Thursday, January 18, 2007

Lesson 7 Harvey Jacobs and Arabian Horses

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

In yesterday’s post we covered the steps Harvey took to finally get Rhythm’s attention away for the mares and on to Harvey. Rhythm was desensitized to being touched all over his body on both sides with both Harvey’s hand and his rope.

Harvey sent the horse off again around the rail asking him to stop. The horse responded easily to the cues. With the stop he turned to look at Harvey and was encouraged with praise. If he took a step towards Harvey, he got more praise and Harvey takes a step back. By repeating this over and over, the horse got to the point that he walked right up to Harvey. After as short time the horse was so hooked onto Harvey he followed him around the round pen. If Harvey stopped to explain something, the horse stood quietly with his head dropped waiting for him.

Next Harvey put the loop of rope around Rhythm’s front foot and backed up a little. He applied light pressure to the rope and held it waiting for the horse to think about lifting the foot. When he saw the thought, he released the pressure and walked over to praise the horse. The he backed up again and repeated the exercise. One of the things Harvey watched for in the horse was a shift in his weight. That told him the horse was getting ready to pick up the foot. With this insight, Harvey rewarded the horse with a release of the pressure and praise. By repeating this over and over, Harvey got Rhythm to the point he was leading him around with the rope around his front fetlock joint.

The young Arabian stallion reached the point he was responding to Harvey just lifting the rope but no longer applying any direct pressure. Harvey began taking a step backwards and then lifting the rope. The horse was paying such close attention to Harvey that from that he soon learned to move when Harvey moved his foot back. Harvey didn’t have to lift on the rope at all.

By changing the angle at which he was applying the pressure, Harvey could change the direction the horse would move the foot. He continued with the exercise working with all four feet. Eventually he had led Rhythm forward, backwards and sideways from all four legs. The horse would follow Harvey any direction by watching Harvey’s body language and no longer required any direct pressure. It’s important to remember all the way through these steps, when the horse does what you ask or even tries what you ask, it gets praised. There cannot be too much but there can definitely be too little praise.

Leading the horse around by a foot may sound like a funny thing to do but what it accomplished was important. He had the horse totally desensitized to having any of his feet touched or lifted off the ground. Harvey was able to go up to him and lift each foot off the ground with no resistance. Also, the horse kept his head down indicating he was comfortable with Harvey picking up his feet. Before this Rhythm had been pretty good about his front feet but not so great with the back ones. While I had been able to lift them it was not without a little discussion. I would not have been able to lift them up without having a halter on the horse. Now he was standing in the round pen without a halter letting Harvey handle all of his feet.

At this point Harvey put a rope halter with a long lead around Rhythm’s neck. Then he threaded the long end between his front legs and out the left side. Then Harvey faced the horse, took the piece of rope going between Rhythm’s legs in his left hand and the long end in his right. He allowed the loop that was formed to drop to about the mid point on the upper leg and pulled up with equal pressure. Then he waited for the horse to respond to the pressure by thinking about moving. When the horse began to shift his weight, Harvey gave him the release and praised him. Harvey repeated this over and over until the horse’s response got to be very light.

Next Harvey proceeded to step two in this exercise. He let go of the lead from his left hand and applied the pressure by pulling on the rope in his right hand. Again, he watched the horse for signs he was thinking about moving that leg. When he saw beginning of the shift in weight, he released to the horse. He repeated this over and over until the horse got very light. Then Harvey repeated the entire exercise on the other side.

The purpose of this exercise was to teach the horse to lift its shoulder when it walks off. In the first step he is encouraging the horse to take a step from pressure on the back of his leg. When Harvey dropped the rope between the horse’s legs, the pressure changed from just behind the leg to pressure on the nose and poll from the rope halter and the original pressure behind the leg. With the combination the horse learned to flex and bend as he gave to the pressure and to lift his shoulder as he was giving to the pressure and stepping forward.

In this two hour session with Harvey, this 2 year old Arabian stallion learned to pay total attention to his handler even in the presence of mares in heat. He learned to stand quietly while being touched all over his body with foreign objects. He learned to stand unhaltered and give all four of his feet even to strangers. And he learned how to give to pressure on his poll and flex and bend while lifting his shoulder. Not bad for two hours work.

This is the end of this series of lessons with Harvey Jacobs and Scandalous Rhythm . I hope you have enjoyed it. I will write more on natural horsemanship methods I have learned from Joyn Lyons , Clinton Anderson , Harvey Jacobs, Cody Hurford and Tommy Garland as it applies to training, riding, showing, and breeding later. Remember you can find Tommy and Clinton on RFD-TV and Harvey would say "The horse learns from the release!"

Next I’m going to start a series of blogs about last year’s foaling season and the miracle babies born on my farm.


  1. Thanks MiKael I enjoyed reading that too, I just wish I didnt have so many horses and that I could give each one the amount of attention they really need.

    Looking forward to the baby series, that is something I have done a bit of over the past 5 years, one of them I had to hand raise.

  2. What a great Blog you have . So much information.


  3. An observation: John Lyons does not refer to himself as a practitioner of "natural horsemanship." In fact, he often differentiates himself from those who practice "natrual horsemanship" references & identifies Pat Parelli as a practitioner of "natural horsemanship" (whom he appparently admires).

    John Lyons, in fact, often describes as what he asks of horses in his approach to training them as "unnatural" & I, among others, would agree with that characterization.

    Yes, pressure & release is the essence of what John Lyons & others like him practice. Pressure & release are actions/forces that are useful with all prey (non-) human animals & arise from the application of operant-conditioning paradigms.

    John Lyons has gone out of his way to disparage the so-called "Horse Whispering" tradition--& many of the disparaging comments are captured on his training materials (namely, the DVDs). Beyond the round pen, much of Lyons approach focuses on pressure & release with the bit & reins. He is not a "fan" of using other "aids," particularly the legs (which is not surprising given his cowboy background).