Is there significance to defecation when training horses in an enclosed area, i.e. Is it nerviness or release?
Is there significance to defecation when training horses in an enclosed area, i.e. Is it nerviness or release?
My young horse, who is 10 months old, needs farrier attention yet it seems to me that he is too young for Join-Up. What steps should I take before bringing in my farrier? Kerry Milford
Thank you for your timely question. This week we have added a sixth farrier lesson to my Equus Online University. Students should ask their farriers to watch along with them as they learn from world renowned farrier Ada Gates showing us how she achieves a balanced foot and objective farriery. Farriers will appreciate that these owners are willing to prepare their horses for the farrier’s visit.
I remember, as a child, my father telling me that he had never been to a dentist and that he hated the thought of ever having to go. I remember my first visit vividly. I was totally unprepared, scared to death, and hated every minute of it. By the time our children made their first visit to the dentist, times had changed dramatically, and our family dentist was willing to take the time for a mock visit, where an assistant explained to the children the value of dentistry, and educated them about the great lengths taken to keep it pain free.
Consequently, our children have never feared the dentist, and our family has enjoyed a much improved dental environment than from my childhood. This is precisely the message that I believe to be applicable when preparing your horse to deal with the farrier. Let’s first address your question about Join-Up®.
Once your foal has been weaned and no longer calls out for his mother, he is ready for his Join-Up sessions. Accomplishing Join-Up is a great way for your foal to enter that period of his life when his mother is no longer a factor. Properly done, it will promote an understanding between weanling and human that will be beneficial lifelong. I recommend two or three Join-Up sessions on consecutive days. Be gentle and patient with foals as they are small and ultra-sensitive.
Doing too many Join-Up sessions at this stage is usually counterproductive. It is a little like often telling a child the same story; the foal will come to resent it and exhibit gestures of anger. Prudently accomplished, two or three Join-Up sessions will allow you to live by the concepts of Join-Up throughout the relationship with your horse.
The post Join-Up work with the Dually halter should proceed until you achieve strong signs of willingness and relaxation. Then, you can move on to accomplish other goals. The Dually is very effective for schooling a horse to stand for the farrier or the veterinarian. The Dually halter will also help a horse load into a trailer, walk into a starting gate (starting stalls), walk through water, stand for mounting or any other handling problems.
Any person preparing a horse to be trimmed or shod by the farrier should take this responsibility seriously. I have seen extremely wild and fractious horses that require a week or more to be prepared for the farrier’s visit. During this training period the sessions might take up to an hour a day. Half-hour sessions twice a day are not a bad idea.
In every country I have visited, I have found that some people believe that the farrier can educate the horse himself when it comes to standing and behaving while the footwork is done. This is an unacceptable mind-set. A farrier is a professional and should be treated as such. His expertise is to care for your horse’s feet, not to train him. While it is true that some farriers are also good horsemen and quite capable of doing the training, most horse owners do not plan to pay the farrier for training services.
The farrier often feels that he is being taken advantage of and should not be required to take the time necessary to train. This can result in short tempers, and horses dealt with in an inappropriate way. While farriers are generally physically fit, muscular and capable of administering harsh treatment, should something like this occur, the blame should rest with the people securing their services, and not the farrier. Starting to prepare your horse to meet the farrier should preferably be done just after weaning, but you might inherit an older horse that has not had this education.
The following procedure is for yearlings and older horses. I would suggest that your student be introduced to the round pen and go through one, two or three Join-Ups on successive days. Once Join-Up has been achieved and your horse is perfectly willing to follow you with his adrenaline down and volunteers to stay with you comfortably, I suggest that you put your student though two or three daily sessions with the Dually halter.
Once that has been accomplished, you are well on your way to having your horse stand comfortably while you pick up and deal with his feet. To begin the farrier-schooling process, you should first rub your horse over, or spray him, with insect repellent. He finds it disconcerting if he has to stand on three legs and can’t stomp one to remove an insect. Once the repellent is applied, you can begin to pick each foot up repeatedly.
If, at this juncture, your horse is perfectly willing to give you one foot at a time and stand on the other three while you tap on the lifted foot and run a rasp over it, you are probably ready to give your farrier a call. If your student is reluctant, offers to kick, or refuses to allow you to tap or rasp the lifted foot, I suggest that you fabricate an “artificial arm,” which I’ll discuss later.
At this point, the good horseman should reflect on why a horse might react in this fashion. Each of us should quickly remember that the flight animal relies upon his legs to carry him to flee for survival. We should immediately understand that acting out violently toward the horse does nothing but convince him that we are predators and out to cause him harm. Delivering pain to your student is absolutely inappropriate.
To make an artificial arm like the one I use to train horses that are difficult for the farrier, you will need the following items:
1. An old rake or broom handle, cut 3 feet (approx. 1 meter) long, or a hardwood cane with a straight-handle grip, not curved grip.
2. One heavy-duty work glove.
3. One sleeve of a discarded sweatshirt or heavy work shirt.
4. One roll of electrical, gaffer or duct tape.
Place the glove over one end of the pole and fill it with straw or shavings. Slide the sleeve into place so that the cuff can be taped at the wrist portion of the work glove. Fill the sleeve with sponge, straw or shavings, and tape the upper end of the sleeve to secure the material inside. You should have approximately one foot (30 cm) of uncovered pole for easy handling.
I’m finding it fun for me, at this stage in my life, that innovative students, encouraged to keep open minds, are making some very interesting discoveries. Kelly Marks is the director of the original Monty Roberts courses in England. She brought Ian Vandenberghe to be an instructor in my concepts. Ian came up with an idea that is very helpful, particularly for small, female trainers. He concluded that if the arm had a stiff thumb on it, the handler could, at the appropriate moment, slide the thumb down behind the rear leg, stopping at the pastern.
Using the padded thumb, the handler could actually lift the hind leg without placing her own arm in jeopardy. I was on tour in England when I received a very difficult horse, with a strong desire to kick. The English team brought me Ian’s improved arm and I found it very effective.
If your equine student wants to kick the artificial arm, do not discourage him. Return the arm to the position that bothered the horse until the horse accepts it anywhere you want to put it.
Begin using the arm by massaging the body, shoulders and hips of the horse before proceeding to his legs. You can even rub the belly, and up between the hind legs. Spend considerable time in the area of the flank, as it will be often touched by the farrier’s shoulder. Bad habits can get started if the horse is still sensitive in the flank area before the leg-lifting procedures begin. Use the arm to massage all four legs until the horse is perfectly happy dealing with the procedure.
If you are dealing with an extremely flighty or dangerous horse, you may consider using an assistant so that one person can control the head while the other uses the arm. Remember, if the horse acts out or pulls his leg away from you, drop the leg immediately and then school with the Dually halter. This will not be necessary with most horses that are raised domestically, but it could be an advantage with mustangs or horses raised with little human contact.
Be alert and watch for improvement, and when you get it, remove the arm from that position at once and go to the other side of the horse to continue working. Your student will regard this as reward for not kicking, and is likely to quickly improve. With your student cooperating fully when you pick up all four feet and tap and rasp, ask your farrier if he has an old pair of farrier’s chaps that he can lend you, if you don’t own a pair yourself.
You need your horse to allow you to work on all four legs while you are wearing loose-fitting chaps, which may frighten him and present a problem when the farrier visits. Most horses become accustomed to chaps within five to ten minutes without a much difficulty. On the day the farrier arrives, your student should have the person who has been working with him present for his first farrier procedure.
You should choose a place for this work that the horse is familiar with and one where you have accomplished a large part of your schooling. It should be a safe enclosure with good lighting so that the farrier can see the feet clearly. Good footing should be provided, and a firm, level surface should be available so that the farrier can judge the action of the feet as the horse walks away from, and back toward, the farrier.
You should have the Dually halter on your student, and move through the procedure slowly so that he accepts the activity while staying calm and relaxed. Advise your farrier that you believe it is a good idea to pick the feet up and put them down a few times before working on the foot just to accustom the horse to the activity. It is also a good idea if the farrier picks up the foreleg briefly just before picking up the rear leg on that same side, to help prepare the horse for work on the hind foot.
If you find that you have done insufficient work to prepare your horse for the farrier, then stop the procedure at once and allow additional time for further schooling before reintroducing him to the farrier. Following these procedures, your farrier is likely to be a much happier member of your team than if he would be if required to deal with an unprepared horse. And just as important, your horse will be a much happier individual, likely to enjoy a lifetime of comfort with the farrier.
Anyone who owns a horse should read material written by notable farriers to better understand the importance of foot care. The old saying “No foot, no horse” is certainly valid. An owner should take the responsibility of being as informed as possible when it comes to this critical part of the horse’s anatomy. The informed owner will judge the farrier’s work by the angle, shape and health of the foot he helps to create, and not by the amount of material he removes.
Good luck with your foal’s training and let us know how it goes with all his new experiences.
Question : Are you in favor of training horses with a clicker?
I was working as a clinician in Springfield, Massachusetts at an event that is a major equine exposition called Equine Affaire. During the course of this event, I was asked to work with several remedial horses. One was brought to me with advice from the owner that the horse was very aggressive and dangerous about biting.
During the course of my work, I communicated with the owner and was told that the horse had been trained with the use of the technique called ‘clicker training.’ She went on to say that treats were used as a reward for the behavior desired . This horse would actually stalk me and charge with ears back and mouth open. He was a four-year-old gelding far too dangerous for anyone except a professional accustomed to dealing with this problem.
While working with him, I said the following words, “This is an example of why I tell my students that I am not a fan of clicker training, especially when it involves rewards in the form of food offered from the human body. I explained that when food is associated with the human body it produces horses that bite. I believe this and hold that opinion to this day. I was able to improve the horse’s attitude in a thirty-minute session, but one could never say that I produced a certain cure.
I advised the owner to stop feeding from the hand . I told my audience that the clicker part of clicker training is no problem for me. An audible marker signal, in my opinion, can be useful as a part of any training system. The clicker is the audible marker signal. The food acts as the reward for the desired behavior. I realize that some people use clicker training more effectively than others and some are downright inept with this science.
After returning home to California, I received two emails from professional clicker trainers. Each admonished me strongly that clicker training can be a very effective method. They told me that I was criticizing clicker training because of problems I had with horses that were trained badly. One of the professional trainers was Kim Cassidy from New York.
After exchanging two or three emails, I found Kim to be open-minded and quite interested in exploring my work. I realize that she wanted me to understand more about clicker training, and I believe hopefully to change my mind about the concept. I invited her to come to Flag Is Up and…lo and behold, she accepted my invitation!
Kim decided on her own to invite another professional clicker trainer to come with her. Linda Pearson from England made the trip, and they arrived on January 11 at about 9:00 a.m. I loved the opportunity to study with these two ladies. For three days we dealt with several classes of horses, raw, remedial and well trained. After returning to their respective homes, Kim and Linda each sent me a letter, and I will quote for you the essential elements of each of their writings.
“During the course of loading and unloading, the filly began playing with Monty and jumping onto the trailer doing little things like prancing next to Monty showing how brave she was. It was obvious that she was very happy with herself. She seemed to be saying, ‘Finally someone is speaking my language.’ I really could feel her joy and happiness…the humans were finally getting it right.”
“It was then my turn, one of Monty’s students brought me a young Thoroughbred gelding that wouldn’t load. The owners relied on heavy drugs to load him. Monty states categorically that he will not use drugs of any kind in the training process. I did my first round pen Join-Up with this particular horse.”
“I was quite clumsy compared to Linda and a complete oaf when compared to Monty, yet I still succeeded. Monty guided me on how to use my eyes and my body to achieve Join-Up…what a feeling! I then worked with the Dually halter getting the gelding to move his feet upon request. I paired an audible click with a rub between the eyes when he did it right. I felt that Monty could appreciate the clicking now that I was pairing it with the rub and not the food. Sometimes we have to compromise to make our point.”
“After a few minutes, I took my Thoroughbred to the trailer and worked on loading him. He was very good, and I got him on the trailer rather easily. We ended on a good note, and we were really looking forward to the next day.”
“Monty asked us to switch animals, so I did Join-Up with the mustang filly and Linda accomplished the same with my Thoroughbred gelding. We were both successful. Linda worked hard on marking good effort with her gelding using click and rub. The horse was much improved when compared to the day before.”
”After successful work with these two horses, Monty sent Linda to a paddock to get a little bay mustang gelding. Linda brought this horse to the round pen as Monty whispered to me that it was Shy Boy. Linda did Join-Up with Shy Boy and didn’t know who he was until it was over. When we told her she looked like she was going to burst. It seemed to be the highlight of her trip.”
“After lunch Monty brought two mustangs for us to work with. They were quite wild, but soon cooperative. I can’t believe how incredibly giving, soft and perfect the mustangs were. I almost cried when I did Join-Up with mine. It was so moving. It is hard to explain, but mustangs are very different from domesticated horses. I think Monty described them as “pure” and he is right.”
“We took them to the trailer and Linda and I both loaded our respective mustangs. It was really exciting because once they start to give you their trust, they don’t hold back. I think Monty felt great satisfaction in seeing our enjoyment. He truly loves doing this work. Despite being an incredibly busy man with many demands on his time, I think he is happiest being around the horses and training them. The happiness shines out of his smile when the human and the horse get it right.”
“What we accomplished in teaching Monty about clicker training, I really don’t know. If all we did is get him to distinguish between clicker training and indiscriminate hand feeding, then I feel we accomplished a lot. If we have started an exchange of ideas between the two communities, it will be an amazing accomplishment. I really like Monty, and I think he is an incredible horse trainer.”
“Monty loves the horses and that is apparent. He repeatedly stated that respect is a fine line and it is not spelled F-E-A-R. We need to offer as much respect to the horse as we expect to get in return. I believe that Monty has brought to the horse world a new understanding.”
Question: I have purchased a 14-year-old bombproof mare but she comes from an area without trains. I live in a rural area but I cannot go very far without crossing train tracks. What is the best way to introduce a horse to a train? On this road there is about 5 other horse owners, but none take their horses near the trains. Though some own driving horses, these people go on wagon train rides and are careful to avoid the trains. The trains are an infrequent, but daily occurrence. I intend to let Black become accustomed to the train rather than avoid the train altogether. I live in coal country and there are at least 3 spots where I can expose her to trains without interfering with traffic. However, I would like to drive her to the post office, etc. and there is 1 train crossing with bells and poles that come down.
The State of MD is spraying trees to eradicate some bug. I am in the center of a forest. The helicopter flew over my property and directly over Blackie and made about 4 passes within 50′ of Blackie. The spray was quite visible and the helicopter was only about 50′ above the ground. When I got outside she was looking up at the helicopter and watched as my goats either slammed into fences or jumped them to get to me. The geese and turkeys were also quite frightened. By the third pass of the helicopter, Blackie seemed more interested in the hay in front of her than helicopter. My goats would not leave my side the rest of the day but Blackie did not seem to need me at all.
I did not see the helicopter & Blackie at the moment of the first pass, but when I went out to check she was about 30′ away from her hay. I went out as soon as I heard the helicopter and missed seeing Blackie’s reaction by about 10 seconds. I assume she “spooked” and ran 30′ but when I got to the outside she was looking up at it the helicopter not running. She went back to her breakfast. Looked up for subsequent passes but did not stop munching. Can I assume a similar reaction to the train?
Monty’s Answer: Thank you for the time that you took to explain Blackie’s fears. As is the case with so many interested horse people out there, you have answered your own question. There is a test for you. You might ask “Where did I answer my own question?” You did so with the following words “But she comes from an area without trains”. You are telling me that if she came from an area where there were trains that she would be just fine with trains and you are absolutely right.
Don’t worry. We’re going to get through this because I do realize that this simply does not give you enough information. Remember that I often say to my audiences and write in my books. Every horse on the face of the earth is frightened of pigs, unless they are raised on a pig farm. If so, they are perfectly fine with pigs. Most pig farm raised horses love pigs and considers them good friends. There is a lesson to be learned from this phenomenon.
Horses are frightened of anything that they are not familiar with. Their DNA has set them up this way and they simply would not have lived as a species for 50 million years if they failed to think that way. As a child I traveled, with horses, to many horse shows on a train. My horses hadn’t been raised around trains so I had to work out how best to let them know that the train wasn’t going to kill them. I remember exactly how we did it.
Salinas, California has a train track and a depot. It is an agricultural area and there is a lot of freight train loading of vegetables destined for all parts of the United States. Just west of Salinas along the tracks there are some cattle and horse farms. The tracks are laid down in multiples and they are called switching tracks. This means that there are switch engines that move along 2 or 3 cars at a time and park them on the side to be loaded.
After the loading is complete the cars are switched on to the main track hooked to the larger freight train and off they go. We found a dairy farm near the tracks, right in the area of switching. There was high activity on those tracks. We made a deal with the dairy farmer to allow for some horses to be put in the field next to the tracks. After 2-3 days and nights the horses would graze right along the fence and never even look up when the train went by.
Remember that when this was going on we still had steam engines (choo choos). They were awesome, noisy and huge. The trains of today sound like a Rolls Royce compared to the trains of my childhood. Remember also that switch tracks have signals going almost constantly. The signals of my day were called WigWags which was a very large stop sign-like hunk of metal which wagged back and forth on a long metal arm like a giant pendulum on an antique clock.
If you are innovative I think you can come up with someone who has property along the tracks who can assist you. It is well to remember that there are many items at home that can aid you in your efforts. One can start with something as small as an electric toothbrush and work your way all the way up to a leaf blower. Quads can help a lot. They are like a four wheeled motor cycle and very noisy. There are kids in your community that would love to help.
For $5 they will have races up and down in front of your horses stable for a half hour or so. Remember that it is essential to train to these frightening sights and sounds in different locations and at different times of the day. In order to get the job done properly one must do it while on the ground and while in the saddle. Remember to take care and be extremely incremental. Start with the easiest challenge and work your way upward being very cautious not to over match your horse.
If a person is going to be successful in the horse world, you have got to decide what you want for yourself. The needs of the horse come before wanting to win championships; wanting to make money; wanting to be successful internally. It is a partnership. Your horse is critical. His needs must be met first, and if his needs are not met, your performance will pay a price.
We need to know what that horse considers to be a reward. As predators, we know food as a reward. There is, in our DNA [deoxyribonucleic acid], a factor for considering food a reward, but no blade of grass has ever run from a horse. No horse felt the need to stalk down a blade of grass and kill it, and then eat it. Food is just there, for them.
So what does a horse consider as a reward? Often times it is just the ceasing of work. Just stopping. Giving them a rub. Getting off their backs, if we’re on them. Walking them around. Walking away from them is a reward, that tells them that you are not predatorial. Think of innovative ways to reward your horse in HIS language. Which is to say, “I like you, and I’m not going to hurt you.”
Horses are very generous animals. They are ambitious. They have a lot of energy. So they don’t want to just stand around, they want to do things but be careful. Monitor them. Observe them. When they’ve had enough, ease up. Reward them. Stop. Get off. Give them a rub and walk away.
Your chances for success will fall right off the table if the needs of the horse are not met. When you meet his needs, then your chances go sky-rocketing. One can’t simply be conceited about it, or arrogant, when the horse meets your needs. The reason that you can not do that, is that you will start to overwhelm your horse, with your own requirements.
Study. Learn what he needs. Provide those needs and your chances for success will sky-rocket.
- Monty Roberts
Editor’s note: Find Monty’s principles illustrated and discussed in his Equus Online University: http://www.montyroberts.com/university
Disenfranchisement of a Phobia
by John Calder
Having spent the last three and a half hours and 198 miles driving on rain-sodden motorways back from Keysoe, Lou and I have had plenty time to reflect on a remarkable show and demo. Everyone was on sparkling form, from all the helpers to the core team, but above all, the performers, Kelly, Rosie , Copy and, of course, the maestro himself Monty.
But the final demo was really exceptional. Initially starting from the ground, the horse’s issues were quickly established and visible to all. Monty then opened our eyes to a new and breathtaking concept that he has only just developed and one that those lucky enough to be there will store as a cherished moment. Monty climbed aboard Copy and proceeded with some quite remarkable work from the saddle to work on boundaries with our head-shy friend quickly gaining the horse’s trust and respect.
A form of mounted Join-Up. It was not long before Monty was leading the horse in a calm, peaceful and gentle way. Copy had switched to his working horse roots assuming a low energy role becoming the master horseman’s perfect partner – ice cool, calm, willing and oh so honest. Monty then went to work demonstrating to a captivated audience the use of his concepts (usually demonstrated from the ground) but now in the saddle.
We all watched spellbound as the head-shy horse started to change and understand before our very eyes. It was a privilege to be there and to see this great horseman displaying his skills not only in the saddle but also demonstrating his mastery in working with and understanding behavioural problems. Monty asked Rosie to work with Tilly on the ground whilst he was still on copy and to touch and rub Tilly at the same time as Monty and then completely on her own – it was really something seeing Tilly happily accept what before the demo was totally unacceptable.
This was really a demo not to be missed and to be at Keysoe and to see the phenomenal way Monty brought about a disenfranchisement of a phobia and the clear transformation of our head-shy friend was something to be remembered forever.
Often, when I see people working with horses, it seems clear to me why a horse might be confused. We humans are far from perfect at understanding the mind of a species whose behavioral patterns are so far removed from our own. I wish I could live another hundred years because I believe we will ‘get it’ much better as time progresses. I often watch horses migrate through a road map of understanding as I do my work. I feel as though many of them would like to come back to me a month or so after a training session and say, ‘Now I know why you persistently asked me to do something that seemed scary to me at the time. I can handle it now.’
The horse training principles that I practice and share with you focus on the nature of the horse and meeting his needs, rather than simply citing the needs of the human and setting out to make the horse conform to them. I would like each one of you to eliminate the phrase ‘make the horse’ from your vocabulary. Many decades of working with these wonderful animals have shown me the value of bringing the horse to want to do what you are asking of him, not demanding it of him through force.
There is a movement on this earth of ours to understand horses better and to treat them in a far more reasonable way than we have in the past. I congratulate those who seek information and live up to their responsibility to learn as much as they can about the horses they admire. You are the ‘doers’ in this industry, seeking answers to improve your understanding of, and relationship with, the horses we have come to love. Many people know by now that my life’s goal is to leave the world a better place than I found it, for horses and for people too. You know that I cannot do it by myself. Each of you will realize that if we are to succeed in becoming better partners with our horses, it will take a family of individuals who care. You can be part of that family.
- Monty Roberts
“I highly recommend Monty Roberts Equus Online University. I spend a lot of evenings with Monty via his University. It’s very inexpensive and the lessons are terrific, short and sweet, and available forever to review. No Level 1 and Level 2 nonsense. Just good things to know as you work with your horse. And the best thing I’ve seen in years on how to (easily) train your horse to side-step to you on the mounting block… and wait for you to mount. It’s sooo cool.”
Editor’s note: Check out Monty’s EQUUS Online University at http://www.montyroberts.com/university