18 September 2008

Misconceptions - Signals in Join Up

Misconception - "My horse doesn't show all four signals no matter how much I send him away"

In my experience many horses will initially only show 1 or 2 of the signals, usually the 'ear locked on' and 'making the circles smaller'. A few will 'lick and chew' and some of these are barely noticeable, and very few will 'bounce their head'. While practicing your technique it is always a good idea to have an observer outside the pen, more often than not the observer will notice details you have missed and can advise accordingly, also they can point out if your timing is appropriate.

Although Monty Roberts can so easily demonstrate all four signals with a horse, please remember he has had years of practice and experience.

It is far more important to achieve a reasonable 'Join Up' with a relaxed horse than it is to constantly push for all four signals.

'Join up' is based on watching how horses communicate with each other on a daily basis, one of which is eyes on eyes and body square, meaning go away. When humans communicate with each other it is considered impolite not to face the other person and look them directly in the eye, unfortunately we carry this rule over to our horses. Over the years many horses will become deadened to our ways and then when we attempt to communicate to them in their own language we become frustrated that they don't seem to be listening or 'communicating' to us.

Please remember in all cases a horse acts and behaves just like a horse for a reason. Horses do not have a sense of humour as we do, contrary to the often heard comment "give him a good crack with the whip, he's taking the mickey out of you". They kick, buck and bite for a reason and it is our job to get to the cause of that reason, sometimes the answer is that we have inadvertantly taught our horse to react in that way. However, more often than not our horse is telling us that he is in pain or dicomfort.

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