I have several horses here at my ranch that I am working with on issues of behavior. Some that have been here a long time are now the salt of the earth, and others have just started their journey to be retrained or rehabilitated from improper and abusive approaches. Today I worked with an Arabian stallion that is three going on four. When he began with me, he was a horse that would bite, kick, strike, and rear. He would use these on you if asked to do simple things like leading or grooming or working around him closely at liberty. The fact of the matter is that this horse is really a very simple horse with no desire to be dominant even though he acted that way. At this point in his life, his hormones are not causing any issues. His nature is to do what he is told and to like people and other horses. So how did all of this happen and how did he become so out of control? It was easy. Even though his owner/ handler/ trainer was gifted with horses, she did not lay a foundation with her stallion. Instead of building the foundations of normal requests, she went right to the fancy stuff and trained him to do tricks. She worked on teaching the horse to rear and how to do the Spanish Walk. She used treats during training when the foundation of how to behave around treats was not introduced to him. He had no practice in standing around with a halter and lead doing nothing in a quiet, relaxed manner.
The horse experienced being turned loose and driven to a high speed at liberty. While interacting with him during frantic moments of play, he was given treats for uncontrolled rearing and Spanish walk. When the owner would ask him to come up, the colt would charge his owner. The problem was that the owner saw the behavior as her horse coming when called, when in fact, it was actually a mock threat behavior in the horse’s eyes. He became an out of control colt. So now he is with me and I have been working with him for about three months to lay the foundation that he is missing.
This is the program I am using to give this horse a foundation: First, I start with Sharing Territory, about thirty minutes. After that, I move into the Hello Ceremony. Then, I begin Taking Territory when he forgets to pay attention to me (which hasn’t now happened for two months). So now, I go from Hello to Eye Contact to Leading from Behind. I use the Hello Ritual as a practice and spend some time on it, probably 5 minutes. My biggest chore is to get him not to face me when I ask him to stop during Leading from Behind. He also likes to trot away rather that to be slow and walk calmly but he is getting better and better. I want my horses to stop in their tracks. I find it makes for a very willing horse. I learned this by watching horses in nature when horses are engaging in leading from behind. As soon as the driving stops, the horse in front stops in its tracks. This way the horse that is leading can put the other horse right where they want the other horse to be. My attention to this detail gives a horse the ability later on to stop like magic when under saddle.
After I practice leading from behind, I go to companion walking for some short spurts, not long at all. He’s not quite ready for companion walking because he still would like to chew on me a little. I then move on to intimacy exercise with the bucket in my arms. I play the game where the horse can eat now and then must stop eating. He must then stand quietly until I allow him to eat again. I do this by crossing my arms over the top of the bucket, and if he tries to push my arms away, I drive him away until he will not come back. When he will not return, I go to him with the bucket and take his nose in my hand and guide it gently back into the bucket and pet him with affection. Of course, he likes the last game the best and of course so do I! He also gets meditators to sit with him during the day.
When he came here, he paced in his paddock. He has stopped his pacing now and is not interested any more in wanting to confront another horse. I can now stick my face right into his nose and not worry about him wanted to bite. He welcomes this ritual and looks forward to it by stretching his neck over the fence waiting from me to embrace him.
I hope this shows you how to develop a similar program with any horse that could have been started in the same way Black Stone was started. For example, a horse that has a simple disposition and good character like this colt, but did not get the foundation that the Waterhole Rituals can offer horses.
A blog idea for today-A great thing to share with each other would be to write about what you think your special gift with horses is. Someone who has no experience with horses could say their intentions.
I believe that my special gift is that I wait for the right time to communicate with a horse, and I know when to ask a horse to perform when he is in the right frame of mind and athletic ability to do it. I like horses as they are, without them having to do something for me. Even while sharing space with a horse, they do not need to show me affection while in my presence. I am nourished by being in the same area as a horse, and that is reward enough.
I am always in the moment, and I can focus on one thing at a time while keeping my awareness on the changing environment around me. I can read a horse in every moment, and the horse can read me easily, which makes them feel good in my company. I know how to use territory as a way to keep horses respectful, comfortable, secure, and focused. I use territory as a training aid and as a way to bring well-being to horses. It is a territory exchange. It is knowing how to share territory and my years of learning the rituals of horses that I am sharing with you.