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Sherlock's Clipping Diary, Charles is a star, and some NLP

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Charlie's Barrell This month Charlie has been a little star. He has not been in much work, other than to stroll around the lanes, for a few years now. But, needs must, and we had a play with some jumping. Arn't old horses great? I decided to see if Charlie would jump a single barrell, full size and upright. I saw it done on a lecture demo a few years back. Well, Charlie did <BLOG_BREAK>not disappoint, he is so obliging and honest. We used guide poles to explain the exercise, then took the poles away and Charles did a leap of faith. Stunning! He is also taking full responsibility on our ride and lead expiditions. 
Sherlock continues to make good progress without his shoes, he is walking out for half an hour three times a week, and ridden in the school at walk too, we are almost ready to start some trot work.
I had a few requests for advice re clipping lately, and I thought it would be good to put up a link to Sherlock's Clipping Diary. It is from 2008 when Sherlock did not like clipping. We spent two weeks playing at it, and he has been good at clipping ever since. Last year we went straight for a full clip, legs off, and just half a face on. All in 2 hours, no fuss, no upset. Plus we clip his heels and topknot every few weeks year round.
This is not really a "how to", it is just what Sherlock and I worked out with each other.
To read the clipping diary, follow this link.....
Full clip 2009The photo shown is the new, improved clip from 2009. Looks good to me!
The "Your Horse Live" expo was fantastic, I saw 5 demonstrations, any one of which I would have travelled to see on it's own. A wonderful day of horses.
Also new, I am currently studying NLP in order to become an NLP practicioner, hopefully in January 2011. NLP, short for Neuro Linguistic Programming, is a way to help people reframe their experiences using a variety of techniques, so your mind is working with you, not against.  It is not primarily equine based, but as horses pick up on our inner thoughts, it makes sense to be more aware of what is being transmitted to them! The techniques can also help with fears, although my basis for teaching remains to trust that if you have a fear there is something to be learned from this, not to simply ignore the fear. I have been interested in NLP for about 5 years, and have studied it informally, but this course includes practical and tested elements, plus a recognised qualification if I am successful.
I am having fun learning about the human unconcious mind, and seeing parrallels with how the horse operates. For example our unconcious mind sees all, even what we do not conciously know about. For instance we can recollect details under hypnosis that we can't just by thinking with our concious mind, recollect things we did not even conciously know we knew. This see-all conciousness does remind me of the way a horse is aware, as humans we focus on things far better than we are aware of a wider surrounding, whereas horses see more around them, especially things that have changed since the last time they saw the same area.
I also like the idea that our unconcious mind does not process negatives. For instance if I say to you "don't think of a blue tree" the first thing your unconcious mind will do is conjure up an image of a blue tree, before your concious mind can counteract that. And even then we cannot "concentrate" on not thinking of a blue tree, instead we have to concentrate on something else to banish the blue tree. I believe this is also true with horses, for instance if we are riding and think "don't buck" or "don't shy" I believe the horses pick up on the "buck" and "shy" part first, and only when we have put counter measures in place do we avoid these actions. Much better to tell the horse what we DO want them to do, directing positively, like walk forward to here, or trot actively with even steps. .
Our unconcious mind needs repetition until a habit is formed, I guess that reminds me of the requirement for consistent training of the horse. It also enjoys serving, and feels happy when there are clear orders to follow. Hmmm, sound familiar? Also the unconcious mind is programmed to seek more and more, well that seems familiar to me too with horses, ever thought about a horse that if you give him an inch they will take a mile? Not in a bad way, but if you let a behaviour slip, like pushing into your space (to play with zips, search for food etc) horses are wired to see just how far they can go.
I have also looked at how we can play with language. For instance suggesting an idea to someone with a sentence involving presuppositions. Say a salesman is trying to sell you a car, and he asks "would you like the red or the blue paintwork?" his question sugggests to your mind that you are in fact having the car, the only question is in the colour of the paintwork. Or ask a child "would you like to go to bed at 7.30pm or 8.00pm" suggests to the child that they are, in fact, going to bed, done deal. By asking which detail you are having to the concious mind, then the unconcious mind is presupposing that the other thing is happening, the only question is in the detailing. 
Now, I KNOW I use this technique in training horses to accept "scary" nuisances. This happened recently with a horse that a client was introducing to various scary things in a school, with the intention of firstly having the horse, a young inexperienced mare, less spooky to strange sights and sounds, but also so the client could learn to work with the horse when they were presented with anything strange while they were out hacking. Also just for building understanding and a partnership.
We firstly worked the horse so she was in a "thinking" state of mind, we worked on transitions, and in the detail of the transition so the horse was working with a lowered head and slow feet (this is as opposed to high, tense head carriage and fast, "flight" feet).
We then introduced some obstacles into the school. The owner of the horse believed, as I think most people would, that the best and correct thing to do would be to stop work and let the horse watch the obstacles be laid out, so she could see them. I work on the idea that if we do that then we are drawing attention to the POSSIBILITY that the obstacles are scary, we are in effect asking the horse to make a judgement. Instead the rider rode the horse as before, concentrating on the quality of the transitions, by concentrating on the details, the horse never questioned that we were still going over HERE, the negotiation was in the size and speed of the steps, and the quality of the transitions, not in the acceptance of the toys. 
I do allow the horse to look at the obstacles, but to glance at them rather than GAWP!  Because we have some mighty important transitions going on here.
We did not force the horse over to the obstacles, she merely worked around the circles and school figures. At the end we wanted to clear the school, and again we made the negotiating point be that the horse followed behind the rider, and as she collected the obstacles the horse was not invited in to play, the point was that the rider was busy collecting (as in MY toys, not yours) while the horse was busy staying at her elbow or behind. She collected flags, a tarpaulin, bin lid-cymbols, an umbrella, all carried while the horse stayed at her elbow.
The little mare did great, working around and collecting up the obstacles as if she had worked with them all of her life. I believe that if we had actually presented the obstacles as a "problem" for the horse to "decide" about then the acclimitising would have taken longer, and would have been more dramatic. By giving the horse the choices involved in the details of the perfect transition or the perfect follow, the horse just accepted, or pre-supposed, that the toys were safe.
Horses and the unconcious mind, hmmm, I can see some parallels already.

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  1. Mum

    Really liked this. Much more about the horses. But my Mum got over her children being "difficult" about eating dinner by asking if we wanted it on a blue plate or the one with a rabbit pattern!

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