I decided to work Z with the neckrope in the large arena as well as start working with ground poles and caveletti. I continue to be fascinated with the neckrope vs. the halter and how it effects the horses movement, our interaction and the psychological differences for horses and human.
I don’t think you could take your average horse and immediately work him with a neckrope in a large arena and become anything but frustrated. Horses trained to follow with a leadrope and halter, will, with a neckrope, may use their sudden freedom to not listen.
In watching Klaus Hempflings’ videos and reading his book Dancing with Horses, he also starts with the halter before moving onto the neckrope; though I am sure that he does it far quicker then I do and with more elegance and less mistakes.
When a horse is in a halter/leadrope combo, the handler has far more control over the horse, with far less freedom on the part of the horse. Generally, we lead in the front which is one of the most dominant positions (see Klaus Hempfling). I can’t fully explain how much more control you have with a halter/lead then a neckrope, so I would suggest that you do it as an experiment and if you keep your mind open, will realize how much we depend on moving the horses’ head to move the horse.
What I noticed today was when I changed from the halter/leadrope (which I started with first to make sure she was paying attention) to the neckrope, Z’s body posture changed slightly. Some slight stiffness she was holding in the bends and in her neck immediately vanished. This was subtle and probably would not have been picked up by video.
This begs the question of how much the horses’ stiffness is actually because of the training we use? Even if we are careful not to “force the horse into a frame” the horse must be reacting to pressure and pushing against it with his energy thus resulting in stiffness. Back to physics: everything reacts with equal and opposing energy (Newton’s Third Law of Motion); a tug on the leadrope or reins may bend the horse but there will also be some resistance on the part of the horse in terms of opposing pressure.
It’s why I’m coming to the realization that throughout the training, I’ll have to continue to return to ‘relaxedness’ on the part of the horse. This is even more true of Dee which I will write more of later…
When Z was on the neckrope today and she was in charge of moving her own energy, she relaxed into her own natural headset and balanced movement (which actually is quite nice). She was moving from back to front, no tripping or crookedeness.
For those that use “pressureless” training – there is still some sort of pressure and in this instance, the pressure would emotional/psychological. The horse has a motivation and a desire to perform which springs from an emotional and psychological connection to the handler.
A cute thing that happened was that I placed her in a position to travel over the ground pole and then the caveletti. She did so and got a treat. After a few moments doing other things, she took me over to the ground pole/caveletti and crossed it clearly expecting a treat (which she got). Later though she decided it was too much work for too little reward 😛
Working with the neckrope, it’s quite clear that the horse has the upper hand,