Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Ponder This...


I wanted to throw a horse training question out to you all while it is on my mind. I've actually been perplexed by this for many years now, and an RFD-TV show with Craig Cameron reminded me.

Craig Cameron explained that when you desensitize your horse, you train it to soften up and relax when it is scared. You are not trying to desensitize it to each item that frightens the horse, because that list is endless. You are just working on helping the horse have a safe reaction to those things that scare it.

In his example, he shook a plastic bag that was tied to a longe whip at the horse. Of course, the horse ran in circles on his long line to get away from it. When the horse slowed down or turned to look at the bag, Craig lowered it and let the horse rest. Eventually, the horse stopped resisting while being rubbed by the bag and the lesson was over.

I know from experience with my horses that when I use my longe whip as a tool to desensitize them, it becomes ineffective as a tool to make the horse move forward. I have to find some other tool on the lazy days when a cluck or kiss is not enough to get that forward movement.

So, which is it? Do we want the horse to move away from our whip or stop and turn toward it? Is it possible to train a horse to differentiate between when we are using the whip to cue it forward and when we are using it to get it to stop and relax? Are we confusing the horse when we change the rules? Any thoughts?

12 comments:

Lulu said...

Hummm..... Maybe it all depends on what exactly you are doing with the whip.

For instance, I can touch my horses all over with the whip....but once they hear it "crack", they know to get moving.

Have your horses gotten so use to the sound of the whip that it is no longer threatening?

I, personally, want my horses to feel comfortable with the whip as a tool. I should be able to touch them all over, and carry the whip while leading - safely. Since it is a tool for me, I only crack the whip when I mean business. I want them to associate the sound, not the device, with having to work.

Rising Rainbow said...

I think we can train the horse to differentiate between what we want them to do. Our body language is certainly different when we want them to stop and face us and when we want them to move away.......or at least it should be.

That lunge whip is just an extension of our arm and we should be able to use it for all kinds of different things and have the horse still understand what we are asking.

Mrs Mom said...

I dont use a lunge whip, I use a rope. But before using the rope to encourage forward movement, the horse needs to know that the rope is not going to eat him alive. (ie: they stand to have the rope rubbed all over them, flipped over them, around their legs, under their belly, in their tail, over their ears, etc...)

How do the horses I have worked with know the difference? Intent. If *I* intend for them to move forward, the rope takes on a whole new "life" so to speak. However, if they need to stand still, the rope again takes on a seperate "life".

I have seen the same principal apply with lunge whips, etc. I tend to look at them as an extension of the arm, and not a "lets move the feet" maker alone.

I may be way off base here, but it seems like when the handler decides what is going to happen to each request, using an object or not, the energy employed by the handler is going to be the motivator- the rope, or lunge whip, or tree branch, or what have you is only going to be the "encouragement", or just another part of the tool equation to get the desired result.

I guess what I am trying to get out here is that the tools we employ are just that - tools. The decisions and energy has to come from the handler, in order for progress to happen.

Did that help any? Or make ANY sense at all? (Its been One Of THOSE Days here, so I am sorry if that makes NO sense to anyone...)

Echo said...

I think I would probably keep the lunge whip as a forward aid, rather than something to desensitize the horse to. That doesn't mean that the horse should be scared of it, but that it should respect it and recognise the instruction when it is pointed at his hind-quarters. I think there are plenty of other monsters (plastic bags, feed-scacks, umbrellas etc) that can be used as desensitizing the horse. I would have thought using the lunge whip will just be confusing. Just a thought...

Molly said...

Good question. I'll be reading the answers too. My lunge whip is only used as a "go" tool. Just picking it up sends Bella forward. I've never smacked the whip near her, she just doesn't like it. So, I guess I've never tried to desensitize her to it.

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

I love it! All these unique perspectives! Yes, Mrs. Mom, you made perfect sense, and all of these comments help. Thanks.

Shirley said...

I agree with Mrs. Mom. No matter what tool you use, your horse is reading your body language and energy. Try this; in your round pen, pick up your whip, and, thinking thoughts calm and gentle, rub it on her back, neck, etc. Next, think "OK, let's go now" and point the whip at her hips. Intend for her to move forward. The horse should go forward- not because you are scaring her, or getting after her,(you're not) but because your energy has changed and your intent has changed. Horses are masters at reading body language; watch your herd and you will see how just a glance from the alpha mare will move another horse out of her way.

Katee said...

I rub my mustang with my whip when he has itches, stick in his ear when I think I'm being funny, and can generally wave it around in the air without getting any reaction to it.

When it's time to lunge, he totally understands the whip is saying "move!" Not sure how he understands this, but he's never had a problem differentiating play time from move time.

BrownEyed Cowgirls said...

Blogger must have ate my previous comment-darn it-it was actually coherent. Don't know if I can repeat it again but here are my thoughts.

A whip or rope or any other aid is simply an extension of my arm. If I am using it to desensitize a horse my body language relays a calm and relaxed position. The aid is moved in a slower, non-aggressive manner and verbal tones are low and soothing. The goal is to get the horse's body language to match my own.
If is is used to get a horse to move forward, my body position takes on a more aggressive stance and the aid is used to accentuate that. Verbal commands are used again to let the horse know they need to move.

For me it is more about my body position and verbal commands than the aid that I am using at the moment.

Momma / Cowgirl said...

I am not a horse trainer! But, I do feel it has to do with how you use the tool along with your body language.
I will read all the other responses so I may learn.
thanks for a great questions!

happy horsin' around.

Twinville said...

In this post I have no helpful advice, but rather I sit here like a horse, chewing and licking and taking it all in.....

Just wanted to let you know I was here and learning something from your awesome blog.

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Thank you, everyone, for your comments and suggestions. I sometimes forget how important my mindset is when working with horses.