Saturday, January 23, 2010

Mind Meld

Four star sentence of the day from –ellie. “But then I realized that I'm fourteen. I don't want a crazy wired-up fantastically skilled grand prix horse. I want a horsey.”

I have a fantastical plan going here. I'm not sure how to do it...probably a second blog attached to the Chronicles??? A training guide, written by all of us. We start here, and I'll begin building it.
I can start going through my old posts (yes it will take forever) and pick up the training questions. I'll start with the ones I've answered, try to find the ones I haven't and they will be part of the training blog....This could turn into an absolutely astounding reference guide.
You're input and opinions will be included. People looking for help can go with the approach which suits their situation. Whoa baby, is this as good an idea as I think it is?

First Day With a New Horse

My Start –
When I first get to know a horse I turn him loose in a round pen or arena. If it's a round pen I want it to be pretty big because I want the horse to be able to be able to stay away if he chooses.I like to be outside (let's make it 75 degrees, no wind and I've got a beer, ya wanna?) with lots of distractions and noise.I'll sit on the fence and watch my horse as he moves around, looking at the interesting stuff. If he comes over and tries to crawl in my lap I'll push him away. If he sticks to me anyway I'll go get a longe whip.If he'll pause a second while he explores, whinnies, runs, whatever and sniffs my boot I'll be pleased.I won't get in the pen with him until he relaxes and begins walking and sniffing the ground a little. If he is really agitated I'll wait until the next day if I need to.

Bif’s start - It depends on my amenities (pastured or stabled). If stabled, I make sure I am the one leading horse in and out every time for the first few weeks. They have so few memories in the storage banks of proper leading behavior that I want all the input for awhile to be as correct as I can make it. I always slip the lead over the neck before I halter, so they never learn they can get away from the halter going on.I will go and visit them a few times a day in the field, say hi, scratch good scratchy parts. I always end the encounter first, walking away.

If it's a domesticated;-), broke animal, I'd get it into the "barn routine" the first day, always making sure he respects my space and leadership and ignore anything negative that isn't a respect issue, i.e. fear based. I provide calm leadership, and expect they'll follow along soon enough.

Crappyrider’s start - So, for now she's learning she's not all that cute muggy puppy she thinks she is. She's learning to move out of my space right now. I drive her off until she faces up in the pasture. No walking into my space.

Glenatron’s start - I think when a new horse arrives I would expect to put them out in a pen or paddock for a while to let them get a little used to their surroundings and once they had settled to be able to rest off any immediate stress or tiredness from their journey. That presents a good opportunity to get a first idea of what kind of horse they are, based on what they do or don't do, and how they move.When it came to working with them - probably the next day - I would work on a lead. Most horses in this country that are old enough to work with ( which is probably old compared with when they would be started in the US, particularly western ) are accustomed to the basics of being caught and handled. So I would bring them into the arena and start just exploring what they know and how they relate to me. Do they know how to follow a feel? Do they understand about my personal space? Do they push onto pressure or run away from it and by how much? Which eye/side do they find it easier to work on? Are there areas where they are shy about being touched, do they tend to be relaxed or twitchy about that? Where are the thresholds in terms of their responses - what is the least I can do to create a change in them?

Golden the Pony Girl’s start - I like to start my first encounter in the round pen too. I keep it simple and work on just getting the horses attention on me. Depends on where the horse is in their training of course I just pick something that I know the horse can say yes to. I want the first encounter to be easy and simple.

Gttyup’s start - Somehow a lot of the colts I get in to start are hardly halter broke. So, they usually get ran into the round pen (not lead in). My round pen is outside (which I prefer). There are other horses around. My dogs are doing their doggie things. Normal daily stuff. After they've had a chance to investigate the pen and I watch their reactions, I start their round pen 101 which is ditto to Mugwump's.

Tansy’s start - When I got him, the first few days I would catch him, bring him in and groom him. Noticing how he reacted to going through gates, being haltered, being touched everywhere, giving me his feet. I would ask him to move away from me. I did some nice relaxing body work on him. I found the bits he looooves to have scratched.

Shanster’s start- When I brought home my mare and my gelding (different times) I put them in the smaller of my 2 dry lot pens - by themselves and I just watched them for a week. I'm never in any hurry and I'm a huge slow poke.We feed 2x a day and I may walk up to say hello, scritches - that sort of thing.

Rocky mouse’s start - When we got the little Appie a few months ago, he was put in the square pen for a few days, where he could have the other two horses on the other side of the tall, solid fence. He could touch noses and see everybody.The first day, we hunkered on one side of the pen and just watched. If he came up to us, he was patted and urged to move on.

Caitlyn’s start - The first day was all about how the horse would act under the worst circumstances I could come up with. They got enough time to eat drink and for me to have breakfast before I caught one. I didn't waste my time, I wanted to see how spooky they could be and i'd go back and work on things later. I brushed then tacked up quickly, loudly and dropped brushes and such around them to see their reactions, then headed to the roundpen for their first ride. If they acted like a complete idiot i'd teach them to round pen and flex then hop on, otherwise I climbed on up. The first few minutes I rode around at a walk and trot then I got enough confidence to lope. After that I tried to find out their buttons then I acted as insane as possible. I flopped around, yelled, waved my hat around etc. If this horse was going to break in two I wanted it to be with me, not a customer.

Rheather’s start - I start by just hanging around them as much as possible for the first couple of days, both to get them used to the newness of being here(I suddenly pet cats or trip over them alot, and I have screaming, bouncing goats) and to let them start to adjust to a different situation.

Funder’s start-I've only bought (theoretically) broke horses, so my method is to assume that they know how to act and immediately correct them if they don't. I'm a little slower and "quieter" when I go to catch a new horse out of a paddock, but otherwise, I just expect them to behave.

--ellie.’s start- That's how it went the first day. We let her out in a pasture to gallop around for a while, then took her into our fenced arena (no round pen) and lunged her. She didn't know how to lunge, but learned quickly.

Slippin’s start - When I first got my gelding, he had just gotten off the trailer from a 1800 mile road trip. I left him in his stall for a few hours to let him settle in and eat and drink and relax. Then I saddled him up and rode him around in the arena. I didn't work him hard, just enough to get him "Out".

Common Approaches : Most of us agree on an initial period of observation. Observation can entail just watching to see how the horse responds to the activity around him to leading and basic handling 101.

Caitlyn, I've got to tell you, the Big K would love you. The reason we got on our colts and dug in as quick as we did was because he wanted to find out the worst they had right away. His point was that then we (OK, he meant me) would realize we could handle whatever they had in them and then continue to train without fear.

There is a level of horsemanship needed to pull off Caitlyn's approach. Funder's seems to be close too. The rider has to be good enough to live through what the new horse hands her. She also has to be able to find out what the horse has without making the situation worse.

This is not a beginner's approach.

I make the handling of my horse an ongoing process. My horses learn as we go. So I'll be working on handling feet as I'm working on loping circles. They learn a lot just because life shows them, so I use it.

My priority is, standing tied, accepting the saddle, then me on them. It took me 3 days to a week, it took the Big K less. Not always, sometimes we would get a real wild child in and it could take 30 days.

Many of you do things in a progression.

Touching all over and feet seem big.

So lets talk about initial handling. Why do you want these things done first and how do you do it?

I want me horse to let me halter him. So I work them free until they learn to move out, stop, and look at me. I will crouch low (think cougar about to get lunch) and run a them to create my forward. I'll use a longe whip or halter on a rope (whichever is handiest) to get the colt to MOVE when I say move.
I stand up and back away to release pressure and teach them to stop. I haven't said whoa yet.
I do this because I want my colt to know I can control his movement. He doesn't have to like me. He has to acknowledge me.
I don't teach them to come to me. I go to them. I feel safer this way. It plants the seed of personal space.

I want him to let me halter him. I will stroke his neck if he wants me to. So I walk toward his shoulder with the halter clearly in sight.

If I can halter him I do. If I can't we work some more. Not angrily, just quiet. But we practice Go, Turn, Stop until he would like the halter on please. Then I'll let him go, work him and halter him one more time before I'm done for the day.

If he's not quiet and happy I don't mind. We'll just try again the next day. But when I halter him the last time I take him to the tie rail. I tie him up, usually with a quiet, decent minded horse tied nearby, and there he stays.

I have accomplished the first steps of control on the ground and the colt now begins to learn standing tied is a social time for him, a rest time and his first lesson in patience.

I have become very nonverbal with my horses as the years have gone by. I've been told I have kind of a low, muttery conversation going with them. I think I'm just thinking out loud, because in my head I'm not talking to my colt, I'm training him with my body movements. But that's what happens when you work by yourself for too many years. It's not a training technique, it's more crazy old bag lady.

I'll leave leading for another day.

So do we agree on observation as our first step?

I've explained my next step and why. Now it's your turn. Don't worry if it's different from me, philosophically or technique. Just describe and explain.

I am so jazzed.


  1. Yep, that the reason behind my madness. I am naturally a bit more cautious and that just doesn't look good in front of people if i'm tip toeing around my horse since I havn't seen what they can do. Oh and this is an excellent idea. It gives me a chance to see what everyone else does and how it workds for them vs my quick approach.

    Are we talking about the initial handling of a horse we're starting now? i'm confused.

    My initial step is similar to yours but I push them harder. I'll pull them out for multiple sessons the first day, keeping them as short as possible.

    The first thing i'll do is see if I can halter my horse. If the hrose walks off i'll work him until my horse understands go forward when I ask, turn when I ask and stop when I release pressure. I'm ok either way if the horse will walk up or not. I'll then put the halter on and reapeat this by going to catch them. When I can easily do this both of us get a break. I'll bring in a water bucket and a calm horse for my youngster. I don't like to work them before I try to halter them, i think it sets them up for failure. I also don't want them to think every time I get a halter out that they should work.

    I'll go back and work on leading after I round pen a little more and really get my turns down. Then i'll ask my horse to turn while slightly putting pressure on the halter (I always use a rope halter for training) till my horse understands give to the halter for turning. I'll work on forward by turning then stepping out of it. If my horse resists i'll flick their butt with the leadrope to get the forward motion I want. If they scoot forward to quickly it's ok right now, as long as they move away from pressure.

    I'll then give them another sort of break and tie them up in the round pen. I use one of the blocker tie rings with new horses. I'll be nearby during this and if they pull back i'll calmly walk up and pull the slack back through. They usually don't. They sort of tired by now and standing is a nice break for them.

    I'll go back again and work on flexing, disengaging the hind quarter and forequarters. Depending on the horse i'll work with their legs now that i've got decent control of their feet. I'll use the whip I was using to work them and just pet their legs while I stand back till they are ok with them eing touched.. Then i'll teach them tp pick up their front feet. I do this a bit differently. I'll touch their chestnut and slowly progress to squeezing it until they not only take their weight off but lift that hoof. I'll lift the back hooves as well by touching then squeezing their hock. If my horse jerks their hoof away i'll tell them that they need to move their butt or shoulders away from me now and quickly. I'll then try again.

    I did no desensitizing on day 1. I don't care if my horse is jumpy day 2, he knows when I want him to move. Day two i'll do desensitizing and get my horse saddled.

    On another note, i'm incredibly vocal with my horses and they usually learn a ton of vocal cues, not because I set out to do it, but because I need to talk or i'll go insane.

  2. Hmmm - Why do you want these things done first and how do you do it?

    I guess I'm doing these things first to get a feel for how the horse is... how they process information... what their reactions are.

    Both of mine came from the track and I was told track horses are dead broke on the ground because track is such a busy place, they are used to just about anything.

    I did not find that to be true in the two I brought home.

    I let them stand tied until they are done fruiting around because they need to learn to stand tied at a show for however long, politely for the farrier or the vet, for me when I'm grooming them or tacking them up, for trailering or when I need to tie them up when I'm somewhere and I'm busy.

    Horses that can't be tied are a big pain in the arse.

    I pick up their feet and touch them all over because vets touch them all over, the farrier needs their feet so he doesn't get pissed or injured... my legs will be brushing their sides when I ride, I'll be patting their neck, I'll be carrying a stick to help cue them which will be touching their shoulder or their flank, the lead rope might be thrown over their back...

    I longe them so that they can build strength and balance to help them carry me and they focus in on me.

    I used to think longing horses was to let them blow off steam - and it is - BUT it is also a tool because they go when we tell them and the go in whichever gait we tell them and they will keep going that way until we tell them differently.

    Teaches them to watch the human and mind the human... when they are fully tacked up on the longe - they WORK, there is NO funny business. And if there is, they work that much harder.

    Hopefully this helps them know when they are tacked up they are working.

    And hopefully this explains my actions adequately?? Cheers -

  3. Oh and I am pretty quiet around the horses - I give a good boy here and there and I sort of chat when I walk up to them to halter but I think that comes from childhood and letting them know you are there... "hey bud, how you doin' today" that sort of thing but other than that I don't think I talk very much...

    I do use verbal on the longe for walk trot canter and whoa cuz when I get on their back I think it helps them understand what I'm asking them - the vocals go away pretty fast after I'm riding them.

  4. Definitely a great idea! We have a similar methodology on my blind horse group, where people with newly blind horses or anyone about to encounter a new situation or challenge can use the group as a sounding board or ask advice. It really works out well for all concerned.

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. What a fantastic idea! I've already had some new thoughts on working around my horses! Can't wait to read more.

  7. Coming late to the game...

    I have never started a young horse before. I have worked at several riding stables as ranch hand and trail guide. I was never the one starting a young horse. They were barely started and then I got to ride them, just barely broke. This gave me a different view from my friends: just get on and ride! It had to be done. You don't have time to stand around and desensitize them to things. It got to be I just expected them to go and they did??? Don't know how this worked.

    Now I have a different situation. My only horse right now is 18mo, I was at the barn when she was born. She is very attached to me. But when learning new things, I just went ahead and did them. Figured i'd deal with it if there was a problem. There has yet to be. My friends are amazed! They want to pussyfoot around; cooing and petting, saying "OK, this is going to be scary..." In my opinion, all this does is let the horse know it's going to be scary and get ready to freak out!

    I see this when showing my giant breed dogs. Judges approach tentatively, thinking "gee, he's big! Is he going to bite?" All my dog thinks is: "Ack, something scary must be about to happen, run away!" And he cringes and tries to evade the judge. The PERSON set him up for the reaction, it's not the dog's fault.

    So, in all things I just try to be confidant and get it done. That attitude seems to stop a lot of problems before they happen.

    This is a fascinating subject to me. I love that you explore these things with us Mugs! I really like the idea of the training blog. I am bookmarking these entries right now though! Because it will be over a year before I can start my little filly. Sigh.

    But these also give me the excuse to not be out every day working with her on things and drilling them into her, like every one around here says I should be doing! The challenge will be to find a trainer like you when it comes time to break her!

    Sorry for the long post - just so excited by this thought thread.

  8. "So lets talk about initial handling. Why do you want these things done first and how do you do it?" Mugs, is it really OK I write novellas on here?

    This gives you insight into the truly "initial" handling I've been hoping to explain, with the older but only halter broken horses mentioned in the last few days' posts.
    In the last few years I've had the chance to work with some Nokotas who've been range/large pasture raised and given hay daily in winter, but other contact with people was by and large up to the horses if they wanted it. Some of those then learned to like being pet, some wouldn't let you within thirty, sixty, whatever feet of them.

    When I went to ND and chose who I wanted, the two I bought both let me touch them everywhere on their bodies, touch their legs, and liked being scratched. The one was a 3 year old friendly to everyone large pony, the other was a quiet, long 6 year old that according to the ranch guys didn't ever come up to people, but seemed to like me. Go figure.

    I asked for them to be halter broken and gelded before they were shipped East. So they had less than 3 weeks experience of being halter broken and not necessarily worked with each of those days, either! I had a three or four acre grassy field in December waiting for them.

    So, initial handling training: Set up my tie area on the fence inside the pasture, with brushes ready to go. Head out with halters and lead and the one that comes to me first gets caught. I picked ones who liked attention, so this made it a lot easier for me, I admit!

    I "ignore" (go about what I'm doing seeming not caring what he thinks, but staying internally very conscious of his movements) the horse other than what I am doing with him. First thing is a soft pat on the shoulder, then the rope over the neck to keep him focused and by me. I halter with the opening being an open crown not open throat until they halter reliably, because most likely to fuss about ears during haltering than anything. So rope over neck, left hand holds halter under the neck so the right can grab the crownpiece, insert horse nose into noseband, slide left hand up cheek to crown buckle, pull crown piece through and fasten. In horse was quiet, finally "pay attention", telling him good boy and petting or special scratch place if its on his neck or under jaw.

    Tangent: Later he'll learn people sometimes flip the crown over his head, and it thwacks his neck a bit, or it goes over the ears and just grin and bear it, but that could be very bad to try to start. In some things I do believe do it the first time as will always be done, but these guys make me realize that isn't always OK. The older one is WAY sensitive to body language and to unpleasant stimuli on his person. Pony needs regular religious experiences;~), but the older... I understand the approach Caitlyn mentioned in the Desensitizing Part 2 post. I'm not condemning it at all, as it definitely makes sense working for a horse trader dealing with presumably already broken stock and needing to know quickly what they are capable of doing, good and bad. But I am pretty sure that approach would have wrecked and ruined this horse. He'd lose the very tenuous bond of trust and willingness to trust that he had, and would have shut down on people possibly permanently. I've had him over two years, yet... a few weeks ago he stepped too close and brushed me heading for his hay after I pulled his halter off. I smoothly and not particularly forcefully swung the halter and lead in my hand against his shoulder and told him, "Hey, watch it!" in a very firm tone. For the next WEEK OR TWO, he shrunk back if I went to pet his shoulder after taking the halter off. That's a sensitive damn whiny horse! And you can only fix that trust again by the quietest kindness. Pony, on the other hand, needed a licking to remind him of his manners, and was cheerful again the next second.

  9. Resume: The haltered horse gets led to the tie area. His buddy hovers to get his turn to be groomed, and tied horse doesn't mind being tied.=)

    I use a blocker tie, more or less, a week later moving to tying to a stout sapling and let them figure it out, then can use a regular straight tie if needed.

    At this point they can learn crossties if there's a barn. I use blocker style ties in crossties for several days to weeks, before using fixed crossties. I NEVER BACK A HORSE OUT OF CROSSTIES for the first year or longer, I always unclip and lead thru, or unclip and lead to the side if you must. This really helps from keeping them from sitting back to break out of the ties, because backwards never resulted in being untied, in their minds. They may try to run through the front, but they don't have the same leverage and it isn't successful.

    Horse learns if I am by haunches, the foot stays planted (pull the tailbone lightly over and down on the side the horse needs to lower hoof).

    If a horse is more prone to kick or less of a known entity this is especially important. He must keep the foot down as I'm brushing it, picking at it, what ever, unless I specifically ASK ASK for the foot. With a kicky horse, this may mean I grab the pastern and pull the foot off the ground as his cue to let him know I want it ;-)

    I teach them to give their feet by leaning against them while my hand is sliding down their leg, say "foot please", and they shift their weight off the foot. Do all four feet. They may only have it in the air a split second the first time, I may not be actually holding the foot, that's ok. As they start setting it down, I say "down". The next day I'll hope for a little longer. As always, reward the good, "ignore" the bad. These guys have a lot of fear about giving up their feet, and I respect that and condition around it.

    It may be a week before they hold it long enough for you to actually pick the hoof properly. As you're releasing and the foot is going down, say "down". If they're nervous and you know they can't handle it a moment longer, say "down" and release even if it wasn't yet when you planned to let go. Be aware they may slam down (especially back feet) in graceless manners as they are learning to hold their balance. Ignore.

    After several CONSECUTIVE DAYS of RELIABLY picking up all feet on request and holding them long enough to be picked, I now "assume" (kinda like "ignore") they know the foot is mine when I have it. At this point, if they know they will get it back, and that I give them a word, "down", before I let them have it back, there is no reason I can't have it for a while if I want it. This stage can be fun, but still goes well if you don't expect too long too soon.

    Next stages done at horses comfort pace (which may be two sessions or lots of sessions) is putting leg in between mine, learning about me tapping and wacking the foot, "rasping" the foot. Put leg in positions of forward jack, rear jack farrier might use. Add upturned bucket to act as a setting item (pseudo jack). Use a variety of jack substitutes so horse doesn't care what you use. Extend time he is in different farrier positions. Once or twice have a fellow horseman who knows your routine do all of this. Do this every other day for a while so when the farrier comes, it's old hat, and he just has the new person to deal with, but should know all the moves. I finally bought the nippers, knife and rasp so I can do a lot of these things, making my farriers first visits safer and more pleasant for everyone.

  10. I'm really enjoying the dialogue here. I think it'll help me become a better trainer for my horses :)

    A couple of thoughts:

    I talk to my horses if I feel like talking. Sometimes I'll ride/work for hours without opening my mouth, sometimes I yap a lot. But I do make a point of always whistling and saying "Hi beautiful!" in the same tone of voice when I go out in the pasture to catch a horse. I want the horse to associate those noises with me, and hopefully come up to me. No big deal if it doesn't. And when the horse does something good, I always say "Gooooood" in the same tone of voice. Got a few u/s voice commands too - walk, up, easy, woah. I think the trick is to always say them the same way.

    I never have my first ride in a round pen. I have a completely irrational fear that I'm going to get a foot hung in the boards/pipes of the round pen and my whole leg's going to get mangled. Riding in a round pen makes me very nervous, which will transfer to the horse, so I always do the first ride in a big arena or on the trail.

  11. Gotlands-This doesn't have to be about starting a young horse. Just how you start a new horse....

  12. I am not particularly picky on halters. I am a rope halter fan, but if a nylon or leather is all I got, then I'm fine.
    I'm not particularly careful, only cautious if I think I might get struck at.
    But I just stick it on their head and go.
    The more sensitive horses take longer, but I don't mind. I just keep at it until I can halter them.

  13. Shanster- I've only worked with a few OTTB. But I learned something the hard way. They sometimes come having never been tied.
    My vet is an old race track vet. He told me there are trainers who never tie their horses. They have somebody holding them all the time.
    If they're tied it's in cross ties, again with somebody with them.
    So race track broke is not Colorado cowboy broke by any means.

  14. Speaking of getting mangled in the roundpen... I remember an amusing "you know you're a redneck"-esque incident involving a trainer who should have known better than to say,"Hey, everybody, wanna see Fatty canter?"

    The filly did not appreciate being called Fatty, apparently, because he got dumped... and smacked his head on every pipe of the panel on the way down... bump bump bump bump bump. We called it the corrugated effect =D

    He doesn't really remember much of it. And, for a while you could tell him the same joke every day and he'd think it was funny each time. When he finally started saying, "I think I've heard that one", we knew he was getting better.

  15. I don't have the luxury of a round pen for the past 4 years so have to do a lot of stuff in a large turnout, with my other horses loose and present. This may seem like a bad idea but it has taught me how to cut a horse out of the little herd with my body position. It's amazing how horses see your intent. It's also pretty cool when the horses who aren't being worked with stand and watch.

    haltering-- horse is always worked in a rope halter on 12 foot line. The only time I use a leather or nylon is for trailering. I've used these thinner halters since the 70's...when they used to sell those blue and white striped cow halters for a couple bucks.

    All my horses halter the same. Tip the nose in to me with lowered head, looking for the halter, one my arms over the poll and one on the noseband. This may seem like a small thing in the training, but holes here can show up later bigger and harder. I teach the horse to lower the head by slight poll pressure, and release on the slightest try. The nose is pulled and released by the outside of the band. Pressure on the poll starts to teach the concept of giving to pressure, Nose tipping teaches flexion, and is safer for you if the head is tipped in.

    The horse yields his shoulder, inside leg cross over the outside. I use intent and energy, and if that doesn't work I walk into him, arm high at his eye level to protect me should he sling his head. The moment he he lifts that inside front I release, as he is already committed.

    To yield hind I stand behind shoulder, tip nose in and again use energy in my movements, if that doesn't work he gets a pop with the line. My body position, along with his tipped nose, keeps me safe should he decide to kick. The inside hind must cross over front of the outside hind.

    I work both sides, then work on changing eyes. This involves driving him around me, keeping nose tipped in, and hind crossing under. When I stop my energy, he should too and follow the feel of the lead as he changes directions. Front outside crosses over as he changes direction.

    Until he can do this very basic thing, moving on an arc, place his feet the way I want him, yielding to poll pressure, he is not ready to move on, because otherwise I won't have control over him for leading or tying. I could "get by" but don't want anything to go south with a naive mind that could set up for problems later.

    I insist on perfection in these exercises, as they are the foundation for the rest of his training.

    I want to add I am not a trainer. I don't ever work with horses with issues or an iffy history. I don't like to fix man made problems. If the horse is just green that is fine because stuff isn't too set in yet.

    What I look for is life in the body and feet. A balky sticky horse is dangerous as the energy has to somewhere. If it doesn't go forward it goes up or back. I want FORWARD with energy, the less I have to do the better. Even for a hotter horse this is ok at first, as he feels safer if he can move his feet. These first driving around me lessons can be pretty lively and gloves are a must. But it's so very cool to see your horse get it. He stops, loweres his head and lets go. Many horses hold their breath and you can see that in this exercise.

    One of the most important things to observe is watch the horse that appears to be OK. doing what you want, but he isn't really present. Those types take the longest, because they are deceptively good and don't know how to be honest. And yes I beleive you can teach a horse to be honest (if he doesn't have years of bad history).

    OK...I could ramble all day and I'm sure my post is boring, but I am passionate about my horses and rarely talk about how I do what I do.

  16. I wanted to add I don't ever put my horse in a cross tie. I know a lot of people do it and that's fine, but I don't really have a need for it.

    Eventauly my horses ground tie, but before that they start with a tie blocker and just a few loops.

    I don't need to tie for grooming, bathing or tacking up. At first I just drape the lead on the inside crook of my arm. Eventually I just drop it in front. If he moves, I place the feet. If he really makes an issue, he gets a driving workout. I want my horse present with me while I'm doing these things. I want him hip cocked, not dancing on a line, pawing or looking for food.

    They do have to learn to tie at a trailer though, and that starts with a blocker, bucket of water and hay all day. Also I use a tie rail or tree because they need to learn to stand tied for awhile.

    I don't ever want a horse to set back. I don't start tie training and give to all pressure....including roping the feet, girth area, leading etc.

  17. Haven't started a new horse in a very long time. I'm not a trainer! It was just the ones at the riding stables I worked at so... definitely doesn't count!

    But with new horses on my string, my genereal rule was if I was going to ride it... I saddle it. This was sometimes difficult as you usually had only 1 hour to saddle 20+ horses. I would spend a little extra time brushing and working around "my" horse. Assessing how he takes to being saddled and bridled. Then I'd have to leave him to get my riders mounted. I swing up last minute, zero tolerance for prancing. And off we go. No refusals to go or do anything allowed. Not mean, just firm and confidant. This was usually enough to get them over most obsacles. The rest we worked out on the trail by riding on the trails day after day, over and over again. That is the closest I've ever gotten to "starting" a horse.

    On a different tangent. As trainers; what do you want a young horse to have under their belt when they come to you? What would you prefer owners NOT do?

  18. Oohh, so much to catch up!
    Very, very good posts Mugs.
    Don't know where to begin though....

    What strikes me most is how different our horse cultures are.

    We don't have round pens.
    Desensitizing is an unknown word.
    I don't train my horses to be tied up and don't work them much from the ground either, except longing (which I find utterly boring, so they don't get much of that either once they are backed).

    All in all, I am a lazy person so I take the training as we go along, in the daily work.

    Horses have a very good memory, so making things right the first time is in my opinion very important.

    I believe much is done with the use of common sense, some horse knowledge and not asking more than you know the horse can handle.
    No fuzz, just a calm expectation of the horse doing the job.
    And a reward when he is doing right. And earning the horse's trust by being fair.
    (Now I have not had horses as a living, so I have been able to stay off the nutheads!)

    When I get a new horse, I want to find out what character he is.
    I perfer a slow start.
    I take my time and let him adjust to me and the new surroundings. I correct him if necessary, but make no big business about it.

    Your first post was very interesting, Mugs - about what kind of training the horse needs to do his job. Or what kind of horse that is suitable to do the job.
    Or what kind of horse and rider that fits together.

    Riding dressage is a balancing act.
    You need the horse to be reactive and sensitive, but also relaxed in the work. Not always so easy to combine, lol!
    The more training you put on them, the more sensitive and strong they get, and the more feed they need...
    And sometimes you get problems with the relaxing bit.

    But how the horse behaves is also partly due to how you keep him, isn't it?

    An example: I have had the pleasure(?) of riding an antelope instead of a horse in my dressage work the two months leading up to Christmas.
    I believe one of the reasons to that is that my horse did not get as much trail riding as normal due to the darkness and the absence of snow. I could not ride out after work.

    When we are out on trail, it's time off from work.
    To my horse it is the possibility to let off some steam, see some new surroundings, pretend to be scared and jump around - just having fun. She might even choose where we go from time to time.
    And I believe that makes it easier for her to concentrate on work when we are in the arena.

    So we have a good mix here of horse personalities, training and management - don't we?

    Looking forward to the coming posts, Mugs!

  19. Hey Mugs,
    Im catching up to what you wrote to me last week. Lucas still goes out every day, and he had a mini break this week, with just some lunging time due to me being busy at work.

    Hes becoming happy. I plan to keep up this 4-5 weeks of decent work (2 or so rides a week + lunging depending on the weather) with a week of lighter work thrown in when I can. He's gained about 100 lbs from when he came, and all the cracks in his frog have grown out and hes growing healther foot.

    On the note of the post - I rode Lucas the first day I brought him home. I knew he was broke but we went to figure out how he would react a new place. The next day (or time) I try 'buttons'. We know he knows walk, trot, canter. Will he move away when I put my leg on here? Can he bend this way? What does he do when I do 'this'? Basicly I want to find out what he knows and how much he knows, so I know where to start.

  20. I've got a bit of experience with track horses, and I do find that they are dead broke, but only to certain things.

    For instance, they can handle lots of 'business' in the barn, people coming and going, not having one set handler, just lots of stimulus. Consistent loud noise doesn't stress them out, they've been exposed to cheering grandstands at the track. They've also been handled lots on the ground, know how to lead very well, are good about standing for the vet and farrier and for getting their legs wrapped, etc.

    However, most track horses have NEVER been tied. Ever. All the ones I've seen have been tacked up loose in their stall or with a handler holding them. Cross ties are new experience. Tie rings are new experience. When teaching a trackie to cross tie in an aisle for the first time, I usually take two lead ropes, attach one to each side of their halter, and just thread each end through the bars of the stalls on either side of the horse. If they take a step sideways, forwards, backwards, whatever, I immediately ask them to take just as many steps in the reverse direction so they're standing where they were before. I want them to know that once they're standing in the aisle, they're STANDING IN THE AISLE, doesn't matter if a bucket clatters right behind them, a delightful grain bucket is heading their way, a dog is running under their feet, whatever, if they're in the aisle, they're parked until I say move. But at least with just the leadropes, should they suddenly fly backwards or forwards from being truly spooked, they can pull free and not hang themselves in the aisle.

    Next, I'll attach the real crossties. I'll tug on them, put pressure on the halter, ask the horse to back up a few steps just until the slack in the cross ties tightens, ask them to move forwards, sideways, etc. and do the same thing. And then I will park them. I expect them to stand still while I groom, tack up, pull their mane, brush their face, etc. But it's important for them to understand that even though there's open space in front of them and behind them, they can't just up and walk off. It's when they don't realize that they're tied that cross ties are dangerous. The horse may stand perfectly quietly the first time they're in cross ties, you may not feel the need to ask them to move around until they feel the pressure of the ties on their halter. But then if something does spook them enough to want to move, and all of a sudden they realize their head is restrained and they can't go anywhere, that's when they'll lose their mind and accidents will happen.

  21. I've had babies born here, bought horses and even had a couple of wild (one very much so) BLM mustangs. And I'll be the first to admit that my approach is a little crazy.

    For all of the 'broke' horses that I get I give that a day and then get in the pasture with them. All of my horses are on pastures or dry lot turnout. In the pasture they get groomed, hoof picked and generally played with. They can wander off or jump away...but the job is going to get done. After a couple of days they get ridden in the small pen/turnout, its like a 60x100, and if they aren't crazy there then they get ridden in the big arena. If they are crazy they get I warm them up in the round pen before going into the big arena. I rarely tie my horses, and crossties freak me out (I watched a really bad accident in them once.)

    I don't 'imprint' my babies with the 'hey look its laying down' technique. I get in the pasture and groom the moms and let the babies get to know me. It helps that my broodmares are total sweethearts.
    Halter breaking is a non event, I have appys and have accepted the fact that some things happen on their schedule. It is usually between 6-8 months. By that point, the babies are used to weird things that humans do and happy for attention. During the first haltering I'll put it on 4-5 times with no pressure. I want the baby to accept the halter, not submit to it.

    I've noticed that acceptance and calmness go a long way for babies. One of my mustangs came as a yearling. After the first week she let me rub all over her. My 3 yr old stud has no issue with with hoof picking without a halter, though I keep telling the farrier not to take his leg away (having it pulled to the side freaks him out). But as soon as its underneath him he is fine.

    I have add a caution: liberty work only works when the horse is relaxed with its surroundings. An OTTB that is still coming down from racing feed (which I understand is like 90% grain) probably won't care where you are when it is dancing around. Mine didn't, to the point where I had to re-enforce walking on a halter with a backwards lunge whip to stop her diving to my other side.

    Some mustangs may need a different pasture from the initial one. My 5 year old decided one morning that she wanted to be in with the babies. Then proceeded to clear a 5 ft gate. With room to spare. She just wasn't happy with her pasture mates, I guess. Oddly, this has led to improvements in her ground manners by leaps and bounds. It seems that by her reasoning, if the yearling and two-year-old are okay with it she will be too. This is to the point where I was finished working with the yearling on walking and I walked up to Gig with a rope halter, she stuck her head in it.

    For anyone randomly on this site, do not throw your kid up on a horse without knowing that horse. If you don't ride make the kid's trainer ride the horse before your kid gets up on it. I went to visit my Aunt in NYC, and my cousin (who is like 11, which is weird) had a riding lesson. I'm watching them saddle this little 12hh pony for her and I asked who was going to warm it up. My kid safe gelding (15 yo and 15hh, but he is an angel for any kid) doesn't get ridden until after I warm him up (well that was until he got peppy for my son, who just broke him down and calmed him down with no problem :)Proud). So no one was planning on warming up this horse and I offered to get on him just make sure. I got crow hops, fence diving and he tried to run down the trainer. When I asked if that is how he acted just for adults, the guy said 'no, he is like that for everyone.' Apparently, because my cousin had sat on a horse before she had enough skill for him. WTF? The girl is 11, and the pony almost dumped me a couple of times. My aunt, who rides low level H/J found a new barn.

  22. Justaplainsam said...
    The next day (or time) I try 'buttons'. We know he knows walk, trot, canter. Will he move away when I put my leg on here? Can he bend this way? What does he do when I do 'this'? Basicly I want to find out what he knows and how much he knows, so I know where to start.

    Having not started a non-broke horse, I agree with this. Once you've got over the first day, or the first w/t/c then you find out what else they know, what their learning style is, how they react to your aids and what adjustments you need to make - what's their mouth like, how do they carry themself, how are the transitions. simple stuff.

  23. Track and Back - I almost killed my first OTTB. She was so easy to saddle and handle I just tied her to the trie rail and walked off. It never occurred to me she didn't understand being tied.
    She lost her mind when she realized she was tied.
    When all was said and done she was skinned up, swollen and had learned to be tied.
    I felt terrible. And stupid. And just loved calling the owner to let her know I had almost killed her horse.
    Luckily we both survived and Iearned to approach things with a slightly more open mind and to quit making assumptions.

  24. I can't begin to claim to be a trainer, especially not of youngsters. I've sat on the back of more than a few greenies but that's just about it.

    I've also ridden dead-broke horses so I do know the difference. :)

    But even us non-trainers are "training", every time we interact with our horses, I think - for good or ill.

    When people first meet me and see me with my horses, the word "fluffbunny" probably occurs to the more hard-bitten equestrians. And in some ways, I fit that description: my horses are pets, I play with them, I coo at them, I sing to them, I give them treats. I cut up 5 lbs of carrots into little bite-sized pieces, to give to them and to any other horse at the barn whose owner approves (in their grain buckets: not all are as aware of where the carrot stops and the fingers begin as mine are). I'm very popular among the equine residents because of this. :)

    My old horse does "kisses for carrots", softly bumping my nose with his, then looks expectantly down to my hand for the bit of carrot. I'm the human Pez dispenser. The younger one nods maniacally when I ask "Are you a good boy?"

    However, I do not tolerate *any* agressive behavior, no leg cocking when I'm nearby that leg, there's no "I don't wanna!" allowed from the ground or when I'm on their backs. Not that I have to remind them often - maybe they just have super-compliant personalities (they are quarter horses, after all! :) ), they're very well mannered.

    But, and here the fluffbunny enters into it again, I do tolerate a benign expression of opinion (though it's always ignored) - which for the Gray Pig, who has the most flexible tail I've ever seen in a horse who isn't an Arab, means whacking my back with his tail in a fit of pique. I laugh at him, and we move on.

    Still, my horses are safe to be around, they respect a human's space, and they seem to know when the human is open to them canoodling as well.

    My horses are also my pals - and that works for us.

  25. For those of us in parts of the world that don't follow the terminology, what is a blocker ring?

    I think this mind-meld is a great concept but how well it will work when there are so many entirely contrary ideas around I don't know. I wonder whether it would be easier to have accounts along the lines of "how did you ... x" rather than "how would you ... x?" We all have theory and our practice proves it right or wrong, but it seems to me that describing how something turned out might bring out the best of both worlds.

    You mention touching all over- for me that is a useful starting point because it's the beginning of desensitisation - if a horse can't handle me approaching and touching them it's going to be troublesome for us to get anything else done. It also has some side benefits - if the horse is uncertain and wants to move off then they'll find that they can do that but I'll just stay with them until they quit and that if they don't I'll give them the space and time they need to think it through. Once they can tolerate it, we can get down to the serious business of scratchies. I have an entirely unsupported notion that if I can give a horse some scratchies that they really get into, they'll maybe have the idea that being around me might be alright.

    Tying up is an interesting thing- I would never expect a horse to tie up and I would want to be pretty sure that they knew how to yield to pressure on the halter before I even tried tying them. That said I've seen the horse being taught to tie and to yield to pressure on the halter at the same time, just keeping their feet moving if they tried to pull or get stuck and letting them relax when they weren't pulling. You need a certain degree of finesse to get that right though.

    My wife lost her first horse in a tying up accident. He knew how to tie but something spooked him and he fell and the bit of frayed twine on the tying ring that people in the UK tend to use in the assumption it will break in a crisis didn't break at all. She had to wait with his head in her lap while the vet arrived to put him down. Being around someone who has been through that can give a little perspective on teaching a horse to tie. She still doesn't do it generally- she just teaches her horses to ground tie instead.

    I certainly wouldn't want to work on anything they were uncertain about with a horse that was tied up. In my experience if there is something a horse is concerned by they need to be able to move their feet and I would much rather work in an arena or pen and let them move than restrict that. If anything I do could trigger a horse's fight-or-flight response I would certainly prefer them to have the option of flight.

  26. Mugwump:

    I think that's the main thing with OTTB's. You can't make assumptions. They will be super quiet for certain things, like saddling, grooming, having their feet done, usually needles and the like as well since they get more than exposed to all that at the track. So it's easy to let your guard down and assume after handling them for the first little bit that they're quiet enough to handle anything. You just have to remember that they're not used to 'normal' barn life, things like being tied, being asked to canter while another horse is cantering ("what, another horse cantering, don't you know we're supposed to flatten out and overtake them?!") etc.

    The thing I love about OTTB's though is that once you show them something a few times, they're perfectly okay with it. Most of them anyways. My one mare still finds blowing sand/dirt to be the most terrifying thing in the world. You think she'd get used to it, being ridden in an outdoor ring that can get quite dusty at times. Nope.

  27. Wow I got behind.

    All of the new horses that I have worked the last few years have been my babies. I do try to observe the differences in personalities of each individual and adjust accordingly. I think that observation is exactly the first step. Getting to know what the little idiosyncrasies are - if they are more reactive, or a thinker or ??? I don't do much with the babies. I make sure I can halter them, pick up their feet, they tie, lead and load into the trailer - that is about it for the first couple of years. I don't do anything with them for the first 3 or 4 months. Then start in an open area or round pen with a soft cotton rope and put it around there neck and pull them around to make them face me. I don't put a halter on them until they will lead and back with a cotton rope around there neck. It is method a farrier taught me and it just works for me. I work them about 5 - 10 minutes the first day then give them a rest for a day or two. Then again for 5 - 10 minutes a couple more times. I had one that it took one session and the next time he acted like he had been leading for years. Others it takes 3 or 4 lessons. When they are moving forward on a slack rope I put the halter on them. I don't attach the rope to the halter. I just keep using the neck rope. When they are haltering easy and used to the halter I will put a lead rope on it and walk off - no pulling on the rope. Usually they just follow because that is what they have been taught to do with the neck rope. I ususally don't say much or talk during the sessions. I do rub them on the face and sometimes on the neck and I expect them to stand still for that. I always step to them for that, never let them step to me. I don't have alot of eye to eye contact with them. Next I work on picking up feet and standing tied. After that they are weaned and go out to pasture. The only other time I mess with them is when they get vet or farrier visits. I have had 6 babies that I have worked this way with great results. I think that the key is being quiet, short sessions, letting them rest and think, only giving them what they can handle at any given time. The first three I worked this way accepted saddles the first time like they had been saddled a million times. They were easy to start. No fuss, no muss. Two are bred to be working cowhorses and currently in training, the third is by a mare that is bred to run and the sire is a rope horse. She is in training to be a reiner and doing great.

  28. Sorry I'm so late~~

    With my round pen work I get the facing up, approaching and haltering established. I don't get broke horses in to train...just unbroke horses and some are range raised or BLM mustangs. So, I then teach them to give to pressure on the lead left and right and start getting them to move forward leading. My facility doesn't have a good tie place outside, so the horse needs to be able to lead to take him inside the barn to begin the tie lessons.

    Once they're comfortable with me and the halter, I build trust by just doing simple things with them like brushing, and I also do what John Sharp termed as "the rope treatment." It's just a long 1/2 inch cotton rope that is use to sack the horse out with. He gets used to the rope touching him everywhere (legs, tummy, rump, near side and off side). Which ever side the horse is most nervous on, I do more work on that side. The horse gets used to my hands and arms moving all around. The horse learns which of my body movements actually mean something (such as go forward) and which body movements have no meaning and they are to stand still. This could take 1-3 days, depending on the horse.

    I'll be the first to admit...I'm short...vertically challenged...just 5'. I can't physically put the saddle up on most horses without swinging it up. That has a lot of movement coming toward the horse, so I'm preparing the horse to be saddled. I start out with my lightest saddle, but it still takes a bit of a swing to get it up there for me.

  29. Glenatron--

    A tie blocker is sort of a newer device. it is a ring that you can either temporaily or peremnt mount on something to tie your horse. It has a moveable metal tongue that sticks to the bottom of the ring with a magnet. You thread the rope through it so if the horse pulls the rope will go through, but has enough resistance to make the horse believe he is tired. Also you can loop it around once to give a more firm hold.

    If you use a longer rope with it if the horse panics and pulls back he is still "attached" but has some slack so doesn't panic.

    I think those of us who are so careful about teaching to tie have seen some sort of horrific accident. There is no more helpless feeling than seeing a paniced horse tied fast, and it is extremely dangerous for a person to interfere (I speak from experience which is why I posted what I did about tying.)

    Also as a side note I detest bungees as well as I have seen one snap and the snap flew like a bullet and injuried someone.

    You cannot be too careful around horses, but you sure can be too careless.

  30. When I get a new horse in, I round pen him/her the first day. I want that horse to respect me, to bond with me, and to relax in the arena. I keep them tied in their stalls for a short time, starting with 1/2 hour and building up to 3 hours over the next few weeks, to learn patience. The ansy ones always have a buddy so they don't go balistic if they don't like being tied. If the horse is one that I have had in to ride before, or that I know is a rider and is in for a tune up, I'm on that horse the 2nd day. If the horse is new to me, then I round pen with a saddle on the 2nd day. I used to ground drive, stopped for awhile, and now I'm back to ground driving. I want that horse to easily give to the bit and to follow direction. I want that horse used to ropes around his legs. I throw the rope at his face, over the saddle, around his legs. I take off the ropes, and just let the horse relax for a few minutes in the arena, watching so that he doesn't lay down and roll with my saddle on! I stay at the stage where I'm working the horse on the ground with the saddle on until I know that horse will be quiet when I step up on.

  31. GAWD! I was up until midnight last night reading through the sonita stories again so I could get some ideas for my new boy Mugs.. Sheesh..

    First plan of action: Ride him and turn his head loose! he is going to probably panic!


Follow by Email