Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Teaching the Horse to Adjust Their Head

"One main thought I like people to be on the lookout for is that spot where a person's thought becomes the horse's idea.  There is a complete control over the horse when this occurs, and this control is no part of any contest whatsoever.  I don't mind saying again that there's no place at all for ideas about dominating a horse in the connection we are building here."  

True Horsemanship Through Feel

The good thing about the 100 Day Challenge I'm doing this year, is that any training counts, it doesn't have to be all earth-shattering, ground-moving stuff.  Yesterday, I didn't have much time before work, so I decided to practice something I hoped would be simple--approaching them in pasture, haltering, and bringing down their heads.

This comes from Part I of True Horsemanship Through Feel: Teaching the Horse to Adjust His Head Position

Paraphrased: Standing on their right side (and then left), you place one hand softly at the poll and then pull down on the halter knot with the other hand.  The hand at the poll shouldn't be digging in or pushing.  When you get any kind of movement down, you let the pressure go, then ask again, and again, until their head is just maybe a foot from the ground.  (Do not put your head directly over them, just in case they pull up real quick.)

I worked with Beautiful first.

It was their second day out in the large pasture, and it was windy. Beautiful was standing on a  little knoll, relaxed, mane blowing in the wind, eyes on me.  If I had been placing bets, I would have bet she'd run away wildly over the entire 15 acres.  But she didn't...so never place bets on your horses!  Instead, she stood very calmly and let me approach her with the lead.  I walked around her on both sides, ran the lead rope over her back and neck, haltered her and then asked her to lower her head.  Bit by bit, with gentle pulls and instant releases, she had a nice, low relaxed head.

After working with Beautiful on both sides, I looked over to the other side of the pasture and saw Leah.  Leah saw me, too.  Off I went toward her, and surprise, surprise, she stood waiting for me.  She even bent her head in to greet me.  I did the exact same thing with Leah, and since we'd already been working on lowering the head on other days, she did awesome. 

As I was walking back to the house, I was thinking to myself, does this even count toward a day of the 100 Day Challenge?  It was too easy.  But I think it most certainly does count.  Getting a good indirect feel in the pasture, and that lower headset and slack lead is essential to the kind of togetherness I'm looking for, and that takes us further down the road to a true partnership.

10 comments:

  1. "...this control is no part of any contest whatsoever. I don't mind saying again that there's no place at all for ideas about dominating a horse in the connection we are building here."
    _____

    Love, love, LOVE.
    I am in absolute agreement with this quote.

    ReplyDelete
  2. This was one of the first things I did with Tex and it is still my gauge of how our work is going to be; if he immediately drops his head for the halter, I know we're good. If I need to stand with him for awhile and wait, its going to require a bit more "space" on my side. Thanks for the tip on lunging and bending -- I'm going to bear that in mind next time I work with Tex.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've been spoiled with Cowboy...at least for the last twelve years. I did similar head-lowering work the first weeks after buying him because he wouldn't bridle. It took me a week working with him to bring his head down (and he has a long neck!). He was a "trained" horse, but he made me earn every little thing, as if he wasn't.

      Now I see other value in lowering the head--like gauging their togetherness (as you said) and getting them to a relaxed feel before we start to walk off.

      I love reading about your work with Tex. Sometimes it reminds me of my journey with Cowboy--lots of questions, unknowns, all mixed with hope.

      Delete
  3. I love the work you are doing with the horses. They seem to be doing so well with anything you ask of them. I believe taking it slow and getting all these little "tries" are the key to having a true partnership with our horses.

    And just because it's easy and quick doesn't mean it wasn't a good training exercise. It absolutely counts towards the challenge!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! The work is paying back big dividends!

      Delete
  4. I'll bet this is what I need to start doing with Bombay as soon as I halter him. His reaction to being haltered and tied is to raise his head as high as it will go and start looking around for things to spook at. I do this exercise when I'm just walking around the barn petting horses, and they cooperate then because they are at home and feel like we are just playing a game.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I couldn't speak more highly about the exercise of lowering their heads. My trainer today does it with all of her horses. She can get them to lower their heads and touch their lips to the ground. She also does it to both sides and on verbal cue. (They don't touch their lips to the ground when they're bent to the sides, though. ;)

      Delete
  5. I do this all the time with Carmen. And yes, it definitely counts.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That is great you already do it with Carmen!

      Delete

Please feel welcome to join our discussion--tell us about your own thoughts and experiences.