Wednesday, November 05, 2008

"Round Penning." What do you think of it? As a verb, I don't like it. I haven't done much round pen work with my mustangs. Well, not the current ones. Willow did a lot of it, thanks to my John Lyons video. Now I just feel like it's a bit too agressive, a bit mean. I want my horse to be with me because he trusts me to be his leader, not because I've bullied and scared him into following me. I want to be Mark Rashid's passive leader, not Clinton Anderson's dictator. I guess maybe I'm a softie, even thought I don't think of myself as one. Another reason I don't do it is that I know for a fact working on a circle is most definitely not good for them.

But, I decided I was going to try it. I read Marv Walker's "bonder" the other day. I don't know, I don't see the difference between it and other round pen work. His statements make me feel like the idiot who can't comprehend the philosophers, but I wonder if it's more a case of the Emperor's New Clothes. Maybe I'm not dumb, and maybe it is the same. The only real difference I can see is that he makes it clear it's not just about chasing them in endless circles until they're worn out.

As background info, I should say that Tonka will walk with me without a lead most days when he's saddled and bridled, so he is already a good boy. He doesn't present himself to me to ask what he can do for me every time I go into his area, but he usually doesn't run away. He sometimes pins his ears as he follows, but not when he's next to me, which tells me we might have a respect problem.

Anyway, I took him to the round pen today. I say this in my head all defeated-like, feeling like I'm saying I took him to the whipping post. But I digress... Trotted circles, changing direction every 3 laps or so, with NO agression, just calmly keeping him moving where I want him, waiting for him to really give me his attention. He did, I asked him to hook up, he did pretty well on one side. Not so great on the other side at all. After about 45 minutes I had a horse that was scared to walk with me on that side. He'd try to hook up and then get worried and decide it was easier to leave. He pivoted great in either direction, worried but with me, on hinds or forequarters, but he couldn't walk next to me without getting scared. After exactly 59 minutes (that felt like two hours) he was doing better, gave me hope that I didn't make a huge mistake. He was following me well on both sides, backing without getting scared on one side, then at the very end he did it on the other side. He was sweaty and winded. I felt like a big jerk. And I still don't think it improved our relationship. Rather than walking next to me perfectly and with interest, he was lagging behind kind of sullenly, making me jiggle my stick to encourage him to keep up. Maybe he was just tired.

I'm still a bit torn on what to do with this. Did I not keep it up until he was fully "mine" or is it just not the right technique for him? Would it be better to try it again or walk away from that idea with this horse?

Hopefully he'll let me know whether this was some amazing breakthrough or a really big mistake. Probably neither. I think we already had a pretty good relationship, and I don't think he'll hold it against me.


Kara said...

Have you seen any of Marv Walker's videos? I got a few on ebay because they were so cheap. I think I got Ground driving, gaining respect, and dealing with an agressive horse. I can't remember why I got these but I think it was because they were a package set and I wanted to see them. Not that any of my horses are aggressive. I was not very impressed with the videos at all. The gaining respect video is so poorly explained and the actual things that he shows are so subtle, that it is very hard (even for someone with experience) to see what he is doing. Plus, the change in the horse he uses is so subtle...I'm sure important, but subtle. The dealing with agressive horses and the determined challenger is just a joke. The horse isn't even that aggressive and just needs someone to draw the line for him. This guy is clearly scared of him. Anyway, I wasn't impressed and I no longer own the DVDs. If his roundpenning reading is anything like his videos, I can see how it wasn't very helpful.

Regarding round penning, I've though long and hard about it, and I've had very different experiences with all 3 of my horses. With Cody, I have to be very aggressive to get her to respect me. With Chico, I don't have to be agressive at all, just ask and he does. With Catlow, I have to be very non agressive. I'd love to explain more, but I need more time to formulate my answer and I'm tired of typing.

Lady Of Chaos said...

Round penning is not for every horse. I have horses here that I have better result with if I don't round pen (make them trot in circles) them. Some horses are just naturally eager to please and very willing to accept you as the leader.

Other horses, won't. Nahima. I have round penned her alot. At first I had be agressive to get her to move, but she also had no trust and NO respect for people. I always gave her the option to come in, sometimes she'd stop, look at me, then turn and start trotting on her own, with no signal from me. She would rather trot than be with me. This went on for months and I doubted the whole thing for a while.

But then one day she did better and it all just improved from there. Now she only gets round penned when she does something that she knows is wrong, like turn her butt to me or kick. After a few laps, she's all apologetic (as much as a horse can be) and will behave and be willing to work with me. It's worked wonders with her and I really don't think I'd be where I am today with her without the round penning.

I do train alot in the round pen, without round penning. It's a nice big area where they can't hide in a corner.

The key to keeping the joints sound is the speed. A nice even slow trot, where they are staying pretty much upright instead of leaning in as they go is safe. when they start the leaning is where it affects the joints negatively.

I don't think you hurt your relationship with Tonka. If anything you pushed him to be uncomfortable and then worked him through it until he was comfortable again. Sometimes you have to get them scared to show them that no matter what, you'll be there for them. That kind of thing has made my half wild Arab filly a pocket pony.

I think you're doing just fine.

arlene said...

I can relate so much to what you wrote. When we did our round (rectangle) pen work, poor little Echo thought I'm stalking him to kill him. I hate myself for doing it the last time. He broke out in a sweat from fear not excerise. He also chipped his hooves on some rocks. It set us back months!
With my mustangs I feel like they respect you if you show empathy for them. You need to let them know where they stand in the grand scheme of things.

I think they also need to know you can stress them if you choose to. I try to think like another horse. I'm the herd leader and if they respect me I will respect them. It's hard for me to explain. If I'm standing face to face with one of the mustangs and they start to look away from me I quickly turn my head away from them and for some reason they don't like it and want to be face to face again. Must be a horse thing. With Wildairo I had to turn my back and walk away a few yards. He would quickly want my attention again and follow me.
I used 'round penning' as a punishment for Wildairo, because he was so aggressive, to re-show him I was boss. I think round penning some horses could be very harmful if a person didn't know when to quit and/or the horse was like Echo.

Foxsun had never been round penned or even lunged. If he walks away from me I shout "bad boy Foxsun" and he comes back or stands still.

Millions of horse behaved just fine a long time before they invented the round pen.

Just give Tonka a kiss and a carrot. He's known you long enough to trust you no matter what.

Kara said...

if you move fast or run toward Tonka, does he spook and run away from you? If he afraid of anything that you do when you move around him? Catlow was not easy to round pen because in the beginning, she would rather run round and round me rather than come in and be with me. She almost seemed to shut down if I asked her to move fast (she'd trot okay, but asking for a canter was like asking her to turn off inside). To solve that, I didn't round pen her more, because it seemed like the roundpenning thing actually sort of caused her to shut off and fear me more. Instead I worked with her close up (while in the round pen)and did very stressful things that would be over very fast so that she didn't have time to turn off completely and so ended up learning that I wasn't going to hurt her. For example, I would stand next to her sort of relaxed and ignoring her, then I'd drop down into a crouch (ready to pounce) stance and hiss really loud. That scared her really bad at first and she ran away (I had her on a leadline so she had to deal with the situation), but by the 4th or 5th time in a row, she just looked at me like I was a little crazy, but didn't spook. Then I started throwing my arms up in the air and bringing my hands down onto her shoulder (with very quick motion as though I was going to hit her hard, but of course when my hands touched her it was very gentle). She freaked and tried to get out of my way at first, but eventually stood still as a stone when I did that. In the beginning, she would still be very leary of me even when she would stand still, but she eventually stopped freaking out. I also gave her a treat reward when she responded by standing still to keep her engaged and understanding that she did good. I think this was effective because she would react, but then my touching her and her realizing it was no big deal, was all over very quickly so she never had time to shut off. Now, I can do all manner of crazy things and she knows that's just what I do and I'm not going to attack her. After she accepted me this way, then I round penned her again, and she chose not to run round and round like zombie and would rather stop and stand with me. Maybe my method is strange, but I really worked with Catlow. Perhaps that's not what Tonka needs, but saying that he was afraid to be with you sometimes during the round penning process makes me think that there is some level where he is still afraid of you...although you say he pins his ears at you sometimes, so that wouldn't really indicate that. I don't know. That's just my two-cents.

Jenna Blumer said...

Again, I realize I am several years late, but I just wanted to say that I think "roundpenning" should be like a dance or a game. It's an exercise to show your horse that you can move his feet, which doesn't necessarily require aggression or running in circles as much as harmony and communication. It isn't necessary, there are many other ways to move a horse's feet. I don't do anything in a round pen with my horse, because I don't have one available.