Glen Grobler wrote:
what I find interesting is:
If I take an extra inch or so of rein under those circumstances he settles immediately - as if it helps, comforts or secures him in some way?
Maybe he sees it as me getting dominant, but it feels as if he finds it reassuring ???
Anyone here have anything similar anytime? Anyone here have any ideas about this?
Sure, I've retraining many horses with similar and worse behaviors. The cause can be any number of things but most often a disconnect between horse and rider where the rider is unaware of the horse's reaction to the rein. And this is pretty universal.
Trying to put our self in the horse's place when it comes to either mouth pressure from steel, or nose pressure from a leather or other band is hard to do and rarely ever done.
This that I'm going to share may or may not be the method others have used. Personally I've not seen it used by others since I was a kid on my uncle's ranch watching the horse handling of various hands (cowboys) he employed. And at that I didn't see it often.
What I think has happened that allows horses to let humans dominate with less resistance is carefully breeding them to tolerate more pain and anxiety. Just my opinion, of course.
The "secret," if there is one, is to do something that is rather hard to retrain yourself to do, and that is to refine the rein release.
Refine it into the slow rein followed by the lightening release.
I make mys students, when they rein, use one rein at a time, never ever two (that's hard enough habit on its own to break in the rider that's been riding for a time without my method), and using one rein, ask very slowly to a two count.
In other words, close the fingers to put a small bit of tension on the rein slowly, and then, very abruptly, like a bolt of lightening, throw the tension away so the horse very clearly feels it.
Repeat for compliance.
Where this is difficult to do, outside of the wrong rein use habits that people have either by long practice, or the belief that two reins are used to stop horses (reins are to cue, to talk to the horse, neither for turning or stopping by force) is convincing the rider I'm teaching to NOT FOCUS ON COMPLIANCE AT ALL, BUT ON PROPER TECHNIQUE ONLY.
Here's how it works in the school. I will ask the student to do a ten meter circle - that's pretty big mind you - and use the "mind-eyes-head-shoulders-hip-buttocks-leg" progression softly. Notice there is NO rein being asked for.
If they are on their own horse usually nothing happens. The horse just kind of bobbles on, continuing around the school.
Though now and then, almost with a great sigh of relief, the horse does turn, happy that the rider has finally learned to "talk horse."
(All of this seems going around the subject doesn't it though? Bear with me - I'll get there but not before the groundwork to establish a good foundation for doing this correctly).
When it comes time to show them how what I've taught them cold (no horse under them, classroom work with each other or me) actually works, they are to close the fingers of one hand, after the downward wave of cues I wrote about above have been delivered, and do it slowly. Closing, oooonnnneeee, tttttwwwwooo, and at first, DROP THE REIN IF THE HORSE GIVES.
The circle itself does not matter. I do not want the student thinking at that time about the circle and attaining it. I want him or her to be thinking about whether or not they performed the rein-release properly.
What does the first time student trying this actually do if the horse doesn't stay on the circle (which I JUST TOLD THEM THE HORSE DOESN'T HAVE TO)?
They pull the rein to force the horse back on the circle, that's what they do.
And I call HALT!
And ask them to analyze what they did and if they think they might have a little habit that needs breaking.
The motto is, "It doesn't matter where you are going so much as how you got there."
In other words, they can get from point A to B with force but they will pay for it. The horse will do something to resist - the perfect teacher, the master himself telling them to NOT ask in that way, not with force, but with a gentle cue until he understands what they are asking and they ask in horse language.
Watch a Mother Mare... she is a master at pressure-release. If the baby is where she doesn't want it, first she will make a little motion, or lift a foot in a soft but slightly threatening request to stop or move away or go this way or that. And she will ask a number of times before she'll resort to laying on heavy pressure - usually not having to do so at all.
And she releases that pressure again and again, sort of signally the foal that, "Yes, you are on the right track there, keep doing what you feel like you should be doing."
In other words, she is NOT demanding immediate compliance. Though you will see that with foal "teenagers," the weanlings and yearlings. At that point Mother Mare is now doing "herd buddy," to socialize and that's harsher stuff not appropriate for humand-horse intercommunication and relations.
We should be using the "foal teaching language," of Mother Mare.
The soft slower ask, the quick release, and no escalation of pressure in the teaching phase.
If I want you to learn a "cue," from me, if you can get it by my asking you softly a number of times until you catch on, is that not more likely to get compliance from you later if I ask again, than if I ask, then escalate and scream at you?
The latter is what happens that makes horses develop what we think of as "bad habits," more especially the resistant ones. Either fighting back, or becoming sullen, or both, or drawing into themselves, just as you or I would with abusive commands coming at us, or being hard to catch, or jigging up and down, or rushing about trying to please this strange creature on our back that does not speak horse very well, or with a terrible accent.
The slow ask, the instant release, the repeat with no more pressure than the first time, or better, even less, and the horse will "hear," horse talk from you.
I wish I could show you.
Do I remember to do it? No, sometimes I forget, and start asking to fast, increasing level of pressure, and my horse doesn't hear me. Seriously.
Altea, who is tender of foot, when I ride tends to wander to the verge where it's softer. In fact, on the logging roads we ride the center is often quite soft and easy on her feet. So of course I make her walk there.
The other day I noticed that lately she had been not staying there and I was more frustrated with her behavior, to the point I got my head straight and asked her what was up. Of course what came to my mind was to examine my cueing. And sure enough, I had fallen into those bad habits of pulling steadily and demand more and more harshly.
Now to other horse people it probably would have seemed that I was very gentle in my cues, but I know better. I was NAGGING.
I went back to not caring about where her path was and where she was wandering and caring more about how I was asking for her to track to the center. Slooooow ask, LIGHTENING release.
And sure enough. In less than minute - heck probably less than 15 seconds she's respondling like she is saying to me, "Yes, now you remember, imbecile, and I'll show you you did it right by CHOSING TO WALK DOWN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD, when ARE you going to learn some manners?"
There I was riding a couple of miles on these jaunts, harassing my horse, absentmindedly pulling away on her like a fool, an ignorant one at that, when I knew perfectly well the right way to ask and the right way to say "yes, maam, that's it."
Give up the place you want Freckles as the goal, and focus on how you want him to get there. Ask slowly with one hand at a time, never double rein pressure (the sure fire way to get a horse to resist and even run off with one), and give more than take. Ask slow, give fast.
In short order he will relax and let you ride about on a loose rein. This is how to calm a horse. Soft circles and soft asking to calm down buy asking slowly and giving generously.
And before you mount up remember to breath softly into his nostril and think loving thoughts, and tell him, out loud, that you are going to do your very best to listen to him, and to continue learning his language, and to speak it with less foreign accent, and to make HIM more important than his behavior and where he goes.
Saying it out loud will align your body and other language paths with your inner state of mind and he will then hear you quite clearly as congruent in thought and deed. Without speaking it you will "sound," to his senses more like a chattering monkey. Honest.
Speaking love quiets the heart, the breath, the electrical nerve pulses that the horse reads quite nicely thank you very much.