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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

How To Stop Horses From Becoming Pocket Monsters.

posted by Horse Owner Today    |   July 5, 2012 06:42


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

Question:  ”Good article! Can you tell us how to teach them not to mull you when you first begin & you have the clicker & treats. The very first step after relating the click to the treat? Thanks!-LM HHCC”

Answer:  Hi LM HHCC, thank you for your question regarding how to stop horses from becoming pocket monsters.
As a trick trainer, I rely upon the use of treats as an EARNED reward when teaching my horses to do a variety of 'unusual' things like sit, laydown or who knows what else!  Although your question is specific to using treats for clicker training, treats can be used across a broad range of training styles and disciplines, and even the old masters, like Podhajsky, recognized the importance of treats as a reward based training tool.
The misconception surrounding treats is that the treat itself is the problem and that is simply not so!  It is the USE of the treats that causes the problem when it comes to pushy, muggy, rude horses, and as a handler/trainer you have total control over this.  When used as an EARNED reward, the treat is a very valuable tool to communicate what you're looking for in desirable behavior however, the key here is the word "EARNED".  It is important to remember that edible rewards are not owed to your horse and dolling them out like a human dispensing machine will create nothing but a bratty, ill behaved animal.  Alternately, expecting your horse to earn it's reward by performing a specific task will naturally create some rules and boundaries - so long as you are prepared to enforce the rules...and this is key point number 2.
How do you establish and enforce the rules regarding treats? Imagine that you have a 2' zone of space around you and let's call this the 'zone of respect'.  Anything your horse does within this 2' zone MUST be done gently, and respectfully.  Now, each person has their own idea of what constitutes gently, and/or respectfully so it's up to you to determine what your personal rules are going to be.  Once you determine your rules, and what your tolerance of 'respect' is, then it's time to communicate that to your horse through the consistent defense of your zone.  Many horse owners have a hard time defending this zone of respect, and this occurs for a variety of reasons - the most common being that we tend to get emotional about it.  When your horse enters your zone of respect, mugging and picking at you for cookies, a smart bump with your elbow, or a bop under the chin with a closed fist establishes the rules and defends your zone.  NOW it is important to note that I'm NOT advocating hitting your horse in the head thus creating a headshy horse and this is where the 'emotion' part comes in.  As a horse owner, if you get personally offended that your horse is mugging you, let it reach a boiling point until you explode, and then cold cock him in the side of the face with a screeching "NO" may cause a problem.  The elbow bump, or chin bop, should be delivered as a non-emotionally driven negative consequence that the horse discovers as a result of his own rude behavior - I like to call this 'factual discipline' as opposed to 'emotional discipline'.  Delivering discipline (defending your zone of respect) means that you don't change the tone of your voice, and you don't hold a grudge, or silently simmer over the misbehavior - that would be emotional.  Having the horse experience the negative consequence of your elbow as you continue to talk, or continue on with your task takes the emotion out of the discipline, and makes the discipline factual...and in the horses world, that's non offensive.
To further illustrate the concept of factual discipline vs emotional discipline let's compare an electric fence with a crabby mare.  The electric fence delivers a negative consequence when the horse touches it - Case closed, rules established.  The horse will freely come within centimeters of touching the fence.  It will look over the fence and graze around the fence but it has learned that disrespecting the fence delivers an unpleasant consequence every time, without fail.  Now, let's consider the crabby mare.  The crabby mare bites and kicks and screams often inconsistently, sometimes without warning and from one day to the next her pasture mates never know if she's coming to deliver a friendly scratch or an out of the blue smack down.  Her pasture mates give her a wide berth and run from her when she comes near...I think you get the idea.  When using treats as a training aid for reward, your horse must learn how to EXECUTE a task while following the RULES and being RESPECTFUL within your zone in order to OBTAIN the REWARD.  I like to call this the "ERROR" method.
To summarize; When you feel yourself experiencing emotion because your horse is being rude and mugging you for treats recognize the ERROR.  Go back to the basics of having your horse EXECUTE a task, with RESPECT, while following the RULES, to OBTAIN the REWARD.  Create a zone of respect that is defended by factual discipline and both you and your horse will experience more rewards and less frustrations.

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Rules, Discipline, Reward, Love by Jackie Johnson

posted by Horse Owner Today    |   February 10, 2012 08:56

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.

Rules, Discipline, Reward, Love
We all love our horses but do you give your horse the love that YOU want, or the love that he NEEDS.  Left to their own devices, horses live in a complex social structure with clear rules and consistent discipline.  The horses love for routine and structure is what allows us to practice things like dressage, or reining patterns in the arena on a regular basis!  When rules are not in place, and not enforced, horses often start to develop behavioral problems, and spoiling your horse with affection might only make the problem worse!
Rules don't have to be difficult, they can be as simple as not allowing your horse to be rude when you're feeding him from a bucket.  How many times have you experienced a horse plunging his nose into a bucket of feed with complete disregard for you?  Here is a simple exercise; throw a handfull of oats into the bottom of a feed bucket and put it on the ground of the barn isle, or in his stall.  Then go catch your horse and bring him to the bucket, ONLY allowing him to eat the oats after you have removed his halter and said 'OK'.  The rule here, is that he is not allowed access to the bucket until YOU say so.  If he tries to ignore the rule, then correct him - Discipline!  Once your horse follows the rules, THEN he can get the oats from the bucket - Reward!  After he has learned to follow your rules, THEN you can lavish him with praise, and affection. 
This is a little exercise that can be done on a daily basis to improve the relationship that you have with your horse.  Although creating and establishing rules may be challenging at the start, over time it will become easier, which is a good habit for both you AND your horse.

Training Tips written by Jackie Johnson, for