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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I watched the Clinton Anderson fundamentals DVD (the first 2) that covered philosophy and round-penning. I've also watched another DVD by Sean Patrick showing the same basic stuff. I was all fired up to work with my new mare today.

This is my first horse, and I'm a beginner at both riding and training, so please be gentle. :)

She is a 1/2 Breton Draft and 1/2 Arab, 11 years old and decently broke, although only in a halter/hackamore and not a bit/bridle. The person who owned her before me followed the Parelli method and so the horse has been exposed to natural horsemanship, although I don't know how much of it she's done. She does respond to backing up halter shaking and she can flex her neck to both sides really well. She also joins up as soon as I turn around.

I don't have a round pen, exactly, I have an oval riding ring. This was our first day working together, and she is VERY out of shape, just like me, ha ha. I don't think the prior owner has ridden her much in the last year.

She picked up the right lead in both directions, which was nice, and it didn't take much to get her moving and stay moving, although there was one point where she'd slow down to a trot as she ran past some big plastic blocks, but she'd pick up again as soon as she passed them. Even when she was totally pooped, she picked up the cantor with little effort on my part.

She has a very choppy canter. I think she's very stiff in addition to being out of shape cardio-wise.

Our problems:

She keeps turning heels towards me instead of eyes towards me when I try to change directions. The only time I could get an eyes-in turn was when I walked away and turned my back to her and she would start to join-up; then I would turn back around, point and move her off. I felt bad doing it this way, because after a few times of me chasing her off, she seemed reluctant to join up again.

It did not work at all to do what Clinton did in his video, to walk sideways and back while keeping eyes on her. Every single time I did this, she turned heels-in. She's so darn good at doing it this way, I'm starting to think this is how she was trained before I got her.

She loves the join-up part. As soon as I turn my back, she's all about getting to the middle and breathing on my back. I did the spiraling circles CA talks about and it worked like a charm. I was able to move her back feet sideways, doing that cross-over thing. But ****, I could not get her to turn eyes-in! Argh!

Specifically, I'd like to know:

1. How to get her to turn eyes in.
2. How to get her to join up without having to turn my back on her.
3. How to help her lengthen her stride.

Tips? Advice? Help?

I'm in the process of uploading a video to Youtube, but it's going to take hours, apparently. :?
 

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Agree with Tinyliny - if she's been trained to a certain way then that's what she'll understand - though from experience a lot of older riding horses really don't enjoy this sort of thing and can get very sour about it
Have you thought about doing some basic lunge work with her first? Educating (or re-educating) her to verbal commands and then take the line off her when she's understanding that side of it?
 

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I too would find out how PP does the lunging, it may be that she has been taught to turn towards the fence. You can change that with persistence, as soon as she turns into the fence cut her off and send her back the other way. Eventually she will turn into the center because what she keeps doing is not working. If that is the case that she was taught to turn into the fence, when you want her to change direction try running more steps backwards towards the fence so your cutting her more then getting in front of the drive line. Once she gets the concept you can begin stepping more in front of the drive line and running fewer steps backwards. When she does do it correctly, release the pressure and leave her alone for circle or two, before asking again for a direction change. To have her come to you when your facing her, once you have her turning into you, as soon as she gives you two eyes you go to into passive body language, drop your eyes, relax your shoulders, stand a little sideways to her. Since she already has a good draw she will probably come into you, even if she just rests while you face each other that is a starting point.

I had a horse that was taught to turn into the fence by another trainer and it took about 20 minutes and an undetermined number of tries with lots of huffing and puffing before he decided to try something different, so it can be done in a relatively short period of time. Keep in mind a lot of it has to do with your timing, and knowing when to increase the pressure and release it, which is something that cannot be taught and has to be developed over the course of time.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Agree with Tinyliny - if she's been trained to a certain way then that's what she'll understand - though from experience a lot of older riding horses really don't enjoy this sort of thing and can get very sour about it
Have you thought about doing some basic lunge work with her first? Educating (or re-educating) her to verbal commands and then take the line off her when she's understanding that side of it?
Well, that's a depressing thought. That she'd get sour? Why is that?

I did buy the lunge line and will watch CA's next video which I think is doing some of that kind of work. He suggests not to use verbal cues. I know, to each his own. :)

I also bought a couple books on working in hand that were recommended here on the forum by someone. I'll also watch some videos on that too. I've also been observing a trainer at the stables doing it as well.

Thanks for the suggestion!
@gssw5 : I did use this technique you're describing. It's the one taught by CA. But in the 30 minutes we worked together, my mare didn't get it. I'll just keep trying! She's really too out of shape to work too much longer than that right now, but we'll increase every few days the amount of time we work.
@tinyliny: Thanks! I'll do that.
 

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There's no saying she would get sour about it - she might love it - but to a certain extent a horse has to enjoy what its doing, see a point in what its doing - therefore you have to see a point in it as well - and want to please you so its a willing partner that gives 100% so if your horse can't see the point but is otherwise a really great horse then I would look at other things to do that would be more useful
Similarly I personally have no interest in 'join up' because I see no point in it (now that's just my needs not me telling others what they should or shouldn't do if it works for them, so as long as my horses come to me to be caught its not something I would stress about.
I like verbal cues because I talk to my horses all the time - I also wave my arms and hands about and change my body stance without thinking so I prefer my horses to move over when I say 'move over' and not because I've absentmindedly flicked my hand and they've misunderstood what I meant and they move over and stand on the dog!!!
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Okay I finally got the video up. Like I said in the original post, I am a beginner. This is my first round (oval) pen training with this horse and probably my 4th time doing it ever, so please don't be too critical if you see me doing something wrong. I do love help, though, so feel free to give me tips!

Here you can see I did get her to do a turn eyes forward one time. All the others were heels first.

Also, even when I relax my body stance, she still seems a bit frantic to me. You see her start to join up once in this video; that happened when I turned my back to her. That was the only thing that got her to stop the whole time we were doing this.

I wasn't sure if she was cross-firing at one point, but I slowed the video down and I don't think she was. It's just that her stride is so short, it's hard for me as a beginner to tell when it's live. :)

 

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I watched the video. First off that pen is way to large, but I think you can make it work as she did show some draw. Your letting her go around to many times before asking for a change in direction. When she did turn into the fence I heard your voice but could not see what you where doing, as with a lot of the footage your not in it to see what your doing until right towards the end. Now when she did stop and give you two eyes you pointed and she went off nicely. Aim to keep your belly button aimed at her shoulder as she is going around and turn with her as she goes around, keep in the same spot with your feet and pivot or walk a small circle. Don't: stand and let her go behind you, turn counter to her, or nag. Be very black and white, when your moving all around she is getting mixed signals. Ask for more direction changes, be very clear. Step way out in front of the drive line and run backwards towards the fence, since the pen is so big this is where a smaller pen helps less running for you. Step in front of the drive line, run backwards with the come here finger, as soon as she goes to turn in point, cluck, spank and go back to your spot. This is where the timing and reading her comes in. Don't let her do it wrong then send her back and then let her keep going, ask for a direction change again after a few strides. She needs to realize what she is doing is not the right answer so she will start looking for another answer. The more you get her to change direction the more she will start using the thinking side of her brain, and less reactive side. Don't worry about cross firing it will fix itself as she relaxes, as will the short choppy strides. Her head will come down, she will relax and stretch. Work on one thing at a time, maybe you can figure out a way to make the pen more round and small with some temporary fencing or even a smaller paddock.

If your just having a hard time getting it, skip the round penning, since she is broke already and move onto yielding the hind quarters, then onto lunging for respect stage one. I know some people will skip the round penning due to not having one, and go from there.
 

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Honest opinion
That is one very stressed out unhappy looking horse there and if she does 'join up' with you its because she's exhausted and bored - that is the prey/predator approach to round penning and nothing beneficial about it
Get her on the lunge and teach her disciplined lunge work where she goes around calmly to your commands and then if you want to have her work at liberty she will at least have an idea whats wanted instead of racing around like a crazy thing
Word of caution - She's a bit overweight and unfit - all that circling in a small space at speed is going to put strain on her muscles. ligaments, joints, heart and lungs
Teach her to walk around you first - she's a riding horse - I would do at least 15 minutes of walking on large sweeping circles (or go for a short hack) when I ride to warm the horse up before I even think about trotting
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Thanks for the feedback, everyone!
 

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Wow, she doesn't look that tired out to me. She looks like a horse that is really fresh and likes to run.

I think you aren't getting her to turn into you all the time because 1) she's a new horse and I'm not so sure she knows exactly what you want and 2) she's very fresh and I noticed with my horse that he doesn't really do everything "perfect" until he has some of the fresh worn off and is getting tired enough to start wanting to slow down. When he is ready to slow down he will start doing smaller circles (like your girl was there for a bit) and start putting an ear and eye my direction like he's waiting for the cue to slow or stop.

I don't really see her as being stiff so much as that is probably her natural canter when she is exited. She canters VERY much like the Arabian side of her family. When they are fresh and running in an arena, they almost move more like an antelope than a horse. So what I see is Arabian type movement. Now under saddle, and when she relaxes a bit, I'm sure she will have a more normal looking canter. But the canter she is doing now is similar to what an Arabian would do in a liberty class at a show. In my opinion anyway, which may not be worth a whole lot. :lol:
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
@trailhorserider: Thank you so much! You know, your post just made me so happy and proud of my girl. I really loved watching her do her thing in the ring. She did seem to be enjoying it, even though she did get very winded. She's so beautiful. And while she probably isn't textbook perfect and I'm just a noob, I still get such a thrill watching her legs move, her mane fly, her tail drape gracefully behind her on the wind.

I can see you appreciate her Arabian roots, and that makes me very happy. So thank you for taking the time to comment, share your thoughts and the video. :)
 

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You got some good advice from other people, but I wanted to point out a few things from personal experience. My husband has a harder time getting our horses to turn into him than I do because he has more driving energy than I do in the round pen, and it is harder for him to relax his energy to entice the horses to turn into him. They seem more intimidated by him, and so they want to turn away. I don't see you coming on too strong in the video, but your horse looks a bit fresh and possibly sensitive; so it might by a good idea to think about really welcoming her to turn into you. I don't know if that makes sense to you. It's a hard thing to teach, but just another thing to think about. Maybe you could think about what you to do get her to join up and try similar steps without actually turning away from her.
 

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trailhorserider--that was a fantastic vid. What a beautiful horse, and a suiting song choice ;D

OP, I'm not familiar with Natural Horsemanship, but one thing you can do to get her to listen better and pay more attention is lots of direction changes. :)
 

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Let me tell you what I see:

I see a fresh horse -- not a tired, bored or over-worked one. Actually, she is just blowing off steam for the first 1 1/2 minutes. That would have been better spent without a handler even in the pen.

The pen size is fine. I have 60 foot and 150 foot round pens. I can use either one. I really like a 60 foot square pen -- but that is another story.

I see a horse that would be very easy to school and really WANTS to work right. Round-penning takes good feel and timing like anything else you do with horses. You cannot watch one or 2 videos and learn timing and feel.

I have not watched any of Stacy Westfall's videos, but I have watched her in person. She is better at round-penning than anyone else I have watched. I like CA on his longeing techniques although it can be done just as successfully with much less energy and waaaay more 'low-key'.

The reason your horse is not turning toward you is that your timing is 100% wrong. At 1:30 in the video, she is 'trying' to look at you and you are running her off for it. Every time she tried to look at you and would have turned in toward you, you punished her by driving her away. If you want a horse to turn toward you, then when she turns her head in, tell her she is doing the right thing by taking all pressure off of her -- not chasing her away. The second she hesitates and looks at you, drop your head down, lower your whip or rope and step back 2 or 3 steps and stop. Then say "Whoa!" and slowly walk up to her shoulder. If she stands, walk all the way up and pet her neck and shoulder.

Then, step back toward her hip (behind her drive line), raise your hand and 'smooch' asking her to go forward. Drive her forward for 2 or 3 laps with your hand raised. Lower your hand. Hold your position until she looks at you. Then back up again and 'draw' her toward you.

If you do this a couple of times, the next time she is facing you, raise your opposite hand and smooch. If she starts to go the same direction, back up and draw her toward you again. Sometimes I have to physically push a horse's head the other direction a time or two if they have a favorite direction.

This may be all I do the first time I work a horse in the round pen. If I can get a horse to move forward, look at me and draw toward me when I back up, I am ready to quit while I am ahead.

Now, when you have a horse listening and drawing toward you and it decides to change direction and turn its butt toward you THAT is the time to put a lot of pressure on it. Yell at it, hit the ground with your rope or whip and chase it around for 2 laps. Every time a horse turns its butt to you, chase it. If I am in close enough, I will throw the rope at it or chunk a clod at it.

Usually by the end of the second session, I cannot make a horse turn its butt to me. Every time I back up a step, it will stop and face me or come in toward me if I let it.

When you do the right thing, the horse will do the right thing.
 

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If the horse was a youngster that had been kept in a stable for hours before it got into the lunge pen I would say it was fresh - but its 11 years old and unfit (as per the OP's own statement) and probably spends most of its time in the paddock.
If I brought my 8 yr old warmblood x TB out of the field and into the manege she wouldn't behave like that - neither would any of my other horses
It looks to me as if its running around and getting all wound up because it doesn't know what else to do when it has someone standing in the middle with a whip who isn't giving any clear directions
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
@Cherie: Thanks so much!!! Great ideas. I think part of my problem is that I watched CA work with unschooled horses who didn't want to come into the middle, so it kind of threw me off that she kept wanting to come so easily and quickly. Like I mentioned, I was worried that I was making her wary about coming in after a while, so I really appreciate your suggestions. I'm going to put all the good advice I've gotten here into practice on Sunday. I'd do it tomorrow, but I'll be doing my birthday trail ride all day (yay!)

Today we worked on a longe line and she did pretty well. It took a little bit of work to get her to just walk (she really wanted to trot more than anything). I practiced transitions and changing directions and releasing the hindquarters, and I had help from a very experienced rider/trainer.
@jaydee: Thanks for your input! I really appreciate it. I am a beginner, that's for sure, so everything helps. I will say that I really don't think she was wound up or freaking out. It was our very first time together doing anything at all other than walking in a halter, and her first time working in a while, so she was full of energy. And yes, she is out of shape, so she was looking for lots of opportunities to take a break. I gave her several in the center to reward her for her hard work.

Today when she saw me coming to her paddock she trotted over to meet me and seemed excited about going to work, even though there were no treats or food in it for her. I took that as a good sign. She really is a sweet girl who tries really hard to please.

Also, on a side note, I tried her out on the Nurtural Bitless Bridle for the first time. My friend rode her bareback at all gaits with that bridle. She did great!! I'm waiting on the local tack shop to get the gullet thingy I need for my Wintec, since she has a wide back, so that's why bareback. And this horse has never been ridden with a bit, so that's why the Nurtural. :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
@2horses: Thanks. I was wondering about that. It's only when I turned my back that the pressure was released enough for her. So maybe you have it just right! I think Cherie's tips will help with that.
@Zexious: Def going to do this! :)
 

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I agree with Cherie and jaydee. At 1:30, you get a turn in, which is good. the horse is feeling a connection and communication with you, so she makes her circle smaller and looks to you for more direction. Instead, you are worried about circle size and drive her away. Connection broken. Horse goes back to being chased by you, not being lead by you.

Is the point of this to exercise her or establish communication with her?

I would put down the stick for one. I don't think she needs it. allow her to work closer to you, as long as you feel safe. You are excited and she feels that. Take calming breaths and relax.

She is a gorgeous mare! I am thrilled for you! You will make a great team!
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