The equipment you'll need is a 12' to 14' line and a halter. Any kind of
halter will do, but the longer line is pretty much a must have, so you can
keep float in the line (which Bill will define for you) and let you
influence the horse through your feel (this is also described) and not
because a short lead is sort of tripping you up.
Let's just start on Exercise #1 "Lowering Your Horse's Head".
When you read this, think about where you'd use the clicker in teaching it
and fill us in on how it worked for you and your horse. What discoveries
you make? What advantages can you think of that will be gained by teaching
this exercise? How did adding the clicker help you? Did you notice your
horse start to adjust himself to your feel?
This exercise goes hand in hand with clicker training. Remember try not to
miss the release. "Reflect the change when your horse does."
If you do miss it though, take a fresh start-opportunity will come your way
Read the preface to the exercises concerning the importance of
answers alot of questions!
How is the first exercise, "Lowering Your Horse's Head", going?
I'll just relate some ideas and hope to hear from others too!
This, to me, is really an ongoing exercise to be practiced daily. Once
our horses are responding consistently on the ground, we'll work with it
under saddle with the end goal being any time we direct our horse to lower
his head by lightly touching his head, neck or poll-he will. Asking for
calm, and immediately getting it.
As Bill mentioned, we should really look for the time when our horse
let's a breath out, licks or chews. So once Dan began to do some of those
things, that's when I'd click. I wanted him to know that his relaxation is
the right thing. That's our true goal in this. So that will be something we
work on alot too.
I was noticing today while I was working with Dan on the ground that if
he ever got distracted or sort of "zoned me out" if I asked him to lower
head, boy, he snapped right back into the game. It seemed to change his way
of thinking in an instant, and it was always a change for the better and so
I was thinking too about really concentrating on that feel. Pretty
it seems like you start to know the instant before your horse's head is
going to go down. If I put my hand on Dan's poll and closed my eyes, pretty
soon by just concentrating I could feel the moment right before he
so it was easy to be right on the ball with the click/release/reward.
I know that the release is pretty powerful, so why use the clicker for
this? It's a person's choice, but the speed of the horse's understanding is
greatly excellerated, IMO.
Wendy, you mentioned that you felt out of control when your horse's
head is too low. Are you talking about while under saddle or on the ground.
On the ground, why do you think that is?
Also, you wondered how low the horse's head should go. Someone
that the horse will find the most
appropriate and comfortable place for themself. I think that this is true! I
also think that if through your feel, you ask your horse to lower his nose
to the ground, he will begin to respond to this well.
This exercise is for both horse and human to begin to learn about and
experience the "feel" of one another. It's just as important for the horse
to learn your feel as it is for you to learn his.
Questions: Did this exercise help anyone understand "feel" better?
did you add the clicks? Was it easy to keep your horse's head lowered or
it pop up alot? What did you do to fix/work on that? Can you see the
advantages of teaching this for use under saddle?
Tomorrow night I'll work on presenting the second exercise "Leading Up
Real Free & Backing Slowly".
Exercise #2 Leading Up Real Free & Backing Slowly
Let's break this up into two seperate exercises. First we'll talk about
Leading Up Real Free and in two days discuss Backing Slowly.
Take a look see at the exercise at:
"A horse that doesn't lead up well when you want him to, isn't going to
be reliable to ride. When you cannot control the timing and placement of his
feet in response to the feel you present with the lead rope, your intent
won't be clear to him through the reins either." -Bill D.
This exercise is about building a nice light feel while leading that
will carry over to work under saddle. It doesn't rely on equipment, all you
need is your halter and lead, but focuses and your presentation of "feel"
(there's that word again) in how you lead and direct your horse.
Something that is talked about alot is maintaining that "float" in the
rope. What is float? We've read that it is keeping a slack in the rope and
eventually the reins.
Why do you want this? It helps the horse learn to be light in his
entire body without any resistance to pressure as it is presented to him by
the person handling or riding him. He has nothing to lean on and he uses his
own natural lightness and doesn't learn how to brace. It teaches the horse
to search for the release and come off pressure on his own.
Your goal is for the horse to get his feet moving before you take the
slack out of the rope.
If at first the horse doesn't follow through, you might use a smooth,
firm pull (no jerking and gear your firmness to the horse. Only use what
pressure you need to get the job done. Also gear it from moment to moment as
things will likely start to change.) Your release (and c/t), when he gives
to that pressure, is what he will start to learn from and build on.
Work on both sides and from in front-he may need more work in certain
Try to release as closely as possible to when your horse eases the
pressure off of himself and this will add to your feel.
Hold the lead rope loosely if possible, (but be ready if you need to
take a firmer grip). Later, as you refine things, simply opening and closing
your hand on the rope will send a message to your horse, the rope will carry
Problems you may encounter: Your horse's feet are stuck. He's too fast
or too slow. He bumps you. What others? We can discuss these too as they
Okay, have fun and work with lowering the head too!
How's the backing exercise going?
As you've been working on this have you noticed your horse's footfall in
the backup. A front foot goes back and then the opposing rear foot (the
diagonal). Right front, left hind and so on. Seeing how the horse steps back
and how little it takes you may begin to get that feeling that you just might
be able to start placing those feet more and more exactly. If you are
beginning to feel this way, as Martha Stewart would say, that's a good thing.
Anybody have a horse who is stuck, or heavy on the front end or drags
Once your horse is backing up straight pretty well, we can start to work
on backing him in an arc and eventually a full circle.
Backing in an arc provides plenty of c/t opportunities! It should be
done from both sides of the horse and one side will probably be harder than
the other unless you have really made a point of working with your horse from
It can be hard for your horse mentally and physically at first so go
slowly, work one step at a time and reward often! This exercise builds a
foundation for turnarounds and leads. It prepares your horse for learning how
to bring his front end across and gives you another way to develop control
over your horse's hindquarters.
Your horse should know how to back straight first, if not, then wait
until he can to teach the arc. Take all the time you need! It's not a
competition! : )
As you have been learning about your horse's footfall you will know when
that front foot is about to come up off of the ground. This is the time you
start to ask him to bring the his front end across.
So in backing in an arc to the left you pick up a light feel and begin
to back your horse straight. As your horse is shifting his weight off of the
front left foot this is when you open up your lead, tip his nose to the left
and ask him to step out and back on the left.
The right rear foot (the diagonal again!) will step back and out to the
The right front and left rear step straight back.
The hindquarters move to the right.
Confusing to read? Then try this visual: Start by practicing next to a
fence. Give your horse room, a few feet from the fence. Start to back your
horse up straight along the fence, then when you're ready, tip his nose
towards the fence and his hindquarters will move away from the fence.
It is sometimes easier to understand the movement in relation to a fixed
object. Do it as many times as you need to, watching his footfall and
movement. See how one thing effects another.
Remember, slow but sure wins this circle game. Take your time and c/t
the heck out of it!
Backing over a log: this is something fun to work on and easy to
accomplish. The trick is in your timing. Walk your horse forward, straight
over a log and just as the hind feet step over it, immediately ask him to
back over the log again. c/t.
Don't stop your horse in between, although you may be tempted to. Dan
would sort of seem to forget exactly where that log was if I stopped him,
even for a few seconds, and wasn't too comfortable about backing over
something he wasn't sure about anymore. This starts building his confidence
and pretty soon you will be able to hesitate between steps, but in the
beginning, this has worked best for me.
Backing straight up against a barrel or fence post. Some horses aren't
too comfortable about backing up against something that the can't see. They
are just going on your feel and the trust they have in you. (Only back them
into something that is smooth and can't hurt them accidentally-that's
obvious, I know!) Stay safe if you try this, sometimes they tend to jump
forward or might think about moving you out of their way. It sounds like a
simple job, but can be alot tougher than it sounds.
Anyone else have some other interesting backup exercises for us to try?
As always, stay safe, don't over work your horses-for some, these are
very new movements-and have fun!
Let's keep on keepin' on and move to Exercise #3, Bringing the Head
From Side-to-Side, Real Slow, With the Feet Still.
You can read its description at: http://www.lesliedesmond.com/book2.htm
I'll add a couple of things from Bill's book, which are not included in
the above site. Remember too, those of you with very young horses, you can
be doing these exercises with them too. Can you imagine how well prepared
those guys will be when it comes time for their first rides?!
Hints: As you stand a little bit ahead of your horses shoulder you can
put one hand on his poll or neck and one hand on either the bridge of his
nose or on the halter knot under the chin (if you're using a rope halter) to
encourage him to turn his head towards you.
Remember, give your horse enough room to bring his head around and
don't crowd him. He might get tight all through his body or try to pull his
head away if you do.
Also, think about how you present your "feel". For example, prepare
your horse for where you are going to touch him. Like for Dan I might stroke
his forehead first then move my hand down to the bridge of his nose and ask
him to bring his head in my direction.
Dan is very used to this, but some horses might need more preparation
before you can reach your hand to their face. Maybe your have to start my
petting their neck. Always take things like this into consideration. Bill
writes, "Developing a presentation that really feels good to the horse is
something a person needs to learn about AND GET GOOD AT."
Some of this is very similar to how we will ask our horses to yield
their hindquarters. Bill relates that it is easy to confuse the two, but the
difference depends on the "feel" that you present and the energy that goes
towards the horse that causes him to move away.
At first some people may have to take many "fresh starts" in teaching
their horses and themselves this exercise, but that's okay, because you will
both get it!
The release (C/T) should come not just for the horse stopping his feet
if he were to move, but for turning his head towards you. The smalled try,
remember, gets c/t and release.
When you do release let your horse bring his head all the way around to
a normal position, making sure that he has enough rope to do this. If he ran
out of rope, because you were still holding it too short, he would bump
himself and that good release that he earned and is learning from will lose
Let us know how your timing goes for the click. Can you see how this
training will help you to improve your one rein stops while mounted? How was
your "presentation"? Where have you found the braces in your horse? What did
you do to eliminate the bracing? If you have an older horse, were they tight
in the beginning?
In the week to come we'll do a couple of variations on this that are
fun. Please let us know how it goes and if you have any problems that we can
We've been working on bringing the horse's head from side to side while
keeping the feet still as described in Exercise #3. At this time, we can
start playing the trombone too!
Since we have already started using the term "tromboning the rein" I'll
describe how I apply this (others may have another idea about it though) and
how it goes along with Exercise #3.
When I trombone my hand down, let's say, the right rein, I'd hold the
reins in my left hand and with my right put my thumb and forefinger around
the right rein, touching at the fingertips (like the "okay" sign) and I
gently run my hand down the rein-the rein runs through the circle I made with
my fingers, and then bringing my right hand up again to meet my left.
Judy suggest doing this three times before actually letting your fingers
close on the rein, give a constant, gentle pull as you ask your horse to
bring his head around. C/T and release come when the horse gives his head and
relaxes-THAT'S what we need not just the head coming around, but the horse's
release. Hang in there for his release so you can give yours. If he is still
leaning on the halter and lead (or rein) wait for him to relax.
By "tromboning" three times it lets your horse know that you are about
to ask him to do something. With enough practice, just running your hand down
the rein once will be enough to let him know what to do and he will begin to
bring his head around before you can even close your fingers on the rein.
This is one of those things that you can't practice enough. It can save
you in a crisis situation and puts your horse in "neutral gear" so to speak.
By being consistent and practicing it often, it will become automatic for
both you and your horse.
This can be added to Exercise #3-tromboning the lead rope and asking
your horse to move his head to the side while working on the ground. Of
course we practice from both sides, but you already knew that!
Dan and I do the invisible rein. I take his lead rope off and trombone
the air as if the lead were still there, pretend I'm taking ahold of it, give
it a pull and his head follows! We've practiced this stuff alot! It is really
fun and there are lots of clicker opportunities.
In the next couple of exercises we'll work on yielding the hindquarters
and starting to build a turn on the forehand (if anyone wants to read ahead!)
Read it two or three times if you need to. There's alot in there to
take special note of. It discusses a little bit about the importance of
horse understanding the separate meanings of your leg and your rein.
"Your legs should mean something to his legs." And your reins should
mean something to his legs.
This exercise teaches your horse "how to separate what you mean by
you do with your lead rope and reins, from what you do with your body. He's
got to know the different meaning and that these are connected to getting a
job done on horseback and to your safety while doing it."
I want my horse to be abole to understand and accets both things so he
will be a safer horse for me to ride.
This sort of connects us to the discussion Wendi started on leg cues
and the importance of educationg your horse to be able to understand and
accept both to insure our safety while on our horse.
It's a beginning groundwork, and doesn't directly address how to
overcome the fact that Dakota wants to squirt forward when he feels leg
pressure, but in a round about way it does.
Transferring the touch you apply to the horse's side on the ground to
being the same as what you apply in the saddle. Same spot, same feel, same
softness, same release.
As you read it think about what type of movement the horse is making.
Inside hind crosses over and in front of the outside hind. The horse may
keep moving. That's okay, but move with him. When the feet stop, wait again
for him to release the pressure in his neck and poll. For him to relax.
is the instant of the release and the moment that the horse begins to learn
the different meaning between what you do with your lead rope or rein and
what you do with your body AND that the two are connected to get this done.
Can you see the importance of this?
Remember, slow is the way to go with this at first. Search for the
correct moments to c/t. There is so much meaning right now by the timing
your c/t and release correctly. We're building a base from which two
separate understandings will be created. Very exciting!
Our horses will do what we ask--if we can make it clear enough to them
and they can understand it. Don't be afraid to make adjustments and start
again and again if you need to.
Also, just a thought, think about presenting that touch to your
side in a way that prepares him. A way that won't make him flinch, or jump
or maybe even kick out. I might touch Dan at first in the middle of his
back, where he's not so sensitive, run my hand down his side to the spot
just behind the cinch, where the stirrup would be, rub that spot (ala Pat
Parelli) apply a little pressure (which we can discuss too if your horse is
stuck and doesn't move). When your horse moves, immediately release
pressure-BUT wait to c/t until the feet have stopped and the horse has
relaxed as we talked about above.
If your horse is having trouble with your touch alone in the
then you will have to break it down and have another c/t schedule-but in
end, for the finished product we will just c/t at the end. You may need
of steps in the beginning with c/ting-gear this to your own individual
horse. Let us know the steps and how you eventually put them all together
for the final goal!
Currently we have been working on Exercise #4: Bring the Head Around
and Step the
Hindquarters Slowly Around the Front End, in Both Directions, which can be
So how is is all going?
"..... What's going to take place just depends on the horse and on how
far along and observant the person is. Remember to praise the horse and rub
his neck to reassure him.
"If there's alot of tries at this and the horse still isn't stepping
the inside hind leg across the outside hind leg, why the chances are real
good that you've either let the head loose as he starts to move or you're
holding him too short on the rope and having him move when there isn't any
float left in the line." -BD
Bill Dorrance also goes goes along to describe that while working this
out with your horse "that you are ALL THE TIME looking for opportunities the
horse gives you to shape and direct him. But not because you tried to force
him to give you those opportunities, or to change. It's through feel that
you teach a horse to slow down and stop, and do most anything. And that last
step the horse takes before he stops, or any of the last few steps leading
up to that stop, why they don't weigh anything. There's just the weight of
the lead rope or the reins in your hand, when it's right."
I like that, ALL THE TIME LOOKING FOR OPPORTUNITIES. I think that it's
so important to look at triaing this way and it keeps a real positive frame
of mind going.
Yesterday I went to some talks that had nothing to do with horses, but
so much of what was said applies. The speaker talked about trying to
accomplish something that seems hard. We might try a thousand times to
accomplish it but then on one-thousand-and-one we do it! That one try just
makes all the others positive. The one makes good on the one thousand.
Our goal with this exercise is to be able to move the hindquarters
around the front end, but what's so valuable is that learning part in
between. How much we can observe and learn and develop our feel.
Monty Roberts said, "If learning is from 1 to 10, the most important
part is 0 to 1."
That 0 to 1 is that spark, that inkling for the horse that the clicker
helps us define so well for him. Looking for opportunities, observing,
making the right adjustments and seeing the very first glimmer of what we
are looking for and marking that for our horse.
What I really hope to get across here is that the process of learning
is just as worthy of high praise as the end result of it is!
What have you been observing and learning about yourself and your horse
as you train this exercise? Were you able to use alot of what you'd learned
about youself and your horse from previous exercises and just time spent
together? Once the light bulb went on for your horse (or you) how did things
I hope you are talking about turn on the forehand, because this is what I am
going to describe. First, you can teach this from the ground. You can do
this with a halter and lead rope, or with your horse completely tacked up.
With a halter and lead, stand by your horse's shoulder and ask him to bend
his head toward you. As you know, a good bend thru the neck entails that
horse also give thru the poll. Just bending the neck is a good start, but
strive for that little release thru the poll as you ask your horse around.
(To be successful with the release in the poll, the horse's head will need
be level to his withers or maybe even a little bit lower). You can support
your horse as you ask him to bend by placing your free hand on his neck
you would like him to release. This sometimes helps the horse to release
thru the poll (soften longitudinally) and lower his head.
After he can bend his head around almost back to where your foot would be
not move his body.. you will be ready for the second part of the exercise.
(you will have to ask him to relax and do this bending in small increments
before you get to where he could touch where your foot would be-- go slowly
After he can do this on both sides, then ask the horse to take the step
Ask him at the same place your foot would ask him if mounted. It is
that the horse actually steps under himself with his inside leg deep and in
front of his outside leg (using the bend of the neck to determine which side
of the horse is inside, of course). Let him take one step but don't release
him until he is soft on the halter.
IF he keeps moving but doesnt' soften, this is a resistance or brace. He
not be familiar enough with his own body to be able to do this manuvever and
only take one step. If he takes many steps, just follow him until he stops
moving his feet and softens, then release the pressure from your halter
Remember to remove your hand from his side once he starts to move his
behind. (If you watch John Lyons, then you will recognize this step over
from when John gets the horse looking at him straight on, then the horse's
head and neck following him.. the horse bends his neck to about 90 degrees
John, then disengages his hind end and straightens himself to John again.
doesn't allow the horse to look at him a little off to the side and move, he
asks the horse to move when the neck and head are "waaaay" to the side.)
You would do same with the bridle and saddle (on the ground), only after you
get him bend to where he could touch your foot in the stirrup, then ask him
gently with the stirrup to take the step over.
Then, get on. You can pick up your inside rein (which ever way you wanted
bend.. but remember, the hind end will move the opposite way). Draw the
inside rein back towards your hip and ask your horse to bend to the inside.
If he moves, keep holding on until he stops. He should be able to stand
ways with his head to the side (hopefully your ground work has helped
Release when he can stand with his head bend so that you could pet his head
if you wanted to (you might want to now!!!). After that, energize your leg
and ask him to step over, like he had learned from the ground, using the
spot. He should take one step. Release your leg as soon as he starts
Release the pressure on his head only after he has stopped moving and has
softened to the rein.
You can practice a one rein stop (another post), if you are not C/T. But
with the precision of C/T, I would think the horse would be pretty solid on
bending the head and then doing the move.
>>Is this used to disengage the hind quarters? Could you describe to me a
situation in which you use this on your horse? I have been working with
horse on the touching the tail exercise in Pat Parelli's book. It sounds
similar to this but I just need to see how it will be used in the future.<<
Good question! I think that working with your horse to touch his tail
is terrific! A horse is already naturally flexible but you are teaching him
to follow a feel with this exercise and that's a the most important part in
teaching him about disengaging his hindquarters.
The exercises that we've been doing up to this point are aimed in that
direction. The horse needs to be flexible and supple all over to do it
smoothly and relaxed.
We have been working on having your horse follow your feel and stay
relaxed. We'll add to that in the next day or two and begin to work on
yielding the hindquarters.
To apply this to how you are going to use it in the future, a horse that
cannot yield his hindquarters is not a safe horse to ride. He's stiff, and
he hasn't relaxed or "turned loose" as they say. A tense horse is an
accident waiting to happen IMO. And all of those wonderful things we dream
of, lightness, collection, responsiveness-cannot be possible.
Yielding the hindquarters is probably one of the most important things
that you are ever going to teach your horse. It's something to always work
on with him, so that it becomes natural and instantaneous. And it's just
always something to keep in mind about and to work on in little ways.
From a safety stand point, if you feel that your horse is going to kick
another horse, you'd want to catch that immediately and ask him to yield his
hindquarters so he's not in a position to kick. That's our responsibility,
that our horse doesn't hurt the other guy!
You might be out on the trial, you feel your horse is starting to get
excited, he's thinking about running, if you ask him to bring his head
around and disengage his hindquarters, he can't move forward anymore. He
might be circling, but you keep a handle on the situation-he's not going to
turn into a freight train that you can't stop.
Anybody else have some examples?
Bill Dorrance: "The position of those hindquarters is right at the top
of the list of the things that you need to be all the time thinking about.
It's the hindquarters that the horse depends on to maneuver his whole body
the way he needs to whether he's moving around on his own or if there's a
rider sitting on his back.....there's some people who think that operating
those hindquarters, and even the whole horse, is about mechanics. There's no
feel built into that approach......the horse doesn't understand anything
about mechanics....the way it should be done is the way it fits the horse,
and that's a different feel entirely from those mechanics, because the only
feel that a horse can be sure of, well, it comes right out of you. The horse
knows the difference right away."
So, in conclusion (finally huh?) as you do your Parelli exercise,
think about how your feel, your intent, effects your horse. Your body
placement. Your presentation. What adjustments did you make that helped your
horse? (all of these observations are going to help you down the line) At
the same time it's a good chance to see all that that move physically
involves with your horse. How his muscles and spine work, so that when you
are on his back you can understand that and how the way that you ask effects
his entire body and mental attitude.
I was going to move on to Exercise #5 tonight, but I was really touched
and impressed by Joyce's recent post regarding Logger and how he filled in
for her when she needed him to.
I've always found it a wonderful thing when a horse fills in for a
person, because that means that the horse is thinking.
Logger filled in for Joyce when his instinct for self preservation
could have taken over, but he could seperate that and filled in so that
Joyce could make it through a bad situation safely.
How does a horse learn to fill in? He gains this wisdom through
Peter Campbell says, "Filling in tells us that the horse has a good
memory. Some are better than others, just like a person."
A friend of mine told me, "The horse starts to search out the answers
because you fixed it up for him to learn through his own natural movements,
but to do this, you've got to be aware of where your horse is and how you
can help him from moment to moment. Opportunities to help your horse fill in
may only last an instant. They're there and then they're gone. So that's
when riding from moment to moment becomes more important."
When I think of the exercises that we've been working on, and clicker
training in general, we are teaching our horse to fill in also. He is
encouraged to search out the answers, finding out what works and what
doesn't. Gaining experience in a positive way because we are always
arranging things so that he will succeed.
Bill's brother Tom said, "The rider can be trying to help the horse too
much. If you were out having to do a job, that would be alright, but if you
were helping your horse to learn to do something, he won't have a chance
unless you fix it for him to learn."
I can remember when Joyce first started with this list and using the
clicker. People at her barn sure gave her a hard time and she wondered
sometimes if she would ever make it with Logger. She kept working with him
though. Teaching him things and helping him to succeed and at the same time
creating feel and developing a horse that could seperate self preservation
from what she asked him to do. She brought out the best in him.
Bill Dorrance writes, "A horse might fill in for a person if someone
has built feel into that horse's mental system...and I'm speaking about how
that person presents things in a way that is most understandable to the
horse through feel..."
I think, too, that by being a "dependable source of information" for
our horse, that he will know that we are there to help him succeed and
accomplish things. This, IMO, is motivational to him and he is drawn to it.
This is alot of what our next exercise is all about too!
To end this now, Joyce, I want you to know that you gained alot of
ground with Logger and I'm really proud of you!
One of the main objectives of this exercise is to let your horse know
that you are there to help him accomplish things. You are going to set it
up, with Bill's help, to make this as physically easy for your horse to
successfully do and therefore understand.
Remember that first you will rock the horse back to free up his
If you are asking your horse to move to the right you would tip your
horse's head slightly so that it is over the leading foreleg, which would be
the right one in this case.
Ask your horse to step back just a little to lighten up the front end.
IMPORTANT: When you actually ask your horse to move his front end to
the right, make sure that the following foreleg, the left, goes behind the
leading foreleg, the right. He will be able to step over much freer and help
keep his forehand from becoming heavy.
You'll start with your hand by the halter knot or lead buckle under the
chin but later experiment with stepping away from your horse and see how
with your life and feel that you can also accomplish this.
There will be alot of experimenting in the beginning as you discover
how your body placement, in relation to the horse's, effects his movement.
Look for accuracy of movement and foot placement and how you can encourage
Are you beginning to see that have the ability to place your horse's
feet just about anywhere you want?
Did you push him forward or backwards with your energy, or to the side?
Did you have to tone down your energy or liven it up?
Remember, do this equally from both sides. And, as always, click for
the smallest tries in the beginning. : ) Watch how your horse moves and
think about how you can influence him to make this as easy as it can be!
THEN let the list know how it all went and what you learned!
In the opening paragraph of this exercise Bill writes: "Teaching the
horse to stand is the most important thing to get built in. You do this by
understanding how to help him move, and him knowing that you know how to do
this. Then, in the absence of your feel to move, he knows that other feel,
which means stand. That feel for him to stand means for him to stop."
Standing still is not the absence of feel, but the absence of the feel
to move. Standing still with feel, is an important part of encouraging
movement. The horse comes to understand, through the feel that you give to
him, what you are asking him to do. "...he learns to wait for some other
idea from the person to show up." So it is the contrast of the feels that
waits for and responds to.
Wow, what a concept! Learn to stop well, to learn to move well.
Understand how your horse moves, to understand how your horse stops. The
go hand in hand.
Anatomy of a stop: "...a stop occurs at a place that is right exactly
in between stepping forward and stepping back."
How many of you have seen or felt this "in between part" with your
horse as Bill describes it? Where you sit on or stand next to your horse
can rock his weight forwards or backwards without taking a step. It is easy
to picture and relate to if you have experienced it, but might be a little
hard to understand if you haven't.
Bill gives some good exercises for this, with lots of clicking
opportunities. As you work on these remember that you will see the weight
shift before any steps are actually taken. The shoulder muscle flexes, or
the haunch. When you get well intuned to this, it starts to seem like you
have a lot more time to use your feel with accuracy.
In the next couple of days we'll talk about a person's attitude
affecting the horse, livening the horse up and bringing the life down and
can even talk about mounting.
Please keep us posted on your progress and where you decided to use
clicker and if you've been able to feel the "in between place" thats right
smack dab in the middle of a forward step and a backward step.
"When we speak about having a connection with the horse through feel."
Bill writes, "what's meant by that word "connection" is the part that's in
place when what YOU UNDERSTAND AND DO is directly connected to what the
HORSE UNDERSTANDS AND DOES, on account of his physical and mental systems
being tied in to yours, through feel."
Bill also says that "it's the mind of the horse that makes him what he
is." Those are pretty exciting words! What do they mean to you and how you
relate to your horse?
What these groundwork exercises help to do is prepare a horse for the
things that we will be asking of him and raise his level of understanding
(and our own) through each others "feel".
Raising the horse's level of understanding, and our own, really gets
helped along with groundwork. Soon, the understanding achieved on the ground
gets translated to riding. The more we work to translate our feel to the
horse through groundwork, the more quickly it will happen on his back.
Practice brings familiarity and the horse searches for what he
recognizes and "feels good doing".
So as each day progresses as we work with our horses it's important to
constantly strive to be looking for ways, no matter how small, to improve
our connection with them.
"Never miss an opportunity to train your horse," as a friend of mine
was fond of telling me, letting me know that daily handling of things that
seem commonplace can become real important lessons in feel. Once I started
thinking in this way, too, it became easy to always be particular in what I
wanted and how I asked it so that Dan could best understand what I wanted. I
started to realize how much could be accomplished with even the little
You can take your clicker with you for all of those everyday things too
and think, as you are doing them with your horse, how you can best influence
your horse through feel and increase your understanding of each other.
Later I'll more on to Exercise #7 if no one has questions or responses
about this one. THEN after we've completed Exercise #8, Sandy & Cita will be
taking over! Which will be alot of fun!
I've been reading everyone's posts and am really thrilled with the progress, observations and great questions! Smart group!
Some of you, I have read, have the need-THE NEED FOR SPEED!
There have been a few posts from people concerned that creating a horse that is calm and relaxed might also make them a pokey horse to ride.
When I think about a horse who is relaxed I think of one who isn't tight anywhere, but moves freely. Calm means level headed and thinking clearly in my book.
It's true though, that you can "squish the spirit right out of a horse" (as a pal of mine would say) and Bill Dorrance explains: "There are alot of reasons for this. One is that they've not been taught to move through feel. And some of them, no better than they've been handled, HAVE BEEN DISCOURAGED FROM MOVING. The problem is generally due to a person kicking the horse and pulling back at the same time, or just hanging on the mouth because they haven't learned how to ride a horse in a way that fits the horse, and that takes in alot of people. If a horse doesn't understand the feel to move, these horses are usually the ones who haven't got the first idea about the feel to slow down or stop either."
So the knife cuts both ways as far as a person not developing feel in their horse is concerned. I'm not saying that anyone is guilty of that here, but feel is as much a part of a lively horse who can really move out, but stay calm and relaxed, as it is with a horse slowly, but accurately, moving over obstacles. Feel comes into play in everything that a horse does.
I had to laugh when someone said that maybe it was because they were still young, that they liked a horse with speed. It was a good post, for sure, and I'm not making fun of it, but the enjoyment of a fast horse isn't lost with us geezers either! Some of the most wonderful days I've had on a horse was with a bunch of grandpas that liked to ride with the wind!
"...if the horse has alot of fire in him," Bill continues, "and wants to go way too fast all the time, you'll have to spend some time on getting that horse to slow down for you. No, if he has an abundance of life, he'll sure need to learn to slow down first through feel. THEN IT DOESN'T MATTER IF HE'S TOO FAST OR TOO SLOW-THE HORSE IS GOING TO KNOW WHAT YOU WANT AND BE ABLE TO RESPOND TO YOU. That respectful, accurate response is what we need..."
So, these ground exercises that we've been learning should work both ways. When a horse learns through feel and the time is taken to teach him about feel, it becomes easy for the horse to speed up and slow down as a calm and relaxed response to your request.
Bill writes about the horse,"...he knows what's expected of him and
he's just pleased to be there and to try what it is you want if you've gone
about things in a way that fit him up to this point. If you haven't it will
be real clear right now."
This is the point where you might find some holes in your training. If
this happens, that's alright, and you can just go back to the previous
exercises and work with them a little longer. Since there is no rush with
any of this, going back won't set you behind. What counts is that these
things are becoming solid with you and your horse.
As you work on all that's involved in switching directions, it's okay
to let your horse stop "in between steps and soak on things for awhile."
This is a good time to really break things down with c/t.
As you read the exercise think about how you want to offer your feel
for the horse to leave and move in the direction that you are asking. What
will you do? How much effort does it take? Did you have to change the feel
to move that you presented to your horse?
Be sure that you work on these things step by step-do your homework--and
don't just jump into this exercise without doing the rest or you might get
yourself into a dangerous situation. Make sure that your previous exercises
Something that might help as you do this is to think about "offering
(your horse) the feel to operate his forequarters and hindquarters
separately." The hind will support the weight, the fore reaches for that new
direction. How can you set it all up to be easier for your horse?
Questions? Let us know how it goes and how you involved the clicker!