Wednesday, May 15, 2013

I Almost Forgot

I almost forgot to write about the most amazing lesson I learned yesterday.  The two ladies who have been helping me train my horses are both from natural horsemanship backgrounds, but one of them has a very subtle, gentle approach that requires a tremendous amount of time and patience while the other one is more of a rough 'em up, take charge cowgirl.  I believe there is a time and place for assertiveness with horses, just like there is a time and place for gentleness, so I've learned a lot from both of them.

I have a rule at my barn that no one should ride in the arena with a loose horse.  Loose horses need to be put away in stalls.  It's a safety issue.  If the herd stampedes, the horse you are riding is going to run with the herd whether you are ready for it or not.  Also, if someone isn't in tune with the subtle communications going on among the horses, a rider could get kicked in the leg by the loose horse.  Plus, loose horses just get in the way of your training goals.

Well, I forgot to put Gabbrielle away before practicing standing still at the mounting block with Lostine.  P.S. was laying out cones for an obstacle course, and I began riding Lostine around the cones.  Of course, Gabbrielle had to follow.  When we turned around, Gabbrielle was right in our path, so I had to push her out of the way with my horse.  I said to P.S., "I can get away with this because Lostine is at the top of the pecking order, but don't try to push Gabbrielle around while riding Bombay, because she might kick out.  Gabbrielle is higher in the pecking order than Bombay."

In truth, the horses should recognize that the horse has a rider and the rider is at the top of the pecking order,  but that's not the way it always goes, so I was erring on the side of safety.  I told her I'd be done with Lostine in a minute and would then put Gabbrielle away.

I've mentioned before that the one trainer taught me to catch a horse that runs from the halter through a pressure and retreat method.  Throw the halter, lead rope and all, at the horse as it runs away.  As soon as the horse turns to look at you, praise it, pet it and walk away.  Eventually, you can stroke the horse with the halter and then place the lead rope around its neck.

I've been watching the other gal do a lot of at liberty work, and much of what she does involves bending at the waist to make herself smaller and less threatening with her body language, beckoning the horse to come closer, and then sending her away by standing tall and pumping the palms of her hands in the air.  So, when Gabbrielle ran from the halter today, I marched out there ready to throw it at her.  However, Gabbrielle surprised me by spinning around to face me before I could even coil the rope.

I decided to reward that right away by stopping my approach and turning my back to her.  I took away the pressure.  Then I bent down low, looked over my shoulder at her, and wiggled my finger to beckon the horse to come closer.  Sure enough, Gabbrielle walked right up to me, I praised her and then walked off toward the barn.  Gabbrielle followed me all the way into a stall and allowed me to close her inside without ever having to touch her with the lead rope or halter.

Thanks to all the work this one gal put in doing the at liberty work, less is more with my horses now.  I'm discovering that I can get faster results using gentler methods with very little effort on my part.


fernvalley01 said...


strivingforsavvy said...

It keeps getting better! I've been doing the natural horsemanship for years. It works! I have a herd of 5 horses that get along and are extremely easy to manage. Several of them started out with baggage, but you'd never know it if you saw them today. You are on the right track. I believe people that put down natural horsemanship truly don't understand it.

achieve1dream said...

Amen!! I love that last paragraph. Oh and the picture is gorgeous!! She's such a pretty girl!