Friday, August 1, 2008

Staying Safe/On The Ground

Here goes. This is where I've been heading with the last several posts.
The accidents have rattled me. I want to share what I feel a horse needs as a base on the ground. This leads to my feeling safe in the saddle. If I don't feel safe, I spend too much time worrying about my impending doom, and am not fair in how I approach my training.
Each step on the ground adds to the horse accepting me crawling around on his back.
Keep in mind, my goal is to ride them.
If I have a horse that handles well, and gives me the right vibes, I'll get on in a day or two. Sometimes it takes weeks.

I want to share the goals and expectations I have, in order to feel relatively safe with the horse I want to ride.
I'll tell you how I get there, but that's just my way of doing things. I have no problem with how you accomplish these tasks. It's accomplishing the tasks themselves that leads to a safe horse.
By the way, we have completely restarted Neil from scratch. We found that she was fast tracked to get her sold. She has huge holes in her training. She also has problems being ridden when she cycles. But I digress.

My sample horse is a 2 year old Hanovarian stud.
Bruce is his owner. Bruce is a little over 6 feet tall. As you can see, the colt is a beast. Fobby is pretty fancy. He has a brand that he had to pass a test to get.
Can you imagine?
"Oh Louise, you got an A on your Math test, let me burn this big old brand into your hip. Congratulations!"
Sounds like a Catholic school awards ceremony to me.
I guess you can tell I don't know much about the dressage world.
I wasn't hired to work this colt for my dressage knowledge.

"When we've gone to watch the reining and cowhorse events, we noticed that almost everybody rides a stud." Bruce said.
"There are more studs than brains." I agreed.
"My point is, they all just stand around behaving themselves."
"That's true."
"At the last dressage show we went to, we knew a stud was going to be shown when this woman came plowing by us screaming, Get out of the way!!!! This is a stallion!!! Get out of the way!!!"
"Sounds attractive." I replied.
"We want our stud to behave like cowhorse studs."
There's a reason I like these people.
Fobby is already well over 16 hands. He's as ugly as a mule, even though I've been told by his owners that he's gorgeous. Bruce's daughter is an assistant trainer at a pretty ritzy dressage barn in Washington. This is going to be her dream horse in a few more years.
Her parents get to play with him until she can start him.
The good part is that they haven't ruined him. He was getting big enough and aggresive enough to start freaking them out, so they called me. Smart folks.

He's a good example of what I do when I'm being thorough on the ground. Bruce is doing the training, I'm just showing him how.
I start by explaining how I behave around a horse.
First off. I never pet a stud below the eyes.
I will rub his ears, I will pet his neck. I'm big on scratching a horse on the withers. I only touch a stud below his eyes when I need to handle his head, bit him, halter him, etc.
Studs bite to play, bite to initiate sex, and bite to fight. I am not interested in participating in any of those activities.
I make it clear to a stud that I'm not going to handle his face unless I need it for a specific purpose. Therefore he can keep his big goobery face away from me, always.
It saves a lot of stress on the stud if I keep it that simple.
This works on all mouthy horses, by the way.

Second. I never hand feed treats. Ever.
Watch a herd of horses. The only horse that walks away and gives up his feed is the one that everybody can beat up.
A horse will sometimes choose to leave it's feed. Usually to go take someone elses. Then another horse can go and eat the food that was left.
Sometimes they will share. That's so sweet. I don't share.
In my mind, feeding cookies is like saying, "Here I am, come take my food! I'm just a wimp you can push around, really, just shove you're big old head at me and grab that carrot."
The most dangerous horses I've ever worked are the ones that looked at people as nothing but animated bags of feed.
I also understand that you can teach them to be nice about treats. It just seems like a lot of extra work to me, work that could be applied to something constructive.

Third I have an invisible circle around me. It's called personal space. My horses can't cross it. Ever.
I can break it if I choose.
That means they can't rub on me. C'mon people, how disrespectful do you want them to be. We are not trees!
With studs, that circle is pretty big.

Fourth. I will touch them all over, whenever I feel like it. I mean everywhere. My horses are not allowed to have personal space. That may seem contradictory to my second step. But I handle their faces when I need to. Which leads into my next rule.

KISS. Keep it simple stupid.
Especially for studs, but it helps all horses.
Studs are essentially 13 year old boys trapped in an 1100 lb. body. They are horny, hungry, horny, tired, horny, confused, and horny. They are easier to freak out than mares and geldings, they are way more insecure. They are quicker to anger.
So take it easy on them. Don't muddy the waters.

Fobby started out as a nippy, playful, pushy little brat. Not too bad, but lots of spastic jumping around, and some border line aggresive nipping.
The first day I had Bruce declare his personal space. It took a crop, and a lot of horrified screaming and rearing from Fobby to get the point across.
I had Bruce teach him to back away and stand politely in the corner of his pen until Bruce approached him to put on his halter.
Fobby could leave, and run to his pasture any time he wanted. It's important to give a horse plenty of room to get away from you when you're whacking him on the chest with a crop. I would have Bruce wait until he came back, and we'd start again. Fobby always came back, because he really wanted to play. It took about twenty minutes to get him to stand without shoving or nipping.
Then I had Bruce show me how he led him.
Fobby would charge and buck and roar around like a wild burro. He would rear and strike and buck. None of this was aggressive. He just figured being led was playtime.
Bruce was hanging on his head, with a stud chain wrapped around his nose. It was ugly.

The first thing we did was reiterate the personal space. I had Bruce crack him back pretty aggressively, until Fobby didn't think he was at summer camp any more.
When Bruce had his attention, I let them both air up.
Bruce is really good at letting go of any anger, and started back with a clean slate. Which is vital.
Fobby would stand, but pretty soon his attention would wander, and he would start looking around. I simply had Bruce pull his head back to him, every time.

"You'll do this for the rest of his life. Let him look, and then bring his attention back to you within two or three seconds. Always let him look. As time goes on you'll feel his attention leave you, give him a little twitch of a rein, and he'll come back. (Good example of learning feel) For now, you'll do whatever it takes to refocus him, and then let him go."

Then we tried leading again.
"Leading is about you, the horse's feet, and where you want them to be. Not the lead rope." I said. "His feet need to go where you want them, because you said so, not because you've got a stud chain and a death grip."
So I had Bruce let out a bunch of slack, and walk off with authority.
Of course Fobby took off past him, blowing and squirreling around.
When Fobby hit the end of the slack, I had Bruce set his heels, and flop him around like a fish. He still had his chain in place, so it was pretty effective. Then Fobby got jerked around again.
As soon as Fobby was looking at Bruce in absolute horror, I had him walk off again. This time Fobby dug in and refused to go. So I helped him change his mind with a pop of my lead rope.
He charged past Bruce, and they went at it again.

I need to make two points here. First, I would prefer to not be doing this with a stud chain. But that is what both Fobby and Bruce are used to. Bruce had to feel safe enough to work the horse, and the only authority Fobby recognised was the chain. Eventually, we will shift to a rope halter, and then, a standard leather halter. But not until it's safe for both of them.
Second, I have a little exercise for you. You need to do this with a friend. Take a lead rope. Each of you grab on with about a foot of rope between you. Now brace your feet and tell your friend to move you. You will get about jerked off your feet when they go to pulling. Now play out 6 feet or so of lead rope. Brace yourself, and tell your friend to try to pull you off balance. They won't be able to do it.
That's why I keep my lead rope loose.
When Fobby follows Bruce like he should, he can hold the rope wherever he wants.

I will let a horse walk about where they want, as long as I can see them out of the corner of my eye, they don't cross a line past my shoulder, and they don't pull on me, the tiniest little bit.
You have to react hard and strong if they break any of those rules. Leave it up to them to find out where you want them, and stay there. As time goes on, you'll be able to feel them shifting, and correct them with a twitch of the rope. (another way of developing feel)
Once Fobby was getting the idea, I had Bruce start changing direction, stopping and starting, whatever he could come up with.

Fobby was following him like a border collie on a cow when they were done. He was also relaxed, calm, and happy. Bruce felt confident, and safe.
That was the end of our first session.
I told Bruce to practice, and I'd see him the next week.
I hope you can see all the slack in the lead rope in this picture.

I was pleased to see that Bruce and Fobby could lead all over, on a loose rope, the next time I came out. His nipping was about gone, because nobody was touching his face. If he nipped, he was breaking into Bruce's personal space, a boundary Fobby understood. So there was no question in his mind what rule was being broken.

We moved on to fly spray. I now have great respect for well bred Hanovarians. That colt is the most flexible beast I have ever seen. When he kicks at a fly, he easily reaches the midpoint of his shoulder with his hind foot. In the blink of an eye
Without intent, he could take off Bruce's head. Add that to the fact that he is extremely gangly, and has no control of his limbs, and we were looking at a potential train wreck.
"Fobby doesn't do fly spray." Bruce told me.
"Not yet." I replied.
We filled a spray bottle with water and began. I had Bruce walk up to the colt and begin spraying his lower legs, the sprayer in one hand, and the lead rope in the other. Of course Fobby jumped, and bucked, and snorted, trying to get away. Because Fobby knew to keep the rope slack, and to honor Bruce's personal space, he didn't drag or pull. He just did some incredibly acrobatic maneuvers trying to stay out of spray range.
I had Bruce keep spraying until Fobby paused, and then he'd quit. After a short breather Bruce would start again. It took awhile, but two bottles of water later, Bruce got the fly spray on, while Fobby stood quietly.
Bruce was really tired, so we didn't start to longe until the next week. Fobby was fine.

Because I'm evil minded, I wanted Bruce to longe Fobby in the open. So we longed in the pasture, with various horses wandering through. Bwah ha ha ha. I want both of them to understand that Fobby is to do what Bruce wants. Getting rid of a fence helps keep it clear,
and builds on the colts respect for Bruce, space he chooses to maintain, and the behavior he demands. KISS.

Of course Fobby was sure what I really meant was that we would have a free-for-all and drag Bruce all over creation.
I would have Bruce pull him into him, regain control, and send him out again.
Every time Fobby bolted, drug him into the trees, or whatever, Bruce would pull him to him, and start again.
Eventually Fobby was blowing around in a wild ass circle.
Every time Fobby pulled on Bruce at all, I would have him pull his face towards him, slow the motion and then release him forward again. This took awhile, because Bruce was juggling Fobby dragging him towards a wandering mare, a longe whip, and lots of line. Eventually they figured it out and things got smoother.

Bruce finally collapsed and lay on the ground wheezing. Fobby was standing near by, respecting his space.
"Keep up the good work! I'll see you next week!" I headed for home.

The next week I was really impressed with their progress. Fobby was sprayed, and longing beautifully. He doesn't have the walk, trot, canter commands yet, I really don't care. What I needed to see, and did, was him quietly loping around Bruce on a relaxed line. No pulling. It was relaxed, well behaved, and safe. KISS
Now we had to begin physically handling Fobby. He doesn't want his feet touched. He doesn't like having his fly sheet taken on and off.
Because he is so freaking limber, we began by teaching him to stand with both near legs quiet, whichever side we are on.
That's pretty easy to do. I had Bruce take his tail and pull it towards him while holding his head.
When Fobbly would drop his weight into his legs he would release.

It didn't take Fobby long to pick that one up. Now Bruce can just touch his tail and he'll be still.
Next I wanted Fobby to move whatever body part Bruce chose away from him. when he touches that part.
I had Bruce place his hand on his face and push his nose to his chest. We taught him to back away from the pressure. This was easy, because that concept had been started on the first day when he was taught not to crowd, and followed through with every exercise after.
Then I had Bruce take his face, and push his hip away.
I always had him start with a touch, follow with a tap, and then make it happen.

After he could point, and Fobby moved from his hand, I had Bruce do the same with his rib cage, and shoulder.
I am compulsive about shoulder control.
I pay more attention to where my horse's shoulder is leaning than any other part.
Ray Hunt will tell you to get the feet, then you'll have the head. I agree 100%.
I also think if you control the shoulder, you have the feet.
After you get your horse guiding freely and easily this way, start watching how moving the feet effects the shoulders. If the right front foot stalls out, look to see where the shoulder is.

After awhile you will start to anticipate resistance by where the shoulder is. (Another good way to develop feel)

At this point in time, Bruce is beginning to work with Fobby's feet. Because his kick and strike range is way beyond your average bear, we started with a rope.
I had Bruce pick up each foot with a soft cotten rope looped around his pastern. As Fobby kicked and pulled, Bruce simply held on until he relaxed. Then he set the foot down. Once again, space is clearly understood, keeping the lead rope loose is the norm, and Fobby trusts that we aren't going to hurt him. We were handling all four feet within 30 minutes.
This young horse has come a long way. We have a ways to go, but I'm not worried, or in a hurry.
I've had Bruce build up the rules one by one. We kept the lessons simple, and made sure each one was clear in everybody's mind before we moved on.
Fobby is learning to be mannerly and calm.
He will have these lessons carefully instilled and built on, each new session relating to the one before, until muscle memory will make good behavior an automatic response.
Bruce will have practiced each maneuver until Fobby's responses are second nature to him
So this is how I build feel, and a sense of safety in my horses and students.
Neither have to be a natural. Repetition helps build response, the correct response develops feel. If everybody stays focused, I'm sure we'll have the dressage stud behaving like a cowhorse stud long before his intensive training begins.
As always, this stuff is a combination of what I've learned from other trainers, reading a lot, riding a lot, and most of all, thinking.
I hope my spelling is OK, the stinking spell-check wouldn't work.
Now I'm going to go play for awhile.


  1. Great stuff Mugwamp! It reminds me that I need to be more hands on with my young ones. You forget to do things after a while, get lazy about it. Reminders like this help.

  2. Thanks for the details and walking us through your process with Fobby. I'm excited to work with my filly on some of these issues - especially fly spray!

  3. I can't believe I never thought of that fly spray routine...

    I have a question though. I always thought a horse's eye should be at my shoulder when I lead; do you lead a horse with his head behind your shoulder?

    So that he's following you?

    I do really like the loose lead rope. That's really the way it should be.

  4. Very cool, almost exactly the same as what we do at my barn. One thing you do that we dont that interested me is the thing with the tail.

    "I had Bruce take his tail and pull it towards him while holding his head. When Fobbly would drop his weight into his legs he would release."

    I had never heard of this idea before. When you say "drop his weight onto his legs" do you mean standing square? Without a foot off the ground?

    I'm extra curious because not only is this something I've never heard of before but its a way of fixing one of our studs biggest behavior faults, (and some of the geldings too.) Our stud is in a box stall 24/7 unless he's being driven, or ridden or shown. We're working on getting a turnout built for him. Big R insists that for insurance purposes he needs to have a six food high enclosure, boarded completely solid. Anyway he leads well, and drives well but likes to dance around in the cross ties. If someone stands at his shoulder and gives him the occasional correction for this he'll stand still.

    This sounds like a more permanent training tool than vigilance and a smack on the shoulder. So I have a few questions about it before we try it ourselves.

    1) Does the horse go through a phase where they want to limit your access to their tail. ie they move their quarters away from you when you go to pick their tail up? This would be a perfectly fixable thing for us if it happens, but I'm curious.

    2) Do you think that we could add to the conditions for tail release that his head be still? The breed standard calls for "abundant mane and tail" and he likes to flip his mane over to the other side of his neck and back and forth and so on.

    3) I know every horse is different but on average how often would you say you wind up touching their tail to remind them to be still? Under our current system the first few minutes in the cross ties require a lot of reminding and after that it might be two or three more reminders before he is harnessed and hitched to the cart.

    If I feel like I understand it enough to use it myself I will really enjoy trying it out on some of the dancing geldings. Muahahaha. (The evil laugh is totally a training tool, IMO)

  5. Hey that looks like Black Forest!

    I dont seem to have an issue of space with my gelding, but when he wants to get away from something aka the scary water hose, he backs up. How can I get him to stop that? He is still deathly afraid of the water on his sides. He is fine on his legs, neck and face.

    keep up the good info! we love it

  6. I love reading your stories Mugs, but I have to admit that this one was more near and dear to me than some others. I know many, many people who allow their horses to push them around on the ground and simply turn a blind eye to rude, ignorant, even dangerous actions from their horses. I understand that not all horses react in the same manner, and some are grumpier than others, etc., etc., but your horse should respect your personal space REGARDLESS. The college I attend has 150+ lesson horses on the property, and I know several of them that have reputations for being dangerous little SOB's because nobody takes the time to put them in their place. Two weeks in a row I got put on two of the most notorious kickers/biters in the barn and the VERY first thing I did was establish that there would be NO biting or kicking, or even stepping into my personal space or flicking of cranky ears at me without some serious reprecussions. I think I'm one of the only people who can walk up to either of those horses without them flattening their ears or snapping out at me. I sometimes even get a friendly nicker. I'm also one of the only people I know of who can claim to have ridden both of those horses multiple times and never have been bitten or kicked by either (one of the girls in one of my lessons lost the entire left leg of her jeans and a good sized chunky of flesh when one of the horses nailed her good).

    The horse I own is one of the most mannerly animals you will ever meet. He knows where I am at ALL times, and has not once ever hurt me in any way. In fact, the other day while I was grooming, we ended up with a quivvering, snorty, wild-ass yearling crowded into our stall with us after he busted through the barn, and I calmly and politely pointed at my horse from across his stall, moved my hand in a backing motion, and asked him to back out of the stall while the barn owner and I cornered the runaway hellion and returned him to his proper place. My horse politely dropped his head and backed his ass out of the stall and into the aisle where he waited for me to come retrieve him and return him to his dinner. THAT is how I want ALL my horses to behave. Always.

    I don't understand how some people think that skipping ground work and hopping right into the saddle could possibly be safe. If your horse doesn't respect your space when you're on the ground where he can see you, how much less will he do so when you're just a voice floating somewhere above his head? If he runs you over on the ground, how can you expect him to not do the same while under saddle, to respect the pressure of your leg or your seat when he won't even respect your entire body? Sometimes people amaze me with their stupidity and ignorance... >.>

  7. Good stuff.

    I do work on training politeness for hand-fed treats with my horse just because it's a chance for me to establish the reality that I own the food. We did a lot of work at liberty after a schooling session. I'd turn her out to roll, then call her over to get a treat. However, she 1.) needs to wait to be invited over and 2.) needs to stand outside of my personal space before I give the treat to her. If she gets too close, I'll back her up and make her try again.

    She's very polite about those treats now. I noticed that when I established the appropriate treat behavior, I got better manners all around. Now she stands clear of me and stretches her nose toward me as far as she can.

    I really, really like the tip about never petting a stud below the eyes. Makes a LOT of sense.

    I've also noticed the same thing you have about the shoulder. I can't remember which Big Name makes a big deal about shoulder control--Bob Avila? Al Dunning? Bob Loomis? One of them does, though, as does my guy, and it works big-time.

  8. Heidi- I like them to be behind me.
    I am not treating them like equals. Once they get that concept you can lead him wherever you're comfortable.
    Gillian- Just the legs on the side I'm on.I have to be honest, I'd dance in the cross ties if I never got turn out too. I don't consider grabbing his tail a correction as much as an explanation. It doesn't hurt.It simply puts his weight on those legs. I wouldn't even try this unless the horse had been longed enough to be relaxed.
    If I had your situation I would ignore his behavior until he was finally quiet. Even for a second, and then I'd give him some exercise.
    kaptkaos- Hey! It is Black Forest!
    I start with the water on their feet and work my way up, taking the water off briefly, every time they quit moving.

  9. I know just how Bruce felt when he had to catch his breath after the lunging lesson. I had to do a lot of snatch and pull around with my youngster and I would get dizzy to boot! Good lesson - thanks.

  10. I have a question about the fly spray thing. I have taught young horses to accept fly spray in much the way you describe, and it worked well. I now have an older (around 12) gelding that I bought six months ago strictly to trail ride with my son. I call Sunny my "little palomino plug". He's a relatively ill-broke horse who was brought by a horse trader out of old Mexico. He's cowboy broke--I know you know what I mean. Sunny will try to dominate you in subtle (and not so subtle) ways on the ground, and is a perfect example of a horse that, if you stay on top of him, and this includes a good solid whack with the leadrope on a regular basis, is just fine. (He's bomb-proof going down the trail, which is why I bought him.) I cope with his little attempts at dominance with no problems, but I have not attempted to re-train him to speak of. I just make him respect me as the boss and we get along fine. Again, I know you know what I mean when I say that retraining is problematic with an older horse that is set in its ways. But his former owner told me he "didn't do fly spray", and this is a nuisance. I've applied it a few times and got it done, but certainly he never really gave in to the idea and I don't see any sign that this tough minded, thick-skinned little gelding is going to give this behavior up any time soon. And to be honest, I didn't buy him to retrain him--I bought him to ride down the trails with my son and enjoy him. So far the flies don't seem to bug him much, so it hasn't been an issue. I'm woondering if, in your experience, its worth the numerous go rounds I think it would take to get a tough, cold blooded horse like this to give up his longtime resistance to such a thing. I know it just a guess--every horse is different, but if you'd choose to address this type of non-essential issue with this sort of horse, I might give it a try.

  11. laura-I tend to take an old goat like that, snub them tight, and fly spray them. Only when the flys are bad, and only when I'm going to ride. And then only if I feel like it. He'll either get better or not. As long as he does his job, who cares?

  12. Great, great, great!

    I'm starting to see why you don't like all the marketing &c of NH... what you just covered in that post is Parell L1 and L2 groundwork. Almost verbatim. And it was free! (for us readers) =)

    Thanks so much for sharing -- especially the head to tail thing. That's part of the L2 assessment, but it's never explained and it seemed like a really stupid thing to do... until now! Good to know that there's a real point and purpose behind it. Now that I know what to look for, I'll have to practice it again.. =)

    Oh - and if you're interested.. I know I've been talking about how, after getting inspired from the blog, I'm teaching myself to ride bareback and explore the great outdoors (live the childhood I never had)... well I just made a little youtube video of me & my guy doing some outside riding. Nothing fancy, but it's still fun. Don't know if you'd care to take a look (no pressure, honestly) but if you would like to look, it's here:

    And thanks again for the great post!

  13. I have to agree 100% about the no fussing with the face thing, and no handfeeding - I extend this to all babies I handle, and long yearlings in particular tend to be mouthy.

    Re the studs and wanting their stud to be like a cowhorse, not a dressage horse - I've not had a lot of exposure to cowhorses, so I'll take your word for it regarding their behaviour.

    What I have had exposure to is sporthorses in Europe and to a lesser extent in the UK. over their, stallions are ten a penny - unless an animal is obviously fugly from the get go, it stays a colt till it's been through the assessment process and then is either branded -like their guy - or castrated if not approved for breeding. As such, you'll have barns and barns chockfull of colts and rarely more issues than with a barn full of fillies. That's because they don't get treated like spun glass and from the get go, they get expected to understand that round people, the person is the boss, and hormones come second.
    All the stallions I've ever worked with travel with mares, get stabled next to mares, have mares work in the arena with then, even to the extent of having mare walk past them while on cross ties or tied up.

    Question - do cowhorses get stalled a lot?
    I ask, because in my experience, the most crummy stallion behaviour I've seen comes from TB studs and dressage studs, who tend to be stabled a lot and never turned out except in ultrasafe, high walled, usually small enclosures. They also tend not ever to have company turned out and often have not been socialized adequately.
    I loathe the idea that the animal is more important than human safety, but that's what some owners seem to advocate, saying the animal is too valuable to turnout. It doesn't surprise me that the poor sods are half / mostly nuts, stalled 24/7 except for being exercised for an hour or two a day.

    One of the best ways of putting some manners in company on young warmbloods I've seen was young colts turned out with big crabby dominant elderly mares. They took no nonsense let me tell you, and they went first everywhere.

  14. Thank you, mugwump. That's exactly how I felt about it, but I really wanted your opinion. I don't want to get so set in my ways that I quit learning.

  15. I have been waiting for you to post something like this for quite a while.

    I will sure to be applying your principles to the VERY in-your-space 3 yo I have been working with.

  16. I simply love your blog, I read it whenever I can.

    My question is how would you solve ground issues with a 20 year old lesson pony?!

    We have a real stinker of a pony who is so use to the routine of groom- tack up-lesson-groom- back out to pasture, that if you try to do ground work with him he flips a lid!!! It's one thing to train a young one to begin with, but how do you fix a lifetime of routine?

  17. Great post Mugs- sounds bang on to me. The only thing I didnt get was the KISS thing. Do you mean you literally kiss the horse, do you make a kissing sound....sorry, I must be having a blonde moment.

    Also, I often see people at the barn correcting their horses but a minute after the fact (ie- horse pulls back his foot from the ferrier, the owner talks to the ferrier for 30 seconds or so, hikes up her pants, organizes her lead rope, and then give her horse a wack on the shoulder.) I am wondering, does a horse remember what he was doing a minute ago? I like to catch them IN THE ACT and dont think a horse has a clue what he is getting wacked for after the fact (not that I think wacking them for that is a teaching them anything even if you catch them at it but I dont get how people think that a horse will associate that wack with pulling back.) I see this happen more than you'd think. How important is it that you act fast?

  18. If I read this correctly...

    KISS =


    Took me a few reads to get that, though.. and I might be wrong.

  19. Ok, seriously. I would be so happy if you would just write a whole book about training. I don't know if you've noticed, but this is something I say every time I comment. You are clear, concise and it all makes sense. I would greatly appreciate an entire book written in this language about horses and the interaction with them. Pretty please?

    I have so much to learn, and I do have an exceptionally good teacher, but your blogs blow me away. Your language is pictures. I can clearly see this all.

    Again, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. This information is so very needed and appreciated by me.

  20. How appropriate!

    Retraining the ex-stallion mini (who I just found out is really 8 years a stallion) is going to be a lot easier with your imput...he does the same thing lunging (does not know how) but he doesn't have the same leverage as a Warmblood (LOL!) to drag me around, and I am waiting for the rope halter I ordered to come it - since he's a mini, could not just walk into TSC and get one! (I will not use a chain on him...I don't even own one...but I could see how easy it would be to hurt a horse that small with one). My mare has the "skipped over" training...and while I am still riding her - I've ridden her for over two entire year before I bought her and feel I know her, she still has some gaps in her training that really show.

    Thank you for the information..just think, you are helping a mini and a QH in Michigan :)

  21. I can't begin to tell you how much your last 2 posts have helped me. Thank you so much for taking the time to share what you know.

  22. mugwump:

    An aquaintence of mine had a stallion colt, about 3 years of age, and thought she had him pretty well worked and safe, and ended up with him on her shoulders one day leading him down (we have some steep mountains here) from the pasture.

    That is why in the beginning I made sure my colt (the one in the story last time) was well behind me and my space. Although I set personal space and all, I still get worried that one will get the funny idea to try jumping on me.

    Aren't you concerned about that when you have them behind you on a loose line?

    I agree fully about the chain, I haven't ever used a stud chain on my stallions. And, lunging free on the pasture was the best thing I ever did, the only mistake it would see that I made was not giving him a real "way out" in the box as you suggest.

  23. loneplainsman-My computer service is so slow I can't watch UTube :(
    FD-Cowhorses that are trained for show can spend their entire life in stalls. I am not the norm in my attitude about stalls. It is why I teach all of my horses to be comfortable in one, a necessary evil.
    ms.barnbrat- I worked for quite a while as an instructor at a stable with older, lifetime lesson horses. These lifers would have been highly insulted at being taught groundwork when they already knew their jobs. Being safe mounts. Unless there is a discipline problem I would let my 20-year-old school pony do his job.
    adventures- K.I.S.S. Keep it simple stupid. Sorry I wasn't clear.
    austriancurls-Plenty of rope gives me time to feel them coming, and deal with them accordingly. As always, this is just how I do it. I will let my well trained horses play quite a bit on the end of that rope, as long as they don't pass my shoulder or pull on the rope. My yellow mare will buck and rear and do all kind odd stuff back there, but never tug on the rope. I don't mind as long as she doesn't come near me.

  24. I laughed SO HARD at your description of the stallion at the dressage show. DEAD on the money. That's why I laugh when dressage people act like, OMG, you're training a stallion? But that's dangerous! Um, no, because my stallion isn't a spoiled f'ing brat. I enforce leading like a gentleman, NOT talking when being handled or ridden, etc. and therefore it never escalates into anything else. It is MUCH harder to fix them when they're already like Fobby than to just not let them start that shit in the first place. You've provided some great guidelines here for fixing a bratty, dangerous stud and I hope this blog gets passed around far and wide - it could save a lot of people from bad accidents.

    Disclaimer: I am not saying all dressage people let their studs be rank pieces of shit. But you ALL know that some of them do!

  25. Wow. I love learning new ideas to use with colts--this was a great post! Thank you!

  26. Wow, I'm glad I stumbled on this blog through the FHoTD/VLC sites.

    Love, love, love that you addressed the deal with stallions and their faces. YES, as a handler of the two stallions at the ranch I work at, I HAVE to be able to handle their faces, chests, etc, with no snarking or other reactions from them. They are gentlemen about it. BUT, on the other hand, none of us sit around and continuously mess with their "private" stallion areas.

    You say KISS; we say "set yourself up for success."

    In my experience, training a stallion just means that you're going to have to put even more time on basic, fall-back ground manners than you would have to on a mare or gelding.

    As I was reading your post, I kept giggling to myself, because (except for some idiosyncrasies of vocabulary and written "voice"), you sound one hell of a lot like my trainer or me when we're trying to explain to clients how to safely handle their horses.

    Thanks for the blog.

  27. Thank you mugwump for writing this
    "Fobby would stand, but pretty soon his attention would wander, and he would start looking around. I simply had Bruce pull his head back to him, every time.

    "You'll do this for the rest of his life. Let him look, and then bring his attention back to you within two or three seconds. Always let him look. As time goes on you'll feel his attention leave you, give him a little twitch of a rein, and he'll come back. (Good example of learning feel) For now, you'll do whatever it takes to refocus him, and then let him go."

    My TB mare Lyra looks like an attachment disordered child as she constantly turns her head away from me to face the herd in our general pasture. I have been taking her head with both hands and turning it back to me - just felt a bit awkward. Loved hearing you stress the importance of this.

    Absolutely cherish your blog,


  28. These exercises have helped a great deal in dealing with my pushy gaited filly. I got her as a horribly spoiled yearling who thought it was fun to bite, chase, and double-barrel people. she had also been teased mercilessly over the fence. I used these exercises along with training her to accept leg restraints and I tied her securely and let her stand around everyday for over a month. She still can be a handful, but it's easy to put her back in her box.

  29. Here she is in all her querky, big-headed glory. [IMG][/IMG]
    She's about 3 in this pic, and I really think she will be a late bloomer.

  30. Misty I worry about her steep shoulder and pasterns. Opinions?


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