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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
My horsemanship class last week left me with some major questions about treatment of horses and what was ok and what was not, so I'm hoping that someone can give me a reason as to why the guy might have been doing this and if he was justified. And to those of you who are actual, legit, horse trainers, would you do the same thing?

I'm going to say what happened (in black) and then my reaction (in blue), just so ya'll know. =)

First off, the trainer's wife (the trainer is a big name AQHA trainer/judge, btw) was riding around a younger horse (under 4, at the most) in some sort of draw-rein get up. They weren't normal draw reins; the reins were attached to the cinch, then went through leather loops attached to the bit (which was a snaffle, thank goodness) and then the reins buckled together on the end like english reins. So right off, this woman has no real horizontal control over this horse, aside from what basic leg cues he might understand in his green as grass state. She was having difficulty turning him so he obviously didn't understand completely what he was supposed to be doing, and he had his head down by his knees from the draw reins since she was relying on them quite heavily.

That, I have less of an issue with. I don't agree with that sort of training, but different strokes for different folks. The horse also wasn't completely lost, "about to blow up" confused, which is where I really would have had an issue with that.

But then! She decided to take this horse over some obstacles. The obstacles in question were about 7 railroad ties, spaced about two feet apart from each other. She got this horse over about three of them but then he started getting his feet mixed up and he began panicking. He started veering out of them and since she had no "head control," she couldn't get him straight because he was tuning out her legs. Then, she tried again and he absolutely refused. She wasn't strong enough/respected enough to get him to move at all, so her husband, the trainer, got on. He immediately started digging the horse in the sides with his spurs and the horse started getting really, what I would call, about to go nutso. The trainer finally backed off and walked the horse around a bit after the horse reared twice. Then, he went back to the other side of the obstacle and started to try again. The horse was backing up, rearing, basically doing every sort of evasion possible. Eventually, the wife ran back into the barn, grabbed one split rein, clipped it on to one side of the horse's bit and started trying to "pull" it forward while her husband spurred the junk out of it. After trying that for around 20 minutes, they finally got the horse over the railroad ties. They went over the ties a few more times, then the trainer hopped off and the wife got back on. 30 minutes later, she's back at those railroad ties, trying to get this horse over them, and he's not budging. They try the leading thing, the trainer leading, wife riding, but that doesn't work and they give up.

First off, I don't understand the railroad ties thing. I can understand going through them as a really tight weave through or something, but going over them with the spacing that tight? Can someone explain that to me? I could understand going over them if there was a horse length in between each one so that the horse had time to figure out its feet, or if it was spaced that tightly and there were only 2-3. But 7 ties and 2 ft in between? That seems like it's asking for trouble to me...Then there's the issue of doing training new exercises like that on a horse that isn't set up, tack wise, to do well. Do people do that in normal, horse training situations? It seems like it's just setting the horse up for failure... I can understand it sometimes, somethings just must be dealt with whenever they appear, perfect tack or no, but with something that you don't NEED to do, like going over those ties?

Then, I don't understand why the trainer was insisting that the horse go over all 7 at the first time when he had sets of one and two railroad ties to get the horse going over comfortably, before even touching the 7. Maybe he was trying to "solve the issue with the 7"? But this horse had just as much of an issue with one and two of the ties... Can someone explain that? Then, isn't it kind of self defeating to let the horse refuse to go over them later on? The trainer in me says that that is just shooting yourself in the foot for next time. Yes?


Then, later on, the very same scenario happened with the dam of the previous horse, only take out the wife (and draw rein things) and insert a student rider. The student was letting the horse get away with not going over a lone railroad tie, I was trying to help the rider out with it but she was just not being strong enough with the horse so the horse was just taking advantage. The trainer hopped on and started trying to get this mare to go over all 7 of those railroad ties again, when she was having difficulty with one of them, let alone two. A similar scene ensued, backing up, rearing, etc but she finally caved and rushed across the ties, terrified of them. After making her go over them a few more times (each time she threw a fit, then gave in a rushed) he let the student back on her.

I obviously didn't ride either of those horses that day but I have ridden the mare many times and she's just that type of horse that seems to do best with a quiet rider. Now, obviously, since I wasn't on either horse, I don't know whether they would have done better if I was riding them. I have to believe that since the trainer was having issues, I would have too. I mean, he's a famous trainer! He's been riding and training horses for far longer than I've been alive and I have no delusions of my "training prowess". :lol:
However, I do wonder about the methods he used. Do they make sense to you? Am I wrong in questioning what he was doing? I don't want to assume I know better, or that his way was unnecessary, but it did seem a little over the top... I mean, when a horse rears in confusion with me after I've asked it to do something I don't just keep asking for the same thing. I evaluate what I was doing and try to break the request down into smaller bits that the horse can understand more easily. That makes sense to me... And it's worked quite a few times for me, on various horses...

Can someone help me understand? I really do want to understand.

Thanks for reading! :D

 

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Why don't you name names? Who was it? I wouldn't have used those methods. I don't like draw reins of any kind but when you are trying to get a horses feet moving you shouldn't be worrying about the headset but it's hard to say not being there. If I had a horse that was that set about stepping over a railroad tie I would put them in a square with the horse in the middle. The horse would either step over the tie or starve to death.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Why don't you name names? Who was it? I wouldn't have used those methods. I don't like draw reins of any kind but when you are trying to get a horses feet moving you shouldn't be worrying about the headset but it's hard to say not being there. If I had a horse that was that set about stepping over a railroad tie I would put them in a square with the horse in the middle. The horse would either step over the tie or starve to death.
I'm glad you responded! I hoped you would. :D

I would tell you the name, would you like me to pm you with it? I just don't feel it's appropriate to name him on a public forum, especially when I'm not saying anything nice.

So you would have backed off of the seven railroad ties and just worked over the one, lone tie until the horse was more comfortable?
 

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Good Bad

I will agree with Kevin on both points if forward motion is lost restricting the front end is the last thing you you want to do.Putting the horse in a situation where he would have to think his way out without the pressure also a very good plan.Way too often you will see people with there horses get so caught up in what they are doing they loose site of what needs to be done to actually accomplish the task.That would be to get the rear legs to move forward.If you were to stop when the horse is moving backwards ,rearing or any of the other ways to evade the task he would be learning a negative behavior.Most know that ,where I feel we drop the ball is not thinking of some way to rephrase the question or set it up so the horse can move forward.Then back off to let the horse soak in that was the task.That will get them off the muscle.Yes there are times where the horse needs to be pushed through something .But if the request or demand however you what to think of it will produce the effect of what is called flooding you are set up for trouble.This would be more stimulation that could be processed.The horse and rider are a team we are supposed to be the smarter of the two.You will hear things like you can't let the horse win ,or the battle.That type of thinking everybody is loosing.Set it up to succeed .With a flexable plan its not that hard.
 

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Clearly, they were having a multitude of brain farts (the people, not the horses).

Since the task was not easily understood and accomplished by the horses, then the horses were not prepared properly.

It's absolutely all right to ask the question of the horse. It's absolutely all right to test prior training with a new, more advanced question.

It is not okay to ask the most difficult question before the horse has answered the easier questions first. It is not okay to the punish the horse for one's own stupidity.

I would encourage you in future, to ask these questions you've put before us of the people who are in front of you doing the doing. And to keep asking the questions until you get an answer that makes sense to you. This does two things: gets the answer right from the horse's mouth, and puts the person on the spot, face to face, requiring them to explain their actions. The outcome of the latter sometimes makes a lightbulb go off in their heads, and they can in turn improve on themselves.
 

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It all sounds like a horror story really. However we do put so called famous trainers on the spot when we ask them to give demonstration of their skills at schooling or retraining a horse. Somehow the trainer has to achieve something during the visit - otherwise he/she hasn't given value for money to the onlookers.
This pressure tends to encourage the trainer to take short cuts and strapping a horse down can be a route to a quick result.

I would not allow my horse to be used by a strange trainer in such circumstances.
 

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It all sounds like a horror story really. However we do put so called famous trainers on the spot when we ask them to give demonstration of their skills at schooling or retraining a horse. Somehow the trainer has to achieve something during the visit - otherwise he/she hasn't given value for money to the onlookers.
This pressure tends to encourage the trainer to take short cuts and strapping a horse down can be a route to a quick result.

I would not allow my horse to be used by a strange trainer in such circumstances.
You make a very valid point.

Of course, the option is always there for them to say, "I'm sorry, I can't help you in the time frame allotted for this clinic. Here's your money back." :wink:
 

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I took it as Kevinshorses would set up a four rail square, with the horse inside. That way the horse would have two choices: step over or starve.
That is exactly what I would do. I really don't need to know the name of the trainer but if I saw something like that I would not be afraid to call it out if I thought the trainer was that bad. Maybe if trainers knew that what they did could harm thier reputations then they would think things through before doing them.
 

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Point Blank: Bad training was done at this time. Does this make this person a bad trainer? Who knows. However, I agree that they flooded these horses' brains with confusing stimuli and then expected miracles which they obviously didn't get.

I think that draw reins have a purpose and can be used constructively in the right hands and the right situation. I do agree however they are misused about 99.9% of the time. I also do not agree in any way with using ONLY draw reins and not having any kind of direct line from bit to hand and especially not on a green horse.
That being said I agree with the earlier posters about having no forward movement. Part of the horse's fear was probably because their heads were between their knees they couldn't get a good eye on the thing they were being asked to go over. This makes it scarier, messes with their depth perception and also doesn't allow them the freedom of movement to comfortably pick up their feet over obstacles. I believe the principle of the short spaced "trot poles" are to make a horse be deliberate in where and how they place their feet and to develop a "slower leg". If this is an AQHA trainer then this is how this type of "training" was described to me. (Disclaimer: I am not condoning these techniques, just restating what has been told to me by other AQHA trainers).
The problem with MOST modern day western pleasure type horses/riders these days is that the emphasis is put on the front of the horse and they are ridden front to back. Which is why they leave their hocks out behind, get strung out and look like they're pulling themselves along instead of propelling themselves across the ground. On the flat it makes them look "funny" or "off" to the untrained eye. When you add obstacles, it makes them lose their minds until they somehow learn to maneuver their bodies over things while maintaining the head between the knees, the slow leg and flat knee action that is required of them.
For this reason I think that today's stock type all-round and western horses are remarkable athletes. Just imagineyou being forced to, carry a backpack with your chin tied to your chest and made to do crazy things like run circles, go over objects, maneuver through and around scary things, and occasionally jump things as well.
The sad thing is that these practices, training methods and types of horses that win every weekend at the highest levels. If you want to change the trainer's minds and the way the horses are trained and ridden and shown then you first need to change the judges and how they reward certain training and rider behavior. This same thing is happening to a slightly less degree when it comes to gait irregularity in the dressage ring. Judges reward training, which makes it ok to do. If it wasn't winning, they wouldn't be doing it. Which IMO, is sad.
 

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I personally would love to hear the trainer's name. That is one of the things about being a trainer, your reputation may depend solely on what is said about you. Word of mouth can either make your career or destroy it. From what you said about these people, they have no business training horses for anyone and if knowing the name could prevent someone else from using this trainer, it would be worth it IMHO.

First off, I, like Kevin, have a problem with draw reins. Not because I don't think they serve a purpose, but because so few people know how and when to use them properly. If the lady didn't have good control over every part of the horse with just regular reins, then she certainly had no business trying to use such an advanced piece of equipment. I actually have no problem with using the railroad ties like they were, I will often ride young horses through long stretches of deadfall because it helps teach them to slow down and pay attention to where their feet are. However, they have solid forward motion when I do it. And though I do ride with spurs, they are never the answer to getting forward motion out of a scared young horse. If I had sent a horse to them to be trained, I would be infuriated if they did something like this with no real reason.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 · (Edited)
I'm glad to know that I'm not alone in thinking that the way they were going about things was a little over the top! I've been thinking about it pretty regularly for the last week since that class (it was my last class there for forever, thank goodness) and I was beginning to wonder if I was overreacting completely by wondering about it.

Like Mercedes suggested, I considered asking him about it at the time but he's very...I can't think of the right way to put it... Well, he would basically act like I'm dumb for asking him to explain why he'd do something a certain way and then he didn't really explain he would just tell me why his way is right.
Like for instance, one of his horses has a hard time being bridled and when I'd put the bridle on I'd act like it was no big deal and just calmly get the bridle on the horse, in a quick, no nonsense fashion. Well, if he saw me doing that he'd come over and tell me that people putting the bridle on the horse that way is the sole reason that that horse has a hard time being bridled and that I needed to "practice" doing it "right". His way of doing it "right" was gently trying to get the bit in the horse's mouth when the horse's head was down, and stopping trying to get the bridle on whenever the horse put it's head up. Needless to say, in the 12 weeks I saw that horse be bridled that way, there was no improvement at all. I tried asking him how that was supposed to help the horse understand since the horse was basically being rewarded for putting his head up (only in a nicer, more respectful way), and the trainer basically gave me some junk speech about how my way was wrong and his was right, and never really answered my question. I think he's just so used to not being questioned, since his forte appears to be training riders from the ground up, that he doesn't know how to deal with someone who knows what they're talking about. I'm also not very confrontational so I back down too quickly and really get no where.

I'm TOTALLY not a feminist at all, so I'm not just saying this because I'm a man-hater or something, but I think his refusal to explain things might have also had something to do with my gender. He was always telling me how I swept the barn so well and that I'd make someone a "great wife" because of my sweeping skills, and he was always commenting on how long my legs were and how "people would kill for my legs". But maybe that has nothing to do with it and he was just trying to be friendly...in kind of an offensive way... It doesn't really matter either way, but that could have been part of it.

In his favor though, he did help me through some fear issues that I had and it was amazing to ride some horses that really knew their stuff. I had never had the chance to ride a fully trained horse before so it was definitely an interesting, and educational experience.

Thanks for all the responses! =)
 

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You're a better person than I am....unless the comment is warranted, invited, etc. someone makes a pass (offhanded or not) at me, I'll hand their head to them on a silver platter. I'm not a feminist, I'm just not a piece of meat either (my aunt actually tried to tell me thats "how the game is played" once, and I nearly strangled her).

But, lets all be glad that you have HF to help you, and Lacey is no worse for wear :D
 

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HAHAHAHAHA Sam....I love how you just say it like it is. I agree that women should not be a piece of meat nor would I have just shrugged those comments off but I'm not afraid of a little confrontation. I'm also the person that will ask WHY 50 millions times until I get a suitable answer so he probably would have kicked me out of his barn a long time ago...=P. I'm glad that you were able to get something positive out of your time with this particular person and also glad that you were able to realize that what he could constructively offer you was minimal and are no longer going there. It's a hard pill to swallow but I think you have to be exposed to what's "wrong" to be able to appreciate what's "right". (To a certain extent and not at the detriment of an animal). But if more people were exposed to the wrong training practices of big name trainers, and then educated as to why this should not be an acceptable training philosophy then I think a lot of the "bad" training barns would easily go out of business. It's the fact that about 80% of the people in those barns either don't know there is even another way to train a horse or they don't realize that crops, spurs and gadgets can be very harmful.

I heard someone comment to a wealthy but very naive owner of a nice AQHA futurity horse about whether it really necessary for her trainer to be riding her horse with the harsh bit, big spurs and gadgets attached to it's face. If I remember right he had huge spurs, a spade curb bit and draw reins on this poor 2 or 3 year old and was loping him in 10 meter circles yanking on his face. The lady turned to the person and said he's not hurting him, he's training him. He's a professional trainer, they don't hurt animals they help them learn. :twisted:
 

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LMAO....I'm not afraid of any kind of confrontation either. I have the WORST road rage. One time I was with a group of friends and some guy cut us off (we were going probably 60) so we honked out horn, and he stopped his car and got out like "what are you going to do?" My friend (the driver) locked the doors and sped off, because I wanted to get out and give him a piece of my mind!
 

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HAHAHA I drive the truck and trailer a lot and I haul my 2 horse bumper pull with a F-350 Turbo Diesel and I'm a beast with that thing. People try to cut me off and I'll rev the engine, honk the horn and then they're like OH CRAP! and run away. I hate stupid people that cut you off when you are very obviously hauling a large trailer that has horses sticking their heads out the side. I'm like really people??!! The only thing that saves them from having to get a new car from me running over them is my horses in the back haha. And the funny thing is my gelding has road rage too. I hauled in a friend's trailer with drop down windows once and he rode the whole 4 hours with his head out the window and if someone got too close to his side or they tried to pass him he would snort at them and pin his ears. It was the funniest thing I've ever seen.
 

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HAHAHA I drive the truck and trailer a lot and I haul my 2 horse bumper pull with a F-350 Turbo Diesel and I'm a beast with that thing. People try to cut me off and I'll rev the engine, honk the horn and then they're like OH CRAP! and run away. I hate stupid people that cut you off when you are very obviously hauling a large trailer that has horses sticking their heads out the side. I'm like really people??!! The only thing that saves them from having to get a new car from me running over them is my horses in the back haha. And the funny thing is my gelding has road rage too. I hauled in a friend's trailer with drop down windows once and he rode the whole 4 hours with his head out the window and if someone got too close to his side or they tried to pass him he would snort at them and pin his ears. It was the funniest thing I've ever seen.
So glad I'm not the only one that scares folks when they do stupid things. They get out of the way real quick when you're in the bigger vehicle and keep on coming. We had one cut us off and try to brake check us...my dad hit the gas. They got out of the way, but the look on their faces was priceless. They had no reason to get in our lane. They weren't turning and the lane they had been in was completely open; they were being stupid teenagers...

Anyways..I would definitely say that you are right to question this. I agree with Kevin too. If the horse has to think its way out it learns much better than if you try to overload it when you don't really have control.

P.S. If any man makes comments like that to me I will call him out. I had a teacher in high school tell the guys in our class that they should find a wife that knows how to cook and clean so there is always supper for them when they come home from work. I replied by saying "girls, thats why you need a good heavy pan..to deal with sexist idiots like that." He was one of the worst teachers about making those comments, and I had no issue with saying something. What was he going to do? Write me up and have to admit that he was making sexist comments?

I hate having any man make those kind of comments. If he wasn't intentionally being sexist I won't be rude about it, but if I know that he's "just like that" then we're gonna go round and round.
 
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