Thursday, January 3, 2013

Entries From My Horse Journal And Advice From Mark Rashid On Horses


Joey has been unresponsive and mostly disinterested so far, and it's downright discouraging. The only time he showed real animation was when I went back to using a halter and tying him up and grooming-- "aggressive" behavior with goals [is the best way I can describe it compared to what I was hoping to accomplish with him].

The following are quotes from Mark Rashid's book "Horses Never Lie". I bought it the other night in a desperate attempt to figure out what Joey and I were doing wrong. I think I'm beginning to understand what the problem is now.

"The title ['passive leader'] actually refers to the way the horse is chosen for the role, not what it does once it's 'appointed'.

". . .people automatically assumed that in order for our horses to see us as passive leaders, we must treat them in a passive way. . .
". . .the word passive, by definition, means 'not acting'. How could we possibly train or work with our horses by not acting?"

According to Rashid, the qualities that one must possess in order to be chosen as a passive leader by their horse are as follows: quiet confidence, dependability, consistency, and a willingness not to use force.

I was too passive before. And even though he did it (kind of), I could always tell that Joey was not happy being allowed to "walk all over me" [as I now view what our interactions were like].

Back to present day.

Since the 29th of December, after observing the way Joey perked up and was more friendly and comfortable when I used a halter and had a goal in mind, I decided that he was looking a little flabby. So, we began taking regular walks in the front yard, before meals and, recently, at around noon, even though it's been very rainy and a little on the chilly side. I originally incorporated these walks into our day to get Joey to exercise a little bit. But lately I've noticed that he whinnies again when I come out; and he comes to me me or just stands alertly without taking steps away when I go to halter him. Maybe it's the cookie he gets before and after the walk; or maybe having a consistent routine makes him trust me better -- all I know is that even through the chilly wind, the mud, and the rain, he's still eagerly, yet calmly following me in laps around the yard, now three times a day. On days when the rain stops, I take him inside and groom him every day at noon. Other days, he's too wet.
We're reliable friends again. ^.^

Here are some other quotes from Rashid that I think are really helping Joey and I to understand and work better with one another:

"He [talking about the first horse trainer Rashid worked for] would set things up for the horse to make a decision and allow the horse to make it. He never seemed overly concerned about forcing a horse to do something it wasn't comfortable doing or punishing a wrong decision. He would simply let whatever was going to happen, happen, and then go from there. It was a simple idea, but very effective -- for both horses and people.
". . .he always had a very easy-going air about him. That wasn't to say that he would let horses have the run of the place or that he didn't expect them to behave themselves and have decent manners. But he also made a big effort to allow them to have their say in everything being asked of them. He would listen to them, take their point of view into consideration, and go from there. As a result, all his horses were extremely consistent, willing, quiet, and responsive."

The same trainer from the above quotes explained to Rashid on the subject of "lazy" horses that horses go slow because they are wisely conserving energy that they might need to get away from a predator. Even though there may not be any wolves or lions anywhere about, the horse doesn't know that; the number one priority in their lives is just to stay alive from one day to the next. Rashid claims that this thinking is programmed by Mother Nature and is therefore a way of thinking, to an extent, for all horses, no matter who they are or what they do. As a result, they will not expend energy unless they see a purpose in doing so/the reason seems important to them.
" 'So, what we need to do is find a way to make what you want to do important enough so that she wants to do it with you.' "
Rashid goes on to explain, through the example of his work with this "lazy" mare, that attitude is everything.
"He told me that the way I was riding had a lot to do with how Star had perceived the situation. He explained that I was riding without purpose or direction. Up to that point I had been demanding that she go, but not giving her any place to go. He pointed out that the whole time I was hitting her with the reins and kicking her in the sides to try to get her to move faster, I was also staring straight at her head. By looking at her instead of where I wanted to go, I wasn't giving her any direction. . .It turns out that by constantly staring at the mare's head in such a way, I was actually riding in a sort of ball. . .As far as Star was concerned, my body had the feel of a giant, uncomfortable lump that she had been relegated to packing around. There was no 'togetherness' in how I was riding; I was simply riding on the mare, not with her.
". . .The mechanics of what we had done weren't difficult to understand. It was a matter of not expecting the horse to do the work if I wasn't willing to do it with her. By showing her with my body position and attitude in the saddle that I actually had a clue as to what I was doing, the work became important to both of us (even if it was just going across the arena)."

Upon reading reviews of Rashid's book "Horses Never Lie" before reading it myself, I found very mixed opinions on it. While several people simply stated that every horse owner should have this book in their library, there were quite a few that expressed disappointment at how the book was put together -- they said that it was more of a story book than the training book it claims to be.
Unsure which side to believe, I went ahead and skeptically bought the book and began to read Rashid's discoveries for myself.

I give this book five stars and beyond!
I whole-heartedly repeat what those others have said: if you own a horse, you need this book on your shelf. It has shown me ways of thinking that I never would have come up with on my own; and thus Rashid's "methods" have already given me successful communication with my horse.
There is so much more to it than what I post here. All I can say is that you should definitely get this book for yourself, and your horse. Your equine friend will thank you profusely; take it from a skeptic turned believer.

Thanks for reading. I hope you come back for more!


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