He traveled well on the 6 hour trip, unloaded well, settled right in. I played some PNH games with him on Thursday and he did fine. All was going very well until Saturday when Jake was able to work with him for the first time. Jake tied him up to the fence to get to know him through the grooming process. I was remarking on how settled in he seemed to be - he was very relaxed and quiet, no tension at all. All of a sudden, while Jake was brushing his rump, he jerked backwards and pulled on the rope halter (pulling the fence into the corral with him).I am not the writer I would like to be which is a problem when I'm addressing something over the puter. Also there is the matter that two people can read the same thing and come up with two different opinions as to what was said. And to make it even more difficult, I sometimes use less than the perfect word to describe an action.
It turns out that we had forgotten to turn off the hot wire we have around the fence to keep the horses from eating the fruit trees next to the corral. Royal must have touched it with his nose or something. Needless to say, that ruined the rest of our plans for the afternoon. It took a long time to calm him down, and he obviously still didn't trust Jake - braced everytime he touched him. Yesterday morning he kept walking away from Jake or ignored him coompletely everytime Jake went near him. So we decided that after church it would be time for Jake to do some round pen work with him, try to bond with him.
We got out Marv Walker's bonding instructions (Jake's never done this before, and I've only done it once with Mike), and off we went to the corral, hoping Jake could undo the damage that had been done. Mike and I watched and kibbutzed from inside Mike's pen. Royal completely ignored Jake at first, turned his head away to stare off into the desert, so Jake began to move him off around the circle. Jake did so well, was firm but not aggressive, gave him lots of opportunities to come in or to let Jake approach him He wholeheartedly refused every opportunity at first, so Jake sent him off again..and again. He finally began to give the ear, started slowing down and dropping his head, did some licking and chewing. Jake turned his back and waited. No response. Jake would walk towards him at an angle, he would walk away. So he repeated the process again...and again.
It took about 35 minutes, but worked just the way it is supposed to for an alpha horse that had been very resistant. The end result was that Royal, sweating and tired (he's very out of condition), never did come in to Jake, but at least he stood quietly and didn't move away when Jake would go to him. Jake touched him all over and he didn't brace or try to walk away. You could tell he'd decided to let Jake be alpha, even if he wouldn't follow him yet. We thought he'd come a long way, enough for that day. So I brought Mike into the corral, and we let them stand together. We turned our backs on them and walked away, and THEN IT HAPPENED! Royal followed after Jake while Mike followed me. Whew!
I'm on my way out to work with both of them this morning. I'm curious to see what kind of reception I'll get.
Sweating in and of itself is no problem as long as the horse is not exhausted. But it is possible to do the bonder with minimal sweating. Even though there is seldom any reason not to complete the bonder once you start it, you do not *have* to finish it. You CAN go back at it later. If you do, simply start it over and you'll get through the stages you reached the time before faster the second time.
At my clinic last weekend (this was written about 10 years ago) twelve people performed the bonder with twelve horses. Each horse completed the bonder with no sweating and no stress with exactly the same result. The sequence of the bonder for each horse was: (1) ignoring the presence of the operator; (2) complying with the operator's wish for the dis-respecter to leave his presence; (3) and finding no other "herd" available began to try to align himself with the operator using threats (I could really thump you, you know.), deceit (I'll just slide on back like nothing happened.) and lies (Okay, here I am just one of the group.); (4) then when that was rebuffed, would begin looking for other solutions which was demonstrated by his mouth action; and (5) finding no other solution would fall back on natural horse interactions and show submission with head lowering; (6) and asking permission to become one with the operator (herd).
Events mixed into the sequence are merely events mixed in and they are not counted as part of the bonding sequence. While each and every one of the operators achieved the same results with the bonder there were variances as to the length of time between the stages, placement and intensity of aggression displays and the manner at which the horse was picked up after asking for permission. Some shot to the operator as soon as they turned their backs, some needed angling to, some needed a little coaxing, some just needed standing by for a few moments, but they all successfully completed the bonder in spite of the fact the operators were first timers concentrating more on themselves than the horse.
The events need to occur in the above relation to each other NOT in the exact order laid out. When you have reached one stage, you have reached it. You then go to the next stage, no matter what the horse does before he reaches it. A couple of the horses we worked showed extreme aggression by rearing, hopping and striking immediately after being told to leave when they ignored the operator in the beginning. When confronted they complied. Here you have ignoring, aggression, leaving compliance. Not the literal order, but the first two stages...he has ignored, he has left, NOW we look for him to aggress, beguile and/or lie. When he does that again, after he has complied with the banishing, we count the aggression as a completed stage because it came AFTER. THEN we look for the mouth action. He may aggress some more, he may even stop and ask your permission to become part of your herd, he may decide to ignore you again. You don't need to start the sequence over. WHEN you get the mouth work, you have reached the next stage and so on.
Now then, if you become uncertain, or the horse becomes too overheated or anything else happens to disturb you to the point you are concerned for the health or well being of either you or your horse...stop! Whatever point your at in the sequence will be much easier to arrive at when you go back. You have lost little, and no harm has been done. Do not run yourself or your horse to any kind of a frazzle. Wearing down the horse is not the idea. Controlling it while it is at liberty is the idea. The control and interaction at liberty is what brings about the connected state.
The first thing *I* would do before I did anything else with a new horse would be the bonder. At the completion of the bonder, it WILL let me groom it, pick up its feet, pretty much handle it anywhere, and do many other things with little or no concern.
One participant brought his stud colt to the clinic for its first saddling, "He just goes nuts when he sees the saddle!" He didn't. He showed no concern, none. His pre-clinic apprehensive owner led him out to the trailer along a busy road in the afternoon and saddled him in mere minutes and then led him in and worked him in the bond enhancing exercises while he wore the saddle flipping and flopping all over him.
Another horse couldn't be shod without twitching and fighting. At the conclusion of the bonder I asked if there was a hammer on the grounds. There was, a farrier's hammer even. I picked up her foot while she stood untied and hammered, slammed, poked and monkeyed with her shoes like a farrier and she did not move. Several times during the clinic I heard the ringing of that hammer coming from the mare's stall.
Another HUGE ill-tempered Oldenburger tried to chew me up as I looked at it in the stall. He was probably the nastiest horse I've seen in a long time. If challenged he would turn his truck-sized butt to you and start firing. He had once grabbed and flung his owner out over the stall wall. His owner claimed as long as she got his halter on him as quickly as she could "he wasn't as bad". And he wasn't. She only did the minimum with him with great caution. After his bonder I went in there while he was laying down sleeping and he opened his eyes and looked at me then went back to sleep. I scratched his ears and he didn't object. I called his owner in and she said she couldn't believe it. The next day she said, "I picked his stall without him haltered and I even had him between me and the door. I've never even considered doing that before!"
Of course, if a horse is in pain, it will affect how he reacts to and after the bonder. You cannot expect a horse with vertebrae out, pelvic problems, dental problems or any other number of physical aliments to be as good natured as one who has no physical ailments. The bonder changes the mind, not the body. The mind change the bonder produces makes it easier to find the physical problems.
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