Here is a story that might shock you. The reason that I am sharing it is that I hope that it will help you to understand how important the “Whoa” and “Go” responses are. Having a great gas pedal and break on a horse is the secret to a horse’s willingness to perform. This response also develops a dependable horse under saddle that will respond to light aids. It also produces beautiful movements and natural collection and straightness.
But how I learned this was over a period of time that took place in an abusive form. After it was over I wanted never to train a horse again. I wanted to think that you should never train a horse to stop and go with this kind of precision and that just to train this response into a horse was an act of abuse. What was occurring was that I wanting to throw out the baby with the bath water. But much later I learned that all of this could be trained in an enjoyable experience for the horse from a method that I developed once I settled down to it's importance years later.
My Trainer in how to train English Pleasure saddle bred horses was a brilliant trainer in his time, in the late 40 and 50s. I will not share his name with you because of what I am going to say about him. He was quite well known in his field. He was an unusual person and he could train a horse quicker that anyone I have even seen or heard of since. In 10 minutes of training over a period of 5 days, on a totally green horse, he could show the horse on the weekend and win a championship in a formal English Pleasure horse class. Sounds crazy and it was!
I have to come up with a new phrase, “functional abuse”, to describe how he approached the training of a horse. I witnessed him training five untrained horses to finished horses in less than ten days each. Of course, they were only finished for a person that sat quietly and knew how to ride with the lightest of touches and knew how to be at one with the horse’s response.
I looked up to his talent, but I hated his approach. I liked the results of what he got, but I felt the horse’s suffering. When I watched him, shivers ran down my back like a cold snake inside my body slithering down my spine and back up again. That feeling would last for hours. But still in all my repulsion, I have got to believe that deep down inside of me I knew that where he put his focus, in what he wanted the horse to learn, was what made these horses preform for him as if they were cut from the same cloth. However, it was tangled up with another reason that threw me from thinking that it could be done any other way. The other thing that was working for him was like the Stockholm syndrome that is a response where a captive falls in love with the captor. Over time I also began to believe that if you took away the abuse you would indeed have a truly magical dance from developing the “whoa” and “go” buttons to its highest form. At this point I went to work in how to develop a different approach.
It was so hard to grasp who this man was. He was such a nice man to humans but “oh lordy” he had no compassion for the horses at all. In fact, he found it quite entertaining to treat them the way he did. Then he would use words, that came out of his mouth, speaking of respect and honoring the spirit of the horse and how you need to take care of the horse’s needs first before you care for yourself.
This is what I watched him do. He trained all his horses to a cart first. It was a breaking cart with two bicycle wheels. When he finished his cart training the horse was trained under saddle as well. He said it put no stress on the horse’s legs training from the cart.
He first put a chain under the jaw of the horse and scared him forward in hand before driving the horse and then said softly “whoa” and jerked on the chain, with all of his strength, repeating this until the horse came to a solid halt. The lesson lasted about 5 minutes or less. That was the horse’s first days lesson.
The next day he did the same as the first, except this time he wanted the horse to stop and back up and then he would shift his focus on getting the horse to run backwards for a few strides. In those two days no more that 5 minutes did he spend on training the horse to go forward, halt and back up. The result was that the horse responded automatically like a golf cart.
The third day he would hook up the horse to the cart that I just described to you earlier. He would stand up in the cart and then at the same time hit the horse with a whip once very hard and sit back down. The horse would jump forward and then realizing a cart was now chasing him, he would take off like a rocket. Then he would say “whoa” and jerk the horse in the mouth so hard the horse would slide to a stop and stand there shivering for a few moments, then he would repeat this process.
On the third try the horse would go, but not like a rocket, more like a highly trained prancing horse trotting and looking for the speed that would keep him safe. Then he would ask the horse, with a very light touch of the driving lines to halt. He would then jump out of the cart and unhook the horse quickly and washed him off and put him away this was all done under 10 minutes of time. The speed of which he worked, unhooking the horse, was as fast as the Indianapolis crew changing a tire during the race.
On the sixth day we were off to the show and the horse was as gentle as a lamb and as obedient as a schoolmaster and light to the aids beyond my description.
I saw the mastery and the abuse and I saw what could be accomplished by where this man put his focus. What I then realized, after some years went by, is that I needed to develop a method that got the same results, with the same focus, but without the extreme pressure and obvious abuse. I wanted the training of the horse to be enjoyable to the horse and to bring well-being to the horse. Training needs to be desirable to the horse without the need for whips, spurs, bits or harassment.
The odd thing about this man is he did not have a self-serving bone in his body with humans and I must give him that. He gave me two years of lessons, five days a week on my horse, before I saw the other side of his nature.
What I also learned from my experience with this man is that a person can have two sides to them and not to let the good side of a person lead you down the wrong path.
I hope this article helps you to stay kind and take the time it takes to train a horse. Just because you can do something that works well for you is no sign that it comes from a moral approach. The way to check yourself is to see what the benefit to the horse is in the process of his own development.
I hope this helps you to know what to stay away from. You can train a horse from a true heart connection and stay away from all that you know in your heart is not fitting your ideals.
I am sharing this story with you so you can see how important the “whoa” and “go” are to have on a horse. When you can develop a good stop and go without the abuse the performance of the horse is beyond measure.
What you want to accomplish is to create a horse that will slow down gradually to a halt and to be able to stop him immediately when you ask. Or you could ask for a horse to slow down and then speed up, not losing your rhythm in the process. Or that you could ask a horse to halt quickly and in the middle of his halting you could then ask him to move on and he would.
This will also magically help with the steering of your horse and bring about amazing collected gates with little need for more training.
If you are a new reader of my blog and are looking for a program in developing the foundation training of your horse come join my online program right now and learn about how to approach the training of a horse at Liberty. This foundation training will remove many years of hunting for solutions to problem solving. Learn the true art of the foundation training at Liberty where a horse will perform the basics that will pay off in all equestrian pursuits. There is one more day left to register.
Have a great weekend! Be on the lookout for new horse and human sightings and may the horse be with you.