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My Horse Is All Go, No Whoa

She writes:

Marv - can't WAIT till you get here - cause for some reason I just don't seem to be "getting it". I really don't want to wait another month so.... maybe some online advice will help.

We have a 6 year old POA mare that I just love - on the ground. In saddle, she can be a handful! Just LOTS of go. Like she is scared not to... Makes me wonder about her history.

Anyway - Snookum is SO good on the ground that I didn't think that using the bonder would help any. She does anything and everything you want - leads easily - doesn't push - body clip- brush - under around over - she is GREAT with it.

Snookum was purchased about a year ago for my then 8 year old never been on a horse son. I KNEW she had a lot of "go" - but so does he and I figured he would be soon bored with a dead head horse. (ok - so my first mistake :o) )

She isn't mean under saddle at all - just full of energy - lots of go - very little whoa. For an experienced rider she would be fine - but even I don't enjoy (and I am NOT what I would call "experienced") the mental/physical workout riding her can be.

Back to the question part... :) - I had made the decision earlier this week that she is probably not the horse he needs to start on much as we love her - and since we can't afford boarding for yet another horse- we would have to sell her. But decided to work on her some more first... hence the bonder.

We were in the round pen for about 30 - 40 minutes this afternoon. She never got above a trot - and I got the ear and the licking/chewing. This is where I got stuck with my gelding as well... the head down thing. Either I'm not sure what to look for or I haven't given it enough time.

What I expected wasn't peanut pushing - more of a relaxed top line and a sense of "softness". Every once in a while I would THINK I was getting it - but could NEVER get her to come into the middle to me. Couldn't get her to follow me - even after "starting" her by cupping her jaw and taking a step or two. At that point she would go in another direction - NOT what I would take as "bonded".

I don't know if the bonder will help with the under saddle work - (only reason to me that it seems it might is that it seems more mental - fear or habit related - than anything else). Does this make any sense???

Any help would be appreciated! I would really like to turn this mare into a "keeper" for our son - she is such a doll in all other ways!

My reply:

I think the biggest problem here is that we have spent so much time discussing how the "bonder" does so well as an "attitude adjuster" that we lose sight of the fact that the bonder is really a "connection conduit." Time and time again I hear people say, "Oh she is so nice to handle, she does so much so flawlessly, I just can't see how the bonder is going to improve anything. There is just this ONE thing she does..."

People in this situation think they are on the same page with the horse and taking steps to get on the same page when you are already there isn't necessary. And as this case illustrates, if the son was experienced, being on the same page is plenty good enough.

But what we need here, is to get son and horse down to being on the same paragraph, if not the same sentence. THAT is what the bonder does.

Is it possible to get on the same line as the horse without the bonder? Yes. Is it easy? No. It takes a LOT of time to get the horse to the same connected state the bonder does so rapidly. My long time trail riding partner and her horse had such a connected relationship it was down right spooky even for me. It is impossible for me to fully explain how each of them knew what the other was thinking better than they knew themselves - each of them were several thoughts ahead of the other all the time. And neither of them had ever seen hide nor hair of the bonder. I was privileged to be one of only 3 people in the world to be allowed to ride that horse (few people could). They were not only on the same sentence, they were on the same word. And it only took them 20 of the 31 years they rode together.

REGARDLESS of the horse, I perform the bonder the FIRST time I work with it and I refresh it at the FIRST sign there is any kind of connection glitch. If the horse is perfect in every way but it starts moving off before I'm ready after I tell it to stop moving, I know immediately we have a connection problem. What ever the cause - I'm not able to convey to the horse what I want and/or the horse is unwilling - I need to establish a clear connection.

I simply will not work a horse that has not been bondered. I want to certain there is a connection and it is working.

I'm not real sure why you're having difficulties with the bonder. I could tell you in a moment if I were actually there but I'm not. It could be that you have not made it sufficiently clear to the horse that it is acceptable to treat you in the manner it wants to and you deserve. Your angle of approach may be such that the horse has to BOTH move toward you and away at the same time to stay with you. You may not be presenting a clear mental image of what you want.

Sometimes in this situation I do what has come to be called "short-arcing". I turn the horse back and forth as quickly as I can on a section of the fence until the horse just stops and says "WHAT THE H*** DO YOU WANT??" As soon as I see the horse is going to go in the direction I want I start it back the other way. It usually only takes a few switches. Usually I can pick up the connection then.

Sometimes it helps to just stand at the horse's head for a few moments doing nothing then casually moving away. Rather than trying to lead it into the center, start out in the direction the horse is already facing and curve into the center. If the horse is not following you, don't keep going.

Whatever the reason, you are but moments from success. If you keep pecking away it you may stumble on the solution before we get there. As long as you don't run you or the horse ragged there'll be no harm done.

One of the things to remember about the bonder is that its purpose is not to get the horse to follow you. The purpose of the bonder is to improve communication between you and the horse. If the horse is paying more attention to you at the end than it is at the beginning, that's success.

If, by the time we get there you are still having trouble figuring it out, we'll take care of that AND show your son how to do his own bonding and give him some training strategies that will help him and the horse communicate better.

One of the things that I find goes a LONG way toward resolving this problem is put the horse through the bonder and then stand it beside a mounting block (I think mounting from a higher position than the ground should be a law) and take my sweet time about getting on. Or I may start to get on and then change my mind. Or I may get on and then get right off. Or I may get on and just sit there. If at any time the horse does not willingly stand, I send it out for a couple laps, pick him up and then go through it again.

The connection the bonder produces is actually MORE important under saddle than from the ground.

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