Hello – Silence Speaks More – Kelly Adams here. Today we would like to discuss the dynamics of a herd and what being in a herd really means. If you have ever had the opportunity to watch a herd of horses you will notice that their relationships are in a constant state of change. There are always the same one or two that are “in charge” and there is always a pecking order. There are also separate groups that stick together keeping apart from the whole. Over the course of a day the pecking order changes as well as the different members of the various groups. Some days the herd will pick out one member to chase off and this is also in constant flux.
This past winter we had the leaders “turn” on one little mare. They spent all day chasing her off. She had been in the same field with them for years and all of a sudden she was not welcome. It was also interesting that when she tried to connect with a group a member of that group would also chase her off that day. We thought everyone would settle down but by the end of the day we had to remove her from the field.
If you have ever watched a playground at recess or in the park on the weekend, kids are the exact same way. This doesn’t stop with the kids. In adult life we call it office politics or even worse “personality conflicts”. Always it is a bully pushing their weight around. The location doesn’t matter; it could be in the field, playground, or office – it is always a bully looking for attention and dominance. Always on the receiving end of the abuse is a person, or horse, that knows they are on the receiving end of unfair abuse and are just trying to fit in. As stewards of any group each of us is associated with we must pay attention to the dynamics behind the actions. Frequently the actions are only the result of where the real problems lie.
In the case of our little mare we took a close look at her and discovered that she had a bunch of burrs in her tail and couldn’t pick her tail up far enough when she urinated. Her scent had changed and she became “different” in the eyes of the leaders of the herd. The rest of the herd didn’t want to “get involved” so stood off and allowed the little mare to be run off by the leaders. We cleaned her tail and put her in with some other pregnant mares and she is getting along well in the new herd. Many times looking beyond the “big” problem and noticing the little things we can easily change the situation for the better in the herd.
People frequently come to us for advice. They have one horse at home and are worried about that horse being lonely. Some of these people spend lots of time with their horse and don’t understand that they have become that horse’s herd. Yes horses are herd animals but many people forget that horses are very happy with their herd of people. In the wild many horse are required for a herd. This is the only way the herd can provide safety and stability. When an animal is “domesticated” people become important and truly become part of the herd. They don’t need to bring a “friend” into the environment because the horse is happy and fulfilled with the family being their herd.
In other cases there was a happy and healthy relationship with the horse being alone and they got their horse a “friend”. After that they began having problems with their horse. Unknowingly the people had changed their herd’s dynamics. By introducing another horse they did not have time for both horses. With this change in attention the horses became “herd bound”. What we mean by “herd bound” is that the horses become so attached to each other and with the decreased attention the horses don’t want to leave each other. Trying to take one horse from the field causes worry and panic. Their attention is so focused on the horse left behind they can’t concentrate on their job. If you don’t have the time to take care of one horse why would you get more?
In all situations of dysfunction step away and look at the whole picture. Don’t rely on what other people say – take a good hard look at what is really going on. Have the herd dynamics changed in the field, playground, or office? Frequently the “problem” is left alone and the herd suffers. Take a good look at the problem and find a way to change that dynamic. Of most importance is the greater good for all.
Thank you kindly for listening to this old horseman.
Hello – Silence Speaks More – Kelly Adams here. Today we would like to discuss finding the right horse for the discipline you prefer. More importantly if you already have a horse finding the discipline that is right for your horse. First you must ask yourself some questions. It is very important that you answer this question honestly:
What am I interested in and what is my true skill level?
If you are interested in showing there are many disciplines: Western, Hunter/Jumper, Dressage, Reining, Driving, Competitive Trail, Endurance, Gaming and these are just to name a few.
If you like to work with cows there are also many disciplines: Roping, Cattle Penning, Working Cow, Ranch horse competitions, Cutting, and these are just to name a few.
Do not get us wrong, we have had a few horses that did everything and they did everything very well. We had a half Arabian gelding that competed and won in western pleasure, saddle seat, hunt seat, show hack, reining, side saddle, Arabian native costume, cow penning, and cutting. He was also our lesson horse and taught 100’s of people, young and old alike, the pleasures of horseback riding. He would walk on eggshells for a first time rider, and refuse to take a gait until he was asked properly by a more experienced rider.
Let’s look at them as if they were people. If you were to take a relaxed, easy going, non-competitive person and put them into a high pressure, fast paced job how do you think they would do? Would you be doing them justice or hurting them? If you were to take a person who loves to learn and push themselves to do their job better and faster and you always told them to slow down and held them back at everything that came easily to them would you be doing them a justice or hurting them? People and horses need to be encouraged to be what they truly are meant to be.
Each of us has something that we truly excel at, are happy doing, and feel that it gives our lives purpose. Some people call this soul purpose. Each of you has seen these people at work. The gifted athlete at the Olympic games, the craftsmen with their extreme talent with wood, iron, paints, music, computer programming, teachers, trainers, and educators. Each of these people has a skill they love and truly excel at. Horses are the same.
Why would you take a horse that loves to travel with his head up and with a long free flowing way of moving and make them a western horse? At the other end of the scale why would you take a horse that loves to travel slowly with his head down and make them a barrel racing horse? Many people come to us with problem horses – they go too fast, or too slow, won’t listen, fight when they are asked to do a job. They haul their horse to our barn and want us to fix their western horse. Out of the trailer steps a big hunter/jumper type horse. We take that same horse into the arena, start lounging him, and he has a natural hunt gait that would fit into any show ring and make most hunter/jumper or dressage owners green with envy. Think about this – Who really has the problem here?
Take a good hard look at your horses and see, not what you want them to do, but what the horse has the gift to do. If you are looking for a horse to buy spend time and decide what you want to do with that horse and find one that can accomplish the task. Closer to home look at your children and the gifts they have that you could encourage them to accomplish and excel at.
Maybe there isn’t a problem at all.
Thank you kindly for listening to this old Horseman.
We all find a fascination with horses for different reasons. Some just think they are beautiful. Others are in awe of the power they possess and use so gently. If you have ever seen a small child with a horse you understand the true gentleness of these large animals. Horses have always treated me honestly. When they didn’t understand I could see the confusion and adjusted my training to help them better understand what I wanted them to do.
When a “problem” horse comes into training they always tell us exactly why they have the problem and where it started. People often find it difficult to talk about their problems, concerns, fears, and doubts. A horse is always open and honest in their ability to be read and understood. They only develop “problems” from their upbringing and environment. We must be willing to see beyond the “problem” to truly understand their confusion and distrust. Usually just taking them back to the beginning and starting again with their training helps many horses to overcome their problems. Other times finding the true block is necessary. These horses have had major traumas in their lives and extensive work is necessary to get them over these obstacles. In my experience of working with well over 1,000 horses there have only been a couple that could not overcome their traumas and I could not help them.
When you work with horses and come across a block first look to yourself. Are you being clear about what you are asking for? Are you being patient and helping them to understand what you want? Are you being consistent with your training and asking for the same things the same way every time? Each time you start having problems with your horse please stop and ask yourself these simple questions. Then put yourself in your horse’s shoes. If you were the one doing the learning would you understand what is being asked of you? Is the horse truly capable of the action you want from them at this time? Did you miss a step in the lesson plan or do you need to go back and reinforce the previous lessons better? Always be consistent and build on what your horse has already learned. You must also keep in mind the end result you are working towards. Break it down into simple steps and teach each of those steps so that your horse understands completely before taking the next step. Remember when you were in school and how you felt when you were a step behind the class and didn’t understand. Frustration, fear, anger, confusion. Do any of these emotions sound familiar when you were in school or trying to learn something?
I hope these ideas help you when you are working with your horses and with other people. Never be afraid to put yourself into the shoes of someone. It is the only way to truly understand how they are feeling and how you will help them to overcome a problem or learn something new. Thank you kindly for listening to this old cowboy. Use patience, understanding, and respect everywhere in your life.
This was written back in April of 2012 and is still valid every day - Enjoy!
Hello – Silence Speaks More – Kelly Adams here. Today we would like to discuss the true magic that comes out of the blue and happens when you start to think that maybe what you are doing with your life is not helping anyone and is not worth all the effort you are putting in. I have had these thoughts going through my mind – like everyone does - about relationships with our spouse, kids, family, work, everything. We each start to tally the good and the bad and find that the bad side tallies up much quicker than the good. It is always so easy to see what is wrong or bad and so much more difficult to see the good.
Over the past month we have been doing a major expansion on our Horse Business. We are adding 18 outdoor boarding pens and 3 outdoor arenas covering an area of about 2 acres. We have seen a real need in this area for a quality place that people can come, learn and play so with our labour force of 2 we are tackling this project head on. The cost of lumber, supplies, and equipment rental, not to mention the time it takes to build it all, really takes a toll on our minds and bodies. To the point that I have been asking myself “What were you thinking – it is not going to work, people won’t come, and this is all going to be a big waste of time and money.” Each of us can apply all these same questions to our marriage, family, career, small business, every aspect of our lives.
Now for the magic part. Yesterday a client came by to ride and she was talking about how this is the one place that she can come and relax and enjoy herself – the only place in her life that she can call her own and put all her worries and cares aside. Then there is the man who bought an unstarted pony for his 11 year old granddaughter and brought the pony in for training. She has not ridden much and riding the pony was scaring her so we started giving her lessons on one of our old mares. After the first lesson on the old mare he came to me with a tear in his eye, shook my hand, and thanked me for taking the extra time, effort, and patience to make his granddaughter comfortable and happy and give her a proper start.
We were out yesterday at an auction sale and ran into a man that still owned a mare that we trained for his father 20 years ago. She was a nasty tempered range mare then and still is. The mare was a 2 year old and I rode her for 90 days. She was a good working horse but always had a nasty attitude. The man’s father has passed on and he now has a teenage son that loves to rope. He was telling me that they have bought many expensive well trained geldings the last few years but when those geldings don’t work they still go catch up the nasty tempered mare that Kelly trained to get the job done. She is now 22 years old, nasty tempered, and the best trained horse they have ever had. She is always ready to put in a full day’s work but she demands to be treated right and with respect or her nasty side comes out. Thanks to this mare his son has learned to treat all horses with respect and work with them as partners.
The trick is to be able to see the magic, the miracles, and the good that you are doing in your lives. Spend less time tallying up the bad and more time experiencing the good. There is a reason each of us is here – Make your time count. Thank you kindly for listening to this old Horseman. Go out and change your world for the better.