Sunday, May 21, 2017

Liberty Training with Robin Gates

I learned so much over the past four days, its hard to know where to start.

We worked with Tex, of course.  He made huge progress and we were able to create some fissures in the layers of emotional scar tissue he has layered over his true self.  He uses indifference and reactivity to protect himself.  He stands in a corner of his pasture or paddock and ignores people, and he startles at the slightest touch.

The only way to get the alfalfa in that blue bucket, was to stick his head in the feed bin where I was sitting.  I did lots of silly things.  
The work I've done with him over the past year has been good.  My intuition about how to approach him was spot on.  But now, its time to up the game.  He's been working with me long enough to know that I am safe; that I will not harm him; and that I want a bond with him.  So, indifference and reactivity are no longer acceptable.  They won't be punished, but they won't be rewarded.  As Robin said, its time for him to tie his own shoe laces.
Robin working with Tex
We are teaching him that its okay to have me standing on the right side of his face, that its okay for me to touch him and hang on him and be silly; that I'm a bit unpredictable, in an interesting sort of way. We worked a lot with treats -- senior feed, cookies, carrots, and alfalfa.  Robin refers to the treats as real estate.  Anything I have that he wants, is real estate.  And he has to pay for it by coming to me, by sticking his head in a bucket, or by not leaving when I'm touching him.  He's done well; he's eating lots of good stuff.

Secondly, we are working on getting him to enthusiastically come to his name.  All of Robin's horses come flying out of the back of their pastures when they hear their names.  Tex knows his name and will amble over to me, but we want him to be thinking, "Hot dog!  She's calling me!  Here I come!"  This was a tough one for Tex.  There were many times that I went into the paddock, he ignored me, and I left without giving him anything.  He started coming over more yesterday afternoon.  Today, when we got home, I put him in the arena (rather than the boys pasture with Flash) -- so I am his only entertainment, at the moment.  He was very enthusiastic about me this afternoon; he even went so far as to trot all the way across the arena when he saw me opening the gate.  (talk about melting my heart).

In between sessions with Tex, Robin taught me the games that build the bond, and I was able to practice liberty skills using her horses.   There are three components to establishing, and strengthening, the bond: draw, pause and push.  I was able to experience all of them.  I even worked on walking at liberty with Red, her Dutch warmblood.  Each horse was different, and each taught me something that I can use with a member of our herd.
Walking with Red at liberty

There will be a shift in the posts on the this blog, I'm pretty sure.  There is so much I want to do and I want to share it all with you.  Lucy and Pistol have already had a lesson in "push," and Jackson and I worked on "pause."

The clinic was a game changer for me.  -- if you are interested in learning how to work with horses as willing partners and participants, I highly recommend spending a few days at her ranch.  She has horses that are star teachers and the setting -- on a hill above the vineyards in Sonoma, couldn't be better.  Here's a link to her website: Liberty Horse Training.

16 comments:

  1. That sounds fantastic. Carmen too would use reactivity and ignoring to protect herself. I can't wait to hear more.

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  2. How wonderful, sounds perfect for Tex! it's about the relationship, I would love to try with my horses.

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  3. This sounds so cool! Considering Gen isn't medically cleared to trailer even around the corner, I don't think I am going to get to a clinic any time soon. How does she get her horses to come? Gen comes when he is called, but only when I am coming to get him out of his field. I would love it if he came to me whenever I called (even if I am walking away from his gate). I can't wait to read about this new shift, you always seem to have such good relationships with your ponies so I am curious what the difference will be.

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    1. Never fear, I'm going to be posting about everything -- including this topic. Some horses learn/choose to come to their name quickly. Others (like Tex), not so much.

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  4. Sounds like a fantastic clinic. Positive reinforcement using food has been a real game changer for my shy, reactive Oak. I went to a clinic that talked about positive reinforcement being like adding drops in a bucket that represent trust. The more you reinforce your horse, the more you will fill up that bucket. Using force or even pressure (depending on how sensitive a horse is) can take stuff out of the bucket. Your goal is to put in more than you take out, because no one is perfect... or something like that. :) I think about that often when working with reactive untrusting horses. How do I fill their bucket?

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    1. Exactly!! Robin looks at like weighting a scale but its the same concept -- and will be the subject of my next post.

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  5. We're about 50/50 on the coming when called situation. It's a great feeling when he takes off at a gallop and screeches to a halt right in front of me. Looking forward to the upcoming posts!

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  6. This is so exciting. It does not surprise me that this has been intuitive to you -- you have a gift of writing about the connection between horse and rider.

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  7. An American in TokyoMay 22, 2017 at 5:19 PM

    Oooo! I can't wait to hear what you learned and maybe go learn for myself next year! (Thank you for the link!) Looking forward to your posts!!! Yay!!!

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  8. Hi Annette, so excited for you and your progress with Tex. If you ever want a great book to read from an excellent Canadian horseman by the name of Jonathan Field who believes in being inspired by horses and is a true and gentle partner to the horse, check out "The Art of Liberty Training for Horses (Attain New Levels of Leadership, Unity, Feel, Engagement, and Purpose in All That You Do With Your Horse). It's wonderful and filled with color photos. For more info check out his website: https://jonathanfieldhorsemanship.net/
    If you attend the Horse Expo at Cal Expo each June, you've probably seen him there as one of the presenting clinicians. (Unfortunately, he won't be there this year.) I've been to 4 of his clinics in Livermore (Contra Costa County, CA) and all of his presentations at the Expo. Wishing you continued success with Tex! Vicki ~

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    1. Hi Vicki. I am familiar with Jonathon and I did purchase his book about a year ago when I was first getting interested in liberty training. His methods are different than Robin's and hers resonate with me. Jonathon is rooted in Parelli and natural horsemanship, if I remember correctly. Robin comes at it differently. Different strokes for different folks -- her way is completely in sync with mine.

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  9. See my comment immediately prior to this one: The book I mention in that comment "The Art of Liberty Training for Horses" is significantly cheaper on Amazon ($24.80 Hardcover vs. $40.40 on Jonathan's website). I'm all for saving $$ when I can. :-)

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  10. I'm so jealous!! I want to go!! The little I have experienced was the height of joy for me. I've just had little peeks. I can't wait to hear more. This is what I long for.

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    1. I thought about you while I was there. And not only because I wasn't drinking enough water. LOL. I even mentioned you and Leah to Robin. You could go and learn on Robin's horses -- it totally works. I've been applying what I learned with Lucy and Jackson and Pistol; it translates. Go!! You are perfect fit for it because you already understand the intuitive connection.

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  11. SO interesting, can't wait to read more about your experiences!

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Thanks so much for commenting! I love the conversation.