Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Natural Horsemanship and the Learning Process

Spring is in the air and around the blog sphere the topics are revolving around the same thing that are occupying my time...foaling mares and getting back to "training" on that horse that has set for most of the winter.
Pony Girl went to a Parelli clinic and posted about her experience. Mikey jumped on trusty Monte and took a tour around the neighborhood, sans any tack. (I impressed myself by learning how to link this morning-LOL). Impressive Mikey-I haven't done that for awhile and I can honestly say that I have never done it outside of an arena.

Now I have nothing against most of the clinicians that are on the circuit today. I like to watch them, read their horse's response and see if there is anything that I can add to my training program. Most of these guys are really good horseman. The good ones are capable of reading horses and getting results. They are also capable of communicating on a level that ordinary people can understand. The most popular ones are victims of their own success. Parelli's program now is nothing like it was when he first started. Clinton Anderson is changing too. There are others in that boat.

Somewhere along the line these clinics stop being about the horse and become about the masses of people who want to learn how to communicate with their horses better. In my humble opinion, most of these people will never get it. They fail to learn the single most important facet in horse training...Learning how to read a horse. Therein lies the magical, mystical connection some people have with their horse or any horse they come in contact with. Knowing how to do this, whether you are aware you do or not, tells you when to approach, when to back away, when a horse is being a snot or when they just aren't getting it. Reading a horse is about the easiest technique to learn-if you just slow down to WATCH AND FEEL. All horses relax the same way; bodies relax, head lowers, eyes get "soft", they may lick their lips, they become putty in your hands. All horses get angry/irritated in the same way; the eyes get hard, the body stiffens, the mouth tightens, the tail twitches.

I had to learn how to read a horse the same as anyone else. I can still remember when and who made me aware of this process and it was years after I had ever started breaking colts...

Do you know that I broke my first horse twenty-six years ago at age 12. He was a bay gelding that my dad gave me and his name was Zip. I did not want Zip to be snubbed to the post, have a leg tied up, sacked out, saddled and the "buck" rode out of him the way everyone broke horses in this area at the time. So I used to sneak down to the corral, put Zip into a small sorting pen and climb on his back, with nothing on him and ride him around. I was "breaking" him, my way. After a few days of this I decided to show dad that he didn't need to scare my horse with all of this other stuff, so I took him to the corral to show off my great training ability. You know what? I got my butt spanked for that one.

Now that I am a parent, I realize that I must have scared my dad to death. He wasn't thinking about what I had accomplished. He was thinking about how he could have walked to the corral and found my broken body in the pen with that barely halter-broke, 3y/o. As they say, ignorance is bliss...

I wished I could say that my attempt worked but Zip still needed to be broke to saddle and although my dad skipped the snubbing and leg-tying up routine, it was pretty western by today's standards. Shortly after Zip cut his foot on some old wire in the yard and ended up taking a one-way trip. Again, twenty-six years ago, people had different ideas of what to do with a crippled horse.

The one good thing that came out of that little experience was that dad did let us kids try different methods of starting colts. Actually, my brother's and I thought we were pretty innovative. We "round-penned" our colts, sacked them out pretty good for a few days and saddled them in the cattle chute, so we didn't have to rope, choke, snub and tie hind legs up. We were quite modern-LOL.

And then I went to college to get my Equine Science degree...

11 comments:

Callie said...

Nice post. interesting how things change from then to now and even now changing now.

Mikey said...

Good post! As kids we totally see things differently. I agree with you on "reading" the horse. So many people don't get that and never will. Put em in a pen with 30 cows and have them sort on foot for a few days, maybe they'll learn how to read animals.
And you know, even when you think you can read an animal, every once in a while you find out you're wrong, lol. They'll always surprise you.
I think the future of horsemanship is going even more natural. I think we'll see a lot more of the bridleless and bareback work. Higher levels of communication.
Boy I see a lot of haters out there. People who know it all. The person Wade and I were discussing is a young girl who lives nearby, thinks she's all that, and said about the clinic "I don't need someone to tell me something I already know"
I tell ya, every time I go to a clinic I see or hear something new. I always come away with knowledge, and I'm ALWAYS learning. Hard to tell some people that life is about learning.
Oy, I'll write a book. Keep up the good work!!

BrownEyed Cowgirls said...

From Mikey...
Put em in a pen with 30 cows and have them sort on foot for a few days, maybe they'll learn how to read animals...
That is no lie Mikey.

And you are 150% right about not being able to "read" them all of the time. I have met some pretty good "poker" players in the equine(and bovine) world-LOL.

Ugh-I DESPISE people who think they know everything...I grew up surrounded by jerks who thought they knew everything(and still do) and I have NO use for them whatsoever.

kdwhorses said...

Great post! I agree with you, you have to be able to read the horses, cows! That is how we start people who want to learn to sort cows-is on foot! We have made several people mad, because they wanted to do it horseback! That is the best way to learn how to move cows!
I am very interested in learning/researching more on natural horsemanship. I think it is the ultimate relationship between horse and rider. I think alot of people make the mistake of just riding there horse every once and awhile and do not take the time to have a real realtionship with the horse. Spending time with the horse, grooming, feeding, talking, touching, etc. Learn the horses' personality, communicate! I have taken alot of grief for talking to my horses! But they are extremly smart animals and these people are missing the true blessing of owning horses! Thanks for doing such a great post and educating others!

Linda - Nickers and Ink said...

Interesting post. We're starting some youngsters again this year too.

Blessings,
Linda
The Mane Point - a Haven for Horse Lovers

THE MANE POINT – a haven for horse lovers

20 meter circle of life said...

My Grandfather was an old west Cowboy and he would always tell me if you listen that horse is gonna tell you everything you need to know. I have always remembered those words. He was one of those people that didnt ride but rather wore his horse. I try to be like him, but know I always fall short.

I went to the Will Howe school of Horsemanship a few years ago and I had an AHHH HAAA moment when I realized all these trainers have the same message it just comes in a different box. Now its the Dressage trainers and yep same soap different box, but the directions are written in French,,,,damn, I took spanish.

Mrs Mom said...

I remember watching a clip of Tom Dorrence in his 80's trailer loading a real raw colt. It Was Freaking Amazing. Still gives me chills to recall the actions, or lack thereof on his part. 20Meter Circle had a great point there- the message is indeed there. Just stop moving your jaws, and "listen with your eyes and heart", and what you will learn will shock the h*ll out of you. And your Horse Will Love It.

Closest I have come to sorting cows in a chute was on my ex's place in (UPSTATE!) NY. We had about 30-ish head at any given time of free-range beef (not an "in" thing there by any means,) and we would move them around the 100 acre pasture now and again to check them out. One steer decided that he was a jumper, and would jump the 6' barn fence to come and graze my lawn. Pain in my a$$! I'd pull my old Appy man out, and gradually move Rump Roast back to the barn pasture, and move him on up nice and easy to the high pasture.... and the next morning he would be partying hardy on my damn lawn again....

I miss nothing aside from a couple of special people in NY. But that home grown grass fed beef.... *sigh*.... I pine for it! ;)

Pony Girl said...

Hey, can you share how to do those links, I haven't figured that out yet, lol! ;) Good post. I know I have been thinking of these things since I attended the Parelli clinic. I really like how Mikey said you can learn something from all clinics/horseman. It is interesting how they used to do things, in the "olden days"....but even then there were horseman out there that were ahead of their time. But a lot of trainers still do it old-school, I think. I am about having a relationship with the horse. I talk to my horse too, all the time. He knows my voice. When I go to catch him I start talking and calling him and he looks at me and his ears go forward. He says, here she comes!! :) (Then he runs away. Just kidding!!)

Rising Rainbow said...

You learned how to link! good for you! I remember how tickled I was when I first figured that out. Now if I could just figure out how to train a horse while staying on the ground, I think I'd be good! I can dream, can't I. lol

I announced at an event of cow sorting. It was amazing to me how much I knew about reading horses translated over to cows.

I have to agree about the 'pros' of natural horsemanship. I get turned off by the commercialism. My favorite all time help has been an old cowboy (actually, he's younger than me, but he was born a cowboy. And really early John Lyons was helpful to me.

I don't think there's any book or trainer that can teach anyone every thing it takes, a person has to be open and sensitive to learning from the horse. Without that, the rest of that information is pretty much useless.

Jules said...

Hopped over hear from SweetGrassFarms. Love your posts and picuters. And though I am a horse lover, have never had one to "read". Hope that changes in my future. :o) I'd like to add you to my favs if you don't mind.

Carroll Farm said...

My experience as a kid is riding my neighbors horse. I talk to all my animals & my hubby says that it is his therapy from all the kids. At least the horses don't back talk. :) Love the posts- I always learn so much