Thursday, January 11, 2007

Harvey Jacobs and Arabian Horses

I first heard about Harvey Jacobs from my friend, Dale. He and his wife, Vanessa are breeders predominately of Half-Arabian pintos. Dale doesn’t talk much and he’s not big on promoting gimmicks or hype. So when I got an email from him saying they were going to have a clinic at their place with a cowboy he’d met some years back, I knew I should take notice and made arrangements to bring a horse.

The only clue I had was Dale referred to Harvey as a horseman and the clinic would be in the round pen. I tried to get some friends to come along but, quite frankly, most thought I was nuts going to a clinic with some cowboy from who knows where, let alone taking a horse.

But I try to trust my instincts and they were screaming at me that this was the right thing to do. So I loaded up my two year old Arabian stallion, Scandalous Rhythm (pictured in the snow), and we went off to meet Harvey Jacobs.

Rhythm is not a really big horse but most people don’t realize that unless they stand right next to him. His neck is set on so high it pops straight up out of his whithers and he stands over you with his head clear up there.

He’s a flashy horse with a star, stripe and snip on his face, huge eyes, as extreme a head on an Arabian horse as you could wish for. Plus he has four uneven white markings on his legs and thick flowing flaxen mane past his shoulders and tail to go with it. The look of a real superstar.

This horse is also the studdiest horse I’ve ever seen in my life. That’s why we were going to see Harvey. While Rhythm was normally a gentlemen I was a little intimidated by him. We’d had some pretty big power struggles when he first born and I knew there was a flaw in my training. I didn’t know what it was, I just knew it was there.

That flaw was there with his sire, Scandalous Legacy, and I’d never quite been able to get it fixed. So I knew it was hiding in there somewhere with Rhythm. With all his hormones, I did not want to see that hole ever rear it’s ugly head.

When we arrived at the clinic, I found them in the lower pasture with the round pen set up in the near corner. About five mares, some with foals at their sides, inhabited the pasture. Harvey was already working an aged thoroughbred mare in the round pen. She was not happy but it was clear to me from watching Harvey in action that I’d brought my young Arabian horse to the right place.

When it was our turn, I brought Rhythm down the hill and we waited outside the gate for the horse finishing up in the round pen to come out. Rhythm was good on the walk down the hill but just standing there was different. I noticed his nostrils begin to flare as he smelled his surroundings. I knew he was checking for mares.
To say the horse was naughty would be a gross understatement. The minute he smelled the mares the colt let out a scream, reared, and dropped . The colt was sure he was there to breed something. The hole in my training had reared it’s ugly head! I was in just the right place to deal with it.

Dale came over and asked if I’d like him to take Rhythm while Harvey was finishing up with the other horse. I gladly complied. I’m not all that crazy about dealing with rearing horses or stallions for that matter.

I should have watched what Dale was doing with the horse because he was behaving better for him than he had for me. The horse was still naughty, just not as naughty. But instead I distanced myself as much as possible to a safer location and watched Harvey in the round pen.

Finally it was time for Rhythm to go into the round pen. Harvey asked what my problem was with him and I told him I didn’t really know what my hole was. His current behavior was entirely new, the only problem I was having at home was catching the horse when it was time to go in.
He would run right up to me wanting to go in, but the minute I would raise up the halter he would shake is head, “No” at me and run off. Only to run right back up to me and repeat the behavior all over. This new trick had just started the week before the clinic.

So Dale turned Rhythm loose in the round pen and Harvey proceeded to try to get his attention. By this time, the mares were also trying to get the young horse's attention.

At least two of those mares were in heat. They thought this new young Arabian stallion in their pasture was pretty darn cute. Both mares came right up to edge of the round pen and stood with their butts turned towards him and their tails over their backs in a breeding stance.

Rhythm, of course, was far more interested in the girls than Harvey. While he was running around the perimeter as Harvey tried to control his movements, Rhythm was paying as little attention as possible to Harvey.

Harvey didn’t waste much time with Rhythm, he tried the typical changing directions and speeds and such and the horse did his share of protesting. He reared and struck and kicked but most evasions he tried, he only tried once. Harvey was quick to correct bad behavior.

Pretty quickly it was obvious to Rhythm that he needed to accommodate Harvey’s requests. But he figured he could still watch the girls and do what Harvey asked. So he was still dropped and still screaming from time to time while doing everything he was asked.

I learned during the course of the day that over the years Harvey Jacobs has worked with a lot of horses but not very many Arabian horses. He was born into a family of cowboys and was starting horses when he was six. He learned the old fashioned way but didn’t like it much. So he studied the horses and their responses and gradually developed his own way of teaching horses, natural horsemanship by today's standards.

Harvey is well known in the rodeo circuits and many of the top riders in the country bring their problems with their horses to Harvey. Those cowboys don’t ride Arabian horses.

What Harvey was seeing in Rhythm was a new experience for him. Normally for a horse to do what Harvey’s asking they much give Harvey their undivided attention. It was clear that Rhythm was not doing that, if he were, he wouldn’t still be dropped.

Here is one of the other ways that Arabian horses are different from other horses. They are capable of thinking about two separate things at the same time, multi-tasking, if you will. Harvey knew he needed the horse's undivided attention so he was going to have to up the anty.

So Harvey got out his rope. He sent the youong off around the pen and roped Rhythm around the neck. The minute Rhythm’s ear turned from Harvey back to the mares, Harvey jerked on that rope. For a split second, Rhythm turned his attention back to Harvey but it was no longer than that. Harvey tried turning him and such a couple times and then he called him into the center and removed the rope.

Harvey sent the horse off again and immediately roped him around the girth area. He went through his process again with the same response. So he removed the rope again.

This time when Harvey sent the horse off, he roped him around the flank. The young Arabian, didn’t like that much and he bucked and hopped around for a bit. Harvey gave the horse some time to get used to the feel of it, all the time watching that ear. The second that ear went back to the mares, Harvey jerked him and jerked him hard.
Upon that jer, Rhythm stopped, turned towards Harvey. Walked up to him and dropped his head. The expression on the horse’s face was clear. “What DO YOU want!!” The horse stood there quietly while Harvey Jacobs rubbed him all over and then proceeded on through a series of desensitizing exercises. We never saw Rhythm’s penis again that day.

The mares continued to make trips up to the edge of the round pen, urinated for him, called him, the whole routine but this time the mares were the ones getting only a flick of an ear. Harvey Jacobs had Scandalous Rhythm’s undivided attention.

I don’t think there was a single observer who was there that day that was NOT amazed. The horse had entered the round pen looking like a rank, ill-mannered stallion and in under an hour had turned into what looked more like an older broke to death gelding,a puppy. The horse was willing to do anything Harvey asked and Harvey put him through his paces.

*There were a couple of times when I was learning to work him as Harvey had where Rhythm started to drop. But it didn’t take much to get his focus back.
I’ll write more on Harvey Jacobs in upcoming posts. This one’s getting long.

Lessons with Harvey

1 comment:

  1. I look forward to the next post.

    I have two breeding stallions at the moment and they are pretty well behaved and know that when they are moving in or out of the barn or past the mares that they arent to make a sound. They are also both real easy to hand breed, so I am extremely lucky, the one is 3 years old and the other 8 years old. I wish I could attent some natural horsemanship seminars.

    He is beautiful.