Archive | Tips & Techniques

Small Connections, Big Shifts

Small Connections, Big Shifts


Small Connections, Big Shifts

‘Eyes Closed’
This action may already be a part of your daily greeting with your horse. But are you consciously aware of it’s benefits, or that it can actually create a specific request from your horse? When you pet your horse, where is your go-to spot? (This is likely dependent on the horse, of course.) But for those that have a close knit relationship with our horse, we very typically greet them at the face, and hug them at the face…how many of you rub their eyes closed as part of this interaction? Maybe to help clean up the eye, or maybe – like me – there’s a spiritual loving way to this action?

Our daily interactions with horses likely includes some form of loving gesture. I find this gesture to be very valuable both in the horse’s physical acceptance as well as the horses’s emotional understanding.

The development of the head down cue is the horse’s understanding of how to give to certain pressure around the face. Having this communication with your horse helps with grooming, bridling, clipping, etc.
As my horse becomes comfortable with the head down cue, I can step up the challenge to help solidify another level of calm and quiet from the horse. To do this I can add the challenge of allowing me to close one of his eyes, or both, while in the head down position. This will be accomplished easiest by already having developed some ‘Hold Time’ in the head down cue exercise. Closing one eye, may be much easier for the horse than asking him to close both eyes at the same time. But achieving both eyes closed builds an emotional piece to the relationship where they have developed an understanding that they are still safe without their sight. This is a great form of trust in your relationship with the horse.
Isn’t having their eyes closed a huge vulnerability? If a horse can trust me to cover their eyes and not struggle or panic, then I know he is accepting me on a pretty deep level.
I have found that through repetition of this, the horse calms significantly, and furthermore when I greet him regularly this way, I feel a major shift in our relationship…That calm, docile, heart-connection that we all long for.
Teaching the horse to allow you to pet his eyes closed can have wonderful effects on your relationship because it is a direct way of asking him to trust you. Make it soothing and comfortable enough and he will lean in gently, as if he were returning the love!

‘Spread your Love’
Some of you may refer to this as running energy. But for those of you that aren’t familiar with ‘energy practices’, let me help make you aware of something that you probably already do in your daily activities. If you don’t, find some time, your horse will love you for it!
Remember the scene in your favorite horse movie(it happens in a lot of them), where the music gets romantic and the camera focuses on the horse’s body under dim romantic light, while the person runs their hands along the horse’s body. My favorite movie scene is one from “Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken”. The woman has suddenly become blind during an accident while doing a show with her horse, which is her way of life. She’s told that she will likely have many limitations and not ride again. So of course, she’s yearning and determined to be on the horse again-no matter what people say. So she must memorize the feel of the horse under her hands. How many of us have memorized the feel of a horse under our hands?! I’m betting anyone that has had the privilege of being with a horse, period!
This blind ‘feel’, this dramatic moment in the movie is so heartfelt and familiar to me. It’s one daily interaction that I find healing for both myself and the horse I am working with.
The results of this idea, really depend on the Focus that you bring to it. It can have a physical focus of training, such as in my Touch and Turn exercise(TNT), or it can have an emotional or spiritual feel to it. Or you can learn to combine both!
Running energy can have many different levels of emotion or intent with it, and it can be very calming for both you and the horse. Of course, if the horse is calm, we are calm, and vice versa, right?!
It can be as simple as giving your horse a massage. When massaging, of course, you are literally getting the energy flowing by improving blood circulation, which is wonderful. But just exploring the lighter touch you may find that there are other ways to run healing energy throughout your horse’s body. Some horse’s need the lighter touch to allow the development of relaxation in certain areas.

In my practice of Touch and Turn, many times I am running energy, or the intent to heal and balance my horse. The most important part of this exercise is applying it with your hands, not a brush or other gadget. Make the connection. From nose to tail, I’m using my hands to help the horse to relax. Allowing myself to connect with the horse on another level.

‘Stretch and Give, Trust and Hold’
Another big piece that can be added to TNT(Touch and Turn), or just to your daily grooming practice, is stretches. Helping your horse to learn to stretch can be the tricky part at first, but once your horse learns to give or engage into it properly, he will look forward to the process over time. In addition, it can help to build your horse’s trust in handling his feet in awkward positions, and also help him to be more aware and focused on staying balanced enough to not lean or accidentally step on you.
One example of this exercise is picking up the front leg, just behind the knee to a 90 degree bend in front of his chest. Then waiting for the lower part of the leg to relax and literally dangle means that he has likely shifted his weight out of your space and onto the other 3 points of his body. Or you can literally use gentle coercion to help him find those other 3 points(legs). This engagement teaches him to take care of his balance, and ultimately to understand where he should be in respect to your space. But besides being a refinement tool in your training, it can also be a great way to help your horse become aware of certain parts of his body that he may not be using. Maybe he was injured and tends to compensate in other areas of his body. This exercise can be a gentle way to rebalance him.
In general this is a great way to teach the whole horse’s body to give and to release sections at a time. When he can do this in full, you have likely created a well rounded feeling of trust with your horse and his body.

Just Be’
All too often we have busy lives and are limited to the amount of time that we get to enjoy our horse. So, most of the time is likely spent getting the horse in shape or ready to ride for the season. Or focused on improving the general relationship we have with our horse. But one thing we all need to remind ourselves is that it is also really important to Just Be With Our Horses. Go out into their pasture, into their home, and just hang out. Or take them into the arena and give them a chance to roll and kick up their heals without any expectations(of course he isn’t allowed to roll ON YOU, lol!). But hanging out and having very simple expectations of him, just as the other horses might in his herd. This is a wonderful way to get to know him on a very personal level and to help him understand that it isn’t always GO-GO-GO, or do this/do that. This is a great simple way to tell him you love him and respect him. <3
As a trainer, I believe this is one of the most important reminders. Because I’m typically on a schedule or trying to make a deadline, it’s so important to be sure that I take an easy day WITH the horses. Both for myself and each individual horse. Releasing the constant feeling of expectation.

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Important Things to Consider in Any Training Program

Important Things to Consider in Any Training Program


Important Things to Consider in Any Training Program

Horse2Human has a strong belief in the old quote by Albert Einstein,  “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”  This is proven when a horse comes home from a traditional training program and the owner hasn’t done any of the learning alongside his horse to understand the skills and signals that are being taught.  Additionally, the horse and human eventually return to the same routine and expectations that they started with before training and the relationship will quickly revert right back to where they started with all the problems they were hoping to cure.

So all in all, when you commit to a training program…learn as much as you can while your horse is in training and DO YOUR HOMEWORK…don’t fall back into your old pattern!

The 30-Day Wonder’ Program….which we don’t have…

When a horse, or a person for that matter, is taking on a new routine or habit…it can take much longer than just a 30 day period to help the body and mind to establish a memorized pattern.  The muscle memory or memorized routine needs to become second nature.  If a horse has spent 10 years experiencing traumatic accidents, or bucking each person off, rearing up, pulling back when being tied, picking up the wrong lead or even just sitting in a pasture all his life…30 days just isn’t enough to reverse 10 years of memorized habit.

The impression that 30 Days WORKED”   …30 Days can sometimes give the horse a good start. At the 30 day mark, you may notice a huge change from the horse.  But 30 days is merely just that…a good start.  If it is not followed up with regular maintenance by you or someone qualified with the same skills, the problems with this horse have a huge chance of relapsing or returning.  Spending the money or even just the time to have the horse ‘tuned up’ for 30 days is likely to be a complete waste if you and the horse return to the very same pattern or routine that you started with.   The ‘triggers’ to the problem at hand, will always be there, and you need to allow the horse time enough in the new pattern to develop muscle memory in his body and in his mind.  It is also just as important to be sure you are involved in the training of the horse, so that you can also take on new habits and expectations in order to improve the relationship.  A relationship doesn’t improve unless both sides make a change.

Commiting yourself to the program, the other half of the equation

While the trainer is capable of helping a horse to memorize a new routine or set of skills, the only way that the new skills can be maintained and guaranteed to last is if the intended handler takes on the same set of new skills. The training of the horse is only 50% of the equation.  The human must be involved both in observation and hands-on experience.

Before considering a training program and scheduling your interviews with trainers, be absolutely sure that you are ready to commit yourself to the program as well.  Additionally, before you spend the money putting your horse into training, be sure you are scheduling during a time in your life that you can commit AT LEAST 2 days a week.  (In my experience with students, 2 or more days in a row, allows your body and mind to absorb the information and then improve the technique.  And to furthermore, create a feeling of success and knowing that you are making progress!) When you are interviewing a potential trainer, be sure to make it clear that you would like to be a part of the program so that you can continue what is taught.  A good trainer LOVES to hear this!

And remember that learning anything new can be tough in the beginning, especially if the language is foreign to you.  Memorizing language and getting your coordination started is the hardest part of any training program.  Be patient with yourself and know that you are in it to help your horse.  To create the relationship that works for both of you.

If you stick with it, the rewards are worth it!  Enjoyment and relaxation with your horse is right around the corner!

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H2H Fundamental Skills

H2H Fundamental Skills


Basic Ground Handling Skills:

(For basic care:  Leading/Grooming, Farrier, Vet,)

Head Down Cue

Touch and Turn(TNT)

Language Lesson

Flagwork

Round Pen Basics (ideal for a more advanced relationship)

In the H2H program, there are basic skills that need to be established in order to accomplish the following:

*To ensure my safety as a trainer, your safety ongoing, as well as the horse’s safety in advancement.

*Caring for the horse’s basic needs requires some basic handling skills.   The above list is my thorough version that will ensure that the horse has access to basic needs and care to be healthy and happy.

The skills listed above are also the very first things I evaluate with a horse that I am meeting for the first time. If I can successfully complete these requests and get the appropriate responses, then it gives me access to more advanced challenges that can show me how much training the horse needs or has overall. Thus developing results from my Evaluations and being able to develop an initial training plan for the individual horse.

Walking through the Basic Handling Skills

Head Down Cue, Head Control

The head is the first thing we handle.  It’s the part of the body we typically retrieve or restrain in order to control the rest of its body. While there are some alternate ways of ‘controlling’ or desensitizing a horse without restraint to the face, I would like to discuss these steps assuming that the horse can be haltered in general.

The ‘head down cue’ is merely a phrase or term, but to me it is a general statement that the horse has learned to give to pressure from the points of contact on the halter.  The more thorough you are in teaching the horse to ‘give to contact points’ the better the horse will be able to feel and determine the direction in which he should give to pressure.  Helping the horse to get consistent Give responses to these contact points will help the horse when faced with more challenging tasks, such as standing still for the farrier, shots from the vet, or bridling quietly.

This is one of the more simpler ‘cues’ you can ask of the horse when he is faced with added pressure or challenge.  Asking for the horse’s attention can be difficult in high energy or stressful situations, so having a simple task to ask of him first, is the safest bet overall and will likely keep him from getting overwhelmed and giving up altogether.

Once the horse has learned to give to the pressure or guidance of your hands at the poll and nose, maybe with the added security of having the halter in place, you can then begin to additionally show him how to give to pressure laterally.

Just like when you use your reins to ask the horse to Give(or to ‘flex’ as some people refer), these are requests of the horse to come around to the side towards their ribs or shoulder point.  These are great stretches too, and you should keep an awareness of his comfort level as you ask him to stretch into these positions.  Especially if the horse is new to the exercise or stiff physically.  Keep in mind that you are merely asking the horse to feel where the contact is applying pressure and to figure out for himself HOW to come away from that specific contact.  The moment in which you release his response is where he LEARNS what he should be doing in response.  So be sure that you are releasing when he is actively trying to release the pressure for himself.  Ask in stages, not all at once, or you will end up being sore and frustrated.  The moment the contact is being applied is when you are essentially making the request, make sure you are aware of every request you might be making.

Once you have achieved being able to ask the horse to give to various angles from the halter, then you can begin connecting the feet.  The advanced version of this exercise includes being able to move the feet forward and backward while the horse’s head is giving downward(head down).  This is a fundamental piece for training a horse to be tied safely, or retraining a horse that pulls back on the lead.

Touch and Turn (TNT)

This exercise is one that I find extremely important for a well-rounded relationship and a great ‘go-to’ exercise when a horse is emotionally stressed, lacking focus, or needs a reminder of my boundaries. There are so many different things to apply to this simple exercise that, if clear and consistent, will create more balance in the relationship emotionally, mentally and physically.

The Touch and Turn, otherwise known as TNT offers first and foremost, desensitization; or in other words an explanation (to the horse)of what intentions you have when making contact to the horse’s body.  Desensitization to me is so important before RE-sensitizing him to your cues or personal boundaries and expectations.  It helps the horse to feel safe in your presence, but to also respectfully accept contact and pressure in areas that would otherwise be untouched.

This is actually the first exercise I go through when introducing myself to a horse. And many times before I even ask for a horse to drop his head from pressure(Head Down Cue).  However if the horse is moving around a lot, tossing his head, or otherwise pulling on the halter or lead, the Head Down cue is necessary to help the horse settle off of pressure and have a general understanding of how to respond.  Tuning into the TNT and the Head Down Cue (or control)as soon as possible is equally important in getting the horse to a calmer, easier-to-control state.

The first part of Touch and Turn, is the Touch; being able to make contact with the horse ALL OVER his body while the horse stands quietly.  Over time the difference between Touch and Turn is when to Stand Still and when to Move his feet.  The ‘Turn’ part  of the exercise is also very important for teaching the horse to give his full attention when needed.

This exercise is a very clear presentation to the horse of using contact cues versus body language.  The energy in which we project when asking for the horse to yield to our boundaries and to be attentive is very natural for them, and should be used graciously so as not to dull or overwhelm the horse’s natural responses.

One key to this exercise is using patterning or a consistent routine to condition the horse to memorize your actions.  The importance of this over time is the horse’s natural ability to anticipate what comes next which leads into ‘weight shifts’ and ease of control and boundaries overall.

A general approach to the exercise is entering the left side of the horse, scanning with my hand literally from nose to tail, including picking up of each foot.  When picking up each foot, my first expectation or request of the horse is that he shift his body onto the other 3 feet, offering a Give or release of that corner of his body.  To be sure that the horse is Giving to this request, I’ll lift the horse’s front foot from the knee, so that I can check to be sure he is ‘dangling’ that front foot without struggle or resistance.  Some young horses need lots of repetition in order to get to a consistent release in the body.

The back foot can be a lot harder, as I have found that many horses struggle a bit either emotionally or physically to develop the appropriate balance in order to go right into the Give from that corner of their body.  Many times I use their tail in specific ways to help them to relax more or to help shift the weight where it needs to go(into the other hind foot).

Once I have finished the entire scan, which should be a constantly moving process so your keep his attention, I then request for a Turn and Face.  This can be done in two ways in order to perfect or challenge your horse’s focus, or to help develop the proper weight shifts and yielding to your boundaries.

Then I repeat on the other side.

Typically, I will repeat this many times, and as needed using the Language Lesson (next lesson below) in support if the horse ‘NEEDS’ to move.  The TNT them becomes even clearer for the horse in order to understand the difference between my signals to move his feet and standing still.  He also learns the difference in my intentions and how my energy and projection relate, which in turn builds clear leadership.

In the pictures above, you may notice that I carry a flag.  This is the advanced stage of Touch and Turn, where I am desensitizing with the flag.  This is to help develop the advanced stages in your horse’s understanding of your intentions.  Learning that even though the flag is waving or moving, does not mean that you are giving signals to move.  This also adds further coordination in your horse handling skills, and a big part of becoming thoroughly AWARE of your projections compared to your actual intentions!

If you can master the TNT lesson alone, your farrier and your vet will love you forever!  😉

 

Stay Tuned

Next Monday, March 13th…

Language Lesson

-Advanced leading/lunging and body language training-


COMING SOON:

Riding Pre-Req

&

Advanced Refinement or Correction

 

Obstacles

Bridlework

Footwork

Intro to Saddle/Cinching

Ropework

Tarpwork

Intro to Mounting

 

 

 

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