Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Lesson 5 Harvey Jacobs & Arabian Horses

Introduction to Harvey Jacobs
Lesson One
Lesson Two
Lesson Three
Lesson Four

Up until now in these lessons, I have been describing Harvey’s techniques in great detail. I hoped to give you a solid understanding of the basics so that when we progressed to dealing with the situation with Rhythm (the Arabian horse in last Thursday’s post) you would be ready for the adaptations in both pressure and release that Harvey would apply.

In the original post with Rhythm, I described in generalities what Harvey did with Rhythm. I did this for two reasons: the first was to introduce you to Harvey and the second was because Rhythm was not responding like the typical horse. I felt that learning the process at the same time it was being used in this unusual circumstance was just too complicated to be effective.

With Rhythm, Harvey had an additional obstacle to getting the horse’s undivided attention. With mares in heat standing right outside the round pen, the young stallion was not all that interested in what Harvey had to say. To get the horse’s attention, Harvey needed to convince Rhythm that he, Harvey, was the leader. Remember Rhythm has dropped and has been screaming to attract mares since he first realized they were present in the pasture. Harvey definitely had his work cut out for him.

Because Rhythm is an Arabian horse and capable of multi-tasking, it was even more important that the process be exact. If Rhythm was even thinking about flexing a tendon when Harvey wanted him to stand quietly, Rhythm was in charge. If he was in charge, he didn’t need to pay attention to Harvey. Obviously, a stallion that thinks his interest in breeding mares is more important than listening to his handler can be a very dangerous animal. Extra caution would be necessary in dealing with this situation

When Rhythm was turned loose in the round pen, Harvey immediately began to apply pressure to move the horse away from the mares in an attempt to control the movement of the horse’s feet. Rhythm was not the least bit interested in Harvey or what he was asking of him. He acted defiantly tossing his head at Harvey. Rhythm wanted to be by the mares. He was dropped and screaming as Harvey chased him sometimes striking at the footing his disapproval at Harvey’s interference. The mares were responding by coming closer to the round pen and squatting and peeing for him further complicating the situation.

As Harvey tried to move the horse around the pen, Rhythm took a short cut across it to get back with the mares. He did avoid Harvey but he was clearly moving in territory Harvey did not want him in. So Harvey cut him the horse off and Rhythm responded aggressively kicking out at Harvey. Harvey’s response with escalated pressure was instantaneous. Remember the horse decides how much pressure is to be applied and Rhythm has just given Harvey license to retaliate in kind. Harvey used his rope and smacked the horse firmly on his hindquarters while shouting at him and waving his arms (making himself larger).

Rhythm backed off some as far as being aggressive and moved around the pen the direction indicated by Harvey but was clearly still trying to find a way to be with the mares. He would change direction without being asked (Harvey immediately turned him back the original direction to further convince the horse that he, Harvey, was the leader.), speed up to try and rush by Harvey (which Harvey blocked) and then he tried rearing and facing Harvey. At which point Dale told Harvey he’d go and get him “the stick.”

Harvey continued to work with the horse while Dale was gone but he backed off a little on the pressure. He didn’t want Rhythm to rear again until he was ready for him. So instead he proceeded working him back and forth with the basics while trying to keep him on the opposite side of the round pen from the mares. He applied as much pressure as he could to get what he wanted without pushing the horse to the point of aggression. Definitely Harvey was working a fine line between not pushing the horse to the point of aggression and allowing the horse to get away with something.

I have to say, normally, if I heard someone say they were going to get “the stick” to discipline any horse, let alone mine, I would be concerned. But I know Dale very well and even though I had only just met Harvey I knew enough to know I didn’t need to be concerned. But I’ll have to say I was not prepared for what I saw.

Once Dale arrived back with what turned out to be the handle (only) of a stall-cleaning fork, Harvey took the stick and returned back to the center of the round pen. He ramped up the pressure, insisting that Rhythm stay away from the mares provoking the horse to rear. As Rhythm stood there on his hind legs pawing the air and threatening the man, Harvey raised that stick up in the air over the top of his (Harvey’s) head and shook it at the horse.

Harvey told those of us watching, “This horse is trying to tell me he’s bigger than me but I’ve just proved to him that I’m the one’s that bigger.” In support of this claim, Rhythm dropped to the ground and ran off from Harvey shaking his head. He didn’t try to rear again and Harvey hadn’t touched him at anytime with that stick. Who would have thought such a dangerous behavior as rearing could be stopped so easily and with no harm to the horse or handler?

Since I raise horses, I occasionally get youngsters who try to rear. I can tell you the stick works with them every time. And it makes a huge impression on the horse. I seldom have to use it more than once.

I wish I had learned that trick a long time ago. Previously I had learned from John Lyons to strike the horse with a crop on the lower leg until it thought or started to come down. I can tell you from experience that method was only moderately effective. It scared some horses not to mention really bothered me. (I don’t know if that’s how John advocates correcting rearing today or not.)

Since I learned from Harvey to get taller and bigger with an aggressive horse, I have much better results. The taller and bigger technique works on many forms of aggression, not just rearing. I don’t necessarily use the stick in all situations but even using my voice and body language can really impress a horse they should back off. Also, it doesn’t erode on the horse’s trust. Since the long-term goal here is to have a partner not a servant, trust is important.

To be continued....
Lesson Six

1 comment:

  1. Interesting reading again, I have had a few babies who have done this to me. My husbands method of correction is to have a chain over their nose through the halter (stud chain) and to jerk them down. I hate doing that, so now I can try something else which I will be much happier doing.