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The Path of the Horse eBook on Kindle takes the reader beyond the Path of the Horse documentary, following Stormy May's path in the years following the release of the movie. Originally released in 2012 and updated in 2016.

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Training secrets revealed (Part 1)

Training Secrets Revealed (Part 1)
by OurHorses
Have you ever wondered how people get horses to move the way they do?  

Envision an orchestra conductor bringing together different sounds.  She communicates to the musicians by the gestures of her body and her baton which are signals between them.  In a similar way, a human can learn to “conduct” the movements of a horse by the gestures of her body.  To do this, she needs to have a method of communicating what she wants to the untrained horse. 

If you wanted a canary to fly in a certain direction and were able to fly faster than he could, you would probably block all his attempts to fly in directions you didn’t want while leaving the one direction you wanted open.  This is similar to how a human trains a horse.  

To see how this applies to horses, we must understand the ways humans have developed to block the movements that they don’t want while allowing those they do.
Method #1
Physical confinement by means of fences.
Physical confinement by means of fences.

This method is characterized by the use of a space defined by a barrier that is immobile and visible to the horse.  Fences can be made from many materials from strong to weak.  In order to be effective for this method, the horse must believe that she cannot break through the fence.  Fences that give electric shocks are commonly used to train horses to believe that they will be harmed by touching fences that they could otherwise easily push through. 

For centuries, humans have worked horses within different spaces they created to achieve different goals.  Roundpens, picaderos, arenas and maneges are all examples of fenced training areas.  The smaller the space, the less opportunities for the horse to escape the mental and/or physical pressure or pain resulting from being in a small space with a human.   

Physical pressure or pain and emotional stress are typically caused by the advancing of the human to take over the ground that the horse is on.  By using a device that extends his reach, a human can hit a horse at a distance that is far enough away that the horse can’t kick or bite the human.  Commonly used devices include whips and thrown objects including lassos and rocks.  The size and shape of the space and the movements of the human determine the extent that the horse can escape.

In the initial stages of this training method, the horse must figure out what the human wants so that he stops advancing on her in a way which mimics a predator’s attack and lets her get to a space where she feels comfortable.  By using a small space, the human can drive the horse into a state of confusion and/or physical exhaustion with very little effort on his part.  Once the horse begins to tire or weaken and look for ways to surrender, the human typically offers the horse a chance to rest if she comes up to the human and/or follows him.  This is the basis of the “join up” technique. 

Two characteristic features of a fence are that it is a visible barrier that defines an area the horse can move in and that its placement remains fixed during a training session.

In the comments section today please post links to videos that show the use of this method of training.  Also, if you have questions, experiences to tell or different observations please write them down and post them as comments.  By speaking out as well as listening to each other, we will add to the level of compassion and understanding in the world today. 

Tomorrow we will post part 2: Physical confinement by means of ropes.
Physical confinement by means of ropes.

12 Responses to Training secrets revealed (Part 1)

  • Elaine says:

    I guess I’m just getting old, but this color of type and size of type against that background is very hard to read. I would love to read your blogs, but… maybe you could make the type bigger or change the color to something clearer? That would be great if you could! Thanks!

  • Mariette says:

    Hmmmm, doesn’t sound like the horse has much choice in the matter. Too bad. If we did something else, perhaps spending undemanding time and inviting the horse, perhaps he would want to be with us out of his own free will. That’s how I trained my horse and he will do anything for me as long as I am not a dicatator. If there is a connection based on the heart, not on fear, the connection us so much stronger. I never “work my horse in a round pen”. I do play with my horse in a huge arena where he can excape if he wants to, he most often chooses to be with me though and I make it as pleasant for him as I can when he is with me. If that sounds like he gets away with everything, that is also not true. I never give up my space for him so he doesn’t think of stepping into my space. I think carefully about what I would like him to do for me, I hold a picture of it in my head, and talk about it with him. When I ask I ask politely and wait…. Sometimes I know he does not understand what I am asking so I have to think of another way of asking. Then I see a spark of understanding and I stop asking. When he’s done what I have asked I don’t keep asking him to do it again. Once is enough for us. That way I don’t drill him. Perhaps in twenty minutes or so I might ask again. It’s amazing how if we are consistant in our ask he will understand much more quickly. Most of the time if he knows what I want, he will gladly do it. Don’t ask me why, I really don’t know, but I am so grateful that he is so willing to do what I ask. He is my friend and I would never think of confing him so that he is forced to do what I demand.

    • Mariette, All I can say is you have one very lucky horse. You are so very far along in what I aspire to. It takes time to think this through and to un-do what I was taught over many years. But thank-you for verifying the idea of mutual respect and participation without the use of any form of constraints.

    • Jeanne says:

      Agreed! Thanks for sharing about your great relationship, Mariette! How long have you been spending time with your horse in this way? How long did it take to build this relationship where he usually chooses to be with you?

  • su says:

    I am old enough to have done all the things I now abhor, including round pen work and other things that make me shudder and feel so bad about. I have changed, completely, and so I know that others can change too. The challenge is to find a way of speaking about these things so that people listen and want to know more. So often only the ‘already converted’ will pay attention. However if we are sure of our case, of the reasons behind what we do and what we reject doing, we are stronger in our ability to open little cracks in the defences of those belonging to a different viewpoint and a different concept of what a horse is, who question whether we need to care about what a horse might like or want or feel comfortable about. I think this way of Stormy’s is more likely to make people think than just by showing scenes of outright cruelty. I have recently come across several books and articles in which the different approaches to horse keeping and horse training are put in their logical contexts – i.e. ‘if you think of the horse in this way, then that training method is logical and will be considered correct and OK’. People have to change in themselves as they change their approach, and changing within yourself is very scarey to most people, especially at first. So the matter is very complex.I can argue that a horse prefers this or that way of life but if the person does not actually care what a horse prefers, or believes that horses are not capable of having preferences, I might as well save my breath. This is what I wonder about. Is it enough for us to continue on our paths doing what we feel is right by the horse, will our example ever be recognised for what it is by others who do not start from the same point as we do, with regard to the horse’s right to have an opinion, and preferences? I really don’t know, but I sincerely hope so. What I am sure of is that Stormy and many like her will help all those who are vaguely uncomfortable about what they do, or what they see many others do, and will help them to understand their own feelings and give voice to them, so they can work through their own discomfort and identify what path they want to follow, to find a fresh approach by finding a fresh starting point, for example that of accepting that the horse is not a low form of life with no dignity or preferences or strong needs for a certain ‘lifestyle’ in order to really truly thrive. People have to put aside their ego and listen….hmmmmm, not today’s greatest skill perhaps? Anyway I am happy to be a part of this change and thank people like Stormy from the bottom of my heart for what they are indeed changing in this world! Happy to be part of this blog too, best wishes to all, Susan.

    • Jeanne says:

      Hi Susan, what do you think is the best way to share this message and help people? What changed how you saw things? Have you seen others reached? I myself am working hard to find ways to share this with others in a way that they can, as you said, work through their own discomfort and understand.

  • kathie says:

    i am grateful to see this educational material.
    horses are incredibly intelligent and like others said, without the respect of one mammal to another, there can be no relationship of love, only master/slave. with the realization how very similar the horse brain is to the human’s, with the ability to read, how can we continue treating them as tools of pleasure and money. each person on their journey with their horses, will hopefully see it.

  • Happiness says:

    I am very happy to read this and I would ask if I could translate this and use on my Norwegian site as i want to share this message and knowledge.

    I Have three horses and I love them beyond what they are able to do for me. They are not born for me to use. They are born to make themselves happy and by being happy they also make me happy. By being able to help them rediscover the glory and splendor of the world i have become the person i have always wanted to be. I have become harmonious and peaceful. I love spending time in silence with my horses, yet it is never really silent. Every movement and every expression is a word and it is so magnificent to be able to talk, share secrets no other can understand. To be allowed inside their herd and know that they see me as something trustworthy, something that belong with them even if I am so different from them.

  • Mira says:

    The people (or pesron) who did this should face a very harsh punishment! I’m in favor of sending people who abuse animals to prison for long stints and making them PAY for their crimes against animals. How about the same torture inflicted on them that they inflicted on the innocent animal? One of the Muslim countries in getting ready to cane a mother of two for drinking a beer how about we do something like that to animal abusers and then lock them up without medical care, food, or nice living conditions!

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I am so impressed with the Path of the Horse … it is brilliant and SUCH important work! CONGRATULATIONS – You are true trailblazer and incredibly brave. I actually did not know your personal story or how it was woven through all of this and it touches me so deeply that I just bawled and smiled and cheered through the entire thing- it is so incredibly humbling and takes me to a new level of both understanding and not knowing and seeking and surrendering.

Constance Funk