Horses with people problems
Why do we let our fears & insecurities affect our horsemanship?
When we first start working with a horse we always look for the 'why?', it comes automatically for us. What is that 'why' that I'm talking about? That 'why' is the reason for a certain behavior- we try to find the source of what we know as different behaviors; fear, spooky, disrespectful, lazy, unresponsive, alert, pushy etc.
I can keep naming those so called categories for day, but the if you take a look at that list you will see that all of these "reasons" are not a part of the horse's character but are defined by us. We tent to use our ego and look for a problem- we are the ones that are; spooked, disrespectful, lazy, pushy etc.
Why are we like that? Because some horses challenge us and we are afraid- of failing, of getting hurt, hurting the horse. We see a horse that is very sharp and responsive to the environment and we call him unresponsive- to us. Pushy? We are probably pulling, scared to let go. And lazy- we work on cruise control- once we have categorized the issue we work at the same training frame we know suits the issue- not the horse.
I have recently got to fillies to work with, one is a Quarter horse and the other is an Arabian horse.
Tiger lily- 2.5-year-old, Quarter horse- came from a pasture, have been haltered once and was brought to the client's ranch.
Sabra- 3-year-old, Arabian horse- came from a bad place, jumped and rolled out of the trailer and broke half of it on the way out. Have been abused or poorly trained.
Both are at the same ranch right now.
When I started working Tiger- Lily I was so sure she is going to be the cutest horse ever- small, fluffy girl, was very friendly in her stall even though she was never around human till the day she was brought in. You can guess my surprise that after she was so nice to lead and groom, once we have walked into the roundpen she was all of the things I wrote above.
And basically I became all of those. She started, bucking, rearing, biting, kicking, but- wouldn't move forward. And it drove me nuts! I am not ashamed of it- but instead of becoming aggressive, frustrated and selfish- I walked out of the pen and left her there.
30 minutes later I brought in a Tennessee Walker filly that I had started a month earlier at that ranch, and let her in the roundpen.
Because at the moment I started feeling all of those things and reflecting it on her, I stopped being a teacher nor horseman. That pause button I was able to push made me see it differently- she was never around humans! And is fresh out of the pasture, in a new place, in a stall! That horse was lonely, bored and felt the need to protect herself- it didn't matter even a bit that I knew I'm not going to hurt her. She needed a friend, and indeed she got one. 10 minutes later I walked in, quietly asked them both to start moving, I was directing the older colt- Daisy, and she taught Tiger-Lily who started to respond on her own. At a certain point she took the lead, it took 2 more days like that and Tiger- Lily was good to go, and well, you can check out the videos and pics and see how well she is doing.
But I have learned my lesson.
And not too long after that, Sabra came. I have seen only 2 horses like her before- Cisco and a mare I came across in the states and everybody at the ranch hated her but me (still wish I would have had enough guts to ask to train her).
Sabra- something was off. She was and still is all of the things that scares us humans- unresponsive, highly sensitive, fearful, spooky, high levels of energy, disrespectful, super athletic- which means, if she wants too- she will jump out!
Leading her the 1m' (not kidding! Literally 5 steps from one gate to the other) from her pen to the roundpen was mission impossible. At first I tried to lunge her, worked well for a few minutes and then she got bored and stood by me- with any other horse I would have like it, but with her it is a bit dangerous- she is bound to jump at me at any given time- either she got angry and attempted to kick and bit or she was spooked (from any movement outside) and would try jump on me- if she could she would have made hold her on my hands like a child.
Trying to mover her around the roundpen was a fail as well- either she runs at me or try to find a way to jump out. Having her there with another horse only made her go faster and angrier.
Pause button- tried all the basics.
I have said it before, I like to start fresh with every horse, Sabra's behavior was telling me many things; trauma, stress, fear, but also willingness. She wanted attention, kinda' like a kid that wants people to treat them but end up achieving that through negative behavior.
Every time I walked in her pen she came right to me. That was a nice thing, so instead of making her move around me I made her move with me. And basically got to the basics of haltering and leading. She got pretty good after 2 days and we went back to lunging, I used the flag again, and she was better, even made some direction changes pretty nice- still is highly alerted- but I can't fault her for that, this is part of the Arabian character (they can be very mellow, but with some it takes more time).
She is one of them horses to challenge me every day. I am two weeks in to my work with her, and every time I let myself relax and think that I got to her she wakes me up and get me to re-think that.
We have managed to work with Tiger-Lily and her in the roundpen- and will upload the un-edited video- Sabra draw Tiger-Lily and made her more up-bit which was very refreshing watching that cool and calm horse play around, and on the other hand she became Sabra's anchor. Making her deal with the urge to play and go 'crazy- fast'. They complement each other perfectly.
Horsemanship doesn't begin when you walk into a roundpen or the arena. It is a way of life. Choosing to be a teacher and communicate with amazing creatures, and allowing it to affect you as a person. We choose to leave our ego's aside.
Cataloging horse problems, calling a horse stupid, idiot and many more doesn't make any one any better- probably the other way around. I strongly disagree with the term 'breaking a horse'- I do not want to break any one- I have been broken- it is not fun. Teach the horse, and let the horse teach you. Try and out-smart a horse or patronize them will get you nowhere.
- I will keep updating about the 2 fillies and let you know how things tur out for us.
Tiger Lily, Sabra & YahelYa.