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Endotapping- The New Age Technique in Harmonious Horse Training by Paul Dufresne

posted by Horse Owner Today    |   February 12, 2013 17:20

Why would Endotapping be considered a New Age Technique? Many horse training techniques have been invented over the centuries and later re-visited. Yet, few are as strikingly different as Endotapping.  Endotapping consists in percussing the horse’s body with a soft ball attached to a whip.  It somewhat resembles the tapotement technique used in massage therapy.  The first area I usually tap is located where the legs hang when sitting in the saddle (off a few inches from the center of the topline to about two thirds of the way down toward the abdomen).  A regular tempo works best.  Changing the tempo can be used to re-gain the horse’s attention.  I tap the horse lightly enough so I don’t frighten him, yet not too softly that it is irritating.  It is normal for the horse to want to move in the beginning and this should be allowed but slowed.  I continue to tap the horse until it lowers its head.  It is important to stop the percussions as soon as the horse begins lowering its head.  I wait a few seconds, and then resume the process.  One can encourage the horse to lower its head by gently applying downward pressure on the lead rope.  I gently ask the horse to bend its neck towards me throughout the process. These are mild suggestions with no forcing.

Most horses go through predictable phases when they first  receive Endotapping.  However, the rate at which they do so is highly variable among individuals.  In general, their first reaction is to be fidgety.  They may be irritated by the tapping sensation or by the noise the ball makes, or by previous negative   experiences with whips.  These reactions are usually short lived with a calm handler.  In the second stage, horses become indifferent to the tapping.  This is a good time to change the tempo of the percussions to a stronger tap.  The final stage is what we strive to achieve with Endotapping.  The horse begins to display evident relaxation responses which include chewing, salivating, lowering the head, yawning and softening of the eyes, lips, jaw, stretching the poll and the back.  In sum, Endotapping can be viewed as a conditioned response.  The percussions become a cue for the horse to lower its head, which in turn starts a cascade of other relaxation responses.   Through continued exposure, the relaxation responses are displayed more quickly and with more strength.   Again, note that it is important that the horse be bent towards the handler.  Horses in a counter flexed position seem to take longer to develop the conditioned relaxation responses. 

Endotapping is a great technique to use when a horse needs to remain calm (e.g.: receiving physical therapy or a treatment for colic).   It is a terrific adjunct to any training program.  Most contemporary trainers recognize that horses are prey animals that are hard-wired for the fight or flight response.  Endotapping assists training by promoting a state of relaxation in the horse.  In turn, relaxation helps the horse to be more tolerant of frightening stimuli and to learn new tasks.  Hence, Endotapping instills resilience in the horse and promotes learning.  Furthermore, a relaxed horse is more likely to improve his gaits.  One advantage of Endotapping resides in its simplicity.  Almost anyone can positively influence the well-being of a horse. The fact that many of my beginner students have had quick success with this technique speaks volumes.  Endotapping is best started on the ground, laying a good foundation. Later, it can be used mounted.  The relaxation responses generalize very easily from the ground to mounted work.  

The underlying mechanisms of Endotapping are not yet fully understood.  The tentative explanation that follows is based on my fairly large volume of personal experience as well as on the accounts of the technique’s founder (to my best knowledge, J.P. Giacomini).  We can speculate that the rhythmic percussions stimulate the horse’s neuromuscular which induces the secretion of endorphins, the so called “feel good” neuro-hormones.  The endorphins encourage the relaxation behaviors that I mentioned earlier.  As the horse relaxes, it increasingly enjoys the percussions, stimulating the secretion of more endorphins, leading to more relaxation responses, and so on.  Thus, what we create with this tool is a powerful positive feed-back loop. 

I see a horse that has developed very strong relaxation responses to tapping as having a reset button.  Indeed, when the environment or a particular task I am trying to perform creates stress in my horse, I simply cue the animal to relax by applying taps.  The horse quickly relaxes and offers little resistance to the environment or to my lead which I might further modify or repeat.
Down the road I would like to see researchers in a lab setting measure some of the various effects of endotapping such as:
1) Muscular level, cell changes from normal states to relaxation levels, effects on muscle spindles and golgi tendon apparatus.
2) Physiological levels, heart rate, respiratory rate, salivary and plasma cortisol levels (stress hormone), and endorphin levels.
3) Inter-species differences in response variability, especially comparing prey animals to predators. 
Endotapping is a technique that goes far beyond that of another training tool.  It is a powerful yet simple technique that can promote physical, intellectual and emotional well-being.  When incorporated in foundation training, the effects are very impressive.  They may be even more impressive with high level competitive sport horses.

Paul will be doing a series of workshops on Endotapping at the Saskatoon Equine Expo in February as well as multiple exhibitions on both nights, hope to see you out. Endotapping is integrated in all of Paul's clinics. The past series of articles on Endotapping can be found on his website or in past Saddle-Up issues.   www.HorseOwnerToday.com

Memoirs of a Horse Owner by Sam - "The word respect doesn't have a place in horsemanship!"

posted by Horse Owner Today    |   April 15, 2012 08:48

Memoirs of a Horse Owner by Sam Horsemanship ....... it is an art, a science, a tradition and a lifelong journey! are a collection of my personal memoirs as a horse owner.They are about my experiences and about my understanding of horsemanship.They do not necessarily reflect the opinion of and in some cases, they do not reflect the opinion of the majority of horse owners today.They are about my journey toward understanding a horse.

Whenever people talk about horsemanship, someone always brings up the word "respect".The common idea is that a horse has to respect its owner.Ummm.....What if I were to say that the word "respect" doesn't have a place within the art and science of horsemanship?I imagine that I would be on pretty slippery ground if I said that.A lot of folks would strongly disagree with me.But ... I am going to say it.The word respect doesn't have a place in horsemanship.

Have you ever noticed that the word respect is applied to the horse that is misbehaving in some way?It is usually said about the horse that is stepping on its owner’s foot or pushing its owner around.Undoubtedly some wise owl will take note and make a comment about how the horse needs to have more respect.

Now I don't disagree that the horse ought not be misbehaving.That goes without saying.Yet to say that the horse misbehaves because it does not respect its owner is a pretty simplistic answer to a complex problem.And worse yet, it implies that the horse is to blame for its misbehaviour.I am not even sure that a horse knows what the word respect means.And I am downright certain that they do not know anything about blame.

Perhaps we should be focusing on words like relationship and language and leadership.Those are concepts that a horse understands.Maybe the next time that a horse steps on your foot, a little birdie will take note and comment on how you should be working to build a better relationship with your horse by learning more about his language so that you can become a better leader.

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General | herd behaviour | training

Are you creating a raving pocket monster by giving treats as a reward?

posted by Horse Owner Today    |   February 25, 2012 09:11


Trick Training Philosophy "Train with Trust and Communication"
Trick training is a great way to foster a fabulous relationship with your horse.  In order to have a great relationship, you have to have great trust, and great communication.  In order to make trick  training enjoyable and achievable by all, I train with grace, rather than force. Jackie Johnson


Treats as a form of reward tends to stir up passionate feelings in the horse training industry.  It seems like there are two sides to the debate, either you love using treats as rewards, or you hate it.  As a professional trick trainer, I use treats as rewards to mold my horses behaviors, where I couldn't otherwise evoke that behavior with a physical touch but, I also realise that a horse should act independent of food as a motivating factor. 

The problem with treats actually isn't the's how the handler/trainer USES the treats that CREATES the problem.  Left to its own devices, a tidbit of food is just an inanimate object, no different than a blade of grass.  When used in conjunction with training, that same tidbit becomes either a reward, or a dreaded bribe.  You can avoid creating problems with treats if you remember one simple thing....horses EARN their treats, they are NOT owed them.  Earning a treat is the same as earning a paycheque.  If you do your job, and do it well, you get your paycheque - or in the horses case, a treat.  If you fail to do your job, or fail to do it well, then you don't get your paycheque treat.  When a treat is earned, it rarely causes a problem.

So, why do some horses turn into raving pocket monsters at the mere mention of treats, and more importantly, what can you do to avoid that? When food is used as a bribe it becomes a problem, simple as that.  Some examples of bribing a horse include; 'befriending' a horse using treats to make it 'like' you, using treats to redirect a horses misbehaviour, and indiscriminately dolling out treats for lackluster effort during training.  The 'fix' for treat monsters is really quite simple!  If you decide to use food as a motivational reward, decide ahead of time what the horse has to do to EARN the treat reward, and then stick to the plan.  Once your equine friend realises that you are no longer dispensing tasty tidbits like a broken candy machine, they will change their work ethic to earn their just reward.

 Training Tips written by Jackie Johnson, for