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6-17-09 004_edited-1-2
Second Day Of Training


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2/3/12, Blair, NE - Today, was Ruben and Royal’s second day of training. A week had passed since I first started working them in the round pen.  Horses are like people in that they need a little refresher training to reinforce what they learned previously before you introduce them to new concepts.  I started the day off going through a join-up session with Ruben.  He’s the more stubborn of the two horses, but will probably end up being the hardest worker in the team.


In this picture, Ruben is displaying his stubborn attitude, as evidenced by his posture. When his neck is arched and his chin pulled into his belly, he’s saying to me, “I’m my own horse and I don’t accept your dominant position.”  He also threw a couple of small bucks to reinforce this message.


After a few minutes, he started to lose his attitude and settle down.  Ruben’s eyes started following me and he appeared more relaxed. When he started to lick his lips, I knew was about there.


After he turned in for the join-up (after about 10 minutes). I started showing his owner, Taunia how to work him.  As we just started out, you can see from Ruben’s head position that he hadn’t yet accepted her as the dominant ‘horse’.  Training an owner how to work with a horse is just as important as training the horse to work with people. In this picture you can see that Taunia is positioned too far forward of Ruben to get him moving around the pen. This sends the horse a mixed message and doesn’t send him the mental image that a dominant ‘horse’ is chasing him away (which is what he should be believing).


In this picture, Taunia has moved closer to his hindquarter, but is not yet being assertive enough.  The mental image that she should be sending to Ruben is: ‘I’m the ‘Boss Horse’ and you are an insolent youngster, so I’m chasing you away from me until you learn your manners and become subservient’.


Here, Taunia is learning the true value of being assertive.  After running the horse around the rink a couple of times, I like to stop him by stepping towards his front. As the horse comes to a stop, I say “whoa”. Then the horse should be started around the ring in the opposite direction.  To get him to change direction, it’s often necessary to use a combination of hand gestures, a tap with the whip and a very assertive voice and attitude.  After a few seconds, Ruben got the message. As he starts off in the opposite direction, Taunia says, “Get-up”. After a couple of more revolutions around the pen the process is repeated. This gets the horse responding to the will of the trainer and also teaches him the commands “Whoa” and “Get-up”.


In this photo, Taunia is now pushing Ruben from the sweet spot.  She’s positioned nicely off Ruben’s hindquarter at the right distance and her attitude in much more assertive. I know everything is as it should as Ruben is very relaxed and moving well with his eye on Taunia.  About this time he started licking his lips.  In another few minutes he stopped and walked in to her to signify his submissiveness to her.

After Ruben had join-up session with both Taunia and me, I put him through a roping-out session to desensitize him to touch.  Before I started, I walked around him with the rope in my hand. You can see from his stance that he is now very trusting of me.  While I walked all around him, he stood perfectly still. His ears followed my progress, but never flattened out or went sharply in my direction.

For the roping out, I placed a lasso noose around his neck.  Then I started him around the round pen, much like a join-up session. as he ran around, I would flick the rope to settle on his back, neck and hindquarter.  I also let him step through the rope so it would rub against his legs and belly.  After about 5 minutes of this, I could touch him with anything, anywhere and he didn’t care.  At this point he was completely trusting of anything I would place on his body.


Believe it or not, Ruben was the tough one of the two to get to this point.  Between the two training sessions, he now had about 1 hour of training time in the round pen.

The advantage of using this type of desensitizing training is that the round pen training leaves the horse in a trusting attitude. I haven’t tried it yet, but I bet this would probably be the best venue for nearly all desensitizing type training.


After a 5 minute roping out session, with coils of rope all over him, Ruben was extremely relaxed and trusting.  In fact, he decided to help me out when I walked up to untangle him and picked up the rope in his mouth and handed it to me!

After the roping out, I put Ruben through a series of exercises that I do with a lead rope.  I start this out by spinning him as fast as I can in a left hand circle. As I start him around, I say “Haw”. After a couple of revolutions, I swap hands with the lead rope and start spinning him in a right hand turn. This time I say the word “Gee” as we start off.  After I repeat this cycle a couple of times, I walk him forward a few steps with the commands, “Get-up” then “Whoa”.  Then I back him up a few steps by holding the lead rope in front of his eyes, crowd him, and say the word “Back”. To stop him backing, I again use the word “Whoa”  After about 5 minutes of repeating these exercises, he now knows the meaning of the words “Haw, Gee and Back”.  I have also reenforced our dominant horse - subservient horse relationship.  This is a great exercise that can be done with any horse at nearly anytime to reestablish the dominant/subservient relationship.  When driving around the country with my own horses and wagon, I occasionally use this exercise to reaffirm our relationship when they start ‘pushing it’ by not always minding me.

After putting Ruben back in his paddock for a while, I pulled out Royal for his second lesson.  Royal is one of those pushbutton horses that is extremely tractable and does everything he can to please people.  I started him out with a join-up session, but after only a couple of revolutions, he wanted to come in and join-up so bad, I let him.  When I went to a roping out, he was so mellow, he looked at me and his eyes said, ‘Really, you can do anything you want to me with that rope, it don’t care’. So, I tested this by using a loop to tie a fairly tight cinch around his belly. I snaked the rope between his legs and all over him.  He didn’t care one little bit.  Actually, I think he appreciated all the human attention.

So after some spins and backs, I tried driving him off his halter with a pair of ropes.  It took him about two minutes to figure out what I wanted.


As far as Royal was concerned, this was just like being led from a distance. My impromptu driving lines were pretty crude, but coupled with some voice commands, he quickly figured out what this mentally challenged human (me) was trying to get him to do. When it comes to horse stuff, most horses are far smarter than a human!


A nice little side benefit of this exercise is that also helps desensitize the horse to the touch of stuff on the side of his legs.  This comes in handy once he is hitched up and has the feel of traces, poles and shafts on his sides.


After stopping him, you can see that he is relaxed and his ears are listening for another command from me.

Now, I’m by no means the best there is at this type of training. I personally know a score of Trainers that are much better.  They would have had this team twice as far along, with half the effort and half the time.

We still call it breaking horses, but there really is no breaking involved.  There is no need to try and force the horse to accept the humans terms and conditions.  If you could ask a horse, he would say, “If you just ask me what you want, in anyway that I could possibly interrupt, I would gladly do what you want”.  After all, when it comes to horse stuff, the horse is a whole lot smarter than any human.  I’ve worked with horses for thousands of hours and every day that I’m with them, they teach me something.