Saturday, January 13, 2007

Lesson 2 Harvey Jacobs & Arabian Horses

Introduction to Harvey Jacobs
Lesson One

We have discussed pressure and release as tools to teach the horse. We want to use them and what we know about the horse’s instincts to control the horse’s movements. When we go into the round pen, there’s another instinct of the horse that will help us to control its feet. That is the horse’s instinct to change direction when it’s path is crossed. This instinct will be useful not only in changing the horse’s direction of travel but also in teaching it how to stop.

Normally, when a horse is turned loose in the round pen with a stranger, the horse would be worried about the situation. The presence of the person would be more important to the horse than anything else. It does not know what to expect so it will want to protect itself. This means that for most horses, Harvey just being in the round pen with them would be pressure. Turning the horse loose, it would probably immediately move away from Harvey. Since Harvey wants the horse to think he, Harvey, is controling the movement he will apply pressure by looking at the horse’s hindquarters, clucking and throwing the rope behind it. To convince the horse Harvey is in charge he must not only control the direction the horse is going but its speed. He would get the horse to lope and keep him in the lope for a lap maybe two. I believe he choses the lope at this point because with the horse being unfamiliar with what's happening, it will probably go into that gait on its own at some point. Since Harvey wants to be the one calling the shots, he will ask for it before the horse volunteers it. When he gets the desired gait he will praise the horse.

If the horse doesn’t feel pressured enough to move off immediately when it’s turned loose, then Harvey would apply external pressure starting with a cluck. If that didn’t work a slap on his leg would add to the pressure. If that attempt wasn’t successful, then Harvey would toss his rope at the horse’s hind quarters. For all of these steps, Harvey would be looking at the horse’s hindquarters. That look is also part of the pressure. When the horse does move off, the pressure will be relaxed and praise the horse. Harvey doesn't want to confuse the horse so he will let it lope a lap or two before he moves to the next step.

The next step would be to turn the horse. (controlling it’s feet). Harvey would accomplish this by looking in front of the horse, moving towards the front of the horse if necessary and Harvey would throw his rope in front of the horse. (all three of these steps would be degrees of pressure, with looking in front of the horse being the lightest and throwing the rope into it’s path the heaviest.) I’m not good with my timing throwing the rope but I am good with my timing running in front of the horse. So that is how I normally turn the horse. Remember safety is an issue, so if you move your body (instead of using the rope as Harvey does) to cut the horse off, you must be far enough ahead of the horse so when changing direction the horse has room to kick out (because it might) and not kick you. At this point once the horse has turned, it gets a slight release of pressure and priase for making the turn and then is encouraged to continue moving.

Harvey repeats the process of turning the horse back and forth over and over with the focus being on getting the horse's attention by controlling the horse’s direction and speed. If the horse wants to lope, he makes it trot. If it wants to trot, Harvey makes it lope or walk. Mixing it up so that the horse is following directions. Harvey wants to have the horse so light that it moves off when he looks toward its hindquarters and it stops when he looks towards its front end. Piece of cake, right?

Harvey slows the horse by moving to block it. By reading the horse’s body language Harvey knows how much pressure to use in the block. He wants the block to be a big enough move to slow the horse but not so big it will turn and go off the other way. If the horse does turn around, he let it move a little ways and just tries again. Using the horse’s response as another measure of how much pressure to apply next time.

During this entire process Harvey is monitoring how the horse is paying attention to him. The horse tells Harvey it is listening by turning its inside ear toward Harvey. Harvey is looking for the horse to keep its ear locked on him. If the horse turns its ear off of Harvey, then Harvey will mix up what he’s doing with the horse. That change in speed or direction should put the horse’s attention back on Harvey. The goal is to have the horse’s entire attention focused on Harvey and every foot fall being controlled by him.

Stopping the horse on cue is also built on the turn. Harvey reads the horse and attempts to add enough pressure to just slow the horse but not so much as to cause it to turn thus giving the horse a window to stop. He watches the horse closely so he can adjust the pressure as needed. If he sees the horse even look likes it’s thinking about stopping, Harvey releases the horse and praises it. If the horse responds by looking at Harvey, he steps back even further, giving the horse an even bigger release and more praise. If the horse stops he gets an even bigger release, this release would be in the form of a break and of course, more praise. A minute or two to just stand there with no pressure.

If the process doesn’t work, he moves the horse off a little ways and tries again. It’s important to note that during the release the horse’s attention must stay on Harvey. If the horse quits tracking Harvey, pressure would be applied and the horse would move off again.

By repeating these steps over and over, the horse will get softer and softer and the breaks get longer. The horse will get more and more relaxed as it begins to understand what it is being asked to do and eventually it will get to a point that it will not just look at Harvey but it will actually take a step towards him. The horse’s body language will reflect it is relaxing with a lowering of the head and softness in the eye. This behavior gets a big release and lots of praise.

The softer the horse gets the more reward. Harvey is working towards the horse getting lighter and lighter with all the cues. He wants the horse to speed up when he clucks or taps his leg. Slow down when he takes a step back. Stop when he drops his eyes. Turn when he looks in front of him. Another piece of cake, Right?

Once the horse is stopping easily and with a soft appearance begins turning and facing Harvey, Harvey may even try to approach the horse. The decision to do so is based on reading the horse and whether it looks comfortable enough to tolerate being approached. The biggest cue for whether the horse is ready or not is the level of the horse’s head and the expression in its eye. If the horse has its head dropped down and a soft eye, it is relaxed and comfortable with the relationship, as it has developed to this point.

The filly in the picture above is Cari. Her body language says she's not sure what what to think or what she's supposed to be doing. Her ear is turned towards up because she's paying close attention. Cari is owned by Bev Ferrington.

To be continued...
Lesson 3

1 comment:

  1. I remember this day clearly. Cari was just a few weeks old when MiKael, Dave and Lindsay came to visit. Cari's dad is MiKael's stallion, Scandalous Legacy. She'd never been out in this area of the barnyard before, so she had a lot to be cautious about even though her mother was happily grazing a few feet away. It only took a little while for her to figure out that these visitors were not going to eat her, and that she could trot around and impress their sox off...and she did! Now at almost 8 months, she's still the princess of the pasture, only prettier. Thanks, MiKael, for 'immortalizing' our little Cari.