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  1. #1
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    Feb. 28, 2008
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    Default Horses in draught being touched

    Do you touch a horse on the shoulder or neck first before, say, heading a horse or grabbing a rein, etc? Or let it see you first before touching it on any part of its body?

    My experience is limited to only a few of my own animals, and largely to the one I'm currently driving. My horse was extremely spooky and nervous when I first started driving him, so I encouraged a lot of people to pat him and touch him everywhere on his body. Now, when we're out and about, people routinely come up and pat the cute horsey on the hip or shoulder or neck. He's morphed into a very loveable horse and truly appreciates the attention.

    This has also had a great benefit of making him EXTREMELY solid about being touched by anything anywhere on his body, which comes in very handy given some of the places we go and trails we drive. Ridden horses that are nervous seeing a horse and carriage for the first time can come up to get a better look (and some have gotten away from their riders and snuffed or bumped him, for which he stands like a rock, thank goodness!!), or branches, leaves or acorns can fall on us while in the woods, etc. All manner of things can brush or bonk him and he's completely solid about all of it.

    The only major drawback I have though is that the touch of my whip is not as effective as I would hope some days He's not snappy and responsive, I get more of a 'what? really? .... now?' Though we had a whip issue history to overcome, I realize this must be in large part due to my over-desensitizing him.

    I never gave this much thought until I took a lesson with a pro and her extremely well trained horse. When she asked me to go head the horse, I absent mindedly patted it on the neck as I got to its head... as its what I've done a thousand times with my own. The horse really jumped at being touched. I was shocked and quickly apologized.. and was quickly told don't EVER touch a horse until you get to its line of sight first.

    Her horse was VERY responsive to the whip, which made him a delight to drive (among other reasons of course, simply lovely animal).

    So it got me thinking.... what is correct? Is it a matter of preference? Do owners of competition horses like to keep them sharper to sensations, while pleasure drivers like myself prefer the more tolerable animal?

    I've been wondering about this for a while, looking forward to your thoughts.
    Worry is the biggest enemy of the present. It steals your joy and keeps you very busy doing absolutely nothing at all... it’s like using your imagination to create things you don’t want.



  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb. 16, 2003
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    MI USA
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    I don't think your horse SLOWLY responding, even to whip touches is a desenstizing issue. The problem is you have TRAINED him to FINALLY respond after several requests and MAYBE a whip touch.

    How quickly do you MAKE him do what is asked? Especially if you KNOW he won't do anything the first request!!

    You might want to go read the George Morris Training vs Dressage thread, which deals with this very issue!! He wants his riders wearing spurs, carrying a crop so they are ALWAYS READY to deal with delay issues in response to signals to GO FORWARD. Very different from the way Dressage trainers are telling their students to deal with the MOVE IT issue! I am with George in my way of thinking, NOT going to be asking, legging him on, PUSHING horse to FINALLY get going. I will do what I need to, as others stated, to get horse responding crisply to my first leg signal or voice command in Driving. I felt like cheering for George, YES!, on hearing what he tells folks in his Clinics, using tools from his Classic riding background, to get that prompt, CRISP response from horse on the FIRST REQUEST. Signal gets much more subtle with horse cooperation to rider, appears almost like mind reading by the horse. I see horse LISTENING WELL, paying attention to rider in spite of what happens around him. Folks admire those horses at shows, competitions, but often are unwilling to do what is needed to get that response from him, EVERY SINGLE time they ask.

    http://www.chronofhorse.com/forum/sh...d.php?t=371118

    I would agree with you about a Driving horse needing to be less touchy when hitched, not jumping if surprised while standing or approached. I would speak up to people approaching my horse, ask them to hum or whistle, talk to horse, he can HEAR them if they make some noise. He is not supposed to be swinging his head around to prevent anyone sneaking up on him! I do think our tie stalls at home give us a huge training step forward, for keeping our horses much less spooky if surprised by touches they didn't expect. They get everything coming at them from the rear, both sides, food delivered, hose to fill buckets, brushing, getting removed to go places. They just move over, no kick issues develop or spooking sideways.

    Horses I don't know, I always talk to, even when I THINK they are watching me. Saddle horses have usually had less handling than Driving animals, especially the touching in all skin areas, so they jump more easily. Heck, maybe you had cold hands that day!! Just a safety thing, to protect YOU, with the talking or making noises around any horse so they know you are there. I don't trust ANYONE ELSE'S horse like I do mine, don't treat them the same at all.



  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug. 15, 2003
    Location
    Michigan
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    571

    Default

    When i was a groom for an ASB show barn and hitching 10+ horses per day, a lot of them very green, it was deeply ingrained that you ALWAYS make sure that the horse knows where you are. If you have had your hands off them for any period of time at all, speak (quietly) as you move around the horse, and don't touch the horse again until you go to the front where the horse can see you, then go ahead and touch/adjust away.



  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan. 4, 2009
    Posts
    586

    Default

    I always say something to my horse before touching him when he is hitched, and I ask other people to do the same. He's not especially jumpy, but why risk startling him?

    I do expect him to accept a touch even when it's out of his line of sight. I can't recall him ever needing to see who is approaching as long as they speak to him.

    Rebecca



  5. #5
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    Jan. 11, 2008
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    Windsor SC till Aug
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    I know a few big wig driving trainers that will lean forward and pat their horse on the rump for a job well done... Which blows away the theory that you shouldnt touch a horse that cant see you... And i can tell you those horses are plenty responsive.

    So i agree with the above, he's been allowed to get away with not doing it the first time you ask. And it might be hard to overcome, as you dealt with whip issues in the past. If you really ASK and give a pop the instant he slugs along instead of GO, you might get more than you really want out of it... lol But you might need that a few times before he gets it. They KNOW the difference between a hand touching them and the whip.

    My pony MUST stand still at someone touching her, as i have a kid that drives with me who jumps off the cart first and goes and gives her a hug and says thanks for the drive... I also pat her on the butt after i get off before i unhitch.

    However, she is VERY forward and VERY responsive. More so than i like. LOL. My mini had to be the same, fine with touching, but GO when i ask. So i think it's just a different aproach in your training. Slugging along when you ask for more is no longer alowed, and hold on if you go about making an ordeal out of it. But a few times and he'll get it! Just be prepared for that forward!
    Your Horse's Home On The Road!
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  6. #6
    Join Date
    Nov. 1, 2007
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    ....in a classroom in Fl, by the ocean
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    sometimes if you use the whip to much to, for lack of a better work, nag your horse/pony they start to ignore it. I happen to know a very 'loud' whip user, constantly touching with the whip, now all the horses are 'dead' to it and she has to hit the ground and tree branches with the whip to make noises for the horses to go forward.



    Horses are smart, they know the difference between being touched with a hand while standing still and being asked to do something with a whip while on the move.



    And it does not matter what I touch first; shoulder/neck, or rump, I ALWAYS use my first first to let them know where I am.



  7. #7
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    Feb. 28, 2008
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    You guys are the best!

    You honed in on a question I wasn't really asking - my own horse's response to the whip, I was using it as an example - but I'm really glad you did as it forced me to reexamine things which is always healthy.

    Primarily I wanted to know if pro drivers like their horses flinchy in general, or if its a really individual thing. When I was a barrel racer there were certain top riders that liked their horses 'snorty', I was wondering if the flinchy thing was kinda the same.

    I've learned from all of you its highly individual, which is great, and that its courtesy to talk to an unfamiliar horse or let them see you before touching them, thank you. Its nice to know I haven't made my horse 'dead to sensations' Hey, I drive alone and have few people to chat up on driving... some times ya wonder about stuff like this.

    I too will bend down and pat my boy's bum for a job well done, glad I'm not alone

    To the issue of my own horse, he had a very bad history, and wasn't exactly 'ideal driving horse material' when we started out. He was so deeply terrified of whips that he was aggressive to them and would kick viciously. In harness he would buck a blue streak. Acceptance of the whip was something I pretty much hoped would come in time along with acceptance of driving on a whole, so I got him 'ok' about the whip's presence and left it at that until I found out if he really was going to become a safe individual or not. Thankfully he came around to driving really well, and I'm bursting with pride with how lovely he's become.

    I have incorporated the use of the whip over time (getting a well balanced one really helped, thank you all for your help there!), and I would say on a whole I don't use it much.

    Laterally, he's slowly becoming great. I can do this rolly flick thing where the riders leg would be to keep him from bulging. And he's calm and accepting of the whip in general. If we're facing a monster spook I can stroke him with the whip as a reassurance and he responds to that. He also likes I can flick horse flies off him But using the whip as a back up to my instruction to move out still brings up the need for self preservation. I actually have much more success with striking the ground, or cracking the lash because he doesn't feel the need to fight back against anything.

    Aside from a really spooky situation like passing a stampeding herd of deer, etc. If he attempts to freeze I can and will strike him to keep him moving forward and we get no overreactions then.

    Its not so much a matter of me not being quick or assertive enough. I am fully on board with Ask. TELL. NOW! The problem is that I have allowed him to get away with it because he's got me trained to his overreaction response... and I'm not quite sure how to combat it. (actually, I do wonder if a CTJ is in order, I'm just not sure I want to go there or not).

    So I've more or less been avoiding facing this. Its been so long since we've had an outburst of any kind, he's been such a reliably good boy for so long, there is a part of me that just wants to enjoy things the way they are. I like feeling like that chapter in our lives is closed and ancient history behind us, and its soooooo nice having a reliable happy driving partner finally.

    Its not like he's a horrible nappy beast either, he responds, it just sometimes (50% of the time) takes 3 or 4 steps, which is too long. I'd like a faster reaction time... more ferrari than ford
    Last edited by buck22; Oct. 21, 2012 at 10:08 PM.
    Worry is the biggest enemy of the present. It steals your joy and keeps you very busy doing absolutely nothing at all... it’s like using your imagination to create things you don’t want.



  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb. 16, 2003
    Location
    MI USA
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    You could do some work on the LONG LINES, not ground driving. Practice getting a more prompt response, if whacking the ground works for him, go for it. But some way he NEEDS to speed up the response. You can "try" touching him harder on while he is out on the lines, without worrying about him kicking and hurting anything or himself. You will need a lash long enough to reach and touch him, while out there on the lines.

    You know his method of responding best. Some of it is your fault, maybe someone could come video you driving him, so you can view it. Count how many times and ways you ask for gait change, etc., before you step up the request with LOUDER, whip whacks on the ground, more command words. How many of these before he does respond? Does he respond at that same count of requests, certain number of whip snaps, consistantly? You may just need to shorten the count, with reinforcement sooner.

    I have taught a LOT of dog obedience over the years, and people DO train the dog to respond on the 2nd-3rd time instead of the first request, because there is no follow-up with the FIRST command. Person never MAKES the dog lay down with the first command, never walks away and snaps the leash to get dog moving on that HEEL command. Person WAITS to fix things, yet keeps giving commands. Dog EXPECTS to hear his name twice, leash lifts and then on the THIRD WORD, that is his trained response to work.

    Same thing happens with the horses. Coaxing works with green, new trainee, those who don't understand what is asked well, but should not be done with the experienced horse. Consider this just another training step, something like "Sharpen Response" as a chapter in his learning. The kicking thing sounds bad, so you wanting to avoid it is understandable. Thus my suggestion to try starting to get better response out on the long lines instead of a vehicle. You are out of his way, he isn't going to hurt you, but you can "push a bit" with whip touches to give your first command some enforcement. You still have good body control with the long lines.



  9. #9
    Join Date
    Feb. 28, 2008
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    You know, working this out on long lines is a really great idea. It might present an opportunity to finally just work this out of his system without all the drama that comes with being hitched.

    You are 100% right, I've allowed myself to be trained and let him get away with this. In the beginning I was eager to find a middle ground so we could just earn some miles together and see how driving works out. Now that he's become an awfully nice horse, I've been afraid to hash up old bad habits, and just let him slide.

    Training for a sharper response is an excellent way to think of this. Thank you!!!
    Worry is the biggest enemy of the present. It steals your joy and keeps you very busy doing absolutely nothing at all... it’s like using your imagination to create things you don’t want.



  10. #10
    Join Date
    May. 4, 2006
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    Seabeck - the soggy peninsula
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    Quote Originally Posted by buck22 View Post
    Do you touch a horse on the shoulder or neck first before, say, heading a horse or grabbing a rein, etc? Or let it see you first before touching it on any part of its body?

    My experience is limited to only a few of my own animals, and largely to the one I'm currently driving. My horse was extremely spooky and nervous when I first started driving him, so I encouraged a lot of people to pat him and touch him everywhere on his body. Now, when we're out and about, people routinely come up and pat the cute horsey on the hip or shoulder or neck. He's morphed into a very loveable horse and truly appreciates the attention.

    This has also had a great benefit of making him EXTREMELY solid about being touched by anything anywhere on his body, which comes in very handy given some of the places we go and trails we drive. Ridden horses that are nervous seeing a horse and carriage for the first time can come up to get a better look (and some have gotten away from their riders and snuffed or bumped him, for which he stands like a rock, thank goodness!!), or branches, leaves or acorns can fall on us while in the woods, etc. All manner of things can brush or bonk him and he's completely solid about all of it.

    The only major drawback I have though is that the touch of my whip is not as effective as I would hope some days He's not snappy and responsive, I get more of a 'what? really? .... now?' Though we had a whip issue history to overcome, I realize this must be in large part due to my over-desensitizing him.

    I never gave this much thought until I took a lesson with a pro and her extremely well trained horse. When she asked me to go head the horse, I absent mindedly patted it on the neck as I got to its head... as its what I've done a thousand times with my own. The horse really jumped at being touched. I was shocked and quickly apologized.. and was quickly told don't EVER touch a horse until you get to its line of sight first.

    Her horse was VERY responsive to the whip, which made him a delight to drive (among other reasons of course, simply lovely animal).

    So it got me thinking.... what is correct? Is it a matter of preference? Do owners of competition horses like to keep them sharper to sensations, while pleasure drivers like myself prefer the more tolerable animal?

    I've been wondering about this for a while, looking forward to your thoughts.
    I would far prefer a carriage horse like yours to one that is so sensitive to touch that it jumps when touched. Some people are so overbent on competition and onlyl handling their own animal, that any change in that routine can really rattle the horse. A carriage wreck is about the worst wreck you can imagine, so really, what do you want out of your horse and how much do you value safety over "competitive" edge?
    "When written in Chinese, the word "crisis" is composed of two characters, one represents danger, the other represents opportunity."

    John F Kennedy



  11. #11
    Join Date
    Mar. 7, 2011
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    383

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    Quote Originally Posted by butlerfamilyzoo View Post
    I know a few big wig driving trainers that will lean forward and pat their horse on the rump for a job well done...

    I do this all the time (well, frequently, anyway). I do it with every horse I drive. With Chewbacca, I have to stand up in the cart to reach. I guess I just figured since he feels the lines over his rump, the whip on his croup, and the crupper, too, it's not like my hand is going to make any difference. I'm usually talking to him,too - saying good boy or something. My hackney pony doesn't care either. The little mini gets a little jumpy when I touch him with the whip, but when I reach (a much easier reach! lol!) to pet his rump, he is fine with that.



  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jan. 25, 2010
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    As far as headers, I am a firm believer in headers NOT actually touching my horses! My horses are trained to stand still while being hitched. I can hitch the pair by myself with no problem. Never a problem...except when I am in a show environment and need to adhere to the rule to have a header. If I am in the unfortunate situation where someone from my group can't help and I need to ask for help from others, they invariably run up and grab them by the lines and freak them out. So, for anyone heading horses they don't really know, I suggest asking the driver what they expect. I just need someone to stand a few feet in front of them. But I have also been asked to head horses for others...and was expected to hang on the lines and hold the horse on the ground like an anchor.



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