Monday, April 6, 2015

To Spook or Not to Spook, That is the Question 3

Shoot, I have to add something to yesterdays post. I guess all my fan mail had me too excited to think straight.
Before I left Student to switch horses I told her to not let the horse come to her when they stopped.
If he made a step toward her she was to send him out again, and keep doing so until he rested in the exact same place she had released pressure.

"But that's when we join up," she told me.

"His version of joining up seems to be mowing you down when he crosses the pen, keep him off you."


I loped my next horse for ten minutes before I headed back to Student. He was young enough I needed him to feel like standing still before I popped her up on him.

The dust in the round pen made it clear she had been working. She stopped when she saw me. Her gelding stopped the second she turned and seemed grateful.

"I'm not sure I understand what you meant," Student said.

"You understood enough, that horse looks ready to learn something."

"Really?" She smiled. It was big enough to start collecting dust and it was real. This was getting cool. The horse wasn't the only one ready to listen.

"Is he crawling over the fence trying to get at my horse?"

The gelding stood in the same spot she had left him. His eyes and ears were on Student.

"Well, look at that. I think he's standing there because he's afraid of you."

"Let's think about that," I said. "Is he watching me?"


"Is he watching my horse?"


"Who's he watching?"


"There you go, he's about to come over here, so put him back to work before his thought becomes an action."

Student picked up her whip and went to work. Things were choppy and awkward, but he wasn't hollering and he wasn't trying to mow her down.

"OK, hold up a minute," I called. "I want you to try something."

Student dropped her whip and turned and the paint stopped with a little bit of style. He lowered his head and cocked a hip.

"This is kind of a getting to know you exercise. I want you to do exactly as I tell you. Don't ask questions, don't hesitate, just go. If you feel scared or worried, then stop. There's no mistakes to be made, so don't worry about it, are we good?"


"Go ahead and face your horse, full on, but look at the ground--about three feet in front of his nose. I'm going to have you work completely straight.When you look at your horse, your eyes, shoulders, hips and feet will be in line. Does that make sense?"


"Good enough. When I say go, I want you to stare at the point of his shoulder like you can burn a hole in him. Then, extend your arm,  point your finger at the exact same spot and start marching towards him. Don't say anything, don't touch him and don't talk, just move at him like you mean it.

"Get ready, set, don't look at him yet! Okay, Go!"

Off she went. The gelding started to move away.

"Keep your eyes and finger locked on that shoulder and go!"

Two more strides and he turned to the rail and trotted of the other direction.

"Good, now point at this inside shoulder, burn a hole in him with those laser eyes and go!"

He turned into the fence and loped off again. Student started laughing. "I can't believe he's doing this!"

"Fun, huh?" I said. "You've got control of his shoulders. Play with that a little. She turned him a few more times and then pointed at his butt. He raced off."

"Oops," Student said. She turned and tossed me a worried look over her shoulder.

"What happened?" I asked.

"He ran when I pointed at his butt."

"What did you want him to do?"

"I'm not sure."

"Think a minute."

"I thought he would turn toward me."

"Nope. Play with it until you sort it out."

It took a bit, but she got things figured before she ran out of horse.

"I push him faster when I point to his butt and turn him with the shoulders."

"Yes. Now, stop him, halter him, and lead him around the yard. Play some more. Give him lots of slack. Keep his shoulders going where you want them, see where you can send him, try to control his speed, and change maneuvers before he hits the end o the lead rope."

Student was happily pushing her paint all over the place with her finger and a stare when K came around the back. Her horse was starting to get caught up in it with her, his eyes were one her hand, and he started to side-pass a step or two in a clean, controlled arc.

 "Look K," I said, "that horse has some moves."

"What kind of weirdness are you up to now?"

"Just showing her where his shoulders are."

"I think you're just having fun with her."

"I  think she's having fun with her horse. Besides, have you seen that thing spook even once?"


  1. Now this is a nice lesson!

  2. Like.
    I was taught in a similar way. "Just do what I say and quit asking questions." Usually, the questions answered themselves before we were done.

    I practice the point and stare method of moving the horses every day when I turn them out and bring them in. I rarely need a halter.

  3. She let things go which allowed her to open up. An open mind is a receptive mind.

    I didn't give her kudos for trying in the first post in this series, but I will now.

    She came back, receptive to help.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. I like her - I liked her from the very beginning when she paid for the first lesson. It shows a level of commitment to getting a handle on her situation.

    Love your last comment, about watching him spook. Not that they didn't need it, but I was wondering why you were spending so much time on the ground with them... I don't think you've ever told us a "groundwork" story before.

    This is fascinating, please continue!

  6. Can't wait for the next lesson!

  7. Its pretty funny.. I felt the tension leave my body when he began to pay attention to her.. the last two posts, while reading my whole body was tense.. geesh.. I love horses.

  8. Like Sally said, this post was helpful and thoughtful.

  9. As someone from a different discipline, who uses different discipline... Thanks, Mugs. Keep them coming. Learning what you already know isn't learning.

  10. Gosh, Sally and Jane, thank you so much for validating my 15 years as a professional, I was ready to throw in the towel.

  11. This series has been very interesting to me. I'm not quite sure why it's drawn the ire of so many people. I understand the instinct to swoop in and save someone from themselves, but this story illustrates why that's not always best for the student. First, I suspect that allowing the student to do things the way she'd been doing them helped Mugwump better understand how to help her. Second, it sometimes takes an abject failure (like the first time the student showed up) to really make you truly realize that what you're doing isn't working and make you completely ready to listen.

    Megan (who is too lazy to sign into Google)

  12. Yep -- good thing the student didn't die on that first day while mugs was "assessing" lol

  13. Mugwump, my impression was that Sally and Jane were both contributing kind gracious comments today in attempt to give a little to promote a better atmosphere within the blog given the big disagreements of the past few days.

    Why in turn do you respond to that generosity with snark & sarcasm, instead of reacting in kind?

    Truthfully, the lesson you described was good but it was also just a basic roundpen lesson that surely doesn't take 15 years of experience of horse training to pull off. I think Jane & Sally were being polite and extending an olive branch.

    So why do you react in the way you do? Is it because you recognize the grain of truth in what they have been saying over the past few days?

    Or you just enjoy the fighting?

  14. nice! sounds like she's figuring some things out. these are important lessons, i think - but usually can only be learned by 'doing' - not just from being told

  15. Anon, that was exactly why I posted what I did. Mugs responded as she usually does, with anger and lashing out. That is likely why there are so many Anons here.

    and now I wonder if this post was so helpful because she got so much snap-back from her previous ones. Seems odd to go from total disinterest, to so helpful.

  16. Yes that's true .It is a story afterall, and the control of what happens and how things turn out lies purely with the writer.

    I won't be surprised if the student in the story conveniently ends up actually thanking the instructor millions of times over for being ignored on the first day. And says she wishes she had experienced this type of training style years ago , saved her life, saved her horse etc

    Poetic license & the power of the pen :)

    Well I give you & Sally credit for trying - too bad it was not met with a similar peaceful conciliatory reaction.
    I don't understand it, but that's the way it is.
    (Perhaps another good phrase to cross stitch for all the needlepointers out there ;)

  17. I am finding this series fascinating. If I were into horses, I probably would be this student. I am into dogs, but I have similar problems with my body language and posture. I'm reading to see how I can improve my dog handling because my younger dog really needs me to be stronger and more consistent. Thanks for the food for thought, Mugs.

    Reading comprehension: Part 3 and Part 2 are written about the same lesson. Therefore, it seems unlikely that Mugs changed her approach based on readers' comments on Parts 1 and 2.

  18. Psssssst...I'm going to help you out here, Anons et al: Mugs' writing and responses are HER OWN to do with as she pleases. This is her house, you can eat what's put in front of you or find someone else to feed you.

    Her training, as described by her writing, is not up for debate or criticism, either. Your comments aren't going to change what happened in the past, and I sincerely doubt they'll affect her behavior now.

    Look, listen, and learn (or not). But you don't have to have an opinion on something that isn't yours.

  19. Leigh-Ann wrote: Her training, as described by her writing, is not up for debate or criticism, either. Your comments aren't going to change what happened in the past, and I sincerely doubt they'll affect her behavior now.
    Sure her training, is up for discussion. If that turns into a debate, so be it. If anyone else should decide that it is criticism, so be it. I'm not so sure that comments aren't going to change her behavior. You just never know, do you?

  20. We've done it before, let's do it again. How about absolutely none of us get sucked in by these Chronicle of the Horse rejects anymore?
    I'm not going to respond to any of them again, and I think if you guys follow my lead, they'll scream and yell, insult and whine...but eventually, if nobody talks to them, they will leave.
    We are after all, the cool kids,and they're, well, they're just not.

  21. and Leigh-Ann, one more thing. This is a story, only Mugs knows if it is fiction or non-fiction. So we don't know if it really happened in the past or now.

  22. I am sorry Mugs, but I am not a *looks up to copy correctly* Chronicle of the Horse reject.

    and I've read your blog for years, so I'm not likely to leave.

  23. I didn't hear any anger or lashing out from Mugs, I just heard fed up. If I were her, I probably wouldn't write any more stories. And I don 't think she has any "minions" here. Some of us just want her to continue writing and want her to realize that we appreciate what she's doing. This isn't "My Pretty Pony" blog.

    *head desk*

  24. Well, sheesh, those last 3 comments weren't there when I started typing. I think you're right, but I'll probably bite my tongue until it bleeds.

  25. Mugwump says "How about absolutely none of us get sucked in by these Chronicle of the Horse rejects anymore?"

    Apparently in complete denial of her role in the negativity and lashing out happening in the comments section of this blog for the past several days.


    Mugs do you not get that you, as owner of this blog set the standard for the atmosphere of this blog ? You tell your loyal readers to "shut the hell up" , call them "rejects" say "we're done" and then complain when people react to that ?

    You would be well advised to stop being so ultra defensive, apologize to those you've insulted or hurt, take the high road, set the example. Then watch your blog change like magic into one where interesting discussion and tolerance and kindness prevail.

  26. Mugs, I know self righteous bitterness is your MO, but it gets exhausting. Stop picking on your readers because they called you to the carpet for a poorly written piece. Not everyone who disagrees with you is a troll. Most of us are fans who know you can do better.

  27. Model The Way, I don't think Mugs knows how to do that, and she isn't good at modeling the positive responses that occur here. Remember, Mugs doesn't care if people quit reading or following her, as long as the ones who do stay, agree with her.

    also, love your handle.

  28. I have to say, I am surprised at the number of readers who seem to have shown up once there was a support team in place for those who don't always agree. I find it refreshing.

  29. Wish all the bitching would stop. I'm here for the useful comments, not the obnoxious back and forth - waste of time to have to skim and scroll past.

    This is an excellent story. I love how it is coming together and can't wait to see where it goes (it does keep going, right?). I'm impressed with the student, for sure.

  30. I admittedly am kind of surprised by reaction to this series of posts. That's as much as I'm going to comment on the comments. . .

    I admittedly see myself in that poor student. I think I empathize profoundly with that level of "Disassociation". I have spent a long time looking for "Connection" in my life. It's so easy to lose yourself in this, that or the other thing, make up connections to in a fit of hubris or denial. How many times have I thought, there's no possible way to make this work, when the only obstacle in my way was myself?

    It takes a pretty strong person to look at themselves, and think "how ridiculous" or worse.

    But that's why I love horses, they keep me humble. . .

  31. Mugwump,

    Although you said a little awkwardly it is an excellent idea you expressed in your last post for you to take a break, to breathe, step back and regroup. Staying quiet and silent can be helpful sometimes.

    You are not under attack! There is no marauding gang of trolls attacking your blog. We are all just loyal readers (I would have said fans but I think you told her to go to hell awhile ago ;) expressing opinions. There is no need for anyone to attack, feel attacked or turn regular people into enemies.

    There are no enemies. And anyway how would you be able to figure out who the enemies are? The people that express differing opinions?

    We are all here and have found your blog interesting and helpful or we wouldn't be here, and wouldn't have kept reading it all these years.

    Please chill, take a breath, there's no one out to get you.


  32. PonyFan
    I love this comment you just made---
    "It takes a pretty strong person to look at themselves, and think "how ridiculous" or worse. "
    How true for all of us!

  33. Ok, Long long LONG time reader here - I've never posted before but I feel the need to wade into the fray.

    Never once has mugs had to admit she was wrong - because she hasn't been. So her training methods don't match up with what you think they should be. Silence yourself - watch, wait, and it will come to you.

    Be butthurt if you want, but shut up and keep it to yourself. Wah wah wah, mugs didn't accept my shitty olive branch. She doesn't have to - I don't respond to my child whining and sulking because that's not the response I'm looking for.

    Episode 1 - she evaluated her student - just because someone decides she wants Mugs as a trainer does not necessarily mean Mugs wants her as a student. Apparently she passed the test. Value of time > money - and that goes for anyone.

    I would not have accepted help unloading my shit of a horse. Why? Because that validate all the shitty things I've done wrong rather than get my attention and make me want to learn right.

    Jesus, has the readership changed all that much? Mugs has taken the hard tack with others featured in her stories.

    Seriously, what the ever fuck? All y'all who are offended or attacking or have a problem with the way she's done things shut the crap up about it, wait, watch, and see BEFORE you judge or backseat train. Perhaps Mugs will reveal a lesson SHE's learned as well? She did with Tim and Tally...

    If you don't know who I'm talking about I suggest you read back and see how gentle and understanding and coddly her approach to training is.

    So disappointed with some of you. Mugs, please keep doing what you do - it's gold even if I don't agree with you 110% of the time.

  34. We've done it before, let's do it again. How about absolutely none of us get sucked in by these Chronicle of the Horse rejects anymore?
    I'm not going to respond to any of them again, and I think if you guys follow my lead, they'll scream and yell, insult and whine...but eventually, if nobody talks to them, they will leave.
    We are after all, the cool kids,and they're, well, they're just not.

  35. We are after all, the cool kids,and they're, well, they're just not.
    really? Twice?

  36. You know, it might be easier to simply turn off the commenting feature in your blog.

    Then you can just sit there and imagine the roar of applause in response to your posts and the thrill of all that praise you deserve without any distractions.

    Just Sayin'

  37. My two cents, for what it's worth...

    I'd like to think the student knew her horse was a handful and that's why she was seeking lessons, but she didn't know it would be quite THAT poorly behaved when she went to unload and get ready.
    The fact that she paid for the lesson without complaint and showed up early for the next one shows me that she understood she was paying for the trainer's TIME and wanted to learn. That she came for the second lesson with a positive attitude (re the greeted with a cheery wave) makes me think that she wasn't as upset about how things went down during the first lesson.
    I'd also like to think that IF she had been in any real, serious danger of being hurt that Mugs would have stepped in, although I could be completely off the mark there. I know I don't always offer help, some people don't take kindly to it.
    As for the comment about it ending up being a roundpen lesson that didn't need 15 years of experience to pull off (sorry if that's not a direct quote, I'm not wading through all the bitchy comments to make sure it's worded 100% verbatim). It seems to me that lesson was exactly what the owner and horse needed. The owner needed to gain some confidence and have something that gave her some success, the horse needed to be reminded that he can't run all over everyone. The poor girl was nervous as could be sitting on Mugs's quiet horse just a little bit previously, did we really think she should climb up on disrespectful, pushy ole Paint? Good horsemanship is more than just riding, it's everything we do whether in the saddle or on the ground. Considering the situation here I'd be shocked if there was NOTHING done on the ground.
    (kinda funny, at my lesson the other day my bestie's horse was an obnoxious snot, so our coach spent time with them ON THE GROUND)

  38. Here's my 2 cents - also for what it's worth.......

    I think the comment about the round pen stuff was in regard to Mug's remark about her own high level of expertise given that she has 15 years of experience.

    . I took it to mean that although ithe round pen lesson was clearly what the student needed that teaching a basic round pen lesson wasn't rocket science, so could have been taught by people with way less experience.

    I am happy that the student was so thrilled with how she was finally able to control her horse. It was a breakthrough moment for her.

    I also liked the way Mugs interacted with her student on day 2 of the lesson , explaining what to do and demonstrating. So helpful!

    I agree she was not yet ready to ride that Paint of hers, but hopefully if Mugs continues on supporting and guiding her in the right direction she will improve by leaps and bounds.

    I like this student :)

  39. Actually it is going to be a breath of fresh air to finally be able to comment & not get jumped on since Mugs has vowed not to respond to anyone.
    Feels like freedom :)

    Thank you MUGS !

  40. I like her too! Probably because I am humble enough to admit that I have been her to some degree or another at various points in my horse life ;)

  41. Yes me too! I easily see myself in her. Wanting to do well, thinking I have to sweet talk my horse into everything , getting the opposite results lol

    Don't even know how many years it took for me to learn better :)

  42. I love it when things click between horse and rider. Great read, can't wait to read more on this pair!

  43. starting to relax now that we can see the student has some capacity to listen and learn. I see a little bit of myself from several years ago in the rider when I found my coach. Don't understand the negative comments. Would love to have a Mugs set of lessons. Personally don't like hand-holding or coddling, like my lessons and feedback straight and on point. Can't wait to read more of the story.

  44. Grimm's Hairy TailsApril 8, 2015 at 11:54 AM

    A couple years ago I signed up for an open desensitization clinic at a local arena. You know, Mular balloons waving in the breeze, flags snapping, pool noodles dangling from frames, mattresses to walk over... There were 30 participants and a lot of activity. My horse was behaving about like the others except that he was hanging close in my personal space. One of the monitors came over and took my lead rope without asking and started snaking it in that NH way, hitting his chin with the snap to back him up out of my space. She then told me to go to a corner of the arena for 20 min and practice backing him and getting his attention. I did it, but resented every minute I spent there because I hadn't asked for help. You can show someone a different way to handle a horse, and give them options, but unless they ask for help or buy into your method, all you are going to get is resentment and anger. BTW, my horse backs and moves with hand signals, body language and air bubbles, and not slaps by a lead rope snap under the jaw. The too close personal space was my error and I could have sent him out if I had been bothered by it or if she had asked me to, instead of grabbing my lead rope to "just show me something." I suspect that Mugs' student would have been just as unreceptive and resentful had Mugs just stepped in to take control before being asked for help.

  45. The Anons are cracking me up. Be nice or else! Seems like a conflicted statement.

    Each of us learns differently. I saw these posts as a dual evaluation. The student had a choice if she didn't like what she saw and heard. Many of us are or have been stuck using incorrect ways of horsemanship, whether it's because of lack of knowledge or stubbornly sticking to the old ways. Mugwump could also make a choice if she saw that this gal was closed-minded and not likely to move on.

    I'm not one who wants to hear a bunch of sugar-coated stuff. Get to the point, preferably with lots of detail about why.

  46. Very cool. I wish I understood what was really going on. I am very much a visual learner.