Often then not, I feel like I’m an Alchemist of old trying to figure out how to turn lead into gold, and mine the secret of the horses’ nature. I may see others getting gold, but some of it is false, or the diviners are charlatans. The books, videos and clinics which seem to hold the answer to the dreams I imagine, are in a cunning language.
Today, I wanted to go back to experimenting with the neckrope. I’ve tried before to use it to no result – it was a tool that has evaded my attempts to conquer it.
My inspiration has been this video (which I’ve referenced before):
The neckrope has been puzzling, yet intriguing me. I feel that it has an instinctive and vital role to help me on my Shamanic journey to explore my relationship with the horses and here are some general thoughts just to spark more thought and discussion –
- Unlike the leadrope or lunge equipment it doesn’t attach to the head. This allows the horse more freedom of choice during the work.
- In traditional training, we get too wrapped up in controlling the head. The head houses the brain, and often we use the halter/bridle with too much pressure, resulting in horses that are behind the bit, don’t bend properly, or who don’t come through from behind. The neckrope refuses the handler the option to make this mistake.
- Unlike sidereins, draw reins, surcingles or driving lines, the horse has control over the entire line of his body (i.e. ribcage, hindquarters, legs etc…). I am thinking that this helps the horse learn to put himself into self-carriage when given the proper mimicking support with the person’s body language.
I had a lot of success with Beautiful Boy working him with a halter and leadrope with much float. This was because he had a natural, graceful way of moving and was very light and sensitive to direction. I would like to have this success eventually with ZZ.
- With Horse Choice and the body developing through the horse’s movement (free of equipment) it sidesteps many problems that traditional training would incur such as apathy, behind the bit, heavy on the forehand and other behaviors that occur due to intense training for a “frame” through man-made equipment.
But I will also tell you that using a Neckrope is definitely not an easy task! The first session was so ugly and frustrating that I backed off and decided to drop working with it. Today, though my drive to get something done was low so that seemed the perfect attitude to approach this tool of the Mad Scientist.
First, ZZ. I put it on and because she has a much better natural carriage then Big Guy, the rope did not slip unless she was grazing a bit too long in it. She followed willingly enough as that has been built in with many hours and days of leading exercises.
I noticed that since she is still learning about lunging – and we were in the dressage arena with no barrier, using the neckrope was more about moving together in unison then holding a shape (i.e. circle etc…). It meant I had to go with her many times (giving up control) and pacing myself to be with her if I didn’t want to tighten the rope. She also lost focus more but since we were playing that was no big deal.
Big Guy, who I had tried before and who has been traditionally trained, initially ignored it. However, I soon got him working with it much faster then I was expecting.
Without the halter/leadrope combo, I noticed that he kept closing the counter-clockwise circle because of his crookedness. This was his attempt to lean on me – but without equipment there was nothing to lean upon; he could only drift.
The whip became more essential so I could tap the shoulder to widen the circle or the hip to drive him forward.
I was very surprised at how quickly he started catching on so we started experimenting with body language, supported by the voice, to ask for halt.
Now BG’s natural carriage is rather long and strung out. Handicapped by his injury, it will be interesting to see if through body language and whip aids I can start to re-shape his self-carriage.
Or will I be causing just a minor explosion and sulphorous smell of rotten eggs in my laboratory??