Day Two – Sometimes you take 2 steps back before taking 3 steps forward….

This was one of those days that makes people quit training their horses.  That being said, it’s exactly the type of day that people who work with their horses need to know that they’re NOT alone and bad days do NOT mean that you’ve failed. Bad days are like conditioning days for your patience.

Think of patience as a muscle; you have to exercise and sometimes strain that muscle a bit in order for it to get stronger.

Today, the lesson with the horses was just as much a lesson for ME as it was for them; some days are just like that.  Despite how it sounds (or felt), these are probably the best days you’ll ever have, the ones richest with rewards and experience in the end.

The issue wasn’t with Pony Sue – it was with a mare I was going to ride before Pony Sue.  In fact, I never even swung a leg over before the work began.  I simply wanted this mare to walk up to the back of a trailer to be tied.  Pretty simple.  Only, in her mind she had decided that I was leading her to the very precipice of the earth right smack-dab on the edge of the pit to Hades.

She balked about 5 feet away from where I wanted her to stop.  So instead of sitting there and playing tug-o-war with her, a losing proposition with 1200 pounds of hormonal paint mare, I went to her hip and made her move forward, around me, and back towards the trailer…

…where she balked again.  (Sigh.)

This is the point in my training where I know, had anyone been watching, they would have seen me look longingly back at the house – and the comfort of my couch – and the lovely icy drink sitting waiting for me – wishing I had stayed there, or could quit.  And it’s exactly the point at which if you quit, the horse knows that they can push you around. So it was time to work.

Concepts:

Directing your horse to move:  horses don’t have E.S.P., thank heavens or Kat (the mare) would have read some pretty ugly thoughts in my head this afternoon.  In order to expect clear actions from them that we want, we have to give them clear instructions.  After all it’s not fair to tell them to “go right” when our whole body is saying “go backwards”.

Any motion > no motion.  There are times when ANY motion beats no motion.  If a horse balks, sometimes getting them to go in the another direction is useful in that it unfreezes their feet and mind.

Helmets are useful for groundwork.  Sometimes when a horse might be dangerous, or is really excited, go ahead and put that helmet on.  Your head is important – protect it.

Goals:

In this case, to get the mare to walk to a spot of my choice in a civilized manner.

Tools:

One traditional halter, which in this case was the wrong tool.  A rope halter with two knots on the nose would have been a best choice.

One 14 foot long very heavy lead rope with a popper on the end.

One “carrot stick” with the string detached then attached.

Tool I should have had: one helmet.

The lesson:

So – at the point where Kat balked, I knew I had my work cut out for me.  The goal was to make her circle away from and towards the trailer.  Once at the trailer after a few circles, I was going to have her stop at the trailer so that point would be her point of rest.  That way she would be more likely to want to be AT the trailer rather than away from it – because “trailer = rest”.

Unfortunately, we had problems with circling because I have not been training this mare yet.  That changes today – she has unwittingly been placed on the training schedule.

When I wanted her to go towards the trailer, she would balk when even turned towards it.

Helpful hint: think out of the box.  Sometimes what you think is the cause of misbehavior is not the true cause.  Rule out all possible causes before settling on one.  You might be surprised.

Most people would have thought that the mare did not want to go to the trailer because of the trailer itself.  At first, I suspected as much.  However, I then realized that she didn’t want to go towards the trailer because that meant going away from her buddies.

To test my theory (and give myself more room to work), I took Kat to do circles in a larger area near where I was already.  Sure enough, any movement going away from her buddies was slow, if it happened at all.  Going in a circle BACK towards her buddies resulted in her nearly running me over.

Sometimes uncovering one problem means you end up uncovering two – or more.  Stick with one lesson at a time so you don’t overwhelm your horse – and yourself.

So – I had opened up the proverbial Pandora’s Box of horse issues.  Yay me!!  (note:  that last cheer is meant to be said with all the sarcasm I can muster.)  But in the mean time, the real issue was one:  disrespect.  By running over her, she was disrespecting my personal space and endangering me. By not moving away from her buddies, she was showing me disrespect as well.

Knowing that she was going to start to slow down when going away from her buddies, I readied myself but didn’t correct her before she made her mistake.  I’d let her start to slow, and the instant she did I cued her to move forward.  This worked a couple of times, and of course JUST as I was getting ready to stop her for her release of pressure – she decides to try to run off.

Sometimes,a horse’s seemingly different issues can be labeled as general disrespect.  That being said – we should make sure that the issue is not our own leadership.

Now we have a horse who is:

  • Disrespecting me by not moving where I want  despite clear signals previously obeyed.
  • Disrespecting me by crowding me in favor of her buddies.
  • Disrespecting me by trying to run off.

I need to lose weight, but I am not 1200 pounds – so I could not overpower this mare.  I was able to stop her, but it wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t correct.  I did get her turned towards me.  The problem is that I haven’t been training this mare, so I didn’t have the luxury of being able to start from the beginning.  Today’s work was to just get out of the situation on a good note that favored me and relaxed her.

After training, look back at your session and constructively consider where you can improve your skills.

Ideally – I think I should have stopped once I got ANY good behavior and gone totally back to square one and started the real lesson of manners with her; however, I am human, and I didn’t.  Learn from my  mistakes.  That being said, I did end up on a good note as you will soon see.

But there were some BAD notes before – the type of notes that I think it is important to hear and learn from for all of us.

In trying to get the mare to move forward, she took a swipe at my head with her hoof – very knowingly having looked right at me, ear pointed toward me, kicked at my head.  So I did what all good cowgirls did:

Freaked out, got distracted, and dropped the rope.

OK that’s not what they do – but I did it.  It happens. It was painful because she yanked my arm, I wasn’t concentrating, and it happens.

When things don’t happen the way they should, remember – you are human and so are all the fancy clinicians.  Dust off your britches and don’t beat yourself up.  Try again.

I asked Chris to get Kat who had run merrily off to her buddies…. Kat 1, Nat 0.  While he did, I walked to get more equipment and rethink things.

First, I got a halter that had more pressure on pressure points – particularly that of the nose and poll.  Second, I put the string on the carrot stick (to give me some distance from those back feet).  Third, I needed to take a breath and put back on my shield and armor of NBD (No Big Deal) so that when she tried it again – and having not corrected her I *knew* she was going to try it again and worse – I could do the three-second-rule in full force.  I didn’t fret about it ahead of time, just readied myself for the inevitable and put on my big-girl-britches so that when it happened again I’d act, not REact, correctly.

I caught up with Chris and Kat, put on the new equipment, and walked purposefully back to the work area.  Once again I showed Kat where to go – making a HUGE point to make it as obvious as a 10-foot-tall neon sign – to show her I wanted her to walk forward.  I asked her, she obliged, until it was time to move away from her buddies.  So I gave her a tiny cue, a larger cue, and then a big cue – and she gave me a big kick at my head.

THIS time, I was armed for the three second rule and I instituted it.  I did not hit her face, I didn’t injure her, and I did not let myself get really angry inside lest I lose control.  But I did go after her like a mountain lion and made her move move move and MOVE away from me and she did not like it one little bit.

Funny how that works.

My method was to use the string on the stick to pop her, not lash and slash her, definitely hard enough to where she got the message, while wiggling the rope side to side aggressively enough to where it put pressure on her nose so that she had to move away from it.  The stick energy towards her hind end moved her hind end away from me to prevent kicking and tell the hind end that I don’t accept kicking.  The wiggling and action to get the front end away from me, for her, was to keep her off of me so she didn’t crowd me and to make the impression that I was going to kill her.  My body energy was all forward, all tiger, all  predator about to pounce, and all directed right towards her.

I went for four seconds.  This was a big offense.  When i was done, I simply stopped in my tracks and she looked at me like I was a different person.  Because I was upset – yes this is an upsetting occurrence – I talked to her and told her “You will never kick at me again – you will never go *there* again.” Really it made me feel better – less apt to lose control.  She knew I was serious, but I was done attacking.

After the three-second-rule, remember to go back to NBD – for the horse and for yourself.

After my break – oh yeah, HER break I mean – I turned around and stood with a leg cocked and reached back to her outstretched nose and brushed it gently when she sniffed me.

Then we walked off.

I asked her to walk up – away from her buddies – and stopped her after four steps and told her how good she was.  Then six steps.  From that point on, she walked up on a slack lead, a pleasant (but attentive this time) attitude.  No more sullen expression.  We walked around, did some turns, did a serpentine, a few stops, and then stopped.

Next, I used the stick with the string on in a desensitizing way (because I had done this with her before successfully) by popping the ground, and throwing the string of the stick towards her casually allowing it to land on her back, legs, etc.  She didn’t move, so I patted her.

Helpful hint: always end with something the horse previously knew how to do and did well or – better yet – with something new done well.  Always end on a good note

Then she got a good rubdown of the neck and I took her halter off.

Do you want to guess what happened next?

She followed me around.

I walked around.  For about five more minutes Kat followed me voluntarily with absolutely no lead rope or halter, away from her buddies, ears up, a relaxed neck, and a pleasant eye.  She knew she was off the lead.  I petted her and finally released her completely.  She spent the rest of the afternoon walking up to me and closing her eyes.

This stuff works.  Just remember – it’s not always easy, and not always where we want to be at any given time.  But I knew if I put in the time while the issue was hot, at the end I’d have a horse that “got it” and was happy again to be around me.  Big lesson ending in a lot more respect than it started.

The moral:  remember what I said about not thinking about obstacles as bad, but as opportunities?  I didn’t choose to work this mare today, but her issue became a lesson that deepened our relationship – for good.

Day One – Desentization.

Today was the first day of formal training of the fabulous Pony Sue.  As expected, there were problems.

When training a horse, expect problems.  Problems should never be considered obstacles, but instead opportunities.  Each time a horse behaves badly, they are giving you the opportunity to change the issues now – instead of suffer from it later.

Pony Sue – well let’s just say he was packed full of …opportunities today!  That’s right – I meant to type “opportunities”, not something else.

Today’s important concepts:

Desensitization:  causing a horse to be less sensitive to objects or happenings which might bother them.  In layman’s terms, removing the threat of the monster that lurks behind every plastic garbage bag, running dog, or shadow just waiting to eat your horse up like a duck eats a June bug.

Sensitization:  causing a horse to be more sensitive to cues and other happenings or objects around them.  In layman’s terms: adjusting the breaks, steering, and airbags of a horse.

Left-horse-right-horse:   in humans, the left and right brain (the feeling and reasoning sides) are connected by a large and complex section of the brain called the corpus callosum.  In horses, there’s a scrawny little ineffective connection.  In short, the human corpus callosum is like high-speed internet while the horse version is like smoke signals.  On a windy day.  At night. You get the picture.

In humans, this great communication system means that you can learn to wave with your right hand and your left hand can figure it out pretty easily and with some practice.  In horses, this lack of communication means that when you teach the horse something on their right (usually stronger) side, the left side was taking a nap, dreaming of oats, and generally not paying attention in class.

When teaching a horse anything, think of it as being two horses:  the left-horse and the right-horse.  Anything you teach to one of these horses must be taught to the other as if it has no clue – because it really has NO clue.

Pressure and release:  when training any horse, the concepts of pressure and release are very important.  You put pressure on a horse with your eyes (known as “the stink eye” ), your body (known by cowboys as “bowing up”, or by others as “puffing up”), with the rope (known as swishing the rope, swinging the rope, or tapping or popping with the rope), or with your arms (known as waving them quite like a windmill or perhaps a crazy person, hoping your neighbors don’t drive by just that moment).

You put pressure on a horse to get them to move.  You take the pressure off, release it, to stop movement or to reward them for doing what you wanted when you put on the pressure.

Releasing pressure means looking like you really don’t care about anything.  Think of this as being like 12-year-old daughter’s reaction to your lecture on school:  no making eye contact, don’t seem to know or care that the horse exists, and remain in your own immortal and confident little world.  Get the picture?

Goal: 

Push as many of Pony Sue’s major hot buttons as possible without resulting in a trip to the hospital because of bruised or broken shins.  Let’s face it – it’s not like he can kick or bite any higher than a couple of feet off of the ground.

Teach Pony Sue that SpookyPonyEatingMonstersTM really aren’t that bad, and that when I touch his flanks the correct response is not kicking the perfect image of the underside of his hoof in my forehead.

Teach Pony Sue that when I want him to stand still, he also really wants to stand still rather than run in a circle around me a million-gazillion times.  In short: playing like you’re a pony statue is gooooood.

Methods:

On a loose lead, use the lead rope and my hands to touch, approach, or tap areas to which he is sensitive.  In other words, pester him constructively.

Equipment: 

  • One too-large nylon traditional halter (remind me to remedy that),
  •  One ten-foot long, heavy nylon lead,
  • One small, surly, smoky-palomino mini horse, and
  • Proper footwear – aka boots. No tennis shoes for groundwork, please.  Not unless you play to donate your toes to the Institute for Studying Pancake-shaped Tootsies. Thank you.

So today Pony Sue was in a pretty good mood when I took him out of the pasture.  It was nap time, as afternoons are for most horses. When I want to teach a horse to do groundwork which results in them being quiet, I do sometimes purposefully pick nap time when they’re a little more laid back.  Today was one of those days.  Also – it’s easier to sneak up on a napping Pony Sue than it is one that is running around like a pony on speed.

PS easily took the halter and lead and was led away from the other horses – who wanted absolutely nothing to do with any of the training.  I led him to an area of flat ground and few distractions for this first day of work; distractions can be added later, like salt and pepper to a good stew, for more learning.  I figured I had enough spice today to deal with as it was.

My first goal today was getting Pony Sue to stand still.  Both of him:  Pony-Sue-Right, and Pony-Sue-Left.  Pony Sue is relatively good on a lead.  As with any horse, I gave Pony Sue a good deal of slack in the lead.  For a large horse, this would be an arm’s length of rope.  For this little guy, it was just slightly less.

Helpful hint:  giving horses room to make a mistake allows them to learn and grow, just as it does humans.  This means physically as well as mentally.

Giving Pony Sue a lot of slack meant that I was not micro-managing this little horse.  Horses, when micro-managed, react to it quite like humans do: with resentment.  I wanted to allow Pony Sue to do all the bad things he might do when I’m not paying attention so that I could shape these bad behaviors into good ones.

Pony Sue did indeed wander around a bit.  When he crowded me but standing at the right place (at my shoulder) I simply reached the end of my lead around my back with my right hand and swished it at his side to tell him “hey – you’re in my space.  If my tail reaches you, you are too close.”  In this case, my tail was the lead rope.

There is no anger involved in this, NBD = No Big Deal.

NBD is an important concept to use around horses, people, children, and other animals.  Making a Big Deal out of a Little Deal is a lot of work.  As I age (yes, I’m aging – no snickering out there)  I have learned that as a human I am essentially lazy.  As it so happens, so are horses!  Embrace their laziness – and yours – by not making  more work for yourself than is necessary.

Back to Pony Sue.  Pony Sue was not much of a crowder today.  Instead, he wanted to push ahead of me.  When this happened, I turned around and wiggled the rope a bit (not wildly) so that he was startled and took 2 steps back.  When he did, I turned around like it was NBD.

Most of your time leading a horse should be in NBD mode.  Expect good things and allow them to happen.  Walk as if your horse is going to follow you; look in the distance to where you’re going knowing full well you will end up there; walk with the type of purpose and energy and drive you would like to be known as having.  You will be surprised how often if you do this – it works!

So I did that with Pony Sue, who usually is a bit of a goofball on a lead – and it worked.  Other than correcting his forwardness, he did it much less than often because I *pretended* to be the world’s greatest cowgirl.  He apparently believed me.  You’d be surprised how gullible horses are.

I didn’t stop to turn and stare at him.  Other than his vanity, he doesn’t like that – nor does your horse.

Don’t stare at your horse unless you want to make a point; they get paranoid.  Just assume that they’re going to see your brilliance and do as you wish if you guide them correctly.

I was careful today to show Pony Sue with my right, leading hand exactly where I wanted him to go.

Note: I didn’t DRAG him there – I pointed him there.  With the lead in my right hand, I extended my arm at length to use it as a pointer of where I wanted him to go.  I kept one bite or loop of lead in that right hand and let the tail of the rope rest in my left hand (ready to “swish” as needed).

Safety rules:  Always be certain to fold the rope into your hand, not allowing it to ever wrap around your hand, arm, finger, or anything else.  Arms/fingers/hands are useful; keep yours intact by keeping ropes from looping around them.

I found that by showing Pony Sue where I wanted him to go, he went there.  It is possible that I haven’t been being clear with my cues before, leading to general confusion and something like a badly choreographed pony-human dance.

When Pony Sue would stop, I would rub his neck for being good.  Then we would just stand there.  Horses are lazy – let them have a break.  If you see them sigh or chew like they’re eating, that means “hey this instruction sunk into my little brain – on this side anyway – and I’m relaxed.  I get it.”  That means you got through to them. When Pony Sue stopped and just stood there, I rubbed, he chewed, we were all happy.  I would walk a few steps and then stop him, correct his position only if necessary, and then just stand there.  Don’t belabor it – just do this til you get a few successful tries and then go on to something else.

The “something else” was desensitizing Pony Sue to the rope.  Turning towards Pony Sue in a relaxed manner (one leg slightly bent, relaxed in body), I took the end of the rope and tossed it over his back.  Of course he jumped then started to walk circles.

Rather than stopping and going “Oh dear – did I scare the little horse?  Let me soothe you”, I kept throwing the rope in a gentle and relaxed way onto his back.  Eventually he slowed down a little.  In this case, I stopped throwing the rope for just a moment when he slowed down.

Sometimes a partial success is exactly want you want.  In fact, most times any effort is rewarded by a release of pressure.  In this case, I stopped tossing that darned rope at him.

To make sure he would stand, however, I started up again.  He started walking and eventually stopped.  The exact moment that Pony Sue stopped walking, I instantly forgot the rope and rubbed Pony Sue gently in a soothing and positive voice telling him that he was good.  He looked at me like “That’s what you wanted?” and licked his lips. Success.

When I resumed tossing the rope onto him, he took a few steps but stopped more quickly.  Released pressure, a gentle neck rub, and a break – all a pony needs except 50 pounds of apples for Christmas thankyouverymuch.

Now on to Right-Pony-Sue.   The right horse in Pony Sue apparently is a little more dense, but caught on after a few tries and was glad to stand still and sigh.

We used the same procedure on Pony Sue’s flank.  Toss the rope at it (being sure to stand well away from him).  When he stopped flinching or moving, I stopped tossing.  Repeat with the opposite horse, then take a break.

Here is where I think it is important to mention about dangerous actions.

Dangerous actions, the unforgivable actions, are biting, kicking, nipping, threatening in any manner, and certainly carrying out any of those threats. 

Pony Sue was smart enough to only raise his back leg once on the leg desensitization in the back.  He was NOT so smart on the front legs and my handling them.

When I ran my hand down Pony Sue’s leg,  he predictably picked it up and put it down so quick that you could blink and miss it.  I repeated, wanting him to leave his leg on the ground unless I asked for it.  After about four times, he nipped at me.

The “three second rule” came into play.  During the three second period, I ‘killed’ Pony Sue.

End of Blog.

(Just kidding.)

I don’t really kill Pony Sue, or hurt him, but it would be nice if he thought I was serious enough to do just that.  Instead, I made him back away from me, using my rope to move him very quickly back and away from me in a very aggressive way.  In his case, I didn’t have to pop him – but you would think I did.

During the three second rule, you have three seconds immediately after a horse performs or truly threatens a dangerous, unforgivable action to make them think you are going to kill them.  Thank you John Lyons for this concept.  You are never to strike the horse in the face, but using your rope on them within reason on their body is fine – and encouraged. Certainly making them move, move, move is a must.  Once three seconds are over, remember to go back to NBD mode.

Once three seconds was over, I turned away from him and acted like I had amnesia, then turned towards him and soothingly ran my hand down his neck.  “Well hi there Pony Sue – how long have you been standing there?”

He thought I was crazy.

He also was way less enthusiastic on bite-attempt-number-two.   That being said, I was just as enthusiastic on the killing as the first time and he was just as surprised.  Again – amnesia and release of pressure.

I took a minute or two to go a step backwards and run my hands on Pony Sue, toss the rope at him very casually, and do things he could do easily.  Then back to the leg.

I ran my hand down it and he left it there and just barely looked at me.

He got itched in his favorite spot, gentle neck stroking, and a very calm yet positive voice telling him he really was a very bright boy and I’m glad that I found him.

This was very effective with him, really so effective that I was even surprised.  The right Pony Sue was much better – no biting, no pinned ears, but you could see in his eye that he thought about it.

After this big lesson – and success – I went back to some of the easier points of the day.

Always end on a good, easy note.

I wanted to make sure that what Pony Sue remembered, his last impression, was “oh my – I’m such a smart boy and I so easily get rewards – I can’t wait to do this again!”  When he had performed his last miracle, taken his last deep breath of a sigh, and thought we would do something else – I simply undid his halter and walked backwards.  He was happy and completely relaxed, head about 4 inches from the ground, no tense muscles – and so was I.  Um, except my head was much higher off of the ground.

I feel that despite his stubbornness, we were able to take the first chunk out of our major issues.  Of course, horses should have these lessons repeated.  My plan is to do the same over the next 3 days – no days off in between so that the lesson sinks in.

The results:

My entire lesson was no more than 30 minutes and achieved a great deal.  Remember, achieving only one lesson in a lesson is a good thing.  Sometimes just maintaining is a good thing – as long as you end on a good note.  Don’t be afraid to go backwards a little; I wasn’t, nor should you be afraid.

Day one is over, and I’m ready for day 2 – and so is my little munchkin, Pony Sue.

How do you turn a 36″ cranky mini horse into My Little Pony?

Other than spray painting Pony Sue pink, having a 3 foot long weave put in, and sprinkling him with sparkles… the only thing I could come up with to answer this question is to train the little rascal.

Generally Pony Sue is a good-natured fellow.  Lord knows he’s the first in line to greet you if you have anything slightly resembling food in your hand.  He won my heart when we found him at a Houston feed store, staring at us, beckoning us to “come pet the pretty smokey palomino pony” with his big brown eyes sparkling full of sweetness and promise.

He didn’t disappoint.

Pony Sue is indeed very fun to pet (most of the time), will follow you around like a puppy (often enough), and will even greet you with a shrill whinny as you walk up.  He knows NO strangers.  He also knows no fear. Knowing one heck of a good personality in a horse when presented one, I (henceforth known as The Sucker) bought him.  I led him through a throng of cars, people, and children to my trailer expecting him to bolt, jump around, and be overwhelmed.  Instead, he strutted, let everyone pet him, and jumped right into the trailer as if it were filled with applies the moment I opened the door.

Oh yeah – this is a great little guy!

That being said, Pony Sue also has earned his name (see “A Boy Named Sue” lyrics by Johnny Cash) in his attitude.  With anything larger than him (which consists of 99% of everything on earth minus ants and chihuahuas), he feels he has to bluster, paw, prance, and generally act like a little Napoleon.  While this is amusing, it’s not necessarily safe – especially considering he was purchased “for Miss L”.

(Note to readers:  “for Miss L”  should be interpreted as “using someone else’s tiny daughter as an excuse to buy the pony of The Sucker’s dreams”.   Glad we got that straight!)

So here I am – one cute toddler with no fear and a rather tall and sometimes menacing father on one hand, a mini-horse with the personality of a Goliath on the other hand.  So begins the training adventure.

The issues that Pony Sue has are as follows:

  • Aforementioned lack of fear, which shows itself in a savvy for walking into the personal space of any creature, even the 16.2 hand-high horse, no matter how much biting, kicking, screaming, rope-throwing, or chaos ensues.  Repeatedly.  By repeatedly I mean “get beat up now – return in 38 seconds for more”.
  • A very touchy flank area that, when touched, results in the fast-and-furious flying of the tiniest little hooves you’ve ever seen.
  • A lack of ground manners when being led – which generally results in the human being led by Pony Sue.
  • An unknown history of riding.  He was said to have been “ridden easily by children”.   That being said, in the horse world a “dead broke” horse usually means “you’ll go broke and probably be dead by the time you finish training them”, and “a children’s horse” means “only fearless children have the guts to go within 3 feet of them”, etc.  You get my drift.  I have NO real idea of this pony’s saddle manners.  Given that flank issue… yeah, we’ll just not go there.  I’m going to assume he has a potential career as the tiniest rodeo bronc known to mankind – and hopefully be pleasantly surprised to find I’m quite wrong.
  • A lovely gift for picking up his front hooves the second you ask for them – and putting them down just as quickly.
  • A penchant for nipping you when you approach an area on his body that he doesn’t like having approached.
  • No regard for whether or not a human (particularly The Sucker) is standing in his way when he decides to lash out in fury at the other horses.

To his credit, Pony Sue also has the following traits:

  • Amazing intelligence evidenced by his large, kind eye, his ability to learn anything quickly (including how to look extra-cute at sale time in order to hook-line-and-sinker The Sucker, the knowledge of how to know the INSTANT The Sucker opens up the feed door right by the alfalfa, and exactly which hand in which you might be holding a treat).
  • Good conformation for a riding horse, including extraordinary feet, a beautiful gate for such a shorty, and good balance of length of neck to shortness of back.
  • Some manners when haltered, the ability to load in a trailer like a dream, and the ability to pick up his feet.
  • A true people-seeking personality.

The methods I will be using to polish up Pony Sue are a mish-mash of different techniques that can be all included in the broadly-brushed category called Natural Horsemanship.  Some people will gloss it over and call it “Indian methods” (which always makes me snicker a bit).  Others go the other direction, equal gloss, and call it “cowboy training”. Others hug a tree and call it “natural horsemanship”.  Really – this stuff has been around and used by people for ages, anyone who realized that 1000 pounds of horse eventually gets tired of being bullied around and needs a better reason to let humans (aka predators) jump on their back and make them work when there’s grazing, sleeping, and making colts to be done instead.

I find that a lot of my methods match those of Clinton Anderson and John Lyons. I do admit that I have adapted some of their methods or used them to inform some of my own. That being said, I fully believe that each person should find a path that truly suits their own goals and their horse’s success without putting all the proverbial eggs in one basket.  Ray Hunt is really the father of what most people call “natural” methods these days, as were the Native Americans, but again – many of these were discovered when I was a small 9-year-old girl with a 4 year old too-smart cowwy mare and too much time on my hands in the summer time.  These methods have been tried by myself and others time and time again, proven to build a relationship with a horse rather than intimidate them by fear into doing what you want of them.

As I often say, a horse trained in fear will leave its owner high and dry when something scarier comes along. I believe in gaining the respect of my horse in other ways so that when they’re afraid of the world, you’re there as their Knight In Shining Armor to save them – and they to save you!

I welcome any and all comments provided in a rational and constructive manner.  All others will be deleted (and secretly mocked).  Did I type that out loud?  Still – I really would like to hear your experiences, your thoughts, and your questions.  I also welcome all subscriptions and mentions in facebook,  and all the other annoying little medias that I have learned I cannot live without!  (How did that happen, anyway?)

Thank you again for taking the time to read this blog which will be updated as Pony Sue is updated!

Nathalie (aka The Sucker)