Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Question and Answer

I got a great question from Pony Girl tonight on catching her horse and bringing up the life in him with out using spurs. These are great questions and are the foundation of our relationship with our horses.
So here we go.......The first thing to remember in catching our horses is to keep in mind that we by nature are predatory. Although our intentions are good we think like a predator. A predator would have a direct thought like "I need to catch my horse." The horse then feels the pressure of that. We spend a lot of time teaching them to move away from pressure and by nature they would move a way from direct pressure.
When I go into a pen with a horse I change my presentation and body language to acting as if I am not even interested in catching him. My shoulders and breath come way down. My eye contact changes to a space on the ground near him. As I approach I will walk towards his shoulder. If I see him begin to move away at any time I stop my approach and immediately walk away. This may take a couple of approaches but soon you will see your horse starting to become curious in you, and that's what we want.
He will start to realize that he is wasting energy running from you. Once you see him start to drop his head and lick his lips hes thinking instead of reacting. You are going to use this approach and retreat method for as long as it takes the first few times.
I suggest you have the halter and lead rope in your hand but keep it down by your side. You should be able to get closer each time. The secret is not catching him but releasing the pressure every time he moves or gets tense.
Once you get where you can touch him with your hand on his shoulder immediately walk away. Try and be the one to initiate that first before he moves. Walk away about 5 steps and then slowly but surly move back towards him and touch his shoulder for a little longer. repeat these steps.
Each time you walk away and re approach you touch a place closer and closer to his head. Don't even think about putting the halter on until you can touch him with the halter all over these areas. If you visualize that you are just brushing him with the halter like you would a brush you will present the halter in a non threatening way.
This could take many sessions so plan on taking the time it takes to build a solid trust in this area. Once you are able to halter him again take it off immediately and walk away. You may even give 5 minute breaks between a really big break through. Horses learn and are rewarded when the pressure is off. Once you are able to halter him reward him by taking it off and being done for the day with that session or leading him to a great grooming session or walk.
When we are working with our horses we are always training for tomorrow. If we put a lot of pressure on our horses after they have made a break through like being caught then many times they don't absorb the catching lesson they are on to anticipating the next turn of events.
Each task we are teaching our horses are separate thoughts and concepts to them because they see things in small pictures. Our goal is to ultimately put all of those pictures together but we have to slow down and make each one solid. If we can bring out the curiosity in our horses then we wont be catching them they will be catching us.
The second question is about bringing up the energy in a lazy horse with out using spurs. It is important to remember horses don't like to waist their energy unless there is a important reason. So the first thing is to create in your mind the focus of exactly what you want. Pick a focus spot a head of you and fix your eyes on that goal.
If we look at our horses or stop breathing we will bring our energy down and our horse will match that. So bring your energy up make sure your breathing and send down the intention of life you want him to have. You can cue you horse with a bump of your legs but quickly open them and release his energy. Imagine releasing a handful of doves. you may need to bump and release a few time until he makes a change. Try and reward the slightest change in him by releasing the pressure in your body. If he dies down start again. You may get 2 lively steps and then reapply cue, then maybe 5, soon he will carry more life. We want our horses to match our life so using focus and intention gives him something to follow. Once he starts walking with life remember to move with. him. At the walk his barrel moves left to right make sure you allow you legs to move with that movement. If you tighten when he is trying to move out you will shut him down. At the trot he also moves side to side. Let your hips follow his hips and he will enjoy the ride. I have many more suggestions on this subject but would encourage you to start here. I would love to here how this goes and then we can add some more ideas. good luck.
Christa Lynn


  1. Good post! I remember reading and seeing this before with Monty Roberts and/or Pat Parelli? Luckily my horse isn't hard to catch. If he does start to walk away I just turn my back and start doing something else. Before I know it he is back wondering what I am doing, he's VERY nosy so he can't help but come back.
    I found your site through Pony Girl, glad I did; I will add you to my favorites on my blog. Now off to read more of your blog! :-0

  2. I am sure glad Jesse doe not run from me...I would probably just give up and go home. However a friend's horse use to run so when I borrowed her I just had them leave her in her stall so I would not have to go out to try and catch her in 5 acres! Good advise to PONY GIRL!

  3. Great advice. I used the same catching techniques for my mare who liked to give me a tour of the pasture every time I tried to catch her. Now I can enter the pasture, and just wait a few minutes, and she'll come over to see what's up.

    Nice blog, I think I'll visit often!

  4. Thanks Christa, that was fabulous advice. We must be kindred souls because I love your approach to horses and have used many of these techniques with him on this issue! I have found using the casual catching method to be most successful. I think it will be a lifelong problem with him, off and on. I can just tell, it is part of his personality. There was one line in your post that I want to quote in my follow-up post tomorrow, because it makes such good sense!
    Thanks so much for taking the time to help me out. I might email you with more questions! ;)