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Herd Dynamics: The Variables Of Fear

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I am still working on this experiment, but it seems not easy. Does any one from this list have idea's about Pat Parelli's. His theory is based on positive and negative reinforcement. Thorndake one of leading theorist in psychology developed this theory So it is not something new.Experience and Genetics. As we all know, fear is a universal emotion that motivates animals to flee predators. Scientist discovered that both animals and people can develop permanent fear memories that can never be erased. A good example would be a horse bashing its head on a trailer the first time it was loaded. This may make him difficult to load for the rest of his life. the fear memory is recorded in the amygdala, a center in the lower brain. So you need to be very careful to prevent the information of fear memories, which can interfere with training. Has anyone had a horse who was difficult to trailer load and with the bonding technique it disappeared? And if i was going to do trailer loading what do you think I should manipulate in this experiment.

Now we'll discuss some of the finer points of fear.

In my experience, fear is not a constant. Depending on a number of situations fear can either be absent or it can be debilitating. I'm not sure how scientists *know* that fear memories are stored in the amygdala, but I certainly do not take issue with their belief that fear *memories* can't be erased because I'm not that all-seeing. But if they say they the *actual* fears cannot be removed I have to take issue with that.

I have long ago lost count of the number of fears that have been removed in minutes in the horses we work with. I'm also not able to total the times I did some mighty rough things to horses before my much more enlightened times. To my knowledge, as far as I could tell as one who is far more observant than the average person thanks mainly to my tracking experiences, not one of them held it against me.

I have had horses bash their heads and more while loading. I have had them flip upside down in the trailer and never had them hesitate to go back in afterwards. You name the fear, and the reaction to it and chances are I have had it happen. I cannot recall one of those horses being adversely affected by it for any great length of time. By the same token, I have had horses that have performed an action flawlessly for years suddenly become afraid of it.

Fear can be caused by a change in the situation, pain, a part missing from a sequence, a part added to a sequence, too many people around, not enough people around and what have you.

Fear can pop up at any moment. The horse looks to the herd leader for justification of the fear and the reaction to it. If the herd leader is acknowledging the fear THAT acknowledgement gives it credibility. If a horse feels fear and there is no leader to acknowledge it one way or another, it must deal with that fear on its own. In that case, instinct says it's better to be safe than sorry and fleeing is the only logical option.

I have had horses who were abnormally nervous (fearful) but the cause of that nervousness could not really be pin pointed. Some horses are just born more nervous than others. Before my concepts became instinctive to me, I did the best I could with that nervousness and over time, it became manageable. But it still made for some interesting moments - some of which were nearly fatal for me.

Just this afternoon while waiting in the vet's office I was reading an old National Geographic dating back to the beginning of El Nino. One of the photographs was this large herd of wild elephants at a dry water hole patiently standing around two guys with shovels waiting for them to dig to the water. Granted, we're talking about horses and not elephants but they were obviously not afraid of the humans. Since elephants have extensive experience with poachers they have fear of humans, but in this case, that fear was obviously gone.

We have a 24 year old Morgan Park Saddle/Harness Show Broodmare here that we have had practically all of her life. Most of the time we owned her she was at the trainers in New York and he was totally paying all her bills and making sure he did us every favor he could to keep her there. She was what is called a "ribbons horse". He took her to every show he went to even if he wasn't planning on showing her. If his paid training horses weren't doing real well, he'd tack her up and enter her in a class. If he was still on her at the end of the class, he would place very high, if he didn't win the class. The ribbons, rosettes and platters would go on his stall drapes - hey, ribbons are ribbons when you're a trainer at a show.

When we stopped showing the Morgans and pensioned them off to live out their lives in the manner they had earned, she came back home at 17. The trainer warned us to not ANYONE ride the horse. When the trainer's brother handed me her leadline as she got off the trailer he said, "I rode that horse, once." My partner and her husband were against me riding her. They said respectively, "It is like riding a motorcycle with no brakes," and "It was a religious experience, I said, 'I have made a grave tactical error, get me off and I will never ask for anything again.'"

She was dangerous to be around and lead. You had to be on your toes at all times. She was incredibly spooky and extremely nervous. If she was spooked, she'd head in the direction she was facing regardless of who or what was there. If she got loose in the barn and started up the aisle there was no blocking the aisle you WOULD be run over.

After a couple years of her around here I got real tired of her antics and took her to the round pen just to put some better leading manners on her. This was also the day that years of study SLAMMED into place. I had just finished Monty Roberts book and as I read the snippets of horse stuff buried in the pages of his paternal angst, I thought to myself, "Herd dynamics - little too mysterious and smoke screeny, but it's herd dynamics none the less." In the entire book I only found two short forgotten phrases of value to me - the justifying ear and the processing mouth - that I'd also heard discussed while sitting at the feet of Linda Tellington-Jones years before. Someone else had noticed what I had noticed many times before and when I realized that and remembered Linda's words, I instantly ****KNEW**** that I could repeat the successes that earned me an area reputation for "getting inside the horse's head" with ANY horse in mere minutes. The focusing on these two phrases and the recalling their appearances in my concepts made everything fall into place.

I had been using herd dynamics for years before that and they had always produced the same results they produce now - it just took me longer to accept them. I'd just keep working the horse until it was SCREAMING at me, "YOU MORON!!! WHAT DO I HAVE TO DO TO TELL YOU I'VE GOT THE PROGRAM????" At that point I'd always tell the horse, "Glad to see you finally came along." It wasn't the horse that was taking so long, it was me. I needed evidence of success that was so strong only a moron would overlook it. And that day, I realized, one was, me.

I took Dee to the round pen to test my conclusions. With no physical connection at all, in less than five minutes I had a totally different horse. NO SPOOKINESS. NO NERVOUSNESS. Just quiet, attentive, patient, respectful, compliant standing beside me.

I thought to myself, "I can ride this horse." I went and got my saddle and put it on her just like I'd been doing it all her life and she never moved or showed the least bit of concern. I had the saddle on her and I got on her. Not the first problem, not one bit of concern. She was as quiet and obedient as one could possibly ask.

She is my all time trail horse. She is an absolute delight to ride. I have fallen asleep on her and woke up miles down the trail. She is no trouble to handle or be around. Now when she "spooks" she spreads her feet out for balance in case we have to leave and she asks, "What are we going to do about that?" I tell her we're going to ignore it and she goes right on by. Before, she would have just took off.

The things she feared that made her dangerous she no longer fears. And if she has any memory of her past fears, I simply cannot tell it by her actions.

The other day we had a person ask for a demonstration. Most horse trainers don't have much time for their own horses and we have a 20 year old TB brood mare that's been here for about a year. Extremely nervous and fearful, spooky, low horse on the pecking order. Half hour, different horse - stunned observer. Yesterday she was booking up the aisle heading out of the barn. I signaled her to stop and she did. She stood there patiently and compliantly until I released her. Different horse.

Rather than trying to find a number of horses with a common fear to test the theory, it may be easier to take horses with ANY fear reaction. Identify and assess the fear. Then put the horse through the herd dynamic we call the Bonder. Then reassess the fear at the successful conclusion of the bonder.

I do not pre-screen horses for my clinics. I will take on ALL problems as long as participant safety is not compromised. If fear is a problem it can be overcome with the use of herd dynamics faster than any other method I have seen or tried.

Horse after horse after horse after horse. I have seen that bonder dramatically change horses. I have had horses with pretty much every problem you can think of come to my clinics. If it is not a physically rooted problem, if it is a fear or respect issue the bonder flat makes a difference.

Is it infallible? No. Of course not. We're dealing with horses and humans here. And the connection must be a two way street. There is a constant stream of communication going back and forth - the horse tells you how it feels, you tell it how to deal with those feelings. You must exhibit leadership qualities. You must display leadership actions.

Marv "Most of our horse's fears are still in our heads." Walker

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