Thursday, June 25, 2009

Training Experiments Continued

I've told you about my experiment with Pete.

This is the next phase of my horse-training experiment. Leland. Leland is my little buckskin colt. Because he is mine and I'm not in a hurry anymore, I've been trying a philosophy out that I've only discussed with my dressage buddy, Michelle. And then, we were just speculating, not truly serious. But I've been chewing on this for several years and am finally in a position to try it.

Somewhere, somebody said, or wrote a theory on horses that picks at me endlessly. The idea is that horses don't ever forget any experience, good or bad. They assimilate it into their mind and it becomes part of their instinctive reactions. This thought alone kept me busy for months.

Going a step farther, the idea is if you truly understood what your plan was and were able to communicate this correctly to your horse, you would only have to show him something once and he would have it. No repetition, no drilling, he would get it.

Mind blowing concept isn't it?

I'm trying this theory on Leland.

The key, (I'm guessing) is every experience has to be related to the one before it. And he has to completely understand the previous step. I also need complete confidence in myself, my horse and the decision I made.

I started this from day one with little Leland.

When Leland was born I made it quite clear to everybody he was to be left the hell alone. The ranch manager was a master at spoiling horses, dogs, kids, you name it, rotten.

I first physically entered his life when his mother had a severe colic the night after he was born. I was called at home and came to see her. As it often goes when a horse you know intimately is hurting, Loki wanted me there. She nickered when I came and took a moment to rest her forehead against my chest in between her painful spasms. The little baby peeked at me from behind his mama.

Worried as I was, I thought, "This is our first moment."

I knew the little baby was watching and absorbing this night. He had to feel his mother relax when I came.

The vet had me catch Leland to give him an exam. I held him close with my arm around his little chest and his wispy tail in my hand. I felt his heart beating and realized he could feel mine. I released him and he ran to hide behind Loki. He peeked around her and looked at me.
So we had covered four things. I gave his mother comfort. I could hold him and I could let him go. Mine was the second heartbeat he had felt beating slow and steady.

The first time I had to worm him I simply cornered him, held him and wormed him. I held him the same way I had the first time and let him feel my heart for a few seconds before I had my boss slip him his wormer. It wasn't as wild as you would think. His first lesson had stuck.

Every time I had to handle him I added one more step. In his first year he learned if I wanted to catch him I did. He learned to let me pick up his feet. He learned to stand still and earn a release. He learned my farrier could catch him and trim him. He learned to give his nose and back a step when I put my hand across it and added pressure.

I had handled him five times. My farrier had him twice. The vet once.

As a yearling he was penned with the other stud colts. I began stopping by his corral once or twice a month. I simply stood in the pen until he looked at me the first day. Then I stepped toward his hip and moved him until he flicked an ear at me. Then I moved him until he looked.

See where I'm going?

When I halter broke him I did it in one day. He didn't lead particularly well, but he gave to pressure and let me halter him. It took about twenty minutes.

Then I needed to move him. So that day he learned to stand tied, get in a trailer and we got a little further on his leading. He was calm, quiet and curious. I was pleased.

He has been out on pasture running like a doofus since then.

I got on my yellow mare and used him as a cow a few times.

The first time I drove him from the hip. He threw a quick cowkick so I sped things up and turned him hard a few times.

Leland learned to give to pressure from a different source. He learned neither my yellow horse nor I are tolerant of cow kicks.

The next time I worked him until I could rub on him standing next to my horse.

The third time I worked him until I was able to halter him from my horse.

I let him be again.

In the course of this time he got shots and wormed and trimmed.

I always assumed he knew what it was about and he didn't fail me

This last week we had a big test. Leland is a bilateral cryptorchid (both testicles were undescended). Or I guess I should say, was. I hadn't gelded him yet because I kept waiting for a miracle. Two testicle sized miracles.

Even though he was sterile, I was getting reports that he was getting studdy and rude. And he kept leering at his mother. Ew.

So I started shopping around for a vet to do this surgery. I got estimates in the range of $1.200 to $2,000. Gulp.

I stalled a bit and worked him in a bonified round pen twice.

The first time we drove, turned, stopped and got the halter on.
He learned to stop and wait for me when I asked.

The second time we did the same and I rubbed and patted him all over to desensitize the poor thing a little before he went to the vet.
He learned I could feel him up anyway I wanted.

Through all this he was quiet, mannerly and calm.

No session lasted more than fifteen minutes.

I found a vet I knew and could still afford, made my appointment and came and got him.

He was loaded for the second time. This time he was alone.

He walked in behind me, cool as a cucumber.

We went to the vets office, 100 miles away. He unloaded well.

The vet took him and he went with, leading as if I had taught him to. He walked through a dark, narrow doorway and across concrete floors into the surgery. He didn't fuss.

When I picked him up I was complimented on how well behaved and easy to handle he was.

He's fine, he's now a gelding and he's staying at my barn by my house while he heals.

Leland has learned to pony and he's been getting pet on by the BO and her help. He has been polite and mannerly, but not afraid.

Now don't get me wrong. Leland has had things repeated, I mean I have to put his halter on and move him etc. He also is not a sweet little angel. He has had opinions, decided not to be caught, typical baby things.
I always keep thinking, I know he understands what I want, he just doesn't want it. So I hang in until I get the last step, not by retraining, but staying with the last maneuver until he responds. Then he gets the new one.

I really think through each step before I proceed. I spend weeks thinking about the next step, how he'll perceive it and what will make the most sense to both of us. Which makes from some slow training.

I assume, without fail, that he understands the last step we took and I won't have to teach it again. I'm watching him begin to understand how each new task is built on the one before. I love seeing him pause to think through whatever particular problem I've set in front of him. I really like how he watches me, from the second he sees me.

Now don't get me wrong. I don't for a minute think I have the ability to keep this up throughout his training. But I'm going to keep it up as long as I can. It's fascinating.

I have the luxury of thinking through each step before the next one. The only expectations are my own. I'm thinking what I haven't done is as important as what I have.

Crazy idea huh?


  1. I have nothing to say other than - wow...

    Mucho mucho food for thought, thanks Mugs :)

  2. It isn't crazy - it's a chain - each link leads to the next link and so on - great post!

  3. Crazy? I would say the opposite of that. I like this.

  4. I think what you have done is share a synopsis of what can be done using the horses natural tendencies from a blank slate. Clean, clear communication with a horse that has not been spoiled. Untraining the mistakes and retraining is significantly harder than creating desirable responses from the beginning.

    All horses are trained, their behavior is shaped by the human.

    Think about it, other horses have no difficulty expressing their desire and intent to another horse, its our inconsistent and confusing human ideas inflicted on the horse then our frustration because they don't do as we want.

    Great post.

  5. Wow, that's a lot to think about. Since I'm working all these different horses at the same time, I often think about how they are similar and how they are vastly different. Ugh, now my head is swimming even more. Since I'm young, I'm always eager to try and test new things out. I love comparing how different methods get the same result. Now I wish I had a little baby to work with like that.

    News on the Mustang... I think maybe some of her problem was that she never got a proper release from pressure before. Since her owner never releases pressure when she does something right, but just keeps on going. Don't get me wrong, she is spoiled and pushes her owners around. Though, she is quite respectful of me now :P. I can keep the owner out of the arena for the most part she always seems to think I need help throwing her dummy on the horse. I'm trying to convince her that her horse can't bolt out of my hands.

    I actually worked on that, now when she feels panicked or the dummy goes in her comfort zone (it's when something is tall on her back that she loses it, not that something is on her back), she just steps back and looks at me instead of trying to take off past me like a bat out of hell. This horse was also pretty much impossible for me to catch. Which I never had a problem with that because all my horses I started were done right and learned they couldn't escape.. Or something. I think it's better to work with a clean slate than a horse that has been started by another person.. Anyways.. I had to seriously think about how to get her over her catching issues. I could always do the lunging... But that always seems to be counter productive and a little appaloosa taught me that some horses will lunge for hours if they so choose :P. So I decided to try the approach and retreat.. Which worked great! Now I can walk straight up to her and hook the lead rope on her, or rub it all over her.

    I used these little lessons and gave her the appropriate release when she deserved it. She seemed to get that if she did the right thing, she got a release. (Instead of getting that release when she bolted off like she did with her owner) She calmed down quite a bit. Of course, I'm not so sure when I'm going to hop on up there. I guess when I feel she's ready. I'm not scared of getting ran over again. It was kind of cool, though I'm concerned I should be scared! Oh, and turns out this horse had a bolting problem to begin with, not just with people on her back, but walking on the halter... etc. etc. Of course, I was told this after the accident. Grr.

    So yeah, maybe this horse isn't a lost cause if I can keep the owner out of the corral. Though.. I'm concerned, even if I get her riding and such; she might not be that great for her owners. When the lady came out, she kept expecting bolts. I'm always aware of what a horse can do.. But I always try to assume they will do the best and be calm and confidant instead of just waiting for them to blow up. I can't wait til I get my own horse again so I can just practice all these awesome theories on them with out interference or someone coming and messing it all up.

    Is it just me, or is anyone else anti-bribing/rewarding with food? I just can't stand it when someone rewards a horse with treats. Maybe it's just because my friend did that to her filly who I started for her, and every time I backed her off of me, she tried to bite my face off since I didn't give her a treat for anything. My reward for her was just standing, no pats or nothing. It worked pretty good, she stopped trying to bite my face off, of course, she redeveloped it as soon as her owner got to ride her and cooed all over with grain and such. I'd just rather my horse not expect a treat after everything, maybe a pat but that's it. Maybe I'm just a cold and indifferent person, I don't know x_x. If my horse needs grain for weight, it's getting in a bucket with it's hay and that's it. If I want to give it an apple, it goes in the bucket. Bleh. I talk too much -_-.

  6. mugwump, you almost make me want to start another colt. How cool. Leland sounds great. Please write more about how it goes, each step of the way. I know we all will learn from it.

    Jonas, I have to say, I still think you should stay away from that mare. I know, I'm old and cautious, but I truly think, no matter what ways you make progress with her, that given the overall scenario, the outcome will not be good. Is it possible for you to concentrate on other projects and let this one go? Or is that not an option? Consider living long enough to work with a horse like mugwump is doing with Leland. I'm not kidding here. It won't happen if you get killed or seriously injured working with a POS who has been ruined by her owners. Feel free to ignore me. I was nineteen once and I understand the courage that comes with that age. But I think it is a no-win situation.

  7. Groovy post Mugs =) Great example of what can be done with thoughtful handling. Quality over quantity...

    Hey Jonas,

    Laura's advise is good, really good. If you decide not to take her advise I would at least tell the owner that you feel safer working with the horse without her assistance (or whatever reason you care to give). This means that she stays outside the fence and does not offer any interference physical or edible. Her choice, either she is comfortable with that arrangement, or she is not, but that is her only option that includes your participation in dabbling in this mess she has created. That is my opinion anyway.

    It would be good practice for setting boundaries with clients which you may need to do again in the future, especially if you take on "problem horses."

    I used to tell dog training clients that I will come out for one paid session in order to give them an opportunity to observe my style and see if they want to continue working with me. I assured them that working with a trainer who they do not feel comfortable with would be a waste of the trainers time and their money. I never lost a client, people respect honesty especially when it makes sense.

    Just because your client owns the horse doesn't mean she gets to do whatever she wants while you are working with the horse, especially if it threatens your safety. If the owners are not comfortable with your set of rules then they can choose not to have you continue with the horse.

    When you present yourself as a trainer, it is perfectly reasonable for you to have some ground rules. You and your rules can be a package deal, there is nothing wrong with that. The owner can take it or leave it.

    Sheesh you thought you were long winded! Best of luck to you and please be careful. Or better yet fire the client =)

  8. Jonas - can you explain your approach and retreat method in catching horses? I have a mare that's threatening to become a problem catching, and I want to stop this before it becomes a real issue. (She's out on 30 HILLY acres now, and I really don't like trudging around after her every time I go out to catch her.)

  9. Jonah - Oh, and turns out this horse had a bolting problem to begin with, not just with people on her back, but walking on the halter... etc. etc. - This is the sentence that turned my blood cold.
    This horse is not just a victim of bad owners. She is a bolter. This is her answer to stress. I don't care how you get on with her, or how far you get her. When she is in her other world, the one with owners who may or may not be the fools she has now, she will bolt again when things get too much for her.You will be named as the trainer. If things go real bad, you will be named as the trainer. I learned this the hard way. I'm simply passing on a hard learned lesson.

  10. Laura- I will take that into consideration, I figured I would just feel it out a bit more and see how it is. If I can't get the owner to stay out of the situation at all, then I will just move on. The problem is that she is so agreeable, but not... truly, if that makes sense. I explained to her that her horse was spoiled and that when she was turning her butt to her when she lunged her that it was disrespect that could lead to kicking. She agreed and said she would work on it, few sessions later... She said her horse wasn't spoiled at all. So this is basically the last leg. I'm still sore from the accident, and have giant bruises from where I got stepped on; so that is on the back of my mind. I can't afford to get hurt again so if I can't get a handle on the situation... Then I just gotta move on.

    Whywudyabreedit- Yeah, I'm learning this the hard way. I had to turn away a guy who kept trying to lowball me, he wanted to trade this horse for work... A 15-17 y/o that has been pushy all his life. Talk about a handful! So disrespectful and he is so big and strong. I was dripping sweat just lunging him on a line, he pulled on me that much. The guy wanted very cheap work, which I felt wasn't worth it. He also didn't care at all about the well being of the horse, which I just wasn't comfortable with. If someone tells me they don't care if I ride their horse to death or lameness... Time to get out. With the lady and the mustang. I just tell her I don't want her help and she usually wanders off. Instead of, like before, I would tell her I would feel better by myself. So firmness works, kinda like being an alpha mare I guess o.o;. So basically I'm working on basic ground rules... If I come across another spoiled horse and an owner who refuses to acknowledge it... I'm out. Some people just don't realize that spoiling a horse is so bad, so most people are happy to receive this knowledge. I've been thinking a lot about this and trying to come up with guidelines and rules. I have to write them all down to properly organize all my thoughts though :P.

    Mugs- Ugh. Great. Well, I guess I just have to go ahead and cut myself lose from this horse.

  11. Stelladorro- Um, well. Basically, I approached the horse, no eye contact, kinda in a leisurely way; until the horse started to tense. Then I stopped and walked away. I repeated this, getting closer and closer into her comfort zone. Be warned, it takes a long time (At least it did with this horse)! It's definitely a patience tester. Once I was just a foot away, I walked away again. I didn't reach out and touch her until the next bout, depending on how comfortable she had become. Then I started with a few strokes on the neck and walked away. Btw, When I walk away I kind of wait a few moments to give her time to relax and think about it. Then I came back with a rope, and had to repeat the whole process (went by faster), at least with this horse, because she knew the rope meant capture... Then when I got to the touching part, I would do it with the rope, just stroke her with it, then walk away. When I came back, I'd kind of toss it around her, then walk away. Then I would come back and rub it on her neck and under her chin. If she was comfortable enough, I would pretend to attach it, then walk away and wait. Pretty soon I could just walk up and hook the lead on. It took me three sessions... But that wasn't the only thing I worked on. I'm not sure if this works better for a scared, unknowledgable horse vs. just a stubborn horse. I kind of like it. I think I probably looked kind of silly, but it was much easier than chasing the horse around and around.. Which I tried at first with no luck, so I pulled this outta my hat to try it. This is the only horse I have done it with. So I'm not a super pro at it.

    I had an appy pony that used to play hard to catch due to stubbornness and if I just lunged her a bit, she would join up to me and not be a problem to catch. But the mustang won't join up whatsoever, so I tried this method I read about.. and it worked great. So I guess it depends on your horse, I'm sure I would switch ways depending. I had another appy that would lunge for hours no problem, so... Lunging wasn't a good punishment. Backing her up was, she didn't like that as much. So I would send her away backwards instead of around me... I hope that helps! I'm not the most experienced horse trainer around this blog, obviously :P. But that is pretty much the basics of how the approach and retreat helped me.

  12. Another thing... The lady actually tried her apparatus... to hold herself up with that metal bar, but on a different horse. The horse was of course terrified, but she said it worked wonderful and she couldn't wait to try it on the bolter! Ugh. I'm glad I wasn't there to see it. She said it was just hard to hold herself up while the horse was led away from underneath her.... I'm going to add that this woman is a 70 y/o little lady. I don't know why she feels safe in that contraption. Looking at it makes me sick and it takes a lot to deter me. I'd rather fall freely than be all hung up. I also think she is trying to get me to volunteer for the apparatus... She keeps saying that it is so hard to hold herself up and if she were younger it would be so much easier and safer. Right >.>. I'm brave and into trying new things, but I'm not going to set myself up for complete and utter failure. I also am rather certain I would lose my cool being all strapped up and confined. Bleh

  13. Oh Jonas!

    HUGE sigh of relief =)

    Write stuff down, get your thoughts organized, and lay things out clearly for folks. If they want you they get your package, not theirs. People will respect you for it.

    I used to groom dogs a very long time ago. I was asked to groom for a vet opening a new practice. My prices were high for the area, but I did a good job and had a good reputation. When people tried to haggle with me on the price I would tell them that I guarantee they can get it cheaper at another place in town, nobody ever walked out the door, and I never budged on my price.

    A previous boss of mine taught me that when you get too busy then it is time to raise your prices. She taught me the value of good work.

    Nobody can look out for you like you. As you said, figure out what it takes for you to feel like your business is going well and stick to it. You are your own boss, you get to decide!

  14. Mugs - this is a great post. I am currently bringing up my yearling filly, the first one I have bred and raised 100% on my own. I bought her mom at six months, which is young but not the same! It has been amazing to have a "blank slate" to work with. She has a great mind to begin with, and continues to be a pleasure to work with. I have not put as quite as much theoretical thought into working with her as you have with Leland, but I have done things very deliberately, with the intent of preserving her willingness. This is great food for thought going forward with her. Can you remember who wrote or where you saw the original theory?

  15. Very interesting. I've wondered about such things myself, and here is something to ponder...

    My boss had bacterial meningitis (one of a very small percentage to survive it), and lost his short term memory unless it's involved with something emotional or he repeats and repeats what he does.
    He's pretty normal otherwise, except there are times when you have to really slow down and explain what is going on in small steps....

    See where I am going with this? We all know horses can remember something once when it involves strong emotions, otherwise we have to repeat over and over again. And break some things down into baby steps sometimes.

    So, and I am just running through my thoughts...will they learn more quickly/the first time if we can make postive emotional attachment to what they do? I have noticed that, in teaching my mare to free-jump, if I get really excited when she pops the jump, she also gets all excited and wants to go over and over and over it again (I actually have to stop her and make her take a breather).

    Just floating ideas by you all...


  16. Mugs - I find it MOST interesting that he's good for OTHER people as well. See I think your theory is great but when I was working with youngsters I guess I had a lot of interference that couldn't be helped. I dreamed of getting rid of it... They were selectively good for other people... for good reason really. Their owner had zero patience for his own horses, expected babies to act like adult horses with often violent/extreme consequences for the orginal action. He wondered why the yearling refused to let him halter her and would drop her poll to my belt buckle with a tiny squeeze behind her ears... amusing to see the shades of red his face could turn after he'd tried for 30 minutes and I'd walk in and do it in less than 1.

    Do you think once your colt does have a 'bad' experience with a person (inevitably things happen)it will be more traumatic or he'll be kind of complacent about it? I bet he's more forgiving/less reactive because he'll stay calm and think about it.

    The only other question I have is do you think genetics are likely already on your side? That he truly is already a pretty good minded colt (babies are still always babies though) based on his dam/stud?

    Horses are very clear and concise with one another... humans definitely send mixed signals, are inconsistent and lack patience. I think your boy will be so much better for your approach. I wish they all were started with at least the patient attitude you have and common sense!

  17. Jonas - Get OUT. I know you plan to avoid the apparatus this woman is hinting at - great. However, I worry the longer you stay the more loyal you'll feel and guilty for not trying what sweet old lady is asking. Lets think about this...

    1) Horse is a bolter. Bolters are well known to be about the most dangerous. Bolting is nearly if not impossible to train out of a horse.

    2) Your name will be on this horse as long as she lives as the trainer.

    3) This old lady is STILL doing her thing (crazy and dangerously) behind your back - hinting someone younger, you, should try her craziness. Who's to say you won't improve this horse drastically and between your sessions she/her son tries said contraption on the mustang and RUINS all you've done, don't tell you and BAM you get hurt?

    4) I really feel like (besides a desire for some $$$) you want to HELP this mare and OLD lady. You almost sound like you feel bad for them. Feeling guilty isn't enough.

    5) They lied to you already by ommision. You could have been killed. They don't feel bad for you or guilty they could have gotten you killed.

    I don't see the positives in this for you at all. I don't think LC is being old fashioned or overprotective. I'm pretty young actually (26) and feel the same way as she. Sometimes you just have to say when, if it comes to your safety - no matter the money, how badly you feel for the horse/owner/situation. I had to learn the hard way you can't save the world and sometimes you can't save even a particular horse/critter - because someone else is standing in your way even if they don't get THEY are doing more harm than good. THAT IS NOT YOUR FAULT. Please walk away from this horse. I think you will have a lot of future successes that will far overshadow this... and you'll be ABLE to have successes. This isn't just about getting hurt and not being able to work for a bit... it's about possibly GETTING YOU KILLED. These two people could have already done that will the information they left out when they first put you on that horse. You were lucky once.

    What's the saying - They fool you once shame on them, fool you twice shame on you? Walk. Away.

  18. Another thought...Mugs, because your colt has not had much contact with people, each time that he does is tied into more emotions that his normal daily routine, so he remembers it more...

    Or is that what you are getting at?

    I'm at work and typing on the side, so I might be a little disjointed...


  19. chamoiswillow- I don't know where it came from. Neither did my friend. We were simply having a conversation, the eternal "Wy do they remember every bad thing we do, but we have to repeat the good things?"
    So yes, it's mostly me, like I said, only I would try a whole new training method (new to me) that I created from a single sentence.

  20. Horse and Turbos - I guess I'm trying to prove it doesn't have to be a strong emotion, simply a clear communication.
    autumnblaze - the people who have my colt on their place can't touch or catch him. They tend to be hand wavy, sudden moving kind of people.
    So he isn't good for everyone.
    He also hasn't had all good experiences. He got drugged and neutered.
    He still loaded into the trailer just fine.
    Yes genetics play a part. He's out of two foundation bred horses who are either AQHA or NRCHA champions, or both. So he should be level headed and athletic.
    To me, this means nothing more than he's worth the time I'm spending on him.
    Most of your questions come under, (shrug) "I don't know, we'll see."

  21. Hi Jonas,
    I've gotta tell you, my very green and naive mother has fallen into a bolter. I've told her time and time again to put the damn thing down before he hurts someone to no avail. I've never met a horse that I didn't like, or that I was afraid of......until I met this guy.

    I'm so glad to hear that you're going to cut this one loose. I never fully understood how ingrained bolting was for some horses, but now I do. That's their answer for EVERYTHING, on the ground AND under saddle. No thinking at all, just bolt as soon as they get any pressure directed at them.

    Good luck to you, I hope you'll keep us all posted on the other horses that you're working with as well.


  22. :) Yeah, no I expect that as an answer. It'd be speculation. Afterall, you call it an 'experiement'. I was, as usual, rambling on.

  23. Mugs, I’d like to be a fly on the wall of your brain for a day. Your thought processes are fascinating!

  24. Not crazy. Fascinating. I like that you make me think.

  25. Jonas--If you haven't done it, read mugwump's posts on Captain. I think you can go right to them by clicking on "Captain" on the sidebar. It will really help you to understand what people mean when they talk about what true bolters are like. You know those comments I made about re-training horses that bolt? Those do not apply to confirmed "bolters". They are about colts who try running off in a calculated way as an evasion. Horses that bolt over and over again are in a completely different category. Again, go read those posts on Captain. Honest. They are very good reading. It is an educational story; it will keep you gripped as well. And it will show you exactly how dangerous and impossible to cure a real bolter is.

  26. Mugs, I hope you are keeping notes on this training project. It will make a fascinating book in a few years.

    You should also be writing up your outside work with Pete, IMO. You're very nice to share them with us in this blog; it seems pretty marketable to me. I'D buy it!

  27. Mugs,
    I've been a Lurker for awhile..been busy showing my horse and getting babies in. I like your thought process on getting in with the horse from the very beginning...usually I like to do that with my own, even though they had a mind of THEIR own! I do have a question for you though....I have a filly that is WILD. Ihave had a halter on her once and didn't even attempt to teach her to give. I mainly just want to get her calm and quiet with me being in the stall WITH her. When I had her in, I would walk in the stall and not do anything, just relax and she would be just about climbing the walls trying to get away from me and that was when she was ONLY 2 weeks old! What is your method or thoughts on getting one to settle down first before you get the halter on her? Thanks!

  28. slippin- what's her mother like?

  29. The "Real" mother is pretty laid back and easy going. The recipiant mare that had her is also very laid back. When I was trying to work with the baby and it was freaking out, the mare just cocked her leg and had that look like, "I don't know what the big deal is." I think it is very odd that both real mom and recip are pretty laid back. I have sat out in the pasture and the baby will slowly come up to me. She is VERY curious and bold, but geeze if you make one move, shes gone. When I got out to feed in the mornings, she runs around the pasture( I have to go into their pasture to feed some horses). When I stop to feed this one gelding, she runs up to the manure spreader and smells it sees me and acts like she wants to come see me, but as soon as I move to go throw the hay, she takes off. Then when I go to the other side of the pasture to feed the other horses, she is trotting RIGHT behind me...until I get off the mule, shes gone again.

  30. Slippin- I can't wait til I see what Mugs says, my first horse was an unbroke pregnant mare (parents make horrible decisions for their kids) and when the baby was born, we had the vet out because the mare hadn't passed the afterbirth. We finally caught her, but she squealed and kicked at the vet even though her mom didn't care at all. Even though she was a gangly little creature she kept trying to hop out of his arms as he petted her and touched her feet... After that day she was impossible to catch. She would jump out of the corral, which was at least four or five feet. When she was small enough, she'd just run under her mom's belly. Luckily mom didn't care about all the commotion (as long as she had some hay). She would approach me too if I sat down. She never was a scared horse, but angry. It was kind of weird. She reacted to every new experience with attitude and anger. When my friend was teaching her to tie, she squealed, pinned her ears and charged the post. It was horrible. She eventually came around abour 4-6 months, I could pet her, and I halterbroke her with either water deprivation or food at the bottom of her trough, I can't remember. I just kept a little bit of water at the bottom so she would put her head in the halter. After a few repetitions she was no problem to catch, just stuck her face in the halter. Hopefully there is a way to get a hold of them younger, in case I ever encounter another baby like her. :P

  31. Jonas
    This baby is not angry, she is just scared and VERY flighty. I did have a colt out of my mare that would have knock down drag out hissy fits when he didn't get what HE wanted. I was teaching him one time when he was about 7 days old to give to pressure on the halter, he got mad and started running backwards. I wasn't about to let him go because there was pipe fence behind him and if he fell over backwards...he would have killed him self on the fence, so I held on and litterally drug him forward, I know thats not a good thing to do, but I did NOT want him to flip over by the fence. Finally he sulled up on me leaped straight in the air like a pogo stick and flopped down on the ground. I had an "Ah HAH" moment and took advantage of him being down, so I went and put a knee on his neck and a hand on his jowl and the other hand I ran all over his body. I figured, since he is down, I might as well take advantage of it! He started flailing and squealing like a pig! I thought that I hurt him..though I couldn't figure out how because I wasn't putting much pressure on his neck OR head, so as a result, I jumped back thinking something was wrong....well, he jumped up too and gave me that look like, "HAHAHA, I fooled you!" I worked with him a little longer that day and quit on a good note...the next day, I went out and he did the SAME thing to me, but this time when he flopped on the ground, I didn't move off of him...I just kept rubbing him quietly on his shoulders and belly until he quit squirming. ONce he quit and he laid quiet, I let him get up. Before anyone yells at me for doing this the way I did, It was only my second colt that I ever halter broke and I was at my house that had a barn and stalls, so I was able to foal my mare out, so my trainer was an hour away and not able to come and help I was on my own. I learned alot that year and that horse leads just fine I didn't do too bad of a job! LOL...
    It was funny though when he threw himself on the ground, my land lord was down at the barn feeding and she heard him squealing and she came running around the corner saying,"What happend??? Are you ok??" I laughed and said, "Yes, Im fine...HE doesn't think he is ok...but hes not getting away with anything this time!" LOL

  32. Slippin - If this was a reining prospect I would say don't go there. A reiner needs to be as amiable and social as a pleasure horse since they have to allow the rider to control every movement.
    But if she's a cutting prospect I would be inclined to be patient. She could be a hot little firecracker. I wouldn't force her to do anything. But as you know, I just corner them and doctor them and worry about the rest of the stuff later.
    I am not 100% on how you will handle her now, but she will be a lot of horse. Which can be a good thing.
    I'm going to ask around about this, stay tuned.

  33. Slippin - How's the filly bred?

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  35. Fascinating.
    I have never thought far enough to give the "good memory"-thought the full consequence!
    WOW. How exciting!
    I love your thoughts here Mugs, and how nice it must be to be able to follow it through - not having to be in a hurry and press on I mean. I hope you keep us posted on this.

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  38. slippin - I got some input from my answer guy for cutting questions.He seems to be backing my initial instincts, which is this could be a stingy little filly.
    I got to know Larry through email and buying his tapes when I was first training and working so hard to understand the cowhorse and reining stuff. It turned out he had a Monte Foreman base from waaaay back in the 70's like me, so I really understood his tapes.
    I accidentally met him on the phone once when I was trying to put a tape package together that I wanted and we had a great conversation.
    I've asked his advice off and on for probably 15 years now and he always is a help.
    His are the only training tapes I own BTW (except the 1st one of Martin Blacks on the bridle horse, who I also like) and I still use them.

    This is what he said about Slippin's filly...

    Hi Janet,

    I think you gave this lady excellent advice.

    I might add, if possible make it so the mare and baby must come into a small pen or stall to eat.

    There, the lady can at least be in close contact with the baby and little by little she will lose some of her fear.

    You may also tell her, some of the all-time GREAT cutting horses acted fearful like this.

    I would take special care with this filly because she maybe a diamond in the ruff.

    Take care,

    Larry Trocha

  39. Wow mugs!
    Larry Trocha...thats cool! I don't know him personally but he has been at some of the cuttings when I was showing in Calif. He is a great guy. Thanks for the advice..maybe I will bring her in for an hour a day while she is eating so she can get used to me being around. Thanks for the advice!

  40. Whoa. First off I want to join all the voices advising Jonas to send that mare and her owner on down the road.
    Owners who listen but don't hear are bad news. (As opposed to owners who won't listen, who are merely annoying, because they're spotted and then avoided.)
    Horses that have ingrained dangerous responses are bad news.
    Put them together, and frankly I don't see how in the world you can possibly create a good outcome.

    I mean, even if you 'fix' that mare for you, it isn't going to be fixed for her. So what purpose exactly is the training for?

    I love the idea of 'teach once'. It fits in with the ideas of 'always make what you want to do the easiest option for the horse,' and 'if you have done the previous step correctly, the next will be successful,' both of which I like to try to train by.
    I think we underestimate horses ability to retain process information sometimes. I read an experiment a while back with flashcards. Horses were shown patterns and when they touched a certain pattern in certain order, they got a food reward. Many of the horses only had to get the pattern correct once before they learnt it and had it correct everytime. They followed up a year later, and most of the horses remembered most of the patterns - including the ones that they had only been shown once or twice. Pretty impressive.

  41. I have to tell you I know from personal experience that this will work. I wish I could have had my current gelding right from the get go. I knew the people I bought him from and if I had known they were gonna sell him I could have been handling him from day 1. It would have made a huge impact on the obsticles we have had. I raised another horse much the way you are talking, maybe not with the same techniques but from the begining, doing things slow and easy and there was never a question of the bond or a question about leadership. We were an increadable team. I once rode in a costume class bridless with that horse. No one ever realized he had not bridle on because of our costume so they let me do it. I could take off on that horse through the woods with no bridle and ride where ever whenever. You will have a fantastic horse when your done. I think horses and people would be much better off if we could start out this way. Great Job. Now I know that I am not crazy for thinking this is possible.

  42. Jonas
    This is not meant to be rude it will sound that way but hear me out.
    I realize you want to prove you can work with that horse but keeping the owner away is the wrong approach that is her horse, if she cant handle the horse after your done, then the job is not done. Again this is not meant to be offensive this is made to make you think it through.

    The very same reason the owner allows you to tell her she cant be involved in the training of her horse is the very same reason the horse is spoiled. I would never let someone handle my horse little lone train it if they wanted me to stay out of the arena all the time. I hope you consider this in your thought process. I think the success here would be for the owner to learn too. Maybe too much for a young gal to take on but maybe not.

  43. Triple Star Cowgirl- Well, originally I was trying to teach her how to handle her horse. She would act like she listened, but then in practice she would just completely ignore everything I told her. I train with pressure and release of pressure. The lady claims to as well, but she never removes the pressure so the horse never really understands what's going on or how to escape the pressure the right way, so she will act out. I have, time and time again, explained this to her. But she just doesn't get it. So you are right. The horse will probably get going for me and understand what I want. But the owner will never be able to handle her or teach her anything new. Consequently, I've dropped this. She has a 2 y/o gelding she wants me to work with now. Babies are such a relief since they have yet to messed up and respond to pressure and release right away. But I probably won't keep training for her simply because she won't retain anything. Most of the owners I work with watch me, ask questions, I answer them. I show them how to do everything their horse is lacking so the horse will respond to them as well as me. But some people just don't want to listen :P. It's frustrating to have someone say they understand and they are going to do something about it, but the next time I come out, they are doing exactly what they shouldn't be doing to get the response they want. I don't want someone in the arena with me unless they are willing to learn and are trying something themselves. Such as teaching the horse to put it's head down from poll pressure... but if they are in the arena, trying to take over the training, interfering with what could have been a successful and stress free training session... Then they aren't very welcome. A lot of people are willing to take direction, but the pushier ones just don't, why they hire a horse trainer when they think they can do it themselves. I don't know x_x. So basically, I would love to get this lady to be more hands on with her horses, but if she won't listen, there isn't much I can do except abandon ship because I don't want to be blamed for her horse's misbehavior.

    Update: I told the lady I wasn't going to work with the mustang and that she is probably going to be a bolter all her life. She said she wanted to give her a few more weeks, and now she is trying her apparatus with the mustang. Sigh. I think she would be much better off selling the mustang or making her a pasture pet and working with this 2 y/o, or get an older, already trained horse since her horses like to push her around. He's cute, but his conformation isn't the greatest, however, he has a great mind and is relatively fearless. He would be a great trail horse if she goes about this the right way. Though, since she won't listen to me about pressure and release, she is probably going to have a frustrated little horse on her hands unless he is more easy going that I thought. Actually, he's probably going to turn into a biter, he's already nippy and the lady is big for food bribes and treats in general.

  44. Awesome story! Damn, this means I can't use the "hopefully he'll forget it" excuse anymore! I've been trying to think of ways to train more efficiently and this will definitely help