There has been some killer input on these posts. I'm going to weave some of these thoughts into where I'm heading with this.
First off, I had someone ask me if it was possible that Neil was stung by a bee. It made me pause, and the Boss and I went over her pretty good yesterday. No dice. BUT, she was beaten up pretty severely by the herd she runs with, the week before our train wreck.
We knew she was still muscle sore when we worked her that day. So it's possible that something hurt on Neil.
Here's where we get to my core belief on my relationships with horses.
I don't care why she did it.
If she was sore, she had other ways to tell us, that wouldn't involve turning my boss into a lawn dart.
I have spent a huge part of my life learning to read my horses so that I can tell if something is wrong. I can feel an off stride, a sore back, a hurting tooth. I care intensely about their well being. I work to give them the big four. Always.
I am not 100% on picking up their problems. I get caught up in my own program sometimes, and miss things that my horse might be just screaming about. It doesn't matter.
I can't help my horse if I'm worried about being catapulted into space.
My number one rule is, and always will be, My horses cannot hurt me.
There is absolutely no excuse, ever, for my horse to forget I'm on their back, on the end of their lead rope, or standing where they can hurt me.
I teach them where they can stand, how close they can come to me, how they can behave under saddle.
I am extremely consistent with my horses. They can rely on me to reward good behavior, crash down on rudeness, and for the most part, to be kind and tolerant.
I am patient. Watching me train is like watching paint dry. Or alfalfa grow during a drought. Or a crock pot make dinner.
I will take as long as a horse needs for every step we take in the training process.
I am proud of my track record with fearful horses.
I will kick any horse's ass if they are going to hurt me.
When I begin to train a horse the first thing I clear up is how I expect it to lead. Which is by following behind me, with plenty of slack in the lead rope.
Fluffy can't go past my shoulder.
Fluffy can't pull on the lead rope.
Fluffy can't touch me.
Pretty simple, huh?
You wouldn't believe how much trouble most of the little Fluffies get in that first few days.
I stick to my three step system in all of these matters.
1.I give the cue I would like Fluffy to respond to.
2. I give a stronger cue, the only warning they get.
3. I make it happen.
I do mean make it happen, by the way. I don't mean repeating the warning cue over and over, or starting over. I mean I get big, swing ropes, swat butts, get out a crop.....Whatever it takes to get Fluffy where I want her.
The instant Fluffy complies, I immediately relax, immediately assume Fluffy will be perfect forever and ever, amen, and continue on my merry way.
I rarely talk to them.
Horses are pretty nonverbal in their communication.
I try to be also.
You will never hear me say, "Fluffy, back. Aw, c'mon, back. Fluffy, back. Back. BACK! BACK!
Dammit Fluffy, I said BACK!"
If I am on the ground, I ask for my back by stepping into Fluffy's space, and putting my hand on her chest. That's step one.
Then I place my hand on her nose, push it toward her neck, and poke her in the chest with my other hand. That's her warning cue.
Then I grab her pretty hard by the nose, SHOVE her back, and kick her front hooves to unlock those sticky, stinking front legs. (Warning, careful how hard you kick, and only the hoof, not the legs) I make it happen. That's step three.
That's just an example. I don't believe you can create a gentle horse unless Fluffy knows there is a consequence to noncompliance.
I don't care what your method is. I don't care if the consequence is more work, or a slap on the butt. There does need to be a consequence that your horse understands.
Witholding your love, or carrots, isn't going to cut it.
Fluffy will just stomp over your love, and you, to get the carrot.
The Big K told me once, "The only gentle horse is the one you haven't made mad yet."
If Fluffy doesn't know that getting mad at you will get her in a deep pile of crap, then you are going to be the one dealing with the pile.
To my mind the equation I'm searching for is this
Clear, fair treatment, (including discipline) = Respect= Safety.
I worry about respect foremost. Interestingly enough, most of the horses I train always give me a friendly greeting when I see them again. Even years later. So we've become friends in spite of it all, or maybe because of it.
I hadn't gone through my ground stuff with Neil. I figured she was started, and would be OK. I assumed we would cover it as we worked her. Oops.
Now that she has our attention, I have been making sure Neil gets the concept of consequence. It hasn't been pretty. But the boss has had two successful rides on her.
I'm not sure that Neil completely gets it, but we sure have her thinking about it.
What I'm getting at is, I think it is vital to modify a horse's responses to outside stimulus to leave me feeling safe enough to read those responses. Am I making sense or am I babbling?
Now I'm late for my appointment with the warmblood stud colt......Sheesh. Later