elsewhere and not right there available to my request, then I worked to bring his head around and disengage the hind quarters until his thought came around too." pages 101-102
That just struck me as sooooo wrong! If I'm out jogging with a friend, we might cover a half mile without talking. That is OK. We're jogging together. If I go out shooting with my SIL, we don't talk much - but those are the times when he is likely to talk about what happened during his two tours in Iraq. You ought to be able to ride a horse like walking with a friend - together, but not obsessed with each other! I don't want my horse continuously trying to stay with me mentally. Who could have fun like that?

And making a horse turn and disengage is hard on the horse. It is no gentler than hitting the horse with a crop every time it stops focusing on you! Now the horse isn't with you because you are a good person to be with, but because you will "bring his head around and disengage the hind quarters" if he doesn't! Between that sort of pestering and the never ending round pen work he advocates, the horse probably feels like he is being stalked - like a cute girl getting 23 phone calls a day from someone who wants her attention. Moates wants to build a relationship with the horse, but the phrase "He's Just Not That Into You" comes to mind!

There ought to be a happy medium between trying to control the horse's every step and expecting the horse to fall in love with you. If you want obsessed devotion, get a Border Collie. Mine is 2 feet away right now, and he'll follow me to the bathroom whether I want it or not. I have to close the door to keep him out. After all, one never knows if sheep will come tumbling out of the faucet and need to be herded!

It seems to me we should set boundaries - ones that are acceptable to us - and then give the horse freedom within those boundaries. Like kids, horses need and want boundaries. And like kids, horses need freedom. I shouldn't beat them, but neither should I be offended if we don't "bond". "Working together" is fine.

It is OK if my horse doesn't send me flowers (or in my case, buy me a box of ammo :loveshower: ) for my birthday!
 

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Nice post! Man, bsms, that TM quote in your post above seems like pure megalomania to me! Maybe RCD could write a little psychological profile based on such a statement for us, but it seems to me control is a huge issue for this person, and of course you can't work effectively and ethically with horses or with people when that's the kind of emotional baggage you're lugging...and I will observe again that those who carry on the most about "respect" (by which they mean having to have it) are the least likely, from my observations, to actually offer any, whether to humans or other fellow creatures like horses, or the earth in general. It seems to me that it always has to be about them, and that the horse doesn't really figure except as an object to act upon and a being to subjugate - as a possession to which to do as they please. And that, to me, seems not just psychologically, but also spiritually immature. And that just can't lead to anything profound either...
 

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...and how lovely, by contrast, is Alicia Burton and how she works with her horses and thinks about them:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LxuqbZ0Q_9c

I especially like how she words her philosophy about horse training and working with "problem" horses around two minutes into this clip. I also think "you're amazing" is a far better attitude than "you owe me". ;-)

Like all the horsepeople I admire, she oozes warmth and calm, and is exactly the sort of person you just know horses are going to enjoy working with.

Also this lady:

http://augustusthemustang.wordpress.com/

You can just see it in the way she works with her horses. I'd want to work with her too! :)
 

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I grew completely aghast to find out that with every step or two, Niji left me mentally...Before, what I considered to be a horse willfully following my lead as we rode ten steps calmly and happily, instead was really nothing more than Niji going where he wanted to go. I just happened to be up on his back and wanting to go to the same place by coincidence. Then, when I asked for something different, his mind was long gone elsewhere and he wasn't real happy about changing it...

...I started to ride after that sideline help by checking in with Niji every step or two. Literally, I advanced a step and lifted one rein a little to see if his head gave to the ask instantly...If his mind was elsewhere and not right there available to my request, then I worked to bring his head around and disengage the hind quarters until his thought came around too." pages 101-102
There ought to be a happy medium between trying to control the horse's every step and expecting the horse to fall in love with you.
For reference is he talking about in the arena or riding in the open?

Old Ghost will actually take a little snooze if a rider is on his back and not providing direction just standing there. Lift the reins and his head comes up, the eyes fly open and he is immediately ready for your next request. I liken it to a computer going into standby mode.

Doing trails with Oliver, he does get into a rhythm of relaxation where I'm not telling him what to do because the status quo is fine. His head is low, his pace is even and we just go. Again if I lift the reins or lay a foot on then his mind is comes back on me. I don't expect him to constantly obsess about me out on a three or four hour ride, that would be neurotic behavior and take the fun out of it for both of us.

"I grew completely aghast to find out that with every step or two, Niji left me mentally..."

Though I don't understand how he could suddenly realize this, without it having been readily apparent before, a place where I could see it being an issue is in the arena. Depending upon the kind of riding he is doing, such as flat work or even pole bending a horse that is tuned out to the rider between poles or in the middle of a dressage pattern would be an issue as the cues come fairly rapidly in some cases.

Ollie gets like this sometimes in the arena, especially when a pretty mare walks by waving her tail in the air! In that case, yes I do try to get his interest back on me. On the other hand, we also keep arena work to a minimum; he and I prefer trails much more. :D
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
"In the past, our issues manifested when we left the confines of the corral and got out onto the farm roads....usually the first trip went pretty well. Then...I'd notice Nija become less willing to go where I wanted. Finally, things deteriorated into a huge battle where he wanted to go one way and I another, and we spun circles where I tried desperately yet futilely to pressure and release him to my idea. Eventually it led to my dismounting and walking him back home for safety." - pg 98
There is a balance. Mia mostly got over her fears, but she would startle severely at times - usually when everything was calm and relaxed and she seemed utterly content. Then BOOM! - for 5 seconds, and then she'd look back to me as if to ask for an explanation of what just happened. My best guess is that she would mentally fall asleep strolling down a trail, then wake up and be startled to find herself somewhere she didn't recognize.

For a situation like that, mixing things up enough to prevent her from falling asleep while walking would probably have helped. At least, that was my plan to try about the time I had the chance to trade her for Bandit. I had worked for so long to calm her that I had, perhaps, gone too far!

But what Moates seems to be talking about is needing to have the horse mentally tied to you constantly. The idea is that you direct the horse's thought, and the thought needs to be with you for you to direct it. Then you 'send it left' and the horse turns left to follow 'his thought' that you just sent left. Frankly, it is all a bit weird to me.

My idea is that we keep doing what we were doing until I say it is time to do something different. During that down time, the horse is free to look around, smell, let me know the trail is too rocky and he/she needs to slow, etc. But unless I say otherwise, we'll keep doing pretty much what we were doing.

I think the problem was that horses like a confident rider. They do not like uncertainty. Most do not like making big decisions. They want a rider who is intent on going from A to B, and who will tell them at B that he wants to go right to C. They want a confident leader, and confident leaders don't say, "So...would you like to go right? Right feels good to me, how does it feel to you? I want you to be happy if we go right. Will right make you happy?"

Even when a horse is getting scared, they like someone to suggest options. They don't want to be beaten into submission, but a suggestion "Let's go right and move 50 feet away. That will give us a buffer zone and, when you are feeling safer, I'll show you why I'm not worried." If you leave the decision making totally up to the horse, with zero input from you...well, a horse on its own doesn't like making those decisions.

If you try to force a horse into a situation that scares him, you need to be able to totally dominate the horse. If you work with the horse, you can give him suggestions before the fear hits the "blind panic" spot, and teach him. But if you leave the decision making up to him, or push him until he is hitting the blind panic zone...then it gets ugly.

If you respond by then dismounting and leaving the area, the horse learns the way to avoid a scary thing is to get you to dismount. If you dismount before that stage, and put yourself between him and the scary thing, and show him it wasn't scary to begin with, then dismounting can work well.

But reading it, I don't think Nija was afraid. I think he just didn't feel like it. His rider wasn't the boss. His rider wasn't confident. And Nija didn't feel like it and so he rebelled. Cowboy will do that with a rider. If you want him to go right and he wants to go left, you'd better be ready to back up the cue to go right. If you don't, Cowboy will dominate YOU. But if you jump in his chili and insist, he quickly figures out you are serious about things and he might as well go along. And then he relaxes.

Apart from fear, Mia would do the same. She was willing about 98% of the time. But if she wasn't, you'd better to be ready to go toe to hoof with her and insist. If not...she'd take charge and ignore you.

I don't believe in starting a fight with a horse. But if the horse insists on one, the rider needs to engage. Trooper and Lilly both were/are horses who will work with a submissive rider. Mia and Cowboy were/are horses who are willing to dominate a submissive rider. Bandit is in between, as he is in so many other ways.

And all new riders, including me after 7 years, will judge their horse and thus their response incorrectly at times. But I don't try to ride by some sort of spiritual bonding with my horse. It is a two-way thing, not all horse or all rider, but a give and take that depends on the horse's personality and desires as well as the rider's.

And sometimes, the correct response to a horse is "I don't give a rat's rear end what you want!" If the horse is willing to work, work with him. If the horse wants to fight, then fight. But with most horses and in most cases, if you are clear and confident, they'll go along - without a fight and without needing to keep their focus on you every moment and every step.
 

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I don't believe in starting a fight with a horse. But if the horse insists on one, the rider needs to engage. Trooper and Lilly both were/are horses who will work with a submissive rider. Mia and Cowboy were/are horses who are willing to dominate a submissive rider. Bandit is in between, as he is in so many other ways.

And all new riders, including me after 7 years, will judge their horse and thus their response incorrectly at times. But I don't try to ride by some sort of spiritual bonding with my horse. It is a two-way thing, not all horse or all rider, but a give and take that depends on the horse's personality and desires as well as the rider's.

And sometimes, the correct response to a horse is "I don't give a rat's rear end what you want!" If the horse is willing to work, work with him. If the horse wants to fight, then fight. But with most horses and in most cases, if you are clear and confident, they'll go along - without a fight and without needing to keep their focus on you every moment and every step.

I bolded the part that I both agree and disagree with as I think to some extent it comes down to knowing your horse.

I think I posted this before a while back but since Oliver generally doesn't give me much guff, I don't have too many recent stories to share and end up having to repeat some.

We were out riding with another horse-rider pair, we had gotten "lost" and finally found the trail again. I wasn't worried about being lost, but I know my human buddy had been. When we came back to the trail it was a right or left choice. My buddy went right, Oliver wanted to go left (it happened to be the shortest way back to familiar territory). A fight ensued and I reciprocated his stubbornness with my own considerable version. After a minute or so literally going in circles and sideways and everywhere but up thank-goodness, we had gotten nowhere and emotions on both our ends were running high. Rather than grabbing a switch off a branch and further escalating, I stopped fighting by simply asking him to stand. He stood and stopped fighting too. We sat for a few seconds, took some breaths and I asked again to head to the right. We went along without a problem.

In the end, what worked best for him was to settle both of us down and ask again. Otherwise it could have ended like this.

two men fighting both get knocked out - Bing Videos

Sometimes I think we are not all that different from our horses and our brains get stuck in a loop!
 
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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
I had a similar case with Mia once, when she wanted to trot quickly home. I couldn't hold her back, but I was trying and we both were getting ****ed. I got her stopped, both of us panting. Then I tried something besides direct confrontation - we 'compromised'. She could choose the speed and I would choose the direction. Want to trot fast? Great - turn away from home and let's go!

That's not what you wanted? OK, since you are walking, let's turn and walk home. It took her about 5 minutes to decide HOME is what she wanted, and we then walked all the way home. But by giving her some choice, she stopped fighting. And since I wasn't sure I could come out on top, avoiding a fight to the finish made sense.

BTW - just finished a ride on Bandit for the first time in 2 weeks. His leg owwwies seem to be healing. No limping. He rode today like he did 2 weeks ago. Spooked once at a mail truck. He did a 180, so I turned it into a 360. Since we ended up facing the truck, I suggested we move to one side to get more buffer room. He agreed. We then watched the mail truck. It started up and moved past us, never "charging" us.

I asked Bandit if he felt stupid. He obviously did not. But we once again worked together to get a mutually acceptable plan, and we both lived. Other than that, he behaved beautifully the whole 40 minutes. We'll go out longer next time.

Oh - and as I walked from our little arena to the corral area, he went to the gate & met me there, nickering. After getting him tacked up, I mounted and he walked out with quick strides, ears forward. I think it felt good to him, too. Sure did to me. He's not as sensible about things as Cowboy, but he's less likely to tell me something rude, too.
 

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I will admit that I did read every word of every paragraph (my retention is not what it used to be after my accident!) but I feel the thing I am going to propose is relevant regardless.

In the same way that humans are complex creatures, and (psychological, in particular) studies (try as they may) often fall entirely short of evaluating the human condition, I think that blanket statements for horses fall short as well. What works for one horse, may not work for another and it's an owner's responsibility to try out new things and take opinions into consideration. I'm not sure coming to some divine truth about anything (except, perhaps, the statement 'get a trainer' xD As I have seen so many times in the training section of this forum) regarding horses will ever be found.

In this way, I applaud the way you explore different texts, bsms. I'm not sure how seamlessly textual information translates into practical knowledge in these cases, but it certainly isn't hurting anything!

Any updates from Mia's new owners?
 
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