November 3, 2013

Hugo tests his ground

Disclaimer: If you are into Natural Horsemanship (NH) please don't take my ranting personally. I do believe in a lot of NH ideas and training techniques. However there are a lot of NH "people", who I refer to as back yard NH, who don't know a horse's dock from its pole. They read books and watch videos and don't have a clue how to train a horse or why or how to do whatever "training" technique it is they are doing. They subsequently really mess up otherwise perfectly good horses (granted with the best of intentions) and then end up paying a trainer to fix their mess. I have met a lot of these people over the years. I have no issue with good NH trainers and their clients who do it right and well and turn out really nicely trained happy horses. That's my perspective, and I hope this helps you all understand where my apparent dislike and ranting about NH's comes from. 

I went out to longe Hugo again this past Wednesday. Unfortunately, it had been two weeks since our first longe lesson. Why you might ask? Well, in the wonderful world of stay at home mommy-ness, JR and Hubs got a stomach virus and subsequently puked all over my house for a week, which was immediately followed by a 10-day "vacation" to visit friends and family in Portland and Seattle. Hubs of course mentioned that it was great that I didn't get sick. Ha. I felt that virus trying it's best to get at me, but I willed it away. After all, someone has to take care of JR and with Hubs down for the count that left little ole me. I couldn't get sick, bottom line. Anyway, I digress.

Hugo started out surprisingly good. Walking and trotting around on the longe, seemingly picking up right where we left off. Then, he got tired and decided to test me. I think. I asked for a walk transition, and he did the damn NH halt spin and face me thing. I asked him to walk on. He backed. I got my longe whip toward his haunches applying pressure to move forward. He kept spinning away from me, in a backward motion, doing his damndest to face me like he's been "taught". I HATE when horses do this. This poor horse has been mentally screwed really badly by some back yard "horse whisperer" to the point where he doesn't know how to go forward. I could physically see him shaking while he halted facing me worried about what I might do. What the hell did someone do to him? I stopped myself from going off on a mental deep end rant about back yard NH people and focused on how to fix this problem.

I had to get him going forward, but I also need him to trust that I was not going to do something unpleasant to him. He was refusing to even walk while being led, so we started there. Anytime he halted when not asked I would make him move his feet. Sideways, backward, I didn't care. He had to move when I asked. Quickly he figured that out and started walking on the lead on a big circle. We worked on this a while. Then I gave the longe another try and he started going around at the walk and trot again. Just when I was about to quit, asked for the walk and he halted and spun to look at me again. Damn! He immediately started doing the whole halt and back away from me in circles routine again. Every time I moved the whip toward his hind end he would spin away from it and face me. As such, I couldn't get the longewhip behind him and he refused to go forward again. So, we did some more leading at the walk. He was better this time and it was getting dark. I ended working on walk transitions while leading in hopes that it was enough of a success on my terms that next time he'll be more cooperative on the longe. We shall see.

Happy trails and swooshing tails!


  1. I have also had a few of these! I do my reprograming in the round pen free lunging until they get "my" body language then move onto the line.... Sometimes it takes several days to make any progress! :-/

    1. I totally agree! I've been thinking how much easier this would be in a round pen. Unfortunately there is no round pen at EB's barn. So I'm having to do it the hard way in the very large outdoor arena. Even a small paddock would work better, but alas that is not an option either.

  2. I couldn't agree with you more. I think part of the problem is that the NH methods are too easy to imitate without having a proper handle on the subtleties involved. Our barn is FULL of these some sort of cult thing. Really, nothing against NH (I was just trying to order a DVD on a NH approach to Arabian halter...sadly sold out), just a problem with how it's marketed and subsequently all too frequently poorly applied.

  3. 100% agree with you here. HATE the habit of turning to face me on the lunge. Maybe try keeping him on a smaller circle when he starts that up? Sounds like you have the right idea on correcting him. I'm sure it will take time.

  4. Ugh! The turning and facing thing is so annoying! There were people at my barn who did this stuff, so I actually learned some of it by watching them. The NH people point at the haunches to ask for a yield and at the shoulders (or neck if you can't get to the shoulder) to ask them to go forward.... weird, but true. It might be worth a shot to see if it helps you communicate with him. If he's been taught to yield his haunches (face you) when someone points a whip at his butt that may be why he's so confused. Faran was like that when we got him too. Good luck!!

  5. Turning in on the lunge is so hard to fix when they think it is the right way to halt. From the dressage perspective on lunging you never EVER taught a horse to do that because that is the last thing you want if you plan to later put that horse in side reins! Not being able to drive them forward again at a moments notice is dangerous when you have them hooked up. I feel your pain!



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