As you can see from our last blog, it’s been quite awhile since we have reached out with new information. Hopefully you noticed right away that we have a totally new website. In addition we have rolled out our Equine Guided Horsemanship Program that we hope will really help you become safer and more successful with horses. And we are super excited about our new on line training videos that will launch in July of this year. So visit our homepage to learn more, and we promise to provide you with more timely blogs. Talk to you soon.
This month I did our problem solving article on trailer loading. In the article I discuss how you need to determine whether the problem is fear or attitude. In our case, it was an attitude problem that we ultimately corrected. Fear issues are a whole set of problems themselves. I talk in my book, Foundations, how a horse is a clean slate until humans shape them in a bad way.
The other day I was reading the book Animals Make Us Human by Temple Grandin. Temple is an animal expert who is also Autistic. She makes a strong case that animals think in a manner similar to autistic people. I ended this month’s Problem Solving article with the suggestion to introduce trailer loading at home and to not force the process. This approach is corroborated in Grandin’s book as she discusses fear memory in horses. Below is an exerpt from what Grandin has to say:
A fear memory can have two causes. The first is a past abusive experience and the other is introducing a new thing or a new sensation too quickly. It’s best to prevent fear memories from forming in the first place because a bad fear memory is very difficult to completely correct. A horse’s first experience with a trailer should be very positive. A bad first experience is more likely to create a fear memory.
Just another proof positive that doing things in baby steps like we teach in our program will help make you successful with horses.
The other day I was thinking back to when I was a little kid, and every Saturday watching baseball on television. Back in those days there were only a few channels, and usually only one game on a week. I’ll never forget the announcers, Dizzy Dean and Pee Wee Reese. Dizzy was the color guy and even as a kid I really got a kick out of his stories. One thing he said really struck a note with me– that baseball is one of the few sports we play in this country where time doesn’t matter. There’s no time clock. You play nine innings whether it takes you two hours or four hours.
So, you may ask, what’s that got to do with horse training? Well think about it. If you’re lucky enough to work with horses without having to meet a time constraint, it doesn’t get any better than that. Think about it for a minute. If you are a professional who trains horses for a living, you are forced to push horses maybe quicker than you should. But, if you are a weekend warrior like most horse owners, you can let the horse dictate how fast they learn, and have a whole lot more fun and rewarding experience. Our program allows you to progress your horse in baby steps, and enjoy the ride.
The other day while making a rare appearance in a grocery store, I couldn’t help but notice that almost everything carries a “Natural” label these days. I went to the dictionary to look up the definition of Natural, and there is a whole slew of definitions. I guess with all these definitions, food distributors and the like can find one to justify their label of “All Natural”, or made from “Natural Sources”, or whatever.
That kind of got me thinking that the term “Natural Horsemanship” maybe is just as misused in the horse industry as “Natural” is maybe misused in the food industry. Level One of our Training and Riding Pyramid talks about Tom and Bill Dorrance, and Ray Hunt as the early pioneers of “Natural Horsemanship”. Our training program incorporates many of the teaching methods of these early pioneers. And our definition of “Natural Horsemanship” is really pretty simple: Applying the appropriate pressures on horses in a non threatening, non predatory fashion, to get them to take the shapes we desire. It’s a lot easier said than done, since this approach does not come “Natural” for most people. We think that learning the language of the horse is the best way to become a “Natural”, which is what our whole program focuses on: Horse Sensible Horsemanship
Keep It Natural
As I read through my December issue of “Western Horseman” I am still taken back by the Christmas scenes on the cover and throughout the magazine. This year’s cover shows Santa on his horse standing on a hill overlooking a snow covered ranch house. No matter what the scene, they all depict not only the Christmas spirit, but more importantly a way of life that includes a strong relationship with family and horses.
I think back to December 1962 when I received my first issue of Western Horseman for my birthday. It was the Christmas issue and even though the Christmas scenes were different back then, they were really the same, and every year since then. Reminders of how thankful we should be for having family, and being blessed with a relationship with horses.
I have never seen the statistics, but I am pretty sure that a large percentage of horse owners out there are women. Seems like a lot of young girls dream of owning a horse someday. In a lot of cases that dream comes true when a gal gets married and at some point buys a horse or horses. In all my years of buying and selling horses, as well as putting on clinics, I would guess that somewhere between 70% to 80% of my clients were female. Not a real scientific measure, but probably pretty accurate.
So what’s the big deal about women owning horses, you may be asking yourself. I only mention it because of how it really seems to test a marriage when the spouse is not a horse person. My experience has been that the non horseperson husband feels compelled to help his wife with everything from hauling hay to cleaning stalls, to hitching up the trailer. He will spend countless hours waiting for his wife to work her horse at the stable, or support her at a weekend show. Being macho and staying on the little lady’s good side during all of these endeavors is not hard as long as the guy perseveres long and hard enough.
The real test comes when behavioral issues arise with the horse. If the gal requests assistance from the husband, depending on the situation, it can be a real losing experience for him. If the guy is not afraid of horses, to prove he is macho, he will usually use too much force on the horse, and the spouse/girlfriend will get mad at him. On the other hand, if he is afraid of horses, and wants no part of the deal, he will be viewed by her as a wimp. So the message to you non-horse guys out there, in a relationship with a female horse owner: Educate yourself on becoming a better horseman, it will really pay off in more ways than you can imagine.
Till Death Do You Part
It’s kind of interesting how people value certain things in life. Maybe it’s living in a big fancy house, driving an expensive car, or working out at the local club showing off your six pack abs. I certainly don’t have any of those three things, but what I do have is a lifestyle that I treasure, and almost feel guilty for having at times.
My day starts out early feeding and watering horses. Horses are always happy to see you, especially when they know you are going to feed them. No hidden agenda with horses, they all have their own unique personalities, but they are all the same as far as no hidden agendas or motives. Can’t say that’s the case with society in this day and age. As I progress through the day taking horses through my training program, I find great pleasure in what I continue to learn from horses. The day ends when I do the barn check at night, and I remind myself how lucky I really him, and how much I value my relationship with horses.