Training of Our Horses
Our trip to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania on June 8 2002.
|As I said on the main "Training" page, training horses to work with you is the most important part of horse ownership. Without training, a horse is little more than any other animal - cat, dog, cow, whatever. WITH training, a horse is the most amazing animal you've ever seen.
Monty Roberts is the ultimate horse trainer - he trains them by, in effect, sitting down and having a conversation with them. He's spent so much time with horses that he's discovered their language (which he calls Equus) and can actually talk with them - teaching them that he's their friend and can be relied on to not harm them in any way.
Here's what we saw:
The Harrisburg Equestrian Center is a huge building that's set up just like what you'd expect in a show center - enough seating for close to 10,000 and a center floor that's so big I could actually fly my model airplanes easily within it. In the center of this floor was a standard 50' training circle and we were fortunate enough to have seats no more than 15' outside the circle.
The evening would take 4 hours - what I type here, I hope you can read in 5 minutes. Needless to say, I'm leaving a lot out.
Monty Roberts came running into the circle (he's a showman, no doubt about it) at 7:00 PM. Now remember, he's over 70 years old and has probably had every bone in his body broken on several occations. By reading his books, I learned that he's had several of his vertibrae "welded" together so he can stay out of wheel chairs and ride his beloved horses. Anyway, he introduced himself and gave us all a run-down of what was going to happen during the evening.
HORSE #1 was a beautiful thoroughbred filly of about 2 years. She'd never been ridden, never even saddled - and Monty'd never seen her before. He immediately started with his "Join-Up", he showed us how to "become a threat" to her - which started her running around the circle at a pretty good pace. He explained that by becoming a threat to her she'd do what comes naturally to a horse - run away from the perceived danger. He also explained that after she'd run about 1/4 mile within the ring she'd start talking to him - her basic line would be "let's talk this thing over". First, her inside (to the ring) ear would turn toward him, then she'd start licking her lips and finally she'd drop her head to the floor - all while running away.
This is exactly what happened - in just that order! Her ear turned, she licked and her head went down, and she never slowed down.
At that point, Monty simply dropped his arms and turned sideways to her so he was facing away from the direction she was going and she stopped dead in her tracks. Then he turned 3/4 away from her and she simply walked up to him and put her head over his shoulder. THIS IS JOIN-UP and it took just 5 minutes!
From that point on, she followed Monty around, everywhere he went. He put a halter and lead rope on her and if he went one way, so did she. When he stopped, she did also. When he backed up, she did that too.
At the 10 minute point, he introduced her to her first rider - a young, wiry gentleman. At the 20 minute point they had the saddle on her and were both walking around with her, teaching her to respond to the reins - and she was still completely relaxed with them.
At 22 minutes, the young man simply put his foot in the stirrup and hopped up - she didn't even look back at him. He rode her all over the ring, had her backing up, walking sideways, spinning around, start - stop, everything. The last we saw of her was when they simply opened the gate and he rode her out of the ring and back to the stables.
ABSOLUTELY INCREDIBLE STUFF!
HORSE #2 was an Arab colt that wouldn't pick up his feet to be worked-on. This is important for horses - if they don't pick up their hooves, the ferrier can't shoe them or trim their hooves when necessary. If they don't pick up their hooves, the owner can't keep their hooves clean. It's vital that they lift up when needed.
Monty went through the same "Join-Up" process he did with the first. Once the halter and lead rope was on, Monty used a heavily wrapped stick that looked like an arm to rub his legs all over and at first the horse was quite nervous. After about 15 minutes of rubbing he finally relaxed and Monty started using his own arm to do the same thing.
At the 25 minute point, Monty simply reached down and picked up the front left hoof, then the rear left. One minute later he'd picked up all four hooves. Within 3 minutes he'd picked them all up and set them back down several times. Then, he had the horses owner in the ring doing the same thing. Really neat stuff! 30 minutes and the horse was cooperating and relaxed.
There's two more horses involved in all this - one wasn't quite a total success. Click here to read about the rest of the evening.
Or, click here to return to the training page.
Finally, there's a directory, below, if you'd like to press on to somewhere else, but I hope you press on with the evening.