Monday, February 20, 2012

Training Gone Wrong

I bring you Cleve Wells - teaching a horse to 'soften up':

We don't know the full story. However here is my interpretation of a very brief clip without context:

0:02min horse softens though actually effectively evades the bit by going behind the vertical. He is trying what he thinks could be the right answer.

0:09 Wells nails the horse in the mouth continuously until the horse 'gives'.

In all training, the horse will offer up what he thinks are the right answers or what he thinks are appropriate answers to your 'question'. An effective but gentle trainer is the one who gently tells the horse 'no, wrong answer' without force, and who guides the horse to the right answer, which he then rewards with a release of pressure, a rub, etc. Think about it: would you learn more from the math teacher that yells at you when you get an answer wrong, or the teacher who tells you matter-of-fact you are incorrect and then proceeds to explain to you how to obtain the correct answer?

I hope I would have had the guts to stand up to Wells at that clinic and to walk away with my horse.

A better way of teaching a horse to release to pressure?

Introduce the concept first on the ground - teach the horse to give you turns on the forehand and turns on the haunches via pressure applied by your fingertips, to back by applying pressure at various points (ie, nose, chest), to sidepass via pressure, etc. Teaching a horse to release to pressure is essential to his training and to his well-being in general. We want the horse to move off our leg under-saddle and to give to rein pressure and to give to the pressure of a strand of wire across his pastern if he finds himself caught up one day. Next, take this concept under-saddle and use patterns to refine what the horse already understands (this has been discussed extensively in previous blogs). I like to start and re-start all horses in a plain rope hackamore (no bosal, no shanks) so I can get that horse soft before I ever touch the sensitive insides of his mouth. To deliberately cause pain to and potentially injury a horse's mouth as Wells demonstrates in his video is nothing short of abuse. Instead, a trainer uses increasing pressure and appropriate timing of his releases and reward to teach the horse to be light. The rider is what creates a soft and light horse. This is done in progressive steps the horse may understand and is done in a gentle fashion - NOT by jerking on the horse's mouth. If you do not understand the concept sufficiently to teach your horse, find yourself a good trainer in your area who can demonstrate admirable training skills and who can help you.


SweetIronSnaffle said...

I love how in all your blogs, you highlight the release of pressure. It's frightening how many riders are unaware of the importance of that concept.

OldMorgans said...

That release of pressure, so very important.
I went to look at a horse this weekend. The owner took a hold on the lead rope & just hung on, pulling constantly. The horse leaned into the pressure & dragged her where he wanted to go. I passed on that horse as not only was his saddle training a lot less then promised, but I could see I would have a lot of remedial ground work first.

Equus said...

Thanks, SIS. Good luck in your search for a new partner, OM (that's exciting!!). What you found seems rather common, bleh.