Saturday, May 11, 2013

Come to Jesus Meeting

Yesterday I wrote about how your body language effects your relationship with your horse, or any horse for that matter.  In that blog post, I mentioned a "Come to Jesus Meeting" between my paint mare Lady and myself.  I had a friend read the blog before I posted it, because I felt that I was missing something, she assured me that I hadn't, but said that I might want to write a blog explaining what a "Come to Jesus Meeting" was.  So, here I am, going to try to explain it, as best I can.

On a few occasions, Lady will decide that she is in charge of the pasture, whether I am there or not.  She usually tells me this with the usual body language they use when a lower ranking herd member tries to over-step their position.  Glaring, pinning her ears, the usual, which I reciprocate as best I can, and depending on how much conviction she has, maybe a charge when I don't back down when "told" to.  This, is usually handled easily with stepping in her direction, clapping and saying, "NO" in a stern voice.  But on the rare instance where she really wants to push the issue, it comes down to having a "Come to Jesus Meeting" either in the round pen or on a lead rope.  There is nothing really different than regular ground work, then the fact that I push her a little harder because she is pushing back.  As long as she is showing any signs of defiance, raised head, swishing tail, ears on anything but me, charging when coming in or changing directions, anything I continue to push her to move her feet quickly and frequently change directions both toward and away from me in the round pen and just toward me on a lead rope.  As soon as she starts to show any signs of submission, I back off and allow her to rethink her position in our herd.  If she can come to me right, and like she is supposed to, the meeting is over.  However, if she shows any signs of being defiant, the process continues with increasing pressure to move quickly and even more turns with her hustling through them as well.  Again, as soon as she shows any signs of submission, I back off and allow her to think about it.  If she wants to settle down into her role, as subserviant to me, we are done.  But as long as she is being defiant the process continues.

This whole process usually takes anywhere from five to thirty minutes, and that time is tied directly to her conviction for being the lead mare.  Most times it's a five minute meeting, but it is what it is.  With any horse, a "Come to Jesus Meeting" can be beneficial under the right circumstances, but only if the person conducting them is absolutely confident that they can win the argument, so to speak.  If you are new to horses, and your horse has gotten where it is really pushy and disrespectful towards you, you will require the help of a more knowledgeable and confident person to do this process, as you watch.  Then, once the horse is a little more compliant, you might attempt it with the other person assisting you, to make sure you are doing it correctly.  Once you know, when to apply and release pressure, and to what extent, you might try it with the other person watching, much like you did the first time.  After you are absolutely sure that you have the method down, you can do it on your own.

Now, the draw back of the "Come to Jesus Meeting".  If you lose the argument, even once, you will cement in the horse's mind that it is the leader, and that you are to follow his/her lead.  This is why you have to be absolutely certain that you are going to win the "argument" before you ever start it, if you are not, get help, period.  This is not something that you can start, then in the middle of it decide that you are in over your head and quit, because, if you do, the horse wins and it will be harder next time.  It really becomes a vicious cycle.

Now, if you have read and paid attention to what I have written, you noticed that I never said anything about actually touching the horse to apply pressure.  That is because for me, I do not find it necessary, I can successfully complete this with just my body language, but I still keep a whip or stick in my hand just to in case I need it.  If I need it, it is usually as an extension of my arm to extend my reach, but I'm not against using it on the horse, in the proper manner of course.  I am not telling anyone to abuse or beat them, but you may have to get a little harsher to get this job done.  So, with that being said, here's hoping that you never have to utilize the "Come to Jesus Meeting", but if you do, that everything goes as it should.

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

Until next time,