Sunday, November 23, 2008

Getting Started......and then there's Percy

Part 1

Oct 8 was the day when Percy finally made his way into the arena. I could tell the minute I handed the horse over to Richard that things probably weren't going to go like they had for the other two geldings. The look in the horse's eye clearly said, "Who in the heck are you?" That old mistrust I talked about in Getting Started Part 4 had reared it's ugly head. Poor Percy was terrified at the very thought of being in the hands of a stranger. What was he going to think about what they had in store for him?...............Probably not much!

Richard went through all of the steps with Percy he had used with the other two geldings. However, this particular horse hung onto being unsure. Richard saw to it all the cues he needed were in place.....or he thought he did anyway. He did some longeing both directions. Things looked like they were ok in a cautious kind of way until it was time to put the saddle on. Then things got kinda weird and only went downhill from there.

The horse would look one minute like things were fine and then explode the next. It was impossible to tell which gelding was going to be present, the willing cautious one or the terrified, fighting for his life one. Richard would think he had something accomplished only to see it vanish in a split instant. After giving the horse many chances to put it together on his own, Richard decided he was going to lay the horse down.

In some ways Richard starts young horses differently than I do. He makes use of submission to get inside the horse's head (while I've probably been in their heads for years). So watching Percy bounce off the walls because of his lack of trust, I wanted to give Richard the opportunity to work through the issue in his way.

It was a difficult session to watch. I've been in that situation where I sat back and observed as a trainer abused my horse in the name of training. Now whenever things get stressful for the horse, my radar goes up. I watch closely to be sure the line between training and abuse is not being crossed like I posted about in Are You a Good Advocate for Your Horse? Part 2

I wanted to be sure that Percy was safe. With poor Percy bouncing off the walls over someone even walking towards him at this point, it was hard to tell by his demeanor what was or wasn't too much. I just had to watch closely to see what was triggering the horse's reactions and trust my gut to tell me if something was too much.

Percy was bound and determined that he was NOT going to lay down for Richard. You could see the wheels turning in his little pea brain looking for ways to escape. Richard would talk to the horse and pat him to soothe him and the horse would calm.....sometimes only for an instant....but eventually he went on high alert again.

Every time Richard tried to get the horse to give to him the horse would find a way to resist. The horse just wasn't about to give up. He'd co-operate to a point and then explode to escape. There never seemed to be any particular pattern to his defenses so it was difficult to even determine a point to work to........or pick a good place to stop. It was all just too fractious.

Richard decided the best way to approach the horse at this point was to wear him down some and then try again to lay him down. With only Richard holding a line on the horse, Percy was being successful in escaping way too much. Richard's answer to this was to put another line on the horse.

I could hear Harvey Jacobs in my head. If they can't control the horse's feet, you're never going to control the horse. This second line would make it easier to better control his movements (ie his feet). It made perfect sense to me.........Would it make sense to Percy? That was the real question.

To be continued.............

Percy part 2

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  1. Sounds like Percy is strong willed and has a mind of his own. I'm not an advocate of certain training methods, but I will be interested to see how this comes out.

  2. Isn't it odd how one horse can be so vastly different when there seems no apparent reason for it? I had a El Hilal bred mare (pretty as they come) who had a distrust and flight response that was very near the surface, ALWAYS! It was only by my own stubborn determination to not see this beautiful mare sold for slaughter that we ever got through it. It's amazing the time I took with the simplest things to gain her trust on the smallest details, things like something touching her legs, or white tennis shoes, both terrifying. It would be interesting to learn more about this technique.