General Horse Handling
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"We should avoid touching him [the horse] too lightly, which might only have the effect of tickling him."
Writing of a Ray Hunt and Tom Dorrance clinic he attended: "That was the first time I ever saw a person work a horse that way, using his understanding of a horse's mind and body to train with kindness and to end up getting some of the sharpest turns and hardest stops I'd ever seen. And all with a plain snaffle bit. What's more, the horse looked happy, as if he enjoyed being with the man. His expression showed contentment in his eyes."
"[A horse] is naturally curious and is apt to investigate things he hasn't seen or been around before, He is also liable to run away from those same things." It takes an observant person to develop a sense of where the spot is between those tendencies.
"It's up to the rider to gain an understanding of how each horse needs to have information presented, and there's a great deal of variation in that."
"When the horse understands what you want, he will do what that is, right up to the limit of his physical capacity and sometimes well beyond it."
"[Most people] aren't comfortable around a horse unless they are trying to operate him through some equipment they put on him."
"Some people have a tendency to pay a good deal of money to get things done for them with their horses, but the investment they don't seem to make is in terms of time, and putting that time in with their horse. This is so important to the horse."
"As long as you're planning to be around horses, it's a good idea to be speculating all the time as to what little changes you can make, or what new little things you could do so that things go smoother between you and that horse."
"Understanding a horse is something of an art.... It's more than knowledge."
"Anyone with a sincere desire to achieve this connection with a horse could develop this ability." Time is important, and so is having someone knowledgeable to help, but "the main source of information they'll rely on comes straight from the horse."
"Overexposure" refers to "anything that the horse can't adjust to, can't handle, or that doesn't fit into the way he understands things."
"All you can hope to do is be more observant when you are around horses and become better prepared to help the horse keep his mental system on the right track."
"So many problems come up for the horse because there's an assumption made by the person that the horse just automatically knows somehow what he is supposed to do...."
"...before you can learn how to present something to the horse through feel that he's going to understand, you have to learn how to observe and make sense of the way he operates his body and how new information is processed in his mind."
"It takes far more time for the person to learn what to do than it does for the horse to learn."
"A good horseman knows how to learn from each horse he works with. He knows how to present an understandable feel and he'll adjust to the individual horse whenever it's necessary, so the horse can stay with him mentally."
"A person oughtn't slap a horse and think they're rubbing him, but some people do this anyway and say they are petting him. In most cases, that really doesn't fit a horse...."
"The main point in teaching him how to lead up real free is to teach him to respond, through fee, with respect."
"Due to his natural inclination to want to get along in the world, the horse is all the time going to try to find meaning in what you present to him, and to adjust in the best way he knows how."
"If a person takes time to think about this from where the horse is, they might switch their thinking around to favor the horse and just limit what they expect of him to what he can actually understand and do."
"It's what that horse thinks and feels that is our greatest concern. Or it should be anyway."
"Your lessons don't ever need to be too long."
"Give the horse clear signals to avoid confusing him."
"If a horse hasn't been scared too badly or had the try taken out of him, then at the point when he understands where and when and how fast you want him to place his feet, it's usually only the limits of his physical capacity that will prevent him from doing it."
"If there's an excess of pressure applied to a horse that is confused, resentment can set in there and when it does, he lets you know about it."
"A horse is ready for learning mostly because of his naturally curious side, and if people only knew he was this way, things would go smoother than most people can imagine."
"...the horse's head position isn't the same as having control of those feet the way you need them to be when the horse is feeling of you and can understand what you expect him to do."
"The true horseman should put into practice these words of Captain Beudant's: 'Ask for much, be content with little, and reward often.'"
"...whenever you're having a problem with an animal, try to see what the animal is seeing and experience what the animal is experiencing. There are lots of things that can upset an animal—smells, changes in routine, exposure to things he hasn't experienced before—and you should consider all of them."
"...animals see details people don't see."
"A still reflection is always less of a problem for an animal than a moving one, although any bright reflecting surface can scare an animal."
"The problem with high-pitched sounds like hissing air and hydraulic squeals is that they're too close to distress calls, which are almost always high-pitched."
"Prey animals don't have perfect 360-degree vision, although they come close. There's one small blind spot directly behind a cow or horse that you have to be careful not to sneak up to. The animal can't tell what you are, and he might get scared and lash out and kick you. Prey animals also have a small blind spot directly in front of their heads because their eyes are set so far to the sides."
"Animals seem to see sharp contrast on the floor as a false visual cliff; they act as if they think the dark spots are deeper than the lighter spots."
"...yellow is a high-contrast color for almost all animals. Anything yellow will really pop out at the, so you have to be careful about yellow raincoats, boots, and machinery...However, not all high contrast will scare an animal, only high-contrast visual stimuli that are novel and unexpected."
"Novelty is a huge problem for all animals, all autistic people, all children—and just about all normal grown-ups, too, though normal adults can handle novelty better than animals, autistic people, or kids. Fear of the unknown is universal."
"On its own, an animal will always investigate a novel stimulus, even though new things are scary."
"Since anything new could be dangerous, an animal wants a clear escape route before he's going to poke his nose into something he's never seen before."
"Animals and autistic people don't have to be paying attention to something in order to see it."
"Animals are very sensitive to body language."
"It turns out that all animals and humans have what researchers call a built-in confirmation bias. Animals and humans are wired to believe that when two things happen closely together in time it's not an accident; instead the first event caused the second thing to happen."
"Horses are social herd animals, and they need to be with other horses....Horses don't need private stalls; they need other horses."
"Even a lot of normal people don't realize that you have to stroke animals, not pet them. They don't like to be petted. You have to stroke them the way the mother's tongue licks them."
"When a stallion is raised in solitary confinement he never learns normal social behavior, and that's what makes him dangerous to other males."
"...a horse isn't born knowing the rules; he has to be taught the rules by other horses. A stallion locked up in solitary confinement in a fancy show barn is not normal. He's especially likely to show abnormal aggression."
"Raising young stud colts in a pasture full of older geldings will teach them some manners and create a good stallion that you can ride like a normal horse....Young horses need to get out and have a chance to be horses."
"You couldn't train a horse to be an 'attack horse' even if you tried, although a horse who feels threatened can be very dangerous."
"...a nervous prey animal like a horse or a cow doesn't need to learn obedience as a separate concept the way a dog does. A cow or a horse who's being trained just needs training, not dominating...."
"You have to be gentle when you're working with prey animals. I've seen so many animals ruined by owners who traumatized them through rough or ignorant handling. The whole idea of breaking a horse is a perfect example. If you break a horse, he's broken. He's traumatized for life and usually no use to anyone after that, including himself a lot of times."
"...animals and people learn by watching what other animals or people do, not by doing something themselves and learning from the consequences. I have the impression this lesson hasn't quite been absorbed by most educators."
"You have to match your handling to the animal. High-fear animals need super-gentle handling. Low-fear animals don't need harsh handling, but they don't fall apart if they get it."
"Since it's just about impossible to un-scare a seriously scared animal, you should do whatever you can to fright-proof your animals....If you own a riding horse, you should train him to be as comfortable with novelty and change as possible."
"New things are attractive if the animal can voluntarily approach them. Allow a horse to approach and sniff a new saddle."
"Horses and cattle are likely to be afraid of novel things that have erratic, rapid movements such as flags and balloons.
"Exerting dominance does not mean beating an animal into submission. Exerting dominance means using the animal's natural method of ommunication."
"An animal's environmental needs depend on the species. highly social animals such as dogs and horses need the companionship of other animals or people. Grazing animals such as horses and cattle need hay or grass."
"It can take many years of working with and around horses to reset your clock to horse time and learn to correctly read their body language."
"The training, care, and handling of horses is a lifelong learning course, so being in a hurry doesn't offer much of a reward and can end up costing a lot in missed opportunities and downtime for horse and/or rider."
"Round penning does not mean chasing a horse around in a circle until it is physically and emotionally exhausted. Used in that manner, the tool can do permanent physical (if not psychological) damage."
"Reading his [the horse's] intent accurately and learning how to clearly communicate your own is what learning how to train a horse is all about."
"A horse's natural curiosity is a tool you can use to control his choices, and it is second in intensity only to his sense of caution and self-preservation by flight."
"If you want to be 'smarter than the average bear' as a trainer, expand your knowledge of training beyond the arena and learn how topography can be used, like exercise machines at a gym, to build the equine body."
"You can only strengthen the horse by regularly taking him to the edge of his fitness level, but you must not cross over that line."
"A smart trainer will not put his horse in a situation where the horse is being programmed in a negative manner, either physically or mentally, because once programmed into a horse's body and movement pattern, defensive behavior is hard to eradicate."
"Horses rely on people for their well-being; so good horsemanship includes making sure that the horse is capable of performing the task that is being asked of him>"
"Horses are just like people in that they are all individuals. What works on one might not work on the next one."
"Riders must remember that they were in school for many years to learn what they know, so it will also take a horse a long time to achieve every skill they need to know."
"There is no room for a big ego when you are learning to be the best you can be."
"If you listen carefully to a horse being worked in an indoor arena, you can often tell if he is using himself correctly by the amount of noise his footfalls make. Less noise means he is lighter on his feet and is moving more correctly than a horse with loud, pounding footsteps."
"...the longer you take to 'make' a horse, the better the product you'll have in the end."
"...proper physical training can prolong your horse's useful years."
"...horses do talk. We just need to learn how to listen to what they're saying — that is, we need to learn how to interpret their body language and behavior."
"...training needs to follow three golden rules: Clarity, Consistency, and Kindness."
"Occasionally, force or domineering styles of training will produce competent athletes, but I'd be willing to bet that these approaches rarely create happy horses that have joyful partnerships with their riders."
"...Ray Hunt say, 'The way to make fast progress is slowly....'"
"Horses hardly ever progress according to human timetables. They develop at their own rate and will excel at some movements but need more time for others."
"...you have a built-in instructor. Your horse gives you direct and immediate feedback of your progress as a trainer. His resistance decreases proportionately as your skill develops."
"...to work with a horse the way we want to, both trust and obedience are absolutely essential, in their highest form."
"My body language informs the horse that I am a being in whom he can have confidence, to whom he can be submissive, without in the least giving up his pride or his will to live. On the contrary, he says to himself, 'someone who uses so little force to dominate me is someone from who I can learn comfortably; being with him increases and strengthens my self-confidence.'"
"I do not accustom my horses to plastic bags, rubbish bags, or bright red rubber balls. I accustom them to me. I do exactly what the lead horse in the wild herd does and then no horse will wheel and bolt just because a squirrel decides to sit on the edge of the road."
"Our goal is to strengthen the self-confidence of our horses each time we work with them."
"The horse has no problem submitting himself, but he must trust in the one to whom he submits."
"Working with a horse means first of all working on oneself."
"We can only expect the degree of sensitivity from our horse that we show him. We can only expect the degree of concentration from him that we ourselves demonstrate. The work with horses begins here, with ourselves."
"The reactions and the carriage of the horses are nearly always mirror images of the actions and the bearing of the horsemen. A horse always tells the truth, frequently mercilessly."
"Rid yourself of ambition; it poisons any work you do with horses."
"If the challenges are too easily met, boredom and lack of enthusiasm sneak in. If they are too difficult, we overface our horse physically or psychologically, thereby creating the corresponding 'resistance' and 'fight' responses."
"...it is the lack of care in the beginning which is the source of most of the vices and problems horses have in the future."
"...the wise words of Franz Mairinger, a former oberbereiter of the Spanish Riding School, shout out from his book ['Horses are Made to be Horses'] 'the horse knows how to be a horse, it is we who need to know how to allow him to be so'. Note, dear reader, the word is to 'allow' — not to 'make'."
"As each horse is different, no one can afford to be complacent or rigid in outlook."
"One last word about training methods. One should never be too proud to change one's views."
"Time and again throughout history, good horsemen had proven the efficacy of humane, psychological methods of handling horses."
"With patience, persistence, and consistency in the asking, the horseman helps the horse find the correct answer."
"Through consistent communication and empathetic leadership, we can transform the horse from a prey animal whose motivations are completely contrary to ours, to a willing partner who is on our team."
"[John Lyons says,]...start where you're in control and build from there."
"'I want the horse to understand he can have his self-preservation and still respond to what we're asking him to do,' he [Peter Campbell] explains. 'The horse will tell us what we need to do to work with him if we only listen, understand, and feel as the horse does.'"
"The enlightened concept is to use the least pressure necessary to obtain the desired result."
"Today we can all learn what was once known only to the exceptional horseman: how to communicate with another species using the means of communication that that species has been genetically endowed with. We can speak to the horse in a language he understands and thereby maximize the relationship between horse and human. We can get the horse to do what we want him to do, not because he is forced to do so, but because he wants to."
"Most of the things we teach horses consist of conditioned responses. When we condition, we seek to establish predictable behavior that is fixed by reinforcement. There are two kinds of reinforcement: negative and positive."
"Negative reinforcement does not imply punishment. What it means is that we create discomfort for the horse....physical or psychological. Then, when the horse exhibits the behavior we desire, we remove the discomfort and immediately and profusely give the horse comfort."
"...with negative reinforcement we give the horse comfort by stopping discomfort, whereas with positive reinforcement we simply give the horse an immediate reward when we obtain the desired behavior."
"You must establish the ground rules for the relationship [between trainer and the horse] from the position of benevolent dictator, but once that is working well, you can move easily and smoothly toward the senior partner role."
"That horse will show you what to do....Just look at everything you do from his point of view, and the rest will take care of itself."
"This particular animal's [the horse's] first instinct of survival is to get away from anything that scares him, and until he knows different, everything scares him."
"Just because a certain training technique works on one [horse] doesn't necessarily mean it will work on all of them."
"...the key to being able to catch horses that don't want to be caught is, first, knowing why they don't want to be caught and, second, being able to change their minds."
"As a rule, if you can make it more work for the spoiled horse not to be caught than it is to be caught, he will change his mind quickly, and thus become easy or at least easier to catch."
"...it's not uncommon for a terribly spoiled horse to take a week or more finally to decide for itself that it's easier to stand and be caught than it is to run away."
"By using the exact same technique on a frightened horse as you would on a spoiled one, chances are you would just reinforce his fears and, in turn, make him even harder to catch."
"Most horses want to learn and do what is asked. They simply want to be asked in a way they can understand."
"During any training session, it's extremely important to give the horse a break from what you're doing. This allows him to relax and clear his head and also allows for what you're doing to sink in."
"...most horses will go out of their way to try to be dependable for you. The problem is, before that can happen, they first have to be able to depend on you."
"It's the people who don't take the time to do things right, don't have the patience to help the animal instead of force him, or don't try to understand his point of view, who run into trouble."
"Quitting on a positive note is important for both the horse and the person working with him."
"We're always so busy trying to show horses what we want from them that we don't take the time to listen to what they're trying to say back."
"...considering what the horse considers important, perhaps even of interest, in our dealings with them can result in a tremendous improvement in the horse's performance and our own comfort."
"We can physically compel a horse to do some things, and that may be necessary at times for the horse's or our own safety. But going about things like that as a general rule makes most horses grumpy and insensitive."
"If you believe horses are capable of an intelligent two-way conversation, you may find horses telling you more than you wanted to know."
"...being turned out all day with a heard is necessary for a healthy body and strong character."
"A training plan that is correct for the horse should focus solely on the individual horse's physical and mental development."
"The trainer and the rider must figure out what job the horse is best suited for and in which he'll be most comfortable."
"Good training can only be built on a reciprocal relationship of respect and trust."
"A mature, experienced horse person is best equipped to raise a quiet, self-confident, obedient and reliable riding horse."
"Positive and negative experiences mold the behavior of a horse."
"I achieve trust and respect from a horse only when I offer him trust and respect."
"Consistency is essential when interacting with a horse and when riding so that the horse learns to understand what the person wants."
"When something doesn't work, ask yourself, 'Why?' Have you used the right aids? Has the horse understood you? Was the exercise reasonable? Does the horse have a muscle cramp from yesterday or the day before? As a rider or trainer, you have the responsibility to present the exercise in a way that the horse can understand — and execute it."
"It makes no sense to work past the point of fatigue."
"It is not blind obedience you want, just reliable obedience and mutual trust and respect."
"If you have control of the horse's body, you have control of the horse; but if his head is the only thing you control, you have no control at all."
"Never fight with a horse to try to teach him things."
"Horses have been used for man's purposes for centuries; we owe it to them to see what they can give us of their own free will."
"...time, patience, love, courage, sensitivity, and many other qualities have to be lavished on your horse in order to allow you to see, to understand, and finally to achieve the result you aim for."
"Is it not perhaps time for man to recognize what has been taken from the horse and to look to what we might do in return?"
"...we should try to make our aims, his aims and his, ours."
"Nothing could replace what the horse has lost but if we were to learn to treat horses with due respect, we would at least make a step in the right direction."
"[The horse] has to integrate what I teach him so the rules must be simple, precise, and coherent."
"Instead of substituting a new form of stress, as an 'enforcer,' we should take on the role of 'decider,' not the one who imposes his will and dominates the horse."
"I am not a predator like the wolf. Nor am I an alpha horse who would, in the wild, rule by fear and create stress. I feel that my parent-child description is possibly the closest parallel."
"...I saw that if a horse is persuaded to do something too quickly then he has insufficient time to decide if you are his friend or not."
"We all have to find our own way but at the same time not close our minds to advances and discoveries made by other trainers."
"...every horse must be treated as an individual and your approach to each must be geared to that individual."
"You may have the same final aim with every horse but be prepared to take a different road."
"You must first learn about the horse you are dealing with and then adapt what you already know or even break new ground by trying something you have never tried before."
"...you must observe the horse; listen to him; make the horse confident, trusting, and relaxed; and finally set the parameters of what you are doing."
"...work can have better results if it is channeled through game-playing where the notion of pleasure and freedom to show initiative and invention are paramount."
"...in many ways one has to allow the usual roles to be reversed: what can I do for the hose and not just, what can the horse do for me?"
"...I have to constantly be on the lookout to see if I am overdoing things. If I think I might be, I need to have the necessary courage to stop and say, 'The horses' welfare comes first.'"
"I am always conscious that my first responsibility to the horses is to see that they are happy and enjoy doing what they do."
"I take into account a horse's mental and physical traits before I decide on my approach to the exercises and the playing we will do together."
"...you have to get to know the horse, and you will make more progress if you do not start by immediately asking him to do something."
"When you work with a horse you ask him to leave whatever he is doing and pay attention to you. ...if you allow an interruption on your end, you are being disrespectful to him."
"To make your idea the same as the horse's is the best possible solution to many problems."
"I never set the horse an impossible task — impossible, that is, in relation to his fears. Avoid a 'check,' let alone a 'checkmate' situation at all costs."
"The natural reaction of a horse to something he does not know is very often opposition."
"If there is opposition then it is essential to avoid conflict by going round the problem in some way."
"People, who have little to do with horses, often pat them without any particular thought behind the action. In my experience horses do not like this...."
"When horses are allowed the opportunity to find the solution to a problem they are delighted, and it makes them even more eager to find solutions to problems in the future."
"To dominate the will of a horse and to stifle initiative is, however kindly meant, a cruel deprivation — and all too commonplace."
"Remember, equitation and horsemanship is not a set art. Our horses are a laboratory where work continues every day."
"...you will make mistakes but these won't be serious as long as you don't persist in the wrong direction."