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View Full Version : How do YOU define work ethic?



ASBnTX
Aug. 21, 2009, 05:04 PM
Or maybe I'm thinking of the wrong thing... I'd like to know what constitutes a good work ethic, age appropriate of course. Is it ability to go, go, go? Or is it the willingness to do so? In the almost two years that I've had my 4 year old gelding, in either ground or undersaddle work, he's never once pinned his ears or tossed his head. He may need some reassuring about "scary" things, but he's never flat out refused to do something. He's never balked at a jump or ground poles, and always seems to be asking me "cool, what's next?". In fact I can't think of one time that he's flat out told me "no". He can be a touch spooky, but it's more "looky" than actually spooking, and he's growing bolder by the day. Granted, I don't ask A LOT of him. Our actually training sessions are definitely under 30 minutes, 3-5 times a week. Right now I just don't have time for more, and at 4, I think that's ok. So far it seems to be working.
I've had some trainers tell me that a good work ethic and discipline needs to be established. I'm just curious as to what your thoughts are on this? Do some horses just have it, and others don't?

mjhco
Aug. 21, 2009, 05:07 PM
I think some horses are BORN with the want to 'DO'.

I have one. I am also very careful to reward him a LOT to not lose it. And to pay attention when he gives any indication of not wanting to do something--usually means pain or fatigue or needs a vacation. My trainer recognizes the need to pay attention to his desire to work as well. That makes it a lot easier...

slc2
Aug. 21, 2009, 05:15 PM
I don't really think that it's possible to put such a thing on a horse. Ethics, morality, judgement, etc. It's just a simple animal. People use the term for a horse that tends to not cause them a lot of trouble. The trouble people do have could come more from the way they ride, than the horse lack of 'ethic', but the term is still used. I prefer 'easy to work with' which is more general and doesn't have the same connotations.

That the horse has a 'work ethic' is like all the other bulletin board lore including that horses are 'afraid' of things they spook at after they have seen the thing hundreds of times.

Movin Artfully
Aug. 21, 2009, 06:08 PM
Work ethic: go where I want, when I want, as long as I tell you to.

Has to be developed, but some horses inherently have more than others.

kahjul
Aug. 21, 2009, 08:13 PM
As an example of a horse with NO work ethic, my moms hunter was started working cattle, very sporadically. When she first got him and started taking lessons, it was one thing after another and they didn't do any steady work for the first year (he was 5 at the time). So, as a 6 yo with all the starting and stopping of work and inconsistancy, he figured that was the way it was. As a 10yo now, he really objects to working more than twice a week. He's always good on trails, always easy to be around on the ground, but the third day in the ring, he is pissy, kicking at her leg, and just generally 'a cow'. A couple dys off or trail riding and he's willing in the ring again. It's partly his lazy personality, and partly that he was allowed to be erratic and a bit bullying early on. She deals with it jokingly, but admits that she 'ruined' him early on. If he had to go to a real barn and have a real show horses life, he would probably be sour and nasty very quickly.

catmchorse
Aug. 21, 2009, 09:28 PM
Work ethic: go where I want, when I want, as long as I tell you to.

Has to be developed, but some horses inherently have more than others.

Yup. Or at least, "TRY" to go where I want etc. I don't mind if my horse lets me know if she is tired - that's fine, as long as she TRIES to go along with what I'm asking. I don't mind if she doesn't understand a new exercise and gets a little upset or confused - as long as she is TRYING to do what I ask and TRYING to find the right answer, I'm happy.

Both of our current horses and my first horse have had excellent work ethics. I find it a very valuable thing.

Carol O
Aug. 21, 2009, 10:56 PM
Work ethic: go where I want, when I want, as long as I tell you to.

Has to be developed, but some horses inherently have more than others.

Okay, but does he do it with joy and enthusiasm?

I had an app (yes, an app), who would do all that I asked, but with a bit of flair... It was like he was saying, okay, you wanted that, but if I do it like this, isn't it just that much better? He had a solid work ethic.

Ambrey
Aug. 22, 2009, 12:03 AM
I have one with TONS of work ethic. He can evade, sure, but is always willing to try something new, and the harder the better.

And I have one who has what I call "ponytude." He knows more ways of getting his own way than you'd believe, and he'll try all of them. He learns new evasions like lightning, but unlearns them very slowly ;) He is not even technically a pony, but he has the attitude.

Both fun horses, both very sweet horses, and both capable horses.... but very different. The first is always trying to figure out what you're asking for and give it to you, while the second is always trying to figure out what you want so he can do the opposite.

Magik
Aug. 22, 2009, 12:11 AM
I think all horses have a naturally great "work ethic" it just gets destroyed overtime by bad training, lack of reward, riders that make work painful etc.... and some horses put up with crap more than others. But at least in my experience, you give a horses something to work for, and they will work extra hard for you! Even the previously ruined ones.

mbm
Aug. 22, 2009, 03:57 PM
As an example of a horse with NO work ethic, my moms hunter was started working cattle, very sporadically. When she first got him and started taking lessons, it was one thing after another and they didn't do any steady work for the first year (he was 5 at the time). So, as a 6 yo with all the starting and stopping of work and inconsistancy, he figured that was the way it was. As a 10yo now, he really objects to working more than twice a week. He's always good on trails, always easy to be around on the ground, but the third day in the ring, he is pissy, kicking at her leg, and just generally 'a cow'. A couple dys off or trail riding and he's willing in the ring again. It's partly his lazy personality, and partly that he was allowed to be erratic and a bit bullying early on. She deals with it jokingly, but admits that she 'ruined' him early on. If he had to go to a real barn and have a real show horses life, he would probably be sour and nasty very quickly.


this sounds to me more like a horse that is being asked to do something it isnt in condition to do. ie: he has the muscle to work 2x/week not 3 days in a row... you would be pissy too.....

not again
Aug. 22, 2009, 05:31 PM
Every day is a sunny day for my daughter's boy Wally. He always steps up to the plate when she asks, whatever she asks, and he says is this good enough? But he doesn't get opinionated if she repeats something several times. He just tries harder.
That's how we define work ethic.

J-Lu
Aug. 22, 2009, 09:08 PM
I have ridden alot of horses but very very few have the work ethic of my current horse.

How do I define work ethic in a horse: Horse might have minor evasions (such as cheating with haunches, etc.) but no major evasions (no real bucking, rearing unless in pain). Horse might say "do I have to?" but doesn't say "no" unless there is a physical reason. Horse comes out willing to work every day and does not have a sour attitude (if sound - some horses with great work ethics come out working even if they hurt but get a sour attitude because asked to work even though they hurt). Horse doesn't leeeeeaaaannn on bit or look for things to spook at or ignore the rider, etc. Essentially, it is a horse who listens to the rider and works with the rider within reason. I do not believe that a horse with a great work ethic necessarily blindly follows the "demands" of a bad rider. Some horses with great work ethics know when the rider is full of $&@! in terms of their demands (in other words, conflicting aids). But they tend to be very patient.

My two cents, J.

Hampton Bay
Aug. 23, 2009, 01:01 AM
My mare has a good work ethic now. When I bought her, she hated to work because of poor past riding. But after 5 years of consistency and no grabbing her in the mouth, she is always willing to work. Unless she is hurting, she is soft, round, and listens well. She tries hard, even if she does demand perfection. The things she tends to volunteer are more difficult than what I am really wanting though :)

Surviving the Dramas
Aug. 23, 2009, 01:52 AM
Mine is sort of a mix of what most people have said really.

My 4 yo has the most amazing work ethic. Every day he switches onto me right from the moment I catch him. He does everything that is asked of him - and more. He will try everything without question, without losing any of his spark (ie not a dull horse that just does as he's told willingly).

My instructor teaches quite a few horses of the same breeding as he is (same sire, similar dams) and of all of them she thinks he has the best work ethic - in fact, she thinks he's got one of the best work ethics of any young horse she's ever worked with :cool:

Dressage Art
Aug. 23, 2009, 02:18 AM
Work ethic can be developed when a horse enjoys working for that rider or the horse is doing something that is very easy for him to do. Harmony and schoolmasters comes to mind. It's a pleasure to work with the cooperative horse.

Eclectic Horseman
Aug. 24, 2009, 10:50 AM
Yes, some horses have "work ethic," although obviously not in the human sense of the term. Some horses like to be busy. They actually like to work. Here's how I can tell if the horse has a natural affinity for work, aka a "work ethic."

1. Horse comes to the rider when he is called in from the paddock--especially when he knows he is going to work. The best ones that I have known will leave pasture mates and grass at an energetic pace to come when called to go to work.

2. There is only one horse that I have known that often balks at leaving the ring at the end of a training session. He stops at the gate and you have to give him a little nudge to get him to leave the arena. Like "Do we hafta stop now??" Now that's a work ethic! Or maybe that's a work-a-holic? :D :yes:

Eclectic Horseman
Aug. 25, 2009, 09:28 AM
Just got this month's Dressage Today. Hilda Gurney's column this month is about temperament. Half of the column is about horses' "work ethic."

ASBnTX
Aug. 25, 2009, 09:33 AM
1. Horse comes to the rider when he is called in from the paddock--especially when he knows he is going to work. The best ones that I have known will leave pasture mates and grass at an energetic pace to come when called to go to work.

My youngster does do this. He'll leave his buddies and hay, and also stays with me when I turn him back out, until I leave him. I figured he just knows who has the cookies and who can reach the itchy spots ;) but he'll hang out with me, even sans cookies. When we're done with our work for the day (and if no one else is in the arena), I'll untack him, not even a halter, and he follows me around the arena "helping" put up the cavaletti, jumps, or cones that we used that day. He seems to enjoy supervising, making sure I get everything back where it goes :) After that he'll have an enthusiastic roll in the arena sand, and we'll just hang out for a bit before getting hosed off and turned back out. I think this down time is really important for him, to keep up his willingness to work with me, and enjoy our time together.

So work ethic is something that some horses can naturally possess more than others, but can definitely be developed in most or destroyed in all, depending on how we go about things. My horse is definitely the kind that in the wrong hands, can easily have his brain fried and shut down, but if everything is kept at a reasonable and calm pace, he'll try his heart out.

Movin Artfully
Aug. 25, 2009, 05:06 PM
Okay, but does he do it with joy and enthusiasm?

Great points regarding TRY + joy/enthusiasm.

I have had two different clinicians remark that my 4yo has "great work ethic". He always tries what I ask. No swishy tail, boredom, or resentment here!

kahjul
Aug. 25, 2009, 06:08 PM
to MBM, the horse in question, even during a full years training and showing at a BNB was still a punk. No soundness issues, but the trainers were constantly on him (and my mom) about his lack of work ethic. My first thought about him when I ride him or watch him go is that he doesn't really like the work, but he LOVES to jump-he just thinks he should be able to do it his way and without all the boring stuff in between. He is also one that won't come to you in a paddock-even a small one. He won't leave, but you have to go get him, that kind of stuff.

DressageGeek "Ribbon Ho"
Aug. 25, 2009, 06:29 PM
I would say mine has a good solid work ethic. When the work is good, you can tell he's content and feels good - I would say happy (I can tell because he's relaxed, but still "up" and punchy). When he is being asked to do something physically hard, or that which he believes he can't do, or will feel pain if he does (because of past issues - not because I ask inappropriately - I always try to set him up for success), he will need encouragement, but then he learns he can do it, and is not so recalcitrant the next time he is asked. When he gets confused he becomes impatient and less tolerant (but then, so do I!). When he understands, and realizes there is a better way, he expects that of me in the future, so he keeps me honest.

In many ways, we mirror each other. A barn mate of mine wants to visit a fellow barn mate who is a working student in Virginia, because the trainer there "kicks your ass." I kick my own ass - probably a holdover from my daily grind. If anything, I have had to learn when not to push - because of illness, exhaustion. I will never ask him to work if I feel there is a physical issue, unless it is something that can be bettered by the appropriate work. And there are days he is just not "in the mood" - heat (I do better in heat, he does better in cold), a day spent fighting off flies. But then, there are days I am not just in the mood either - too many fits and turns at work and I know I can't be sufficiently focused.

Last night was a fabulous night. I brought him in, we did some in hand (we are working on good head to wall leg yields), and when I got on I loosened myself up, and I focused on good connections with the whole horse/whole human, no resistance, flow, relaxation. And when I found myself less able to do so, I ended the session - he was happy, I was happy, he rolled in the indoor arena afterwards, ground in the dirt (which he loves), and after a bit of cleanup off he went to graze outside.

When you try and have work sessions like this, it should feel as good to him afterwards as it does me.

And yes, he always comes. If it's hot, maybe not running. If it's very buggy or raining hard, I have to call down the pasture first. Otherwise he's at the gate before I even get there.

But then, it's not just about the riding. It's the grooming/scritching/peep delivery, water on demand/grazing at the good spots the other horses don't get to.