Saturday, December 26, 2009
Hello. Here is a brief description of how we introduced a particular horse to some new implements. The horse, Belle, is a Suffolk and there are some earlier posts about her training on this blog. Anyway, Kris and I had been working her up to actually pulling real farm implements by skidding a small tire for short periods.
I occasionally would sit on the tire to add some weight and change the 'feel' of the pull for the horse, making sure to not overwhelm her with too much weight for too long. When we actually had some real work to do over the past few days, Kris drove one of our broke horses and I drove Belle along to investigate and later, if she was mentally ready, to participate. With each new implement, I first lead Belle to it to investigate, lead her along behind and to the left, right, and front of the implement as Kris and the broke horse worked, then ground drove her as I had lead her above. If she was mentally ready, I then hitched her to the implement and Kris lead her while I drove.
Kris gradually dropped back to Belle's shoulder and then as all was well stepped aside to let Belle work by herself. I had the lead rope tied up to the hames so if Belle needed more mental 'support,' Kris could easily get control of her head with the halter.
Of note, I would not try this technique on a horse that didn't have a solid foundation of training that Doug describes in his DVDs on starting colts. The horse has to accept you as their leader and be responsive to the halter. Even with a horse with a solid foundation as Belle has, we were very careful to make sure she was comfortable with each step in the process, and would have backed off if things escalated to where we were beginning to see signs of discomfort, fear, or flight potential.
Also, I would not try this by just leading the animal, someone needs to be on the lines. Here are a couple of pictures of Kris driving Jerry on the disc, while I drive Belle along with them. She did well with this introduction but, since the disc is a pretty heavy pull in our deeply tilled hoop house, I didn't think she was ready to pull a load heavy as this.
A couple of days later we started Belle pulling a section of spring tooth harrow. This is a good starter implement, because you can vary the draft by adjusting the depth of the tines. I started her very light and gradually increased the draft to a moderate amount for a single horse. As I worked her, I changed the draft from time to time, to give a different 'feel' on the collar for her. As you can see we lead her initially, then dropped back. I also only worked her for about an hour with lots of standing time and praise.
Here is Belle's first experience skidding logs. Kris is driving Ray, our grouchy yet excellent mare, skidding small poles to the wood pile. As you can see, I am leading, then driving Belle, getting her used to the sounds, visuals and smells of skidding, as well as the fact that the longer poles are a different experience than a shorter harrow and can kick up brush and debris in sudden and strange ways.
Later Kris and I hitched and successfully skidded some of the lighter wet Doug Fir.
Belle did well.
Here is Belle now working on the disc. We broadcast peas and oats in the hoop houses, then disc it in with the groffdale disc. If you don't sit on the disc it pulls real light.
I did a lot of short pulls and Kris walked ahead for much of the time for support. She did not stand as well as I would like when facing the barn but overall, for her first time I was pretty happy. At one point, we were standing inside the green house. I was adjusting the lines and accidentally hit the top of the hoop house with my bamboo stick causing a loud noise and plastic movement over her head. She got pretty alarmed and jumped forward, but immediately stopped with whoa combined with line pressure (her bit is tied to her halter in such a way to minimize pressure on the bars, so it functions like a halter more than a bridle; a trick Doug showed us at a past workshop). After she stood for a while we kept discing but she was still a little worried, so we unhitched the disc and ground drove her back and fourth thru the hoop houses until she was calm again. Then we went back to discing in a relaxed manner.
These photos were taken after that.
Monday, November 9, 2009
So back to our compost moving project: Two horses easily pulled the scraper up to the house. It is tight quarters around the raised flower beds, so we wanted to do this with just one horse. We thought Tom would be good to go with this single project as he is the more forward horse in the team. He surprised us both by not wanting to go forward even when I was out in front with the lead rope. We tried ground driving him on the flat by the barn but decided that we would need to spend much more time driving single before we ask him to pull the slip scraper.
Next it was Charlie’s turn to ground drive single. We put the single lines on him and asked him to walk forward into our flat area. He surprised us by willingly moving out without my help. Both Harley and I were pleased with his confidence. He was comfortable with the slip scraper too.
The approach to the house is steep but Charlie did a great job for us. He pulled the slip scraper up without hesitation and was steady when we dumped the load. He stood quietly for us while we flipped the scraper back.
On the way back to the compost pile we found that a little of the lift the handle would pick up a load of fresh manure to add to the compost pile. I have seen these slip scrapers before but never in use. It was great fun learning something new to use with our horses. What a great piece of equipment to move dirt, gravel or manure, plus giving a horse a job that is not too tasking.
The next day was also great for doing horsey things. Harley wanted to drive three abreast, so we put Tom on the right, Charlie on the left and Babe in the middle. Babe is a four year old Belgian trained by Steve Wood. Harley used a butt rope around all three horses.
We ground drove them first just to be safe. Babe was very comfortable with the two other horses and did as we asked so we felt comfortable putting them to a heavy stone boat.
With Tom’s leadership they swung around easily to their position in front of the stone boat. Starting off slowly and together we headed down the lane to the south hayfield.
What a joy it was to see them work evenly to pull this stone boat. We were surprised by a fallen tree blocking the lane. The road was too narrow to turn the horses around so Harley stopped the horses and we tied Tom to a tree. I stood in front of Babe and Charlie while Harley walked back to the barn to get the chain saw.
I really enjoy making every experience a learning experience for the horses. Babe was very relaxed during our wait. She fussed a little with her head, trying to rub the other horses but she was very cooperative when I corrected her. While Harley was running the chain saw, she watched but was not frightened with the noise. She has had some experience working in the woods while in training with Steve Wood.
Once the roadway was cleared we circled the hayfield a few times. We had put the best rope halter on Babe with the longest lead rope. But I also wanted a long lead rope on Charlie who was on the left side. If I had a problem with Babe, I could easily move it to her halter and have control rather than trying to untie her lead rope from her hame. I felt doing that could put me in an unsafe position. Things were going well so I left it on Charlie.
The horses had a reasonable workout going around the field.
I had a great time driving them back to the barn. Both Harley and I were thrilled with the way the horses pulled together and worked as a team. We are going to enjoy doing more of this during the winter months. Driving three is a great way to get more horses in condition for next summer’s work.
Thursday, October 1, 2009
We thought that she would be ready for a test of helping Tom take a load of firewood up to the house. We did not overload the sled with wood as it is a bit of a climb up to the house. I was on the ground with her lead rope in hand as I had to encourage her to help Tom get the sled up the hill. She stood quietly while Harley unloaded the wood. I stood at her head and praised her. We took another load up to the house and thought it was a good day for Babe.
Sunday it was dry enough that we could start mowing Harley’s last hay field. We put Shorty with Tom. Tom is on the right as he handles the turning extremely well. Shorty is smaller, but energetic and kept a better pace and helped Tom more than Charlie does.
Monday came and Harley put Babe with Tom to ted the hay. It is easy work and she did okay. With more experience she will do the turning better and have better condition. She didn’t mind the tedder behind her either.
Recently Harley switched Tom and Charlie by putting Tom on the left and Charlie on the right. It helps them to think and hopefully develop their muscles more evenly. We are excited with the flexibility to use all four horses for different jobs and in different positions. So this fall and winter we will have fun mixing and matching horses and driving them to keep and get some condition on them. We want to work three abreast also. With another year of experience behind them, we could even think about putting a four up together. Wouldn’t that be a grand time!!!
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
A friend of mine and I went out to visit the Woods and their horses on Friday. It was a gorgeous warm day and one of the highlights of our visit was a wagon ride with Val and Paige.
Steve hitched the mares up and drove us all over hill and dale around the farm. Paige was wonderful, and if I hadn't known her history, I would have assumed she was just a part of his regular string. We went around the farm and down by the lake where the wagon hit a hidden stump or fallen limb and came to a very sudden and jarring stop. Steve told the ladies it was all under control and Paige didn't even seem bothered.
Later we went out on the road. A couple of vehicles went roaring by, but again, the mares were calm and quiet about it all.
I continue to be amazed by Paige's progress. Steve said she is progressing at a tremendous rate each day.
I apologize for the lack of photos. I didn't even think to bring my camera with us. (I know, I know . . . ) Thanks for letting us come out and visit your beautiful farm, Steve! And thank you Cathy for the wonderful garden goodies!
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Just thought I would write to you about a little work I have been doing lately with my Welsh pony JayJay. I recently brought him home; he had been away for a few years, and as it turns out the last two he spent languishing in a pasture with his older equine companion and a goat. He is “Mr. Personality”, a beautiful dark bay, 13.2HH, driving pony. In harness and cart I’ve thought of him as my sports car; he is quick, agile and flashy. He had very little contact with people for the last two years, was down on his weight, had forgotten his ground manners, and was very much in need of some attention and ‘tune-up’ time.
I feed him grain and hay in a large feeder that is placed about 10 feet inside an open ended run-in shelter inside his paddock. He is very interested in that grain, and the good hay he is now getting. So interested that he charged in on me to get at the feed. He saw me as merely part of the food delivery system, showing no respect for me or my space; he just wanted his food. This sort of behavior was unnerving to me, and felt dangerous and unnecessary. I decided that it was important to start working on boundaries with him at feeding time.
On the first day of boundary training, I walked into the shelter, carrying the grain canister in one hand and my 4 foot long, 1 inch diameter stick in the other. JayJay rushed along behind me and crashed ahead of me to the feeder. I set the feed canister on a high shelf and turned, facing the pony directly. Coincidentally, there is a railroad tie on the ground across the opening of the run-in shelter. I decided that rail road tie was the ‘boundary’; It helped me as much as it did him to have a very real physical boundary to work with. My intention that morning was to drive him back behind the boundary and wait until I gave him a signal to come in and eat.
This took some doing, as he was used to getting the food right away; not getting it made him even more focused and somewhat anxious about getting to that food. I got his attention with my voice and used body language to drive him off. Not being completely successful with the body language, I also used ‘eyes on eyes’ to reinforce that I wanted him to go away from the feeder. Once he was on the other side of the boundary, I used the stick as an extension of my hand and arm (not touching him with it) to keep him back.
This exercise was awkward and probably confusing to him, still, I persevered in holding him back. He was so persistent to get to that feeder, me just as persistent to keep him behind that boundary, using all the body language, eyes on eyes, and arm and stick waving and loud a voice as I could muster at that early hour of the morning. Finally, I saw my opportunity to reward a behavior; his feet stopped, his head went down, he licked and chewed-showing me his submission. Whew! I said, “O K”, to him, grabbed the canister, dumped the grain into the feeder, and let him walk in quietly to eat. I scratched him on his rump and left him with a verbal “Good Boy!”
Each feeding since, I’ve asked for quiet feet and quiet signs of submission from him, before dumping the food and giving him permission to enter the area and eat. One day I was on the phone to you, Doc, while going through this procedure, giving the “O. K.” after JayJay lowered his head, licking and chewing. I said to you then, Doc, “I feel like he isn’t telling the truth, that he is going through the motions, but only to get that grain, not truly giving in.”
You suggested that it was time to bump up my request from him. At his next feeding time, I waited until his feet were quiet. He put his head down, licked and chewed, but I didn't give him the verbal approval he expected, he tried to move over the boundary. I had to use body language again to keep him behind the boundary. He again quieted his feet, look at me, and then put his head down licking and chewing. I knew that he was getting frustrated; this exact behavior had been rewarded before. I thought to myself, “What am I looking for, and how am I going to let him know what it is? And there it was, the behavior I was looking for! His feet and body had become quiet; he looked at me, and randomly and quietly turned his head away and he looked over at the neighbors’ horses. I gave him the verbal cue, “O K” and dumped the feed into the feeder. He quietly walked in to the feed area and began eating. I’m thinking, “Hmmmm, this is working, we are shaping this pony’s behavior.”
He and I have worked this way now for about a month. Some days, he walks with me to the barrier, stands and waits, looks at me, looks away (as if casually looking over the landscape). I say “O.K.” and he gets his food. Other days he doesn’t show up right away. I now wait t see him, dump his feed and wait for him to come to the barrier and stop. I now say, “Woah!” as he gets to the barrier. He stops, looks at me, calmly looks away, and I give him the “O.K.” signal. JayJay is such a good student. This training is fun and thrilling for me.
Doc, I am so delighted with how this has worked. It feels good! It feels good because this relationship is based on clear communication, trust, and respect; it also feels good because I have a gentle and kind working relationship with this pony. There is a deeper reason for this to feel good.
Have I ever told you about my communication resolution? Several years ago, on New Year’s Eve, I was in my barn feeding the Fjords their Holiday evening meal. I was touched and moved by their gentle spirits and felt fortunate to be in their presence and spent quite a bit of time that evening observing them eating and enjoying the sound of their munching.
I could see that they communicated information to each other, moving one another over, away from the food, inviting one to come in closer. Was it a look, a tail swish, what? The communication was so subtle, I saw it all, but I didn’t know what each movement meant. Another big question for me was what was I missing that these equine were communicating to me? The understanding was not intuitive for me and seemed both mysterious and sophisticated at the same time. How did they share information with each other without speaking! I realized how fascinating this was to me, and I made a New Year’s resolution to seek understanding of equine communication. I have since followed a path that has given me wonderful communication opportunities for a higher connection with these equine I am privileged enough to spend time with daily. This is just the beginning! I am excited and imagining the opportunities, they are the previews to coming attractions. Thank you for your help and guidance. This has such meaning for me.
JayJay and I are interacting gently and quietly, and we are both getting what we need. Doc, You tell me that this ground work all transfers to working with horses in harness and under saddle, wow…I get energized at the possibilities! Do you know I think this sort of communication transfers to human relationships too?
Thursday, July 9, 2009
A wonderful chapter has opened in Paige's driving career this week. She has become comfortable with a vehicle behind her, as well as a human or two being in the vehicle. She has been hooked to this vehicle as well as the single two wheeled cart, but has never been comfortable in the past. This is rather an involved story, but it is a great one!
Last week, after returning from the Natural Gait, I noticed Paige and Val (our most talented helper horse), looking for each other and occasionally calling to each other. Both Val and Paige made the trip to The Natural Gait, but did not work together while there. They also traveled in separate trailers. The closest they got was being paddocked in adjacent paddocks. These paddocks are about 15 feet apart. Somehow they got to talking to each other.
So, on Monday evening this week, I decided to try to put them together in a large paddock overnight. They calmly said hello, went to separate piles of hay, and began to eat. I watched a while a went to the house. About 1:30 in the morning a loud horse argument was in progress, so I got out of bed and headed out to investigate. When I got to the paddock, the two horses were standing very close to each other, and both were resting a hind leg. When I went into the pen, Paige got very vocal as I approached Val. A very Low voice, but very intense. Val had no marks but, Paige had two significant marks. One from a set of teeth, and one from a glancing hoof. She let me investigate them, but swished her tail at me as I got my hands close to them. They were sore. I watched the two of them for about an hour, and twice during that time, I began to catch Val to move her out to another, adjacent paddock. Paige nearly put herself in between Val and me, and talked in that low voice. (Very interesting,She controls from a subordinate position in the herd). Finally I added a bit more hay, the first piles were not completed, and went back to bed.
Tuesday morning, when I pulled Val out to go into her day stall, Paige and Val both began calling and looking for the other. They called and fidgeted for 2 hours, ignoring hay!! Finally, I harnessed Val and brought her to the barn where Paige was still calling every 30 seconds, and both went silent. Next we harnessed Paige in a farm harness. She has not worn a farm harness in over two months. I put them together and they walked out of the barn as calm and quiet as any old team would. Once outside we hooked to a team stone boat and they drove around for about an hour with calm, steady steps, quiet stands, and just plain a sense of calm all the while. For Paige, that is way longer than in the past.
Tuesday night they paddocked together, and Wednesday's driving was a monumental day!
We harnessed in farm harness, and walked out to the waiting Fore-cart. We had Paige step over the tongue, and she stepped over like an old pro! We stood still, and then walked away calmly when I asked for them to walk. This weird sense of calm is still here, so I just stepped them over the tongue again, and they stood perfectly still for lifting the tongue, and then hitching to the eveners. I stepped up into the seat and wiggled it around a bit. I asked the team to walk and they stepped out together, and walked around the woods for about an hour. What a joy! When I returned to the barn, a loaded spreader caught my eye. We stopped, backed up to the spreader, stood still, hooked onto the spreader, and walked off calmly when asked. Can you believe it???
We walked out to an unused pasture, and stopped to put the spreader in gear. Still calm. When I asked them to step forward, Paige was bit quicker than Val, and kept leaning on the collar until Val joined in. That is Big Time Comfortable Horse behavior!!! As we unloaded I just could not contain Myself, and I called Karen while we walked calmly down the pasture.
We finished the load, I disengaged the spreader, and then continued to talk to Karen as we oh so calmly walked back to the barn through the woods. There was no one to take a picture.
Today we had Cathy home to get photos, so we did it all again. What a day! Thank you all for your part in this story. Team Paige has many members who helped us find a few of the pieces to this 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle. Come out for a wagon ride someday in the near future and see your project in action.
(You can read more about Paige here.)
Thursday, July 2, 2009
Below, Doc is showing how to properly tie a rope halter. Note that he looped the long tail back into the knot so that it would not injure the mare's eye if she flipped her head.
Jeri Eisermann helping to get Saturday's potluck ready:
Behind the scenes:
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Received a nice comment from Jeri and Don Eisermann, who participated in the workshop:
"This clinic was AWESOME! The people, the setting and the general atmosphere was like no other clinic we have attended. The free flowing of information was special."
Thanks Jeri and Don!
Folks have been requesting contact information.
Doc can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Steve can be reached at email@example.com
Theresa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Doc will be at Horse Progress Days this weekend. Be sure to stop by and say hi.
Sunday, June 28, 2009
Doc also discussed bits and bitting, providing some advice he learned from Tom (Triplett) and Addie (Funk), two of his mentors.
10:35 (pm!) Had some connectivity issues today. I promise to update on Monday. Stay tuned . . .
(Monday) Yes, it's the day after, but I want to keep Sunday's blog post on one day. And what a great day we had. Lots of fun. First of all, here is a photo of Sunday's class. A few people had to take off Saturday night, so this isn't everyone. If we missed you, next year remind us to take the class photo on Saturday!
Lisa's mare has some bad leading habits -- she tries to walk ahead of Lisa instead of behind her. Doc said that when your horse walks with its shoulder next to your shoulder, they are doing the leading. Instead, the horse should be behind you. As you can see, she is a big girl, so lead manners are important.
Look how much better she leads now.
And, as promised, here is a shot of Barb and Mo.
Mo has one annoying issue: He paws. And paws. And paws. Steve and Doc discussed this and Doc mentioned that he will hobble horses with this annoying habit. (Hence the hobbling discussion at breakfast.)
Doc and Mo demonstrated how to teach a horse to accept hobbles. There's a process to it so that the horse doesn't panic and hurt himself. I'm going to show the photos, but not go into the process lest I leave out a critical point. Like driving and other tasks we require of our horses, it's essential they be taught properly.
Kal, Doc's brother, mentioned that the old timers would teach the horses to have any of their legs hobbled so that if they became caught in a fence they would patiently wait for help instead of panicking.
Mo was a fast study and it took about half an hour for him to accept having his front feet hobbled. Here he is learning to "walk" with the hobbles on. You can see he is doing a little jump.
Saturday, June 27, 2009
Harley asked a question about Charlie slacking in the lines; Charlie's perfectly happy to let Tom do all the work.
"Driving horses is a waltz, not a polka."
"When we train a horse with force and punishment, it will work only until we encounter something the horse fears more than the punishment. "
10:03 We are teaching every moment we are with our horses. It's a concept we can't be reminded of enough.
Doc is discussing boundaries and how never lets a horse touch him with its head. Consistency is key. "If we're going to be the boss we have to be the boss all the time. We have to think and act like the boss. A horse that respects your space will respect your leadership. This is incredibly important for safety."
"Paying attention is the difference between people who have wrecks and people who don't. My mentors were all phenomenal horsemen, but I learned there was a category that had wrecks and a category that didn't. The guys that didn't have wrecks paid attention to details, they wanted everything just right and they required their horses to follow the rules."
Steve: "One of my pet peeves is the mantra: If you drive long enough you're going to have a wreck. The difference between a fast drive and a crash is that you've got an escape route planned. You've got to always be looking ahead."
10:20 Doc and Steve are both emphasizing the need to look at our own emotional barometers. If you're in a hurry, it's not a good day to drive. You have to set it aside. Time is a huge thing in our society, but horses don't share our concept of time.
"You can't have a romantic notion that driving is easy."
"Riding is to driving like football is to soccer. They are kind of alike, but they are nothing alike!"
Everyone is commenting about how helpful it was to drive different horses yesterday.
11:15 Folks are out by the outdoor arena taking turns driving different horses. Below, Jim takes a turn with Tom and Charlie.
Steve helps Karen with the lines:
1:50 Those who brought horses have them out in the arena right now. For some horses are practicing how to stand quietly. Doc is checking bridle and harness fit again for others. Jane and ? are ground driving their horses.
Below, Theresa and Harley instruct Sherry on ground driving. Sherry has never driven before, but she is in good hands with Tom and Charlie.
Look what a great job she's doing.
In the meantime, we also hear that Mo may have made a love connection with Barb.
3:05 Folks are hauling carts into the arena. It looks like some horses will be hitched under the watchful eyes of Theresa and Doc. At events such as this, it's always helpful to have an expert check your cart, harness fit, and most import . . . your horse's attitude.
I wonder where Steve is. He must be in the outdoor arena letting folks practice driving with Val and Cole, his best team.
4:35 Just checked in from the arena where Val and Cole were tied to the fence while Steve helped drive Larry's pair of gaited horses. (Breed to come.) On my way back up the the indoor, I saw Doc heading Lisa's horse. There's a potluck at 6:30 pm, but horses will be worked until it's it time -- by their clocks -- to stop.
(Sunday am) Didn't finish posting last night, but I need to include the last horse, Paige, here. Paige is a gorgeous paint mare with a lot of "issues." She belongs to Karen who sent her to Steve for training last November. We don't know a lot about her background, but her recent history includes an auction and three owners in one year. For a young mare as beautiful as Paige is, that in itself indicates a problem. Steve characterized her as one of the angriest horses he has ever worked with. Her progress was very slow. She would not allow anyone to stand near her hindquarters or pick up her hind feet and she would not bend her neck in one direction. When asked to stand still, she would have a fit.
In her determination to rehabilitate Paige, Karen has been willing to try alternative therapies. She recently engaged a woman who does healing touch massage and healing touch. The healing touch practitioner was able to release her hind end so that she would allow her feet to be picked up and she encouraged Karen to have an equine dentist look at her.
The dentist found hooks on the back molars that were rubbing her cheeks raws. She was given a short break to heal after her teeth were fixed. When Steve started ground driving her again, the healing touch practitioner asked to watch her work. When Paige would freeze up, the practitioner would do some body work to help her release. Finally Paige was making real progress.
Karen also asked Steve to speak with an animal communicator about her. Steve was skeptical, but willing to comply with his clients requests so he made up a list of questions, being very careful to not give out much information. I think he was surprised at how much sense some of the answers made.
Steve brought Paige to the workshop and last night we got to watch her pulling a stone boat in the indoor arena. He wasn't even sure he'd be able to ground drive her past the outdoor arena. She was nervous, but held it together, and as she worked in the arena, she began to relax.
Even Ross, Steve's 22-year-old son, was amazed. "I've never seen her do anything but breathe fire," he remarked.
Karen nervously drove her with the stoneboat while Steve headed her.
Afterwords, Paige held court in front of the Mercantile.