Wednesday, July 20, 2011 |

7-20-2011: How to get the horse's mind back with feel


I can’t believe it’s July 20th already. That’s crazy. Only 9 days left here!

I had a beautiful ride on Maia—the slowest we’ve ever had. In fact, the wildest thing we did was walk an entire tiny circle. Once. ;) But it was so great to be able to be relaxed like that and not worry about Doing Lots of Things. We could both feel 100% successful and I know it went well.

Anyway, all we did was that exercise I explained in the previous post. It is amazing after I started getting the feel of it how much I could feel how her inside shoulder was stepping in FRONT of her chest (to the outside) versus away to the inside—no wonder the poor horse can’t turn. Imagine you trying to walk to the left while your legs kept going to the right. How frustrating would THAT be! So we just worked very quietly on stepping that inside front over and she was getting it and it was great.

Another fascinating revelation today was getting access to her mind and when to use “contact-feel” and when to use release. What I have been wondering about and was going to ask Karen (still will :) ) is that, though we talk about using “just release,” lots of times we do pick up on the rein or lead or something to ask for the horse to give to it. So what is that? Is that pressure? And when do we do it?

First, when do we do it? With Maia, I’m finding that I need to pick up on the rein (or touch her, or whatever, doing something that may look a tiny bit like “pressure”) when she is mentally disengaged, checked out, or braced. Sometimes pure release DOES work in that situation, but the whole thing with utilizing pure release is that it only really works when your horse is fully engaged with you and mentally and emotionally present. If she is not there with me, then I might need to take up on the rein to get her mind back.

I just need to get through the crack into the horse's mind...
Second, is that pressure? It was, I thought, before today. But today, after Karen mentioned that it was just getting “access to her mind,” I saw and applied it in a completely different way. If you’ve seen Karen work, when she’s looking to get the mind back in that way, she does all these little funny things on the rope—she might scratch it or twist it or flick it or squeeze it or wiggle it or do all these teeny tiny little things that aren’t annoying or pressuring at all—they’re just interesting, they get access to the horse’s mind and curiosity. And then she’ll offer a float right to them once she gets the mind. Now, I had always done those little funny twiddly things on the rope with a mind to get the behavior the horse is braced against (for example, lateral flexion). However, what I didn’t realize is that the movement only comes through release, not through those little scratchy things. That playing with the rein is simply done in a provocative way to re-access the mind. When I took that approach, it was suddenly far easier to do and I didn’t get the brace/tension in my mind.

Third, is release anywhere in there? Yes, absolutely. Because the moment you get the mind back with a feel on the tack, you release the float/tack to the horse so that there is now a float in your rein again and the horse can give to that release. For example, let’s say I’m asking Maia for lateral flexion and she’s braced in the opposite way. I take up a feel on the rein and do little things like scratching it, or squeezing it like a sponge, or any number of tiny little things that do NOT escalate, just to get a little crack of access to her mind. Once her mind comes back, I offer her all the float so she can come around into lateral flexion on a release.

So there you go! Interesting stuff. And I think I need to copyright the phrase, Little Scratchy Twiddly Things. That could become really famous, you know. ;)