In digging through stuff I wrote I came across this line, "For the most part, I believe pretty much all handling problems are rooted in a lack of respect on the part of the horse." I must have been writing that in the early morning while my mind was sleeping when I apparently wasn't. I left out, "barring a physical problem."
About 40 percent of the horses I work with have a physical problem that in my mind would prevent them from being very cooperative. I find cervical, thoracic and lumbar vertebrae severely out, dental problems, pelvic twists, shoulders out, entire rib cages twisted to name just a few. If you had the same conditions you'd be in traction. There certainly is no way you'd stand quietly for saddling or being pulled around.
When a horse is suffering any of the above and a number of other afflictions that escape me at the moment, it's very hard to assess respect problems. Respect problems AND physical problems together in the same horses can make any horse a MAJOR handful.
Sometimes you have to deal with the respect issue as best you can to be able to find the physical problem. If a horse will not let you examine it freely you have to try to deal with the respect issues. And if the horse is not feeling at all well, dealing with the respect issues may be iffy. In those cases you bounce from respect to physical. You do the bonder, then the exam. If you find a physical problem you deal with it. And then if you have more problems, you work on the respect again. You bounce back and forth until you are fully connected.
Whenever a tractable, easy going horse suddenly gets very annoying and hard to handle, I usually suspect a physical cause.
I also believe there are relatively few "broke" horses. I use the term broke, for lack of a better word, to indicate that state where the horse mentally accepts whatever you want to do to it short of (1.) causing it pain or (2.) putting it in a position where it can only chose between two choices that neither of which *you* will accept.
For those of you who are going to deluge me with proof that your horse is broke because you roped, ridden it to the ends of the earth, or what ever with it...you may be able to do all those things on it and STILL not have it broke. Your accomplishments, in the context of "broke", mean nothing.
If, when you and your horse are together, it is difficult to catch, hard to halter or bridle, impossible to worm, bathe or fly spray, or moves freely into your space, threatens you, moves off when you mount, ignores your presence, won't allow you to pick up its feet, on and on ad infinitum, and it has no physical ailments, it is not broke. Period. Take it to the bank.
Now then, that lack of respect on the part of the horse almost always lies within you. You have not established a bonded relationship with that horse. In effect, because you have not gotten into his mind on his level you are a mere tolerance in his day.
The more bonded you are with a horse the more respectful and compliant that horse is going to be. When you observe herd dynamics, you see there are horses who have unquestioned respect from the other horses. They produce that respect in a very straight forward, very clear interaction with the respecter. Once they have worked it out you see the higher horses being the unquestioned leaders. The lower horses accept whatever it is the higher horses direct.
When you are with a horse, you are a herd. A small herd but one none the less. In any relationship, one is superior to the other in some or all ways. To work in a unified manner with a horse, the superior being better be you.
You can in a very short time have the horse come to the conclusion that it is in its best interests to allow you to be that superior being. Most of the time I can accomplish this in less than 30 minutes. During the entire process the horse is free to do as it wants...no ropes, no leadlines, no halter...free. Once this agreement is reached almost all handling problems tend to fade away VERY rapidly.
You may have noticed when you read my suggestions for biting, for not allowing feet to be picked up, resisting worming and spraying, that my basic response is to lay out pretty much the same "round" pen scenario. Well, my experience says these problems are respect oriented. And the round pen scenario I lay out *WILL* establish respect. That "WILL" may be pretty strong because I don't really know if it will work on all horses. I do know it has worked on every horse I have used it on so far. It has worked in the same sequence with minor variations on horse after horse after horse. It is predictable, reproducible, dependable time after time.
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Any time you are around a horse, you are telling it something and it is telling you something. The more you understand what the two of you are exchanging, the better you will get along with the horse. The two of you become bonded because each of you understands and knows what the other is saying so acutely observers think it's magic. Do you each understand everything? No. There are no such relationships.
When I put a horse through the scenario I have laid out, I find little need to talk to the horse. It is as though our minds are connected. The connection will make you very humble. It changes the horse dramatically. It changes you dramatically.
I do not teach riding techniques as a whole, I do not train horses to accomplish specific things...there are many out there who do that. I bring people and horses together into one unit and I'm VERY good at that...no brag, just fact. When that state is reached then ALL the other stuff comes a whole lot easier.
Handling problems are bonding problems. A bonded horse, even in pain, will allow you to assess the pain. If you are a bonded pair communicating with each other, you'll know when your horse is off because he will tell you.
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