Your horse: cozy pal or coworker?

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Xanthoria
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Your horse: cozy pal or coworker?

Postby Xanthoria » Wed Jun 06, 2018 7:32 pm

I think we probably all want our horses to like us. And to respect us. And sitting in the middle of that Vann diagram is the perfect spot! But I am often conflicted, as I'm sure many of you are.

I want my horse to be respectful - don't haul me all over looking for grass! Pay attention and trot on when I ask! And probably lots of other things that might require a correction.

I also want my horse to be excited to see me and enjoy his work. But sometimes it's work. And some days I don't want to show up for work either...

I've heard many times that trainers get results because they don't need the horse to adore them - they're businesslike. They can be fair, and kind, but end of the day they're there to get a job done. And that owners tend to spoil horses because they want them to love them. The reality is, horses "love" who brings the food...

I've a friend who is into clicker training. Her FB group often posts of the evils of whips, and trainers meanly forcing horses to do things. She clicker trains my horse and he's thrilled that he does a little slow groundwork and gets his face stuffed with treats! Could she ever get him to move with enough impulsion to clear a jump or do a dressage test? Unlikely! :lol:

I use a combination of clicker training and carry a whip. My horse is lazy. I feel like a meanie making him work, tho he barely ever breaks a sweat. Gah. :|

How do you grapple with this?

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Re: Your horse: cozy pal or coworker?

Postby piedmontfields » Wed Jun 06, 2018 8:03 pm

Great topic! I did choose the type of horse I prefer to work with on purpose. I like hot, sensitive, a bit of a scaredy cat (so they look to me for leadership) and a bit social (so they like the interaction but are not trying to get in my lap). Sometimes this is hard to do...(buying at a distance or buying a baby). I do think that we amateurs care a lot more about personality type + how horses respond to training than pros do---probably both because of the time we spend with a single horse and our skill set.

I think of myself as my horse's physical therapist. As a result, I am sometimes very mean/hard-assed about working on things which are challenging for her. I really don't have a problem being the meany when necessary since she is ultimately so accepting of it--and I see the physical results of the hard work. I also don't have a problem disciplining my horse--though It is extremely rare that I have to discipline her on the ground. Under saddle, I am fine using whip/spurs as needed. I do think it is worth rewarding the naturally "lazy/energy-conserving" horses with meaningful breaks after they deliver the work. Doing work in short intervals without too much pattern can also help (so that they don't know what is coming next). It's also worth training reaction to lighter and lighter aids so you don't get in a rut.

I do think different horses have somewhat different motivations---that's kind of what I mean by personality. For some horses, standing still is a huge reward (I don't have that horse---for her, movement is a bigger reward!). I find Yvonne Barteau's descriptions of type and training challenges to be useful---you might, too. Karen Rohlf also has a lot of material on training tactics for the "lazy" horse. Susan on this board subscribed to her program and could offer more insight.

Xanthoria
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Re: Your horse: cozy pal or coworker?

Postby Xanthoria » Wed Jun 06, 2018 8:18 pm

piedmontfields wrote:Great topic! I did choose the type of horse I prefer to work with on purpose. I like hot, sensitive, a bit of a scaredy cat (so they look to me for leadership) and a bit social (so they like the interaction but are not trying to get in my lap). Sometimes this is hard to do...(buying at a distance or buying a baby). I do think that we amateurs care a lot more about personality type + how horses respond to training than pros do---probably both because of the time we spend with a single horse and our skill set.


Wow I think you're really hit the nail on the head with this. My current horse is a kick ride and a bit of a wuss, and I am totally more used to a hot, sensitive, bold horse. I bought him as a baby - so there you go. :?

I feel like a horrible person when I ride him, and I try really hard to be kind, and I also know he's sorta going thru the motions a lot as I am conflicted about how firm to be. Training sessions are short and brisk, with lots of breaks. We do 5 sessions a week - one jumping, 2 trail, and 2 trail-then-dressage (or a lesson) and while physically limited by PSSM and shivers, he's also a big heavy baby so NEEDS to get stronger altogether!

I'll look up Karen Rohlf - thanks!

Oh wow: just found this:

https://dressagenaturally.net/reading-room/essays/47-lessons-relearned-the-pitfall-of-wanting-to-be-nice

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Re: Your horse: cozy pal or coworker?

Postby khall » Wed Jun 06, 2018 8:51 pm

My horse is a coworker, sometimes willing sometimes not so willing. I bred him and raised him and have done all the work, so there you go. He has been a challenge because of his personality, he would be the kid in the back of the school room shooting spit balls at the other kids and the teacher if he could get away with it! He has gotten much better over the years (Hey I can kiss him on the nose now and not get bitten!) with consistent work, thank goodness. He wants to challenge the line if you let him. In the wrong hands he would have been a rogue. Thank Dog I have my filly now! She is a willing and sensible yet sensitive coworker. Quite happy to get with the program with little fuss (I tend to find that is true with mares, they are very workmanlike, geldings are the Peter Pans and never want to grow up!) I don't mind hot as long as they are not stupid, I don't mind sensitive as long as they are sensible. I can get along with a push ride but prefer to ride one more self motivated, I have no interest in riding the wild and crazy.

I also think fitness and training has a good bit of bearing on the horse's ease of movement. As they get fitter and more developed they are easier to ride. Of course then we up the ante and the cycle starts again until they become more proficient at the new level of work. Exception would be the really talented ones who find it easy, then the rider has to be careful to not push too much.

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Re: Your horse: cozy pal or coworker?

Postby Chisamba » Wed Jun 06, 2018 10:24 pm

I think horses understand a herd leader. I've watched true herd leaders. They are benign but respected. Kea was a huge leader. If she flicked her tail everyone respected it. She was so respected that no one ever bullied her or tried to take her on. Much of her superiority was standing ground and body language.

Having said that a new mare too her on once. Backed into her kicking and screaming. Let me tell you, Kea did not let up until that mare was on the ground. Then she went after her some more until she fled and she kept after her for some time.

My heart was somewhere out of body. Once they were settled enough that I was not risking life I went to check on her. Both were a bit marked and bruised but nothing long term or severe.

My point is simply that most of the time the horses in her herd respected admired and hung with her. Called when she left, were happy when she returned, but no one put her in a corner.

I feel content with my horses if they see me as a Kea.

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Re: Your horse: cozy pal or coworker?

Postby Imperini » Wed Jun 06, 2018 10:29 pm

I think some of my issues with Pal stem from starting out trying to be cozy pal which encouraged her energy efficient tendencies. Now I've moved on to coworker who delivers a lot of treats and she's like but can't we go back to being pals? She's a mare, half Appy and lazy so I think she tries to manipulate me back into allowing her to be lazy and if I'd never allowed it in the first place it would be more clear to her that it's not gonna happen.

ETA: I feel like I should clarify when I say she tries to manipulate me in that I don't really think she's manipulative it's more that she's smart and the rules weren't firmly established so she remembers and tries to see if she can go back to the original wishy washy rules.

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Re: Your horse: cozy pal or coworker?

Postby demi » Wed Jun 06, 2018 11:26 pm

Rocky is a cozy pal and a coworker. I have almost always picked hotter horses so that getting them to put out physical effort doesn't take much physical effort on my part, nor do I need to be a taskmaster. I am not a taskmaster by nature. I really enjoy dressage, but it isn't the most important part of my relationship with my horses. I want my dressage to be correct because that's part of the fascination for me, but, I am happy to take my time and I don't feel a need to move up the levels in any particular time frame. That suits Rocky just fine because she wasn't bred to be a dressage horse and she doesn't seem to have some of the qualities that make dressage come easily for her.

I picked Rocky out when she was 2. I went to try her 5 yr old brother but fell for Rocky instead. She was a sweet girl, letting me pet her and clearly responding to the way I touched her. A year later I bought her. She is still like that. I have been hobbling around with sciatica and she is so careful with me. I can put her halter on to turn her out and she walks very slowly, at my speed, not even trying to get grass along the way to the pasture. She knows I'm injured. She was in for two days last week because of thunderstorms and usually when she has to stay in, she is a wild, snorty arab when I finally turn her out. This time though, she was perfectly quiet on the way out to pasture and she didn't run off until after I was out of the pasture with the gate closed behind me.

Someday I hope she'll be my perfect coworker.

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Re: Your horse: cozy pal or coworker?

Postby kande50 » Thu Jun 07, 2018 12:55 am

Xanthoria wrote:
I've a friend who is into clicker training. Her FB group often posts of the evils of whips, and trainers meanly forcing horses to do things. She clicker trains my horse and he's thrilled that he does a little slow groundwork and gets his face stuffed with treats! Could she ever get him to move with enough impulsion to clear a jump or do a dressage test? Unlikely! :lol:


The big dilemma with clicker training is that I'm pretty sure that the horse would have to be quite hungry if we were going to be able to train him to work as hard for food as he will to avoid aversives--which would pretty much defeat the whole purpose of clicker training for many of us.

I did that particular experiment when I first started CT. I set up a jump and clicker trained my mule to jump it, and then kept raising the jump to see how high he would jump for treats. He'd jump higher if I went out in the morning when he was hungrier, but I did figure out early on that if I wanted more physical effort I should probably stick with pressure and release.

I have been pleasantly surprised at how much I can get with CT, and of course I'm just thrilled with the kind of relationship I have with my horses now, but if my goals had been dependent upon being able to get a considerable level of obedience/submission then I very much doubt I would have stuck with CT.

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Re: Your horse: cozy pal or coworker?

Postby Tsavo » Thu Jun 07, 2018 1:31 am

Even though I know correct work is healthy for horses, my approach is to have my horse view all our time together as "treat fests" with some work thrown in. No matter what work we do including sometimes difficult rehab, he is always on board with working with me.

When I discovered I did not buy a puppy dog horse, I did my damnedest to make one out of him and pretty much succeeded without him pawing his way to China. It's all in the timing.

The best description is that he very willingly works for food. That is his understanding and my understanding of our relationship and we are both good with that. As my husband once noted, everything in my horse's world is either FOOD or NOT FOOD. There is no third category.
Last edited by Tsavo on Thu Jun 07, 2018 2:03 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Your horse: cozy pal or coworker?

Postby piedmontfields » Thu Jun 07, 2018 1:35 am

Xan, from your description of baby bronto, I would probably not do a hilly mile hacking before arena work (given the 24/7 turnout). I'd separate the hacking and the arena work, so that it was "less" for his brain and body. I wonder if that might change his arena attitude (for 20 minutes of "work").

And since you live in the bay I will say, Yes, I am a top in life and relationships. But a nice top! I actually think natural bottoms often struggle with horses, since they need herd leadership clarity.

p.s. I rarely give my horse treats, but do use them when catching her (she is always good) and turning her out (she is always good). Those reward timings are about making her good for others! (barn staff)

p.p.s. When turned out, my mare is much more interested in her neighborhood and wandering deer and fox than food. That might be part of the above p.s.!

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Re: Your horse: cozy pal or coworker?

Postby Fatcat » Thu Jun 07, 2018 2:36 am

What a great topic! My current mare is my coworker and becoming my pal. She's a sensitive but sensible hardworking Morgan who will turn herself inside out for praise. Best work ethic of any horse I've ridden (but she's a Morgan) :)

I've had a pal, my old Arabian, he and I were a co-leaders and a team. With my Morgan, I'm the leader and she just wants to know what to do and doesn't need or want to have an opinion. I agree with Piedmont that being a natural leader is best for horse relationships. I see a lot of women who are too meek to be leaders for their horses and it doesn't turn out well
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Re: Your horse: cozy pal or coworker?

Postby heddylamar » Thu Jun 07, 2018 2:54 am

I bred the second two red headed mares, so this is all on me:

Generation 1: All business, all the time. I'd give her a carrot, she'd give me flat-eared mare face ... and maybe a wuffle. She was mighty unimpressed with humans, and had no tolerance for the start box -- we belonged galloping full-out across a cross-country course. She'd never think of stepping out of line, but she'd jig in place until I said she could go.

Gen 2: I'm the top. This girl is HOT, reactive, and a giant scaredy-cat who desperately requires a firm lead. She runs, hollering, for me across the pasture, then says "wait, work?" and leads me on a merry chase for 30 minutes. She knows who's in charge -- even when losing her mind, I can apply eye ointment in under 2 seconds. Verbal praise is her currency, but scratches and treats are acceptable too. :lol:

Gen 3: I somehow ended up with a labrador puppy :shock: She's adorable. I leave the barn exhausted from our ground work/interaction -- I'm the wall, she's the racquetball. She's learning. I'm trying to turn her into a coworker. It's been an entertaining year :D There's a lot more gen 1 than gen 2 in this one, but I think I know why I was gen 1's third owner!

I have no personal space problems with the first two. No unseemly (I used that on purpose ;) ) gobbling of treats, no forced head rubbing, no stepping on my toes, if I say "wait" they stay put (although gen 1 used to dance in place). Gen 3 is still learning all those things :roll: But, if I tell gen 3 to get her ass in the trailer, her ass is in the trailer.

I'm trying to be uber-patient and repetitious with personal space, and ground tying. She's going to be a jigger ... I've already trained her to stop under saddle, but I'm not sure I care that she jigs when I'm not in the tack, so long as she stays put and out of my pocket.

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Re: Your horse: cozy pal or coworker?

Postby Moutaineer » Thu Jun 07, 2018 5:06 am

Neither, really. I'm the benevolent boss. I'm not unreasonable in my demands, but I have to pay the bills, so I expect a decent level of responsibility and involvement in doing the job--which I try to keep interesting with the minimum of unnecessary drudgery.

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Re: Your horse: cozy pal or coworker?

Postby piedmontfields » Thu Jun 07, 2018 1:28 pm

I am really enjoying these descriptions. Heddy, your generations made me LOL!

I agree with Mountaineer's short summary: I'm (benevolent) management. My mare is a great staff member! We have a collegial relationship, but I control the budget/decisions.

Xan, figuring out management and degrees of Emi's PSSM did mess with my management ability for awhile. I really was taking in information about how she felt after she had a bad episode and trying to figure out how to re-build and avoid future episodes. As I result, I listened more and managed/demanded less. That period is over, though, and I've learned that work is what keeps her healthy and comfortable.

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Re: Your horse: cozy pal or coworker?

Postby mari » Fri Jun 08, 2018 8:47 am

Odie's favourite gait is halt. So I'm very much with Mountaineer and Piedmontfields on the benevolent management idea :D He is bold and strong and forward but (weirdly) also very lazy and not reactive at all. Takes a while for him to get his mind and body into gear.

We've found the best type of ride is where I'm in full dominatrix mode for the first 10 or 15 minutes, snapping out instructions and controlling every step and body part. Then after that we usually have a pretty sweet ride. I never treat him like a pal when he is being ridden, it has never benefited our work. But he is still super friendly on the ground, trots up when he sees me, nickers. And he loves being faffed with. So I guess in his little mind there is a clear distinction between a day at the office vs. a nice friendly barbecue with the boss.
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Re: Your horse: cozy pal or coworker?

Postby Kyra's Mom » Fri Jun 08, 2018 9:39 pm

I am trying to fall into Mountaineer's category of benevolent boss. I do like a lot of Karen Rohlf's philosophy. She breaks things down simply. I have come to enjoy my riding and interaction with my horse a lot better since I started working with her material. Pals...not really because I want to run the show but I want to be fair and reward her when she does a good job. Granted due to my physical issues, that hasn't included competitive riding but I think had I been able to show, things would have gone even better (based on her previous show efforts 5-6 years ago).

I think that article that Xan posted it right on.
"A Recipe for Having a Nice Time with Your Horse:
Know what you are expecting of the horse.
Learn/understand the exercise.
Become clear on the visualization of the outcome you want.
Be aware of your body-language / communication.
Practice with focus so you and your horse gain the mental and physical coordination."

Also the part about letting little things slip in the interest of time or thinking that's not a big thing. BUT it is! My mare can take over in a second. I have had her since she was coming 2 (she is 16 now) and done a ton of ground work in addition to all the riding. Finally, in following one of Karen's little courses that has to do with ground manners of all things like catching, turning out, leading, I realized that I was letting the little things slip. Any little slip gave Kyra the idea that she is in charge. Last year, I started with simply taking her in and out of her pen...MY WAY. It wasn't mean to her. I simply asked her to wait for my direction and not bolt through the gate or run over me. It wasn't even a daily issue but on one of 'those' days, she could become a hazard. Even with extensive work on that, she lost her mind for a couple weeks this Spring and was bolting and yanking the rope out of my hand when I was trying to turn her out. :twisted: . I couldn't hold onto her and get my back (and it's annoying bulging disc) jerked so off she went lead rope and all. We seem to have worked through that little issue AGAIN but I am sure it will rear it's ugly head again sometime. Spring and Fall seems to do something to her brain. All that coming from letting the little things slip.

I have learned some exercises from Karen's site that have really helped me with Kyra. They have replaced a lot of physical and verbal "encouragements" (i.e. using the whip or yelling at her). It is much more enjoyable and I mostly just carry my whip around any more. But, most of Kyra's misbehavior
or tendencies tend to come when she gets excited so maybe that is a little easier to deal with than lazy? I don't know. I like the horse I have around now (oh, at least 98% of the time).

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Re: Your horse: cozy pal or coworker?

Postby Fatcat » Fri Jun 08, 2018 9:50 pm

I had a horse like Susan's Kyra, even more dominant. I had to watch every little thing I did, as he was always testing and looking for an opportunity to take over the show. He was also very big and he knew it. He made me very aware of body language and nuance. Even though he was a very tough horse and I'd never keep one like him again, I learned more from him on this issue that any other horse I've encountered.
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Re: Your horse: cozy pal or coworker?

Postby Xanthoria » Mon Jun 11, 2018 7:59 pm

piedmontfields wrote:Xan, from your description of baby bronto, I would probably not do a hilly mile hacking before arena work (given the 24/7 turnout). I'd separate the hacking and the arena work, so that it was "less" for his brain and body. I wonder if that might change his arena attitude (for 20 minutes of "work").


Can you explain more? I am using the trail ride as a way to warm him up without boredom, and increase fitness. He's so weak and uncoordinated... and obviously with the PSSM etc he needs regular, moderate work. I don't think 20 mins in the arena is gonna cut it. Do the trail afterwards?

piedmontfields wrote:And since you live in the bay I will say, Yes, I am a top in life and relationships. But a nice top! I actually think natural bottoms often struggle with horses, since they need herd leadership clarity.


hah! :lol:

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Re: Your horse: cozy pal or coworker?

Postby piedmontfields » Wed Jun 13, 2018 9:21 pm

Xanthoria wrote:
piedmontfields wrote:Xan, from your description of baby bronto, I would probably not do a hilly mile hacking before arena work (given the 24/7 turnout). I'd separate the hacking and the arena work, so that it was "less" for his brain and body. I wonder if that might change his arena attitude (for 20 minutes of "work").


Can you explain more? I am using the trail ride as a way to warm him up without boredom, and increase fitness. He's so weak and uncoordinated... and obviously with the PSSM etc he needs regular, moderate work. I don't think 20 mins in the arena is gonna cut it. Do the trail afterwards?


Sorry--have been buried elsewhere. Yes, I might try doing the arena work first, since he is already outside and cruising around 12/7. It depends on how he feels to you. The trail might be real "work" to him which makes him a bit fatigued by the time you get to the arena. Then you could cool out on the trail (although initially, I'd try shorter sessions in the arena with higher energy---and then reward him by quitting early).


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