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Teach me about The Morgan Mind (Long)

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  • #21
    Originally posted by quietann View Post
    They certainly aren't for everyone.

    -- smart. WICKED smart. And not always in ways you will appreciate
    -- want a LOT of attention... they tend to have BIG personalities. And they will bond with you very strongly, given the chance.
    -- a dominant one will challenge you, and challenge you, and challenge you. If you stay very clear about your expectations, they'll ... do it less often, and with less intensity. In the case of my mare and the one I leased, I really think it has more to do with self-preservation than "naughtiness."
    -- very food motivated. Very, very food motivated. Use this to your advantage... very carefully.
    -- most I've found want to be a bit more in your personal space than a lot of horses... not in a threatening way, usually.


    Morgans are... special. In good and bad ways.
    Echo a lot of what was said here and especially this. When I describe my boy I generally refer to his brain as a little more pony than horse and a touch of mule for good measure

    Re the challenging thing, imhe I have found that it is a self preservation measure taken by smart horses who have had humans loose their patience with them in the past. (Which is easy sometimes to do because some personalities require a lot of patience. A lot.) The ones I have known that tend to challenge their handlers appear to do so deliberately to see at what point the human will blow up... and what the human will do (to them). Its as if they want to know where the line in the sand is, and they will push you until you show them. Its an incredibly clever, proactive, self-preservation move. Which can easily turn into an incredibly frustrating game with a handler who's buttons are easily pushed.

    My morgan was very troubled when I got him and really needed a strong leader to make him feel safe. Firm yet fair. My morgan has a very strong sense of fairness and, quite frankly, etiquette. To this day we have to lock horns at least twice a year, he wants to know if I've gone soft on him. But the rest of the time he's incredibly willing and generous... mostly.

    I've also found that the typical 'escalation of aids' way of getting one's point across can be viewed as an attack by clever sensitive horses, so my Morgan has trained me to take a Gandhi approach. When teaching my horse something I first apply the low key aid I wish for him to ultimately become responsive to, and when no response I pick a more escalated but still moderate level of asking and I keep the volume there until I get the response I want. I don't escalate as in ask. TELL. NOW! because I find that invites a battle royale. Instead I: ask. TELL. TELL. TELL. TELL. TELL. (have a cup of coffee) TELL. TELL. TELL. TELL. until I get the desired response. Then its a huge verbal reward and a tidbit (definitely food motivated, and easily trained to be mannerly about it to).

    If you do the tidbit route, find a treat that is small in size. They do not require much, and the ones I've known are such easy keepers that gobs of hand outs can actually have an effect on them.

    Treats seem especially valuable with my Morgan because it seems to be concrete evidence that he did something correctly.

    Oh, and on a side note: it doesn't take long to teach them something - for better or for worse - and once they've got it, its set in stone, it'll be there forever

    I was once attempting to free longe my Morgan over barrels. Not realizing I had intended him to jump over it, he ran up to it, stopped, hooked his front leg over the barrel and politely slid it to the side, jumped over the ground pole that remained and said "Ta da!". I was on my knees in the dirt belly laughing. I believe horses recognize laughter, my Morgan even more so, so to this day he believes his job is to move barrels when they are in his path It took me a long time to convince him to go *over* them please.

    The really cool thing is when you develop a good working relationship - where they know what they can expect of you, and they can rely on you to be consistent and fair - they are the NEATEST horses. They will just keep giving and giving and giving and wanting to do more and more and more for you. Their desire to please can be bottomless.

    The key is getting that good mojo happening though, and that can take some time.

    It took me a long time to connect with my Morgan. When I got him I had just come off fixing up a series of troubled but fairy easy horses. I was feeling cocky and went looking for a real 'bad ass' for my next project. He humbled me right quick and it wasn't until I changed my perspective from "how do I make him do this" to "how can we connect and work as a team" that I had any measurable success with him. It took *me* a long time to get over myself. Now, six years later, we have such a nice relationship I can teach him just about anything in 20minues or less... he's my little vunder-boy.

    The part thats hard to put into words is how my horse has improved me as a person. The journey I took learning how to get along with him has taught me so much about myself.

    Find your inner Gandhi and remember when you get frustrated with him, he was frustrated with you first.

    Also, consider dabbling in the concept of clicker training (no need to actually have a clicker, its the concept and timing that counts). Being a breed that tends to be so incredibly motivated by praise, learning new things and tidbits, the concept of clicker training is right up their alley and can launch pad you to the status of "oh boy, she's here! We get to play that game again!"

    Good luck!
    Being terrible at something is the first step to being truly great at it. Struggle is the evidence of progress.

    Comment


    • #22
      I owned Morgans when I was a teenager. My gelding was wicked smart, and really did his best to make me look good. He did flying changes with ease, jumped a course getting his distances with me just along for the ride. I of course thought I was the brilliant young horse trainer. It wasn't until several dismal attempts at me trying to train other horses that I realized my Morgan was the brains of the operation. He just needed a rider to enter him in shows so he could show off. Other than that, I was truly optional in his book.
      One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well. - Virginia Woolf

      Comment


      • #23
        Buck22, thank you! That was a great description.

        I didn't realize it until I read your post, but I do the same thing while working my mare through her barnsourness. I don't escalate. I just calmly half-halt her when she speeds up and if she pushes through, then I turn her around and walk her away again. We go back around towards home when she settles and on, and on... I don't have any anger or loss of temper. God bless my first sensitive horse for teaching me that! I guess that's why I'm getting along with my Morgan. She is progressing well.
        “Pray, hope, and don't worry.”

        St. Padre Pio

        Comment


        • #24
          My morgan is also one of those who "studies his notes" between sessions. He's a total green bean, but often ends up leading the way on trail rides because once he navigates an obstacle once he's got it down. He is so fun to work with because he is such a quick study as far as arena work goes that I find that I have to keep coming up with new exercises for him to do or he is likely to come up with exercises of his own!

          I referred to having a CTJ meeting with him in an earlier post - I should have clarified that the meeting consisted of one good crack across the chest with a jumping bat after politely asking him to stop rubbing his (still bridled) head on my shoulder. And the fact that I even had to resort to one good smack was my fault - like others have mentioned, he does like to stand/be quite close to me and I was not making it clear enough for him that standing close and requesting a face scratch is permissible but using the human as a scratching post is not.

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          • #25
            Oh Morgans. I have always loved them and have ridden many. They were hardy, smart, engaging, fun and forward.

            Last year I went to a reputable breeder. I went looking for a broke gelding and came home with an unbroken 4 year old mare. I was told she'd been trained to drive, and had a lot of handling. Once I got her home I realized she'd not done much more than chill in a VERY large pasture with a herd of other young horses. She didn't take to boarding barn life, and limited turnout. She was not naturally forward thinking, and she had an interesting work ethic... mainly, she worked hard at getting out of work. She also had a wicked buck. I sent her to a very reputable trainer for 60 days who wouldn't even get on her.

            I ended up giving her away to a friend of a friend who was a Morgan/Arab person and who was a pro, with full disclosure. She turned her back out 24/7, and hen ponied her for *months.* Then she started trail riding her. Apparently the mare never did take to ring work and would buck, but was a superstar trail horse and she is now doing that full-time. I did find out after the fact that her full sister also had a wicked buck under saddle, and had broken her owner's back. For whatever reason, that bloodline must be quirky.... to be fair, they were driving horses, maybe it was dumb of myself and the other horse's owner to take a square peg and jam it in a round hole.

            I dunno, after having QHs as a kid and then TBs the last 10 years, the Morgan brain was entirely different. I still think they are neat horses but alas I will not tangle with another young, unbroke, barely handled one. I kind of like track horses, particularly the ones that raced awhile, that come with a work ethic built in....

            I did however find that Morgan people are AMAZINGLY nice, kind, supportive and proud of their breed! So many people reached out to me to assist me in re-homing her, and I was really thankful for that.
            We couldn't all be cowboys, so some of us are clowns.

            Comment


            • #26
              If they are anything like their Saddlebred cousins, which I have seen in most of the posts here. A dominant gelding will mess with you until day he dies. They bring great pleasure to themselves by messin' with your head and anything else they can get their lips on. Don't ever leave anything you care about unattended within reach.

              Many people think that trait is annoying or even unintelligent. Believe me these type of horses learn more stuff inadvertently. Once, is all it takes for most things UNLESS they are bored, then they put on the dumb face and just go through the motions or...not. I am so very careful. They can be annoying but as my mother once said, "You must be smarter than your animals." I prefer smart and opinionated, they challenge me. That personality can make a great trick horse.

              The best and worst thing about them is their intelligence. Good luck to you.

              Comment


              • #27
                My guys don't have a 'make me' attitude either. Not sure I could make them if they did - they'd just shut down and that doesn't get anyone anywhere. It's taken time to figure out their training personalities, but once you do you can pretty much ask anything of them and they'll try.

                And they will not be bullied. I had my guys boarded with a gal who like to push the horses around (don't ask me why). And I know she hated them for the reason that they wouldn't be bullied. Even the yearling. And he had her number from day 1. We didn't stay there very long.

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                • #28
                  All of our Morgans are potty trained.... poop in the compose pile in the pastures, in the proper corner of the stalls and pee on the back edge, not center of the stalls

                  Do not have a clue where they picked that up from other than the lead mare would not put up with much none sense and would give them an evil eye if they didn't do as she asked.

                  Comment


                  • #29
                    Originally posted by mvp View Post
                    I did discover the hard way that this one likes treats and that I hadn't thought enough about how/when to dispense those. IMO, he needs to earn them, or he will spend his time trying to extort the ones given at random times.

                    I really like him as a 4-legged student.
                    Ooooooh, just read this. My morgan is incredibly adorable and very polite so I made the mistake of giving him treats 'just because'. Huge. Mistake.

                    I discovered random acts of kindness completely confuddles mine, which leads to him becoming VERY frustrated not knowing WHY he's getting these treats. This quickly turns into a slippery slope of him being randomly pissy with me, me launching back thinking he's just being a jerk, and us getting pissy with each other. All the while, he just needed to know "what am I doing to earn this so I may cataloge this new treat button in my VAST MEMORY, and repeat the action OVER AND OVER AND OVER until I'm satisfied your pockets are COMPLETELY EMPTY".

                    While not always necessary to *earn* the treat, if you are going to give one be very very consistent about it, ie 'every time I see you, hi here's a treat'.

                    Little things like this really get under my horse's skin and he doesn't let it go. And its simple crap like this that would have me leaving the barn saying "He's such a JERK today" when it was me that was the problem.

                    Just being consistent in my actions leads to a very happy, centered, peaceful horse. Being so smart and so sensitive and so... conscious of others actions, its easy to see why they get a bad rap of being stubborn or crazy. You just don't expect this level of thought process in an animal sometimes.
                    Being terrible at something is the first step to being truly great at it. Struggle is the evidence of progress.

                    Comment


                    • #30
                      Originally posted by buck22 View Post
                      Ooooooh, just read this. My morgan is incredibly adorable and very polite so I made the mistake of giving him treats 'just because'. Huge. Mistake.

                      I discovered random acts of kindness completely confuddles mine, which leads to him becoming VERY frustrated not knowing WHY he's getting these treats. This quickly turns into a slippery slope of him being randomly pissy with me, me launching back thinking he's just being a jerk, and us getting pissy with each other. All the while, he just needed to know "what am I doing to earn this so I may cataloge this new treat button in my VAST MEMORY, and repeat the action OVER AND OVER AND OVER until I'm satisfied your pockets are COMPLETELY EMPTY".

                      While not always necessary to *earn* the treat, if you are going to give one be very very consistent about it, ie 'every time I see you, hi here's a treat'.

                      Little things like this really get under my horse's skin and he doesn't let it go. And its simple crap like this that would have me leaving the barn saying "He's such a JERK today" when it was me that was the problem.

                      Just being consistent in my actions leads to a very happy, centered, peaceful horse. Being so smart and so sensitive and so... conscious of others actions, its easy to see why they get a bad rap of being stubborn or crazy. You just don't expect this level of thought process in an animal sometimes.
                      QFT! (quoted for truth)

                      Isn't it remarkable? My QH friends don't think so. So it's refreshing to hear someone value the trait. I love it and look for it in a horse. But I'm crazy so....

                      Comment


                      • #31
                        Originally posted by clanter View Post
                        All of our Morgans are potty trained.... poop in the compose pile in the pastures, in the proper corner of the stalls and pee on the back edge, not center of the stalls.
                        Mine is like that. She spent the first 9 1/2 years of her life outside in a herd, but when I got her she had to transition to standard boarding environment (stall plus some number of hours of turnout each day -- anywhere from 3 to 12, and at least 5 is the least I'm comfortable with for her.) While the adjustment was very hard on her as she is very herd-oriented, she was clean in her stall from day 1. Has one wall she poops along, pees in the middle of the back wall, that's it. At the current barn, the barn workers say they can tell when there's been a coyote or something outside at night, because that's the *only* time her stall is really messy in the morning.
                        You have to have experiences to gain experience.

                        1998 Morgan mare Mythic Feronia "More Valley Girl Than Girl Scout!"

                        Comment

                        • Original Poster

                          #32
                          Originally posted by Gloria View Post
                          If you misinterpret all those questions as "make me do it," you miss a lot of fun teaching a lot of fantastic things to them. On the other hand, if you can show them what you want, the pride they literally show in their gaits and poses for a job well done is hard to miss.
                          I don't think this horse is the "Make me do it... I dare you (or I'm not interested one way or the other)" type. To the extent he needs a work ethic installed, I think that has to do with being 11 cotton pickin' years old and not having joined the Marine Corps yet.

                          Fortunately, I have a big personality, so if he says "Do I really have to do it? Show me your credentials," I can show him a wallet full of 'em.

                          And I give this horse a ton of credit. He learned how to long-line in about 10 minutes and never got tangled or stupid. His first response after I hooked up the lines and stepped behind him was to paw--- like he was just going to roll out of this tack and rope that was trapping him.
                          The armchair saddler
                          Politically Pro-Cat

                          Comment


                          • #33
                            Morgans are very smart...cagey. And yes! they do study their notes at night. I'm always amazed at the next work session how much the youngster understands.

                            My big thing with Morgans is that to be successful, you have to find out how they learn and how they like to be taught. I have one now that I've trained since he was 2 and unhandled. He tries his best to understand and when he *guesses* wrong, he wants a calm do over. AND he wants to be told when he guesses right. He's very keen on positive reinforcement. When I was teaching him to lunge and voice commands and he got it right, I'd stop the lesson and walk to him to give him sugar cubes and scratch between his ears...his fav scritchy spot. This was the horse that previously would lunge just so long and then stop, face me and rear straight up. Battling with him made the game much more interesting so instead, I stopped and let him pull on the lunge line. I held my end tight. When he gave, even just a step, it was GOOD BOY GOOD BOY GOOD BOY and we continued on. He eventually out grew it/gave up because just standing there with his nose tight was no fun. Once when I was lunging him teaching him the canter transition, he picked up a cross canter. While I was deciding what I wanted to do, in the space of few strides, he went back to the trot and then picked up the correct canter. He knew it was wrong and he fixed it.

                            My carriage horse was an "if you insist" type of horse. He'd monkey around, not trying very hard and it took quite a bit to get him to put his effort into it. He was naughty but never dangerous. We had some sessions that would have wound up any other horse to the point of insanity. This one finally would decide to go to work telling me "Okay, if you insist".

                            My current western horse is and 'if you insist' type. He's sweet, wonderfully talented, loves people and considers riding to be mommy and me time. But I have to really insist on the proper show gaits. He thrives on hugs and kisses, treats and occasionally and good thump on the sides along with the growl mentioned above. Usually a "here now" is sufficient.

                            They are prone to obesity and metabolic syndrome. I have mine on a supplement to decrease their insulin resistance. Keeping them at a good weight is paramount...and very hard! They loves their hay. And can be treat pushy.

                            They are wonderful horses to work with and they do have pride; they know when they've been good. And they usually have me laughing with them!
                            Last edited by ezduzit; Jan. 28, 2013, 11:20 PM.
                            Ride like you mean it.

                            Comment


                            • #34
                              The treat stories here are cracking me up! I have a little gaited Morgan and she is so unbelievably cookie oriented! I will get searched on a quite regular basis. Also on stops on trail rides I will give her a cookie (or as I say "I have to put another quarter in the pony ride..."), so much so if we're riding along and she hears me unvelcro or unzip (depending on which saddle I'm riding) my pommel bag she comes to a complete stop, nickers and tries to look back at me. I tell everyone if she ever runs away with me, all I have to do is undo my bag and she'll throw me over the handlebars with a reining horse stop!

                              I have taught her some stupid tricks with cookies ("Where's the squirrel??" and she starts looking up in the tree tops where ever I point, then bends her head down and does a sly move with her nose to my feet for her treat) or handy tricks like if I raise my arm and snap my fingers and click she will move her body up to me to mount (great for mounting from a rock or a tree stump). She will stand rock still while I mount and adjust and wont move off till I give her the cookie and go ahead. (or give her the go ahead, no cookie really needed). She used to be impossible to mount, now she's the best!

                              So yea to the cookie motivation!

                              And she can be stubborn, sometimes I want to do something, and she wants to do something else, then we argue and spin and rear and paw and then do what I want. She sure has an opinion! Wouldn't give a dollar for another one like her but wouldn't take a million for her.


                              Well, maybe...
                              I want a signature but I have nothing original to say except: "STHU and RIDE!!!

                              Wonderful COTHER's I've met: belleellis, stefffic, snkstacres and janedoe726.

                              Comment

                              • Original Poster

                                #35
                                I want MorganMan to like his job and find peace. He likes peace, too, and that comes from doing what he knows is the right thing-- getting praise (or simply no demands) from me.

                                But he also gets bored. It sometimes insults him to be asked to do the same old, same old.

                                So he's not the hothead you need to spend all your time soothing. But I don't do a CTJ meeting unless I *know* a horse knows how he earned that and how to make me turn it off.

                                I think he wants me to be emotionally honest-- not the polite counter help at Starbucks, you know? If he gets out of line, he'd rather me Say Something than be ignored or drilled. So that makes me think that the CTJ meeting does have a place in this horse's training. The goal, of course, is to not make those a regular part of his repertoire.

                                And I think this horse does take pride in his work. When I first started with him, I lunged him first-- both to teach him to do what was asked, and to see what he tended to say about that. He got quick and were he a TB or similar, I'd give him a few minutes to just trot around and come to terms with his anxiety about not being sure that he knew how to listen to me. Instead, this horse does better if I insist he walk first. In other words, gets security from knowing what the right answer is, and what works best is helping him get there very fast.
                                The armchair saddler
                                Politically Pro-Cat

                                Comment


                                • #36
                                  I am intrigued by what you guys are saying so much that it makes me wish I had got into Morgans sooner. I am new to Morgans still since I've only had my mare since June. I trust her more than I've trusted a horse in a long time. It makes me think about the breed's origins and use as a cavalry mount. I can see why they have to be so brave and discerning. They also had to guide their unfamiliar riders sometimes.

                                  I'll second the comment about Morgan people being so kind. I asked around about my mare and felt like I was welcomed into a family. They were so happy she was found after slipping through the cracks. They even passed the word around until I got a call from the lady who originally broke her to ride!

                                  I know my mare has a good mind. Because of all this, I am talking with our local veteran's hospital about bringing her along with my very steady QH gelding for a visit. She has her own disability (half blind) and she still has that cavalry look to her so they are excited about the possibility of her coming. I am waiting for final approval now (government organization, don't hold your breath, LOL!). My husband and I are both recent war veterans so we are trying to help others that have it much worse than us (we are not disabled).
                                  “Pray, hope, and don't worry.”

                                  St. Padre Pio

                                  Comment


                                  • #37
                                    Mine is the same with being confused by random treat giving! The system we have worked out now is one treat after he is led out of the field and one treat before he is turned back out after we ride/work.

                                    I'm also enjoying the Morgan community - my guy's breeder is local to us and is thrilled when I e-mail her updates and pictures. She even came out to visit him at my invite shortly after I started him under saddle and gave me some really great tips from her experience working with his relatives! So cool!

                                    Comment


                                    • #38
                                      Originally posted by Chardavej View Post
                                      so much so if we're riding along and she hears me unvelcro or unzip (depending on which saddle I'm riding) my pommel bag she comes to a complete stop, nickers and tries to look back at me. ...
                                      ours can hear the paper crinkle as you unwrap a peppermint at 300 yards

                                      Comment


                                      • #39
                                        Originally posted by mvp View Post
                                        I want MorganMan to like his job and find peace. He likes peace, too, and that comes from doing what he knows is the right thing-- getting praise (or simply no demands) from me.

                                        But he also gets bored. It sometimes insults him to be asked to do the same old, same old.

                                        So he's not the hothead you need to spend all your time soothing. But I don't do a CTJ meeting unless I *know* a horse knows how he earned that and how to make me turn it off.

                                        I think he wants me to be emotionally honest-- not the polite counter help at Starbucks, you know? If he gets out of line, he'd rather me Say Something than be ignored or drilled. So that makes me think that the CTJ meeting does have a place in this horse's training. The goal, of course, is to not make those a regular part of his repertoire.

                                        And I think this horse does take pride in his work. When I first started with him, I lunged him first-- both to teach him to do what was asked, and to see what he tended to say about that. He got quick and were he a TB or similar, I'd give him a few minutes to just trot around and come to terms with his anxiety about not being sure that he knew how to listen to me. Instead, this horse does better if I insist he walk first. In other words, gets security from knowing what the right answer is, and what works best is helping him get there very fast.
                                        Very astute observations. This horse is very lucky to have found someone who puts as much thought into things as he does. Even more lucky to have someone who is willing to consider him as an individual and not have a cookie cutter approach to his training.

                                        The things being discussed here, consistency, fairness, patience, variety, these are concepts all horses benefit from of course. But Morgans seem to require just a hair more - that you be on top of your game - you need to be as conscious and deliberate as they are.

                                        If you think your horse is becoming bored by all means mix things up. Give him something to be proud of, he'll love you for that. Add some poles, add some jumps, discover lateral work.

                                        I once heard a trainer, I think JL, say, "The kindest way to train a horse is to be very exacting and specific. Most people let things slide and think they're being kind by not picking on the horse, but in reality they're just setting up for confusion and failure. Be specific in your requests and require specific responses, and your horse will respect and take comfort in your leadership."

                                        Its not even a little bit shocking that your horse did better being told precisely what the plan is. Having someone absolutely in charge is very comforting.

                                        I can no longer ride my Morgan, he has broken withers, so we have picked up driving. I work hard to keep his back in shape and I think jumping is great exercise. I'm not coordinated enough to run along side him and fling the longe lines over the standards as he sails over, so I taught him to free jump. We had a shaky start, but now he'll jump an entire course while I stand there and have my coffee I just point and off he goes, and goes, and goes, and goes, and goes, and goes,...

                                        The whole 'started late in life' thing doesn't generally bother me, but especially not with a Morgan. The breed is famous for being able to change gears and thrive on doing so. They are eager little sponges at any age and will happily absorb all that you have to share... for better or for worse.

                                        Sounds like you're going to have a great time.
                                        Being terrible at something is the first step to being truly great at it. Struggle is the evidence of progress.

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                                        • #40
                                          mvp - what's his breeding? Buck - WOW!

                                          I agree that the Morgan community is amazing. A fellow COTHer helped get me some info on my gelding. He was bought as a weanling from a breeder who was getting older and just didn't register her foals in her later years. With the farm name, the stallions she had standing and the mare's name, we were able to narrow down the possibilities. Not 100% sure so my gelding is a grade. Which is not a problem since I bought him for endurance riding.

                                          The woman that bought him as weanling, along with another weanling and a couple mares (rumor of being "rescued" so who knows) had him in the pasture for 8 years. When she decided to sell him, she had the 30 days of "training" put on him. He didn't seem have any lasting "Parellitis", so all is good. As long as I keep him busy.

                                          I also agree with the "rockstar hairdo". At any given time it looks like I have a cross between a hippy and an escapee from a reggae fest!

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