|Black Elk, Shaman and Rascal Running Free!|
Taking a green horse down the road with no thought to how the horse might be experiencing all the new sounds and sights, as well as the genuine fear about being separated from the herd, was something that we all did casually. When the horse balked, the mantra was 'just keep 'em going forward'! Don't let him stop! Barking dogs, traffic, flapping laundry, all this I expected my horse to take in stride. When he didn't I was surprised, when he bolted or froze, I got mad. Not much of a friend to my horse was I?
|Polly and Shaman - Relaxed and Confident!|
The term 'breaking a horse' always sent a shiver down my spine. I tried to tell myself, it didn't really mean how it sounded...who would want to do that to a horse? That and so many other abusive terms are so ingrained in our language around horses. Recently I read a blog post where the horse was lunged in deep sand until the horse was dripping wet (with a photo to prove it) prior to being ridden. Then the horse bolted in the very small round pen due to a small change in her surrondings. It made my heart pound to read this, and it was hard to fall asleep that night with that image of that amount of fear. I wonder why the rider and trainer thought the horse had learned something good from that? The horse was terrified for her very life! Yet, all the comments were about how 'brave' the rider was, and what a good job she did! When does brave cross the line to stupidity and cruelty?
|Black Elk having fun!|
Don't get me wrong. We all make mistakes when training, well maybe Walter Zettle doesn't any more, but most of us are a work in progress. I look back at some of the things I did to and with horses in my youth and shudder. I am so ashamed, deeply ashamed. Yet, everyone around me did as much or more. Now, I am looking and exploring a different way of being with horses.
|Rascal - Interested in Everything!|
I think getting in a hurry gets us into more trouble than just about anything. Having a timeline dictate our 'success'. I am trying in my own way to change that. To put my horse's comfort and happiness in front of my ego. To teach my horses in a way that allows them a measure of choice. To use 'attraction' rather than force. To judge my time with my horses with the measure of are they happier now than when I started, are they more relaxed?
Many of the ways of gentling a mustang and training horses in general, have to do with flooding the horse with sensations, pressure until the horse stops or gives up. With our first two mustangs, Ranger and Rascal we found that sharing space with them and allowing them to follow us and sniff our hair, graze on the lawn worked wonders. I discovered this when we put up electric fence across the driveway, so we had to walk through their space every time we went to the car or brought groceries home. They loved it! They were curious about us.. we were not focusing on them and they felt safe as a result. It was so easy! The gentling evolved at their pace. When I first went to back Rascal, he stood quietly as if to say: "wow, my girl is all over me now!" He did not seem fearful and all I asked was that he stand, just stand, it was enough.
|Black Elk, first week on Orcas|
|Ranger and Rascal making friends with Ina|
|Ranger greeting Ina|
|Ken asking Rascal to flex at the poll|
|Niah and Kiatan teaching Ranger to drop his head|
Learned Helplessness is what you see in abused children and women. It results in depression and a lack of ability to think and act proactively. It makes horses and people 'docile', and sad. It actually prevents learning.
|Rascal is always interested and offering new ideas. He makes me laugh!|
I think that's what many horse training techniques, including 'breaking a horse' rely on - learned helplessness.
It's not how I want to teach or train. I am after something completely different. How about you? I look forward to hearing your thoughts.