I just finished reading "Empowered Horses" by Imke Spilker, and I found it to be very inspirational.  The book is kind of written by her horses, from their point of view.  It is easy to read and stirred up feelings I had as a small child, when I'd daydream about the type of relationship I'd like to have with a horse.  That dream is still alive, because I know that that kind of relationship does exist.


Imke tells a number of stories about the horses in her book, and how some of them were completely volatile and unmanageable, and yet here they are, playing with their owners and proudly collecting naturally.  Some of those horses have been worked with for years before they came to this point. 


The only question I had was how did they handle basic things like hoof trims when the horses were so mean that you couldn't restrain them in any way for years?

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Hi Cyndi, 


Sounds interesting. I've looked at Spilkers site and ordered the book, thanks for pointing this out. 

There's a very interesting book on relationship centered training of dogs, from which I learned a lot that is also usefull for horses (or actually, the way we people build a relationship with animals). It´s ´On the other side of the leash´ by Patricia McConnell. It makes very clear how we, as humans, behave because we´re programmed to do so, and how our behaviour is interpreted by dogs. There´s a lot of space between those. Although dogs aren´t horses, the book still gives a lot of information that is usefull in our communication with horses.  


That's a really good question, Cyndi, and I'd be interested in answers from the professionals in the group.
Horse whisperers

Another thing I wonder about is;  if you allow a horse to 'act out' and be himself/herself in an aggressive/rude/unsafe manner, will they eventually come around on their own, or can they learn that certain behaviours keep people away, so they keep doing it?  If a horse is 'acting out', I don't suppose you can do much besides allow it to do so, especially if there is a chance that you could get hurt if you even dared try to do anything about it.  And a person certainly isn't going to win a battle of strength with a horse!  Perhaps the thing to do is just keep a safe distance from the horse (maybe stay on the other side of the fence) and not fight it, then the horse will see that you are calm and not trying to step in and restrain him, so he learns to trust that you aren't out to get him.


I don't know about hoof trimming on super unmanageable horses, but my horse's hoof trimmer said my guy used to be pretty bad. This trimmer has known him for three years before I got the horse about a year ago. He didn't like tying, was girthy, cold-backed, and anxious when I got him. The trimmer said it took "forever" to do his feet at first, and he did have sore feet. However he must have worked wonders, because my guy is a lamb for him now. I put him on a halter and line for the trimming, but it's obvious he could be trimmed without, or with ground tying, and maybe without any line at all. I do most of my grooming without him on a halter so he learns to stand still, sometimes I use a halter just so he won't associate that only with negative events or vet visits. I think it just takes a lot of patience, calm handling, and skill on the part of the trimmer to gradually train the horse, plus handling daily from the owner to reinforce lessons learned.
I just got this book in the mail today--Super excited! I took a quick look (I'm at work) and it looks good already.. Thank you for bringing it to our attention :D

Megan, I'd like to hear your thoughts on it when you're done.  I plan to re-read my copy soon.

I certainly appreciate Imke's way of being with her horses, and wonder about my above questions when I started this discussion, whether my questions are valid, or if I am just part of the "I want results, and I want them now!" world we live in, rather than taking our time and listening and respecting what our horses are trying to tell us.

I've been spending time playing with my horse lately, using a playful and natural (as in letting her move in whatever way comes naturally to her) approach, along the lines of Ellen, Imke, Nevzorov, Hempfling, "Art of Natural Dressage", etc., and I have seen a bigger improvement in our relationship than ever before.  I let her have her "say" in what we're doing, allowing her to walk away if she pleases, and things are going really well.  A couple of weeks ago I was on her for 45 minutes, which I haven't done since the summer of 2009...and the next day when I went to see her, she was happy to see me!  That never used to happen.  I can now gently hold her head and give her kisses on her jaw (which she used to pull away from).  Can hardly wait for the paddocks to dry up so I can set up some obstacles for us to play around.
Good to hear that things are coming along in your relationship with your horse Cyndi. I have noticed a very gradual change in my gelding as well. Just working on little things over the winter, and even without riding. I sense he is more relaxed, softer, still a character. I am teaching him  a little bow. He seems more comfortable with tying, saddling, girthing and walks next to me much more nicely and stops if I do, even without halter or lead (I still have him on a lead tied very loosely for the saddling, but he could walk away if he really wanted to). He is also much more comfortable with me rubbing and scratching his head, which he wouldn't allow for a long time after I got him. I think it just comes from spending lots of little  interactions with them, but I have always tried to do it with the least force possible and just spend more time to get the end result. I have also found Ellen's videos to be entertaining and helpful in working/playing this way with Sharif.

Marlene, I'm glad to hear that things are going well with you and Sharif too!

Right now, the horses are spending a lot of time in the barn, because it is so terribly muddy and rainy outside (they have no outdoor shelter...but I wish they did).  I go to the barn and open the gate to the front paddock, which connects to a small courtyard at the front of the barn, and then I let Fanny out of her stall.  She is free to wander around the barn or go outside.  Lately she's been heading straight out to the paddock to graze.  Once I'm done with her stall, I go out to the paddock with her.  She is really good with walking and stopping beside me, as well as at the trot, but we've been working on that for a long time.  I do bits and pieces of other things with her, like turning and bending, etc., but I don't have a set amount of "training time".  We've been practicing a lot of stuff in the hallway of the barn and having lots of fun.  I think she feels secure, knowing that the other horses are right there with her, and that's fine with me.


I like letting Fanny do her thing and express herself.  Not long ago when I thought she wanted to go back to the barn, I headed over there.  She got to the opened gate of the paddock and stopped.  When I turned around to see where she was, she tossed her head and trotted off in the opposite direction.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that, because this is a herd-bound horse we're talking about!  So we played for a bit, and when she was ready she headed back to the barn.  I am enjoying not using a certain method, where I have to constantly be thinking about whether or not I'm doing "this" or "that" the correct way.  It's all an experiment and I am discovering what makes her tick, and in the process we are growing in harmony.


I wish you continued success!!


Hey, we just suddenly got some real spring weather (as opposed to snow twice last week), so I got brave and took Sharif out. I thought he would be all fresh and naughty since we haven't had a real ride for quite some time (just little test drives in the field for equipment  tweaking) and he's getting more spring grass now. He was actually a good boy. He got a little pooped on the climbing part but I just stopped him for lots of breathers, and shortened the whole ride  by a lot because his barefeet aren't conditioned yet either (neither am I,lol). He was a bit disappointed that there wasn't much grass yet up in the hills. He still had too much energy left coming home due to the short ride but he kept it down to a "very springy walk", and  overall, at least  it got me over some jitters.

Wishing you some great riding weather soon like we are getting.

I smiled when I read that part in your post about getting brave.  That's sort of how I was feeling when I got on Fanny a couple of weeks ago.  That, and I also had a feeling that she was ready for it...despite not having been ridden for months.  It was also a bit of a confidence boost for me because she usually gets spooky when I'm on her (something I've been working on to improve), and I've fallen off her too many times because she sidesteps when she spooks and I lose my balance.  This time I kept the reins loose and held onto the pommel for security.  It wasn't a white-knuckled hold, but it was enough for me to feel secure and I was able to relax in the saddle.  When 45 minutes rolled around, she started to get a bit spooky and did her little sidestep, but I stayed on and was thrilled!  Now I know her comfort zone, time-wise, so I will work on that in future rides and see if I can slowly increase that zone.  When she'd had enough, she headed to the barn...thankfully at a fast walk and not a bolt.  I was happy about that because when she spooked earlier the saddle slipped to the side a bit.

Today was very beautiful and spring-like, but I had to work for a few hours.  I try to see Fanny every day during the week, but reserve my weekends for my family.  Sometimes, though, if we don't have much going on, I do sneak away to see her on the weekend  :o)


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