Today I decided to try the bonder on my 5 year old gelding. I was very happy with the results I got with my mare at the New York Clinic. The gelding has been giving me some problems when its time to be caught in the pasture, so I thought I would give the bonder a try. This is a horse that already has been round penned quite a bit and that will follow me anywhere when we are working together. I run barrels with him and when I am setting up barrels or poles I allow him to walk at liberty while I do this, he follows like a big puppy.
Anyway I put him in the round pen and started moving him around, he began to move at a very rapid pace with very little pressure from me, I let him set his own pace. I kept just enough pressure to keep him moving. I began to turn him and to short arc him, hoping to slow him down. He kept going, kicking out at me, throwing his head being very belligerent. After getting himself fairly well lathered up he began to lick a little bit but his lips were very tight, his ear was on me all the time from the start but he began to ask to come in. I knew that he was lying to me so I kept him moving, then when he asked to come in I let him. He came to me and as I began to lower his head and rub his ears he threw his head up in the air and my hand totally by accident hit him on the nose. He became like a freight train racing around the pen, I was starting to get concerned at this point so I stepped out of the pen and let him slow down on his own.
When I stepped back in he began to move but at a much slower and sane pace. I kept watching for him to relax but his lips were tight and his head would not come down yet he kept asking to come in. Each time I let him but as soon as I reached for his ears, he was off again. Then he got to a point that when I asked him to come in he would walk up just out of reach and bob his head up and down as if to say I don't trust you yet. He then began walking over to the gate, looking back at me and bobbing his head up and down. I stood on the far side of the round pen looking to the outside and waited and waited and waited, after about 10 tries he finally came over to me and let me put my hands on him but not his head. He finally came to me after almost an hour of this. I was getting concerned that I wasn't going to be able to catch him to put him up.
I just couldn't get over how this horse that I have been riding for 3 years now that has a heck of a handle on him already, that will follow me like a big puppy, just seemed to lose it.
I don't feel that we bonded at all in any sense of the word. It felt more like he figured out the only way he was getting out of that round pen was to let me catch him. As soon as I opened the pasture gate, he tore out across the pasture and looked back at me as if to say "screw you buddy" The one action he was making that had me totally confused was the head bobbing up and down, he never did drop his head he just kept getting just out of reach and bobbing his head at me. I felt more like he was trying to dominate me. Any ideas guys??? Marv???
The first thing you do when you have an out of control horse racing around like a lunatic in the round pen is to stake a claim to a wedge of the pen and tell the horse by your actions, "If you come into my wedge, I will kill (figuratively) you!"
This is exactly what a lead mare in a herd would say to him.
You let the horse have every other part of the round pen pie but yours while you stand in your wedge just close enough to the pen fence that you impede the horse's movement but not close enough to where it cannot get by you IF IT IS DETERMINED TO DO SO. You stand there brandishing your "stay away from me" implement, letting him do what he wants in his part of the pen.
Each time he comes around to your wedge of the pen, he HAS to stop or take a beating (not talking a literal beating here, just using the force you need to use to keep him from your spot also known as showing you respect). When he stops, he breathes and he has to turn and go back where he came from if he wishes to keep running. When he goes back in the direction he came from, he runs into your wedge from the other direction and again he has to stop (let's call this action, "long arcing").
Sometimes horses zone out, they just keep moving as if they were in a different world. They will zone out during a properly progressing bonder and one that has ended up like this one has. The direction changes force them to stop if only for a moment and their mental energies are directed in a new direction.
After a few back and forth laps, horses tend to stay in their section of the round pen pie as far as they can from the operator, which is the other side of the pen.
Once the horse is more settled then you can work your way to the center and resume the bonder in a less strenuous manner. If things get hectic again, reclaim your wedge until the horse settles.
Threats such as snaking its head, kicking out at you and so on are usually just that, threats. As long as you keep your distance by insisting the horse keep his until it demonstrates connected behavior, they are relatively harmless and are just temper tantrums. No one I know has been threatened by more horses than I have and I have yet to have a horse carry through with one ***ONCE*** it leaves when I direct it to. Humans can rationalize, "Why am I running from this moron? I'm going to stop this nonsense and run over there and bust him in the eye." Once a horse acknowledges you may be a little more stronger than it is in the pecking order scale by "fleeing," it is very difficult for it overcome that impression.
When a horse cow-kicks at you from 10 feet away, there is NO way he can get you, ignore it. *IF* he backs toward you cow-kicking, THAT is going beyond a threat, that's an attack, dash off to his side and light him up from longe whip distance. I have had a rare few do that to me and I do not ignore that.
Protect yourself at all costs. Use the force that is necessary to insure your safety. THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT ANOTHER HORSE WOULD DO TO HIM. It's herd-dynamics in action and he will accept what he gets with no hard feelings. He will not accept your wailing away on him for no reason.
Life as we know it is not dependent on finishing the bonder at any time. There is no goofing it up as long as you don't wear yourself and/or the horse to a frazzle. There is always another day and backing off and re-thinking what you're doing when you are in doubt is NEVER, NEVER, NEVER wrong NO MATTER where you are in the bonder sequence.
Anyone who has seen me do the bonder at an event RARELY sees us perform the bonder from start to finish. I go at it for a few minutes then I stop, and ignoring the horse for the most part, turn toward the owner or the spectators and begin jabbering at them about what is happening for as long as it takes for us to run out of breath (which in my case can be considerable) and then we resume from where we left off.
Also, coming to you and following is NOT evidence of a successful bonder performance. It is *part* of the results of the bonder and the horse may need to guided into doing that. The evidence of a successful bonder is the compliant attitude the horse exhibits afterwards. And that state may not be fully evident until the next day.
I use the term "bonded" for lack of a better term. I'm not talking about the horse being glued to your butt, I'm talking about the establishment of a two-way connection between horse and human - the horse sending information to the human, the human sending information to the horse with EACH acting on that exchange.
You know what is the most amazing part? The more difficult the horse is to work, the more dramatic the change.
Try it again.
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