Longe line, cantering and emotional control

I had a fabulous training session today with Dragon, the kind of session that is addictive and leaves you feeling like the world has offered you the best of itself. Moments like this:

Dragon has always been very excitable on the longe line – he gets emotional when he is asked to move quickly, as many horses do, is very large, so sometimes becomes “tangled up” in his body, which, historically has created a fair amount of frustration for him. I would say both of us felt we would have rather avoided the canter on the longe if we had the chance. We have been working intensively on emotional control lately, shaping for physical balance, relaxed muscles, and even tempo. I have been ignoring extreme flight reactions or overstimulation, asking quietly for a transition downward. No marking wild airborne behaviors or loss of emotional control with yelling or yanking. It is the opposite of what a lot of traditional trainers recommend, mainly, immediately stopping the horse when they “misbehave” to “delete” the flight response so the behavior is not practiced. I did try this for awhile, but stopping a 1300lb horse is not  very safe for the animal’s neck and spine, since it usually takes quite a bit of force. The other problem with this is the main reason for the “misbehavior” was usually tension or fear, and a forceful, physical stop only served to up that tension and cause worse departs than before. So I tried ignoring the emotional behavior, shaping for calm, relaxed movement and took two weeks off of cantering while we built up a calm history on the longe. And today was our second day back at cantering, and he was able to offer his first immediate departs (cantering immediately on cue) and the most emotional control he has had to date in that gait. Lovely.

4 thoughts on “Longe line, cantering and emotional control

  1. Jen,
    You’re amazing. I so encouraged by your success with Dragon. I love your quote,
    “No marking wild airborne behaviors or loss of emotional control with yelling or yanking. It is the opposite of what a lot of traditional trainers recommend…immediately stopping the horse when they “misbehave”…..so the behavior is not practiced….. The main reason for the “misbehavior” was usually tension or fear, and a forceful, physical stop only served to up that tension and cause worse departs than before.”

    Wow.

  2. Thanks, Beth. The UNT conference really changed my life and put the responsibility for my animals’ success SOLELY on my shoulders. It peeled back one more layer and left me in the most wonderful place. Thanks for reading; it’s so reinforcing to get comments!

  3. very cool. I am so glad to see you have come full circle yet not to the same place as before. You are on a similar path anyway, but are walking forward more confidently with greater awareness and understanding than when you traveled this path before. Over the weekend I learned about a 3 step learning process- I should probably blog it, but here is summary: Belief-Strength-Grace.

    Belief: When you see that someone else can do something you believe that it can be done and that you can also do it your own way. You try and try, then you get it! Now you need practice & repetition, this is the strength building and the hardest part to continue on any path as it requires concentration and dedication. Not every day feels good yet we continue to do it. Then one day it becomes a part of who you are, you can do it without concentrating anymore, it is second nature and it flows out of you. This is Grace. You have moved out of Belief and are on your way to Grace in the horse world.

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