Milo was a horse Emmett and I was going to try and do as close to a start to finish video of. Emmett passed before we got started on Milo, and when I got around to starting him, I was quite surprised. His halter training went easy, never really an issue, I worked him regularly, with no real problems. When I started to train him, I found he was a lot more horse than I thought. Emmett told his Daughter this horse would surprise me and I sure was.
In today’s horse culture it is professional suicide to put these videos out there. The videos are stuck between the experts who use force to train horses and the experts who just work submissive horses. Each group will use these videos to prove their own expertise. The real issue is they have not studied horsemanship as a process from the natural horse to the upper levels.
When you study the natural maturation process of a horse and understand how changeable and malleable young horse actually is there is a philosophical issue that needs to be resolved. It is simple put like this. It is more ethical to breed and training horses to fit our need or to allow horses to develop as horses and learn how to educate them to out needs.
When you work with a natural horse, it is perfectly clear that man has changed the horse with his breeding and training practices. By replacing nature’s maturation process, we have been raising and breeding colder blooded horses with every generation, regardless of the genetics. This is all fine for the back yard horseperson, and fits our training methods and experience, but it is really what is best for the horse?
One of the issues horsemanship faces in honesty in the process. Horsemanship has become more of an emotional game instead of a profession, and reality conflicts with emotions, the emotions win.
Milo was halter trained as late weanling. It was not a perfect job, but there were not real issues, I figured Milo was going to be an easy horse, which I was looking forward to. I worked with him every month, not really training him, but just building his confidence to see of some of those issues would go away.
When I started struggling with Milo, every expert would use Milo issues to prove they were an expert. The problem is I have trained enough horses with a master horseman, to know when I have issues with a horse, while it is my issue; it is part of the learning process. While you can sort of train on auto pilot with an easier horse, when you run into a tougher horse, you have to re-build your horsemanship from the ground up and try and figure out what works for this horse.
Most people develop their skills on training younger horses. What you find out when you train mature horses are those skills do not work. You got away with them on a young horse, because the young horse was too immature to resist and fight back. The truth is if you cannot train mature horses with you skills, your skills are not very good, as it is just the nature of an immature horse to submit, instead of fight.
The same holds true for easy horses also.
“Most animals that man has used to serve his own selfish ends down through the centuries have been products of this training without education system. A minimum of intelligence and a maximum of force are employed to compel blind obedience. In professional circles this is know as make them or break em technique. The animals resistance is so broken down, and its spontaneity and initiative so dulled that it is supinely does what every the trainer demands. With it’s thinking and natural impulses walled off, it becomes a four legged slave, submissively serving the moods and whims of the human ego that is playing god with it.” J Allen Boone, Kinship with all life. 1954
This is one of my favorite quotes. Most people will read it and think how good they are as they do not use the make it or break it method, and their horses obey them with out a fight. First you have to look at how much we have changed the horse over the past 100 years to accomplish this. Second you have to ask is my expertise in horsemanship really based on understanding the horse, or is it just that we have perfected the art of producing four legged slaves, submissively serving the moods and whims of the human ego that is playing god with it.
I do not work a tough horse without doing a lot of thinking and experimenting. If I had the answer, he would not be a tough horse. In Milo I suspected I build up the relationship to quickly. I suspect he was doing things for the relationship, instead of for himself. It is all a guess, as more earlier training may have just created more issues for him.
What seemed to happen, was when he got into a spot where he had to depend on himself, the did not have the confidence to work through the issues. I can see how I did not build that in his foundation as good as I could have. The other side is even if I perfected everything in his halter training, he may still have had the same issue.
There is a spot where I really did mess up with Milo. I talked with another horseman about Milo and the point was sometimes you have to just let them work though the issue. That is a true statement, but it sure is a difficult judgment call. There was one spot where I should have removed the saddle and I did not.
The “experts” how train easy going young horses and think they are doing a great job fail to take into account the differences between an immature horse and a mature horse. An immature horse naturally submits when confronted with pressure he cannot flee. Nature keeps him from having a fight mode, he is emotionally dependent in his dam or another horse, and he naturally follows in times of stress rather that flee or fight. If you look at the halter training videos, you will see we always let a horse flee, or hind his head if he needs to. We understand how easy it is to train both an easy horse and a tough horse to submit at a young age.
If you look at the struggles Milo is having as a mature horse, there is progress, slow progress, but there is no submission. When you understand the effects submission has on real collection, the conditioning process and the working useful life of the horse, then you can understand how limited the riding should be on a submissive horse.
The military, bred warm-blooded horses and their process was good enough to counter any submissive issue with the amount of outdoor riding and the conditioning practices they had in place. When you remove the practices they had in place to counter submissive behavior, you end up with a submissive horse.
When you study the maturation process, it is clear that it is very easy to train an immature horse to become submissive. One has to consider the balance between herd life and human interaction as a factor.
“See to it that the colt be kind, used to the hand and fond of men when he is put out to the breaker. He is generally made so at home and by the groom, if a man knows how to manage so that solitude means to the colt hunger and thirst and teasing of horseflies and relief from pain only comes from man. For if this be done colts must not only love men but long for them.” Xenophon
In human terms this is the Stockholm syndrome. In modern horsemanship there is a lot of this built into our husbandry of young horses and the reality is we may have perfected the art of breeding, raising and training submissive horses.
If you study all the techniques we have to train young horses to be
“a four legged slave, submissively serving the moods and whims of the human ego that is playing god with it.”
I have professionally eliminated those practices from my horsemanship practices so I can understand how to work with a horse on his terms, not a submissive slave. This is a line in horsemanship the industry will not define, because it requires an education structure, professional practices, and when you start understanding the process, it really eliminates the back yard horse expertise we have generated by breeding submissive horses.
The irony of horsemanship is if I compare the results of the first mare I started 15 years ago with Milo one would think in 15 years my horsemanship has gone backwards. The truth is, I decided that training submissive horses did far more damage to horses over the long run than struggling to figure out how to train horses who do not submit.
You will find the every expert does not train a horse to submit, but the reality is they just do not define the difference between submission and a thinking curious horse. As soon as you start training natural untrained five-year-old stallions, which were raised by nature not to submit, you realize just how much we have changed the horse so we can “train” him.
The truth is we live in a horse culture where we pick horses to make us look good. That is the game we play. When you honestly put horsemanship back into a professional education process, you will find we have taken a lot from the horse over the past 100 years to feed our egos.