Charlie continues to do well, the weather has been so wet and muddy we have not had a chance to do very much. Hoping for drier weather so we can get back to it.
To follow up on “try” blog I wrote a couple days ago, often what I see at clinics and when working with people one on one, is they get frustrated when their horses does not seem to get the lesson or understand the concept. Believe me, I understand how you feel. This is where OUR “Try” comes in.
Because we already know what we want our horse to do , and we can understand the concept and what it should look like in the horse, we get in to big a hurry, and rush the horse. When that happens our horse get’s nervous, scared, or has just had enough of us nagging. What to do? Well, what I see most of the time is the owner or handler, just keeps going and things go from bad to really bad.
Here is what I suggest, and what has worked really well for me over the years. STOP. Take a deep breath, rub on your horse and tell him you know he’s trying, even if you don’t feel that way, cause he is, and now it’s your turn to Try Again! Often I have found that if I will just stop and back up a bit. Find something that my horse knows how to do and let him do that for just a little bit, his confidence comes back. Then when I go back to the exercise of concept if I break down the exercise, asking for just a piece of that exercise, things get better, fast.
We are supposed to be smarter then our horses so when you find yourself in a situation like this, STOP, take a deep breath, and try, try, again.
My buddy Mark gave me some ideas on what I could write about the other day, and one of the things he suggested was talking about “try”. He said that he had not really thought much about this word until he started working with my horses and me so I thought that was a good idea.
“Try” is the effort that a horse will put in on a skill or exercise that I might be asking. Most of us humans, want everything to happen NOW and the first time. Unfortunately that’s not the way it happens for horses, so if we want to get things done fast, we need to go slow. In the music world that I have been in as a singer songwriter and player, there is a saying, “slow is smooth, smooth is fast”. And that’s really true in so many things, including working with horses. If we take our time, go at is slow, we get smoother at our horsemanship, and in turn, our horses learn faster because we are smoother at what we are asking.
So I’ll use a couple of examples of what I look for in a “try” from a horse. To start with lets look at a backing up exercise that I use, where you wiggle your rope and the horse backs up. At first what happens is you wiggle your rope and your horse looks at you like your crazy, so you put more energy in the rope. Your horse raises his head in the air to avoid the energy in the rope and the movement of the halter on his head. Then your horse starts to shift his weight back to his hindquarters, and, YOU STOP. The shift of his weight was what you were looking for. Ok, your right, he did not back up, but he was making an effort to avoid the wiggling, pressure, of the rope that you were giving him, and he moved in the right direction. That’s a try. Sure you want him to back up without you having to tear his head off with the lead rope and halter, with his head down and him relaxed, but your probably not going to get that the first time, or today for that matter, so you take what he offers, a “try”. You will find if you are consistent and patient, it will not be long, a day or so, and he will back up when you START to wiggle the rope. He will back up long before you have to wiggle the rope hard. But when you are starting, you just want him to understand the concept of backing up when you wiggle the rope. You will be able to ask for a better try, or for more steps, as he begins to understand the exercise and the concept of backing up from the pressure of the lead and halter.
However, if he tries to backup, shift his weight to his hindquarters, you don’t see the try, and keep adding more pressure from the rope and halter, he is going to continue to fight the pressure and he will turn and head for the back forty because, you did not recognize the try he made to back up. He is confused, scared, and now will not take the time to listen to you. You have become a leader that does not listen to what he is trying to tell you, and it will take much longer to get done what you were after.
The same it true with flexing my horse from side to side on the ground or in the saddle. Sure, I want him to flex his head to the side, all the way back to his girth area, but if your horse has never done this before or is having trouble with it, your not going to get it by yarding his head back to the side. He will move his feet, which you don’t want, or really try to get away from the pressure. So what I do, is, while standing at his side and far enough back that he has room to get his head back to his girth area, you don’t want to be in the way so he can’t, I pick up the lead rope a gently pull out and back in the direction I want him to move his head. The minute his eye looks at me, or in my direction, I drop the lead rope and rub him on the neck, tell him what a GOOD BOY he is, my clicker training, and let him relax. I start again and wait for that same try. When I get it, I let him rest. I keep looking for, waiting for that “try”. It’s not long before the second I pick up my lead rope, and in time the reins, he will beat me so I won’t have to pull on the lead or reins. This is how I get a horse soft in my hands.
All of this takes the magic pill, time. These are things that I chip away at with every horse that comes here for training. I am always looking for the “try” the effort a horse puts into trying to figure out what I want, and then I reward that effort with rest and a GOOD BOY.
Take what the horse offers you, rather then demanding he give it now. You will find that you will get a lot more done, faster, then you ever thought possible.
Now it’s time for me to “try” and get a cup of coffee.
I got a very nice message from a student this morning, and she is having a little trouble catching her horses. I have talked about this before but I know it can be a real problem for folks.
She says that she is able to get them to stop, eventually and stand still, then she is able to put a halter on them but she has to walk a long ways in her pasture, sometimes, in order to get that done.
The best way to teach or reteach this skill is in the round pen or a square pen. You can do it in a pasture or arena, but it will take a lot longer and you will be wore out buy the time you get it done.
Horses that don’t want to be caught see no value in us as leaders, so we have to work a being a good or better leader. Some horses get it pretty fast, others can take what seems like forever, but you have to be patient. Remember there are three things that I look for when working a horse in the round pen. I look for him to hook his inside ear on me, which shows that he is paying attention to me. If I don’t have that, you won’t get anything else either. Sometimes a horse will have to make several laps in the round pen before he wants to listen. So be patient with him. Let him go as long as he needs to, until you get his attention, which is shown by him listening with his inside ear. The inside ear being the one closest to you as he goes in his circle. Once you have that the second thing I look for is licking and chewing. Horses can’t and won’t lick and chew if they are afraid or defiant. So once he start to lick and chew he is telling you that he is not afraid and he is starting to come down off of his adrenalin. This will take time as well. Then the third thing is the lowering of his head, sometimes all the way to the ground. You don’t always get the lowering of the head, or I should say, most people don’t notice the lowering of the head because the are looking for him to lower it all the way to the ground. Most of the time though, he will start to lower is a little at a time, and in very small increments.
Once you have at least two of the three, then he is ready to listen to what you have to say. I try to get my horse to go thru a walk, trot, and canter, in both directions before we even think about stopping and teaching him to catch me. If your horse is in a stall, which is not the case with Diane, the student that sent the email, or penned up, it may take awhile. They have been standing around doing nothing and now they get a chance to get out and stretch their legs, so give them a chance to do that.
You want to make sure your horse is paying attention, then pick a place in the pen and when your horse get to that spot back up as fast as you can to the other side of the round pen. What will happen is your horse will turn in to see what you are doing and when the horse notices that you are backing away your horse may, step toward you. If the horse keeps coming toward you, keep backing up along the rail of the round pen. Try to match your horse step for step. Meaning, when your horse takes a step toward you, take a step back away from him. Once your horse figures out that comfort comes from following you he will hunt you down in order to be comfortable. He may only turn and look at you. If so that’s ok. Just stop and let him rest. He did the right thing, which is look at you. Just wait. If he walks off, put him back to work in circles. You won’t have to go as far as you did before, before you ask him to turn in toward you as I describe in the earlier part of this blog. Once your horse figures out that being with YOU is where there is rest and comfort he will catch you in order to get that reward, rest.
There is a ton more detail and things to look for but this is about all this blog can handle.
If you are having problems with any of your horse program, please feel free to call. It’s free. My hope is you will see enough value in what I can show you that you will want to share it with friends and we can have a clinic sometime down the road.
Be safe out there.
Well, there is still tons of snow on the ground and more on the way they say. I know, I know, I keep complaining about it… sorry.
A buddy of mine asked me yesterday if I knew what my horse was thinking. I thought now that’s a great question. Often at clinics or in private lessons someone will say. “I think my horse is thinking……..” and then they will tell me what they think their horse is thinking. I then will tell them that I have a hundred dollar bill in my pocket, and if they can tell me what I’m thinking I will give it to them. Well, they stop for a second, and then they look at me, and usually say that theirs no way they can do that. Here is my take. If you can’t tell what another human is thinking, and you are one, how in the world do you think you know what a horse is thinking.
Having said that, there are things that we know about horses in general. When teaching people how to be a leader in their herd of two, I remind them that a horse wants only two things in their world. Food and comfort, and a horse will go without food in order to be comfortable. Knowing these two things is powerful information, if we use it to teach our horses. As a matter of fact, it’s this knowledge that makes it possible for us to train our horses.
Horses have survived for a very long time on this planet because, for them, it’s all about surviving. So the first thing a horse thinks about, when frightened or worried, is run. That has served them well for a long time. Once they are at a distance that they feel safe, comfortable, they will stop and check to see what it was that scared them. Once they feel safe, they will go back to grazing. But he will run as long as he is scared, and will not worry about eating till he feels safe. This principle makes it possible to teach our horses, just about anything.
So knowing that our horses are more concerned with their survival then their comfort, makes it possible for us to teach them amazing things.
Kathy has a horse, Barz, that she can get him to back up just by wiggling her finger at him. For Barz, that wiggle of the finger is pressure, and he knows that the way to get away from that pressure is to back up, cause if he does, Kathy will stop wiggling it and tell him what a good boy he is. That has taken time to teach him this skill, but it was all done using the principle that we have been talking about.
To get my horses to walk, trot, canter turn right or left and or stop, are all accomplished using the principle that horses want comfort and they will look, hard, to find it. When they find the good place or comfort, and we reward that with leaving them alone, they will try harder and harder to get to that place before you apply any pressure, or very little pressure.
So bottom line. I can’t tell you what your horse is thinking anymore then I can tell you what your thinking. But because I know what’s important to your horse, I can teach him to accept you as his leader. But you still have to be the leader and that takes time. Coffee Time
view from back porch this morning!
Wow, we are getting hammered with snow. It started last night around 9 pm or so and it’s still at it this morning. Looks like there is at least a foot of the stuff right now and it’s still coming. We moved here to get out of this stuff. Guess we need to look deeper to the south.
I did not write Wed. because I was pretty sick. Not sure what it was but am feeling better.
I rode Charlie the horse yesterday for a couple of hours. It has been awhile sense I was able to ride him because of the weather. We still tried to do some ground work, which is good but I was really missing the time with him horseback. So go to do that yesterday and he did fine. He has always been a little stiff making turns to the left. He does them just fine but you could just feel the stiffness in his body, so we worked a ton on that yesterday. Charlie goes home the first of the year and I really want him to be ready. Charlie’s mom and dad were going to come out this week but the weather has made that pretty much impossible.
I, from time to time, sit down here at the computer and really have no idea what I’m going to write about. I usually come up with something, what’s going on with the horses or with just the ranch in general but you could all sure help me with suggestions. So, if there is something you would like to know about the ranch or about a certain method of training that you have seen or seen me do and you would like to know more about it, please leave me a message here on the blog or email me, Mackie@mackieredd.com and let me know what you are interested in. It would sure help me out.
Well, I’m going to get me a cup of coffee and sit by the fire for a bit before I go out to see how the boys are getting along.
Stay safe and warm out there.
We just got an email from a long time saddle pal, Marge that her riding days were over. She has had problems with her back for a long time, but they are to the point now where the pain is more then she can do. She will be having a doctor look inside to see what the problem is and what, if anything, can be done.
We have spent many miles together gathering cattle and exploring parts of the Aldo Leopold Wilderness, in the Gila National Forest, where few people ever go. She has always been up for an adventure, and even when things got a little harry she never turned back. I have missed, and will miss, those times.
I guess this will happen to all of us somewhere down the trail. I keep saying I want to keep riding and training till I drop. That may or may not happen. It has for some I have known. But more then not come to a place in their lives where they realize that their bodies can no longer do what their hearts want.
Be safe out there. Let the reason you have to hang up your saddle be because you have just wore out. Not because you got yourself in trouble, because you were not safe with your horse.
You can’t complain to much about rain in this country cause we don’t get it that much, so this is me NOT complaining.
Worked with a couple of horses yesterday but again the ground is pretty wet and boggy. So we were not able to get a whole lot done, but a little is better then nothing.
I have often heard folk’s say that they are worried that, because they have not worked with their horses in awhile, that they are going to have to start all over again. In some cases, especially early on in a horses training, you may have that problem. The reason is because they are just learning the concepts of what you are trying to teach them and that takes a little time, but once the horse has the concept you should not have to go back to the beginning every time you lay your horse off for a while. There are times here on the ranch when I won’t have a chance to work with my own horses, because of outside horses or other work I need to get done. But I’m able to go out, even if I have not touched them in months, and ask them to do an exercise and they do it like we just did it yesterday.
So if you are having trouble in this area, I am guessing that your horse does not have the basic concept of the exercises that you are trying to teach them. In the program that I use, my program, I teach these exercises in a certain order. The reason I do that is because each exercise build on the one that came before. For example I teach the horse to engage his hindquarters at a stand still. Some folks call what I do disengaging the hind quarters because the horse crosses his hind legs as he turns to look at me. But what I have found, after hours of study and observation, is what I’m really teaching my horse to do is step up, underneath himself. That’s engagement not disengagement. Anyway, I teach this more or exercise at a stand still first. Then when I start to teach the horse how to lunge and he figures that out, I’m going to have to get him to stop. He already knows how to engage his hind end to a stop at a stand still, so it’s not that big a leap for him to understand what I want him to do at a trot in a lunge.But is he does not have it figured out at a stand still, he won't understand w
So, if you are having trouble with your horses not remembering or refusing to do the move or exercise you have worked with them before on, just back up a bit, till the horse remembers. He will and you will find that if you teach the lessons in order he won’t forget.
This is your new blog post. Click here and start typing, or drag in elements from the top bar.
This weather just won’t stop. I got a chance to work with horses last week a bit after the weather and arena cleared up a bit but it’s back to wind and rain this morning. So riding lessons have been canceled.
I just checked outside, to let the dogs in, and it’s snowing. GREAT!
Kathy had a flat on her car this weekend so will need to go to town to get that fixed today sometime, so there are things to do but I would sure rather be riding a horse.
Just got an email from the fella that use to manage the ranch to the west of us. He is getting a new place and is looking for bred cows to stock it with. Wants me to come over in January to help him brand them so that will be good to get on the calendar.
Kathy is working on a new product that we will be making here at the ranch. It is lip balm and a lotion hand bar. Pretty neat stuff and it really seems to work. When we get it up and out for sale I’ll let you all know.
So with the weather looking bad today I think I’ll head to town and get the tire fixed and get a few supplies. It’s suppose to be a dandy storm..
The past several days have been pretty wet, still in the arena so have been focusing on groundwork. Even then I have to be careful because it is still pretty slippery. It has though; given me time to really review and fix up groundwork exercises with Charlie the horse. So all in all it’s been time well spent.
Charlie’s mom and dad were going to come out this week but the weather has really sucked for doing any riding so hope they can make it next week. Charlie continues to do well. He is still a little jumpy at times, but he’s not three yet, so that’s to be expected. But over all he is doing great.
I am working with my horses on a few other things here at out place. I want them to have some of it down be for I show you all what I’m up to, but will keep you up to date as we progress.
Coffee, Coffee, Coffee.
The discussion that I have been having the past few days with some folks has brought up the subject of round penning. There are some that feel the use of a round pen is not the best way to teach a horse to be caught or to teach a horse who the leader of the herd, human and horse, is. Personally, I don’t think you need a round pen or a pen at all, round or square, to teach your horse who the leader is or to teach your horse how to be caught. I have taught folks how to catch their horse without the use of either of these pens. However to make a blanket statement that the use of a round pen, or any other type of device, is in it’s self wrong or bad, shows a lack of knowledge and experience on the part of the person making the statement.
The round pen, or round corral, has been used for a very long time and has been use to teach horses a lot of things, good and bad. The biggest thing that I have had to deal with is people that don’t know how or what to use the round pen for. I get horses from time to time that come here who have been worked in a round pen and their owners, or trainers have taught them how to run in a circle and that’s about it. Because of this some trainer who meet horses and owners with this problem, blame the round pen instead of whom they should.
I use a round pen for two things. To teach a horse who the leader is, and teach the horse how to be caught or how to catch me. Once we have learned those two lessons we move on to other things. It is true that some, because they don’t know what else to do, will keep their horse in the round pen two long. It then that they start to teach the horse how to run and run and run and, well you get the picture.
I think that we, sometimes, blame the method or the device, because we can’t do it ourselves or we don’t understand how to do use the method or device. But is much easier to blame then to learn.
Thanks god our horses don’t have these discussions among themselves. They would never let us get close to them.
Will try and keep you updated with info on what the heck I'm doing with horses and music.