Thursday, February 3, 2011

Touching a horse

This week’s radio show features my interview with Sivia Gold, who describes a technique she calls the BIG Eraser. This is a way of touching a horse that triggers relaxation (my term) or erasing of negative memories at the cellular level (her term). In my opinion, this is one more example of the positive benefits that come from body-to-body contact with a horse done in a particular way. But let’s back up. Horses read your intentions and any potential threat you pose to them by reading your body language. When you touch them, they get an even stronger reading of you. The photo shown is one of Clinton Anderson using the Jeffrey Method in starting a young horse. After getting control of the horse’s feet and establishing a level of respect, Clinton lays across the horse’s topline and rubs its barrel, as did Australian Kell Jeffery in the past century. This calms a horse for reasons no one completely understands. My theory is that the more of your body a horse can feel, the quicker it learns to trust you and relax. Of course you need to be in the right mental state when you do this; if you are distracted or impatient, it may magnify the horse’s concern and make matters worse. There are a number of things we can do that nearly always help when we’re working with horses: Backing the horse, slowing down, lightening pressure, and increasing body-to-body contact. Even just touching the horse with your hand spread wide – “with your heart in your hand” as Pat Parelli might put it – nearly always helps. This is one of the easiest prescriptions for the horseman. After all, who doesn’t want to touch a horse? I can hardly keep my hands off of them. Listen to interview with Sivia Gold.


Barbara said...

One of the reasons for the popularity of rope halters is that they mimic the action of the "jeffrey" rope. This was just a rope with a ring tied at the end and it is similar in action to the smooth "choke" chains used with dogs. THe Jeffrey rope allows the instant reward of pressure release and I found it invaluable in working with horses that had "Issues" or in untouched horses.

Rick said...
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Rick said...

Hi Barbara,
Kell Jeffrey worked mostly with brumbies (wild horses in Australia) so he needed an effective way to instantly get their attention and respect. Hence the choking action of the Jeffery rope. Parelli and others use the same sort of thing today. It's typically 22'-25' long with a large smooth metal ring on the end. The size and smoothness of the ring allow for instantaneous release of pressure, which wouldn't happen with a standard lariat rope. Using a thin rope halter rather than a flat halter also makes it uncomfortable for the horse to resist, but of course there is no choking action when used correctly. The thin rope halter goes back to the Johnson halter which was common 50 years ago in ranch work. Thanks for your comment!

Barbara said...

What found interesting was that people who saw their horse's reaction to the jeffrey rope wanted to purchase "that" rope that I was using as if it had magical powers! The fact that the horse was responding to pressure and avoiding unwanted pressure was hard to get across to them. I finally put it around some of them and then they got it, stand still and you are comfortable, move without direction and you are uncomfortable.Dogs as well as horses pick this up right away but you see people time and again misusing the correction collars by keeping them tight. I tell them it is like driving with one foot on the gas and one on the brake. I found the jeffrey system worked very well on mustangs I worked with.

Rick said...

Yup. You're absolutely right. In all horse training, we need to use what matters to the horse. His air is right at the top. Any restriction of the airway, no matter how brief, is a very clear message the horse understands. I know to some reading this it may seem cruel. If used correctly (and without anger) it is the kindest of techniques because it is crystal clear and very short in duration. As you well know, clarity is absolutely essential in the messages we send to horses.
Thanks again for a great post.

Lisa said...

I see your idea of being clear to the horse but restricting air seems a bit extreme to accomplish that idea.
I have studied Parelli and never used a 22ft rope for restricting air, nor would I.

In my opinion rope halters are a great tool. I don't know how I ever managed before using the flat nylon kind.