I too am sorry. I was enjoying reading this discussion, in part because of its practical application - I clean stalls at a barn a few mornings a week, and in part because I learn the most in posts when people disagree and explain their differing opinions. It causes me to think about my own horsemanship and why things work, or don't work for me when they might work (or not) for someone else.
My advice is to just observe. Good judgement cannot come before experience. Even with experience, there is no certainty we will understand. I still strive to understand.
My first introduction to horses on any meaningful level started with leading a horse. I asked myself, why does this huge animal blindly follow me just because I put a rope on his head? It's been forty years. I have never stopped asking questions.
I think our lives shape or style of communication. For example, one thing I have noticed about myself over the years is my style of communicating when I am doing something with or teaching about horses has become increasingly direct or intense almost as an overcompensation. And the overcompensation, I believe, is not so much me overcompensating for feelings I might have, but overcompensating for the attitude contemporary students bring to a lesson or clinic. My experience is that over the past 15 or so years, maybe longer, students have increasingly come to lessons with an attitude or belief that they know "something" about horses that demands my respect. They increasingly quote the internet on horses, for example. I call it google entitlement. That's what I am addressing with my style.
My rock bottom reference point is a "what if?", such as what if I quoted the internet to my now gone old friend Fred who began riding horses when few people owned cars. The answer would be that he'd laugh at me if I spoke typical internet nonsense. And what if I quoted net dribble to my instructor Mr. Gratwick? I would surely get his dismissive silent stare. I do neither. I don't laugh or stare silently, I continue to teach because I feel that horsemen today who actually know something have an obligation to counter the flood of stupid internet "information".
I am not saying anyone here does that internet dribble, but giving lessons or clinics I sure received it, and that is, I think, the source of my style, which some people find offensive to varying degrees. There was a rider on another forum who's favorite line when asserting dribble that I would challenge was, "Then we can agree to disagree". My response to that was, no your information is incorrect because in the final analysis, incorrect information about horses most often results in difficulty or suffering for horses or for people around horses.
As in the case of the judgment that my technique of slacking the rope to allow a prospect to slam himself into a stall wall was harsh in some way, I responded with the intention of communicating that such techniques are very effective in establishing safe attitudes and behaviors in the horse and that the end justifies the means. The end in that case is an immediate behavior change because patience with dangerous horse behaviors is in itself dangerous. I will remind everyone of the stallion in the Buck movie. That's where patience or denial or avoidance ends up. I will be very patient in training horses regarding behaviors that are not safety issues, but when a horse is dangerous, the time to stop it and remove it can't be too short.
"Even with experience, there is no certainty we will understand."
Very true. The real difficulty in training horses is that when we don't understand, we must continue the training. For example, with this very smart prospect I do not know what trigger his resistance. I may be able to narrow the possibilities but I can't know, but I have to keep training him and I have to at the same time try not to randomly trigger resistance in him. And that is where experience plays its important role. In my first training job there was an older guy on the place who told me "horse training is not so much doing anything right as it is not doing anything wrong". That's where I have the huge experience base from which I can draw. I have done almost everything a person can do wrong with a horse at least once.
I often ask why, but sometimes things happen and you have to respond without knowing why.Sometimes the best reaction from us is no action. Don't just do something, stand there. If it's something bad, then let him come against his own pressure, while remaining passive. That sounds like maybe that is what you did with him rearing and falling against the stall wall. Sometimes there are happy accidents, that teach a horse a lot.
Ray Hunt was fond of saying simple things like this;
"If the horse bites you, bare the pain. Next time, don't let him bite you."
Timing is everything. If you go after a horse, after the fact, you are too late anyway.
A good juxtaposition of attitudes and methods is in this example. I was watching a segment of Clinton Anderson on TV showing what to do with some problem a horse had. His usual go to way, "as soon as the horse does (such and such), do such and such. Usually a really big thing. A lot of action in response to a lot of action.
Then there was Tom Dorrance, who simply said, "do less, get more".
The young Welsh QH is showing me a pattern of minor resistance. It always comes at two specific times. One is lunging to the right and the other is entering his stall. I have experienced this kind of "take a stand" moment kind of prospects. They pick something, usually something small and difficult to figure out why, and they use it to express resistance. He has picked these two things and we have had a series of testing moments. In the end he does what is expected of him.
In a child this kind of repetition of resistance at specific times or circumstances might be called oppositional disorder. That disorder is one where kids don't have much or any meaning or purposed to their resistance. It is done for its own sake, like a ritual. He knows he is going to end up in his stall but he "makes" the person leading him stop and pay extra attention to him longer and more intently due to his resistance.
It's difficult in some of these moments to decide what to do, ignore it and move on or stop the inconvenience. I do both, depending on if he adds anything to it, like entering my boundaries. For example, when he resists lunging to the right by stopping and refusing to move, I shorten the line and touch his butt with the lunge whip. Once in a while he will put his shoulder into me as he is compelled to move forward again to the right. If he bumps me with his shoulder I respond with "a big deal" of some kind, like yelling at him, poking him in the gut with my fist as he goes by, something to show my displeasure.
While he has not improved that much this week on the lunging to the right, he has learned that he needs to respect my boundaries. He's smart and I wonder how much he is getting about the whole process of training. He knows the pattern and does part of it, but keeps part of it under his control, like when entering his stall. We don't have a relationship yet that would make all this clear to him. Soon I hope he will begin to get that we both have jobs in the process together. Right now I feel we are separated. This is when I get impatient to just get on him and ride.
"No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle." Winston Churchill
To me, lunging is simply leading a horse around you. I like to be able to lead a horse past me. Maybe I will place myself a small distance from a wall or fence, and see if the horse will lead through the opening I created. But I take that lead rope, lunge line, and direct it in front, like i'm leading, but I don't move with the horse. I allow him to go by. I find out a lot of things about a horse this way. I might have to adjust the distance, as too close, the horse is too crowded. But all he has to do is go by, not go clear around. Pretty soon, he will go all the way around.
As to the stall issue, based on your first description of how you worked him in the stall, I'm not surprised. I'm not there, so it is hard to judge, but it sounds like you tried to start at square one or two, instead of square zero. Square zero would be opening the stall door, and just getting the horse to look at you. All that might take is scuffling a little dirt with your boot when he looks away. Any more pressure than that might be simply too much pressure. The stall itself is pressure. I might even back away from the door way and let him want to come out. You have to start with his eye and ear, with a look, Pretty soon the feet come with them. But you have to back away and give him the space to fill. Don't go in the stall. Let him come to you, but without the fear of reprisal for not coming. Let him want to come.
I also look at the whole picture. If the horse is afraid, shy, unsure, then I watch for any moment to get him sure. I watched the pasture video. There were times he looked you up, and you proceeded to chase him off, because you wanted to see him move.But don't miss those other moments when he makes a move towards you. Don't forget square zero, whenever you are around him.
That's my observation and advice, if you need it. I could be totally off base on what you are actually doing.
I would add one more thing. Take what you are doing, and cut it in half, then half of that again. Start there.
I agree with what you have said. It's as if I have been doing the starting process in a specific way for many years and the steps provide me with a measure or baseline of a horse. When I do it the same each time, each prospect, I see where the horse falls in the range of horses that have been through the same process steps. That's useful information, but as you say, it can have unintended consequences.
The way you describe getting a horse to go past you is how I start them in lunging. We are up by a wall or fence and the horse goes past between me and the wall. Then I see if the horse will continue back to the same place and go past me at the wall again. I am not a big fan of lunging but it is on my check list of early skills. I want it in a horse's skill set so later it can be used for rehab. This comes from my old polo days. This guy will go past me to the left and walk evenly or trot evenly around me back to the wall and go past me. As I let out more line, he expands his circle in a very steady manner. He has reached the goal on that checklist item to the left, and if he did it equally well to the right, I'd back off the lunging. But to the right he goes past me and gets half way around back to the wall and stops. This is when I feel like the horse is training me. He "makes" me shorten the line, walk him back to the wall and have him go past me to the right in the manner we start. To mix it up, sometimes I will make him go past me where he stopped, which is generally the same place in the circle each time. It's all very ritualistic and I wonder if it is because he wants to make me do the beginning again.
The desensitization in the stall I did too quickly. He did so well the first time I thought it was near "done". Then he got spookier and I just "marched" on trying to keep a schedule, which is always bad and stupid. But there are some immediate practical advantages. It was not very easy to clean his stall with him in it, now it is. He stands where you put him while you work in his stall. He stands nicely for his halter to be put on him, and other basic things now. He just does that pause when entering the stall. Again, it's like he is training me. I shorten the rope and make him go past me into the stall. He is "telling me" that's how he wants to do it each time and the people at the barn do it all kinds of ways, so he has to become more versatile.
The real smart ones generally do not love my early steps. The dumb ones do. It gets glitch sometimes with a quick minded horse but I know from the past that once we get to riding it all evens out. The quick minded ones once you establish a real kind of fun relationship in the riding seem to adjust the early glitches. That's my experience so maybe I get sloppy knowing that. On the other hand the dumb ones need the steps like a foundation because thy have difficulty "going back and fixing imperfections". As I write this I see maybe I needed more than one approach to starting horses during my career, not that I don't have variations, but it is a single process that I developed when I was training multiple horses with helpers. I am still using it out of habit and for the data feed back I see using the steps as my ruler. You are right about square zero here regarding the stall work. Maybe I will just stop it and do completely different stuff like ponying him. That's what my first boss told me to do when I got resistance in a stage in his system. This boss would allow me to get on a good old horse and take the prospect out fot ran hour or more at a time. It worked.
Today Laura laid across the prospect's back and put her whole weight on him (all 98 pounds). He accepted her weight and at one point, as she was preparing to "mount" him for the first time, he leaned into her pressing weight, a good sign. Once she was across his back feeling her total weight, he stood quietly.
I find these moments exciting, no matter how much I experience them. I believe the basis of unity in riding is the horse's instinctual desire to unite with the feel of a rider. This is why early on in my training career I began to start all my horses bareback, even though the trainer I worked for in my first training job always got his prospects used to a saddle then mounted them with the saddle. I think making that connection body to body is important. The young horse feels your balance, your weight and warmth and your seat, then later on when you use a saddle, they are more apt to feel your seat bones through the saddle.
It was a milestone day. Laura laid across the first back of an completely untrained horse, and triton, the prospect, felt the weight of a rider for the first time.
"No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle." Winston Churchill
The weather has been pretty cold here this winter and we didn't do as much training with this prospect as I might have liked as a result. But we are back at it and here is a video of him in the second stage of the old English "backing" method of starting a horse.
You might remember that this process begins in a box stall, getting the prospect to move in a circle around you as you stand in the center. Due to his owner/breeder's diagnosis of a serious illness he was pretty much let go in the first year and more of his life. When we began teaching him in the stall to do a circle he had some impulsive moments but in time he learned well and we began to back him easily in the stall. What we did in the stall is exactly what you see in the beginning of the video, laying across his back so he could feel the full weight of a rider and learn to rebalance with the combined weight of horse and rider. I call this stall work kindergarten. When someone can lay on his back, swing a leg over and later sit up, and then be lead in a circle in the stall, the kindergarten work is complete.
The next step is doing the same work out in the open, which is what you see in the video. I think this video is the first time we did backing work in the arena without first doing it in the stall before.
You can see he is very relaxed and accepting of the rider. He rebalances as she shifts her weigh without a care with her on his back while he is moving. His greatest fear in the stall work was when the rider sat up on his back and became higher than his head. If you watch closely you can see he pays special attention when the rider changes from the lying on his back position to sitting up.
You can see he leads well and I am leading him in and out of sunny and shadow spots. He is very aware and things like this and the changes in light seem to cause him to pay special attention, but here in the video he is being very good.
The next step will be to try to get him to move a little quicker, perhaps trot on a leadline, and then we will put snap reins on his halter and put a bareback pad with a cinch on him for riding. He has already been lunged with the bareback pad and cinch. It took him three times to get used to it.
In the last two videos you see this young prospect that will be 3 years old next month that is progressing in his work. What you don't see, and maybe I will get someone to video it next time, is how wary this young one remains after many months. We use a red muck bucket as a mounting block to mount him, and each time he is afraid of it. His instinct for self protection has remained very much in the front of his mind. Predators attack from the ground and from overhead. Anything on the ground that appears like a big blob to him is treated as a predator. Things above his eye level are the same, although he is getting better at the from-above threats. It took us a while, but sitting up on his back such that the rider is constantly above his eye level was a long careful task. Still however, he is very careful of things below like the muck bucket. But we must remember he is still 2 years old and was largely abandoned from birth due to the owner's health problems.
In this last video you can see that when we stop and I approach him from the front "eye to eye", he backs up. This is his wary nature. I do not pull him forward but let him back up until he reaches the end of the rope, where he stops and allows me to face him, however reluctantly. (I am sure Jimmy is chuckling at my first video trying to get him to canter. That didn't help him in his arrival at the farm.)
It's been a challenge to convince him that people and objects are not a threat, that he is safe and cared for. We put him in the stall closest to the entry door to the barn so that everyone who comes and goes walks by him. The kids love him and he is not afraid of them. They do things I do not condone, like allow him to be mouthy with them. He licks their coats and hands. Eventually we might stop this but now it is interesting to watch how the oral baby stuff plays out with young kids. I would not allow this if I thought he would bite them. I am convinced he won't.
At times like this when you have a nice prospect progressing well and you see the places where the young one struggles, you wonder why. Here is my theory. The owner/breeder became ill. She must have had to rely on others to feed, clean and do other chores. Who were they? Neighbors?, Friends? Where they horse people? I am guessing that he had a life for his first year and a half where he was alone with others his age most of the time except for interruptions when someone came to feed, move him in or out of the bar, etc. I think maybe these people were probably in a hurry, did not know much or anything about horses, and maybe some were afraid of horses. I don't know, but what I see is a horse wary of adult size people and it is not improving at the same rate as his basic training.
The lesson here, I think, is about the early months of a horse's existence. In the wild there are no people. A truly wild prospect has no experience with us humans, and that can be good. In a typical breeding situation in "captivity" there are people who have some understanding and caring calm to reassure a baby. This prospect seems to be in the middle of those typical upbringings with the worst of both worlds. I see a baby essentially growing up wild with unpredictable appearances of adult humans who didn't make him feel truly safe. He's an orphan, but he shows great interest in learning tasks and he likes the warm connection of a bare back rider.
"No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle." Winston Churchill