Thursday, May 3, 2012

Ears Wide Open - Mouth Shut Tight

The bay colt at the tie rail was fractious and confident. Not as broke as he should be and generally figuring out how to use it in his favor, he was spending the afternoon bucking, whinnying and kicking at passing horses.

Corbin untied his halter and kicked him loose, still saddled, in the arena. The colt took off and Corbin went with him, putting his gelding on the colts hip while he shook out his rope. Full of himself, the colt kicked out at Corbin and his horse then dug in and really went to bucking.

The arena was in the middle of roping practice, but only a few quit what they were doing to watch. Corbin threw his loop, it floated nice as could be and settled over the bay's head. He dallied and eased his horse off, letting the colt find the end of the rope himself.

As soon as he felt the pressure of the loop tighten the colt broke in half. Squalling, bucking and rearing, he went absolutely out of his mind. Corbin worked him like a trout on the line until he was in position to head out, which he did.Every time he felt the pull of the rope, the colt would set back, spraddle legged, and begin to fight.

Corbin seemed to pay absolutely no attention to him at all, just kept him moving. Finally the colt reared up and flipped himself onto his side. Corbin kept on going. After dragging him a couple yards, he gave him enough slack to get back up, but immediately tightened the rope down and loped off the second the colt found his feet. Then they went to brawling again.

The whole thing took about five minutes. By the time they headed back to the tie rail the colt was loping next Corbin's gelding like a dog at an obedience trial. He rode off nice that afternoon and continued to do so every ride after.

"Sometimes you have to get your point across," Corbin said. "Choking them down isn't pretty, but I've never seen a horse not get it. The trick is to keep them moving, direct their feet and don't let them get the idea throwing themselves down is an answer.

"As soon as the beat of their hooves matches my horse's, I know I've got them, they're taking direction from  the herd. Course, I'm the boss mare.

"My Dad used to buy killer horses at the sales and bring them home. We traveled all over the country going to different sales.We'd feed them, break them and take them back to sell again. He'd bring home 30 to 40 of 'em at a time, we'd take 30 or 40 with us to the sale. We weren't considered rescuers, but I guess that's what we were doing. We sure never called ourselves that. By the time we took 'em back they weren't killers anymore. Course it was just because that's what we did for a living.

"Sales weren't like they are now. It was the only way anybody got horses. So there were killers and bucking stock and the like, but there were good horses too, all the way up to great ones. If you wanted a horse, you went to the sale, if you were selling one you went back. they didn't have these breed sales or production sales, just the one.

"It was a good way to see how your horses were turning out. If you could buy a $10 horse and sell it six months later for $1500 you were doing things right.

"There was no point in cheating, selling them lame or drugged. If you got a reputation for being crooked only the kill buyers would bid on your horses. If people knew you turned out a nice horse, well your prices went up. they got so they waited for ours to come into the ring.

"Choking them down was the fastest way to make them humble and pay attention at the same time. It didn't make them afraid of us, but we sure had respect. Why, my dad would use a tractor on some of those big old drafts. He's buy bucking stock and straighten 'em out the same way.We didn't have any trouble with them either. He'd buy anything. If they went to kill after he had them it was because they were sick or lame or something, not because he didn't have a handle on them.

"I don't use it much anymore, I'm not trying to train bucking stock either, but I haven't found a quicker way to get a rank horse's attention yet."

This is what I took from what I saw and the following conversation -


 He dallied and eased his horse off, letting the colt find the end of the rope himself.

 ... he gave him enough slack to get back up, but immediately tightened the rope down and loped off the second the colt found his feet.

The whole thing took about five minutes.

" The trick is to keep them moving, direct their feet and don't let them get the idea throwing themselves down is an answer."

"As soon as the beat of their hooves matches my horse's, I know I've got them, they're taking direction from  the herd. Course, I'm the boss mare."

"We weren't considered rescuers, but I guess that's what we were doing. By the time we took 'em back they weren't killers anymore. Course it was just because that's what we did for a living."


" If people knew you turned out a nice horse, well your prices went up. they got so they waited for ours to come into the ring."


These are the points I'm still thinking on. - Mugs

29 comments:

mugwump said...

hello

whisper_the_wind said...

Not pretty, not 'nice', effective because the horse, being a herd animal respects discipline. No grudges are held, either by horse or trainer. It just is.

I've seen this done. The spirit of the horse is intact. Done by the wrong person, this is abuse. It is a fine line that many should not cross.

Lots of thinking...

Valerie said...

Ive seen this done wrong and seen this done right. The problem is that jo blow cowboy seems to think he can do it and you end up with what happened to my mare. She got loose and was caught and drug, ended up injuring her neck. She is terrified of men in cowboy hats and ropes (getting better).

If you do it right it works! Do it wrong and youve made the problem worse

redhorse said...

Hello.

I have to admit I've never seen this done. It sounds like something I'd have to see first hand to decide if I agree with it. I can see that it could save some horses' lives, so I guess I'll keep an open mind.

DarcC said...

What I took away is the total lack of emotion. No ego, no anger, no pride, nothing to prove. Having that kind of perspective makes training anything easier. Emotion = confusion

Joyce Reynolds-Ward said...

It's one of those things that takes feel, that's for sure.

Whywudyabreedit said...

I think DarcC hit the nail on the head. If emotion or ego are involved, this technique could easily turn into battle. What was described here sounds very matter of fact, very black and white. The wrong thing will not be easy...

Francis said...

I have to agree with DarcC.. more times than not, you see this as a result of anger on the humans part. The anger keeps you from being able to "act like a horse" and discipline and move on..

Nice thought provoker for a Friday.

mugwump said...

DarcC - me too.

This man has been working horses for his living his entire life. No clinics, no students, just doing what he does.

Plus, I really like his horses. Calm, business-like, good looking...

mugwump said...

Valerie - I have seen horses like yours. Tally was one. We used to get them in for training. K said it was usually a matter of the job not getting done, over being done wrong.
So if the horse was handled with a rope or hobbles and got their release while terrified or angry, guess what happened?
If the job was "finished," as in the release came when the horse had submitted, was doing what was needed (like the bay colt, following along quietly) then the fear or anger wouldn't take. Compliance would. because compliance made sense.
When we had a horse with ingrained fear or anger it took longer, because those responses had been working for it. We had to make the horse realize compliance was the easier response.
That's when training gets ugly. Trying to fix the misinterpretation and handling caused by humans.

Horsefarmer said...

Great story, lots to learn here.
I believe this is the best rescue - fix them and make a better horse.
Maybe get a little improvement yourself while your at it.
Yesterday morning I'm leading the stud colt back to pasture and wife moved cows while I was in the barn getting him. He looks up and sees "COWS!" spins around and stomps on my foot and I lost my balance and went down. I stumbled to my feet an he's just standing there - lead rope still around his neck looking at the cows walking down the lane. Did I get mad? Well. I did cuss a little cause my foot stung and I really was surprised by his reaction to cows he sees every day. But after I calmly put him back with the geldings and walked it off the lesson I got is I learned our colt spooked just the way I want him to - stop and look but don't run. He could of run me over but he did not.

Whywudyabreedit said...

Ouch! I am glad that you didn't get run over. I was also very happy when my youngster learned to spook in place, particularly under saddle. I guess I just took it more for granted on the ground. And yes, it can be a challenge to keep your perspective while in Pain!

quietann said...

"Spook in place" is one of the reasons I trust my mare, even though she can get very goofy. She was injured and had surgery and I spent 8 months hand-walking her. She got pretty fresh at times, but when she reared, spun, whatever, she did it moving slightly away (so I never worried about getting run over) and never tried to break loose and run off no matter what. She is pretty much the same under saddle; she spooks and it's over. I do have to deal with the spin, though!

quietann said...

"Spook in place" is one of the reasons I trust my mare, even though she can get very goofy. She was injured and had surgery and I spent 8 months hand-walking her. She got pretty fresh at times, but when she reared, spun, whatever, she did it moving slightly away (so I never worried about getting run over) and never tried to break loose and run off no matter what. She is pretty much the same under saddle; she spooks and it's over. I do have to deal with the spin, though!

KD said...

Mugs - does the horse actually get choked...lose the ability to breath with that method? I can see using a harsh method that works quickly and doesn't cause lasting ill effects. I can remember all the old cowboy movies show the the hand tossing a noose and then using the snubbing post to gain control. Guess you had to catch and control them before you could even get a halter on them when they didn't have the luxury of time.

mugwump said...

Yes, they get choked. They create their own release by stepping forward.

Walter said...

Interesting. Looks liek we may be coming to full circle. Easy to take certain old cowboy techniques and call it abuse and start an entire natural horsemanship industry targetting new to horses folks.

But people who ride horses for a living , out in the range and the middle of nowhere sure do not want a bratty , scared, terrified , angry horse that is looking to dump you and flee.

Anonymous said...

I was taught a similar, but not quite the same, sorta approach.

We used a pole (not a goddamned charro pole, btw.. ugh) that was sunk deep and cemented in the center of a round pen. Line was run with a single dally around the pole. Horse clipped to one end and a person had a hold of the other. Pole presented an immovable object that the horse often associated with the person holding the line.
Dally on the pole was such that if the horse decided to come at you.. you pulled in your line and kept the pole between you and the horse.

Concept though was to keep the horse moving around the pole using the length of line that you've provided. You could lengthen it or shorten it as needed. If the horse decided to hit the end of the line.. they didn't go anywhere. Coming in wasn't an option either.. you kept driving them out and moving.
If they decided to come at you.. they'd find they were out of line and the pole between you and them.

It takes skill and being able to read the horse to use it right, but it's damned useful. Especially if you don't have a good pony horse.. which was the other best option. But they were usually worked initially on the pole to understand giving to pressure before they were ever ponied.

SweetPea said...

So interesting... so very thought provoking. In the right circumstance I can see this being very effective. In the wrong hands I can see horses dying. The hard part is telling someone who's doing it wrong that they are doing it wrong and have them listen.

Becky said...

So...the spoiled arena baby that I am, my first overwhelming thought was WHAT A JERK for doing that in the middle of a busy arena. Around here, if you know your horse causes trouble then you wait for the arena to be empty before you go to work. I am not saying it is the right way....I am just saying...does anyone else get nervous on their horse when another horse in the arena acts up? I hate the sound of irregular hoofbeats that means a horse is either spooking or bucking.

Wish I could have seen this in action. It would have been hard to watch, but I think I could have learned a lot just by watching.

Jill said...

also a good article in this month's Western Horseman about laying horses down. Interesting.

Joyce Reynolds-Ward said...

Becky--I used to kind of be that way about arena hijinks when my mare was younger and greener. But I just kinda kept my mouth shut and rode through it (I'm at a training barn).

Now, I'm glad I did. The other day was a real screw up as two college kids working with a greenie made a mistake. Turned out okay, but there was a bit of drama as the greenie pitched a fit in an unsafe manner.

Mocha stood calmly under me and just raised her head high and flicked an ear disapprovingly at the silly kid. Good horse. But we'd had to ride through our share of training craziness and other horses blowing up around us to get to this point where she stood quietly. Yeah, it's a pain to ride through but eventually...it pays off.

All along my trainer's been pretty firm in his opinion that dealing with that sort of thing without drama is what a broke horse does. After the craziness of our last session in the show warmup pen, I've gotta agree. Nice to be on the sensitive, responsive but SENSIBLE horse in the crowd. Or, as he said, "Darn good thing you've got a good stop on that horse."

nagonmom said...

I am pretty sure this is a "don't try this at home" technique for most of us. Of course, I couldn't rope a rocking horse while both of us were standing still, so I am quite safe. And once again, it is not the technique but the trainer.

Jennifer R. Povey said...

I used to think that these cowboy methods - choking a horse down or putting a horse down (lying it on the ground then sitting on it) were abuse. I classed them, in my mind, with certain methods used by people in the English hunter community - the clearest example being that I was taught that if a horse spooked, I was to beat it until it was more afraid of me than whatever it was spooking at.

I thought they were 'fear' methods.

Then I met PWF's Gooseberry, generally known as G. He has a nickname: The Mule.

G is a stocky little Quarter Horse, about fifteen hands, but built like a small tank. After the first ride I was 'this horse is *&*(*(& to ride. After the second?

'If I knew how to put a horse on the ground and sit on it safely, this horse would BE on the ground. Right now.'

I have never in my life encountered such a dominant horse. G is constantly on a thin line between a great ride...and a danger to all around him. He's put plenty of *people* on the ground, including me. Anyone who doesn't handle him right is likely to end up on the ground...and even most of those who do will get thrown at least once.

Our battles came to a peak one day. His particular line in the sand was cantering on the left lead (no, there were NO physical problems, in fact I have never known this horse to be lame or sore). That day, I gave him the biggest dose of wet saddle blanket I have ever given any horse...I rode him to exhaustion. (His and mine). But damn it, he cantered on the left lead...and he hasn't given me a lick of trouble since.

But I still can't get across to other people that when riding this horse you *can't* give him an inch. The last person to be bucked off by him was letting him eat in the grass arena. You can't do that with a horse like this.

I asked for, and got, a copy of his papers from his owner. It's easier to name which of the classic old ranch lines *don't* show up somewhere in his ancestry.

Which was when I realized. Cowboys don't use these methods because they're in a hurry, or rushing, or abusive, or whatever. They use them because they're dealing with horses like this. You NEED a horse like that to herd cattle on the range - smart enough to know what's going on, dominant enough to stare down a steer that don't want to go where you want it to go - and that means that you are very likely to end up with a horse that will herd YOU given half a chance. And that means that you might, sometimes, have to resort to a short sharp shock of dominance to get that horse where you want it.

And, the odd thing is...the people who get pricked ears and affectionate nickers from G? Those who've beaten him down and taught him where he is and where he stands. He doesn't LIKE wussies who let him trample on them. He likes people willing to be the alpha, no matter what it takes. And if he likes you, then, he'll give you 110%.

So, I don't judge cowboys any more. I do say that to use these methods you HAVE to know what you're doing, or somebody is going to get hurt.

Jennifer R. Povey said...

...forgot to subscribe. Sorry for the minor spam.

mugwump said...

Becky -- this was not a group that worried about somebody roping a colt. If the arena had been full of boarders he wouldn't have done it.

A training arena is a world in itself.Joyce Reynolds-Ward is right, there is never an atmosphere that is "ideal." You learn to ride your babies through and around all kinds of action that can be incredibly intimidating.

Watch a warm-up pen at a cow horse show sometimes. The trainers and their horses look like there's no one else in the arena but them, even though there's 40 riders in there.

Anonymous said...

Oh, heck, I have no problem with that scenario. I do have a problem with this type of "scenario".
It's so much FUN!!
Way to show the world the wrong way, rodeo!

LOL, still bothers you, I guess? Why? Y'all do it to cows for fun, why not horses too?

And no, I have no problem with cutting.

Anonymous said...

I know of a trainer/horse-breaker here (Australia) who does a similar thing, but he uses a rope halter rather than a noose, and just simple pressure on their head rather than choking. He is a very respected and successful trainer, and he uses this to both correct horses who won't lead properly and teach respect.
I've seen footage of him doing this, and he simply walks trots forward until the horse being lead hits the end of the rope and lags or baulks, then he gets his own horse to simply plant his feet and stand. The horse on the end of the rope dictates what amount of pressure he puts on his own head, and it doesn't matter how much he pulls or how big a hissy fit he throws, they don't go anywhere until he softens to the halter and comes forward. Then they walk off and repeat repeat repeat until the horse leads properly and comes nicely off the halter, walk, trot and canter.
Personally I think this method is probably better, however I don't think I would have any problem with the original method being used where necessary, on horses that are really "out of their box".

Heidi the Hick said...

Hey Anonymous - that's exactly how my friend DW trained her horses! And she was doing that very quietly and matter of fact-ly over 20 years ago.

She didn't do it in a cruel way (they simply learned to walk beside the ponying horse) and she's always turned out well-behaved horses.

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