Saturday, 6 December 2008

The story so far

'The big discovery one makes when one starts studying and applying [these] techniques is that once light in hand, that is, relaxed and mobile in his lower jaw, a horse becomes disciplined'.
Jean Claude Raciner

Working as a horse trainer and running clinics for the last few years has been a lot of fun. I work in partnership with my wife Sarah. Have you heard the expression, 'rust never sleeps' - well that's the same as Sarah's desire to master the art of horsemanship (it never sleeps), she just keeps learning more and more stuff, and what is my role in this? Well, I keep fighting against it, and desperately try to make sure that we really need to do this stuff.

It's not easy, or at least I don't find it easy. You'd think that you could sit on your horse and go where you want to go, and that would be it. But sometimes it doesn't work out that way. A horse comes along and in some way tells us we have to learn more. That is what has happened to us this year. We had a few questions about various things we were encountering in our horsemanship, but the real tipping point for us was when Bullet came to stay. She was a horse who pretty much lived everywhere except in her own body. Our job was to see if we could get some kind of order in her life, and boy, she has taken us right to the edge. Several times we have sat at the table and discussed whether we should tell Jane, her owner, that we have tried all we know and we can't do this job.

But then, we started down another path - to be fair it's a path Sarah has been wandering down for some months - and when we made a start down it with Bullet, lo and behold, we began to see a small light at the end of the tunnel. Even then I fought against what I was seeing, and I still do a bit. I have always, always strived to keep things simple, I have always shied away from systems and methods, but Bullet has demanded we go places I would never normally choose to go, because by going there we have helped her relax. She can now stand still. She can now walk slowly. She can now walk back to the field without racing and twitching like somone was going to kill her. At last, her mind is in her body, not up the field or down the barn. She is behaving like a normal horse - not all the time, but most of the time - and when she gets in trouble we have something that helps her. It feels good!

Of course, I know it may be other things that have helped Bullet. It may be the seasons, or it may be that we have worked for a certain time with her, or it may be we have unknowingly found a combination of things that make her feel ok. So with all this in mind, this winter we are working with eight of our horses to see how they respond to the same work that we are doing with Bullet. Perhaps foolishly, I plan to document our work with these horses over the next few months.

Over the next few days I hope to give details and post photos of the eight horses. They are quite different in their characters, and one or two of them have quite long term 'issues'. I will also try and explain some of the other reasons that have lead us to this point. I am fascinated to see how things work out over the next few months.

It is my hope that you find this of interest, and maybe of some use. Thank you.


Kathy Baker said...

Cool! Tom's horsey blog! I am sure gonna check in often.

Question for you, have you played around with what Deb Bennett coined as "head twiring"?

fellow blogger

pony_girl_7 said...

Darn had thought of a really good thing to say. But the password protection ruined me and i forgot.

Tom said...

Hi Kathy, and welcome. Yep, I think the difference here is that we are keeping the focus on the mouth, and being careful that we don't overflex. I know Dr Deb stresses that it is important not to overflex too. We flex to the point where, I think it's C2 (the sideways one), releases.

Tom said...

Hi Ponygirl, glad you found your way here and hope you enjoy it.

Kathy Baker said...

Hi Tom,

Yes, I know what you are saying about not overflexing. I have watched Harry play with this and it is really amazing the changes that take place with the horse when they let go. I think my little yahoo group has a picture of Harry doing a bit of this: Not sure if the picture will show up with this link or not.

My winter consists of 5 horses. I hope to make some gains with a young horse I have who has been my best teacher thus far. Extremely sensitive and cranky. Keeps me really humble and on my toes!


glenatron said...

Ooh! A horsey blog! How long did it take me to notice that...

I'd say Bullet's problems probably stem from whoever gave her such a mean name.

trainedbyhorses said...

Hi, Tom. I enjoyed your book. It is one of those that has more highlighted sentences than NON-highlighted. LOL!

I saw Harry do "tail twirling" at the last clinic I audited. It was fascinating...don't know if it is at all like what Deb Bennett does with "head twirling" or not...

Glad to find your blog. (Thanks, Kathy!)