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Discussion on Tail Swishing

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Nadia F
Member
Username: Nadia

Post Number: 41
Registered: 6-2003
Posted on Wednesday, Feb 16, 2005 - 6:53 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

Curious to know if someone might know what my horse is thinking:

I have owned my horse for about 3 years (13 yo TB gelding). He has very good manners, but comes up with some weird behavior problems over the past year. None seem to last too long, but a friend suggested I try some Parelli games. I genuinely feel he trusts me in almost everything - I can touch him all over his body with my hand (tried sheath cleaning once - didn't like that - so I didn't push that). He let me touch his eye one day(had alot gunk that wouldn't move to the corner of his eye one day - I had to very lightly move it with my finger - we got out - but the point is he trusted me. His eye is fine! I didn't scratch it. I tried an eye wash - he didn't like that at all, broke the cross-ties, that's when I resorted to my finger.) He stands good for taking his temp; follows me all around walking in the arena (no lead line on). But one of his quirks started a few months ago. When I go to put the saddle pad on, he backs away from me. I eventually get it on. But when I go to him with the saddle, he doesn't mind at all - he doesn't back away from me. So, that's when my friend suggested the Parelli games. The Friendly game involves touching him all over with the savvy string (lunge line), carrot stick (riding crop?), your hands. I know I can use my hands just about anywhere. I started with the lunge line. It took a couple of days to accept the lunge line near his head and neck. A few more for the rest of is body. One spot he is apprehensive about is his left side from his shoulder back. He is ok on his right side. So, I have been doing the approach and retreat in this area. When he steps back, I immediately turn and walk away a few steps. He then follows me immediately and starts tail swishing. I'm not sure what he is trying to say here. If he really didn't like what I was doing, I would expect this when I am approaching him, but he really doesn't do anything when I approach but start to step back. But have turned and walked away from him, so there is no threat. Could he be mad that I have walked away from him -maybe he likes this game and since I walk away, I am no longer playing? He's been doing the tail swishing since the 2nd day. I don't sense any anger towards me - I can just hear the swish, swish, swish...very deliberate and always when I walk away...

Thank you for any thoughts!
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Alden Chamberlain
Member
Username: Alden

Post Number: 166
Registered: 9-2002
Posted on Wednesday, Feb 16, 2005 - 11:36 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

Nadia,

Wow, you couldn't touch him with a lounge line? Somebody really let this horse down in his early training. Is he off the track? Generally I expect a yearly to handle ropes (just to mention one of many things) thrown on, over, and around him, at two they should handle the same fully tacked up. By handle I mean head down and fully relaxed; sound asleep is even better.

Tail swishing could mean several thing, not knowing what the entire body is saying it would be difficult to know. Are his ears pinned, half-mast, relaxed? Is his body stiff or relaxed? Is he facing square or presenting his quarters? Etc.

As for approach and retreat training, if you are retreating before his is still and relaxed (or while moving) then you are teaching him to move. You need to retreat when he is still and relaxed. After determining a distance that he comfortable, approach until he just begins to get anxious, then wait until he settles and relaxes; then retreat. Timing the retreat just before he moves is even better.

Good day,
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Nadia F
Member
Username: Nadia

Post Number: 42
Registered: 6-2003
Posted on Thursday, Feb 17, 2005 - 9:04 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

He was on the track a long time ago. His ears are not pinned back, he seems very alert. When I retreat - I am walking straight ahead - or make a 90 degree turn - keeping my back to him (I don't want to stare him down). When I walk the few steps, he immediately follows me, so he is just behind my shoulder. When I attempt to touch the lunge line to him again, he is standing still, but probably a little tense (he is worried about that lunge line), but not defensive. As we play the game, he is almost sleepy by the end of it. Maybe he's mad I'm making walk to me?

He is very afraid of whips/riding crops. Maybe that is how they train TBs? (Unfortunately, that makes sense).

I will try your suggestion on the timing of the retreat.

Thanks.
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Nadia F
Member
Username: Nadia

Post Number: 45
Registered: 6-2003
Posted on Tuesday, Mar 1, 2005 - 6:41 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

I had some instruction awhile back on the advance/approach and retreat. The person demonstrating attempted to touch the horse - but as soon as he was attempting to step away - she turned around and retreated. The next time, she went a little closer, then closer, eventually she touched him and she immediately turned around. You're saying to get to a specific spot - stop when he is anxious - wait until he relaxes, then retreat. Does that sound right? I have made some progress with him when I retreat just before he steps away (but I'm not waiting until he relaxes). He is very nervous around the lunge whip (but since Parelli could lightly swing the end over his back and around his feet), I thought I'd try. This time, I am facing him, I have the lunge whip on my hip - so the string is hanging down, barely touching the ground. I very slowly move it toward him. When I get to close and I sense he is going to step away - I move it away from him. He is again swishing his tail after it is moved away...he is alert and watching me - ears are not back. I think this has become a game for him. Not sure if there is just a memory out there that he is scared. I tried using a riding crop in the same manner. I got it all over his body - except his left shoulder and back to his hip.

Another game - porcupine game - has me move him around in a circle. He does that fine, but an observer thought that he should be crossing his near hind leg in front of the outside hind leg (I am facing him - standing on his left side - I am moving him away from me - so his left hind should cross in front of his right hind while he is circling.) Is that true? Or is every horse different? He usually puts his left hind behind his right hind - or next to it. It ends up looking sort of clumsy, but he's not going to fall down. Or does he just need some practice? Does it even matter?

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Alden Chamberlain
Member
Username: Alden

Post Number: 172
Registered: 9-2002
Posted on Tuesday, Mar 1, 2005 - 9:21 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

Timing and feel is critical, basically with pressure/release (I like to think of it that way rather than approach/retreat but it's really the same thing) what ever the horse is doing when you release the pressure is what he will learn. Take a bit and reins, if the horse resists the bit when you pick up the reins and you go of the reins before he gives to the pressure he will learn to resist.

The pressure needs to be released just as the horse gives to the pressure. A horse will tell you when the pressure is troublesome to them before they move or blow-up; that is the point to stop increasing pressure and wait for the relax. Now the horse may try moving before the relax but they will try many different answers until the hit on what you want.

I can't speak to Parelli games, I haven't study his methods at all. I worked with a trainer that is more like Clinton Anderson or Chris Cox. The little I've seen of Parelli's methods and they don't appear to me to be as clear or efficient as other trainers.

I judge training techniques by my experience, if you watch RFDTV you'll see the clips from the Colt starting competition awhile back. Clinton won that by taking a un-worked colt and starting, riding, and using his whip off of him in under three hours. I've seen my friend and mentor take a ten year old mare, who would charge and strike anyone who approached her, and had her following him around like a puppy in 30 minutes. So I just don't buy it when I see people with horses at trainers for months on end or having to spend days on end sitting in the paddock just to get a halter on a horse.

The end goal in disengaging the hips (or porcupine game if you want) is for the inside hind leg to cross in front of the outside and the horse pivots on the inside front leg. But in the beginning it isn't every that easy. Just keep at it, be as consistent as possible in your cues and let him make his mistakes. As he gains confidence and flexibility he'll get it. The same goes for disengaging the front end, but here the outside front leg should cross in front of the inside.

This is getting long, but here is a quote from your post, so the string is hanging down, barely touching the ground. I very slowly move it toward him. The mistake here in my opinion is the very slowly part, train him the way you want him in the end. If you want to have to move very slowly around him all the time then that is fine. I would suggest you never sneak up on him while training. If he can't handle the whip touching him with normal movements then you skipped steps. Start with the whip far away from him and slap the ground with it, find a distance he can handle it without blowing up. Then move closer slapping the ground, just before he has to move stop approaching but continue slapping the ground. Stop as soon as you see him relax at all. Then go back to the safe distance and do it all over again. It won't take long and you will be able to toss that whip over his back and it will be no big deal. I wish I could show you, it is much easier to do than describe. Clinton has a good video on this by the way.

Good day,
Alden
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Nadia F
Member
Username: Nadia

Post Number: 46
Registered: 6-2003
Posted on Friday, Mar 4, 2005 - 8:03 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

Alden,

I tried the tapping of the whip on the ground and stopped only when he didn't seem to care. This definitely worked! I remember now reading an article about this a few years ago - rewiring the horses brain. It said to do exactly as you said - stop when they relax, not before. He did good. I was able to lightly tap the ground and eventually touch the bottom his legs (more like his hoof.) It didn't take long before he didn't move or care at all. I did it with all 4 legs. He was a little anxious starting out - tail swishing, ears back, stomped his back foot (in no way was he threatening to me, he was just unhappy about the tapping) - so I didn't try much more. I had him in the arena (alone) - no lead rope - just his halter - so he could run away if he wanted. He only did it once. He came back to me willingly and we started again. We'll get there!

I was wondering if I should just try to touch him with the whip string slowly as I was before. It seemed to slow, but I was worried that he would run off with the tapping. Turns out the tapping was less irritating...not sure why.

He definitely hates anything raised at my arm or head level. Since the tapping is on the ground, that doesn't bother him. We'll have to figure out a good exercise at that level.

Thanks again.

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Lori
Member
Username: Maggienm

Post Number: 48
Registered: 6-2004
Posted on Saturday, Mar 5, 2005 - 9:14 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

Alden I agree with what you are saying regarding bit pressure, however, when desensitising(which is what you don't want with bit pressure)after using the traditional sack out method for a number of years I tried the approach-retreat method and found it worked much faster.
The idea behind it is if the horse begins to understand that the discomfort will go away he will not be so concerned.
So, approach to just where there is tension beginning, stop retreat a bit. The horse thinks..........oh..... that's it? Repeat, repeat repeat............
I also agree the horse should be handled the way you want to handle him in the end, unless his training prevents it,ie he pulls back if approached at a normal walk.
Then of course that issue needs to be dealt with.
Good luck Nadine
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Alden Chamberlain
Member
Username: Alden

Post Number: 173
Registered: 9-2002
Posted on Saturday, Mar 5, 2005 - 2:18 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

Excellent Nadine,

I think I heard John Lyons describing “rewiring the brain”, Clinton Anderson and my friend describe it as “if it's in my hands it's OK”, I suppose there's lots of ways to look at it. And yes they will get nervous but it's part of the training process.

I'd suggest a change of tools though, many horses are trained with a whip to go, not stand still. Eventually I want a horse to know the difference through my body language but right now I'd use a stick and plastic bag. Who ever invented the plastic grocery bag probably had no idea the fantastic horse training tool they had, it works wonders.

Here's what I use, I get 1/2” PVC SCH 40 pipe about four feet long with a hole crosswise in the end and a leather tie. Take a plastic grocery bag and put holes in the bottom so it doesn't billow too much and tie it to the end of the pipe by the handles. Now, the point of the bag is to have movement and noise; the two things that are the most scary to most horses. Don't be bashful flapping this around, you may need an arena and 20-30 feet of rope in the beginning but thats OK (you are using a rope halter?). Face away and walk from you're horse flapping the flag from the ground on one side, overhead your head, and to the ground on the other side. Using pressure on the rope encourage him to follow, at first that is the last thing he will want to do, but it won't take long. Horses tend to be curious of things that move away and you will use that against him. You'll find in no time at all he will be right behind you wanting to know what the heck that thing is.

This is the first step with a plastic bag, there are a whole bunch of steps until finally you can flap that bag in his face and he will remain relaxed. Again, the only video I know of is by Clinton. But I'm sure there are others that have the process on tape.

Lori,

I don't know what you mean by 'traditional methods', the only other way I've seen is to tie a saddle blanket to their halter and let them fight, unfortunately I have a mare started this way and while she is very good now about her head I suspect that she will always be shy. What you say is true about the bit, but it's still true that the horse learns on the release. I can teach a horse to pull on the bit by releasing when they pull. In fact when I teach neck reining I teach them to turn into a light feel.

All of my friends horses, and mine now, will either move their hip away from you (lean and point to the hip), or towards you (step back and raised arm above the hip) at the hitching post. Only by a release of pressure while the horse is moving towards you will teach them to move towards you. I'm afraid I'm not describing this well at all, I guess the rule to follow is they will remember what they were doing at the point of release.

Good day,
Alden
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