February 14th, 2013 Don’t Take It Lying Down

I’ve blogged in the past about the necessity of laying a horse down but more and more frequently I see that most photos posted on trainer’s blogs, web pages, facebook posts, etc, show them with horses lying down.
I am getting sick of that for the horse.
What bothers me even more are photos of trainers sitting on the horse as it is trying to get up, is getting up or rather, struggling to get up.
Somehow…this pose has become synonymous with “natural” horsemanship.
O – O, those of you who know me well know that the term, “natural horsemanship” is a hot button.
For those of you who are worshippers of the same I take it upon myself to personally exorcise you of the thought that “natural horsemanship” means anything other than identifying with your horse in the same manner as it would its herd and not in the manner that has become the hallmark of “natural horsemanship”.
Man + Horse = Man disciplining horse until horse becomes irritable, spooky, hyper-sensitive and defensive.
Now, before you go yelling at me that “natural horsemanship” does NONE of these things, let me tell you that YES IT DOES!
I work with no less than 5-10 horses in a given day and always from the business end of the horse, the bottom of their hooves.
As a farrier I get a lot of insight into the mind and body of a horse. Nine times out of ten I have to deprogram a horse trained “naturally” and this isn’t always effective without a LOT of horse “move quickly, fastly and waaaaaaay over there from me”….this is not what I want from my friend, the horse.
I can spot a “natural horsemanship” horse before I even get out of the pick-up.
They are the ones with their heads up, eyes wide and wondering, “WHAT IN THE HELL IS THIS PERSON WITH THAT EQUIPMENT GOING TO MAKE ME DO NOW?” Those that have “normal” presentations are often so over stimulated they have checked out long enough to get through the task. These horses almost never show affection.
The horse is hypervigilant before I even get to it and generally, this costs me ten to twenty minutes of my time to get the horse to settle down, stop swinging left then back to the right, settle down, quit pulling against my arm in refusal to give control of your hoof, give up the control of your hooves and relax! So I can trim your gosh darned hooves and make you comfortable on that end at least!
I am not kidding, there is a parallel here and the answer is always 100% when I refence the behavior that the horse “really is good and does all sorts of tricks”.
Does this include lying down?
Unfortunately, yes.
We’ve not taken the horse to a new depth of overstimulation and somehow people keep misinterpreting this that the horse is “well trained”.
With sighs of affection and awe we say to ourselves, “now that horse trusts his owner enough that he will lay down and let the trainer dominate him…stand on his side (another thing that totally infuriates me from the horses stand point…how comfortable can it be to have someone STANDING on you ribs?!!!
Laying a horse down is something that should be done with benevolence and honor. It should not be repeated, and repeated and repeated and repeated…and it definitely should not be undone by having the trainer leap upon the back and force the horse to stand up.
Yes, I have laid horses down. Yes, it is effective, but to take the horse back to its fear of being preyed upon over and over and over is not training the horse well…its torturing it.
I know this because I work with several horses who owners’ claim to fame is the famous lying down trick. One is so skittish I can barely trim him. The other so disengaged I have questioned whether or not there is actually a soul left inside the horse.
A disengaged, disinterested, shut down and emotionally dominated horse is not my idea of humane training.
Horses are designed for man and sent here to this Earth to teach us. They should be affectionate, comfortable and when you look into their eyes, they should have life there.
I have said for several years that there is a better way. I intend to prove that and have spent my life tirelessly working to teach people that while lying a horse down has its place and benefits, I don’t need that “trick” to show that I have my horses cooperation and respect.
I refuse to work from a place that teaches us that to be one with the horse we must dominate them in such a way as to eradicate their likelihood that their fear will result in our death.
Training horses from a fear standpoint has reached its end in my book. It’s time to give the horse back its dignity and teach people instead.
Let’s look at it this way.
If I were your friend and every time we met I pulled you to the ground and sat on you, what would you think?
Damn straight. I’d call the cops for assault too.

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