Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Doing The Right Thing at The Wrong Time

This topic is something I feel needs to be talked about more often. It is very possible to do the right thing but at the wrong time. Which would make it wrong in most cases. There is also another side to that. In some cases it is possible to do the wrong thing at the right time. There will be times this could turn out to be the right thing. This in part is why I try to look at right and wrong in a way so that its not absolute, but in a way that I see variable extremes. Some simple math will tell you 1+1=2. Change the context of the example and the answer could also be 1, if we were talking about 2 businesses merging to become 1 company. Again the answer could change if the example was a man and a woman and they gave birth to triplets, then the answer is 5. Not everything is as clear cut as people would like you to believe. Law makers and activists would like you to believe that its just wrong to act a certain way.  Well the right thing can be wrong as well, if its done at the wrong time. We need to heighten our awareness so we know that our actions or reactions will be in good timing. It really is all in the context and approach.

There are many training methods out there for people to use. Each and every one of them get great results, if they are used properly. You really need to understand it fully.What I mean by that is. I see a lot of people start to follow another trainers methods and they don't look past the cues the trainer uses. The cue has little to no value in the method. The cue can be anything you want it to be. What we should spend more time on is learning to read your horse so you know what they are saying to you. This way, if you would like to make a request from your horse, you will be more likely to know if it is appropriate at that time or not. Just as if your boss was in a meeting with his office door closed. You wouldn't barge in with a ridiculous question that could wait for a better time. Understanding when and why can help you get better results.

To try and put a cookie cutter approach to horse training is a difficult task. All the methods can work if you understand all the variables. Like in the math example above. There is a lot to understand. Each person and each horse has a different need and understanding. When I talk about understanding I like to tell people that they should understand that what we do understand is only relative to our knowledge and experience. The more we know and have experienced the better our understanding. I also like to tell them that no matter how much we know and understand, there is so much more to it that we will never reach 100% absolution. This is why I keep an open mind and listen to and observe everything I can. Even if at first my impression is, Oh my god why did they do that? Because somewhere in this is a lesson to learn. I like to find the good points in even the worst of things. This allows me to ward off negativity. It also gives me so many more options to learn from. It also keeps me closer to the truth, not buried in some exaggerated version of the truth. In a lot of cases this is very far from the truth.

To be fixated on one way or method can leave you missing out on a lot. The reason is, no matter how much you learn this one method or study under this one trainer, you can never get all of their knowledge and experience. You need to look at things at a different angle and in a different light in order for it to become clearer in your mind. Knowledge alone isn't enough. You need to try it and experience it. At the same time you need to understand that skill takes time to build. So don't give up to quickly or you really aren't giving it a chance.

One thing I would recommend is to avoid forcing your opinion on your horse. This may cause resentment. Just as it would if you force your opinion on another person who may have different ideas and strategies. Forcing your opinion will only confuse and irritate them. This is why we have so many religious wars. I think everyone should be welcome to their own opinion, but not to force it onto anyone else. Information should be put out there for people to find and use what it is they can understand best. I don't believe there can be one best way to do anything. With all the different out looks, different temperaments, different experiences people have there is just no way possible to get everyone to agree on that. We see this in every aspect of life. In every topic imaginable. Anyone can make anything look bad, and anyone can make anything look good. Try not to be deceived. Also try not to over exaggerate something to make it look better or worse than it really is.

Just as God said to Adam and Eve. Don't eat the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and bad. I would ask that we don't try to decide what is right or wrong for anyone else but ourselves. I do believe this is the original sin and the reason Jesus came. His teachings were all about acceptance, understanding, and compassion. If we can't be compassionate with our fellow man, how can we be compassionate in other areas in our life.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Building a Solid Foundation

Building a solid foundation is key in your relationship with your horse. A relationship is built on communication and trust. I believe that communication builds trust. The better you can communicate, the better you will understand each other. Notice I said each other. We need to understand them just as much as they need to understand us. I like to think of communication as send and receive and not a one sided tell all. I feel we need to spend more time listening to what our horse is saying to us so we know if what we want to say to them is appropriate at that time. This is why we are doing 2 clinics this year on this topic. The first on May 18th and the second on July 20th.

I would like to point out that even though you may have a horse that has advanced in their training to a point of great performance. Some of these horses never got a great foundation. Even if they did, they can always get better by going back to the basics again. If we just keep going forward and never look back, we will progress, but some things will not. Sometimes we need to go back to see if there are any cracks in our foundation. If we get in the habit of going back to see where we did or didn't progress, we have more opportunities to see what areas need improvement. Many people come to our farm and see our 3 horses and think they're so well trained. I owe a lot of that to the beginners that come here for lessons. I use all my horses for lessons and they are always going back to the beginning every time someone new comes for a class. Each person just starting their journey in horses has that little different out look on things and a different way about them. They also have a slightly different body language than the last person. This gives the horse a chance to understand many different accents (so to speak). It is also helpful because the horse tries even harder to understand, because they know from previous experience that the person is trying to communicate with them. An example I could give to this could be if you ever had to work with someone who speaks a different language than you as a primary language. You both need to communicate with each other so you find key words and phrases so you can work together. The more you work together the more you understand each other. The higher the need to communicate and/or the higher respect for each other you have the more addicting the want to understand each other becomes. This is the same with the Human Equine relationship.

To me, a foundation is laid well when you are able to understand how your horse is feeling and what they are saying to you at any given moment. Also that they are at least as comfortable, if not more, when they are with you as they are when there're away from you. Both you and your horse should be willingly attentive to each other. You should have a basic communication of stand still, back up, move your shoulder, move your hind. walk forward, pick up speed or slow down. All this you should be able to communicate loose without any overreactions. The overreaction would be the emotional aspect that we must overcome as well. Even if a horse raises his head high and his eyes and nostrils open wide when you ask for something, I would say is a sign that they are uncomfortable or startled by your request. I would not recommend trying to correct it. I would just ask the same request again as many times as it takes for them to be OK with it. When you stop asking they will have a better understanding of the exercise and what kind of response you would like from them. The practice also takes away some of the anxiety because they have a better understanding of the request.

Sometimes emotions can get the best of us and our horses. We need to be tuned in to it for ourselves and them. Emotions can be out of fear, aggression, or both. An easy going unemotional horse can be the easiest to train. But even this horse can become emotional if we don't have a grip on our own emotions. Having a heightened awareness and an understanding of whats going on and why will help with alleviating it.
When your  horse understands that you have control over your emotions and you understand and respond to their's well, then the trust has just gone up a level. The more you understand and are aware of, the better you will respond. The better you respond the higher the trust. The higher the trust the better the relationship.

Thank you all for reading. I hope you enjoyed it.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Teaching a Horse To Stand Still

One of the more important things people ask me is, How do you communicate to your horse that you want them to stand still?" This is something everyone would like their horse to do at some time or another. Its nice if a horse will stand quietly when you are working around them, while grooming, saddling, or mounting. It also can help for when you tie your horse for any reason. If they understand that you want them to stand still, then they don't fuss and get all anxious when tied.

The reason a horse won't stand still for their handler is most often because they don't understand the expectation, or they don't have enough trust in their handler. If it is a trust issue, then you need to work on your relationship. The process I am about to explain will help with both.

I like to start with Getting Their Attention. I do this is a round pen if I can, but a small or even a large pasture can work. I find a 50' round pen to be the best place to work. I don't start by running them, or moving them around. Most horses I just meet or horses that have been worked with by someone before me, usually want to start running around the pen. I don't want them to run so I go to a spot opposite where I would like them to stop and stand. This blocks them from running around. My goal is to get them to stop and just look at me. I apply pressure by approaching slightly. Its kinda like chasing them to a stop. I don't chase them, its more like cutting them off, pushing them to a spot that I have pick out ahead of time. Once they realize you don't let them go right or left, they stop and look. As soon as that happens I walk away and let them relax. If they move as I leave, I put them back. It doesn't take long for them to understand what you want. From there I work on having them focus on me no matter where I go in the pen. My focus is on having them focus on me. If it strays, I apply pressure, usually by just kissing or moving my arms till they look. sometimes they will leave the spot. Remember where the spot is and put them back. Don't be in a hurry but the less time it takes the better they understand. Once you can walk past their hip and they turn and face you instead of leaving then you can start asking them to move and stop. The more you move and stop them and they understand the cues you choose to use for this, then they're more likely to wait and focus on your expectation. This part is the basics of my first half hour with a horse. Once you get this They are very focused on you and you didn't have to run all around the round pen.

This next technique I start Working With Emotions. Lets face it, some horses are afraid of their own shadows or a blade of grass blowing in the wind. So if you need them to control their emotions, you need to let them know you understand them. I do this by no matter what I'm doing with them I don't soften myself to where I find myself saying easy, easy, its ok, relax. I work at a pace that's more, matter of fact, or just go about my business. If it bothers them emotionally. I just stay at it till they respond and relax on their own. Then I stop and give them a pet. I purposely find things all the time that I think might make them nervous. Introduce it slowly to not overwhelm them but at the same time finding a reasonable level of emotion so that we can teach them that if they relax, we can make it go away. There will be times that whatever your horse is afraid of won't go away at all. Sometimes its a rock on the side of the road or trail. This is why I work with their emotions. So they know a safe and proper response to their fear. Many people teach their horse to overreact without even knowing it. When their  horse is afraid of whatever their doing they stop because they don't want to scare them. All your doing is teaching them is if they freak out, you will make it go away. Then In the times you can't or don't know what it is, you have a huge wreck because you never taught them to deal with their emotions. This is also important in teaching a horse to stand still. Specially when tied because being tied is restrictive and raises anxiety.

This last technique I use when teaching a horse to stand still while mounting. Some people have the idea that if their going to move then you make them work harder and go faster. I would rather let them think it through and figure it out without raising anxiety. The first time I saddle a horse I go through a mounting process. This teaches them to understand everything that is happening and is going to happen. I start by standing next to them and asking for a bend in my direction. Then I grab and hold the stirrup, If they are good with that then I put weight in it using my hand, then I shake it, then I make it make noise. Like when you jerk it and it makes a slapping noise. If at any of these stages the horse starts to move, I just keep going till they stop moving. Then I stop and give them a pet. I don't move on to the next step till they stand quietly and allow me to do this on both sides. I then start to move the saddle. If it goes well I will lift my foot into to the stirrup. Then I would bounce as if I am getting ready to mount with my foot in the stirrup. Again if they move I just stay with them and keep bouncing till they stop and stand, Then I take my foot out and start over. Once I can do this on both sides I will stand right up in the stirrup and get right off. After a number of these go without any movement I will get on, through a leg over and get right back off. If they move when my leg goes over I sit and wait, encouraging them to stop without panicking and pulling on a rein, as soon as they commit to a stop I get right off. I will then start mounting and dismounting from both sides, staying longer each time. I will then start staying till I get some relaxation like lowering the head or a soft bend toward the side I mounted on, then get right off. Its a good idea to sit up there and mess around for a while get them used to standing still while mounted. This also helps to keep them from walking off as soon as you get on.

If you have a horse that likes to start moving as soon as you are on them, you may want to get in the habit of stopping them, and when its time to go, go backwards, or turn on the haunches and go right or left. If you teach them that the start will require them to put weight on their hind end, they'll most likely wait for your signal. Its also a good idea to do a lot of walk, stop, back, stop, walk drills stopping for a different amount of time each time. This also teaches them to wait for a signal from you and not think that they can go whenever they feel like it. They learn there is a signal that communicates to them that you want them to go or stay, and they will learn to wait for it.

We hope you enjoyed this topic and found something in it that may help you with your horse.
Thanks for reading.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

How a Horse Should Behave Part 4

Hopefully you have read the first 3 parts to this topic and it all makes sense to you. We Talked about expectation most of all. What we expect from our horse and what they expect from us. We also talked about how if we want them to act in a certain way, we must act in a certain way in order to communicate to them what it is we expect. Here I will give a few examples of how I work with them and a few techniques I use to communicate my expectations to them. We must always remember the principles from Part 2 on providing for our horses needs. We must live up to their expectations before asking them to live up to ours. Remember, we are the responsible party.

I mentioned at the end of Part 3 about how we should use what works best for us and our horses. not what we think is the best way. I say this because sometimes our own physical, mental or emotional capabilities hold us back from being able to do what we want to properly. We must understand very well, every aspect of what it is we are supposed to be doing in order for it to work. It goes pretty deep sometimes. Understanding is the key to success. I recommend trying a few methods and techniques you may like and use what works best. If there is something you think is a better way. Work to develop it so it will work for you. But if it isn't working, because we don't understand it, then we are probably confusing our horse. If you  do like it and want to use it, get the knowledge and develop the skills before you use it and confuse your horse.

There are a number of great, well skilled horseman and horse communicators out there. Most are pretty similar in their concepts. But their are so many different techniques to use. I recommend learning from as many as you can. Their will be things from some of them you will not like and not want to use. Just do your best to find the good in everyone, and you can learn from anyone. If you spend to much time looking for whats wrong with what they do. You may be missing out on some helpful things.You will also be letting hate and discontent take shop in your mind and that will effect your way of thinking and will effect your horsemanship. Please be careful of this. It is just not possible that every aspect of a method or technique will be all bad, so look to find the good. There will be some I promise you. It is important to remember to learn and understand before you try. Pay close attention to not only what they do but get right into the  hows, whys and why not. Get as much understanding as you can find. It is almost impossible to get all your knowledge and skill from one place or trainer. Sometimes you need to look at it from a different angle or in a different light. I would also warn you not to jump around to much in the beginning of your learning. This will most likely confuse you. Getting a reasonable knowledge base, then starting to compare might be better for you. Always keep and open mind.

Now I can't go into great detail on what I do. You can find some techniques in some past posts like, "Getting Their Attention,"" Working With Emotions," "Communicating with Flow of Energy," and "Our Energy During Communication."  I will say that I believe the mental and emotional part of communication is more important than the physical part. Respect must always be a part of the conversation. I prefer to do most of my work with the horse loose. If I use a halter and lead I only have it to help with better understanding. Same goes for the bridle and reins. I want them to follow the flow of energy. Using light contact with the lead or rein only if they don't respond. If a horse isn't looking where he should be I don't pull on a lead or a rein. If I can touch him with my hand or leg on his side. That gets him to start turning in that direction. If I am on the ground and he looks left I go right. This gets his attention and he looks back at me. If I use movement when I work I make sure they already have an understanding of an exercise. For example I don't want to start my introduction of training with running around a round pen. I prefer to ask them to stop and stand so we can have a face to face conversation. From there I start to build word recognition. We then move a few steps, turn and stop, until we have a real good foundation. The whole time evaluating how they feel, and what they think of me. Usually in under an hour they are pretty comfortable with me and we have a pretty good ability to communicate with each other. Many trainers use the round pen or a lunge line and ask them to move their feet first. It works and I used to do it myself. I find you have a better ability to work with and understand their emotions if you ask them to stay put and just work on getting them to focus on you first. Once you have that, they are more capable of reading your intention and expectations because they are paying attention. The rest becomes so much easier.

The techniques I use are least resistance techniques. This means we start out with very light pressure, whether it is assumed pressure,or physical pressure, and increase steadily till we get a response. Always stopping when we get a try. When I say least resistance, I mean focused energy first. This is a form of assumed pressure. If you have a real good connection to your horse, that will be all you need. So the process is, focused energy first, a gesture of some kind, extra energy for encouragement, then more and more till they respond or try. Always stopping as soon as you get a try. This process moves fairly quick. It needs to be done with confidence and respect. In the beginning on a horse that has no idea what I may be asking of them. I would work my way through these stages in about 10 seconds or so from the start to the response. Very quickly they learn to respond to the focused energy. A steady increase in pressure gives them a clear understanding in a respectful way. When I work with a horse, my goal is to be able to communicate with focused energy only and not have to rely on a physical cue like pulling on the lead or rein.

We hope you enjoyed this 4 part series on how a horse should behave and maybe was able to take something from it that may help you. I want to remind everyone, this is an interactive Blog. Comments and questions are welcome. Our next post will be on "Teaching a Horse to Stand Still" Someone left a comment on Part 1 about not being able to get there horses to stand still for them. A horse that doesn't stand still usually doesn't understand what you want, usually we don't know how to explain it to them. So we will go into detail on how to communicate this expectation respectfully.
Thank you all for reading along with us.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

How a Horse Should Behave Part 3

In Part 1 we discussed expectation. How do we want our horses to behave? In Part 2 we discussed their expectations of us. What do they need from us? In Part 3 we will put it all together.

We have to remember that behavior is learned. It is learned through trial and error. One party tries to exhibit some form of behavior. Whether it's a reaction to something someone else has done, or an attempt to initiate something. If the other party excepts this behavior then they learn in one way or another that it works. Therefore they continue to act in that way. If it is considered unacceptable and it is made clear. It is learned that they probably shouldn't do that again. This is a simple rule I'm sure most of you are aware of. It still amazes me how many things we let slide sometimes. Specially with our horses. This I think is caused by a number of things. But mostly we either think its cute, or think there isn't anything we can do about it. To both of these examples I would say, "Give your horse more credit than that." They are so much smarter and more capable than we give them credit for.

In Part 1, I listed some things I think are very important things to expect from your horse. These things to me are just a minimum to keep everyone safe. There isn't a horse out there that wouldn't do these things for you. As long as they trust you, and you make your expectations clear to them. A skilled communicator can get all of these things in one day or with less than 5 hrs of training on most horses. Not that it still won't need reinforcement over time in order to keep it. All you really need to do is fulfill their needs and they will start to search for your expectations on their own. It's their nature to look for what is expected from the rest of the herd. Specially the herd leaders. Some horses will test, so we must reinforce. but do it kindly or your relationship will suffer. Reinforcement can be as simple as figuring out what need your horse has that you aren't fulfilling, and fulfill that need. Sometimes you may need some kind of reprimand. Again be as kind as you can, just make sure they understand. Know the difference from whether you need to fulfill something or reprimand. If you reprimand unnecessarily your relationship will suffer.

If your relationship is in tact and you have your horses attention and respect. You will know you have this if whenever you are with them they are paying close attention to you and not looking all over instead of at you. They will also be very relaxed with you and not trying to get away or worried about what is going to happen next. You will also see a very relaxed posture while working with them. Now you can start to expect more from them. If you don't have this, go back and work on your relationship and prove yourself as the confidant respectful leader. Get to know your horse and let your horse get to know you.

If you are at this point and do start to expect more of them, then you will get positive results. Your method of disapproval isn't all that important. Unless you are abusive. In this case your relationship will fall apart. Many trainers have many different methods and techniques. Adopt the ones that work best for you. Just like a cue you may use to ask your horse to do something. It doesn't matter what the cue is at all. To much focus is put on the cue and how you ask for something. This has very little to do with why they respond the way you want them to. It matters more how you communicate your expectations and intentions. the cue can be anything you want it to be. So don't focus to heavy on the cue, but more on the how and why.

Hopefully Part 1, 2, and 3 make good sense to you now. In Part 4 we will give some techniques that I use to show my expectations to the horse. My techniques aren't the only way to do things. There are many. Use what works best for you. Not what you think is the best way. There is a difference. Sometimes our own physical, mental, or emotional ability won't allow us to use certain techniques even though we like them better. That's not to say that you can't change to a different technique as you progress in your own ability. Find what works best for you and your horse and use that.
Thanks for reading.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

How a Horse Should Behave Part 2

In Part 1 of this topic we talked about expectations. How do we want our horse to behave? What do you expect? I also mentioned in brief some of the more important things I expect from my horses and how I would like them to behave. These things may not be things you would expect. That's fine, find what works for you and your horse. We also mentioned about the Demonstrations we have scheduled on this topic for March 30th, and April 27th here at R Jay's Farm.

In Part 2 we will talk about how we go about getting them to behave in a certain way. But first I want to bring to your attention that we need to be aware of their expectations. What do they expect from us? Or what should they expect from us? The simple answer to both questions is, they expect us to prove our leadership ability in a way that we are confidant, trustworthy and respectful. They expect us to be able to protect and provide for them, physically, mentally and emotionally. You need to be able to live up to that expectation in order to get them to live up to yours. The better you can live up to theirs, the better they will live up to yours. We must also get into the habit of allowing them to voice their opinion. Not in a way that they overrule us but in a way that it keeps it a 2 sided conversation. This way we will be more aware of their needs. It also teaches them that we do respect them. It also encourages them to think and analyze more, and react less.

We need to learn how to get connected to them. I don't mean just up close, connected with a lead rope and halter. I mean physically,  mentally, emotionally, even spiritually from as far away as you can get. If your connected to your horse and can communicate with them from 100 ft away, that's strong stuff. Stronger than any lead rope or even a chain. This is something that can only happen if the relationship is strong. You must also be able to communicate so subtly with great understanding of each other. Lets face it, if you don't understand them and they don't understand you, how can you communicate your expectation? I mentioned in Part 1 and I will mention it again. If you haven't done so. Properly introduce yourself to your horse and get to know each other. You will be surprised how little your horse knows you and how little you know your horse. Get to know each other inside and out. This will make communicating and understanding that much better. There is no end to how well you can get to know and understand each other. Going back and reading these Blog posts from the beginning will help. If you haven't already done so. Even if you have. Re-reading them now that you have read later posts may shine a new light on things you may not have picked up on the first time you read it. As I said in some of the earlier posts. Its amazing how many things are right in front of our face and we miss it totally.

So Part 1 teaches us to think about and evaluate our expectations. Part 2 teaches us to be more aware of their expectations. We also mention and explain briefly about relationship and making a strong connection. In Part 3 we will put it all together.
Thanks for reading.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

How A Horse Should Behave Part 1

What should we expect?

The title of this, How A Horse Should Behave, sounds like a statement of fact. The truth is, the out come is whatever the expectation is. It is true to my findings that a horse will do exactly whats expected of them. So if we expect them to behave in a certain way, we must behave in a certain way in order to communicate our expectations. The reason a horse misbehaves or doesn't respond the way we would like, is do to us not having a clear understanding of our own expectation and/or we are not showing it clear enough. Expectation is very much like intention. Its more than a thought or an idea of what we want. If we expect something, we must show it clearly and follow it through to the end. It takes action and persistence to get what you expect. The relationship factor has to be in place also. If you expect to much from a stranger, you won't get anything at all. Sometimes our horses don't know us well enough for us to expect much from them either. Even horses that have been raised by you and lived with you for years, may still not know you well enough for you to expect much from them. So if you haven't done so, properly introduce yourself to your horse, and really get to know each other.

So, how should a horse behave? If you ask 100 people you may get 100 answers. But the only answer that matters is the one you give. If you don't have high expectations and don't care, that's fine. Its also fine to have super high expectations and not want anything less. Its all about what works for you and your horse. Now if you are using your horse in lessons or in a therapeutic program, you should have super high expectations. If you don't you will most likely put people and horses in danger. It doesn't matter for you and your horse, but it does matter if other people or horses are involved. We must also think of the vet, farrier, or anyone who may come work on or with your horse. Their safety should be taken into consideration.

In this section I will explain how I expect my horses to behave. It may be hard to explain in writing but I'll do my best. We are doing 2 demonstrations on this subject, one March 30th and one April 27th. Both demo's will also cover what we will be doing in our 4 other clinic topics. This will help people decide if they want to participate in one, or which one would best suit their needs. You can find a complete schedule at  www.rjaysfarm.com on our upcoming events page.

The most important thing I expect of my horse is, that they give me 100% of their attention whenever I am around them. To me this is so important. Not only does it help them always know where you are and keep you safe. It also helps them to be more aware of the rest of your expectations. If they are paying attention to you they will understand you better when you ask them for something. Also this helps teach them to look to you for advise if something should trouble or confuse them. I also expect a horse to at least stand still while I approach them. I don't want them to run away from me at any time, even when I release them after taking their halter off. I never want a horse to think its a good idea to hurry up and get away from me. If I release them, I expect them to walk away slowly or stand there and let me walk away. When putting on the halter, I expect my horse to reach forward into the halter when I present it to them. Keeping their head nice and low so that their poll is bellow my armpit. This way I can, or even a child can put the halter on and see both eyes and ears from above. Being sure not to interfere with them during the process. When leading, I expect them to allow me to lead. Go when I go, stop when I stop, and back when I back. Never trying to pass me or pull on me. I expect my horse to stand still when tied and during grooming and tacking. Not allowing them to move around at all. I also expect them to stand still during mounting, no matter how hard it is for whoever is mounting, they need to stay put and not move until they are asked to. While riding I expect my horse to stay soft a supple, staying focused on me and the direction we are traveling. Not looking all over the place, this just leads to panic. I expect smooth transitions, and full cooperation.

These to me are things everyone should expect. If you don't, like I said earlier, that's fine. As long as there aren't other people or horses involved. They are things you will have to build up to. They will also need maintenance. Every horse out there will test and try to change the rules. Just like us humans do.

In Part 2 of this topic we will discus what it takes to get a horse to behave in a way that suits you. In order to  do that we too must behave in a certain way. Thanks for reading.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Our Energy During Communication

In our last post we talked about using the flow of energy to communicate with our horses. This topic is going to be about  how our energy effects them. We must make sure we can raise and lower our energy appropriately when necessary. Being sure to separate our emotions from our energy level is very important to always keep in mind. This can be a difficult task.

The first thing we want to do is make sure we are aware of "The Energy In The Room" so to speak. What I mean by that is, we need to be aware of our physical energy and our emotional energy.We also want to be aware of how our horse is feeling. If they are showing a lot of excess energy, we want to know if it is emotional energy, or just a fun playful energy. Don't get the two confused or make an excuse that its just playful when it is emotional. It is real important to be able to tell them apart. Each case should be handled in a different way. If they have a playful energy, we want to cut our energy back to get them to come down to our energy level. If they are still full of energy and not responding, then we want to ramp up our energy to get their attention and let them know we mean business, then slow it back down to a more serious, smooth,and steady energy. If it is an emotional energy, we need to find the highest level of our energy that we can use without putting them over the edge. We need to learn to keep our energy at a steady level just at the edge of where it effects them slightly. If we can keep it steady till we get a relaxing response and then reward them by releasing the pressure, they will soon learn that we are aware of their emotions. Soon enough they will ease up on getting emotional.  The best way to learn the difference is to watch as many horses as you can while they are turned out. You will soon be able to see the difference from a playful energetic nature and an emotional stress energy. It can be difficult to tell the difference when we are working with them.Sometimes we cause it ourselves. They may think we are playing with them, or we may be raising their emotions. The problem being we generally don't know we are causing it. So being more aware of our own energy is so very important.

If everything is all wonderful and you are working with a horse that understands you. The ideal energy level will be one that is equal to the task you are performing. This will get the horse to match your energy. Remember to direct your energy properly so the horse understands where it is flowing to. That being said, everything is not always wonderful, and even a well trained horse falls out of the flow of energy. Most of the time it's us that changes the flow, but not always. I have to say there is nothing like those wonderful days where everything flows smooth. Its like a moving meditation, very peaceful. Unfortunately not every session goes like that and we have to learn to toggle our energy properly to be able to communicate with our horse.

Knowing when to raise and lower your energy is real important. Just like in the above examples. We want to lower our energy or even ramp it up at times for the playful horses energy. If we lower our energy with the emotional horse we may get their energy down, but we are not teaching them to deal with their emotions. They need to learn how to deal with their emotions. They need to know we got their back, and we know all about their emotional needs. Easing up on our energy will only teach them that if they get emotional we will stop. That can cause a number of other problems, like bucking, running off, shying away, refusals, pulling back, panicking when tied, and many more. In the real world, if your riding or leading your horse somewhere and something spooks them. It may be something that isn't even moving, or whatever it is, its going to run its path. Stopping only when its done or gone. So we need to teach them how to deal with their emotions or we are putting ourselves and our horse in danger. We do that by finding the energy level that is right at the threshold of emotions and holding steady till they relax then releasing. This way they learn when they relax, it goes away. We want to get to a point where we can make the threshold much higher. The higher we can get it the safer we are when we are with them.

Also if we ramp up our energy with the emotional horse we may push them over the edge and have a wreck. We want to be careful of that as well. I am very careful not to ramp up my energy on an emotional horse. To much energy on an emotional horse will just make them panic.I don't want my horse to be afraid of me at all. Unless their emotions cause them to forget about me and put me in danger. In that case I ramp up as high as I can go, to make sure they don't forget where I am. The only fear of me I want my horse to have is the fear of trampling me. I would rather them be more afraid of trampling me instead of being afraid of the horse eating shadows that don't exist. If you ever have to do this with your horse, make sure you go and rub and pet on them as soon as its over. They need to know you still love them. The sooner you do it the faster they will learn.

There are only a few horses that will need that kind of emotional scare. The horses that have been weaned  and raised by the human who just can't stop themselves from cuddling with that cute little foal. Then when they get older the emotional attachment is so strong, the human won't be able to keep them out of their space. This horse learns that they don't have to be aware of your space. This is the most dangerous horse to be around. They have been cuddled their whole life and find comfort and safety in us. So, what happens when they get spooked? They come right to us for protection. If your lucky they will only step on a foot and break a few toes. But that could turn into a horrible wreck. So if you raise young horses, be careful not to create any of these little monsters. It is a very tough habit to brake.

So remember, a horse will seek your energy level. Whatever your energy is or no matter how you feel, your horse will pick up on it. You control the tempo. Clear your mind and take a few breaths. Make yourself aware or the energy in the room. Know the difference between Emotional and playful energy. Mistakes with the playful energy are a bit more forgiving. Mistakes with their emotional energy can cost you your life. (You may not notice its a problem for years, then bang, your in the hospital).  Always be aware of and in tune with their emotions. Find ways of letting them know you understand their emotional needs. You can find more about this in "Working With Emotions" as well as a few other past posts.

I wanted to mention in closing here. Some of the most important topics have been overlooked. If you haven't read "Alphabets of communication", "Building Sentences", "Failing to Communicate Intention", "Attention and Awareness", "Getting Their Attention", or "Working with Emotions" I would recommend you go back and read them. They are very important topics but for some reason are being overlooked. Of course this whole blog is based on progressive writing so if you haven't started from the beginning you may want to do so.

Our next topic will be "How a Horse Should Behave"  We will discuss this topic both from their out look and ours.Thanks for reading.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Communicating With Flow of Energy

When you see a wild herd of horses running through a canyon at a full gallop. Did you ever notice they barely  ever run into each other? This is because they are so in tune with the flow of energy. They naturally follow it and go where it goes. This is something I find to be instinctive in all horses. I do find Wild horses or horses that are aloud to live in a herd understand it best. Although all horses communicate this way.

I've mentioned in other posts about how closing the distance will push them away and increasing the distance will draw them toward you. This happens because they are following the flow of energy. Now there can be times they ignore the flow of energy. If that happens it means they are testing the relevance of the energy itself, or they are testing to see if you have true intention behind this energy. Another reason you may not get a response is they may not recognize your authority and don't feel they need to respond. Having the foundation set is so important. You have to have a relationship built and you must be seen as the confident leader.

Once this is all in place and you know you have their attention. Wherever you focus your  energy the horse will follow that flow. On the ground, once the foundation is set, when your leading your horse they will just go with you and not try to pass you. If you stop they stop. If you backup they backup. Without putting any lead line pressure. This goes even further with you turning into them, they should step away quietly and just go with the flow, and they will if they see you as the confidant leader. Wherever your energy is flowing they will go. Even when you direct and drive them out away from you, during lunging, or pushing on the hip to get them to turn and face you. A horse just naturally follows the flow of energy. (As long as we are clear with our intention and have their respect).

When we're mounted, we need to still be aware of this energy flow. We are not just sitting up there, kicking to go and pulling on the reins to direct and stop them. We need to direct them with an energy flow they can feel. Using the reins and a gentle bump with your legs only to correct them if they don't respond to the subtle body cues. At the same time we must be balanced and in tune with their energy flow. Anything that disrupts a smooth energy flow will raise anxiety. If we ask for a 90 degree right turn while the front right leg is in the air and traveling forward we have just interrupted the flow. What we want to do is be aware of every foot fall so we can ask for things at the opportune moment. In the example above we should ask for this turn while the front right foot is about to baring weight just before it is ready to push off. This will keep a smooth flow of energy.

Controlling movement from the saddle is as simple as staying balanced and keeping rhythm. Stay in rhythm with your horse and focus your energy where you want to go. It really is that simple. The horse feels you up there so well, every move means something. Now if you are a rider who never paid any attention to this, or you are a rider who has a very stiff core, then your horse has learned that they don't have to pay any attention to it either. We need to stay very supple and balanced, moving freely with our horse. This is where our communication skills we have been talking about throughout these posts come in handy. Getting this in the saddle must start on the ground. We need to get the horse paying attention to our body language on the ground first. If they are doing this well, when you are up on their back, they will still be focused on what your body language is saying using feel. Again it needs to be a smooth energy flow.

Our energy needs to match theirs, or be just slightly ahead of theirs. Meaning, we need to learn how to properly toggle our energy during communication.  However we feel or act will effect our horse. We will cover this a bit more in depth in our next post. "Our Energy During Communication"
Thank you for reading.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Working With Emotions

We have discussed Emotions in many of our earlier posts. In this post I would like to talk more in detail about this very important topic.

A horse is an extremely emotional animal. When we are around them we need to be aware of this. We must also be aware of our emotions. Our emotions affect theirs. Many people aren't aware that we can control a horses emotions. If we stay calm and relaxed, they will stay calm and relaxed. In order for this to work we need to have their attention and their trust. Without having both of these in place, they are more emotional when they are with us then they are when they're turned out on their own.

Being aware of their emotions and knowing what to look for will help. Its important to recognize what their emotional state is before you can do anything about it. Being a prey animal, they instinctively think everything is out to get them. I've heard it said that a horse is only afraid of 2 things. Things that move and things that stay still. This translates into everything. It amazes me how some horses are fine with things they should be afraid of and go nuts over things that shouldn't bother them at all. So for this reason alone we need to gain control over their emotions so we don't end up an equine statistic.

When I first start working with a horse, I like to always be saying to them, in one way or another,"Don't worry about anything, I got this."  It needs to be done in a way that its, A Matter of Fact. Not in a way of, Easy, its ok, don't worry, easy, easy, and you find yourself moving real slow and creeping around your horse. This behavior will for sure make them nervous. Remember, we are supposed to be the strong one in the relationship. If we don't show confidence, they will worry.

 Here we have a series of photos that shows some emotion being relieved. To the left we see hesitation and to the right we see that when he went he went quick. his nerves got the best of him.

 After a few times going through, allowing him freedom of choice and guidance he started to relax. you can see it in his posture. To the left still going a little fast, to the right he is keeping with me pretty well. The last photo bottom left he is very relaxed.

As I go along in the training, I am always aware of and evaluating their emotions. Its not just about asking them to do something. Its about communicating to them that we would like them to do something in a specific way, confidently and respectfully. When you first start just a step in the right direction is good for a pause and a reward. Each time you should wait for just that little bit better response before you pause and reward. You will be amazed at how much progress you can make in just 10 or 15 minutes. Always have a finished goal in mind. This should be moving responsively with as light a pressure as possible,  continuing until asked to stop or transition into something else. We should also be looking for a more relaxed and supple posture, not feeling any resistance from them in any way. Now this is the end result. True perfection is never attained. We must always be looking for the things we need to improve on. Being aware of the emotions will help you attain this much faster.

So, how do we deal with emotions? Here are a few examples of what I do in certain situations. If I am asking a horse to do something and I notice some apprehension, I will just keep asking, slowly increasing pressure until I get a try, then I release. always looking back at myself to make sure I am being clear with my intention. I don't want to push harder and raise emotion if the reason is, my body language isn't clear. Sometimes its hard to remember to evaluate yourself, but we must get into the habit. If we don't, we tend to blame the horse for our mistakes. You won't get trust and relieve emotion like that. Another example I can give is, if I am riding or leading a horse somewhere and something startles the horse or has them a bit on edge. I  ask the horse to turn and face whatever it is that is causing the issue. This helps them learn to face their fears. I will just ask them to stand and look at it until they show me they are starting to except it. Then we walk away. If it is something that has really got them a mess, I will stay longer and get them to approach it (if its safe to do so) and really learn to except it. Every time you do things like this, you are showing them that you are in tune with their emotions, letting them know you understand their emotional needs.It also proves to them that you know what is worth being scared of and what isn't. This helps so much to relieve their anxiety, and get them to put all their trust in us.

Another thing you may want to keep in mind. Transitions, whether they are speed or direction changes, can raise a horses emotions. Many people can't get through a simple walk to a trot transition. Even more have trouble getting into a canter. The reason for this is instinct most of the time. Instinct tells a horse if the herd needs to go fast then we need to get away from whatever is coming to get us. We need to teach them that nothing is coming to get us, we just want to go a bit faster. A herd of horses are naturally lazy. They would much rather stand around and graze all day. If the herd is moving quick their emotions go into survival mode.
Another reason for not responding could be, the horse is lazy, or we are not balanced and in tune with them causing restriction. If this is the case our riding skills need to fixed before moving on. If we are inhibiting them from free relaxed movement, then we won't be able to stop the emotional outbreak because we are causing it. If we are accomplished riders and are having this problem, then what I do is I keep asking for the change, going back and forth until I get a better response, then I  move on to something else. After a while I will come back and try again. Stopping and moving on is huge in gaining control over their emotions. It tells them,"If you just relax it will go away."  I do this every time I am with a horse, on the ground or in the saddle. Anytime they relax a bit more than they were I stop and move on. No matter what it is I am working on. Sometimes its just for a few seconds and we start again.

So if we remember not to just be happy with whatever they give us and be more aware of exactly what we want, being aware of their emotions, and always looking for improvement. Then our leadership roll becomes stronger. Once they are totally excepting us as Qualified Leader, then all their stress is relieved. It becomes our responsibility. This takes time and practice. It also takes a lot of awareness and constant evaluation on our part. Making sure we know exactly what we are asking and exactly what we are getting. Being aware and in tune with their emotions, always rewarding for any form of relaxation.

Thank you for reading.
Our next topic will cover "Communicating With, Flow of Energy"

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Getting Their Attention

In our last post we talked about "Attention and Awareness"
In this post we will discuss more in detail on how I get their attention and begin working with them at the start of a program. You may want to refer back to "Attention and Awareness" occasionally.

 I start this process in a round pen usually. I like to first get their attention by not allowing them to run around or move. I push them to a spot I want them to be and then leave them alone. I will then wait and see if they try to leave. If they do, I put them back till they get the idea they need to stay and wait for instruction. At this point I have their attention. Not very well but they're thinking about me. Once they will stay put I position myself in front of them and keep a distance of 15 to 20 ft away. It can be longer. Remember not to close the distance at all during any part of this exercise unless you are trying to cut them off from running away, or applying extra pressure to get them to look at you. Creating more distance will draw them to you. Closing the distance will push them away from you. My goal at this stage is to turn myself into a magnet and draw their attention to me no matter where I go. I start in front if they look left I go right. Their curiosity makes them look back at me, so I stop and say good boy/girl. Sometimes moving to the side makes them want to leave, that's fine. Just control the direction and speed and put them back. It is good after a while to pick a new spot. But you choose when and where. If they move every time you move to the side, then you may want to just stay put and make some noise, or move your arms to get their attention. Stopping as soon as you get a try. Holding them to a higher standard each time. Once you can get all the way around to their hip, its time to encourage them to turn and face you. Now you have to learn how to reverse the polarity in your human equine magnet. It works best if you push on the hind end and draw on the eye. How?  Close the distance toward the hind to push, while at the same time increase the distance on the eye to draw it toward you. I know some of you said WHAT!!!  All the movement is in the shoulders. So if you are standing on the horses right side. Your left hand and shoulder would reach out toward the hind. At the same time your right hand will come back tight to your body while you draw your right shoulder back. You are pretty much pivoting on your hips. At first they will most likely start to walk forward. If they do, without closing the distance, go along with them working on getting ahead of the drive line. If they stop, you stop and take a step back to reward their efforts. Eventually you will be able to just push on the hind end to turn them toward you. This may end up being a bit much for written text. I wish I had photos to provide some illustrations. I do apologize. Question can be answered in the comment section if you would to ask any. 

The above is an example of how I get their attention. I will discuss in this paragraph what we need to be aware of as we do it. There is so much that I may not be able to mention it all. We for sure want to be aware of what the horse is saying to us, (I.E. are they excited, relaxed, focused at all). We also want to be aware of our intention. Where would we like them to stand. Have that spot picked out before you start. Same thing for when you are ready to change spots. Pick it out before you decide to change. We need to develop a very keen self awareness. This way we will be aware of what our body language is saying. Remember, anytime you close the distance you push them away, and anytime you increase the distance, you draw them to you. So we have to be very aware of that. A slight lean can make a big change some times. Location awareness. Where are you and where is your horse?  This way if you have to put them back you can get right to where you were. The closer the better. We need to be aware of how much pressure works. We want to know how little we need, instead of how much. We should be trying to make the pressure we use lighter and lighter every time. If you increase your awareness, you will do a better job evaluating. The better you do evaluating, the more likely you will show clear intention. The more aware we are, the better chance we will respond at the Opportune moment. Opportune is discussed in "Alphabets of Communication."

When working on getting a horses attention. Our goal is to teach them to think and focus, but also to recognize us as a qualified and confidant leader. If they see us as Qualified Leader,(we do not want to demand the position) then they will always look to us for advise and guidance. The reason for this is all the stress of worry can be discarded from their system. If they trust us enough, it becomes our responsibility. To get to this point you must have their attention first of all, be aware of their emotions, and be able to respond to and control their emotions.  Being able to communicate to them, "Relax I got this, you don't need to worry one bit" will help your relationship so much. It will give you a more relaxed and stress free horse.

In our next post the topic will be "Working With Emotions"  We will talk about how to be aware of them and how to respond to them. Thanks again for reading along with us.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Attention and Awareness

Attention and Awareness was covered in brief in two of our earlier posts,  "Alphabets of Communication"  and "Starting the Conversation." We will go more in depth about these two very important principals here in this post.

Attention is said to mean;  1 mental concentration or readiness  2 notice or observation  3 care or consideration  4 an act of courtesy or devotion  5 the erect posture of soldiers ready for a command.

Awareness is said to mean;   knowing; realizing; conscious

As you can see the two words go hand in hand. You can't be aware if your not paying attention. Also if you don't have your horses attention, they won't be aware of your intention.

Attention to detail is the key to success no matter what you do. From making shoes to building beautiful buildings, or art work. When it comes to communication, attention is a key element for both parties. If you are communicating something to someone or your horse, you want to make sure you have their attention in order for them to fully understand you. Attention and focus is so important.

 When I was married to my ex-wife  she had 2 boys. One of them was having trouble in school and the school wanted him on medication for his lack of paying attention. I refused to go that root. I took him home and taught him to meditate for 5 minutes a day. After a few weeks of this his school work improved. By his next report card he was on the honor roll and stayed there throughout his remaining school years. Now he is a Machinist making parts with .005th of and inch or less tolerances. I gave this example because it is something I see in our human world and in our equine world. Lack of focus will not allow you to pay attention. People ask me how I can get such good progress with a horse in such a short time? I tell them,"I get their attention so they understand what it is I am asking of them and I make my intention very clear."  If they're paying attention and you have their respect, then your intention becomes clearer.

Most of us can tell if we have our horses attention or not. At the same time many of us are unaware of how well a real attentive horse can perform. If you have ever, or if you ever, get a chance to ride or work with a horse that is very well focused and not easily distracted. You will absolutely want your horse to be like that. It is attainable for every horse. Being aware of what to look for can help. If your horse is acting nervous and scared, looking all around. Then they are not being attentive. We get their attention with exercises that make them want to focus on us and the task we are asking them to do. Always insisting on their focus and rewarding them for doing so. When we teach them to focus we give them better understanding. This in turn takes away their anxiety. The better they learn to focus, the better they behave emotionally. A solid relationship is built this way, as long as its all respectful.

Being aware of everything and being able to respond to it in a reasonable manner is important as well. We need to be aware of our horses emotions and whats happening around us. If our horse is more interested in or nervous about something else. We need to make ourselves a bit more interesting to them. There are a number of ways to do this, but in brief, some extra movement on our part, keep asking them to continue doing whatever it is we are doing at the time, or transition into something else. Any of these can get their attention. You can also ad some light rein or lead pressure, or leg pressure during some riding exercises. Rewarding with a relies when you get a try. Remember to always hold them to a higher standard a little at a time for the next relies.  Proper evaluation will help you make the best choice for that particular situation. We will cover many of these in future posts. I will mention that I prefer to use implied or assumed pressure first. Using direct pressure, as in pulling on the lead or reins only if they do not respond. This will help your horse to think more and focus on your intention.

Our next post will cover "Getting Their Attention" and some detailed information on how I start with a horse that is entering one of my programs.
Thank you for reading along with us. I hope you enjoy it and find it helpful.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Failing to Communicate Intention

Intention  is a key element of communication. You need to confidently show clear intention respectfully in order to get results. Failing to show intention will get you poor results, or no results at all. Intention is so much more than a thought, or an idea. Intention has meaning, integrity, and some sort of follow through. If you fail to communicate intention. Then you're missing out on building trust and integrity. Therefor you lose out on the foundation of your relationship and the ability to gain respect.

So. How do we show clear intention?  A question I hear often. The answer to that is not easy to explain. We have spent our whole lives communicating through speech, and getting further away from the subtly's of body   language. In a written language It can also be hard to see true intention. Hiding true intention is something professional writers learn to do on purpose, I.E. advertisers, political writers, and story writers. We have been lied to and taught to lie in order to survive in this world we created. It becomes very hard to recognize true intention. Although it is attainable for us to acquire a better ability to understand intention. You must first Understand it, Then you will be able to recognize it, then we move on to being able to show it clearly.

Understanding intention is the hardest part. Once you get through that part, recognizing and showing it becomes easier. The dictionary gives us the meaning as 1 determination to act in a specified way  2  anything intended; purpose    This is hard to explain but I will do my best. Its something that you really have to experience. To understand intention you have to know that everything has meaning. It has a meaning  beyond what we can usually understand. Intention is something that is going to happen under the current conditions, if it is allowed to continue on that course.The intention is the intended end result. So we have to dig deeper into the truth and become truth seekers. An example could be, A scientist who studies a volcano. They are studying the intention of the volcano. Is it and /or when is it going to erupt? A lot of study goes into this form of search for intention. Intention starts as an idea, evolves into a plan, and then is carried out as an actual event. It can be a natural event like a volcano, or a physical event like a horse that just kicked you. Understand the intent and proper interaction can sometimes change the outcome. In the Volcano example you may not stop the event but you can evacuate the village at it's base.

To recognize intention you have to use all of your senses. But most importantly you have to use your Gut Feeling and your Heart as well. When we or our horses don't recognize the intention of something it tends to get us a bit nervous or scared. We may feel a bit uneasy. Learn to recognize  intention and you can relieve a lot of stress in your life. When dealing with people it can be hard to recognize their  intention. People have alternative motives. Nothing is as it seams with people. This is why Law Enforcement has professional profiler's to help catch criminals. They're trained in recognizing patterns of intention in order to interrupt and capture them. Awareness of all senses needs to be, in order to recognize intention. With horses its not to difficult to see that they are ready to run away from you as you approach them. You may be able to tell if they don't want to do something and may retaliate with a bite or a kick. Of course you need to understand their intention before you will recognize it.  Examples of not recognizing intention could be.  Some of us are afraid of Snakes, Spiders, and Mice. The reason would be, we are unable to recognize their intention. We don't understand their body language so we don't know what their all about. Most of the time they don't want anything to do with us and they run from us. But we get all nerved up cause we don't recognize their intention. Another example I would like to give is, The Volcano that erupts doesn't have the intention to destroy the village that is at it's base. Even Though that will probably happen. The intention is just more or less trying to release all that pressure. Ancient people thought it was Gods intention to punish them for their sins.  I gave that example because we misread intention all the time. Sometimes when we are ridding our horse and they act up, We take it personal and think they're out to get us. Most of the time they are acting up because they don't understand our intention, or the intention of the rock that may have just spooked them. That makes them scared or nervous so they act out. We need to be more aware and recognize it for what it is.

In order to show clear intention we must first be able to recognize it and understand it. A question always pops up when we discus this topic. How do we know we are being clear with our intention? The answer is pretty simple.How good are your results? Or. Are you getting results? This goes back to the Alphabets of Communication. The questions Why and Why not? The better your results, the clearer you are with your intention. Its something we always have to finesse. There is always room for improvement. No matter how good it is. You should never say this is good enough. Good enough for now? Maybe.

If your horse is getting all nervous and acting out, then there is a good chance you are not being clear enough. Sometimes you need to stop and re-evaluate. Sometimes, and most of the time, you need to just keep asking till you get a try, then reward by stopping. We need to be careful when it comes to relieving pressure. A horse learns our intention best when we release the pressure. So if we reward them for misbehaving and not when they do what we intend, we are not being clear at all with our intention. The best way to be clear is to start simple and advance from there. Refer back to "Building Word Recognition",, and "Building Sentences" for a better understanding.

 I will soon be transferring into more of how I start and progress through the program I use in communicating with horses, but we will always be referring back to these beginning posts. Before we do that we will have one more foundation post covering Attention and Awareness. Which was covered in brief in "Alphabets of Communication."

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Communication Builds Relationships

We've been talking about communication concepts and strategies. In this post I would like to talk about the relationship side of communication.

Everyone knows, you can't have a good relationship without good communication. Communication is the basis and foundation of a relationship. If you have been in a quality relationship for any length of time, you have probably experienced  the ability to finish their sentences. You may know what they want before they ask for it.

When a relationship is built on communication, it becomes very strong. If the relationship is solid, soon enough communication becomes very subtle. You just know. It may start with an assumption or a feeling that ends up being verified. Then soon enough you are very confident that you know exactly how they will react in a certain situation. When you have good communication and a strong relationship you end up with a heightened awareness.

The relationship part of communicating with horses is so important. A horse is a social animal. This is why they live in herds. They need to know and trust your every move and intention. When intention isn't clear it can cause fear and anxiety. The better you know your horse, and your horse knows you, the stronger the relationship becomes.

I mentioned in the last post how 2 people can use the same cue on the same horse and would work for one and not at all for the next. This happens because the horse understands and trusts the intention of the one person and doesn't trust the other. It's mostly due to a relationship conflict. You may have experienced this in your everyday life with humans. Someone has no problem doing something when one person asks but won't do anything at all for someone else. Or an idea would be considered if this one suggested it but would be totally ignored if someone else did. It's all about trusting the source. Horses and people are very much the same when it comes to this kind of thing.

Horses are not all that complicated. They understand intention most of all. We make most of our mistakes by coming in and trying to hard to not make them nervous, or we are not paying enough attention to the details of our expectations. Most of the time that shows an unclear intention which in turn makes them nervous. If we come in and just do what it is we came to do with confidence and the attitude that its no big deal, then most of the time they just go along. Of course the better the relationship and trust is, and the clearer you can be with your intention, the less likely they will be bothered  by it.

It is so important to get to know your horse. Getting to know them and not make excuses for them. Some of us allow our horses to act out in certain situations. Justifying it with,"Oh he is afraid of the bag." Instead we should show them how we intend them to respond in any situation, and not allow any excuse. In this way we improve our relationship and communication. It builds trust and a better understanding. We also prove that we understand their emotional needs. Being aware of and being able to respond to their emotional needs is something I can't stress the importance of enough. We cannot desensitize them to everything they will be scared of, but we can show them that if they just look to us for help we can get them through it. That is huge for building a relationship.  You really need that in your relationship with your horse. If you don't have it, your not safe being around them, or on their back.

In our next post we will talk about Failing to Communicate Intention, and how to be more aware of the things we may be missing. Thanks for reading along.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Sentences With Transitions

In our last post we talked about building sentences and a nice strategy to build a little at a time. In this post we will talk about sentences with transitions. This would cover adding more than one intention. For instance we may teach a child what a cat is, what colors are, the difference between walking, running, sitting, or standing. Then when they understand well enough, we would maybe put together a sentence for them that may look like this. The Orange Cat is Running Through the Kitchen. A very simple phrase with multiple intentions. An animal, a color, an action, a location and a direction.

When we start with communicating multiple intentions to a horse, we want to make sure they understand each part individually pretty well before we put it all together. How I start this is after they know what  I mean when I ask each part to move. I would put together something like this. I would stand directly in front of them, point to give them a direction, say to my left. I would then ask them to step their shoulder to their right and then walk forward. After I get a desired amount of steps I would ask the front end to stop and the hind end to step to the right until they were facing me again. This sounds like a very simple exercise, but it can be pretty tricky. Sometimes we make it very confusing for the horse. If you ask properly, as long as you have done all the prep work first. There isn't a horse out there that wouldn't do this the way you intend it to happen. The problem ends up with us not being aware of what we are saying without even knowing it.

Going back to the alphabets of communication for a minute. The most important thing in this example above is that you have the horses complete attention. The better he is paying attention to you and not things around him, the better he will understand your intention. The second most important thing is that you are AWARE of EVERYTHING that is going on at each moment. That's a lot to be aware of I know. You absolutely WILL miss things, but that's OK.  The point I am trying to make is, the more aware you are the better things will go. We need to be in a constant state of evaluation. This way we can find the opportune moments to act or interact. This is how we communicate our intentions clearly. You may get nice results and think your horse understands you. But understand that understanding is relative to experience and location. You may try this same thing next to something that makes the horse uneasy and get poor results. This is how you know that they really don't fully understand. This is also why I like to do things in different locations, and under different conditions. It will help them understand better. As well as give us more opportunity to evaluate so we can have a better understanding.

We can communicate multiple intentions in many other ways. Like backing while going left and right, side passing and getting more front or back end movement, or doing a nice clean circle then stopping the hind end while turning the front end for a turn around. Just a few examples to give you an idea. We will discuss more of them in future posts. Just remember if you do any of these, make sure they understand each part individually before putting it all together.

Something I would like to leave you all with today is to not focus on the cue so much when you communicate your intention to your horse. Just as a catcher sends signals to the pitcher in baseball so they can communicate. If they want to change the signals they can. The cue is not as important as your intention. Almost every trainer has a different technique than the next. They found the best way for them to make their intention clear. Instead of focusing on how the trainer did it. Focus on why it worked and how his intention is made clear. This is what makes all the differences. You can use the same cue on the same horse as someone else and get no result at all, but it works fine for the other person. This is one of the reasons it bothers me so much when I hear a person say,"This horse isn't trained as good as the last owner said it was."  Just because they won't do it for you doesn't mean they don't know how. Its mostly a relationship thing. A horse will test you and make you prove yourself to them. If a horse don't like you or don't trust you with their life, they won't listen to you. They need to see you as a confidant leader, and a partner. Someone they respect and trust.

Our next post will cover how communication builds relationships, and why having a relationship with your horse is so important.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Building Sentences

In our past posts we have talked about some principals and concepts of communication. We've talked about building word recognition for a basic understanding of what we may be saying to them. We also talked about the horses emotions and how important it is to be aware of, and have some control over it.

This post will cover Building Sentences. Of course we will have to start with easy sentences. Just like with a child, we may teach them to recognize a dog. Later we may see the dog run and say to the child, "The dog is running." Now the child has a new sentence in their memory banks. The difference between a child and a horse is a child will only learn a few things a day, a horse can learn quite a few things in an hour. Even though a horse can learn quicker. It still has to be done methodically. We want them to succeed.

So once we can move them in any direction one step at a time. We then start building our sentences by just asking for more of the same thing. For instance if we ask them to step away from us with their front end. We would just ask them to keep going for a few more steps. We should always be aware of how well they are doing it and also be aware of ourselves to make sure we aren't confusing them in any way. When I start building sentences this is how I like to start. At first I will just get 1 or 2 extra steps. But within 5 minutes or so I will be getting a little bit longer sentence. I will do this by being aware of the progress. If I can move them 3 steps before they try to start walking forward, then I may go the three steps and stop, make sure they don't go forward, then start again. This way we don't get the forward movement. (Of course that is if you don't want forward movement.) As I go on, if I think they are ready I will keep them moving and correct any forward or backward movement while in motion. Stopping as soon as I get a few good steps. Remember to reward anything better than what you have been getting, and to always look to improve. Rewarding things like a better posture, a better response, a few steps without a mistake, or better focus on you or the task, just to name a few.These things will help them to learn your intention quicker.

Once we can do that with all the basic movements we would move to sentences with transitions. This is one of the better ways to get control of their body and their emotions. It is important to remember to not ask to much to fast, but to progress in an orderly manner. When I say to fast I mean don't skip steps. The progression I use to start a colt would allow me to get through all of these last 6 posts and move on to saddling, ridding, and out on our 1st trail ride generally under 5 hours. So its not a matter of time. Its a matter of understanding.

In our next post we will talk about introducing sentences with transitions in a way that will minimize the anxiety. We will also talk about how to deal with any anxiety that does show up. We hope you have been enjoying our Blog posts, and remember this is an interactive blog. Feedback and question are all welcome. Thanks for reading along.