Draft Animal Power – Draft animals and sustainable land stewardship › Forums › Community of Interest › Books/Resouces › "The Horse In The Forest"
- November 3, 2015 at 8:29 pm #86353
I got this book by Hans Sidback through our college library. It was a good quick read. It covers a lot of topics to consider for the norwegian style of horse logging. What I found interesting was on the topic of training a horse he has a very laid back approach. I have always given horses very strict limits on personal space especially during feeding time. Hans says “Do not teach a horse unnecessary things such as standing in his stall when the door is open….If a horse turns the head and wants some hay when you are coming in with it, let the horse have a bite” This laid back approach makes sense to me even if it hasnt been my style. I have noticed that when I am confident in my working relationship I “slack” on some things and let them pick at branches or nibble some grass when they are standing and it doesnt seem to have any ill effects. I can see how some unnecessary strictness can actually create more anxiety. If this book didnt cost $125 I would have it on my library shelf at home. In the mean time borrowing it from the library has been a pleasure.November 6, 2015 at 3:14 pm #86361Jim OstergardParticipant
I had a copy loaned to me many years ago and I had it photo copied and then returned it. Ran down a source in England but it was pricey as you point out. Too bad the English version is not reprinted. Much useful advice.November 6, 2015 at 8:41 pm #86362
That sounds like a fun book. I will have to look and see if I can find it. I have never felt a need for “unnecessary” rules. I have always joked that mules don’t tolerate unecessary rules well! Of course what is necessary is very much in the eye of the beholder (beholder – one who holds the rope). My personal space from horses and mules would appear very relaxed and casual to many folks, but it is very clear to me and my animals where our boundaries are. Eating in harness can be a huge problem. Not much can be done about nibbling a branch in front of the face, but for me putting a head down to eat grass in harness is something I hate to see.
Side note: two Amish horses ( with a forecart) showed up in front of my barn today! My wife felt the young boys must be around some where, but nope; this team had left them in the wood lot across the street and run up my drive way and stopped at the barn. Lucky for all concerned.November 9, 2015 at 6:24 am #86378Carl RussellModerator
Great recommendation Jared. Sounds like an important text.
Being completely out of context, as I have not read the book, I had similar thoughts to Donn’s.
I have long had a challenge understanding the transition from control exercises to working control. I know that there is clearly some translation from control exercises into working control, but I have focused much more on the foundational communication that is built in exercises than the actual performance.
I have been thinking recently about exploring this in articles or workshops. I think there is a difference between rules that enforce our mastery and rules that clarify our working relationship.
I watch a lot of teamsters grapple with this. How do they translate a command from practice and training into application and an effective working relationship? My theory is that most training is theory, and preparatory. We tend to have a weak link into working communication based on that, and many folks are stuck on either having to go back to the practice ring to reinforce command, or they get stuck trying to reinforce a practice drill during work.
I think it is as Donn suggests that because I am comfortable with allowing freedoms that are acceptable, I can exercise a common understanding. In other words, I know when I am in control, that I am always in control of the choices I make about what they do, and they know it too, I just give them respect for being able to understand that too.
One basic premise that drives my thought process is that I am always at work with my horses. I often say that I have never trained a horse, because I tend to focus on working communication, not training exercises.
Anyway, I’d love to hear what others think, and how we could advance this topic culturally.
CarlNovember 9, 2015 at 7:20 am #86379
Interestingly, I have been challenged greatly this last month with a 2 1/2 y/o mule. I do try and do some “training” as I put a new comer to work. I value using work as training because the animals do respond so well to our initiative and involving them in something beyond themselves. But you still need a few safe, logical baby steps to put the young animal to work. Pete, who you didn’t meet at the Field Days; is right at the cusp where this takes place. It is fun, interesting and frustrating all at the same time.
About a month ago he was pulling a pair of small poles around. I should have moved him to something a little bigger and heavier, but before I did he started taking these poles back to the barn on his own. Since then I have been trying different things to get back where I was with him. In some sense the problem I have had in the last month is lost initiative. Fortunately I am the kind of person that is not overly disappointed by this. I am learning from him, and trying different things each time we get together.
To make long story short, he is reminding me of the value of work in training.November 9, 2015 at 9:45 am #86381Jim OstergardParticipant
I like what Carl and Donn are onto here. One comment in the book that has always stuck with me is that somedays one will get in into the woods and just sense that all is not right. It suggests might be best to just turn around and go home. I have experienced that and if I remember correctly Carl has talked about back in the past. Another great thing about the book is its showing various ways to layout, twitch, bunch and haul wood in woodlots. Some neat sketches of simple gear to get the job done. Wonder if DapNet could not look into getting permission to reprint the book and sell it as a fundraiser.November 9, 2015 at 9:54 am #86382Carl RussellModerator
Hey Donn, I forgot to put quotes around the “train”, because I was trying to point out what I see as a misconception about the transition of training to working.
I was also primarily thinking of it from the example Jared used of “Do not teach a horse unnecessary things such as standing in his stall when the door is open….If a horse turns the head and wants some hay when you are coming in with it, let the horse have a bite” ….
This smacks to me of the training exercise looking for an excuse for purpose. I have a slightly different understanding of training than most, and to some degree I think it translates into some difficulty or limitations for people working animals.
Your latest comments seem to ring to this as well. I never train an animal to “do” anything. Like standing for example. My horses stand whenever I ask them to, not because it is something I trained them to do, but because they understand what I am telling them to do at the time. It is not because I have conditioned them to stand stock still every time I make a certain gesture, but because they read my body language, and they keep checking in with me to make sure we are on the same page.
I have a tendency to let my horses out of the pasture by opening the gate and allowing them to go into the barn on their own, into stalls where food awaits. But, I can also go into the pasture, or anywhere they are, halter them and lead them in handfuls to where they stand and wait for me to unhalter, or tie off, depending. This apparent inconsistency is facilitated not by perpetuating conditioned response, which would be broken down by the inconsistency of the two different approaches, but because they have been “trained” to follow my lead, and they have been “trained” to the communication I used.
I think that the underlying principle behind the comment from the book is that there is a difference between training conditioned response, and training communication. To many people, the training exercise appears to be a list of actions and activities that these animals should be able to accomplish when asked…. and that is fine, I am not trying to dismiss that, it’s just that I see those exercises as integrating components of communication that is often overlooked in favor of the desired response.
I know from having this conversation with many folks, that it can be very hard to refine what I am trying to describe. I see the exercise of getting the horse to stand still, not as my interest to have the horse stand still, but to calibrate the language that I need to use in order for me to get that response. When I see the horse give me the desired response, it shows me not that they are following my command, but that they understand the cues I am giving them. Then I can reuse those cues over and over in many differing situations pertaining to work.
Having a horse stand and wait until released seems to me more of an exercise of dominance than communication, and that is how I interpret the comment from the book. “Don’t wast your time on conditioned response that demonstrates your dominance, but focus of those aspects of your relationship that bolster your communication”….
And I see limitations in working situations where teamsters are almost expecting a horse to do a particular thing because they have given the appropriate command. “push the right button, and this should occur” I see many folks not expanding their communication skills because they tend to look for mechanical responses to specific actions.
I am struggling with how to work through this, because I realize there are more than one way to skin a cat, and there are other schools of thought, but I also find that the conventional wisdom is heavily oriented toward the conditioned response camp. I tried to have this discussion with Doc Hammel, who just looked at me blankly. I tried to tell him that what I see in watching a horse follow his training is a horse watching for cues that they can count on to reinforce their chosen behavior. What he sees is a horse that has become used to the situation, desensitized, and conditioned to respond a certain way.
I have tried to describe that even the oldtimers who tried to force horses into submission were actually, unknowingly, taking advantage of the fact that the horse finally sees the human relax when they do the expected action. Horses are always trying to communicate with us, but there is a human tendency to break up our communication into actionable commands, turning our attention to something else in between. Like sound bites. Steps on a ladder.
I see it as more fluid, perpetual. When I have setbacks, I don’t try to rebuild something, because I don’t see anything being lost. The setback is a clarifier, for me, and for the horses, because I see the communication as being stretched and expanded.
I don’t think that people should give up their training programs, that is not my point. I just want to have a discussion of moving from basic training into working. Some review of the actual outcome of a particular exercise in terms of what that brings to the future working relationship. And potentially some exploration of the difference between conditioned response and the expression of fluid communication in application to varying and complicated situations.
CarlNovember 9, 2015 at 11:17 am #86383Livewater FarmParticipant
I can see the point Carl is trying to make
I have seen “dead broke ” horses be completely confused about what to do in the hands of a person who did not understand how to communicate with the animals
they thought all you had to do was grab the lines point the horse and tell them to go and they would automatically do what you wanted.
I think a person who is good at human communication such as Car Russell also has the uncanny ability to communicate his wishes to his horses
When one sees an accomplished teamster work his horses it is a work of art
the horses are attuned to every move of the hands and tone of voice
I have always felt one trains by working a horse
BillNovember 9, 2015 at 12:27 pm #86384
I came back to working with horses at the same time I started to have children, I have noticed that they are both exactly the same for me. When I am calm and happy and loving my company everything goes smoothly, be it children, mares, or sows, (or my wife for the matter). My father was a tough cookie and he could “brake” a horse very quickly but those same horses would toss my sister about 3 minutes into a ride. When I started to work my own horses I was about 7 years old and I couldn’t use the same tactics as my father because I couldn’t over power the horses physically or mentally. But as a farm kid I spent my every waking hour with the animals and once my horse and I came to understandings, everything went just fine.
I always hated bits, and so did my horses, I also hated saddles and so did my horses. During my best years with horses I would just grab whatever string or twig I had available to “steer” and hop on bareback and ride off. When I would get where I was going I would hop off. Most of the time if I didn’t screw around for too long the horse would be close enough to where I left it and I would hop back on and ride home.
As I got older I began to run a much tighter ship, Teaching horses to stand in the stalls when I am mucking them out, making sure their heads are just below and behind my shoulder when I am leading, etc. My children have taught me to go back to the much more laid back approach and just keep reasonable expectations.
I noticed this morning while milking our cow with my 4 year old daughter, I was at risk of being late for a meeting at the college and I started to feel anxious. I decided that I rather be in the barn milking my cow with my daughter than be at some stupid meeting anyway so I just relaxed and enjoyed what I was doing. This cow was nursing a calf since May and we butchered the calf on friday and just started milking her. She walked right into the barn, she stood where she was comfortable and I had to move her a couple of steps so that I could be comfortable too, all three of us were relaxed, everything went smoothly, and we all had a great morning. I know all of you have those little moments as well and for me it is just about trying to be the loving steady leader with reasonable expectations. I look forward to trying to apply these lessons I get from my children to a new horse this coming winter in the woods, and I hope I can learn a lot more about how you all approach being loving steady leaders.
I was also only a few minutes late for the meeting, and in academia it is a novelty to have someone show up late smelling like a cow and say “sorry I am late, I was milking my cow with my daughter”November 9, 2015 at 3:06 pm #86385Will StephensParticipant
This is a great thread. Karl, It sounds like an even better DAPNet weekend workshop! There are so many subtleties in this topic. I am working through much of this right now as well. I have a new “trained” team and learning how to communicate with them. I have been using the adage “use your horses for what you want them to do” more than formal “training time” like I have tried in the past (to limited success, a sub-topic for Karl’s workshop perhaps?). I have always required certain behavior, but I have definitely lightened up on the idea of dominating my horses and instead being clear with my expectations and rewarding the expected behavior. This paradigm shift may also have helped in my dog training as I overpowered my last bird dog being too insistent on certain responses and squelching her desire to work for fear of “getting it wrong”. I would love to see more time spent on this topic.November 9, 2015 at 9:26 pm #86387
I agree Will, but it can be tricky to teach; just as Carl eludes to. it is based a lot less on rules, and a lot more on our power of observation, and our ability to respond to what we see and hear from the animals we are working with.
I love the analogy of young children and use it often even though it is occasionally pointed out that I have never in fact had any kids of my own! For me the power of that analogy is in both describing who I think they are (horses and mules are like 6 y/o children) and how I would hope to interact with them. Simple, direct, caring, leadership.
Had a great day with Pete today, as I was finally able to untye myself from some preconceived notions and find a few things that worked for him. Part of what worked was thinking not about Pete, but in teaching Gillian and Mark (two folks working with me today) about what I was doing. This took a little focus off of Pete, and gave him moments to relax. I was teaching Gillian how to use her body position and body language to move the mule, and we did this today with just our hands and feet, then a rope halter and rope, and finally with a bridle and bit. But the point of it all was that even when we moved up to the bridle and bit we where still aware of how our body position and language could move the animal. At first the lines didn’t go through any hames rings.
At 4 pm I drove him on a very long walk all over the farm and woods.November 10, 2015 at 7:30 pm #86388JJKParticipant
At risk of derailing the natural evolution of this thread, I found it here: orionforestry.co.uk for 22 pounds which Google tells me is about 33 dollars. Don’t know what the pond jump would cost or if they’d even do it. If enough were interested maybe a box of them could be shipped.
JoshNovember 10, 2015 at 8:17 pm #86389
Count me in on an order if we can do it. I had a hard time giving this book back to the library.
I will look into it.November 11, 2015 at 8:56 am #86394Will StephensParticipant
How do you all see the difference in your approaches if you work you horses yourself versus having multiple teamsters working with your horses (or training other peoples’ horses for them, though that may be another “animal” all together). This could be in the field or simply barn/stall chores. How do any of you see a difference in your horses with different handlers? Driving with relaxed hands verses a driving who was taught a more active line handling approach or not minding if your horses takes a bite of hay leading into the stall but having a partner that forbids it are two examples that come to mind.
Attachments:You must be logged in to view attached files.November 11, 2015 at 9:01 pm #86397
Hi Will, That is a great question, and I think related to the topic above. My horses and mules have always been handled by many, many people; both beginners and other teamsters. even in training a youngster (horse or mule) I will let someone try as long as I think I can control their safety. I think this works for me in part because I focus on what Carl would call communication versus commands. In this way my horses and mules just need to hear me coming to step into the communication / trust / relationship we have. I know many folks have felt this lost through sharing their animals with other people. It just hasn’t worked out that way for me. My “rules” in a barn are so simple that it would be almost impossible for someone else to come in there and mess them up for me. But then I may have to remind folks that if you stick your fingers in their mouths they might bite you; and don’t be afraid to ask horses or mules to move, don’t walk around them. etc.
training other peoples horses certainly falls in another category.
Most of the other folks driving my horses are there to learn so of course they are learning my ideas about pressure, contact, and communication through the lines; but this is not always true. At the field days, as well as being driven by many beginners, my horses were also driven by Jay, Daniel, Michael, Tommy, and at least one Amishmen. With an experienced teamster; they don’t pick up a set of lines with a preconceived notion that the lines must be tight or loose. They ask the team to go and then give them the pressure and guidance they need (communicate) to go where and when the teamster hoped to go. They won’t hurt your horses if they know what they are doing, and if they don’t, teach!
- This reply was modified 4 years, 3 months ago by Donn Hewes.
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