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Old 11-04-2013, 02:24 AM   #1
Corry
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Join Date: Jan 2013
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Default What amount of autonomy do you want with your horse?

Just stumbled over the following Tom Dorrance quote: "I want my horses to feel like they can take in their surroundings while still paying attention to me up in the saddle."

I agree totally with this quote. But I'm not sure about what kind of reactions of the horse are acceptable. I would be glad to hear your opinion on this issue.

When the horse takes in his surroundings he now and then will be induced to, for example, do a little jump to the side when something scary comes up. I usually ignore this kind of little jumps, or a slight deviation of some steps from the line I originally wanted to travel, if the horses instantly gets back to me. I even ignore it when they, when really scared, do a rollback without taking of, so that I can easily turn them back and pass the scary thing in the second attempt.

I'm not talking about bolting and persistently resisting to pass an object. I would not accept that and would know that I had to work on our relationship.

But I'm pondering about if there are kinds of reaction that are innate reflexes of horses which were, and still are, vital to horses to survive and that can't be suppressed totally. I speak of situations in which they startle but still pay a certain amount of attention to me. I don't mean situations when they really panic and forget that I'm there which is something I don't know from my horses at all. So far, I always was content if I could win back the horse's attention instantly and go on where I wanted in a relaxed manner, i.e., the horses gets back to me in this way showing that he trusts and follows me although he was scared in the first moment.

Sometimes one can feel such a situation coming up, when they start looking at something and building up some brace. If this is the case, I can work on that and avoid little jumps, etc. But sometimes they startle like we sometimes do when something unexpected suddenly takes place, e.g, noticing a person when we thought we were alone. One sometimes simply can't help startling. Isn't that true for horses, too? I know a lot of people who think that a horse is not allowed to do anything besides what he is asked for from the rider.

I know that my horse is aware of a lot of things that I'm not aware of because my senses are not as good as his senses are. Sometimes horses notice things I didn't see but that need to be considered. E.g., they sometimes have a better awareness of the ground and know better where to put their feet. Or they notice wild hogs in the thicket that I'm not aware of. I'm glad when my horse kind of "suggests" an alternative how to do the thing I want to do because sometimes he actually knows better HOW to do it. Certainly, I make sure my horse doesn't suggest alternatives of WHAT to do

What's your opinion? What kind of autonomous reactions are acceptable to you and what kind is not?

Happy trails,
Corry
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Old 11-04-2013, 03:51 PM   #2
Jimmy
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That's easy. Bucking is the one response that is hard to deal with, cause I hate the taste of dirt.
I think the end goal for me is to have everything I ask the horse to do comes out of him as if it is an autonomous response. Isn't that what a signal is suppose to initiate? They are born with all the responses we want. Stops, roll backs, spins, leads jumping, passage, you name it. The trick is, to elicit the desire for those things when it doesn't seem necessary to him. But if we want to keep those natural responses alive in the horse, than I think we are going to have to put up with some of the ones we don't want a little bit, until they are in the background.
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Old 11-07-2013, 02:15 PM   #3
Corry
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Thank you, Jimmy, for your answer. I'm glad to hear that your approach is the same as mine. Recently, I became a bit unsure about this issue since different instructors criticized me because I didn't ask for 100% obedience from my horse.

But, no, that's not easy At least not in Germany. I'm surrounded by people who want to have perfect control over their horses. They want to push a button and expect the horse to deliver the one correct reaction they have in mind. They want their horses to be like machines. They are not willing to accept that a horse may mistake clues, or be frightened, or doesn't find the correct answer immediately.
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Old 11-07-2013, 02:27 PM   #4
Baquero
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This is an interesting discussion, there is a story I will see if I can find about Ray Hunt riding a horse with the mounted patrol in Washington DC. The police were very impressed after riding throughout the day, at the end a helicopter came in and landed not too far away from Ray's horse. The horse stayed calm through the entire ordeal. Some would say it was the horses nature, others might say it was the training, or a combination of both. It is no secret that horses have natural instincts such as jumping when a wild turkey jumps out from underneath a brush, or a rattle snake on the trail. I don't believe in constantly exposing our horses to scary things. If my horse shies away from a fence post I don't want to go back and sniff it. This in my mind rewards the behavior. I want to continue moving as if nothing was there or happened. I want the horse to trust me as a rider without needing to micromanage. As Ray used to always say "I want that horse to hunt for me"

I have had a few horses in my life that have "gotten it" we have spent enough time in the saddle to really understand each other. In the end as much as we are trying to "get with the horse" they are trying to "get with us" at the same time.
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Old 11-08-2013, 05:45 AM   #5
Mike Zimmerman
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It's like when a herd of horses is grazing in a pasture, when one horse throws his head up to look at something, the rest are instantly called to attention too. That's how Tom wanted it to be with his horse, where he can instantly call the horse's attention. It's unfair and exhausting for the horse if you expect 100% of his attention 100% of the time. Like Tom or Ray would say, if he's doing what you want leave him alone.
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Old 11-08-2013, 01:06 PM   #6
Jimmy
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It is a little bit like going somewhere with a friend. You both decide, lets go the store. So you just go there together. One guy isn't trying to pull you here and there, and the other guy isn't trying to not go. You just go, but the other guy can look around at what he wants to. Maybe he will step around a puddle to the left while you go to the right. Doesn't matter, your both going to the store!
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Old 11-08-2013, 06:52 PM   #7
Jan
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It's also going to depend on the age or maturity level of the horse. A colt or an older horse that has never had anyone ask for his attention is going to be different than a horse in which asking for and giving attention is an established pattern. Just like with kinders, the teacher must redirect and reinforce frequently to prevent chaos, but with high schoolers, you can trust them to carry out an assignment written on the board with minimal teacher input.
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