Draft Animal Power – Draft animals and sustainable land stewardship › Forum › Draft Animal Power › Working with Draft Animals › New Horse on the farm
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- May 7, 2014 at 8:26 am #83256
We picked up a nice Belgian Gelding last Sunday to team up with Oz. He is a good match size wise and I hitched them together yesterday to harrow in the winter rye in the potato patch.
I found myself using way more line pressure than I like because my older horse Oz was almost trying to trot which in turn made Tucker, the new horse, want to keep up. Now I have not hitched him in a week and I am sure he was glad to be out of the paddock, but it took a while to calm him down. After almost 2 hr of harrowing, the walk home to the barn was much easier.
I noticed the same response from Oz last winter when hitched to another horse we had boarded. Oz is super soft with the lines when I drive him single and it is never an issue. Do you think it is a dominance reaction, or maybe a little competition in his mind to want to be ahead?
I am considering putting the curb chain on his bit and trying that with a small amount of leverage to see if it will make a difference. I changed Oz bit to a straight bar last winter and hooked to the side ring with no curb chain. I realize there are a lot of subtle things that could be going on here and my explanation is probably vague, but have any of you ever had a similar issue and how did you handle it?
The situation is not unmanageable, bit it required more pressure than I think should be necessary to accomplish the task at hand. I tend to overthink things in general and maybe it is a simple as them needing to pull the chain harrow for a couple of hours and getting some sweat under the collar.
- This topic was modified 3 years, 9 months ago by Ed Thayer.
Attachments:You must be logged in to view attached files.May 7, 2014 at 8:45 am #83260
Fine looking gelding, Ed. I have been dealing with this issue for a lot of years and might be I am too ignorant and hard-headed, but I just have learned to work with it rather than change it. My oldest mare (19) is a dream horse working single—perfect even for training novices—but no matter who she is hitched with out of our other three she must be in charge and ramps up in a team. Same thing out riding—even if someone else is riding a long-legged thoroughbred/Hanovarian—this scrappy little Fjord wants to be out front. I have tried using a short snub line from her halter ring to the other horses’ hame ring—also tried a jockey stick years ago—she resisted them and just made the driving more messy. I have not tried a buck-back rope–but I am sure this horse would just rub it’s nose raw if I did. So on anything heavy, like disc or spreader—she always goes a little faster than I would wish and even with a Pelham bit I have to hold her back some. My older two horses who work with her but are naturally more laid back, step up to her pace (and settle right back down when I work them as a team), but my youngest just goes a long for the ride and lets her do the work. Oddly, she slows down pretty well for plowing and perfectly well for cultivating—a very smart horse. Now that I have trained in some younger horses that are slower I have come to appreciate the work ethic of this mare–even if I get sick and tired some days of having to hold her back. Also,market garden jobs tend to shorter duration of one hour or less—on longer jags of raking or tedding she can get into what the Muleman calls no-pressure driving. Not much help here–but commiseration.May 9, 2014 at 9:25 pm #83279
A couple of other thoughts. I do modify my hitches slightly when working with this very forward mare. All four horses have Pelham bits with curb chains—but I set put her partners’ bit either direct off the ring or at the lowest setting for leverage—while she gets the maximum. I sometimes let out a link or two on the trace chains of the youngest and slowest mare so she meets the load sooner.May 10, 2014 at 3:54 am #83280
I have had the same dynamic many times. As I have mentioned before, I found that it seems more a reaction to the slacking attitude of the other horse. A forward horse may be just very responsive, and the other horse unfamiliar, or uncomfortable with the expectations.
Either way, I still follow the old adage, “a working horse is a walking horse”.
When I began using a Liverpool bit so that I could set different leverage on each horse, I found my greatest advantage. Don’t hesitate to use the curb chain. Also don’t forget about encouraging the other horse…… But in the long run, do not accept more bit pressure than you want…. This is your initiative, and while it is also your responsibility to refine the communication so that it is clear what you want, if you want the horse to work slower, that is what you should make happen….. Otherwise you will always just be along for the ride…
As an aside, I am pretty sure that the Mollie horse that was working with Tucker would act the same way…….
Good luck, CarlMay 10, 2014 at 5:00 am #83282
Thanks for the info, I am going to hitch them tomorrow and get some manure spread.
How much slack should there be on the curb chain under the chin?
EdMay 10, 2014 at 8:25 am #83283
They make the curb chain adjustable for a reason. Truthfully it should be snug, but some animals in certain situations may pull on the lines by the way they move their head, and if it is too tight it can compromise their forward motion. I have one horse that tends to need the lines down a notch, but unless the curb is on the last link he acts like I am holding him back.
Here is a quote from Les Barden’s document (attached) on lines and driving….
12. The adjustment of reins to keep horses reined-up evenly is a constant part of driving.
There is in theory a perfect setting that will provide equitable contact to each horse simultaneously, and there is a sweet spot where communication and understanding co-exist, but in reality the wind blows from many different directions all at the same time, and a little change here to address something may work, and truthfully is important, but there are often other areas that also need attention, or areas still that are beyond control, and we should be open to continually modifying our approach to refine communication.
This is what draws me into the teamster relationship. Communication to me is not just the transfer on information, but a dance of individual expression in an effort to attain mutual understanding. If a horse is having a hard time doing what I want, while I respect their individual expression, I am more interested in what it should be telling me about my inadequate communication…… then I start looking for tools and techniques to assist me in clearer messaging.
Another thing I thought of that really has nothing to do with the bit or lines, is the foundational training of a horse. Thinking about Tucker and Mollie, and now Tucker and Oz, I wonder what it is that Tucker doesn’t quite get, that the others do. I have had this problem primarily with one horse that I never really spent much time with individually. Due to time constraints, and the need for a team, I pretty much started him off in the team.
There are a lot of things that horses can learn from the reactions of the other horses, and possibly a comfort level in exposure to equipment and work, but if the more experienced horse is just too responsive, then the novice may be more put off by the sudden activity in relation to a misunderstood or miscomprehended signal. Once that habit starts, there is probably a cascade of other subtle communication that never make it beyond the dynamic between animals.
I found that by using a Liverpool bit, the added individual pressure gave me the ability to hold my experienced mare closer, and gave me the opportunity to work with the novice, encouraging him to get up to speed with the mare. Working him individually is always good, but once a horse develops a habitual behavior related to working in a team, never understanding the need to pay attention to the teamster, or reticent to commit power in the presence of the more aggressive horse, these things really can only be addressed in the team by improving subtle communication calming down the worker, and encouraging the slacker.
Sorry, it’s raining and I’m wasting time before heading our to do some timber cruising…
Good luck, Carl
Attachments:You must be logged in to view attached files.May 10, 2014 at 1:02 pm #83285
I also have a very forward mare and an eager to please, but not as experienced gelding. They are well matched most of the time except when anticipating a big pull, and Jr. (the mare), really puts Bernie in the dust. I have my reins adjusted too, that Bernie has more slack then Jr. When ground driving, I typically place myself behind Bernie, more incentive for him to step up and more direct line pressure with Jr. I also work in straight mouth military curbs that I have added loops of twine to (the curb chain) so that I can let them out farther on Bernie then Jr. I often find that starting out for the day I have the reins on the lowest, most leveraged setting, and after about 20 minutes or so, I can adjust to a more mild setting. For really delicate work I have the reins on the snaffle setting and the curb out all the way. But NOT unhooked, that’s a hazard – that’s why I added twine length. Then if I have to drive on the road I may adjust back or so on and so forth.
Also Ed, if you haven’t driven this horse in a curb before you may want to start off mild, some horses can find them really offensive – but you wouldn’t catch me without one. Typically a finger or two between the curb chain and the crease of the chin is a good setting, but it depends on how your reins are set. You can experiment by rotating the bit and seeing for yourself how long it takes the curb to contact the chin. Also, when setting the chain, rotate it clockwise until it lies flat against the surface of the skin, it is most effective this way and won’t rub, which is just rude. Sorry if this info is redundant for you.May 11, 2014 at 10:12 am #83288
Hi all, To me this is the essence of being a teamster, and I love it. We want the same response at the same instant from two individuals (the horses) that a) are not identical, and b) need to figure out a relationship between them selves while we ask for them to pay attention to just us. It is surely a dance. Often we try to use our voice, but it is hard to send the message to just one animal with our voice.
With my hands on the lines, my question for myself is: can I send signals that will gradually change behavior, or am I stuck ‘just holding one of the horses back”. I have often used a curb chain and leverage, but I prefer to do it with an animal that will change their response in reaction to the added leverage. My donkey has taught me a lot about the fact that leverage will not work in every case, and is not the only way to convey our desires to an individual.
I have never really thought of curb chains as being adjustable for different responses. Too tight and your animal feels the contact all the time and is uncomfortable. If the chain is full on loose it is hanging down in the loose flesh of the chin, and this will cause a sore. I think two fingers un the chain is best.
I am interested in Les’s comment about reins adjustment and will try to read that later today. We have several options for adjusting the lines. I once had an old friend that was sort of a part time horseman and he was driving an old pair of haflingers. He was having trouble getting one of them to go (the smart one I think). I asked him why the horses were bitted down as they seemed so “off” the bit and quite to drive. He told me that was how the harness had come. We all have to learn how to make these adjustments to get the results we want.May 11, 2014 at 11:49 am #83290
I loved reading Les’s pfd. Even though there are things I don’t understand completely, or copy completely; you can sense a man in complete control of himself and his animals. I hope / plan to continue learning as long as I am driving. Recently we have been untying some of my lines, but it is amazing how hard it is to make changes like that after so many years doing it one way!
My Donkey has been a great teacher for me trying new ways to comunicate. He doesn’t always stop well. He can be walking along quitely and if he thinks the two hands on the lines are a challenge he will be hard to stop on the command “whoa”. I have been learning to stop him much as I have learned to drive him; by ensuring that I keep my signals moving from hand to hand. Ensentially I stop him with one hand and a verbal “whoa”. I can try to teach him to stop on the slack line. My horses vary from one extreme to the other as far as how well they stop with out a reminder from the bit. Some stop on a dime with no contact from the bit, and one mule will walk into the bit every time. I am sure I have taught these animals all these responses. Now that I have so much young stock, it is a great chance to teach something different.May 12, 2014 at 11:40 am #83298
Thanks for all the great information. In an effort to “get er done” yesterday, I did not set up the Liverpool bit with the curb chain. I ran it in the large ring and hitched the boys to disc the gardens. That was just what they needed. Steady work and a good pull.
They worked well and I was encouraged to see the pace slow and team working together. I am still going to get the curb chain set up and adjusted and give that a try. T
This is such a great forum with lots of good information, thanks to all who continue to contribute.
EDMay 21, 2014 at 9:35 am #83400
We got the potato patch disced and harrowed this week, now we can plant our potatoes this weekend. Horses worked great in the field, still keyed up though when walking the mile to get there though.
EdMay 23, 2014 at 5:48 am #83417
Thanks for posting the video. Horses look good. Have you tried playing around with different settings on your lever bit? How is that working?
GeorgeMay 23, 2014 at 5:42 pm #83422
Hi Ed, I was thinking about your horses and what I often tell folks when they find them selves in similar situations with horses of mine that don’t match too well. I think it is possible to pay too much attention to what is not “right” in the hitch. I suggest they develop the ability to “see” what is going on (being aware) and then ignore it. By ignore it I mean temporarily focus on what is “right”. You can control how fast they go; where they go and when they stop. The I suggest they relax and think about the difference between the two animals as a long term project. What small things can I do over time that will improve this situation? Line adjustment, different signals from my hands More voice or less voice?
The point is sometimes all the energy we are putting into a “problem” may be making it worse before it makes it better. Just some random thoughts. Hope things are going well up your way. DonnMay 23, 2014 at 7:19 pm #83423
I have been using the curb chain with Ozzie and he seems to respond well to the bit. I have not put a chain on Tucker. They pull very well together, respond well to commands and stand nicely when asked to.
They still seem to be working out their small differences, and I have decided to let them work it out on their own. They need more consistent work and I am trying to keep them busy. But I still have to work everyday and have limited time to work them.
I remember the first few months I had Oz and thought I would never get him calmed down. But after sticking with it, he has become an awesome worker and great horse. I think the same thing will happen with Tucker. We just need time and work.
EdJune 12, 2014 at 8:35 pm #83585
Ed and others-
I have had similar experiences both with my own team as well as with a team that I am helping to train with a landowner whose lot I am working. When I first got my gelding Bob, he was a total handful. His partner at the time, Pete, was steady and level headed in all situation, but Bob would rear up, paw the ground, and was always on the bit and out front with a load on. In fact, for the first month I had Bob I thought maybe I had made a bad purchase with that horse. I put both horses on Liverpool bits with chains, running Pete’s lines on the bit ring and Bob’s down the curb so he get more direction, and that has made all the difference in the world. Three years later, Bob now works in the bit ring with no problems. I think the success I have had with him is likely a combination of increased bit pressure from the bit and chain as well as more relationship with me, but the results are startling when I think back to where we started. I know some folks are totally against using a curbed bit, but I really think when they are used properly they can be a huge help. Some horses just need the additional pressure to work well. Bob now has a mare as his running mate, and they do well together, but I still use the surged bits so that when I need more pressure I can use it effectively. Also, Carl Russell helped me adjust he length of my check lines, which also made a positive difference for my team, especially with Bob. The team that I am training has a similar situation, with an older mare who is very headstrong, and a younger mare who has a very soft mouth. Again, the curbed bits have allowed us to give the right amount of direction to each horse, with some good results. Driving a machine in the woods could never be this interesting!!
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