A Note about Sugarbush Draft Horses

I see it over and over again, and no matter how many times it's said, it's still wrong. "Sugarbush Drafts are just an Appaloosa Draft Cross". Uh.... no. The Sugarbush Draft Horse was a breed created many years ago in Ohio. While the initial cross was made using Percherons to Appaloosas, in the many generations following, the breed has been solidified into a consistent type. Saying these horses are "just" a draft cross makes as much sense as saying that AQHA horses are "just" a Thoroughbred cross, American Cream Drafts are "just" a dilute Belgian, or that Morgans are "just" a grade.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Why the new style of trainers confuses me

Saturday, I was privileged to work with a lovely young trainer named Jacob Bowman, or Jake.  He is from the Buck style of training, which I think falls into the "Natural Horsemanship" category.  I'm pretty sure I'll be told if I'm wrong (please!) but this is my understanding of it.

I have always ridden English.  I started out jumping, and then moved to dressage.  For those who know about English riding, flat work usually comes before going over fences, but well... lets just say my early years weren't with the best trainers.  I spent many years in dressage, learning how to fix the problems I had been taught.  I learned some VERY bad things, from unsafe riding, to less then stellar horsemanship.  I also learned how to fix both of those things.

I also started in horses with cheap ponies.  Not bad ponies mind you, just ones that I didn't pay a lot for.  My first horse was a 4 month old colt (intact).  Yes, he got gelded, but still, it was an interesting learning experience.  My second horse was a "she can't be broke, so we'll make her a brood mare" Thoroughbred, who was the best jumper I ever rode.  Can't be broke?!  I climbed on her back the second week I owned her, and have been riding her for over 13 years now.  From there, I worked with rank untrained horses, what I call "domestic mustangs".  These are the horses that were bred by a less then stellar breeder who wanted babies, and wanted money, but didn't think they had to DO anything to get it.  By 4 years old, they still hadn't even had a person pet them, let alone halter or pick their feet!  Riding?  Yeah, not in the near future.

Together, I think this background gives me some unique insights on training horses and riders.  I am NOT the best trainer in the world.  I also do not think there is "one right way" to do anything.  I do think that raising a horse and rider team is a lot like raising a child - each one is different.

So I went to this clinic (I'm going to call it a clinic for lack of a better term.  Basically it was a lot of lessons back to back, with questions and answers, but not the typical clinic format).  I had a ball, spent time with friends, and learned many new ways to do things.  I also saw a lot of things I just don't get.  I want to talk about some of that, and my impressions on it, because I know with my reader base, I'm likely to have someone out there able to explain it.

I have to say here, that I am not saying any of this is BAD, I am simply saying that I don't understand it.  I asked a lot of questions, and got answers, but the answers didn't necessarily fulfill my overwhelming desire to completely wrap my mind around the concept.  I have always been a "why" learner, and the clinic, while enjoyable, left me confused.  Is Jake a good trainer?  Yes, I think he's completely average.  He does nothing mean to the horses, and I trust his skills enough to let him work with my horses.  With that said, until I know more, I probably wouldn't give him free rein, because I don't know that his techniques could achieve what my end goals are.  He's a nice guy, and I think that I learned a few things from him, but I still have questions.

The tack:

I think the first question I asked was about the rope halters.  Why are they used?

For those who don't know, a rope halter is more severe then a larger width nylon halter.  The thin diameter of the rope, plus the knots along it, all give more pressure with each command (or tug).  With a hard enough pull, rope halters can actually hurt.  The entire process was described as "kind and gentle" type training, and yet the fact that using a severe training aid was the first tool required kinda struck me as odd.

Let me put this another way.  When I start my young horses in a bridle, I use the mildest bit I can.  Often it is a rubber snaffle, or a hollow mouth, large diameter snaffle.  I prefer a French link, to reduce the chance of the "nut cracker" effect, and O rings, to "blur" some of the rein signals.  Some horses don't like that bit though, and so I work through my choices to find what works for that horse.

Some horses like a thinner mouth, so they get a clear signal with out heavy pressure, or don't feel as if they are gagging.  Some horses like a simple snaffle, so they can lift it with their tongue when not engaged. We increase the "severity" of the bit (the amount of pressure and signal given to the mouth with a single pound of pressure from the hands) only when we have no other option.  This is considered to be a "good" method of training in the industry.

Why then wouldn't we do the same with a halter?  Use the mildest, and work up to a more severe if and only if it is needed?

I was given an answer that barely satisfied me, but made more questions the more I think about it.   Jake's answer was that the halter doesn't give unnecessary pressure unless it was used, but then if he needs it, he has it.  Ok, that makes sense to a point, but the more I think about it, it really doesn't.

If I put a twisted wire snaffle in my horse's mouth, I could say the same thing, right?  If I don't USE it, then it doesn't matter how severe it is!  If I'm on a loose rein, well, I just have it in case I need it, right? And yet, most people get a bad feeling about this.  We always say we should only move up in severity when we NEED to, right?

Shouldn't we reward the horse for responding lightly?  When working Katy in a rope halter, I actually found her to be LESS responsive.  Granted, it wasn't a fair test, since it was also her first time away from home, first time working with this man, and first time being asked to do these moves.  Would she have reacted the same in her normal halter though?  No way to ever know!

And hence, I'm looking for an answer as to why we accept the use of more severity in some cases, but not in others.  No, really.... Any one know?

I also asked about working a horse in the bridle.  I have always gotten my babies to wear a bridle about the time we start ground work (roughly 2 - 3 years of age) and quickly moved to doing all of my work from a bit.  Jake said that he didn't like this method, because it could desensitize a horse's mouth.

Sounds good at first, but again, I can't stop thinking, and ended up with more questions!

So, if that's the case, then why do we pull the horse's head around to flex them, when we are riding in the bridle?  Isn't that dulling their mouths too?  Is that pressure in any way different from what I use when lunging?  Is it because I do things slowly, that Jake and I are speaking completely different languages?  I honestly don't know.

What I do know, is that by the time I have a horse lunging, I am giving all signals lightly, from the bridle, and the horse then understands the concept asked when I am in the saddle.  I ground drive, and teach the horses to give to pressure, both from the sides, and for the halt.  I have only ever had a horse run out on me, on the bridle, once.  I simply let go, so as not to crack her in the mouth.  In most cases, I correct the behavior before the horse runs out, with simple and soft touches on the bit.  Just as you would do in the saddle.

So why then, is using the bit for ground work a bad thing?  Isn't it the handler that makes the difference, and not the tack?

The Human:

When working with horses, there are 2 parts to the team: the horse and the human.  It doesn't matter if that is on the ground, or in the saddle, the human is always a significant part of the equation.  This clinic had my friends riding.  I'm going to pick on some, because I know they won't be hurt.

First thing I noticed, was Rachel.  She was riding Moon, and trying to get her mare to accept contact with the bridle.  Moon has been improving, but she still tries to evade the bit.  Rachel is NOT a showman, and she gets nervous when all eyes are on her.  Things were no different that day.  Her first few laps, her body said "uh oh, every one is watching ME!" and was stiffer then she normally rides.  We all understand, since none of us really want to be the center of attention... we just want to play with our ponies.

Rachel's nerves resulting in stiff hands and arms though.  As she asked Moon to take contact, she would alternate between mildly chucking her girl in the mouth, and dropping all contact.  Her contact was stationary, not elastic (no harm came to the horse, this was all a very minor oopsie).  Jake never commented on this though.  I'm not sure if it's because he knew she was nervous, or if it's because his experience is training horses.

Which is where I again get confused.  If he trains only horses, then why wasn't he on the horse, teaching the horse, and then giving it back to the rider?  If he doesn't care to or isn't confident enough to train the riders as well, then he needs to remove them from the equation.  Conversely, if he does train humans to ride better (or handle better) then why didn't he tell her simply to relax her arms and hands?  She obviously wasn't aware she was doing it... other wise she wouldn't be doing it!  There are few people who make riding errors on purpose.

In another situation, he was helping Heather (yes, another one) back up her mare.  Piper is a large, green, and very strong girl.  She was avoiding the bit by locking up.  In other words, the more Heather pulled, the less Piper did.  No flexing, no moving her feet, just "I am a stone draft horse, and you little humans can not move me".  Piper sometimes is passive aggressive like this, and she knows she is bigger then us.  Having worked with her, I know how to stop that, but this was Jake's first time with Piper or Heather.

Jake never once encouraged Heather to shift her wight though.  He only focused on the bridle, and the horse's head.

He did that a few times actually.  All of his concerns seemed to be on the horse's head.  Now, I mentioned that I'm from an English background.  I was always taught that we ride the horse from back to front, and the head "sets itself when you do it right".  Which leads me right into the next topic.

Differences in technique:

The way I was taught to ride and bring up a  young horse is very different then the way that Jake does it.  As an example, I was taught that straightness and rhythm come first.  Jake works on flexion and elasticity.  I was taught to solidify the foundation before moving on, while Jake works on showing everything to the horse, and then improving the parts.

I am not saying that one of these methods is better then the other.  I'm merely pointing out that I am aware we do things differently (to help show my reasons for confusion).

I heard Jake say a few times that you need to get the horse's head down.  The horses he was talking about here not high headed, just not dragging their noses either.  In reality these horses were hollow through the back (see Moon, the black and white paint, above).  Jake never even tried to discuss engaging the hind end, he simply had the riders bring the heads back to the chest.

Later, after I left, my mother asked something similar.  Jake said (according to mom, so this is well through the grapevine) that in order to attain collection, the horse has to have its' head brought back to its chest.  NO!  No no no no nononononononononon!  Collection has nothing to do with "head set" (that's actually a very dirty word to some riders) and everything to do with ROUNDNESS through the back.  You have to get the horse impulsion from the hind, lift in the fore, and acceptance of the bridle.  Not a single bit of that has anything to do with pulling a horse's head back.

Now, if you're riding a trained horse, then you can "set the wall" for the horse, and drive them into their head from the hind, resulting in the back rounding.  These horses understand it though, because they are broke.  A young, green, or novice horse will not get that when you try to set the wall.

Again though, none of this theory was discussed.  I'm not sure if Jake ever explained "collection" (it's a hard thing to explain, almost as bad as "half halt") but I do know that my friends didn't walk away with much large scale theory on riding, just tips and tricks for specific things.  That's not a bad thing!  The fact that my friends found ways to improve their riding, and to ask questions of their horses that result in the right answer... that's wonderful!

My point, is simply to question everything, and learn as much as I can from it.

Overall Impressions:

Here's the part where I may upset my friends.  It's not intentional, and I hope I don't offend those who really like his style, but I was unimpressed.  Jake is a good trainer, but a weak instructor.  He works well with the horses, but he needs to work on explaining riding, and putting more emphasis on the riding aspect of the partnership.

In a lot of ways, I felt like he was speaking empty words and platitudes to the others.  The horses are improving, but the riders are not.  This results in the horses taking the brunt of the mistakes in chucks to the mouth, whacks to the ribs, and signals that confuse the horse and set the horse up for failure.  The clinic gave me the feeling that by allowing the riders to see the changes in their horses, he was fueling the rider egos, and there by forming a bond with them.

Now let me explain what I mean there.  When you get a positive response, you get an endorphin release.  This feels good (like a high) and makes you strive to repeat it.  It's how human brains work - well most mammalian brains actually.  The riders got the THING they asked for, but did not get the foundation in their riding to repeat it well on their own.  In some cases they did, but not all.  This is a false sense of accomplishment, as the rider is learning pieces of how to ride, and not a natural flow of how to ride.

In other words, I might learn that to move the horse's hips over, I use the outside leg behind the girth.  This doesn't help me understand how to do a half pass though, because the concept of moving the horse away from pressure, and separating the horse into parts was never discussed.  The information necessary to make the leap from "disengaging the hind quarters under saddle" to "half pass is a disengagement of the hips and shoulders in the same direction" was never made.  For many riders, the idea of "over" being the same as "around" is not a natural jump.

Now, with that said, I also understand that Jake only had a limited time with each of us.  He's young, he's vivacious, and he's oozing with potential, but he isn't quite there yet.  Like I said, I'd call him a completely average trainer at this point.  He's great at interactions with the horses, but he needs to research the theories and concepts (that evil book learnin' part) behind riding.  I also know that I'm a complete dork, and will ask the questions that so few others would even think of, but as a trainer, you should either be able to think on the fly, and find an answer, or inherently know why.  If not, you should admit it, and Jake didn't do that.

Granted, I wasn't there to pick him apart, and I didn't push even when I didn't feel completely sure of the answer, because I don't want to be 'that person' who sounds like a know it all.  But I do know a crap ton.  I dedicated my life to horses, and I'm a walking "Cliff Claven" of horse knowledge.  It's a rather useless trait to have at parties, I might add.

I would gladly let Jake work with any of my horses though, but I would not trust his techniques for my own riding improvement.  It's not the discipline either.  I found Rod (Of the IPHDA) to be a much more aware and concise riding instructor, who could improve ME, and thus improve my horses work.  Jake is a "colt starter" in my mind, while Rod is a finisher, though, and maybe that is the difference.  Jake understands how to fix a lack of understanding, while Rod knows how to communicate the finer details with the horses.

And yet, I can't help but think that Jake's style of training is like a toxic relationship.  Not how he trains the horses mind you, but how he handles the humans.  He makes the humans rely on him, not become self sufficient, and thus increases his chances for another lesson (fee).  The riders believe that he's the answer to their problems, and forgets that they are that answer.

I don't train many of my friends.  Few of them take lessons with me, and I am certainly not about to push lessons on them.  I don't like to put the riders in a position where they do not feel confident, and so I do things slower (and charge less to compensate).  At the same time, I offer tidbits of advice when we ride together, but I'm not about to stop MY enjoyment of my horses to give a free lesson.  Most of my friends get this, and don't hold it against me.  I get so few chances to just PLAY with my horses, that the times I do get are priceless to me.

I also encourage my friends to explore every trainer they can (who won't hurt them or their horses) and take what works, and discard the rest.  I know that Leah felt guilty for being excited about this clinic, because she has always looked to me to learn from.  I'm THRILLED that she went, and so happy that she learned things, that I almost don't want to post this, asking so many questions.  Kris has found so many answers to her problems from this trainer, that she's gained confidence in leaps and bounds.

But, I also want people to see how I choose what works, and what doesn't.  I'm not some super uber horseman.  I ride at lower levels, I know what I know, and know how much I need to learn.  I do question everything though.  To me, this is a part of expanding ones self as a horseman, and gaining even more from the lesson then just the time in the saddle, or at the end of the rope.  Jake answered a few questions for me that I had been stumped about (disengaging the horse's shoulders from the ground, and asking for side passing or half passing from the ground) and I feel that I learned a lot.  I also ended up with as many questions as those that were answered.

It's my opinion that a great horseman always has questions.   With out questions, you have little room to learn.  If you wonder, and then seek out the knowledge to those ponderings, then you are improving.  As horsemen, we owe it to our partners, the 4 legged ones, to always work to be better, just as they do for us.

Overall, I really enjoyed the clinic.  I took a week to write this up, because I wanted to think about it, before I verbally vomited on the blog.  I'm hoping that some of my friends, maybe even some who were at the clinic, maybe some who use this type of training elsewhere, can help me wrap my mind around the bits that don't make sense.  Even though I am an English rider first, I am not a discipline snob!  I think all riding is good riding, so long as the horse is happy.  A great horseman doesn't care about the saddle, the clothes, or such trivial things... they care about the communication with the horse, and strive to understand all aspects of it.  ALL aspects of it, and I hope that I'm always able to learn.


  1. Don't know Jake, so can't say much about him.  He may or may not be representative - there really isn't any such thing as "natural horsemanship" although lots of people use the term.  Mark Rashid, who I've trained with for years, thinks the term is a crock - mostly a marketing thing. Agree with you about rope halters - they're fine in special circumstances but I don't use them routinely. Mark uses them rarely.  Groundwork in a bridle is fine with me, provided the horse is already educated enough to understand cues and isn't going to get its mouth hurt.  Mindless flexing of the horse's head and neck get you nowhere - but teaching the horse to follow the feel of your hand from the ground and saddle can be very useful provided it's not over drilled.  Backing can be used - assuming the person holding the reins understands how not to pull and to give a release - to unlock a seriously braced horse as a first step - and you shouldn't lean back either (in my opinion).

    As a famous horseman once said, almost all horse problems are people problems and you have to start there.  One of the things I really like about Mark is that he fixes horses by fixing people - the changes have to come from us to be effective for the horse.  That said, there's only so much you can do with some people and you have to start where people are and with what they can understand - just like horses.

    All in all though, sounds like you had a good time and learned some stuff - always a good thing.

  2. I'll read a little, and give an answer, then read more, and give an answer. Otherwise, I'll get overwhelmed, LOL!

    Rope halters. I was always taught that a rope halter worked on the same principle as a choke collar on a dog, ~when used properly~. It's a self correcting device. When training a dog to heel, you never jerk or pull on the collar, you just stop and hold the lead. The dog, if they are paying attention, stops, too. If not, they will continue and give themselves a jerk. They will also instantly correct. And they will learn to keep an eye on you so they don't get the jerk. One should never really need to snatch or jerk on a choke chain, for the most part.

    Same with rope halters with knots. (As opposed to just old rope halters that old cowboys have always made on the spot when they need one.) You shouldn't be pulling or jerking on the lead. You ask, and let the horse work it out. You stop, they can stop, or continue and get a pinch. The importance of this is that horses, as you know, have such subtle cues and indications of response that it's hard to react as fast as a horse that's self correcting. When used correctly, a rope halter allows a horse to self correct, and that's less confusing and they learn faster. 

    Also, I don't think a lot of trainers, even, understand this; especially after hearing some of their reasons,..

  3. Interesting. I also take what I can use and leave the rest. He obviously isnt a clinition for you. Wether it be Brannaman, Parelli, or Anderson. People put theses people on a pedestal. I really like Buck, I dont know if I would get a lot out of his clinics though. From what I have seen on his website, he does beginners only, then moves on to cow work. I would love to audit one. Parelli, has given me some tools and ideas that have helped me tremendously. The thing that bothers me about Parelli, is that it is so darned expensive!!! Anderson, well, I cant stand. LOL I think he is to ruff on a horse. Seen him at two different horse expos, not impressed at all. Lyons either, does not impress me, although he has a more classic western style.

    It took me a long time to try a rope halter. I like them. They are light, but can have a bite when you need them. Instead of putting a chain on a flat halter.

    The flexion thing is so over done! nuff said.

    I have had similar training methods as you. I have started 3 horses and "finished" a few others. I am not a professional, by any means! 

    Any one can hang out their shingle and put "Natural" on it. I have heard it said, there is nothing "natural" about training and riding a horse.

    The ones that are people oriented, Parelli, Johnathan Field,(he is awesome and a total crowd pleaser) (he is also Parelli trained) Make money. The others come and go.

    I think you are on the right track. I like what you had to say.

    We keep learning all our lives, and I dont think there really is such a thing as a "finished" horse.


  4. Yep, that's me on the black and white paint (and yes I was a little nervous and millions of things were going through my head).  :)  

    First thing I want to say is that I had a great time at this clinic, and I appreciate Leah for hosting, Kris for organizing, and Heather for hauling.  I wouldn't have been able to participate if it weren't for you gals!  :)

    Next, it's important to note that we each had an hour (or so.. I think we all went over a bit) one on one session with Jake and our horse.  You can only cover so much in that amount of time.  I have to say that I got what I wanted out of my session with Jake.  

    One thing we worked on was keeping Moon standing at the mounting block as I got on.  I've been having issues that she tries to step away (or swing under me) as I try to get on.  As you can see from the pictures, I'm a big girl, and getting on from the ground is tough for me (and not so nice for Moon's back).  At the clinic, every time that Moon tried to walk off or step away from the block, she did laps in front of me until she stood.  Great exercise, and I didn't have to get down from the block and make her work.  She worked in front of me.  The next day at Heather's I took her to the block and she stood nice and quiet.  I think she thought, "I'm going to stand here real nice... Those laps were for the birds!"  

    The collection and release exercise kind of confused me too.  Moon evades the bit (to the point of gaping her mouth at times), but when she takes contact, she collects nicely, but then remembers "Oh, I've got a bit in my mouth" and drops it.. It's weird, and something we need to work through. 

    I am just starting Rod Miller's (the "Rod" Heather mentioned) Develop Your Ride program.  It will be interesting to compare my first session with Rod to my session with Jake.

  5. Ok, so why wouldn't we start that in a less severe halter, and only use the bite of the rope when needed?  My ultimate goal with my horses (of whom very few have achieved) is to have perfect manners with no tack.  The horse should react to my BODY and my verbal commands, and not the feel of the tack (the ultimate form of a light contact IMO).

    As an example, I have a sensitive horse, Arden.  Yanking on her, even if SHE is doing the yanking, is a bad thing.  Took me a year to fix a bad driving lesson (I asked for left, she went right, I held to center, she hit the line... on her regular leather halter... and lost her ever loving mind!).  A horse like that I would be terrified to use a rope halter on.  Once she had a bad experience, she over reacted each time I put her in that situation, and had to be brought through it oh so carefully.5 years later, I can put any halter on her, because I will never touch it.  I say "Arden, Arden" and she follows like a well trained dog.  I stop, she stops.  I shift my weight, she moves over.  With more intense gear, she becomes a typical problem child, going so far as to flip from the pressure of the halter.  I have walked this horse, who is night blind, through belly deep raging water, with nothing more then my voice, past wind blowing metal siding, next to tarps, etc... all with nothing more then a hand on her neck, and words to guide her.  She's not normal, but.... she is the reason I postulated the question.

  6. I don't know if he's NOT a clinician for me either.  I learned a lot from him.... I'm just the type of person to always ask questions.  With out asking, with out questioning what is "accepted" by others, how can we grow as horse people?  Time was limited, and I didn't want to become annoying, and I'm very much out of my depth with the mentality of the style, and so I asked here.

    I agree with you on the always learning thing, as well as the "finished" horse.  I use finished to refer to a horse that is well into it's discipline, as opposed to a green, or green to that job, type of horse.

    And well... the trainer of my dreams... George Morris.  I think that kinda explains a lot.

  7. I'm always interested in watching how other people do things. I've found that these natural horsemanship guys are okay on the ground but not good in the saddle. Give me Mark Rashid any day.

  8. I will have to look up George Morris, I havnt heard of him.

    I fell in love with Tom and Bill Dorence, before the "Natural" thing all blew up. I have their books, which I will admit I do not fully comprehend. LOL 
    The concept of feel is the hardest one. I think I have it, but I want things to happen to quick. Patience grasshopper!

    The thing that I have slowly came to realize, is, how do I word it....
    a lot of people just dont "feel" their horse. It is so hard to explain, for those of us that can look at a horse and tell what mood they are in, or put our hand on them and tell if they are relaxed or uptight. Most people CAN NOT, feel that. Does that make sense. It always surprises me when I come across someone that has ridden their whole life and literally does not have a clue. 
    We drove in the drive late one night, and one of my mares was laying down in a weird spot, the others hovered over her, I immediately knew something was wrong. She was colicing. 
    So that said, I think some of these clinitions have to "dumb it down" for people. 
    I admit I am not the best and never will be, but the empathy is a part of how I interpret my horse, or my dogs.  Being able to read an animal is a special thing I am realizing. I am terrible with the people part of it though! Much much harder. (much less patience, unfortunately) For me at least. Kinda weird.

    This is an interesting topic.
    So many poo foo the "natural horsemanship" and liken it to a cult!
    at least around here. If you say you do say, Parelli, they immediately brand you as a zealot, stick waver, rope wiggler.

    LOL I think its much more than that. You can go through the motions and wave your stick and wiggle your rope and still not get the connection with your horse. I could go on but I will stop! LOL

    I do question everything new to me also, read and study and then apply it if it works for me. I am glad I am not the only one.

  9. I'm back! Had company show up,... Re, the bit. I don't understand his reasoning either. I do what you do. Perhaps they feel that most people won't be gentle enough? I do know the longer the line, the more 'weight' you put on the bit/mouth, and the longer it takes to get a reaction, (not much, but a little?) so, maybe that's the thought behind their reasoning? I've never had a problem using a bit with ground work. 

  10. Honestly, I think it does depend on the horse. I've always started mine in a regular halter; a regular suckling halter! At two days old we start our training, and I fool with them every single day for only 10 or 15 minutes at a time, and several times a day. They get led next to Mom and so on. By the time they are old enough to begin tying lessons (well after their neck isn't fragile anymore, 6+ months,) they've already learned to give to the pressure on the lead. So no-one pulls, tying is easy, and it's a moot point. Both my Stonewall fillies were over 4 years old the first time they ever had to get on a trailer, (I don't have one; yes, it sucks majorly,) and there was no drama. They sniffed it, saw Blanche get in, and walked in because I asked them to. (And then backed right out! LOL! But then got back in.) 

    So I agree, start with the mildest halter you can use. Unfortunately, some people don't 'get' this, and some horses are allowed to be problem kids, and the mildest halter might ~be~ a rope halter. For a lot of clinicians, their first contact with a horse is after the wider halter hasn't worked. (IOW, after some ham handed goob as effed the horse up.) 

  11. I have tried to see all of the trainers in person.  I have seen Lyons (not real impressed, he made huge flaws with training that I just can't agree with, while saying all the right things) Anderson (not too bad, a lot of "duh" things though, which might help others but weren't new to me) and Parelli (a good horseman who can't explain things properly to humans, and whose wife makes it all into theater, not horsemanship, IMO).  

    These people get famous though because they DO have something to offer.  And there's nothing wrong with that.  My problem is that it's so often a "cookie cutter" style of training.  If you horse does this, then always do that.  Since I own a few horses (ahem, quite a few) I know that rarely do any 2 learn the same way.  Usually when they do, they are siblings, and often as not, sibllings are polar opposites, so nothing can be taken for granted!

    With all that said though, I think every one should see as many trainers as they can, whether they LIKE the method or not.  Learn from all, take what works, and leave the rest.  I've stolen my style liberally from big name and small nobody trainers, and it works for ME.  I've tried to explain to a friend how to work with her horse, only to see another trainer tell her the exact same thing - but in a way that made sense to HER - and it was a huge break through.  Who cares that she learned it else where, my ego is big enough to take that, what matters is that she got the help her, and her horse, needed!!!  
    As for George... well, he's an Olympic jumper.  He isn't a trainer really, and while he does clinics, he isn't meant for the low end riders.  I've been sucking up everything horse for as long as I can, and usually i feel like I can barely keep up with his lectures. Watching him ride, even at his age, makes me feel awkward and in need of more hours in the saddle... yet he makes it feel like something we can all accomplish.  He's always been an inspiration to me.

  12. You know, I've never seen Rashid.  I've heard many good things, but I have yet to even watch a video.  Sounds like I need to remedy that!

  13. Well, I also got the feeling that Jake doesn't often deal with drafts.  I began working the bridle in early as soon as I started working with my Stonewalls.  Scorch was as light as thought, but Diva, his sister... oh no.  She lives up to her name, and in a halter, will PULL.  I don't care if it's a cable over her head, no bit, no respect.

    Started putting the bridle over the halter, just to let her mouth it, and still worked off the halter, and I had a whole different horse.  The movement of the halter touched her mouth, and she became light and sensitive, and... amazing.  From that time on, I've used Bits with the drafts and crosses, and I'm a believer.  Granted, each horse is different... and I have a pony I would NEVER lunge in a bit!  The poor thing would never get out of a walk.  (the bounce of her reins at a trot is enough touch for her to think it means "whoa").  The pony goes tackless great, and tolerates a Dr. Cook's bridle... so... to each their own, and I try to train each horse as an individual.  

    I have to think you're right though, since most of the people he trains probably have not been through the years of evil nazzi instructors that I've had.  I always loved the mean instructors, and prefer them to the nice and easy ones.... hmm... maybe there's something there....  =)

  14. I like the Natural Horsemanship method.  I've watched Clinton Anderson and have one of his books.  He explains the why to everything he does.  He explains it well.  It sounds like Jake is still learning his "people skills" but has good "horse skills".  Check out Clinton Anderson and why the rope halter is better than the large nylon.  Might help you.  Also, Skye Dreamseaker (Andie Stephan) who has liked your site on FB can also be a resource for your questions.  She has had extensive natural horsemanship training, and uses it on her horses that she trains/rides.  She is located in Rockdale, TX, and one of my friends.  She will probably give you very good answers to your questions that Jake left you with.

  15. The first time I seen Lyons at a horse expo, he had came off of a horse and broke his shoulder. The next year he had his young interns riding.

    My background is 4-H and everything I could get in my hands to read! 

    I am proud to say, all the horses I have trained, we still have or they have passed. (except for one shetland my youngest outgrew) I think they all turned out good all around horses. My girls did everything in their 4-H, from showmanship to gaming, and my youngest got to do High School Equestrian team. Neither of my girls were ever hurt by their horses, I take pride in my teaching of the horses and my kids.
    We may not have won all the ribbons but were rarely at the bottom! LOL

    The girls are grown, now its time for me to ride!!!  I took the old mare on my first Trail Trial, silly old horse (27) We tied for 3rd place! 110 out of 120!  LOL and had a fun time! Thats what its all about, right!

  16. As for the rest, I think you nailed it on the head; great with horses, needs to research theories and concepts. I don't know this fella, but I've enjoyed your blog for a while and you are always pretty much sound and spot on, so I trust your assessment. To not notice a rider's hands or a rider's need to shift their weight also shows lack of experience with riders or possibly teaching riding. 

    It took me all day and night to read this post. So many distractions today! Don't people know I have Important Stuff to read???

  17. Have you checked Moon's bit fit? From the photos her bit appears to be a snaffle, if so, does it have a jointed bar? In my experience a gaping mouth is an attempt to avoid pain. If the bit has a single joint it may be poking her in the roof of her mouth; she could have a low palate. Does she do it with a French link? I would suggest trying a French link or even a straight bar or mullen, (snaffles come unjointed, too.)

  18. Thanks Cheri.  I have two bits that I switch off with her. The simple eggbutt snaffle was what I used in this clinic: http://www.horsetackinternational.com/adjusta-flat-ring-eggbutt-bit.html?zenid=6l1fcbobgp5n44b0bi1ef00ma3#.UDEHcN1lR1E or a snaffle with a copper cricket similar to this one: 
    http://www.theoriginalhorsetackcompany.com/Korsteel-Copper-Roller-Mouth-Dee-Snaffle-5-p/wb130105.htm.  She acts the same with both of them.

    Here's a sample video of what I mean when she's gaping her mouth (this is using the eggbutt) : https://mail.google.com/mail/?shva=1#sent/1392dc8513b84ea6

    (this is with the cricket) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aq39refPLd4

  19. Thanks.  Hopefully Skye will have some answers.  I have watched Natural Horsemanship from many people, and I get the overall idea (be kind to the horse) but don't agree with everything.  Hell, I don't agree with everything that ANYone offers, simply because I am not them, and never can be.

  20. I got the impression that he's relatively new to this type of thing, and the "clinic" was a bunch of friends taking lessons with him back to back, and forcing a clinic out of it.  I have to say, he was wonderfully friendly, and a nice guy, but I too got the feeling that he'll still learning.  

    I'm MORE then happy to deal with someone learning!  I actually think it makes them a better trainer because they still have the "wow, I can HELP!" thing going on.  They haven't burned out, or gotten tired of the same ol' questions over and over.Infact, I'm probably going to have this guy help me with Scorch (my baby) which says a lot about my feelings on how he relates to horses.  I just wondered if I had missed something some where.

  21. Sorry, wrong link for the first video: 

  22. Based on what you've said, I agree with your assessment on Jake's teaching skills.  Not everyone who's good with horses is a good teacher, sometimes not at the start, sometimes not ever.  Hopefully he'll figure things out.

       As for rope halters, I prefer them over the flat webbed kind.  I've encountered far too many horses that just blow through any signals I give with a webbed halter, and I don't think it's really their fault.  It's like wearing earplugs while having a conversation, everything's muffled and indirect.  A simple lift of the lead shifts a light rope halter just a tiny bit, which gets the horse's attention (unless they're being a goober).  A webbed halter is so fat and wide that lifting the rope barely registers, which means I have to exaggerate my signals.  A few other reasons I prefer them is they don't get as filthy as the flat halter (more surface rubbing up against the fur to get sweaty) plus there's more bits and pieces that can rust/break/get frayed, while a rope halter is all one piece.  I like the kiss aspect of it.  One other reason is purely aesthetic:  I like seeing more of the horse's face and not a huge ugly halter.

      As for your bit analogy, well, I agree to an extent.  I could argue that if you never use that bit by pulling on it, then the mouth will stay just as soft as with any other bit.  There's always accidents though, and I haven't seen a rope halter ever cause bleeding.  (of course there's ways it could, but that's an extreme situation).  It's worth thinking about though, and I'm willing to bet that Jake used them because he was taught to use them, and probably forgot whatever reason was given long ago.(tangent time! I saw a recent study that showed that most horses prefer a thinner "harsher" bit because there is far less room in most of their mouths than previously thought.  I can't remember if they x-rayed some heads with a bit in it or what, but it was pretty interesting)

       Bending now, I think a lot of trainers overuse it, and if he actually thinks that bending the neck and positioning the head is teaching the horse self-carriage, I'd downgrade him from an "average" trainer to "bad".  I'm not fond of teaching a horse to noodle neck, I've found that quite a few horses have absolutely no problems having their head bend around in one direction while they scoot in the other direction.  If you don't control the feet, you don't have much control when you're on them.    

  23. My comment is solely on the rope halter.I used to use nylon and leather, even a good horse will or might pull back from time to time...I've had too many broken halters and it gives them the idea that they can continue to pull back. Also I've had a few horses get bad rub marks from the big metal buckles (rings)they use on those halters. I have never thought of a rope halter as severe...I guess because I don't use them that way....they just don't break that's why I use them.

  24. One other thought - on the backing.  Sounds like this guy may have been watching Mark Rashid work - he uses backing, a lot, particularly with horses that have big full body braces going on - which is true of many of the horses that show up at his clinics.  It isn't about the head and neck position - it's about unlocking the brace and getting the horse to start thinking about relaxing the top line and engaging the core - a horse can't back properly without it.  But there's backing and then there's backing  . .  Plenty of horses can back up - moving the feet backwards - but while still being braced or inverted.  The trick is to use backing as a tool to get through the bracing and begin to get some softness, where the horse is backing, calmly and responsively with the diagonal pairs lifting together, and with softness and a lifted back and relaxed top line.  Takes a lot to get there in some cases.  But once that happens and the horse (and rider) know how that feels - a big part is teaching riders not to pull, it's a lot easier to make progress.

  25. keeley would evade the bit ehen I first got her I got a figure * and used it till she stoped evading the bit . I don't use it with her anymore.you might try using one .I have one you can use.

  26. I have to head to my barn but what I have read so far- THANK YOU ! ( I have no idea who Jake is, but...)  I've been training professionally since I was 18, and never saw a need for those rope halters. One could say the same of a nose chain- it's there if I need it.  WHA ???  "Natural" horse training is NOT what these so called 'trainers' do ! There is little to nothing to do with 'natural' when it comes to dealing with a horse in their methods. Ok- gotta scoot- but thanks !

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