Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Can I Hurt "Precious"?

"Precious" is a term borrowed directly from Clinton Anderson.  He uses this name for a fictisious horse, who's owner just will not make it behave, because they can not stand the thought of hurting "Precious" in anyway.  "If I make her leave me, she will think that I don't love her anymore" or "If I hit her with a wet noodle, I will hurt her"  Neither of those two comments are anywhere near true.  I will take both of these statements and explain exactly what I mean.

First, let's examine "If I make her leave me she will think that I don't love her anymore."  Just to clarify her being close to you has absolutely nothing to do with her loving you, or you loving her.  "Precious" is constantly up in your space, and on top of you, that is not love, it's disrespect.  It's also very, very dangerous!  If she were to spook at something, she wouldn't think twice about jumping right on top of you.  It doesn't matter how big or small she is, that is going to hurt, ... you!  Make "Precious" respect your space, and then if she spooks she'll jump away from you because she will know that she is only allowed in your space when you tell her that it's alright for her to enter it.

Now, for the second statement, "If I hit her with a wet noodle, I will hurt her."  This statement to me is even more ridiculous than the first one.  Because, short of tying her up to a very solid object, and working her over with a shovel or a 2" x 4", you're not likely to physically hurt her.  I don't care how strong you are, you can not generate the type of force that another horse does kicking, and this isn't the type of hitting that any trainer that I've ever heard was talking about anyway.  When it comes to applying pressure to your horse, use as little pressure as possible that will get the job done, but as much pressure as is necessary to get the results you want.

Let's use the example of teaching a horse to lunge, counter clockwise.  The lead rope will be in your left hand and the whip/stick will be in your right hand.  The horse will be within close proximity to you, but not within your space.  Use your lead hand to gently guide the horse into the correct direction, without the horse entering your space.  If that works, great that was as little pressure as possible and got the job done.  But, if it didn't work, you need to increase the pressure until you get the response you wanted, any forward movement in a counter clockwise direction, even if its only on step, then the pressure is removed completely.  So, with your lead hand, still gently guiding, add pressure with your right/whip hand by simply lifting it behind her.  If you have not spent any time getting the horse used tot he whip, this will likely be enough pressure to make her move forward, as soon as it does, lower the whip, and repeat, gently guide, no response, raise whip, movement, lower whip, and keep repeating until it only requires being gently guided.  Eventually when you raise your left hand the horse will move off in the correct direction.  But, for this purpose, we're going to say that your horse isn't doing what you want it to do, when you want it to.

So, for arguments sake, lets say that when you lift the whip, the horse either remains standing, or starts moving but in the wrong direction.  What to do, keep the pressure from your left hand constant, but keep increasing the pressure from from your right hand gradually applying more and more pressure until the horse moves in the right direction, forward and counter clockwise.  Start with raising the whip, increase by gently waving the whip, increase the intensity of the wave, if still no forward movement, touch the horse with the whip, then tap the horse with it, and keep increasing the firmness of the tap until you get what you want.  As soon as that happens, stop all pressure completely, but not until you get forward, counter clockwise movement.  If you remove pressure before that, you will teach the horse to do what-ever it was doing at the time that you removed the pressure.  Let's say that the horse rears up, and it kinda scares you, so you remove the pressure.  Since you removed the pressure, the horse thinks that rearing up was what you were looking for.  So, the next time you start to apply pressure, before you apply as much as you did last time, she rears up again.  It freaks you out again, and you remove the pressure.  The cycle continues, and all you have taught the horse is to rear up, the horse has taught you, that if you apply pressure it will freak out and rear up.  You leave, saying, "Precious" was abused by some one in her past, and needs to be handled with care because she does not trust people."  When the reality is, that "Precious" is that way because you just trained her to be.  Now, are there horses that have trust issues with people, yes!  The paint mare in my profile pic is one of them.  When she is loose and can come and go as she pleases, she does not care who is around, new people, familiar people, it really doesn't matter.  She will let them rub on her, love on her, no problem.  But, when she has a halter and lead rope on, she is a little more leary of people that she is not familiar with.  Until she sees that person is a confident, leader she tends to kind of lean away from them.  The only people that it doesn't matter if they are confident or not is children, especially small children.  She will go above and beyond to do whatever a kid wants to.  She will actually drop her head to their shoulder level, if they are leading her around, and with her being 16.3 hands high, it's an effort on her part.

But, the truth be told, I don't handle her any differently than I handle any other horse that I've worked with, slow and steady progress.  How slow, depends on the horse's ability to learn; not their past.  Most horses live in the presence and do not dwell on the past.  All a physically abused horse needs is a strong, fair minded leader, not to be treated special because you can't let go of their past.  You keep reliving their past for them, and in an attempt to comfort them, they preceive you as weak and take full advantage and become the leader, and go from a horse that does not trust people; to a horse that tries and often succeeds at dominating people; and you excuse the behavior by saying, "Precious was abused in the past."  It's really a vicious cycle.

All any horse needs is:

  1. Water
  2. Food - grass, hay or grain, doesn't really matter.
  3. A safe environment - stall or pasture they don't even require shelter, and will rarely use it when you think they should.  Mine use the run-in for a restroom and that's about it.
  4. A strong, fair-minded leader - and if you are not willing to step up and be this, they will, and their idea of appropriate pressure can easily injure an/or kill us.
They do not need to be coddles, or need excuses made for poor behavior, they are not "Precious."  They need to be treated with respect, and expected to treat you with respect, period!  I hope that no one took this post as a personal assault on them, as that is not how it was meant.  It was meant in an educational manor, and I hope someone learned something from it.

Good luck, happy trails, stay safe, and God bless  you and yours.

Until next time, 
Lisa