Thursday, January 18, 2007

Lesson 6 Harvey Jacobs and Arabian Horses

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

Yesterday we left off with Harvey correcting Rhythm, the young Arabian stallion, for acts of aggression, the last of which was rearing. In all of these instances this particular horse was not trying to hurt Harvey (although another horse might have), he was warning Harvey to leave him alone.

The reason this is important is two fold. How we handle it affects the future behavior of the horse and, since the horse decides how much pressure, we want to be sure we are reading the horse correctly and applying the appropriate amount of pressure. Think about it this way, if the horse is warning someone it is not using the same amount of pressure that it would if it was attacking. So the reciprocal pressure from the handler should reflect this difference.

The fact that the horse was warning Harvey does not mean that at some point it would not have changed from warning to actually challenging Harvey. If Harvey had ignored the horse’s warning (tolerated the behavior) things certainly could have digressed from there.

Horses are very honest creatures. They tell you what they’re thinking all the time. Their instinct tells to try to move up in the pecking order. (And in this instance with Rhythm, everything was being affected by this horse’s instinct to breed) It’s necessary for their survival. If they are picking at you or moving your feet, they either believe they are in charge or they are looking to take over. This is why it is so important to be paying attention to the little picky things horses do to each other (so we can better understand the behavior and how it works) and to us so that we do not loose our position of leadership with them. Ignoring the subtleties only leads to bigger attempts and can result in dangerous situations. Remember you cannot stay leader over a horse if you tolerate ANY inappropriate behavior. In the horse’s mind you’re either the leader or you’re not, there is no middle ground.

Going back to Rhythm, once he’s figured out bluffing Harvey with aggression wasn’t acceptable behavior, he’s settled into trying to do what Harvey asked. He’s no longer rushing by to get to the mares but he’s not giving Harvey his undivided attention either. He’s still dropped and screaming at the mares. The horse is only giving Harvey as much attention as it takes to accomplish whatever Harvey asks, NOT one bit more.

To deal with this Harvey changes things up, changing directions and speed trying to make it difficult for Rhythm to force the horse to concentrate on him. Turning the horse towards the rail and away from the rail and only allowing him to go a few strides before he makes another change still didn’t get the horse’s total attention. The horse was doing some pretty fancy rollbacks and sliding stops but one ear was always on the mares and he was still dropped.

The next thing Harvey tried was roping the horse. He lassoed him around the neck as he was running along the rail. He asked Rhythm to turn and immediately jerked him with the rope for responding sluggishly. The horse flicked his ear at Harvey and it stayed maybe a second or two and then he reverted back to mare watching. Harvey changed up the direction and tried again. Within a couple of attempts it was clear he wasn’t gaining any ground, Harvey pulled the horse into him and removed the rope.

Immediately the horse ran off and Harvey roped him again, this time around the girth area. Again he tried asking the horse to stop and got a sluggish response so he jerked on Rhythm’s mid-section. This elicited a little more attention but still not enough. With a couple more turns, Harvey freed the horse again.

The next time he roped the horse, it was around the flank. Rhythm has always been very protective of his flank but even more protective of his belly area in that region. With the rope Harvey had Rhythm all wrapped up in a neat little package. The horse’s worst nightmare of where someone might grab him and Harvey DID! Rhythm’s eyes bulged, he bucked and hopped and did kind of a funny slinky thing trying to get that thing off of him. While the horse was trying to rid himself of the rope, Harvey continued to try to control the horse’s feet. He asked him to turn, again with a sluggish response so Harvey snatched that rope and pulled hard.

Rhythm had an epiphany! He turned towards Harvey dropped his head, let out a deep sigh and his face clearly said, “What DO YOU want!” It was as simple as that. Harvey sent him off a few steps with only a slight request, no less, and Rhythm paid close attention to every movement Harvey made. From that point forward, the horse tuned out the mares and tuned in Harvey.

Harvey continued on a little with the basics I’ve described over the past few days to make sure the horse was really hooked onto him. Then he proceeded on to stopping and standing quietly and the desensitizing exercises. I won’t go into those details again, you can refer back to other posts. Once he had completed those things, he began another course of groundwork that was even more impressive. Have you ever seen a horse led backwards by its hind foot?

To be continued...
Lesson Seven


  1. Enjoyed this again MiKael. Glad that method worked with him. Patience, that is what it is all about.

    I have a hand raised three year old that I am sending to a trainer on Monday because I just can't gain any respect from her. She is not mean, just doesnt understand that I am not the same as her and tries to be the boss mare (she is bigger scenario). I love her to bits but am probably going to have to sell her in the end because I dont think she will ever look at me an other way, we will see.

  2. I'm glad that you're enjoying this series, Lori. It's amazing how much going over it again to write it has refreshed my memory about the little things that make this all work.

    I know what you mean about the hand-raised babies. My twins are that way so I have my work cut out for me with them. I feel confident that I can overcome it with everything I've learned from Harvey and Cody, If not, I'll get some help too.

    I do have a 8 year old mare that had issues when she was born and the boss mare attitude. They can be tought but worth the effort if you can break through to them. Dare is my best buddy but I have to be on my toes all the time. One slip and she's looking for her mile.

    After I get done with the piece on the twins. I'm going to do some more on Harvey and Cody with in hand work and respect. It's pretty cool what you can do when you get it figured out.

    Thanks for the comments. I appreciated your input and support.