Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Apparently this clip is no longer available due to a copyright claim by Parelli. What is showed was Linda demonstrating to a student just how to catch a horse in the face with the clip.
New link: try this - http://www.barnmice.com/video/linda-parelli-shows-how-to
There were some very important points made at the clinic which I am sure will stay with me. For the first time, I really understood the usefulness of a circle to give a horse direction and to lighten up his front quarters. I think all those video of horses doing endless and mindless circles in Parelli training had given me a phobia but it was good to see circles being used to communicate with a horse and the horse being released to a halt pretty quickly. Circles can create all sorts of problems when they are used badly, often to get rid of excess energy and I think there is a world of difference between deliberately circling a horse and allowing it to come past you - here the horse is often pulled round to the left resulting in the left shoulder impeding and moving the handler; hard to stop once it has been established.
I liked the way that Lesley released a horse's hips and shoulder and drew the horse's head and attention to different sides - very clever stuff this and you would need to see it to understand it. I tried it out on Theoden this morning and it worked very well. He was also suprised to be asked to pick up both of his feet from the same side (but not at the same time).
Much was made of not pet-ifying or dog-ifying horses and I agree that it is important to get young horses accepting direction and not wandering all over you asking for attention right from the outset. It should all be on your terms. It must be a dreadful shock to some placid and well loved ponies to be told that they "must" once they start their ridden work. Of course, many of them then object.
I'm not convinced that just because a human spends time at the horse's front end this automatically leads to a bargy horse as I think it is possible to insist that they don't do that. I agree that we shouldn't be smothering them though and impeding their ability to see properly! For a pony like Mystery, Lesley's suggestion that we spend more time standing next to where we will be sitting is going to be very useful. We might need to stand a person on each side though to get her over her fear of seeing something out of both eyes at the same time. If we shape this, it should be possible.
Lesley also demonstrated how those heavy snaps that are on their ropes continue to swing under a horse's chin ages after any slight movement from the handler confusing, annoying and ultimately desensitising the horse. Indeed part of Parelli training involves utilising the snap smack the horse in the chin and face in order to encourage them to back up or yield. I'll find the Youtube clip of this and put it on here. This all made me feel better about the fact that although I use a clip I always tend to put it on the side of the headcollar that I am working so that it is much stiller. I have always felt that the horse gets a much more direct signal this way whether I am using an ordinary headcollar or a Dually.
On the same sort of theme, horsemanship can be very similar to politics in having a far left and a far right and extremists at either end. My vague attempt at drawing such a scale is shown above with clicker training at one end and heavy handed and probably illogical horsemanship at the other. It's important to remember that it's not just the label that counts but the level of fear, discomfort or even pain that is used. Heavy negative reinforcement could in fact be more uncomfortable than fairly light and quick punishment depending on what it was. A badly fitting saddle may punish a movement even for a horse being rewarded with treats. It's a useful exercise to consider not only what you do but how you do it, the equipment you use and how you use it. If what matters is how the horse interprets it, then different horses will interpret different things differently depending on their temprement and previous experiences. For a wild Exmoor pony, the mere presence of a human being will amount to pressure. Pressure must mean mental as well as physical and could affect any of the senses.
Of course, all of these terms are a human construct and could be dismissed as semantics, intellectualisation or anthropomorphism nevertheless they can be really useful in deciding what you are prepared to use, how it fits in with your belief system and how it might affect your horse. Over the weekend I was told that it was not what you do but your intent that counts - taken to its limits, this could include giving a horse a thorough beating as long as your intent was good - that can't be right.
Most, but not all, people cross the bands above whether they mean to or not.
Click on the diagram above to be able to use it.......
Saturday, August 28, 2010
Thursday, August 26, 2010
Now that the local drifts are over, it was time to turn the girls back out again. Brandy led the way having been reunited with her owner for the first time in eighteen months yesterday afternoon. We have agreed that I shall keep an eye out for her but that she can stay to keep Nelly company as they are best friends.
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
The clinic I was due to attend today was cancelled so instead I went out with my camera, first of all to Telegraph Hill which is covered in heather and then on to the drift at Fritham. There were very few ponies brought in and only three foals and the whole thing went off very quietly indeed. I was lucky enough to be fed sandwiches and cake by the various neighbours to my field that were already there. This begs the question of who would have been unkind enough to report me to the council for having a very small caravan there which was discreetly hidden away and not visible unless actually on the property. Having no source of electricity, I have used the cooker in the caravan to make the odd cup of soup in the winter and the heater to thaw myself out. I have stayed in it on two occasions - once when Jack had serious colic and once when Cello was gelded. I haven't got a leg to stand on and it will have to go but it will make my life harder again.
Sunday, August 22, 2010
Apart from the physical effort involved in hitching trailers up and moving their contents around, it could be argued that they are fine for the well trained, calm and experienced horses but for the early stages of training and especially remedial training, they are cumbersome and sometimes dangerous.
Saturday, August 21, 2010
Having been to the Nile on Thursday, it was off to India, Havanna and Mars yesterday. India's loading continues to improve with each session so that today she accepted the partition and stood for much longer in the trailer before she went out. Her owner also loaded her for the first time too. India used to be quite awe inspiring when she said no but is now really responsive and tries all the time. Havanna has accepted the bridle being held against her face with my hands between her ears and I have also started to gently fold her ears down as I will need to do when they go under the browband. Mars is standing for much much longer periods in the trailer and becoming much more relaxed. Significant progress in the case of each horse but a good reminder that there can be no such thing as a quick fix in a lot of cases.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
My second horse at Gleneagles was a delightful mare called Patience. She is very worried about water and so it was somehow fitting that we worked in the rain. She's also nervous about other things too. For the first part of the session I worked on things with which I could touch her including the feather duster and a rosette (which she has always struggled to accept close to her). I then demonstrated how I would begin to work with her phobia about fly sprays and how clicker training might really help. After that, the umbrella and the tarpaulin were relatively easy although it took her a little while to build up the courage to walk over the latter - it was interesting to watch her work her way around it, touching it on all four sides before finally deciding she could step on to it.
"What a brilliant day, Sarah Weston Logical Horsemanship came to our yard and gave a most interesting demonstration, using Bladon and Patience, she was amazing. We all agreed we could have watched and listened to her all day." Gleneagles Manager - Karen Pike
This is Bladon, an eighteen year old gelding (by Carnaval Drum) that belongs to Gleaneagles Equestrian Centre. He has suffered from aural plaques and, as a result, is none too keen to have his bridle on. Today I was asked to do a demonstration for the Rider's Rally at the Centre and showed how I would begin to tackle this problem. By the end of the session he was beginning to lower his head on request even when I had got the bridle in my hands. In an ideal world, it would be good to work with him on a continuing basis, reinforcing each stage. Only then would I want to start putting the bridle on again. Not easy in a riding school where he is worked sometimes three times a day and has to have his bridle on each time.
Sunday, August 15, 2010
Amongst the theory work we did at Ben's clinic we worked with elastic bands and balloons to explore the idea of feel and the need to make sure that you don't break your horse or make him go bang! Having managed to burst Jack's balloon first thing in the morning this had a particular resonance with me. So important to recognise that even the smallest changes in work we are doing, the equipment we are using or the environment and surroundings may amount to too much pressure. Outside factors may mean that the balloon is already at full stretch or half way there.
Received this e-mail on 18th August from Carol: "Well, having just read your BLOG and finally finding time I thought I would drop you a line about events at the weekend. John has just come out of hospital after a nasty fall from Gala! Basically he was showing me what he could now do with her and I was very impressed. He pulled up by me and said he would take his gilet off and I said, wait, as a lot of horses can get spooked by you taking off clothing so just move the zip a little and let me see. So he did a bit and I saw the shift in her eye so I said to him, she is not happy, DO NOT TAKE YOUR GILET OFF -but he ignored me and carried on saying she would be alright. And lo, she took off I couldn't hold her and she just started bucking across the field and John came off. When I got to him his eyes were rolled up in his head and he was groaning. I thought he was dying! Well ambulance dash to Exeter, much worry as they thought he had fractured his lumber vertebra but scans have revealed he is fine, just bruised. I have personally aged 100 years!
With both my accident with Bobby and now John's with Gala the horse each time gave a clear "please do not continue" and we both did. So sometimes it is the merest whisper of breath that makes the balloon go pop!".......... John is apparently back at his desk but very sore.
Jack and I eventually got to Ben Hart's clinic yesterday after a bit of a mishap with a poll guard. All week I had been practising with the narrow rectangular poll guard and Jack had accepted it very easily. Yesterday, I decided to couple this with a thin neoprene half round poll guard so that more of his forehead was protected. Jack took offence at this being put over his ears and promptly left. It took him a little while to forgive me and allow me to rescue him. Nevertheless I was able to load him and off we trundled. Thereafter we had a great day. Jack was happy to chill out in the car park while we waited for our turn and we amused ourselves with a bit of grooming and following the Hippobuggie around doing Pope impressions. Now that Jack is happily picking up his feet, Ben got us working on softness rather than duration and then allowing a second person to handle his feet with a view to trimming them. Fortunately Laura, the barefoot trimmer, had agreed to come and we worked with him together. We broke up each mini-session with some jumping so that Jack could enjoy himself and get rid of any pent up energy/ adrenalin.
Thursday, August 12, 2010
A strong belief in my concepts gives me the patience to repeat procedures again and again. I know that they will ultimately be successful and, once you come to that conclusion, it will be much easier for you to express the patience required in this effort.
The loss of patience, particularly in non-violent training, is counterproductive. I have had a lifetime to discover that losing one's patience will eventually be viewed as a mistake. It is my opinion that we should practise the art of observing our mistakes, allowing us to learn from them. It is my strong recommendation to every horseperson that they learn the language Equus. Once we know the instinctual patterns of the horse's brain and the way horses communicate, we are far less likely to experience a loss of patience. A profound statement made to me in this context was, 'A good loser is a consistent one.' We must not be good losers. This does not mean that we fall on the ground pounding our fists, acting in an immature fashion. We must, however, feel the hurt of losing in order to be motivated to change our tactics. We should replay mental videos of the procedure in question. When we view ourselves losing patience, we should carefully note the outcome.I have found over the decades that any time I lost my patience my re-run of the mental video would show that my horse and I took a step backwards.
Horses are forgiving individuals and, if we are quick enough to rectify our mistakes, they will soon be back on a positive track. Recognizing progress is certainly an art form, but I have to assume that each of us has some idea of what we want from our horses and thus can recognize the positive track. Learning the language and understanding the nature of the horse will fortify your confidence. These bits of knowledge will support your resolve to stay the course, watching closely for improvement that you can appropriately reward."
So, it's an improvement that Theoden doesn't actually launch himself at me the instant I spray him with the fly spray. I need to keep working on it.
On the same note, Jack simply isn't going to be ready to travel in the Ifor to the clinic this weekend. I'm either going to have to borrow a stock trailer again so that we can enclose him safely or not go at all.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Next I loaded Jack in to the trailer and taught him that he could turn around in there. We had got stuck in the lorry (not literally) because he couldn't see where he was meant to go and I felt that he would panic if we tried to close the back doors. We will be using full width bars in the trailer and wedging straw bales into the section at the front to stop him even thinking about going over the front bar. I have plenty of time to practice before Saturday and if I don't think he's ready, he won't go. Last time we borrowed a stock trailer.
Monday, August 9, 2010
Jane's other horse Havanna has been sharp around her head ever since Jane got her. It makes it very tricky to get her bridle on and each time it's a fiddle it just reinforces the problem. Today we made a start on desensitising her head. Simply using the touch and move away technique wasn't going to be enough as Havanna quickly started to just flick an ear back to touch me and then took her head away (and she is very tall!). We decided that we would use clicker training to see if we could reward a simple pause. Havanna got the hang of this very quickly and we went from being able to touch her with the feather duster to a hand on either side of her head and all around her ears. Not only was she much stiller but sher head was a lot lower. From a click and treat for each pause we moved on to two or three clicks (intermediate bridges) for each reward. Jane is going to consolidate this work over the next few days and then we'll start using a leather strap in the same way as the feather duster and hand before moving on to the bridle itself.
She will also be checked physically just as soon as she is still enough to accept someone's enquiring hands.
This afternoon it was off to a horse whose initial "I can't" has turned into an "I won't" when it comes to loading. She seems perfectly settled when she is in the box, accepts the partition and travels extremely well. She has begun to plant herself at the bottom of the ramp and simply refuses to move. I am convinced that she learned that behaviour worked in earlier "I can't" days (years ago). Today she loaded beautifully about ten times from the outset so I may have to revisit when she goes on strike again; the first time I have met an owner who was frustrated because her horse did load! However, we did some work with the tarpaulin instead. At first she was willing to try and to take a step further forward each time but then I watched her switch from I can't to I won't. In these circumstances we used a carrier bag on a stick to flap at a good distance behind her to just encourage her to take one step forward and "unstick" her. This was sufficient to ask her to engage again and meant that I could thank her for taking that step forward by gently backing her three steps and then ask her to come forward again. Within a few minutes she had walked all the way over the tarpaulin. It's really important to know the difference between I can't and I won't and, if in doubt, give the benefit of that doubt to the horse.
The next day, the horse was due to go to a lesson:
"She loaded perfectly to go but I did pretend it was just a practice, put all her tack and grooming kit in lorry before I bought her in, then when I was ready to go just walked her up the ramp like a dream. Coming back she did think about being sticky and I thought 'oh no here we go', but I told her it was about to start chucking it down with rain and if she hung about we were both going to get very wet so she said 'ok mum' and walked straight on, so that was a relief!" Pretend you are practising seems to be quite a good motto as you're adrenalin is bound to be lower. M is now going to keep a diary of where she was going, what time of day, what she was doing at the other end and anything else that seems to be relevant in order to see if there is a pattern to her horse's behaviour.