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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" ....it 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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training

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!www.Horseownertoday.com 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 www.Horseownertodaycom.com 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.

Copyright @HorseOwnerToday.com, for reprint permission contact info@horseownertoday.com

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General | herd behaviour | training

"What is the fine line between punishment and abuse"

posted by Horse Owner Today    |   April 9, 2012 19:06

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

 

A question was posed "What is the fine line between punishment and abuse"

 

The only book that I have ever seen that succinctly addressed the topic of punishment is "The Complete Training of Horse and Rider In the Principles of Classical Horsemanship", written by Alois Podhajsky who states: "Any punishment is wrong if the knowledgeable onlooker is unable to understand for what reason the punishment was administered. And in such a case, how would the horse know why he is punished? The rider with high ambitions and little knowledge will be more inclined to revert to punishment than the more experienced rider. He will try to obtain by force what he cannot achieve by the correct use of the aids....."

That said, I don't for one second pretend to be holier than anyone out there when it comes to controlling my own frustrations and emotions. To me, a relationship with a horse is like a relationship with a person. There are going to be fun times and hard times, and you're going to fight with each other and make up. When one can recognize their frustrations and inabilities as a weakness then they can educate themselves in the areas where they are weak - should they choose....and that, I think, is the line between punishment and abuse. We are all human, we all have our weaknesses, and when it comes to horses we ALL start at experience level 'Zero'....plus we don't all have experienced masters of equitation to lead us gently through the necessary learning curves. When a person is unwilling to address their own weaknesses through education, so that they may better themselves, then their repeated acts of frustration become acts of abuse.

 

There is a common saying amongst dedicated horse folk that, when it comes to horses, you stop learning when you are dead, and with the modern wonders of technology, there is endless informational and educational material available right at your fingertips.  When training horses frustrations are a fact of life....but how you handle those frustrations, and your decision on prolonging those frustrations are a matter of choice.

Training Tips written by Jackie Johnson, www.stunthorse.com for www.HorseOwnerToday.com


 

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single horse driving | training

Spring and Forward Impulsion!

posted by Horse Owner Today    |   March 24, 2012 08:46

 

 

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

 

Spring is a fantastic time to work on anything that requires forward impulsion!  Horses are fresh, and they already have that forward mindset, so using the energy of your horse to your advantage can allow you to get a start on the training season, and clean up some rusty cues.

 

Activities that you can work on include things like collection, lateral work, walking with purpose, haunches, in, flying changes, piaffe, passage and extended trot.  Many times throughout the year it can be a drain to constantly push your horse forward to try and get the necessary energy out of him.  Using spring freshness to burn some energy off in your favor is a great opportunity for some wonderful training sessions that leave you both feeling like you've accomplished something!

 

Never let spring deter you from riding your horse.  If you go into the ride with the right mindset, you don't have to be intimidated by your horses spring energy level, rather you can use his natural desire to work in your favor, and go forward.

Training Tips written by Jackie Johnson, www.stunthorse.com for www.HorseOwnerToday.com

The Inside Scoop on Trick Horses in the Movies

posted by Horse Owner Today    |   March 20, 2012 11:14

 

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


Although my specialty is the education of trick training to the average horse owner, I do have experience with training horses for movies and live performances and I can speak from experience that proper training of horses for entertainment can, and should be done.

Going back in time, when a movie required a horse to be shot, or 'fall' they were typically tripped up, at a full gallop, by an unseen and tightly strung wire.  Little regard was taken for these poor pioneers of the movie and stunt industry, and many were fatally injured with broken legs, separated shoulders, broken necks, fractured or broken ribs, and the likes.  The hard work of the regional humane societies, and animal welfare organizations, along with the dedication of the foundation professional movie horse trainers, such as the Randall family, Rex Peterson, and others like them, ensured that the use of horses in movies and entertainment changed for the better.  Now, the use of anything BUT a properly trained animal for stunt work in the film and entertainment industry is expressly forbidden, and the monitoring and care of the animals on set is often better than that given to the people!

Specific to the Warhorse movie, the main horse character of "Joey" would have received extensive training after careful selection to ensure suitability for working in the movie industry.  Furthermore, "Joey" also had a selection of highly trained, stunt doubles that worked in the movie as well.  In a 'horse heavy' production, the main character horses always have numerous stunt doubles to perform tasks that the lead horse is not proficient at, or to take over and share duties if the production day extends past a few takes.  Horses are carefully monitored on set, and when the welfare authority restricts the amount of attempts, or 'takes', a horse is allowed to have, they will then allow the stunt double to come in and resume filming while the primary horse is given rest.  This in itself would suggest that the primary horse was used to exhaustion however it is exactly the opposite! Where an average horse owner may work their horse in an arena practicing a reining stop, or lead changes, jumping or collection over and over for an hour or more, a movie horse will only be allowed a handful of 'takes' before being replaced with a stunt double, or given a rest - a clue to this is to look for obvious signs of work, such as sweat.....how many times do you see a horse sweat in a movie vs. how many times have you seen your own horse sweat after being worked in an arena? 

Another consideration with respect to horses in the movie and entertainment industry is the absolute value of a well-trained animal.  There are literally thousands of hours put into the training of primary stunt horses, and a horse that excels in the entertainment industry will work in that field for many, many years.  The investment of time, training, experience, and resources means that the horse owner/trainer/handler and the industry in general, will go above and beyond to protect the investment that they have in their equine star.  Although there are many horse movies, often times the same horse will be used over, and over in different movies because they have been so well trained, and enjoy doing the work.  Gerard Naprous of "The Devil's Horsemen' http://www.thedevilshorsemen.com is a major equine stock trainer and supplier for the European movie industry.  For many years if you saw a white Andalusian type horse rearing, falling down, or 'dying', I believe it was their horse "Pepe".  If I'm not mistaken, Pepe worked in the industry for many years as a valued stunt horse before he was retired, and eventually passed on from old age.  Other horses with long and diverse careers in the movie industry include; the Budweiser Clydesdales - trained by Robin Wiltshire of Turtle Ranch http://www.turtleranch.net , and Hightower - who was trained by Rex Peterson, with notable credits such as - "Runaway Bride", "Black Beauty" (where he played Ginger, the ill-fated mare), and Pilgrim in "The Horse Whisperer".  At 21 years of age, Hightower performed in "the Princess Diaries 2" after which he was retired along with his equally aged friend 'Justin' who played Black Beauty.  After a lifetime of work in the movie industry, and a few years of retirement, Hightower passed at 26 years of age.  After he was trained, Hightower worked in the industry for almost 20 years, and it was well known that he enjoyed every minute of it. 

All things said, and considered, a movie is not just about the actors and stunt workers.  Before even getting to the set, extensive amount of time is spent in makeup and costume where cuts and bruises are skillfully applied by markup artists.  In another location,  the prop crews create things like rubber 'barbed wire', and animation crews (like Industrial Light and Magic http://www.ilm.com ) create animatronics and digitally enhanced visuals to depict extreme emaciation, or emotional scenes that are simply too dangerous, or violent for the real equine actors (such as explosions).   Once the equine actors have finished their live work, the production then moves to the editing room where the film is put together, and edited.  A well edited movie is one which invokes emotion from the audience.  If a movie, such as Warhorse, made you feel pity, sorrow, fear, anger and joy, for "Joey", then the editors did their job well!    For additional information on the equine crew of "Warhorse" check out http://www.americanhumanefilmtv.org/on-the-set-war-horse/    to learn more about the specifics of how to train horses tricks and stunts, visit http://www.stunthorse.com

Training Tips written by Jackie Johnson, www.stunthorse.com for www.HorseOwnerToday.com

Memoirs of a Horse Owner by Sam - Spooking

posted by Horse Owner Today    |   March 7, 2012 12:53

Memoirs of a Horse Owner by Sam

 

Horsemanship ....... it is an art, a science, a tradition and a lifelong journey!

 

The articles written for www.Horseownertoday.com  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 www.Horseownertodaycom.com  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.

It is interesting to observe how the older horses deal with the youngster in the herd.   I think they make a significant contribution to her upbringing.  The way that they respond to her influences her behavior and shapes her thinking.  Take spooking, for example.  The youngster always finds a monster lurking in the pasture.  It could be a glove on the fence that wasn't there a minute ago or a barrel that has been moved to a new spot along the fence line or the neighbor's dog out sniffing for new droppings.  But whatever it is, she notices it and gets concerned about it.    

 It seems to me that there is a process that goes on in the herd when the baby finds a monster in the pasture.  Her spooky reaction alerts the herd to the dangerous situation.  And while she is dancing around, the older horses stop what they are doing, lift up their heads and take a look at her monster.  It is almost as if they make a decision about what they are looking at.  

On the rare occasion that they decide "yep that is a monster", one of the older ones will head out and deal with it.  That usually means that some old mangey coyote gets chased out of the pasture or that the neighbor's dog has to high tail it for home. 

Often as not, there isn't really a monster in the pasture and it is almost as if the older horses say "oh that's just a ......".  Usually one of them will nonchalantly walk up to her monster and wait beside it until she gathers up enough courage to come in for a closer look.  

Either way the youngster’s concerns are acknowledged and resolved or her comfort is restored. 

Horses are hardwired for fight or flight.  They operate out of the inherent need for self-preservation.  Spooking is about the horse's need for survival.  The youngster hasn't been on earth for very long so sometimes normal everyday things can upset her sense of security.  She relies on the older horses to help her sort through the things that are worrisome to her.   She is willing to trust their judgment. 

The idea that a wiser experienced horse plays a significant role in the training of a younger horse is not new.  Within the traditional vaquero training method, a young horse was trained alongside a wiser more experienced horse.  The vaqueros believed that the older horse helped the youngster to accept new things.  Perhaps their philosophy was based on the belief that communication occurred between the two horses or perhaps their philosophy was based on the younger horse's tendency to follow or mimicking an older horse.  Either way it was how things were done in the vaquero style of training. 

 

Copyright @HorseOwnerToday.com, for reprint permission contact info@horseownertoday.com

   

 

Jackie Johnson on Driving using a Bucking Strap

posted by Horse Owner Today    |   March 5, 2012 12:14

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

Bucking Strap
If you have a driving horse, or if you’re thinking of getting into single horse driving, then a “bucking strap” could be your most valuable piece of equipment. Often referred to as “the cheapest piece of insurance you can have as a driver”, the bucking strap is a very unassuming piece of leather that goes from the top of the horses harness (on the hip, above the crupper) down to the shafts on either side of the horse. If the horse were to get frisky, or buck for any other reason, the bucking strap causes the horse to lift up the entire weight of the vehicle, thus discouraging the buck. Although the bucking strap doesn't stop the horse from kicking, it does prevent them from getting their back legs over the dashboard of the vehicle, and into an even bigger, or more dangerous situation.
 
I have personally been involved in driving wrecks where the use of a bucking strap would have prevented physical damage to both the horse, and equipment, as well as psychological damage to the horse by preventing the wreck in the first place. In action, the bucking strap is almost a thing of beauty as a reactive horse quickly discovers that the effort of lifting that back end is just too great. A valuable tool that is included on the harness of all of our young driving horses, the bucking strap (like insurance) is something you hope you never need but, in the event of a wreck, it’s sure great to know you have it.

Training Tips written by Jackie Johnson, www.stunthorse.com for www.HorseOwnerToday.com

 

The Zone of Respect

posted by Horse Owner Today    |   March 3, 2012 07:36


 

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


Does your horse respect your space? To determine if your horse does, or doesn’t respect your space, ask him to back up without touching him, or his lead rope. Horses who respect you as their leader should willingly back out of your space when you walk towards them and say, "Back!". If you can succeed at this simple exercise, great!!! But what do you do if your horse just stands there and ignores you? When a horse doesn't respect your space, he's actually showing you a very subtle form of disrespect.
 
We are often unaware of when horses are testing their limits, and when a subtle challenge of leadership goes unnoticed, it can quickly turn into a big problem! If your horse doesn't respectfully back out of your space, then a few sharp tugs on the lead rope, and if necessary, a physical touch on the chest help reinforce the fact that they need to give you that zone of respect. Try to avoid getting into a pushing match, rather make your corrections crisp, and meaningful. Ultimately, your goal is to have your horse step out of your space when you step into HIS space. The one who controls their space is the leader in the horse world.

 Training Tips written by Jackie Johnson, www.stunthorse.com for www.HorseOwnerToday.com

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 treat...it'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, www.stunthorse.com for www.HorseOwnerToday.com

Getting Out And About

posted by Horse Owner Today    |   February 24, 2012 07:56

 

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. Jackie Johnson


Oh that dreaded time of year.  That time when you haven't been riding much due to the weather, and your horse is feeling frisky and fresh.  Frisky horses that have been cooped up for any length of time can be a challenge to even the most experienced horseman. If riding a horse in this state of energy seems like an unappealing challenge, consider just taking him for a walk on the lead instead!
 
Taking your horse for a pleasure walk on the lead is not something that people generally think of.  When you think spending time with your horse, that time spent generally equates to riding time.  Going for a walk down the lane, or road is an excellent bonding exercise that gives your horse a change of scenery, and exercises his mind.  These walks also allow you to reinforce your role as the leader, and assess whether or not your horse is respecting you - by walking with his head at your shoulder where it belongs.  The walks can also be 'mini-adventures' where you and your horse investigate the things that he identifies as 'spooky'.  You can gain some serious leadership points when you show your horse that the monster he is deathly afraid of is just a silly old rock, or tree, and that kind of trust, and leadership, on the ground becomes trust, and leadership, in the saddle.

 Training Tips written by Jackie Johnson, www.stunthorse.com for www.HorseOwnerToday.com