Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Flexibility in Training Procedures - A Horse Named Mouse

I was called some weeks ago to have at a look at a little horse named Mouse who, according to the horse's owner, was quite a handful. The horse's owner was pretty saavy about horses in general and actually I was quite impressed at his horse knowledge. It seemed that he'd been doing many things right with his horse but he was still having difficulty with Mouse's attitude and rebelliousness. Mostly, while under saddle, Mouse would turn and spin and either head back to the corral or just dump the rider. When I arrived Mouse had dumped quite a few riders so the owner was concerned. 

We should realize right off the bat that horses are not horses are not horses. This is to say that although there are general truths regarding how we approach a horse in training horses have different personalities and different psychological orientations. Much of these different personalities and psychological orientations have to do with the horses experiences up until the time of training plus horses have varied breeding propensities and leanings. Keeping these things in mind our training methods and techniques must be modified to address personality and psychological differences; if we are going to be successful.

Often times it is not a simple task to understand how a horse has developed psychologically or, for that matter, to get a clear handle on the personality of the horse however, we do have a window into the horse's overall demeanor simply by observing the behavior. Actually, when we stand in front of a horse, one thing we do have going for us is that horses do not attempt to lie to us; they wear who they are pretty much on their shirt sleeve. It is the trainer's task to modify his/her training techniques to best fit the behavior the horse standing in front of him/her. If this is not done, and a trainer simply uses the same techniques on every horse, the process becomes dishonest and ends-up being unsuccessful.

Timing and feel are absolute necessities when training a horse. Good horse trainers are masters at timing and feel. Without these two elements the process is awkward and clumsy to say the least and the horse usually gets more confused as time goes on. I'm not really sure if these two elements can be learned; my feeling is that one either has them or one does not. Rather like the propensity to be athletic - some people are more inclined towards what it takes to be an athlete and some are not. I know that true horse training is like a dance. Each movement and gesture while around the horse is carefully expidited yet it comes from a place inside the trainer that simply knows the steps to the dance. And as the horse does one thing the masterful trainer intuitively adapts his steps in order to request certain behavior or movements from the horse. It all happens so quickly and so fluidly and as a result the horse steps forward into his trainng. Often times, while observing a master in training it appears quite uneventful, as though there is really almost nothing happening, and this is because of the soft and artful manner in which the trainer moves and dialogues with the horse. I refer to this being in the groove with the horse.

Often times horses are blamed for unsuccessful training outcomes. In my opinion, this lack of success stems from the trainer's inability or unwillingness to adjust his or her training methods to fit the personality and psychological orientation of the horse. This is to say that the trainer is simply not in the groove with the horse. It is not necessarily a simple task I have to say but it is the only honest way to proceed. And it is the only way to truly honor and respect the horse and his individuality.

Thanks for listening!

Friday, March 4, 2011

America's Wild Horses


And the Lord God said to (IYOV) JOB: 

"Did you give the horse its strength?
Did you clothe his neck with a mane?
Did you make him able to leap like a locust?
His majestic snorting is frightening!
He paws fiercly rejoicing in his strength,
Then charges into battle;
Mocking at fear, afraid of nothing.
He does not shy away from the sword.
The quiver rattles against his side,
His gleaming spear and javelin.
Frenzied and eager, he devours the ground,
Scarcely believing the shofar has sounded.
At the sound of the shofar he whinnies;
As from afar he scents the battle,
He cannot stand still when the trumpet sounds."

IYOV (JOB) 39: 19-25

For years I have been following the plight of America's Wild Horses and for years this issue has brought unbearable pain to my heart. What has been happening and what continues to take place with the removal of America's Wild Horses from their habitat is tragic and heartbreaking to say the least. Viewing the video footage on-line of the brutal and inhumane treatment of these amazing family oriented creatures can only be considered a tremendous injustice.  

I have been writing letters, sending emails and telephoning the BLM, government officials and President Obama's office to plead with them to stop the Wild Horse Roundups but the travesty continues as I write this post. As a horse trainer and horse lover and as a decorated Vietnam Combat Veteran I do not appreciate being in this position of what seems to be utter helplessness. It seems that no matter how many voices in our country cry-out to stop the round-up and imprisionment of our Wild Horses our voices continue to fall on deaf ears. 

Just over one hundred years ago two million wild horses graced our ranges in this country. Now, over forty-four thousand of our wild horses are in holding pens across this country and the present figures state that less than twenty-five thousand wild horses remain in the wild today; and those numbers are being constantly reduced at this time. 

I remember a film of a true story I viewed some hears ago titled "In Pursuit of Honor" starring Don Johnson. This film portrayed Calvary horses caught in the cross-hairs of a military that was suddenly going mechanized and the solution put forward was to simply exterminate the horses since they would no longer be needed or deemed necessary by our government. This is a tragic account of how incredibly insensitive the powers that be can be. This film brought tears to my eyes and outrage to my heart. I recommend this film to any horse lover desiring to witness a historically accurate account of gross governmental insensitivity and a total lack of respect for this dignified species.

Each day when I awaken to go out and take care of my own horses and to run my little ranch here in Central Oregon I desparately attempt to fight-off the invading thoughts of what is happening to our Wild Horses. If I manage to forget about the plight of my equine champions for even a moment there can be a little peace that temporarily rests upon my heart yet this peace never lasts very long. At such times I suddenly realize that I cannot forget what is taking place and when I do manage to find temporary peace in fleeting moments I am left feeling like I have deserted them and the tragedy of what is happening to them. And then suddenly when I find the issue invading, once again, the deepest areas of my heart I again experience deep physical pain that is almost unbearable. I live with this pain daily and am often times unable to sleep for nights on end.

During these painful times I pray to the Lord to give me the strength to act in whatever way necessary in order to aid America's Wild Horses. What is happening to our Wild Horses, even as I write here today, is not unacceptable and it is time for true Americans to act swiftly. Horses are sacred creatures as all of creations creatures are however, in some way that I cannot really put my finger on, our Wild Horses are not only the embodiment of honor and grace and dignity but let us not forget that they embody the Spirit of free people in America and everywhere. As we stand by and allow the round-up, abuse and imprisonment of these majestic creatures free people everywhere will lose a part of themselves that is never again to be regained.  

If there is no cause great enough to take a stand for living becomes a passionless, pointless and empty existence of self-indulgence and self-centerdness.