Welcome to Fern Valley

Here in central Alberta prime farm country,my husband Martin and I work together raising beef cattle and Appaloosa horses. Fern valley appaloosas have long been known for their quality of temperament conformation and color.I have recently rediscovered a love of writing and have published 2 collections of poetry. "Telling Tails" and Tails Trails and Campfire stories" . I look forward to a future spreading my wings as an author and as a horse woman .

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Resistance is futile

Well not totally futile, but it’s a catchy title! LOL
The "signs” post is coming, but first I have yet another ramble that I am going to throw at you.
About?  Energy and resistance. And how by using less of one, you get less of the other. And also the opposite, more energy can equal more resistance.
What am I talking about?
The example I will use is halter breaking young horses. Not going to get into a total "how to as I do it " but the long and short of it is we teach horses to give to pressure and respect a halter and lead. But first we have to get the halter on them!
This is not how everyone does it, it’s how I do it and it works for me. Usually before they are yearlings, but this year is different, and while they are well used to being touched and groomed, they are not in fact halter broke. So time to get at it.

Whether they are weanlings and in a stall or yearlings in a larger pen, it makes little difference other than size. And strength? Not really, I don't out muscle a weanling, nor am I going to try when they are bigger and stronger, that is when the energy and resistance equation comes in.
We start out just moving around ,giving to my  pressure in a pen (usually not round ,I like corners they can  work for you if you let them ) the pressure can be a whip waved or a rope , or just me crowding their space until they move off, but the key is how much pressure, not enough and they  don't  move , too much and they  resist and can become very  reactive. I don’t want a baby panicking and running Willy nilly around the pen any more than I want them backing into me and firing off a round so to speak. Both those options are a case of me using too much energy, and the horse resisting/reacting at the same level.
Maybe it is my  lazy nature ,but I don't feel any great need to break a sweat  doing this , I use enough pressure to  move them away  and keep them  moving. Steady and constant but using only what energy is necessary. Once we get them settled and responsive to that we apply pressure in a different way, asking for the whoa, this is a more obvious show of energy and resistance, I position myself quietly in their eyeline and ask for whoa, too directly in front can cause one of two things, they will either wheel around and take off the other way, or blow right over you. By getting into the view of the horse they perceive you to be in front and will often stop, or if they do turn, you are in a good position to take control of their trajectory and direct them back the way you want.
Eventually when you see  the signs(I will get into this in the signs post )  they are  ready to  have a  rope and or halter , you move  forward with this. This is where  the energy  you expend is  very important , even the smallest  foal is a strong  creature and can  drag you around .If it how you want to do things  fine fill your  boots, but as I said I am  lazy and I don't  want to , also I have  enough physical issues with my RA and Lupus, it just hurts too darn much to fight.
Often  when I first put  my rope (usually a soft  cotton  lead ) the horse will try to leave , fine  do that, but I am coming with you , steady  firm contact on the rope but not holding hard and fast . I am only using enough energy to hold on and remind them I am there, not enough to try to stop them. Do they get away on me from time to time at this stage? Yup, so I start over, no harm no foul.

Then we get to the halter, assuming we have it on and have attached the lead rope to it now we want to walk forward. Again , energy vs resistance is  key here , if you set back and pull on the rope the horse is likely to set back and pull too (and who do you think wins there? )Instead, ask, putting pressure on the rope and wait, the horse will very likely set back a bit and try to resist , so let them . Just hold firm , again not hard and fast and not yanking and pulling with all you have , if you do that, so will they, just set your tension and let the horse  put all the energy into the resistance , it usually doesn't take too for them to decide to use less energy and move  towards the release  . Steady ask, and release.
Similar in riding, contact on the bit, contact with your seat etc. More setting s flexible hold on the bit and let the horse find  the "sweet spot" than constant pull release  with the rider expending more energy  resisting the horse (if that makes sense )
Clear as mud?
I will sum up with the old fable of the sun and west wind arguing about who could get a man to take his coat off faster. The wind was sure it was he, and he blew stronger and colder, and the man simply pulled his coat tighter around himself. When the sun took a turn she warmed the man gently with her rays until he stopped holding his coat tightly and took it off.

When it comes to horses, be the sun.

Stay safe my friends


Weekend-Windup said...

Good shot!

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Oh, I love that sun and wind fable. That's something I can remember.

aurora said...

Nice analogy! They work so well to drive points home. Positively working with horses is a delicate balance.

Cut-N-Jump said...

Making the right thing the easy thing is always best.

Anonymous said...

One of the best explanations I've seen or heard about not bracing against a brace - we teach horses to brace, they don't come that way - and avoiding falling into that trap sets the tone for future training.

Unknown said...

Great post!!!!

Shirley said...

Back in the 80's I used to take clinics from Ross Hanson; he had a good way of saying this: Establish, Maintain, Release. Eastablsh contact, maintain that contact until you get the desired result- or even a hint of it- and then release.

Crystal said...

I like the way you put that, very similar to what I did although I didn't always have enough patience but the more I did it the better. Probly didn't help the first foal I halter broke was Bailey and all I did was walk up to her and put the halter on and she just followed, haha so I thought it was easy! not so much with all horses. I coulda used these hints a few years ago.
I had heard that wind tale before I always liked that one.