Rugby Player, the young man I’ve convinced to be the cannon fodder (i.e. ride Z) comes from a Cowboy background. That is okay because he is willing to do it my way even though he would, personally and left to his own devices, train her differently.
The other day when he showed up, I had the Connected Halter on Z and had just wrapped up some Connected Groundwork. He made the comment that I had stuff that he had never seen before. Yet on another day he started talking about tie downs and how he would use that to get Z’s headset.
I guess it might be confusing as to why and when to use equipment. And what my philosophy is about it.
First, any sort of equipment that fixes a head set by applying pressure i.e. tie downs, tying the horses head with rope in any form, or draw reins I am against. These types of equipment apply an unforgiving force to the horses’ head. Imagine if I put you in a neck brace that kept your chin forced to your chest all day long. It amounts to the same thing in terms of pain. This is what is described as a “false head set.”
For the record, I am not keen on side reins either. I have used them but gave them up when I realized I could get more from my horse using body movement mimicry, reinforced with clicker training.
Quarter horses put up with this type of treatment because of all the horse world they have been bred to be the most placid. It’s not a fluke that Hempfling labels Quarter Horse breeds as generally, The Used One. OTOH, a Quarter Horse is also the type that years into this sort of treatment will either breakdown physically or explode emotionally.
Just because a horse submits to a human doesn’t mean that the submission is a good thing, productive, or even “training.” They used to bind girl’s feet in China too to achieve a certain look and remove women’s lower ribs so they could have a slimmer waist. Was that a good thing?
But how is that different then teaching a Head Down Cue or riding a horse Long and Low? When I teach a Head Down Cue I do it without equipment. I reinforce the head coming down and then the nose point forward with a clicker and treat. However, the horse is always able to move the head and leave the position.
To further that training, the head must come back up. For example, Z was taught in liberty to bring her head down to stretch her topline – this was reinforced using a clicker (or tongue cluck) and then rewarded with a bit of carrot. Now SHE seeks that position on her own.
But, as with many things in training, she has taken it too far. Instead of being relaxed and moving her hips freely with her hind legs under her, she has allowed the front long and low position to slow her and bring her onto the forehand. Now, I need to re-shape that position and ask for the head to come up slightly, maintaining the relaxation, but animating the hindquarter motion so she steps up under herself.
With this training, she is allowed to keep ownership of her own body. This is one reason why I follow so much of Klaus Hempfling’s work: he shapes the horses’ body movement with his own, not with gadgets.
I’ll go into what equipment I do use and why in another post.