For the last 24 hours, I have been in a friendly/snarky discussion with a guy who sells one of those magical horse training programs where he promises you can be your horse's best friend and your horse will dance around you at liberty with love shining from his eyes.
When I asked for details, he got snarky. When he asked for $1000 without providing any details, I got snarky.
So clearly he and I are not going to be working together. And there's no point in my pointing you to his website. You can just imagine. Picture something like Nevzorov (though it wasn't him).
ETA: Yes, he did provide some interesting YouTube videos. Yes, a couple of students on his forum leapt to his defense and swore he saved their horses' life. (My horse's life is not in danger, nor is mine.)
But I **DO** want the magic. I'm even willing to put the work (and money) into it. I do want my horse to run in circles around me at liberty. (But only on command! I don't want anything out of control! And I do want to be able to ride, to tie my horse up, to put him in a horse trailer whether he feels like it or not. Apparently those sorts of things are no-nos to some of the magical camps.)
I'm not gifted. I'm not magical. I don't communicate with my horse's soul. Horses are a practical endeavor to me, not a spiritual one. (To me "spiritual" means loving your neighbor as yourself and other things one learns at church.)
Is there any hope for those of us who are practical by nature but do wish for a little magic?
I had the magic, a long time ago, with a horse I'd had for 18 years, but it was a long time coming. Lots of lessons, lots of trail miles...but by the end he could read my mind. I don't think you can buy the magic. But you can earn it.
Buy a bag of treats. My horse did his at liberty walk trot dressage test with my then 9 year old daughter running along next to him because he knew treats would be involved sooner or later. (My attempt at legitimizing a likely train wreck attempt!)
The way I see it, magic is where you find it in the normal going-ons in our daily life and at special times.
The rest of our lives, is hard work and with horses, ongoing training, reinforcing what we want to do with and to them and getting better at it ourselves over time and with each horse differently as they are different.
Yesterday, as my horse came to eat, he paused by his food I just put out and said hi for a bit and then ate.
That is a magic moment to me, when my horse acknowledges me for more than a food dispenser.
I think you make your own magic, there is no one that can sell that to you.
Find you a good, honest, caring horseman of any stripe and learn from them, not from a pre-package plan someone has advertised for sale.
More important, whoever is that one good teacher/mentor for you may not be the same that was for someone else.
You have to find your own way to horse magic.
Spend some time with people who are working with horses for a living, and have been for a long time. Some one whose methods and results you admire.
Training a horse takes a reasonable attitude, knowing what to expect from the horse as a horse. He is not a mentally disadvantaged individual, he is not a large dog. ( I personally find them more akin to cats). He is a horse. Unlike felines he is a herd animal. There is no magic. It is slow steady patient discipline for you and for him.
Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.
IMO the magic comes from spending miles in the saddle. There are no magical shortcuts.
I have the magic, but it's a result of eight years of spending time almost daily with Jet....not just riding, but just sitting with her while she grazes, taking her with me to get the mail (on a lead or bareback), using her to haul trees around our property, climbing on and off regularly, leading her along if I am riding a bike or a four-wheeler. We are so connected, I'm often unaware that I have asked her to do something until after it is already done. We have verbal cues for tons of stuff (Squash meaning - no, you can't eat the grass, it's too wet and you'll leave hoof prints). There's hardly a situation we haven't been in, and she is my perfect match. That said, there's still the occasional day where she won't do something I want her to do. At this point, I feel like she has earned an opinion if it's a non-emergency, and I'll humor her if it is feasible. She also humors me and does silly stuff well, just because I ask her to do it. I don't think any of it is training, per se. It's time and attention.
I don't think you can buy the magic. But you can earn it.
I think that's well put.
But Cindyg, it doesn't sound like you want magic. You want a horse that's obedient and attuned to you. In other words, you want a well-trained horse! Attaining that isn't magic- that's behavioral training, and all that takes is knowledge and time. The result feels magical, but it's no more than what you're probably doing already.
I've never thought of phrasing it that way, but you might call what I have with my horse "the magic." I call it "a good relationship." I've had him for 7 years and we're both very tuned in to each other. I've never tried running him in circles to see if love shines out of his eyes, but he's tuned in to what I'm doing and what I'm saying (verbally and non-verbally) the same way I'm tuned in to him to get a sense of what's going on in his brain.
"I'm not always sarcastic. Sometimes I'm asleep."
- Harry Dresden
I cant say I have had it with any horse like some people have but Dobbin was close, Ive had many horses since Dobbin (not by choice) I can say it takes about a year before you are ready to see if you will gel IME. Its like a bunch of first dates for 12 months then you start to learn the horse & the horse learns about you & then you can see if this one is the one for you, does that make sense?
The horse I have now is on month 9, we are much closer than when I bought him. I dont think he will be the horse I bond with forever, maybe I never can after loosing Dobbin but we can get closer. Learn your horse, like katyb said time & attention. CA or PP or whoever may give you tips but they aint shortcuts, it still takes time, like marriage or raising a kid or taming a wild horse.
"When you don't know what you're doing it's best to do it quickly" - Jase
And I don't mean "this takes years." But it does require a lot of time spent with the horse. Not near the horse. Not doing barn chores. Not when you take a lesson. Not holding for the farrier. Not just grooming it.
It takes lots of time just hanging out with your horse, paying attention to the horse and not gabbing with other people. Take it for walks like a dog. Hang out in turnout with it, not just when it's stuffing it's face. Teach it some basic tricks from the ground for fun. Spend time on the horse, but not just schooling. Hop up there bareback and tool around.
The magic only requires time: Face to Face time and Butt to Back time.
You jump in the saddle,
Hold onto the bridle!
Jump in the line!
OP, what you describe in the first post isnt, IMO, magic. Its tapping into how horses naturally communicate and it can be very helpful IME in understanding what makes horses do the things they do. It is worth studying as an intellectual exercise and to give you extra information. But you dont need to pay someone to teach you that, you can do it on your own.
Magic is, IMO, when your horse wants to be with you. It is part a result of time spent and equally, energy spent and directed. Of looking at who your horse really is, what he really likes and dislikes, not who you want him to be.
I had this wierd epiphany the other day. I got a new horse in and I realized that getting to know a new horse is so much more interesting and exciting than dating *ever* was. Observing their choices, preferences, habits, way of being, energy.. Its all so fulfilling. I think if you try to see it that way, you may find the magic along the way.
"Kindness is free" ~ Eurofoal
--- The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances.
Thanks guys. Lots of good food for thought. One of the things I love about COTH is that we are a practical group of people (for the most part).
By EqTrainer's definition, I guess I already have the magic because my horse definitely -- definitely! -- wants to be with me. He will follow me all over the pasture. He'll leave the round bale to be with me. He will stand beside me all day. He will drive the poor little donkey away from me. So perhaps we're on our way.
I've only had him 2.5 months, so JohnDeere's calculation, we've only just begun.
Nothing beyond what was already said. Time, hours, consistency. I have one dressage horse, and two eventers and run a boarding stable. My personal horses work and work hard. They meet me at the gate and do not run from me in the pasture. One I sold and three years later, I bought him back. He runs to me - and he also works hard. I have borders whose horses have no interaction with me beyond the fact that I act as their servant. I have to chase them in to grain them at night. There is no magical formula - its the credo of the Prussian cavalry (assuming my parents did not lie to me) first, your horse, second your tack, last -yourself. Its like any true discipline - there are no short cuts and magic can not be bought nor trademarked. Best wishes and thank you for reminding me not to take my boys for granted.
So much of what you call "magic" is simply *observing* the horse and figuring out how it wants to be trained and what it needs from what you observe.
I used to be the kind of rider who spent 6-10 hours a day running from barn to barn, catch-riding anything & everything. The horse that taught me to be a TRAINER? The opinionated, dead@$$ lame OTTB that I couldn't even put a leg over for the first 5 years I had him. Why? Because he taught me to LEARN how horses THINK, what they LIKE, and what they NEED. And yes, by the time I'd had him a few more years, he could and did do the liberty thing - all 3 gaits both directions, whoa, back up, reverse, all on voice command.
Start here: put horsey in a halter on a lunge line. Take him for a hand-walk/hand graze, someplace interesting or challenging to the horse. Do not have ANY agenda, except to wander, and watch how your horse reacts to things. Try to observe, for example, the *degree* of fear when he spooks at something. Is he fixing to get the heck out of Dodge no matter what or who is in his way? Or will he settle with a reassuring word? Or something in between? When he stops and looks at something, try to figure out what he sees. When he stops to nibble something, try to figure out why THAT thing instead of the better-looking thing over THERE.
I promise you, the more time you spend doing this, the closer you'll get to the "magic".
"Adding Idle Dice to a jumping string," remarked USET Coach Bert DeNemethy, "is like adding Secretariat to a racing stable."
I get the magic of my horse talking to me every day. When I call his name from the house, I can hear him nicker back at me. Every time I walk through the gate he's talking to me. I always tell him that he tells the funniest jokes and then I kiss him on each side of his nose.
I understand wanting more - I'd say we all do - it is what keeps us coming back, searching for more, trying harder, working through all sorts of setbacks. It is a never-ending journey and I enjoy it every day.
2-1/2 months & you want Majik N.O.W.?
Ain't gonna happen.
I've spent almost 3 years making over a pony who ran from people like a feral thing when I first got him into an obedient guy who will go into his stall, unhaltered, from pasture with free acess, when I tell him to "Get in your house".
And once in there, with the door to Freedom wide open, he'll stay and let me drape myself over his 12h plumpness like a couch.
I gave him all the time he needed to figure out I wasn't going to ask him to do anything scary or force (As If!) him into complying.
He is by no means 100% compliant 100% of the time, but he is certainly a different animal than he was at first.
Like others have said: take your time, get to know your horse and respect that he has feelings & opinions too.
Once you have his trust it will be much easier to get him to do the Majik things.
*friend of bar.ka*RIP all my lovely boys, gone too soon: Steppin' Out 1988-2004 Hey Vern! 1982-2009 Cash's Bay Threat 1994-2009
I have "magic" with both my boys. But it wasn't bought, it wasn't earned in weeks or months. It wasn't achieved by any fancy training or weird special communication/training. It happened when I got my horses to trust me, when I realized they would happily walk through fire for me.
I've had my QH for over 6 years. In that time I've logged thousands of trail and ring miles. We've done 3 ft hunters, barrel raced, evented, and everything in between. Now we're moving onto endurance. That "magic" you want came when I realized that I could drop my reins in any tricky situation and my horse would use his brain to get me out of it. We've navigated through rocky rivers, hock deep mud, narrow passings, etc etc, and I know I can trust him 100% to get me there. That is the magic to me, complete, total, 100% trust and communication with an animal. So yes I can join up with him, lunge him around me at liberty, ask him to follow me into my house (er, only did that once ) but I don't consider it magic. Magic is when I turned my horse out in a lush field of grass and walked off to try to find a missing halter. Magic is when instead of grazing he walked right along beside me, the entire time. I think I was 15 when that happened, it was the most beautiful moment of my entire life. My relationship with this horse is the closed to magic that I've ever gotten, because honestly I can't explain it. I got him when I was 13, when I knew nothing about real training or horsemanship, yet I still managed to end up with a horse I ride bareback and bridleless. I guess it is just the time we've spent together.
My TB is a different story, I've only had him for just over 2 years. The bond we achieved was quick and strong, after working and honestly fighting with him for months. He was a nut when I brought him home, broke x-ties, bolted out of the trailer, jumped out of a field, herd bound, scared, dangerous. It took months for me to get him out of that mindset, to get him to calm down. It didn't happen by riding though, or even a ton of free lungeing. It came by grooming him. Hours and hours of grooming, alone, no other horses or people. I think the first time I realized I had "it" is when I led him into the barn and he squeezed through 2 doors, sides brushing each side, and he didn't bat an eye. This horse previously refused to walk in his stall sometimes because he didn't want to accidentally bump a side on it (I guess it was a starting gate issue). He will follow me around like a puppy dog, I never need a halter or rope to get him to do what I want. Free lungeing him is an absolute joy because he is constantly so eager to play and please. But it wasn't over night. It was gradual, so much so that I didn't even realize.
My point is that magic isn't really magic IMO, its trust. So you have to earn it over months and years of time. No trainer is going to help you get the magic, because it isn't taught like that. It's taught by watching, listening, observing, communicating, waiting, anticipating, and trusting. You need to ride, and hand graze, and groom all those winter woolies out. I don't do anything special, I'm not special, or talented IMO. But I have patience, and I listen, and as a result I have horses that would walk through fire (or into the horse trailer!) without issue. I will say that I haven't gotten past my TB's issue with tying, but honestly, I haven't tried. He now ground ties like a champ so I don't really have a need for it. He's also 21 w/ a hear murmur, so I try to reduce stress whenever possible haha.