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Icelandic Horse Connection

Preparing Your Horse for the Future

The equipment you'll need is a 12' to 14' line and a halter. Any kind of halter will do, but the longer line is pretty much a must have, so you can keep float in the line (which Bill will define for you) and let you influence the horse through your feel (this is also described) and not because a short lead is sort of tripping you up.

Let's just start on Exercise #1 "Lowering Your Horse's Head".

When you read this, think about where you'd use the clicker in teaching it and fill us in on how it worked for you and your horse. What discoveries did you make? What advantages can you think of that will be gained by teaching this exercise? How did adding the clicker help you? Did you notice your horse start to adjust himself to your feel?

This exercise goes hand in hand with clicker training. Remember try not to miss the release. "Reflect the change when your horse does." If you do miss it though, take a fresh start-opportunity will come your way again!

Read the preface to the exercises concerning the importance of groundwork--it answers alot of questions!

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How is the first exercise, "Lowering Your Horse's Head", going?

I'll just relate some ideas and hope to hear from others too!

This, to me, is really an ongoing exercise to be practiced daily. Once our horses are responding consistently on the ground, we'll work with it under saddle with the end goal being any time we direct our horse to lower his head by lightly touching his head, neck or poll-he will. Asking for calm, and immediately getting it.

As Bill mentioned, we should really look for the time when our horse let's a breath out, licks or chews. So once Dan began to do some of those things, that's when I'd click. I wanted him to know that his relaxation is the right thing. That's our true goal in this. So that will be something we work on alot too.

I was noticing today while I was working with Dan on the ground that if he ever got distracted or sort of "zoned me out" if I asked him to lower his head, boy, he snapped right back into the game. It seemed to change his way of thinking in an instant, and it was always a change for the better and so easy!

I was thinking too about really concentrating on that feel. Pretty soon it seems like you start to know the instant before your horse's head is going to go down. If I put my hand on Dan's poll and closed my eyes, pretty soon by just concentrating I could feel the moment right before he responded so it was easy to be right on the ball with the click/release/reward.

I know that the release is pretty powerful, so why use the clicker for this? It's a person's choice, but the speed of the horse's understanding is greatly excellerated, IMO.

Wendy, you mentioned that you felt out of control when your horse's head is too low. Are you talking about while under saddle or on the ground. On the ground, why do you think that is?

Also, you wondered how low the horse's head should go. Someone mentioned that the horse will find the most appropriate and comfortable place for themself. I think that this is true! I also think that if through your feel, you ask your horse to lower his nose to the ground, he will begin to respond to this well.

This exercise is for both horse and human to begin to learn about and experience the "feel" of one another. It's just as important for the horse to learn your feel as it is for you to learn his.

Questions: Did this exercise help anyone understand "feel" better? Where did you add the clicks? Was it easy to keep your horse's head lowered or did it pop up alot? What did you do to fix/work on that? Can you see the advantages of teaching this for use under saddle?

Tomorrow night I'll work on presenting the second exercise "Leading Up Real Free & Backing Slowly".

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Exercise #2 Leading Up Real Free & Backing Slowly Let's break this up into two seperate exercises. First we'll talk about Leading Up Real Free and in two days discuss Backing Slowly. Take a look see at the exercise at: http://www.lesliedesmond.com/

"A horse that doesn't lead up well when you want him to, isn't going to be reliable to ride. When you cannot control the timing and placement of his feet in response to the feel you present with the lead rope, your intent won't be clear to him through the reins either." -Bill D.

This exercise is about building a nice light feel while leading that will carry over to work under saddle. It doesn't rely on equipment, all you need is your halter and lead, but focuses and your presentation of "feel" (there's that word again) in how you lead and direct your horse.

Something that is talked about alot is maintaining that "float" in the rope. What is float? We've read that it is keeping a slack in the rope and eventually the reins.

Why do you want this? It helps the horse learn to be light in his entire body without any resistance to pressure as it is presented to him by the person handling or riding him. He has nothing to lean on and he uses his own natural lightness and doesn't learn how to brace. It teaches the horse to search for the release and come off pressure on his own.

Your goal is for the horse to get his feet moving before you take the slack out of the rope.

If at first the horse doesn't follow through, you might use a smooth, firm pull (no jerking and gear your firmness to the horse. Only use what pressure you need to get the job done. Also gear it from moment to moment as things will likely start to change.) Your release (and c/t), when he gives to that pressure, is what he will start to learn from and build on.

Work on both sides and from in front-he may need more work in certain areas.

Try to release as closely as possible to when your horse eases the pressure off of himself and this will add to your feel.

Hold the lead rope loosely if possible, (but be ready if you need to take a firmer grip). Later, as you refine things, simply opening and closing your hand on the rope will send a message to your horse, the rope will carry your feel.

Problems you may encounter: Your horse's feet are stuck. He's too fast or too slow. He bumps you. What others? We can discuss these too as they arise.

Okay, have fun and work with lowering the head too!

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How's the backing exercise going?

As you've been working on this have you noticed your horse's footfall in the backup. A front foot goes back and then the opposing rear foot (the diagonal). Right front, left hind and so on. Seeing how the horse steps back and how little it takes you may begin to get that feeling that you just might be able to start placing those feet more and more exactly. If you are beginning to feel this way, as Martha Stewart would say, that's a good thing.

Anybody have a horse who is stuck, or heavy on the front end or drags his feet?

Once your horse is backing up straight pretty well, we can start to work on backing him in an arc and eventually a full circle.

Backing in an arc provides plenty of c/t opportunities! It should be done from both sides of the horse and one side will probably be harder than the other unless you have really made a point of working with your horse from both sides.

It can be hard for your horse mentally and physically at first so go slowly, work one step at a time and reward often! This exercise builds a foundation for turnarounds and leads. It prepares your horse for learning how to bring his front end across and gives you another way to develop control over your horse's hindquarters.

Your horse should know how to back straight first, if not, then wait until he can to teach the arc. Take all the time you need! It's not a competition! : )

As you have been learning about your horse's footfall you will know when that front foot is about to come up off of the ground. This is the time you start to ask him to bring the his front end across.

So in backing in an arc to the left you pick up a light feel and begin to back your horse straight. As your horse is shifting his weight off of the front left foot this is when you open up your lead, tip his nose to the left and ask him to step out and back on the left.

The right rear foot (the diagonal again!) will step back and out to the right.

The right front and left rear step straight back.

The hindquarters move to the right.

Confusing to read? Then try this visual: Start by practicing next to a fence. Give your horse room, a few feet from the fence. Start to back your horse up straight along the fence, then when you're ready, tip his nose towards the fence and his hindquarters will move away from the fence.

It is sometimes easier to understand the movement in relation to a fixed object. Do it as many times as you need to, watching his footfall and movement. See how one thing effects another.

Remember, slow but sure wins this circle game. Take your time and c/t the heck out of it!

Backing over a log: this is something fun to work on and easy to accomplish. The trick is in your timing. Walk your horse forward, straight over a log and just as the hind feet step over it, immediately ask him to back over the log again. c/t.

Don't stop your horse in between, although you may be tempted to. Dan would sort of seem to forget exactly where that log was if I stopped him, even for a few seconds, and wasn't too comfortable about backing over something he wasn't sure about anymore. This starts building his confidence and pretty soon you will be able to hesitate between steps, but in the beginning, this has worked best for me.

Backing straight up against a barrel or fence post. Some horses aren't too comfortable about backing up against something that the can't see. They are just going on your feel and the trust they have in you. (Only back them into something that is smooth and can't hurt them accidentally-that's obvious, I know!) Stay safe if you try this, sometimes they tend to jump forward or might think about moving you out of their way. It sounds like a simple job, but can be alot tougher than it sounds.

Anyone else have some other interesting backup exercises for us to try? As always, stay safe, don't over work your horses-for some, these are very new movements-and have fun!

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Let's keep on keepin' on and move to Exercise #3, Bringing the Head From Side-to-Side, Real Slow, With the Feet Still. You can read its description at: http://www.lesliedesmond.com/

I'll add a couple of things from Bill's book, which are not included in the above site. Remember too, those of you with very young horses, you can be doing these exercises with them too. Can you imagine how well prepared those guys will be when it comes time for their first rides?!

Hints: As you stand a little bit ahead of your horses shoulder you can put one hand on his poll or neck and one hand on either the bridge of his nose or on the halter knot under the chin (if you're using a rope halter) to encourage him to turn his head towards you.

Remember, give your horse enough room to bring his head around and don't crowd him. He might get tight all through his body or try to pull his head away if you do.

Also, think about how you present your "feel". For example, prepare your horse for where you are going to touch him. Like for Dan I might stroke his forehead first then move my hand down to the bridge of his nose and ask him to bring his head in my direction.

Dan is very used to this, but some horses might need more preparation before you can reach your hand to their face. Maybe your have to start my petting their neck. Always take things like this into consideration. Bill writes, "Developing a presentation that really feels good to the horse is something a person needs to learn about AND GET GOOD AT."

Some of this is very similar to how we will ask our horses to yield their hindquarters. Bill relates that it is easy to confuse the two, but the difference depends on the "feel" that you present and the energy that goes towards the horse that causes him to move away.

At first some people may have to take many "fresh starts" in teaching their horses and themselves this exercise, but that's okay, because you will both get it!

The release (C/T) should come not just for the horse stopping his feet if he were to move, but for turning his head towards you. The smalled try, remember, gets c/t and release.

When you do release let your horse bring his head all the way around to a normal position, making sure that he has enough rope to do this. If he ran out of rope, because you were still holding it too short, he would bump himself and that good release that he earned and is learning from will lose it's meaning.

Let us know how your timing goes for the click. Can you see how this training will help you to improve your one rein stops while mounted? How was your "presentation"? Where have you found the braces in your horse? What did you do to eliminate the bracing? If you have an older horse, were they tight in the beginning?

In the week to come we'll do a couple of variations on this that are fun. Please let us know how it goes and if you have any problems that we can discuss.

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We've been working on bringing the horse's head from side to side while keeping the feet still as described in Exercise #3. At this time, we can start playing the trombone too!

Since we have already started using the term "tromboning the rein" I'll describe how I apply this (others may have another idea about it though) and how it goes along with Exercise #3.

When I trombone my hand down, let's say, the right rein, I'd hold the reins in my left hand and with my right put my thumb and forefinger around the right rein, touching at the fingertips (like the "okay" sign) and I gently run my hand down the rein-the rein runs through the circle I made with my fingers, and then bringing my right hand up again to meet my left.

Judy suggest doing this three times before actually letting your fingers close on the rein, give a constant, gentle pull as you ask your horse to bring his head around. C/T and release come when the horse gives his head and relaxes-THAT'S what we need not just the head coming around, but the horse's release. Hang in there for his release so you can give yours. If he is still leaning on the halter and lead (or rein) wait for him to relax.

By "tromboning" three times it lets your horse know that you are about to ask him to do something. With enough practice, just running your hand down the rein once will be enough to let him know what to do and he will begin to bring his head around before you can even close your fingers on the rein.

This is one of those things that you can't practice enough. It can save you in a crisis situation and puts your horse in "neutral gear" so to speak. By being consistent and practicing it often, it will become automatic for both you and your horse.

This can be added to Exercise #3-tromboning the lead rope and asking your horse to move his head to the side while working on the ground. Of course we practice from both sides, but you already knew that! Dan and I do the invisible rein. I take his lead rope off and trombone the air as if the lead were still there, pretend I'm taking ahold of it, give it a pull and his head follows! We've practiced this stuff alot! It is really fun and there are lots of clicker opportunities.

In the next couple of exercises we'll work on yielding the hindquarters and starting to build a turn on the forehand (if anyone wants to read ahead!)

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Moving on to Exercise #4: Bring the Head Around and Step the Hindquarters Slowly Around the Front End, in Both Directions. It can be found at: http://www.lesliedesmond.com/

Read it two or three times if you need to. There's alot in there to take special note of. It discusses a little bit about the importance of your horse understanding the separate meanings of your leg and your rein. "Your legs should mean something to his legs." And your reins should mean something to his legs.

This exercise teaches your horse "how to separate what you mean by what you do with your lead rope and reins, from what you do with your body. He's got to know the different meaning and that these are connected to getting a job done on horseback and to your safety while doing it."

I want my horse to be abole to understand and accets both things so he will be a safer horse for me to ride.

This sort of connects us to the discussion Wendi started on leg cues and the importance of educationg your horse to be able to understand and accept both to insure our safety while on our horse.

It's a beginning groundwork, and doesn't directly address how to overcome the fact that Dakota wants to squirt forward when he feels leg pressure, but in a round about way it does.

Transferring the touch you apply to the horse's side on the ground to being the same as what you apply in the saddle. Same spot, same feel, same softness, same release.

As you read it think about what type of movement the horse is making. Inside hind crosses over and in front of the outside hind. The horse may keep moving. That's okay, but move with him. When the feet stop, wait again for him to release the pressure in his neck and poll. For him to relax. That is the instant of the release and the moment that the horse begins to learn the different meaning between what you do with your lead rope or rein and what you do with your body AND that the two are connected to get this done.

Can you see the importance of this?

Remember, slow is the way to go with this at first. Search for the correct moments to c/t. There is so much meaning right now by the timing your c/t and release correctly. We're building a base from which two separate understandings will be created. Very exciting!

Our horses will do what we ask--if we can make it clear enough to them and they can understand it. Don't be afraid to make adjustments and start again and again if you need to.

Also, just a thought, think about presenting that touch to your horse's side in a way that prepares him. A way that won't make him flinch, or jump or maybe even kick out. I might touch Dan at first in the middle of his back, where he's not so sensitive, run my hand down his side to the spot just behind the cinch, where the stirrup would be, rub that spot (ala Pat Parelli) apply a little pressure (which we can discuss too if your horse is stuck and doesn't move). When your horse moves, immediately release pressure-BUT wait to c/t until the feet have stopped and the horse has relaxed as we talked about above.

If your horse is having trouble with your touch alone in the beginning, then you will have to break it down and have another c/t schedule-but in the end, for the finished product we will just c/t at the end. You may need lots of steps in the beginning with c/ting-gear this to your own individual horse. Let us know the steps and how you eventually put them all together for the final goal!

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Currently we have been working on Exercise #4: Bring the Head Around and Step the Hindquarters Slowly Around the Front End, in Both Directions, which can be found at: http://www.lesliedesmond.com/

So how is is all going?

"..... What's going to take place just depends on the horse and on how far along and observant the person is. Remember to praise the horse and rub his neck to reassure him.

"If there's alot of tries at this and the horse still isn't stepping the inside hind leg across the outside hind leg, why the chances are real good that you've either let the head loose as he starts to move or you're holding him too short on the rope and having him move when there isn't any float left in the line." -BD

Bill Dorrance also goes goes along to describe that while working this out with your horse "that you are ALL THE TIME looking for opportunities the horse gives you to shape and direct him. But not because you tried to force him to give you those opportunities, or to change. It's through feel that you teach a horse to slow down and stop, and do most anything. And that last step the horse takes before he stops, or any of the last few steps leading up to that stop, why they don't weigh anything. There's just the weight of the lead rope or the reins in your hand, when it's right."

I like that, ALL THE TIME LOOKING FOR OPPORTUNITIES. I think that it's so important to look at triaing this way and it keeps a real positive frame of mind going.

Yesterday I went to some talks that had nothing to do with horses, but so much of what was said applies. The speaker talked about trying to accomplish something that seems hard. We might try a thousand times to accomplish it but then on one-thousand-and-one we do it! That one try just makes all the others positive. The one makes good on the one thousand.

Our goal with this exercise is to be able to move the hindquarters around the front end, but what's so valuable is that learning part in between. How much we can observe and learn and develop our feel.

Monty Roberts said, "If learning is from 1 to 10, the most important part is 0 to 1."

That 0 to 1 is that spark, that inkling for the horse that the clicker helps us define so well for him. Looking for opportunities, observing, making the right adjustments and seeing the very first glimmer of what we are looking for and marking that for our horse.

What I really hope to get across here is that the process of learning is just as worthy of high praise as the end result of it is!

What have you been observing and learning about yourself and your horse as you train this exercise? Were you able to use alot of what you'd learned about youself and your horse from previous exercises and just time spent together? Once the light bulb went on for your horse (or you) how did things progress?

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I hope you are talking about turn on the forehand, because this is what I am going to describe. First, you can teach this from the ground. You can do this with a halter and lead rope, or with your horse completely tacked up.

With a halter and lead, stand by your horse's shoulder and ask him to bend his head toward you. As you know, a good bend thru the neck entails that the horse also give thru the poll. Just bending the neck is a good start, but strive for that little release thru the poll as you ask your horse around. (To be successful with the release in the poll, the horse's head will need to be level to his withers or maybe even a little bit lower). You can support your horse as you ask him to bend by placing your free hand on his neck where you would like him to release. This sometimes helps the horse to release thru the poll (soften longitudinally) and lower his head.

After he can bend his head around almost back to where your foot would be and not move his body.. you will be ready for the second part of the exercise. (you will have to ask him to relax and do this bending in small increments before you get to where he could touch where your foot would be-- go slowly here.)

After he can do this on both sides, then ask the horse to take the step over. Ask him at the same place your foot would ask him if mounted. It is crucial that the horse actually steps under himself with his inside leg deep and in front of his outside leg (using the bend of the neck to determine which side of the horse is inside, of course). Let him take one step but don't release him until he is soft on the halter.

IF he keeps moving but doesnt' soften, this is a resistance or brace. He may not be familiar enough with his own body to be able to do this manuvever and only take one step. If he takes many steps, just follow him until he stops moving his feet and softens, then release the pressure from your halter rope.

Remember to remove your hand from his side once he starts to move his behind. (If you watch John Lyons, then you will recognize this step over from when John gets the horse looking at him straight on, then the horse's head and neck following him.. the horse bends his neck to about 90 degrees of John, then disengages his hind end and straightens himself to John again. JL doesn't allow the horse to look at him a little off to the side and move, he asks the horse to move when the neck and head are "waaaay" to the side.)

You would do same with the bridle and saddle (on the ground), only after you get him bend to where he could touch your foot in the stirrup, then ask him gently with the stirrup to take the step over.

Then, get on. You can pick up your inside rein (which ever way you wanted to bend.. but remember, the hind end will move the opposite way). Draw the inside rein back towards your hip and ask your horse to bend to the inside. If he moves, keep holding on until he stops. He should be able to stand both ways with his head to the side (hopefully your ground work has helped there).

Release when he can stand with his head bend so that you could pet his head if you wanted to (you might want to now!!!). After that, energize your leg and ask him to step over, like he had learned from the ground, using the same spot. He should take one step. Release your leg as soon as he starts moving. Release the pressure on his head only after he has stopped moving and has softened to the rein.

You can practice a one rein stop (another post), if you are not C/T. But with the precision of C/T, I would think the horse would be pretty solid on bending the head and then doing the move.

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>>Is this used to disengage the hind quarters? Could you describe to me a situation in which you use this on your horse? I have been working with my horse on the touching the tail exercise in Pat Parelli's book. It sounds similar to this but I just need to see how it will be used in the future.<<

Good question! I think that working with your horse to touch his tail is terrific! A horse is already naturally flexible but you are teaching him to follow a feel with this exercise and that's a the most important part in teaching him about disengaging his hindquarters.

The exercises that we've been doing up to this point are aimed in that direction. The horse needs to be flexible and supple all over to do it smoothly and relaxed.

We have been working on having your horse follow your feel and stay relaxed. We'll add to that in the next day or two and begin to work on yielding the hindquarters.

To apply this to how you are going to use it in the future, a horse that cannot yield his hindquarters is not a safe horse to ride. He's stiff, and he hasn't relaxed or "turned loose" as they say. A tense horse is an accident waiting to happen IMO. And all of those wonderful things we dream of, lightness, collection, responsiveness-cannot be possible.

Yielding the hindquarters is probably one of the most important things that you are ever going to teach your horse. It's something to always work on with him, so that it becomes natural and instantaneous. And it's just always something to keep in mind about and to work on in little ways.

From a safety stand point, if you feel that your horse is going to kick another horse, you'd want to catch that immediately and ask him to yield his hindquarters so he's not in a position to kick. That's our responsibility, that our horse doesn't hurt the other guy!

You might be out on the trial, you feel your horse is starting to get excited, he's thinking about running, if you ask him to bring his head around and disengage his hindquarters, he can't move forward anymore. He might be circling, but you keep a handle on the situation-he's not going to turn into a freight train that you can't stop.

Anybody else have some examples?

Bill Dorrance: "The position of those hindquarters is right at the top of the list of the things that you need to be all the time thinking about. It's the hindquarters that the horse depends on to maneuver his whole body the way he needs to whether he's moving around on his own or if there's a rider sitting on his back.....there's some people who think that operating those hindquarters, and even the whole horse, is about mechanics. There's no feel built into that approach......the horse doesn't understand anything about mechanics....the way it should be done is the way it fits the horse, and that's a different feel entirely from those mechanics, because the only feel that a horse can be sure of, well, it comes right out of you. The horse knows the difference right away."

So, in conclusion (finally huh?) as you do your Parelli exercise, think about how your feel, your intent, effects your horse. Your body placement. Your presentation. What adjustments did you make that helped your horse? (all of these observations are going to help you down the line) At the same time it's a good chance to see all that that move physically involves with your horse. How his muscles and spine work, so that when you are on his back you can understand that and how the way that you ask effects his entire body and mental attitude.

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I was going to move on to Exercise #5 tonight, but I was really touched and impressed by Joyce's recent post regarding Logger and how he filled in for her when she needed him to.

I've always found it a wonderful thing when a horse fills in for a person, because that means that the horse is thinking.

Logger filled in for Joyce when his instinct for self preservation could have taken over, but he could seperate that and filled in so that Joyce could make it through a bad situation safely.

How does a horse learn to fill in? He gains this wisdom through experience.

Peter Campbell says, "Filling in tells us that the horse has a good memory. Some are better than others, just like a person."

A friend of mine told me, "The horse starts to search out the answers because you fixed it up for him to learn through his own natural movements, but to do this, you've got to be aware of where your horse is and how you can help him from moment to moment. Opportunities to help your horse fill in may only last an instant. They're there and then they're gone. So that's when riding from moment to moment becomes more important."

When I think of the exercises that we've been working on, and clicker training in general, we are teaching our horse to fill in also. He is encouraged to search out the answers, finding out what works and what doesn't. Gaining experience in a positive way because we are always arranging things so that he will succeed.

Bill's brother Tom said, "The rider can be trying to help the horse too much. If you were out having to do a job, that would be alright, but if you were helping your horse to learn to do something, he won't have a chance unless you fix it for him to learn."

I can remember when Joyce first started with this list and using the clicker. People at her barn sure gave her a hard time and she wondered sometimes if she would ever make it with Logger. She kept working with him though. Teaching him things and helping him to succeed and at the same time creating feel and developing a horse that could seperate self preservation from what she asked him to do. She brought out the best in him.

Bill Dorrance writes, "A horse might fill in for a person if someone has built feel into that horse's mental system...and I'm speaking about how that person presents things in a way that is most understandable to the horse through feel..."

I think, too, that by being a "dependable source of information" for our horse, that he will know that we are there to help him succeed and accomplish things. This, IMO, is motivational to him and he is drawn to it. This is alot of what our next exercise is all about too!

To end this now, Joyce, I want you to know that you gained alot of ground with Logger and I'm really proud of you!

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It's time to start Exercise #5: Moving the Front End Clear Around the Hindquarters Slowly In Both Directions. You'll find it at: http://www.lesliedesmond.com/

One of the main objectives of this exercise is to let your horse know that you are there to help him accomplish things. You are going to set it up, with Bill's help, to make this as physically easy for your horse to successfully do and therefore understand.

Remember that first you will rock the horse back to free up his forehand.

If you are asking your horse to move to the right you would tip your horse's head slightly so that it is over the leading foreleg, which would be the right one in this case.

Ask your horse to step back just a little to lighten up the front end.

IMPORTANT: When you actually ask your horse to move his front end to the right, make sure that the following foreleg, the left, goes behind the leading foreleg, the right. He will be able to step over much freer and help keep his forehand from becoming heavy.

You'll start with your hand by the halter knot or lead buckle under the chin but later experiment with stepping away from your horse and see how with your life and feel that you can also accomplish this.

There will be alot of experimenting in the beginning as you discover how your body placement, in relation to the horse's, effects his movement. Look for accuracy of movement and foot placement and how you can encourage this.

Are you beginning to see that have the ability to place your horse's feet just about anywhere you want?

Did you push him forward or backwards with your energy, or to the side? Did you have to tone down your energy or liven it up?

Remember, do this equally from both sides. And, as always, click for the smallest tries in the beginning. : ) Watch how your horse moves and think about how you can influence him to make this as easy as it can be! THEN let the list know how it all went and what you learned!

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Exercise #6: Stopping & Standing Still (Advancing Exercise #2: Leading Up Real Free & Backing Slowly). Find it at: http://www.lesliedesmond.com/

In the opening paragraph of this exercise Bill writes: "Teaching the horse to stand is the most important thing to get built in. You do this by understanding how to help him move, and him knowing that you know how to do this. Then, in the absence of your feel to move, he knows that other feel, which means stand. That feel for him to stand means for him to stop."

Standing still is not the absence of feel, but the absence of the feel to move. Standing still with feel, is an important part of encouraging movement. The horse comes to understand, through the feel that you give to him, what you are asking him to do. "...he learns to wait for some other idea from the person to show up." So it is the contrast of the feels that he waits for and responds to.

Wow, what a concept! Learn to stop well, to learn to move well.

Understand how your horse moves, to understand how your horse stops. The two go hand in hand.

Anatomy of a stop: "...a stop occurs at a place that is right exactly in between stepping forward and stepping back."

How many of you have seen or felt this "in between part" with your horse as Bill describes it? Where you sit on or stand next to your horse and can rock his weight forwards or backwards without taking a step. It is easy to picture and relate to if you have experienced it, but might be a little hard to understand if you haven't.

Bill gives some good exercises for this, with lots of clicking opportunities. As you work on these remember that you will see the weight shift before any steps are actually taken. The shoulder muscle flexes, or the haunch. When you get well intuned to this, it starts to seem like you have a lot more time to use your feel with accuracy.

In the next couple of days we'll talk about a person's attitude affecting the horse, livening the horse up and bringing the life down and we can even talk about mounting.

Please keep us posted on your progress and where you decided to use the clicker and if you've been able to feel the "in between place" thats right smack dab in the middle of a forward step and a backward step.

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How is Exercise #6: Stopping & Standing Still, going? http://www.lesliedesmond.com/

"When we speak about having a connection with the horse through feel." Bill writes, "what's meant by that word "connection" is the part that's in place when what YOU UNDERSTAND AND DO is directly connected to what the HORSE UNDERSTANDS AND DOES, on account of his physical and mental systems being tied in to yours, through feel."

Bill also says that "it's the mind of the horse that makes him what he is." Those are pretty exciting words! What do they mean to you and how you relate to your horse?

What these groundwork exercises help to do is prepare a horse for the things that we will be asking of him and raise his level of understanding (and our own) through each others "feel".

Raising the horse's level of understanding, and our own, really gets helped along with groundwork. Soon, the understanding achieved on the ground gets translated to riding. The more we work to translate our feel to the horse through groundwork, the more quickly it will happen on his back.

Practice brings familiarity and the horse searches for what he recognizes and "feels good doing".

So as each day progresses as we work with our horses it's important to constantly strive to be looking for ways, no matter how small, to improve our connection with them.

"Never miss an opportunity to train your horse," as a friend of mine was fond of telling me, letting me know that daily handling of things that seem commonplace can become real important lessons in feel. Once I started thinking in this way, too, it became easy to always be particular in what I wanted and how I asked it so that Dan could best understand what I wanted. I started to realize how much could be accomplished with even the little things.

You can take your clicker with you for all of those everyday things too and think, as you are doing them with your horse, how you can best influence your horse through feel and increase your understanding of each other.

Later I'll more on to Exercise #7 if no one has questions or responses about this one. THEN after we've completed Exercise #8, Sandy & Cita will be taking over! Which will be alot of fun!

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I've been reading everyone's posts and am really thrilled with the progress, observations and great questions! Smart group!

Some of you, I have read, have the need-THE NEED FOR SPEED!

There have been a few posts from people concerned that creating a horse that is calm and relaxed might also make them a pokey horse to ride.

When I think about a horse who is relaxed I think of one who isn't tight anywhere, but moves freely. Calm means level headed and thinking clearly in my book.

It's true though, that you can "squish the spirit right out of a horse" (as a pal of mine would say) and Bill Dorrance explains: "There are alot of reasons for this. One is that they've not been taught to move through feel. And some of them, no better than they've been handled, HAVE BEEN DISCOURAGED FROM MOVING. The problem is generally due to a person kicking the horse and pulling back at the same time, or just hanging on the mouth because they haven't learned how to ride a horse in a way that fits the horse, and that takes in alot of people. If a horse doesn't understand the feel to move, these horses are usually the ones who haven't got the first idea about the feel to slow down or stop either."

So the knife cuts both ways as far as a person not developing feel in their horse is concerned. I'm not saying that anyone is guilty of that here, but feel is as much a part of a lively horse who can really move out, but stay calm and relaxed, as it is with a horse slowly, but accurately, moving over obstacles. Feel comes into play in everything that a horse does.

I had to laugh when someone said that maybe it was because they were still young, that they liked a horse with speed. It was a good post, for sure, and I'm not making fun of it, but the enjoyment of a fast horse isn't lost with us geezers either! Some of the most wonderful days I've had on a horse was with a bunch of grandpas that liked to ride with the wind!

"...if the horse has alot of fire in him," Bill continues, "and wants to go way too fast all the time, you'll have to spend some time on getting that horse to slow down for you. No, if he has an abundance of life, he'll sure need to learn to slow down first through feel. THEN IT DOESN'T MATTER IF HE'S TOO FAST OR TOO SLOW-THE HORSE IS GOING TO KNOW WHAT YOU WANT AND BE ABLE TO RESPOND TO YOU. That respectful, accurate response is what we need..."

So, these ground exercises that we've been learning should work both ways. When a horse learns through feel and the time is taken to teach him about feel, it becomes easy for the horse to speed up and slow down as a calm and relaxed response to your request.

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Exercise #7: Preparing Your Horse to Take a New Direction on Your Lead Rope, read it at: http://www.lesliedesmond.com/

Bill writes about the horse,"...he knows what's expected of him and he's just pleased to be there and to try what it is you want if you've gone about things in a way that fit him up to this point. If you haven't it will be real clear right now."

This is the point where you might find some holes in your training. If this happens, that's alright, and you can just go back to the previous exercises and work with them a little longer. Since there is no rush with any of this, going back won't set you behind. What counts is that these things are becoming solid with you and your horse.

As you work on all that's involved in switching directions, it's okay to let your horse stop "in between steps and soak on things for awhile." This is a good time to really break things down with c/t.

As you read the exercise think about how you want to offer your feel for the horse to leave and move in the direction that you are asking. What will you do? How much effort does it take? Did you have to change the feel to move that you presented to your horse?

Be sure that you work on these things step by step-do your homework--and don't just jump into this exercise without doing the rest or you might get yourself into a dangerous situation. Make sure that your previous exercises are solid.

Something that might help as you do this is to think about "offering (your horse) the feel to operate his forequarters and hindquarters separately." The hind will support the weight, the fore reaches for that new direction. How can you set it all up to be easier for your horse?

Questions? Let us know how it goes and how you involved the clicker!

What Is "Feel"?

Learning to Learn


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