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.