It’s Not the Horse

For the last few days, we’ve been sectioning off areas of the front yard for the horses to graze. There’s little pasture left in the field, but outside there’s plenty; so we decided to let the horses eat it instead of mowing. Since the area that’s sectioned off now is a square, it makes a nice “round pen” type area (even though it isn’t, by any means, round…), and I thought it might be a good idea to do some liberty work with Molly. I greatly prefer liberty work over lunging. When lunging, for example, the lunge line always gets in your way, it’s harder to change directions, you have to make sure the horse doesn’t step on or over the line, and the horse can pull against you…not to mention the struggle of winding it up quickly AND properly while your horse walks toward you when you’re finished. But mostly, I just love the freedom in knowing you’re in complete control of your horse’s every move, even though you’re not attached to the other end of his rope. To me, it’s fascinating to be able to tell your horse to stand in a particular spot, and be able to move him there without leading him.

I should begin by saying that, since Destiny and Molly were put together, we haven’t been able to figure out who the leader. Destiny nips at Molly, and Molly kicks at Destiny. Also, Molly gets jealous very easily, so if I’m leading Destiny or riding her, Molly will be right there. One day a couple of months ago, I actually did get kicked, just barely, because I didn’t have a whip or a crop on me to discourage her when she suddenly decided to kick at Destiny. (More recently, Destiny actually started kicking at Molly, and now it appears that Destiny is the leader and Molly usually seems to leaves her alone)

I’m not one to hold a grudge against a horse, but I guess I must have been holding one (however slight) against Molly since the day she kicked me; because when I took her into the pen to work with her (I always assumed she’s been free lunged before, but not by me), I expected her to misbehave at least a little bit, at least pin her ears at me or something, trying to convince me that she’s the leader, not me.

However, from the moment I brought her in, to the moment I let her out, Molly was perfect. She bucked a couple of times, but it was in excitement, not anger; her ears stayed forward, with the inside one toward me, the whole time. It only took her one change of direction to understand my method of communication (I believe she’s trained by the parelli method, and I use Clinton Anderson’s style, which is similar but not exactly the same), and she tried her best and listened to me 100%. She even stayed in the gait I asked for, without me having to nag her to keep her moving. She’s a relatively laidback horse, so I was very surprised. When we stopped, she walked right up to me and followed me everywhere, even though Destiny was calling for her.

It just goes to show: it’s rarely, if ever, the horse that’s the problem. Almost any problem a horse has, can be addressed with a bit of time and training. In this case, Molly just needs to figure out that I’m the leader and I don’t give up, and I think she may have figured that out already. “Every time you handle your horse, you are training him. Whether it is training him to listen to you, or not to.” She’s probably picked up a lesson in my stubbornness from the many times I’ve chased her around until she let me put fly spray or a fly mask on her! Yet, in this case, it’s Molly that taught me a lesson: persevere, keep trying, and it will work out. Training your horse isn’t an instant miracle fix; it’s an ongoing production of baby steps that lead up to success, and it’s very rewarding. I’m not saying Molly isn’t going to threaten to kick at Destiny while I’m leading her or outsmart me in the future, but we’re one step closer to solving that problem, and I couldn’t be more proud of them both!

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6 comments

  1. Awesome!! I’m glad to hear that things are going so well! So…question, what is it that Clinton Anderson does? I’ve heard of him but never really ‘looking into’ him. What does he teach?

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    • Thank you! Clinton Anderson does natural horsemanship, so it’s stuff like free lunging, desensitizing, and “making the right thing easy and the wrong thing difficult”. Most of the work is done on the ground, where you’re getting the horse to move when and where you want him to, by using increasing pressure until he tries, and building on from there. I don’t necessarily follow his method 100%, but it’s close. I just use what works for me so I kind of combine methods at times. xD Have you tried Parelli or a different training method?

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      • Ok. Cool. No, actually the training method I use is ‘Grandpa’. :D He used to train horses in his younger years so now that I’m working on my own he’s helping me out. Actually, though, it sounds a lot like Anderson. A lot of ground work and making the right thing easy and the wrong thing hard. :D Does Parelli teach about the same thing as Anderson? I don’t think I’ve ever heard of it before.

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      • Oh, well, I’m sure ‘Grandpa’ is a great method too! Then you get more one-on-one instruction, and a second opinion for any specific problems your horses may have. :D I think Parelli is about the same as Anderson, but in my opinion, Parelli seems more focused on obstacles (in other words, things I would need to buy…) . I haven’t actually read much about them or learned about their program in depth though, so maybe I should make that a goal for the future!

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      • LOL. Those guys always think that you have to have ‘their’ stuff to make anything work, don’t they?? And if you ever take a closer look at them, be sure and post!! I would love to see what you find out. :D

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      • Yes, they do! I simply don’t have hundreds of dollars to spend on random equipment, although I do think it would be kind of cool to have maybe some poles and stuff… And yes, I will be sure to post about them if I ever get the time (and the patience XD) to look further into their method. :) Maybe I could do a comparison: Clinton Anderson vs. Parelli vs. my own mixed method. LOL!

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