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 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.