Saturday, March 1, 2008

What's Up with Arabian Halter? Good, Bad, Ugly?

I apologize, this video has been removed from Utube but that doesn't change the discussion here so I will leave the posts referring to this video.

I was asked by beckz about halter horses and the way they are trained for that division being one of the reasons that some people believe that Arabian horses are spookier than other breeds. This question came up in comments on the Life in the Blogosphere - Trash Talking Arabian Horses, Old Riders, Dressage and Natural Horsemanship Part 2

I have to admit that when I first read this comment I misunderstood the question. I am so used to the criticism of halter classes and the way the horses are trained that I automatically thought I was being asked about halter abuse when I viewed the video. After looking at the video I think there are things on it I want to address as well. There are lots of misconceptions about Arabian halter.

In answer to beckz question, there are surely some people who look at Arabian halter and think the horses are spooky or crazy. But more often than not people look at them and think that it's the Arabian horses people who are crazy showing their horses like that.

Even many Arabian people themselves have a bad taste in their mouth over halter. They think it is abusive and cruel. They believe horses can only be shown in that manner by being abused. I used to be one of those people.

There are a lot of things I saw when I first got into horses that I didn't understand. Things that might have looked cruel to me at the time that now I look at and think are appropriate. A stallion under saddle that rears up, reaches around and grabs his rider by the leg probably should get knocked over the head with the closest portable object.

This is an extreme example that obviously requires extreme actions (not to mention gelding the next day). But the point is, there are reasons a horse needs to be corrected and sometimes those can be extreme. The horse decides how much "pressure" is applied.

Because my perceptions have changed over the years especially regarding halter, I'd like to discuss the video example that beckz left for me. The video, titled The Bad and The Ugly, didn't come with commentary. It just shows lots of scenes from a halter class in the arena at the Scottsdale 2008 All Arabian Horse Show with the implication being that it ALL is abuse.

I have to say that I didn't see anything clearly abusive in the arena. Although I did see some things that might seem that way. And I did see some annoying things. I can say that nothing happened on this video that would make me, as an owner, angry if it happened to my horse, although I might ask questions about a couple of those instances.

I'm not going to tell you that all halter trainers are bad. It just isn't true. But I'm not going to tell you that all halter trainers are good either. There are good ones and bad ones. There are safe techniques and abusive ones.
There are a couple, if not more, of handlers in that arena who would never get their hands on my horse. (Because of that the annoying things would not have happened to my horse.)

So in the next post, I'm going to explain what I do see in the arena. I'm going to explain what I have learned that can cause those reactions in the horse. and I'm going to have a hissy fit over one portion of the video.

To be continued..............
BTW the rider/trainer of that stallion was not seriously hurt. The horse was gelded the following week. The trainer is a great hand with a horse. The horse's actions I can't explain but they didn't have to do with that particular trainer but he could have been having halter flashbacks. His halter trainer is an sob. The horse was a sweet gelding after about six months and I can only wish someone would do that to the halter trainer in question.

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  1. I'm sorry if my question was ignorant but I am curious to learn more. I'm used to sporthorse classes where everyone stands quietly square, then they walk a bit and then they trot and then they pick the places, the same energy doesn't seem to be invested.

  2. I couldn't find the vid of the under saddle accident.

  3. Hi MiKael

    I will wait in anticipation of your followup. When I shot that Arabian show last year there was one trainer who was showcasing some of his stallions at the end of the first day, and he made it so hard to get decent pictures of the horse because he was constantly fliping and tugging and the horse was constantly throwing his head and moving, I didnt think it was a very good representation of any of his horses. I would have thought that the horse wold at least have stood up for a few seconds at least without being jerked or aggravated by whip of lead line. JNHO of course so I am wait in anticipation for your take on this.

    Beautiful day here today, will be in the 50s!!!!!!! (Remember we were -1 this time last week). Hae the mud but will take the warmer weather


  4. Did I miss something? What I saw was very young horses-(yearlings?)mostly doing what young horses do in a high stress situation. Have seen the same reactions in QH and Paint colts at the show. It just doesn't look as dramatic as the arabians with their fine heads, arched necks and high tails(breed standards). And, I actually think the guy with the older horse did a good job of handling the situation when the lead got under the horses leg. He didn't let go, he kept the horse contained to a small area and waited for his opportunity to grab the lead. Think of the disaster that could have happened if he had let that lead go and that horse had charged around the arena loose. Yikes!!
    If people really want to talk about questionable training ethics-they need to go watch a QH/Paint Western Pleasure class. OMG!! There is nothing natural or right about that either. So when people start criticising breeds or training methods #1-there is enough blame to go around #2-you want to change it-get your butt out there and start showing.

  5. The video does look extreme, however I think if you go to any show in any discipline you will see something that leaves a bad taste in your mouth. Arab Halter freaks me out a bit, but thats just me. I did work the gate last year at an Arab show and am a firm believer that someone needs to take a firm hand to the handlers more often than the horse. I understand wanting to show the fire in the horse, we all want to see a bit of fire. I personally love to show Abu when he is a little lit up, we always have better scores. I am curious to how old these horses are in the video, they appear young. Maybe its the swarmy over tanned handlers that freak me out, they look kinda swarmy. The only thing that really bothered me was the black horse that got caught up in the lead rope. I think the handler and the people that rushed in could have corrected that with much less drama and trama. I think I just dont know enough to make an informed comment. I do know that I have seen a Rodeo Queen beat the crap out her horse for not loading quickly enough, I know I have smacked Abu for trying to spar with me, I have seen QH rider beat her horse with a crop in warm up to put on his show face and I know that when I went to watch some gaming a few years ago that those horses had huge bits and where very jacked up before and after the events ( we also saw 3 horses run after sustaining injuries) So yes there is abuse in the horse world, I challenge each person to do what they can after they have become educated. Do not be afraid to call your TD at the next show.

  6. beckz, I'm glad that you brought this to my attention. It's a topic that needs to be discussed.

    I haven't seen sport horse classes but hope to show in some this year so guess I should get that figured out soon. lol

    lovelee, sorry if there was confusion. The under saddle accident was one I witnessed soon after I first got into horses. It was an example of me being new to horses and caught off guard by the reaction. Although I will never forget the look in that horse's eye as he grabbed the rider. It was scary!

    lori, I will agree with you, there are handlers that do way to much shanking. There just were no examples of it in this video.

    browneyedhorses, no you didn't. That was my reaction to this video. I think how people perceive it is affected by how much they know and understand about horses overall.

    20 meter circle, now after all of the halter classes I have seen over the years, this one didn't seem extreme to me at all.

    As for the horse with the leg over the lead, I have learned from plenty of experience with that one. This handler did the best job possible in that situation.

  7. Mikael
    Come on down to Portland in August for the Arabians in motion sport horse classic and Region 4 championships. You can do the sport horse in hand classes. Its at Devonwood. You can go to for details, you can stall with us!! as long as you dont make fun of Abu's lack of Arabness. No actually you can everyone does. You can google Devonwood to see the facility. We have 2 of the judges that will be at SPHN the next month, I dont know what classes they are judging.

  8. All of the horses seemed tense and "on the muscle," I guess you would say. None of them seemed to trust whoever was handling them. To me it's pretty pathetic (on offense) to see these beautiful horses being forced into poistion while bouncing around in an arena because they're to scared to submit and do not trust their handler.

    Perfect example was that, gorgeous I might add, black arab at the end there. If he wasn't afraid of his handler he would have submitted so he could get the lead out from under him.

    I don't believe the breed is "spooky." It's just these tactics for training them create that.

  9. I agree with you I think the trainer with the horse that got the lead under his leg did the best he could do under the circumstances. I just don't know why it took the people so long to get out there to assist him.

    You asked me if I did the mural in my grandkids playroom. No, a friend of mine did it and I just love it. It looks just like our barn but we don't have all the corn fields just my little veggie garden. The kids love it too.

  10. Beckz, your question wasn't ignorant...Arab halter classes can be all about energy.

    The first horses were probably yearlings, who can get pretty animated because of the crowd and the noise and the other horses (YIKES!)

    The handler with the black horse did a wonderful job controlling his situation. The horse was excited and didn't want to stand still, but the handler was just quiet and reassuring. The hard thing about situations like that is when all the 'helpers' show up...usually running. Being converged on by running people can put a horse over the top, especially in a stressful situation where he's already on his toes. Kudos to that handler.

    I quite hate it when I see yearlings being jerked on, but sometimes it's necessary. They have such a short attention span, and need to be reminded what is required. I don't know how many horses were in this yearling class, but I can recall "in the olden days" when there'd be upwards of 70 youngsters in one class. Talk about crowded and stressful on the horses.

  11. I will also look forward to your follow up. I didn't like that video at all; those youngsters showed some very exaggerated reactions to even tiny movement of the handlers' hands which gave impression of them being nervous wrecks (but then I am not really familiar with Arabian halter classes so might be very wrong).
    As Beckz I am used to seeing sport horse classes where youngsters are encouraged to stand still quietly without those strange jigging movements of their heads and this tugging on the halters by the handlers.
    Sure, they do become excited many a time but they don't look like they are afraid of/stressed by their handlers (which to me the young horses on the video did).
    Ok, I will just wait for the next post to learn more.

  12. interesting. If I'm not mistaken, the halters for Arabs have an incomplete leather and use the chain under the chin don't they? If so, there are a few in there that I think may have had that chain used on them a little too much. Some I thought were babies that just were excited or maybe stressed.

  13. OMG, if you all saw how the Standardbreds (a VERY calm and docile breed) are treated every day on the backstretch of the racetrack you wouldn't think anything of what was shown on this video! They have chains on over their noses and are jerked all over the place just to walk from the stall to the bath, or the farrier.
    I have to agree with MiKael, I didn't see anything "abusive" per se in this video, but I did see some things I think are very annoying that would lead me to cross a certain handler or trainer off my list.

  14. I must admit I'm ignorant to Arabian halter and I agree with Browneyedcowgirls. I thought they were young horses and I think, how the man was able to retrieve the long lead from in between that horse's legs was alright as I think that could have certainly gone a lot worse. He was able to contain the horse to a small area and keep horse and himself and others from being injured.

  15. MiKael, this is off-topic but I can't find an email addy for you so I thought I would ask you here - what RSS reader did you end up with? You can email me at equuspal(at)gmail(dot)com so I don't take up anymore of your comment space! :)

  16. To my eyes, there was some that looked bad. I realize they're shown with more animation and fire, but I'm also seeing young horses who look on the verge of nervous breakdowns in order to accomplish that. One of the reasons Arabs get such a bad rap is likely due to this early 'training'. The one man in particular that I'm thinking of was a bit whip happy, and many of the horses appeared to have had one too many cups of coffee before entering the ring :) Of course, it's just my uneducated observation...

    BTW...I just figured out who the sweet little trash talker was. She's on a forum with me and referred to me as Einstein for not going along with the crowd (and naturally, she couldn't explain why the crowd went that way, lol!)

  17. I do not know anything about Arabinas, esp. halter showing them. The video disturbed me as a horse owner/rider though. These horses seemed to be under such stress. The one guy with the whip, I would wind up whiping him with it! Of course I do not understand if they spent time with them, why would you need a whip and the initimdation they have going on. I would not let one of them touch my horses that is for sure. Of course that is just my opinion and I will say I know nothing about it!

  18. Brown Eyed Cowgirls-did have a point that I forget to agree with her on. Look at other showing events, WP and reiners. Why would you want the horses head that low and uncomfortable looking? It just looks so unnatural. There are all kinds of horse events that I do not understand and would not want to participate in.