Thursday, October 16, 2008

Halt Behavior: What's Your Preference?

This is something that has been on my mind for many years now. When I started foundation training in the round pen with my first horse 10 years ago, each time I halted him he turned in to face me. I then walked up to him, petted him on the face and neck, and sent him off again. If I didn't send him off before walking back to the center, he would lick and chew and follow me. Of course, that's a good thing, unless you are only two minutes into your round pen routine and the horse still needs a lot of exercise to get into shape. My goal wasn't to get the horse to join up with me, because he already did that a while back. I was perfectly fine with him turning in to face me, because it was his way of showing that he was paying attention to me and asking, "What's next?"

Then I sent him off to the facility of a professional trainer. She worked with him for a few weeks and then I started showing up for riding lessons. She gave me lessons on long lining, and corrected both my horse and me when he turned in at a stop. She said he has to remain facing whatever direction he had been traveling in when I asked him to stop, and he had to stay on the rail. I don't recall if I asked her why. I may have and then forgot her answer.

Since then I've seen a lot of training shows on television where the clinician insists that the horse must turn in to face you at a stop. Is this a preference that changes depending on the discipline you are preparing your horse for? What is your preference and why?


Jenn said...

I think it depends on YOUR preference and training method. When I say whoa I want my horse to stop in his tracks, period. He does not get to face me or move towards me until I invite him to. I believe it can be dangerous to have a horse turn to face you, especially if you have him on the lunge line or in long reins. You lose control when they face you in that situation.

AnnL said...

I want to say it's the discipline you're working in. I've always been taught to keep the horse facing the way he was--don't let him turn in to face you. I always thought it was somewhat of a safety issue. If the horse is facing you as you are walking to him and something spooks him, then he could jump on you and more easily get caught up in the long line(s). If he's still facing out on the circle, then you can get control back easier and safer.

I think with the Natural Horsemanship work, the idea is to have the horse turn in to face you as a sign of submission. But, I think they're not using lines, it's all free work. Not having the lines would make it safer.

Just my thoughts. Will be interested to hear what other have to say.


Callie said...

Good question! I don't know, but I've always had them turn in and face me when stopped. I want them to wait for the next cue and as you say pay attention to it. That's what I was taught. I don't know? But mine didn't come into me until I say "Come in" and when they do as they are told, I wait for their nose to reach toward me and then I touch them and give praise. And then repeat if there is more work to be done. However, I wouldn't let them come in between turning and reversing direction. I don't know.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

I can't wait to read all of your replies because I've wondered about this, too.

My mare never stops facing in the direction she was traveling when we are working in the round pen together.

She always turns to me, licking and chewing.
Heck, even when I slow her down to a walk, she thinks that's her cue to stop and lick, chew and come in for pets.

I haven't worked her in the round pen for about 2 months now, because it's exhausting getting my lazy girl to move any faster than a trot. It's hard for me to believe that she was a roping head horse at one time and could run barrels.

But she's the perfect trail horse for me, because I like to enjoy the scenery as we slowly plod along. lol!


Nuzzling Muzzles said...

I posed this question to my riding instructor today, and he said it is just a matter of preference. He said that if you are working on transitions and want the horse to move off in the same direction, you may as well stop it along the fence. He added that when you've got 40 horses to train, you don't really care. I had to laugh at that.

lytha said...

i think it's a question of are you round-penning for join up, or are you lunging?

cuz with lunging, you do lots of transitions and turning to face you hinders them from executing the next gait. but round penning is about join up, isn't it? where the horse runs until he asks you if he can stop and submits, by turning toward you?

my horse is from a time before join up, and he stays on the circle like he's been trained. i took him to a ranch in cle elum in 1994 and a cowboy tried to round pen him. he ran and ran and ran, and ran some more, and was about to fall over from exhaustion, and wouldn't look at the man, wouldn't come in toward him, because he knew not to do that. the cowboy told me "your horse is really pissed off at me! he's saying 'F you' to me!" and yes, i suppose my horse felt it was unfair to be run and run with no point. and no solution appeared in baasha's mind, like "leave the circle to end this torment."

it was a very poignant moment for me, and i thought it fit with your post today.

whether your horse turns to you or stays on the circle is your choice - choose wisely. *lol*

~lytha in germany

C-ingspots said...

Don't you just love those trainers who think that the only way to do something is the way they do it?? Arrogance in horse trainers abounds!!! A pet peeve of mine...sorry. I have always enjoyed the way my horses turn and face me, as you say, to see what's next...they're looking for direction from me, waiting to see what I will ask of them next. This, in my humble opinion is a respectful horse who is paying attention to his/her handler and is waiting for direction from you - the herd boss. I, too was once told by a trainer that she preferred horses to stay facing the direction they were originally going because "they could run over you if they are directly facing you". I think that if your horse wants to run you over, they can do it no matter which direction they're facing. Hmmm, I think teaching them to respect you and not run you over EVER is a better alternative. But as you know, opinions are like mothers - everybody's got one. If you use your common sense and always demand respect from your horses - you'll get it. Just don't forget that respectful horses are deserving of your respect as well. Have fun and good luck. Oh, one last thought to keep in mind - there's no certification/licensing board out there for "horse trainers" - any old body can hang out their shingle and call themselves a "trainer". Choose wisely.

C-ingspots said...

Sorry, I was so busy being opinionated earlier that I forgot to mention how much I enjoy your blog - awesome!! I really enjoy reading your posts and everything else. I am very much in the "just learning to blog" mode. Thanks!!

jme said...

Hi – I’ve been a way for a while and I was just checking in and thought I might add my two cents on this topic...

The idea of having the horse turn in toward you either loose or on the longe is a relatively new one invented by natural horsemanship gurus and touted as some kind of proof that your horse accepts you as his leader. The truth is it has little or nothing to do with that: most horses turn in for one of three reasons – they are trying to be dominant, they are asking to stop working, or they think you’re going to reward them every time they stop. None of these things are helpful to training, which is why, prior to the natural horsemanship fad, allowing the horse to turn in has been considered one of the cardinal sins of working the horse from the ground in classical training. For one, a horse turning in, however slightly, is being disrespectful of your space – turning and facing you is sometimes a dominant – or at the very least disrespectful - gesture from the horse and not something to encourage. Alternatively, if the horse is trying to ‘join up’ it creates a problem for the trainer because, once a horse has turned to face you, you have to chase him away again - he has 'submitted' as required, but not been rewarded by getting to stop the session. it's pretty easy to see that the horse is asking 'are we done yet?' and is already thinking about getting a treat or a scratch or that the session might be over when he's allowed to turn in, only to be confused and disappointed when he has to keep working. Allowing him to turn in allows him to lose his focus on the work at hand.

the only situation where it's ok for a horse to turn in toward you is if you step backwards, and that's not advisable when longing anyway, unless you are trying to change direction without stopping or something. i wouldn't do it. i ask the horses to halt on the circle and they must stand quietly until i walk up to them. It protects my space; it keeps the horse focused and ready to continue work; it allows me to work freely around him if I have to adjust a surcingle or long-rein, etc; it keeps the horse from getting tangled in a longe line (especially as I begin to walk toward him); and maybe most importantly, never confuses the horse about my intentions – he knows as long as he’s standing there he needs to be waiting for the next command, and not asking if he’s done yet…. after all, longeing is supposed to be training time, not bonding time. i don't like blurring the line between the two.

dp said...

I want my horses to turn and face me. We don't do anything really serious, but I like that they always look to me to see what's next. Even when I am leading them and I stop, they swing their quarters out so that they are facing me to see what we're up to next. I expect the same from my dogs when they are walking on leash -- eyes on me, please!

Ange said...

I was also taught the 'old' way, and each longeing session was far more work for me than for my lazy four-legged friend! I then adopted the 'new' way, after getting hooked on Richard Winter's Horsemanship, and suddenly, my lazy four-legged friend was the longe-ee and not the longe-er.

It is important to me that when he does turn in, he is still prepared to go off in whatever direction I choose to send him, and I never let this become routine, as it forces him to focus because he doesn't know what's next. He's never to come toward me until I invite him in. He's very respectful of that.

I say, it's whatever works for you and your horse.I don't know that one way is any safer than another. It all depends on how your communication with your horse is to begin with.

Deanna said...

I don't like it when they turn in to me, it's a real pain to train them to stop doing it.

When I ask a horse to stop, I want him to stop and not turn in any situation. I prefer to be in control for safety's sake.

BrownEyed Cowgirls said...

Wow-I had no idea there was such a difference in opinion on this. I guess it does matter on what you want.

So here is what works for me-I was taught to ask the horse to stop straight and only look at me with his head. The reason this is what works for me is because I want a horse to learn to stop square, using his hindquarters. Since most of my training goals revolve around a horse that must stop square, this is very important to me. I have found it makes getting a horse to stop square and rocked back on his hindquarters from his back much easier.
That being said-I can stop my horses square, they look at me and I let them relax, then I step in front of the shoulder to ask them to turn to the inside of the circle, rolling over their hock and go the other direction. My understanding is if you are working on driving-you would not want them to roll to the inside, but rather toward the fence.

For the joining up part of it, I will walk to my horse, pet them, let them relax and then ask them of follow me(as if I had caught them).

But that is just what works the best for me to teach a horse to stop the way I will ask them to stop when I am riding them.

LJB said...

One good reason I heard in favor of horses stopping on the circle and not facing in, is for horses who might have a the job of carrying vaulting gymnasts. Those horses need to think their job is going on the circle at any gait, period. A vaulting horse who is unclear about whether to turn in when slowing down could be dangerous for some folks doing their vaulting routine.

That said, I like my horses to be responsive to me -- my energy level regarding what speed to travel, and my intention and body language regarding what direction to travel. My goal is to just use my nose and belly button for direction but until I am more consistent I sometimes need the help of more obvious body language. *g*

I agree with the notion that horses can be paying full attention to us without facing us. Think of good a driving horse -- they sure aren't facing the one who is giving directions. LOL