Sunday, October 25, 2009

Here Comes The Other Side....

Do they even have the sense to look sorry they've been busted? Not much. Note the barefeet.

I can tell this one is going to turn into a good discussion, I already have my head racing with thoughts and comments.....and I'm only on my second cup of coffee. My biggest thought comes with coming back on my own points (I am a mugwump after all!)

Adventures - "...had an ol'guy tell me once to never send my horse to a male trainer under the age of 45 because before then they are just too full of ego and fueled by testosterone..."

The thing is, young kids have no fear. Which can be a good thing. Their ego, their lack of sense, their testosterone and estrogen all combine to install confidence in their horses. Youngsters (at least the good ones) have faith in not only in the absolute rightness of their ability and knowledge but they have the same faith in their horses. Kids are so sure they can get the job done, the horse ends up knowing he can the job done too.

Horses gain confidence from confident riding.

I used my young assistants to do the things that made me nervous. Mostly because they did a better job than I did in some areas.

Putting go on them is one.

I'd have my little ones doing a walk, trot, canter. They'd be all sweet and steady, just what us chicken-livered old ladies like to ride.

BUT the Big K was always trying to impress upon me the importance of my colts feeling comfortable and being able to think at high speeds. Our event is fast. If I didn't make them comfortable moving along at a good clip I wouldn't be able to get the job done when speed was called for.

What he left unspoken was how important it was for me to be comfortable on my horses at high speeds.

I used young assistants, including my daughter, for this very reason. I always joked it was because they bounce. Which has its merits.

The real reason was because my young assistants loved to go fast. Their love of high speed made the colts love it too. My young assistants had such faith in their ability to ride whatever came along the colts became confident in their ability too.

Then I would take them back and be able to continue the feel of confidence, because the scary part, the initial run, was taken care of.

I let the kids take colts trail riding too. They just hummed along on them, where I would get all trainerly and fussy and hide my nerves by over-riding.

By the time I went out on them they were happy and confident and needed my intervention, because the kids would have them having a little too much fun.

I had good assistants mind you. I had trained them, they listened to me (kinda sorta) and I trusted them to a point. So it was a win/win for everybody.

I know you guys don't have necessarily have this kind of help, that's why I got paid the big bucks after all, but it's something to think about.

Then adventures said - "What you said about a horse getting broke as a byproduct of using him to get from point A to point B is interesting."

When I had a big gang of youth riders I spent a lot of time watching them just squirrel around on their horses. A group of girls ranging in age from 8 to 16 on horses ranging from 2 to 32 will give you a bunch to think about.

The little kids wanted to keep up with the big kids and the riders on young horses wanted them to behave like the oldies.

Case in point: The gang would blow out and ride a trail course they had painstakingly built out in the fields alongside a creek by the barn.

The basic self-imposed rule for this group was, first one to a gate opens it, last one closes it. Half the time they were bare-back. So the littl'uns really didn't want to get down to open or close a gate, because all the older'uns would be ragging on them to get a move on (not unlike me shagging cattle for the Big K).

If a horse wouldn't open or close a gate the rider had to get down and take care of it.

I watched each and every child get a handle on gates without my help.

It went like this. The horse would refuse, kid would dismount, open the gate, then get back on.

Next time, same deal.

But every time the kid needed to get the gate she would try a little harder. The other kids would boss, tease, and offer decent advice, depending on the day.

Every time the kid and her horse would get from A to B. So the horse's refusal did no good, it just caused a fuss.

Eventually said kid would get the gate opened or closed and it would be done. The horse could do the gate and so could the kid.

This approach worked for all kinds of things. The trail course had some creek crossings, sometimes with a jump down into it, or up the other side.

The horse would refuse, the kid would kick and steer and fuss, maybe get down, maybe find an easier spot to cross, and the group would assist or get in the way or whatever, but eventually, because the kids wanted to get from A to B then they'd get it done.

Each ride eventually became easier.

I busted them using this same technique to climb trees. They would stand on their horses butts in order to climb into their favorite tree. I don't know how they did it because by the time I caught them it was fait accompli, but each horse, from 2 to 32 would stand while they were used as a step ladder. Ahem.

A. to B. = broke horses. So sometimes you simply have to get it done, technique can come in later.

Horses and Turbos said - " When I showed my farrier the map of the trails, he laughed and said I was always about 1/2 mile from the parking area."

I think this is smart, safe and a good way to go. You're riding where you're confidant. When you're ready you'll go farther and your horse will trust that you're making the right decision.

FD said - "D'you think that being a professional and your time literally being money affected how you approached things? I know I've made mistakes in the past because I needed to stick to a schedule. And this despite consciously knowing and (preaching) that less haste makes more speed when it comes to training."

It made me make some mistakes at first. Time pressure is awful and probably the biggest issue in a trainers world.

I ended up becoming very stream-lined, learning how to make each step effective and knowing how many steps could be covered in one session.

This is how I became caught up in my "teaching everything only once" experiment on my colt. It's from studying how to build a horse maneuver by maneuver with a minimum of repetition.

LuvMyTBs said: "I consider myself a somewhat "handicapped" rider at this point in my life (age 53) due to a very serious injury(non horse related) requiring multiple surgeries and a very lengthy rehab. I was told to be happy to be able to walk normally again,let alone be able to ride."

You are so Horsaii.

stillearning said : Sometimes I wish I had a shorter horse.

Why do you think I like cutters and cowhorses? Pete is a comfy 14.3hh.

AareneX said: "Y'all are totally reading my mind.I just finished reading _Backcountry Basics_ by Mike Kinsey, (mugs, did you recommend this book???). He advocates *never* allowing the horse to get the idea that he can make a choice."

I did recommend this book, still do. I agree with Kinsey, my young horses never get the idea they have a choice. I think you guys remember my story of Pete holding a straight line even though it meant I rode him off the trail and into a gully? I was the bone head who didn't realise he would hold his line no matter what. Obviously my horses don't think they have a choice.
Snicket didn't think he had a choice. He thought he was going to die, so he kindly relayed the information.
Both horses crossed the creek, both obeyed.
Snicket sunk in the mud.
He was pissed, but he would obey again if Kidlet wanted him to, he knows his job..
Pete still doesn't want to do water. So I would not listen to Pete. It's my job to keep him safe, not vice versa.
Once he consistently and willingly crosses water (like Snicket) I will listen if he refuses. But he has to have an underlying knowledge that I am the end-all when it comes to a decision.

Muriel said: I know you are not keen on PNH, but they say it again and again, be safe! dismount, but then have a plan, and work &*se off the horse from the ground, or use other strategies, it is not because you dismount that you have lots the battle of will.

PNH did not think of this concept. Maybe this is part of my issue with them. They take practical horsemanship and turn it into a complicated maneuver they call their own.

Sometimes you can't dismount, sometimes your horse can't delay the expected difficult situation and sometimes you have to have a horse who understands he must do what you asked because you said so.

Again, I have to reference Pete. When I wrote about our Mountain Lion incident I chose to take his advise and turn around. I had complete confidence I could make him go down the hill. If I had insisted, Pete would have gone. He would have trusted me to make the right decision.

When we were on the hillside in the near dark, I stayed on and got out of his way. I trusted him not to bolt, buck me off, or panic so we fell down the mountainside. I had to trust him, but I was trusting several factors. Pete was trained to read my cues. I wanted him to walk, so he did. He trusted me enough to keep him safe, because of his training, so he resisted the urge to bolt, buck me off and go home, which is what he really wanted to do.

Partnerships develop between me and my horses as we learn to handle situations based on their obedience and my respect of their abilities. This takes years and years BTW.

Candy'sgirl said: "My husband's horse sounds like Snicket. He'll go through, over or around anything on a trail. The one weekend he REFUSED to cross a log despite me booting the living daylights out of him. He was right. He finally sighed, crossed it and promptly got tangled up in fencing that we assume had been washed onto the trail from the flooding a few months earlier. Then he stood very patiently while we cut him free. "

This horse understands obedience. He is a horse I would trust in a tough spot.

HorsesandTurbos said: "Sitting down for a minute and reflecting...When I rode Starlette last Sunday, ride #2 alone, she was scared of all the trailers we would have to go past to get to the trail we took the day before. I just asked her to take a step forward towards them...which she did, and then we went another direction on a different trail. She did not know I wanted her mind she did what I asked."

This is perfect. Still expecting and getting obedience, but in a safe and smart manner. This is what builds a long term partnership with a horse.


  1. Hey Mugs,thanks for the compliment!
    I could write a whole section for you on Human to Equine Related Sports Rehab and the mental state of awareness and acceptance of one's physical limitations!! It has been a very long road for me.
    There was never any question for me that I would NOT ride anymore.
    The joy and inner peace I feel when I ride far surpasses the pain and fears of getting injured.I do respect the fact that I may not recover well if I do get injured but I could also get hit by a bus right?!! To give it up totally would slowly kill me on the inside.
    I'll know when I'm done and hopefully it will be in another 20-30 yrs.

  2. I think we owe it to ourselves to always listen to our horses. Our safety, as pointed out repeatedly in the last two posts, can rely on it. Perhaps I read Black Beauty once too often. The hard part, for many, is having an animal you can trust to do the right thing, the obediant thing, unless there is a very good reason not to. I'm not sure how much of this is something we can develop in the horse and how much is just a given horse's true nature, to be honest. I've lucked out in having very honest horses.

    An older Appy I rode all the time when I was a youngster started developing trouble seeing. She learned that if I jiggled the reins and said "watch your feet" that there was something immediately in front of her such as uneven ground or a log. She would drop her head and was either able to see better from that angle or perhaps she actually touched it with her muzzle. I had always trusted her to do the right thing in our rides, the smartest way to get over a steep ditch or a creek; later as she needed it she knew she could trust her riders to help her out, and never became nervous or nappy even as her sight worsened.

    As an eventer with a major fear complex, I made sure to get a horse I knew could handle any fence I was willing to jump. I trained him to jump using classic techniques that teach the horse to gauge the distance for itself and not rely on a rider to find the take off spot. My guy would take direction perfectly well to a fence, in fact I could even bury him into verticals to remind him it was his job to get his body UP when we jumped and not always launch a longer bascule, but if you didn't give him direction he would pack you over, even from a bad spot.

    Teaching a horse how to take care of itself and yet accept direction is what keeps us safe. I want a horse that tries hard and does what I ask, but knows I'll respect his "opinion" precisely because he always tries to do what he's asked.

    I am Boyfriend

  3. "Partnerships develop between me and my horses as we learn to handle situations based on their obedience and my respect of their abilities..."

    IMO that is a great summary of horsemanship.

  4. So, mugs, I hear YOU saying that you believe that young horses shouldn't be given the opportunity to think he/she has choices. I agree, I'm there, I'm totally following this logic.

    However, the _Backcountry Basics_ book stressed (heavily) that NO horse should EVER think that s/he gets to make choices. I'm not sure that I'm good with that. At mile 90+ of an endurance ride, I'd like to think the horse would refuse to trot off a cliff if the exhausted rider misread the trail and directed him off. After 20+ hours in the saddle, riders only get dumber.

    Also, Mike Kinsey seems to believe that once a horse has *ever* gotten the idea that s/he can make a choice, the horse is wrecked, ruined, spoiled forever.

    If so, we're all in a ton of trouble.

    Not everybody gets the luxury of raising foals from the ground up. Many of us acquire horses when they're already full-grown and have experienced gawd-knows-what. For us, his advice seemed to be variations on "god help you, because your horse is already a spoiled wreck."

    Well, yes, my horse WAS a wreck when I got her--she bit, she kicked, and she balked. Now...she balks sometimes until she gives up and does what she's directed to do. Sometimes we have to argue for a while. But she NEVER wins. And slowly the bad behaviors are leaving. No more biting. No more kicking. It's slow.

    Maybe god likes me. Or her.

  5. The part about these things taking years and years... it can get discouraging at times when you are a newish rider. I'm not so new that every ride is a new and wondrous thing... but new enough that small issues are probably a bigger deal than they should be. I have a lesson tomorrow... my trainer has my mare listening really well in the arena, but out on the trail today she was still spooking at everything and ignoring my leg cues (we are working on moving off the leg more reliably). It's just frustrating to see her being so good for the trainer, and a cow for me. I know it's just that the trainer has decades of experience, longer than I've been alive in fact... and it boils down to her being a better, more confident rider. I'm going to keep plugging away, and keep up with the lessons... I just hope this is a rough patch.

  6. I went to a clinic this weekend at a ranch that belongs to a couple in their late 60's. The husband rides and trains working cowhorses, he is also a judge. He has lots of young horses and he employs a young man to ride them. While I was there (a little over 4 hours) this guy must have ridden 5 or 6 young horses. He would start out by the barn at a long trot on a loose rein, trot DOWN the hill about 1/8th of a mile, to the round pen, open the gate, go in and trot/lope circles for about 20 - 25 minutes come out at a long trot, trot out back on the ranch, made some kind of loop ending up back at the barn. He never walked once! These were young gangly two year old and they looked so uncoordinated! I was kind of envious of his confidence in himself and his mounts. I trust my horse but he is 10 years old and solid. I am not sure that I would trust a 2 year old to carry me so well.

    mugs...I know what you mean about "A to B". Looking back on my childhood riding, everything we did we did because it was a necessity. The horses took care of us and we took care of them.

  7. Great post!

    This fear/age issue is tricky. I can face the fact that I'm more afraid to take risks now that I'm older. I break things into bite-sized pieces as often as possible. I fight the urge to CONTROL my horse at all times, and try to trust him more. (He's still young, so that's tough at times...) But I can't always stop that little voice saying "be careful" at all the wrong times.

    I really miss having some young people around to help with the "just do it" part. My friends are all as old as I am, or older, and there's an undercurrent of fear and caution in our common-sense advice to each other. I'm noticing that most of them have "cautioned" themselves into not riding much anymore unless everything is perfect. I'm not willing to quit riding yet, and I've still got this youngster to get broke. He's going to be a good-old-boy, but needs miles, confidence and experience.

    This discussion has inspired me to go find that young rider/trainer to help me. I've thought of it before, especially for the trail work, but my ego kept stopping me.

    I see now that even when I grit my teeth and make myself head down the trail alone, I'm probably instilling that fear in the horse and making things twice as difficult for both of us.

    If mugs can use her young assistants, so can I! Yeah!

    (Now I just have to find one...)

  8. I have a boarder (age 25)and a friends daughter (age 22)both who can ride anything and have the "just do it" attitude and approach that all young and confident riders have. They help me by riding my youngsters for me to the point where I can feel safe enough after they do for me to then get on and put the finish on them. I taught and coached both these kids and still do. I have always appreciated that they "bounce" way better than I do anymore and if they get dumped they just laugh and get right back on.... me...I laugh when I get off and can hardly walk but i felt GREAT the whole time I was riding!!

  9. This is from one of those hormone filled youngsters:
    "lack of sense" Aww come on mugs, i know you would've climbed that tree with horse ladders if you were with them. :p
    For the most part i try and ride most things out.. However , the other weekend i was riding a buddy sour horse who started to rear. I would normally start working that but i just didn't feel safe in the area I was in, so i dismounted, For the most part i feel safe on my horses even when they are spazzing around.

    This may seem strange considering that most of the people of my age and gender are stereotype as hoons when driving a car; I Have confidence issues when driving, they manifest themselves in the form of hesitation and self-doubt, i think it is partly because i don't know my limits and the cars limits. Unlike horses I can't test my self in a car without having the fear of someone getting hurt.

    Well, it seems like im not really sure of what im trying to get across here so i think i will leave it at that

  10. anon...You may not be sure of your point, but what I got out of it was a young rider with the smarts to deal with a tough situation. Which increases the odds of you living long enough to become an old rider.

  11. Ahhh Muggers - I love this blog. I too am a 50-something rider who, in her day, rode the crazies...not so many western horses, but hunters and jumpers. Half-broke, not-so-broke....who cares - go jump it. Never came off much, and bounced when I did.
    I am horsaii to the core.
    But now I am cautious. (Read - really worried to admit fear. Afraid that if I do, then it will become a monster that will incapacitate my will.) I have a really hot gelding who has been green-broke for a long time. Time does not allow for getting on him enough to make him solid - yet. He is willing and does as he is asked, but we don't go fast or high. I can't make myself go there - yet.
    I did come off of him once so far. It was a stupid thing, as much due to carelessness and a lack of judgement (had thrown my reins away just milliseconds before he jumped half out from under me) than anything that he actively did. It hurt. So I am cautious.
    But when I do have time to ride him I am in love with his ability, his strength and his courage, and I swear that I will make time to get him really broke. And he really deserves the time and attention, but then there is work and home chores, and dogs to train and ...

  12. Im sorry I missed Sat.'s post. The loss of 'bounce' has set me back big time.

    LuvMyTBs: Im in the same boat as you! I've been riding a bit but have decided Im tired of only showing halter at shows. Im going back to an old friend to take some wp lessons again and to lease somthing for the show season.

  13. I kind of like to have the horse within a box.
    The boundaries are how the horse is to behave (what I can accept or not), but within the box I like to co-operate with my horse, and also listen to her.

    Horses come in all sorts, just like people.
    When you present them with a task, they react differently.
    Like when you are out on trail, and you get to a tricky spot. I like to give the reins, and let the horse sort its way through.
    Some horses stop to look, and then choose a good way through.
    Others get stressed, and just rush through.
    Others again walk through, but choose a bad way.
    And sometimes you get one that doesn’t want to cross at all.
    The last three types you have to interfere with, get in there and guide. Or tell.
    And over time they will probably handle it better.

    I prefer my horses to act as in the first alternative.
    I believe that to get a sensible companion you have to let them make their share of the thinking, and see how they respond and how they solve the problems.
    I set a goal; like “we are to cross”, but then I like to give the horse a chance to sort it out.
    Focus on the overall target, but being a bit flexible on how I get there.

    If we don’t let them think and be individuals, I believe we will miss out a lot. Horses have a lot of humor. Sometimes I believe we get too serious in our work. We need to have fun with them, play around a bit. Make them enjoy the work, and have fun along the way ourselves too.

  14. Oh, and stillearning - small size doesn't always help.

    I have a good friend that as an adult (and a skilled rider, she had ridden race horses in training and was an examinated riding teacher) was very frustrated with a bad behaving Shetlands pony in the riding school. So she mounted the pony, managed somehow to dismount in an unplanned way (I don't remember the details) and broke her thigh bone.
    What do you think of that???

  15. DeeDee ( 26, 2009 at 5:26 PM

    Hey Mugs, this gets a little crazy! Muriel said: PNH teaches you safety first. For newbies, getting off and handling it from the ground makes sense.
    PNH also teaches sometimes 'want to' gets to be 'got to' and you have to have the leadership to tell the horse effectively, 'get 'er done, now'.

    And Pat P. sure doesn't act like he made it up. He is always acknowledging his teachers. What he has brought to the game (with help from others) is a way to teach city kids like me to be effective with horses with partnership and harmony as a basic part of the package.

    I started at 50 years old. I need all the hep and safety I can get. And a horse I can trust. And I have that.

    And because I have been listening and watching the PNH stuff so long I can be helpful to people who are in serious danger from their horses.

    I will never ride like the youngins'. I wish I had some horse girls to take my steady pony out for some rambuctious hacks.

    Keep in mind, lots of folks say PNH. Not all of them have followed the program.

    And we were all young once. Pat has recovered from a lot of his bragadacios(sp?) as he has grown up and allied himself with masters outside his field.

    I wish I could bring a colt along. I keep studying cuz I may never get to but want to learn how, in case I age to a sturdy, grumpy old lady who still horses around.

    And I love your blog, cuz natural is natural. and I make a lot of your ideas my ideas and my pony's ideas. Thanks for the great writing!

  16. It's so great that everyone here seems interested in finding a way to ride despite fears and other problems. There'a a lot of positive energy, along with good ideas for coping.

    Anon, I found admitting my fear was a great first step towards facing it down. I've also found that I have to ignore my aging peers who prefer to revel in tales of past horse adventures while actively avoiding taking any chances at all (which means not riding usually). Unspoken fear can radiate a very sneaky, negative effect; it often masquerades as common sense. And those who don't want to acknowledge fear themselves usually need everyone else to agree that it's, cold, windy, dangerous, just crazy, ride today. I'm learning to meet my friends for lunch to tell stories, but ride alone so their worries don't drag me down.

    I need to find more horsaii to ride with. Young or old.

    HofC: that stinks. I'd be pretty annoyed getting that hurt on a Shetland pony! But size DOES matter when you're mounting and dismounting on trail. Once I'm off, I'm pretty much walking unless I find a BIG tree :)

  17. What an interesting post/discussion. I have always thought when it comes to horses that "discretion is the better part of valor". Very good comments and ideas.