Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Mystery Behind the Ideal Horse

This morning I was thinking about making a game plan for my horses.  There is no snow anywhere in our 10-day forecast, which is unheard of in January in the Eastern Sierra, and on Sunday we are actually supposed to reach 60-degrees.  I've had to neglect a lot of things this past year to no fault of my own, and I feel like I owe it to the horses to spend more time working with them.

Then I started thinking about how working with the horses is always a hassle.  I have to chase Lostine around the paddock to get the halter on her, I have to fight Gabbrielle to get a cinch and bridle on her, I have to dance alongside dancing horse legs to get the boots on them, and it seems I'm always having to mount a moving target.  Lostine tries all kinds of trickery to get me off her back.  Gabbrielle is always either refusing to go or stop.  Then there's Bombay, the quiet, sturdy, athletic, obedient partner who is perfect in every way, except that I can't trailer or ride him off the property without him having a complete nervous breakdown, cutting a main artery and squirting blood all over the place.  The aftermath of each trip is always a horror show and a very expensive vet bill.

Ultimately, I think we all want the same horse:  A horse that comes to the halter, goes in the trailer, rides quietly in the trailer, stands still for the saddle, bows its head for the bridle, opens its mouth for the bit, stands still for the mount, goes when we say go, and stops when we say stop.  How many of us have that?

For those of you who do have that, what did it take to get there?  How old is your horse?  How often does someone work with it?  Is it really as simple as just doing the same routine every day with your horse or did you have to suffer a few injuries along the way?  What's your story?  If you can't say what you want to say in a comment, please write a post about it and leave me a comment to read your response on your blog.  It'll be nice for me to get back into the swing of discussing the topic of horse training.


Leah Fry said...

Well, if you put it that way: "A horse that comes to the halter, goes in the trailer, rides quietly in the trailer, stands still for the saddle, bows its head for the bridle, opens its mouth for the bit, stands still for the mount, goes when we say go, and stops when we say stop." -- then I guess I'm pretty lucky. I'd say I have everything except "opens its mouth for the bridle." So I stick my finger in the corner of his mouth and that problem is solved. I hardly have room to complain. Jaz is 13 and was already well trained when I got him. I think it really is a matter of just reinforcing desired behaviors. Jaz will slip into bad habits like any other horse will, but I remind him and he falls back in line.

allhorsestuff said...

Happy New Year Nuzz!

You should truly have some good reading with this posed horse question~

My TB MARE came to me 10 yrs old. My sister raised/ trained her Dam as well.
I think my sister is methodical ,fair and consistant. She used positive voice/ treat/ release methods. She is confident, to know the horse, but also, to treat the horse as if they could and -would do what she asked, given proper directions to understand.

If nothing else, she'd groom, bridle and saddle a young horse...taking what ever time it took for willing, fearless and positive outcomes. I mean, she's told me stories about her horse mantra, which is: " I've got all day and all night, into tomorrow, for you horse. And someone will come feed me".
Basically, a devotion to not getting or being upset. Once you've expired- training is OVER.

IT'S MAKING TIME FOR CORRECT ACTIONS that will lead the horse to understanding. Any shortcuts to get to a horses true understanding, can degrade the horses attitude.

For me, taking over a wild mare ,that had been started correctly but abused by treacherous shortcuts at age 9, by a cowboy trainer; Calm ,assertive, fair, consistent.
Assessing the horse I have, each day. When she runs me over, I say, "do over". Going back to my sisters thought process. Ending only on the note I WANT TO BE TRAINED. Sometimes it means, forging a ride.
But .its important your horse can count on your follow through in attitude.

Never say it's not going to work, but go to your horse thinking it will -because of the safety measures you have taken to en sure that and the confidence toy have because of your skill and knowledge.

If you don't have that approach ,because you may not be sure of either one of those- them GET THOSE FIRST, and proceed!

The last 2 times I loaded
A horse.that someone else couldn't they were so frustrated...they had a time line.
I had no rumbling but to gain confidence, trust and ensure safety for me and the horse.

I'm not a believer in getting in a trailer with the horse outside, them looking back at them. They are EXACTLY where your focus is. One's focus should always be WHERE YOU WISH THE HORSE TO BE or to GO.

I never look at a horse, I walk with them...they stop.I stop and ask for movements forward, never backwards. I ask for.another detection. I don't let the horse prescribe it. Most of all...I've got the time for them- they actually know.this.

Again, Practicing something for a calm response, then stopping. Sometimes never actually going anywhere. Or going to get gas.

My intent on fairness and understanding with riding and ground is a key factor in amy success. Researching correct measures for these.

You've all I know. You are lined up for the good fruits. The endgame is clear.
Start the process right( each time) not.reading into a situation but focussing upon the results. Them, take the time to get them. That the mid section of the plan...taking the time.

We all have little time and big plans. We need relative plans, for our means, and to take the right amount of time it
15 it 30. Or, an entire day can be also finished.for a horse in less than 5 minutes- because of an exceptional response!!

You.go.girl!! You've 3 wonderful horses and that's a blessing!!

allhorsestuff said...

Keep to yourself or publish, no matter!.
My.mail is

BrownEyed Cowgirl said...

I bet you get lots of good comments or people doing posts on this subject. I sure don't want to be insulting to you, but I think 'most'...not ALL...but most of our horses behaviors are reflections of ourselves. Horses are masters at reading and feeding off of our body energy. You have been under a lot of stress this last year and very short on time. Hopefully this coming year will bring you relief from all that and you can settle into a more relaxed routine with your horses and things will start to come together again for you.

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Leah - That's awesome. When I try to insert my thumb in the side of an unwilling horse's mouth, I meet clamped lips.

allhorsestuff - All good reminders. I wish I could devote all of my time to the horses.

BEC - It sounds like you are saying that to have the ideal horse I must first be the ideal person. If that's the case, I'm screwed.

Dreaming said...

My horses have habits, both good and bad. I think they'd do a lot better with consistent work - something that I just haven't been able to give them. They need to become Priority #1 and #2. Sometimes I think that since they aren't up there on the priority list, maybe I should find a place where that's where they rank!
My guys do come to be haltered...unless the grass is really plentiful and green. One loads well, the other needs some encouragement. I don't put boots or wraps on - but I think they'd probably stand for it... but then again, they are Haflingers - aged 8 and 10.
The other things...well, sometimes, but not always! Again... if I were consistent I think that would change.
It will be interesting to see who has the perfect horse and how they got it that way!

Tammy said...

Hmmm. As I was reading your list of "issues", I was thinking that I am so happy I don't have that to put up with! But don't we always have a list of things to improve on? Like for me its loping a frickin' circle. I am not sure if its my mare or me that is geometrically (is that the right word) challenged, but perfection in loping a circle is far from. Good thing we are trail riders!

My mare is 10 years old. She was foaled on our place, I sold her as a yearling and bought her back as a three year old. I regret that she was started by the person that had her because he probably didn't give her the best foundation. But it all worked out.

I did send her out. The first time for 45 days to work on getting some collection and moving off the legs. The next two years at the beginning of the season, I sent her out again for more of the same; just having someone who can ride better than me has helped her a lot. This last time, I sent her out for 2 weeks. She was starting to not stand for me when mounting and I wanted her sidepass improved. The trainer was able to work thru those and now she stands nice and quiet while mounting and is a sidepassing fool! I just realized there are things I can't teach. If I am taught and my horse is taught, then perhaps we can get it together but if I don't know how to teach, why not let the pros do it. Rather than fumbling around with trying to communicate, I let someone else teach both of us the same language.

Most of our horses have always trailered well but when I got a new trailer with a ramp, that added a new problem with a couple of them. So again, I had a trainer come out & work with all of them. Spent $50 for her time and all my horses load easily now without hesitation.

I have not spent a ton of money on training. Here it costs around $400 a month to send a horse out which includes board and lessons. So I have less than $1500 in training for my mare.

I think the things you are asking for; quiet to saddle, easy to mount, effortless loading should be a requirement and I think any trainer should be able to get your horses to do that in 30 days or less.

Once Upon an Equine said...

Your description of the ideal horse is what I'm working toward with Misty. We've got some of it down..she stands well for saddling, bridling, and mounting; pretty good at go, but still a work in progress. She's good at stopping when I ask, which is very important to me (especially since the Fjord I rehomed had a very deep vice about that). She loads and rides well in the trailer, but that took some professional help and time to attain. Coming to the halter is an issue we are working on. Misty will actually run from me when she sees me approach with halter in hand. I went to a clinic a couple weeks ago and the clinician showed me how to address that by making her move more when she tries to leave me, then asking her to whoa. Then if she tries to move away when I approach her with the halter, I'm to send her away and make her trot until I again ask her to stop and approach (or better...have her walk to me) and halter. Best done in a round pen or smaller area, of course. I'll be working on that. Misty is 8. She had no training when I adopted her at 3. It has been very slow progress because I'm not a trainer and I'm hindered by a full time job and harsh weather that limits my time. So I have to turn to professional training. Misty has improved tremendously this last year (despite being sidelined for 4.5 months of the summer due to her dental problem) because I finally found a good trainer. She will go back to that trainer in the spring. It also helps that Misty by nature is honest, consistent, smart, and wants to please. We are a work in progress and both learning. But for me, finding the right professionals to help has been the key. But it has taken several years of trial and error to find the right people. If I had the time to work with her daily and didn't have to sit at a desk during daylight and good weather, we would reach our ideal much faster. But we do the best we can and are happy to see progress, even if it is in baby steps. We'll get there. Keep working on it and you'll get there too with your horses. You have had a busy, stressful year that has limited your time with your horses. Now you are looking forward to working with them more, and it will be good.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

A Horse that:

Check: Comes to the halter.
Check: Goes in the trailer
Check: Rides quietly in the trailer
Check: Stands still for the saddle
Check: Bows its head for the bridle
Check: Opens its mouth for the bit
Check: Stands still for the mount
Check: Goes when we say go(most of the time)
Check: Stops when we say stop

My horse does all those things even if I don't ride her for over a year. She mostly came to me like that, and I am very grateful and should be even more appreciative after reading your post.

The issues I have with riding my horse are mostly my own lack of self confidence and past muscle memory fear from being injured.


Breathe said...

Let's see, I have had to work on Smokey with all these. Now he gets in the trailer, but it took some time to get there. He doesn't drop for the bridle, but that's a new thing we are working on. He takes the bit, stands still for saddle and only sometimes walks off while mounting. I always have to reinforce, regroup, reset with him. I suspect with him I merely have to be more consistent. I'm a 75 percenter, I think. He'd benefit from me being more consistent.

Lily is different. She came to me doing all the right things (except for the blowing out the trailer) and somewhere along the way different wheels have fallen off. Remember when she wouldn't take the bit AT ALL? That was a 30 day fix. Then she wouldn't load. That was another 2 week fix.

I think it's easy for horses to come unwound from training, particularly when we can't be consistent. That's the trick with trainers - it's literally their job - at least 3-4 times a week - to focus on the horse for an hour or two on a specific training exercise. Honestly how often do we have that kind of quality time and for how long?

When I had to retrain Lily to take the bit I could massage her tongue for an hour. Didn't work. Took two weeks of clicker training to even get her to open her mouth at all. INCREMENTAL clicker training. If I hadn't been so worried I might have thrown my hands up.

I think when you move and have peace and quiet to work with your horses consistently you will find a way to shape them the way you want them to be.

strivingforsavvy said...

I am happy to say I have all those things with my horse. I got him when he was 2 and have done all the training. I try to remember that every time I am with my horse I am training him whether I realize it or not. Also, all horses need a leader. If they do not respect their owner as a competent leader they will either take over the leadership role or look elsewhere for it depending on their nature. That leadership role will be challenged constantly so we need to be mindful of this everyday. I need to say that we need to be fair and compassionate leaders - understanding what our horses need and being there to give them that reassurance, patience and sometimes assertiveness when needed. Once you have this everything else comes easily.

Crystal said...

Interesting post, I dont think my horses are perfect (that would be boring, lol) but I can catch them in the field and they do stand nice to be saddled and bridled and booted, and load fairly well. I think it is just the way I act around them, I expect them to do it and most of the time they live up to my expectations. I dont think everyday doing it matters after they know it as I only handle my one mare about 4 times a year and she is probly the best behaved. I have other problems, but nothing I feel I cant deal with and one of the best things for me is friends I can go to for help or suggestions. That sure makes a difference when there is someone to talk it over with.

lytha said...

I got lucky with the trailering thing with all the horses I've trailered, they were started right so no matter what type of trailer I would use, they would get in immediately and only back out when I say. I guess I do reinforce it by having hay in there, and I insist that they back out slowly. Baasha and I were in a trailering accident and it had no effect on him - amazing.

Standing still to mount is a matter of discipline on MY part - I'm usually impatient to get going but I realize it's important so I insist that he stands until I signal go. I was able to get good results by offering a treat after I was settled in the saddle, the horse is craning his neck around so he's not thinking about leaving.

The only thing he doesn't do is open his mouth for a bit. Unless I use a little trick - I put a treat on the other side of the bit. It's impossible to get the treat out of my hand unless the bit goes in first. He picked that up quick. I hate to use food so much but I don't have to stick my thumb in there and pry his mouth open.

OH I admit Baasha never did WHOA when riding in a group. Riding out alone he was perfect though, since that's what we mostly did. I think with Gabbrielle I'd ask your husband to help with stop and go until it becomes natural. That's a lot to ask of him I know: )

As for standing still when you're putting on boots, I think I'd have to get pretty strong with a horse that wasn't paying attention to me and squirming around. I'd have to be threatening enough that he'd be more worried about me than whatever else is distracting him. I wouldn't want to make him afraid of me, just watchful and cautious, like he would be of a dominant horse moving in close. Maybe teaching ground tying would help you? Or teaching the command Stand? I love it that I can just say that word and give him a hard look and he will stay planted wherever he is. There are very very few vocal commands he knows. We must have drilled that into him over the last 23 years.

I know you have a very stressful situation there and I think it will be the blogging event of the decade when you move. WOO! You're really scaring me about Reno, a place I really want to see. If you came to Seattle you'd be so annoyed, we're the world's politest drivers and it makes people crazy because we are so incredibly passive and slow, and "no, you go first!", "no, YOU go!" etc.

achieve1dream said...

I guess my comment to this post didn't go through?

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

achieve1dream - No, I didn't see any comment from you for this post. Google has been flaky lately.