In the first part of this new series by Charley Snell, he and his mind-of-her-own mare, Belle, showed Eileen Chambers that “school is in session” from the minute you walk in the paddock. Now, in Part Two, Charley continues working with having Belle be with him mentally as she is being lead and saddled.
Let’s see how she does getting to the arena.
Right here, Belle actually got ahead of me. See how far ahead she was?
What she was doing, in crossing the line, was taking over the leading. At that moment, as far as Belle was concerned, she was the jockey and I was just going along, holding the rope.
No. I want her back there. I don’t want her up here. Now, she could have stayed up here if she had not crossed the line but Belle is so used to doing this with people when she is walking on the right side; it is ingrained in her.
You see, when I am walking with a horse on a lead rope, I am aware of what is going on back there behind me. I am aware if they are looking off somewhere or whether they are with me mentally.
For the horse’s sake, you have to change things up a bit. Make it a little more interesting. If you are not doing anything to bring the horse’s mind back to you, it will get to thinking about things somewhere out there. So, I speed up, slow down and do some things. I want her to lead back there at whatever speed I want to go.
Let’s say we were walking along at a pretty good pace but then I say, “Well, I am getting out of air. I am going to slow down. Can you be along there with me?” Well, if Belle was looking away, her mind off track, then she needs to run into some rope.
However, did you notice? This time, even though she was looking off to the right, it didn’t take her mind away from her feet. Eventually, she will get educated enough.
All I do with my horse, from the paddock on, is interrelated. Catching. Leading. Brushing. The saddle. All these little things are inter-related. People often don’t realize that.
I don’t think I have ever seen you tie up your horse when you are saddling them. Why don’t you?
Well, I do tie my horses up to saddle but only when I feel they can
comfortably stay there. With a green or troubled horse that could take quite some time.
Think how handy it would be to be able to brush and saddle your horse anywhere without a fuss. Someday you may not have something to tie to.
No matter what I am asking the horse, whether it is leading, saddling or whatever, I want it to stay connected to me.
I can see you are doing a thorough job there with the brush.
Yeah. Cowboys are not into all this grooming stuff. We just get the dirt knocked off so that the saddle and clinch are going to be put on.
‘Cause after you are done riding, the horse is just going to be rolling around on the ground and get dirty again!
Now, when I go to brush my horse, I always have my halter rope around my arm so that I have control of them but my intention is that Belle learns to stand still, not matter what I do.
Brush her legs. Pick her feet. Brush her tail. I want to be able to do all of this with her standing here quietly. If she starts to walk off, I respond with, “No. Stay with me. Stay here.”
A lot of people throw the halter rope down on the ground but I don’t ever do that. I always keep contact with my horse.
Again, everything I am doing relates to the horse staying connected to me.
There are little things you can do while you are here, like asking her to let me down the other side without her moving her feet. Sure. I could walk around her head but I can say, “Will you let me down there without moving your feet?”
So she has to move her head instead of me having to walk clear around her front. With a lot of horses, when you ask them to do this, they will move their feet.
What does it matter if they move their head or their feet?
What was my intention?
For her not to move her feet.
My intention is for her to stand here quietly. In essence to understand, “I don’t want you moving around while I am going to brush on you.”
What is the distinction between letting them explore and knowing that they are with you mentally?
The distinction is in them not making arrangements to go somewhere.
For example, someone just walk along the fence outside. Belle took a look but she was not making arrangements to go somewhere. Again, she would be allowed, in my book, to look but not to dwell or make arrangements to go.
What happens when she does?
Like she just did?
Well, then I will get her back, even tipping the hindquarters.
What I am saying to her is “Can you come up here? You don’t need to be looking over there.” If she doesn’t, I get the hindquarters again, set her front quarters over a little bit and get her squared up. Then I go back to what I am doing and see if she sticks around here again.
If I had her tied up and something wasn’t quite right, Belle would not have the freedom to move her feet. Because she is not tied up, when something is not quite right and the tension comes in, it allows me to set things up again.
If she where tied up, she would simply just go from one end of the rope to the other - and would never get to the place of standing stay still here with me until I said something else.
Again, until I know that the education is such that my horse is comfortable wherever I put it, I just don’t tie one up. You see, in everything, even the little nuances, I am the one who supplies the direction and speed; it is the horse’s responsibility to maintain what I ask.
Belle will find it out. See, you won’t get all these things working all at once.
However, it also should not take months. Depending upon how much you work with your horse, it should only take a few days to get the horse pretty solid, meaning standing still quietly while being groomed. However, if you get careless and slipshod in your manners they will revert back to doing their own thing. Sometimes very quickly.
With the saddle, it’s the same deal. I want her to stick around and be here with me.
Each action of the horse has an equal level of response on your part. So when I say, “Can you let me through there?” I want her to let me through. You would be surprised how many horses won’t let you do that. I could walk clear around or I can ask my horse to yield (my saddle now in the direct line of sight) and walk over there to get my saddle.
As soon as I walk by, you notice that Belle looked into the arena but the day will come when she will stay absolutely put. Star doesn’t do that. I have to bring her back because her attention is gone off over there.
What do you mean by what you call, “Practicing good hygiene?”
Safety. Being properly consistent. Never assuming or taking a situation for granted. Living in the moment with the horse. Being polite to the horse in what you are doing.
For example, when I pull up my clinch or the latigo, I don’t jerk one because I always seek to have a polite way of doing things with my horse. I don’t like people jerking on me and I know that horses don’t like that either.
In addition, I get things set up so that if something goes wrong, I am prepared. With some horses, if something goes wrong and you are not prepared, you maybe looking at some time before you will be able to get things straightened out again.
After we have her saddled up, our groundwork kicks in. Here I am asking her to go out so that she can follow the lead, follow my feel. Moving her before we tighten the cinch completely gets all the muscles and hair laid under as it ought to be. Then I will get those hindquarters, front quarters, and then we will go out the other way. This is where we get all the kinks lined out and, again, we find out if the horse is with us or whether they are just going around in circles mechanically.
You can see that Belle goes around a little mechanically. Then I will see if she lines up.
Oops. There she goes.
She mentally wasn’t making it yet.
Have you ever noticed how working with these horses is like a dance? I have always liked to dance, probably have a few miles on the soles of my feet there. I taught my two daughters to dance when they were little by letting them stand on the top of my feet and packing 'em around the dance floor.
When I was in high school, our Ag instructor
gave ballroom dance classes. I liked to dance right? Good opportunity right?
Well, me and another fella were both decent enough that the instructor would pair us with some young lady that was “rhythmically challenged.” More like two left feet on backwards!
I did not realize it then but that education was of a great benefit to me when I began to start riding colts Ray Hunt’s way. You see, for whatever reason, I stumbled upon a method to get those gals dancing well enough to not be embarrassed. I would simply follow their movement and, as I got in time with it, I began to influence that movement into the proper rhythm and step.
I do the same thing with green horses.
Here’s a bit more of my observations on dancing. Now when I talk about dancing, I am referring to waltzes, polkas, fox trot, jitterbug where two people have to get comfortable with one another and have good timing and good sense of rhythm for it to look artful and beautiful.
See the correlation?
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