Reaching Out to Horses in the Round Pen

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Once more, our lovely friends at The Horse’s Hoof have featured Anna in their online publication.  We are so pleased to be partnering with them to reach more and more people who are interested in Natural, Holistic Horsemanship!

Reach Out to Horses by Anna Twinney

Horses have walked this Earth for more than 54 million years.  While some do not consider them among the brightest of the animal kingdom, most are unaware that through their lengthy tenure on this planet they have created an effective non-verbal language that some have coined “the language of Equus.”  This is a language that goes well beyond the unspoken.  Through careful observation, humans have been able to interpret and adopt this method of communication.

Originating from the horses’ body language, behavior, interaction and herd hierarchy, humans can now speak with them through our own body language, gestures and even our intentions.  This language, like any, requires patience and practice.  It can be taught to anyone but fluency only comes from time spent observing and communicating with the native speakers.

Not only can horses read the body language of every member of their species they can read humans just as easily.  They can, almost immediately, see your agenda and how you are feeling.  They will highlight your strengths and weaknesses.  In effect, they know who you are and what that means to them in a very short period of time.  You can lie to yourself but you can’t lie to a horse.  Therefore, it’s important that you begin every interaction with a clear mind, leaving “all your baggage” at the gate.

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One place to start the conversation with your horse is the round pen.  Using the round pen as your classroom can be very helpful in creating a trust-based relationship.  This type of conversation is the foundation to all interaction, every ground session, ridden work and ultimately your success.  A 50-foot round pen is suggested as it allows free motion for horses of most sizes.  It’s also important to make sure you have appropriate footing, which is essential to maintaining health and fitness.

This is an example of a typical session in the round pen.  It’s important to note that this is an overview and is not intended to be a formula or a “quick fix” to solve behavioral issues and requires dedication and commitment to learn and apply.  Remember that communication takes place whenever you are together.  Each gesture and motion you make says something to your 4-legged partner.

Familiarization:  Horses need the chance to explore the round pen at liberty.  They naturally check out their perimeters, take time to settle and to explore the vicinity through their senses.  Each horse is an individual and as such will react in different ways to different circumstances.  This 15-20 minute period is an ideal time to observe their character and learn to read thier personality.

Orientation:  This is the official introduction and there are many important steps in this portion which include:

  • The introduction to the four directions (N, E, S, W) of the round pen
  • Introduction of body language
  • The opportunity for handler to read horse and horse to read handler
  • The time for the adrenaline of horse and handler to subside
  • Creation of a comfort zone in the center of the round pen
  • Creation of a safe distance between horse and handler
  • Manipulation of speed and direction by the handler to gain leadership

Communication:  In a natural herd environment, hierarchy is determined through many factors, one being the manipulation of speed and direction.  As mentioned in the orientation process, the handler adopts this practice in the round pen environment.  The connection between horse and handler takes place before or during the orientation, with a herd of 2 being formed.  Once the herd has been formed and the orientation has been completed, the handler asks the horse to leave by driving them away using body language.  This is the time to make character assessments, to complete a health check, and to begin forming the partnership with the horse.

A higher-ranking horse will use his body language to communicate or punish another by sending them out of the herd.  This gives a strong message as banishment is a grave risk to their survival.  Through the position that the handler takes of driving the horse forward, he will retreat.  This is a form of advance and retreat, also known as pressure release, and has been used by horsemen for centuries.  The handler then adopts equine body language by squaring his shoulders, placing his eyes on the horse’s eyes, and advancing forward in an assertive manner.  The combination of proximity, speed, movements, and eye contact can mean a number of different things.

As prey animals, horses naturally run for ¼ to 3/8ths of a mile before they stop to assess what made them flee.  This distance is roughly translated to 7-8 revolutions in the round pen.  The fleeing that is induced should not be through fear, but rather a request for forward motion.  The handler takes possession of any area the horse stands in at any given moment, hence gaining leadership.  A speed slightly beyond their natural gait is best and will often be in the form of a canter.

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When it feels like the right time to change direction, the horse is asked to change direction towards the round pen wall through the handler’s body positioning.  The same process of asking the horse to leave is repeated in this direction.  Unlike humans, horses only transfer about 20-50% of all information from the left to the right side of the brain and, as such, they consider this to be new ground that they are exploring.

Once the horse has explored both directions he is then asked to return to familiar ground, pressure is reduced but an active involvement is maintained.  An assertive walk forward is continued, while allowing the horse to reduce his speed and maintain focus and attention.  The handler’s body language becomes a little softer as his intention changes.  This procedure is also helpful because the horse will often reveal his history during this time.

The horse will begin to communicate his desire to return to the herd of two.  He will relay very clears signs, such as reducing the size of his circle, relaxing his jaw and neck, and many other gestures that require some study for the handler to recognize.  These are all desired responses that need acknowledgement through a release of pressure resembling a drop of the eyes, a relaxing of shoulders, slowing of the walk, or a hesitating in the line throwing.  This is what makes it a conversation, rather than a demand or simply talking at the horse.  Each try by the horse should be acknowledged in this manner.   Overall, the handler is looking for a complete feeling of unity and a commitment from the horse prior to inviting them back to the herd.  This will come with experience and the whole of the “Reach Out” process generally should take no longer than 15-20 minutes.

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Reach Out to Horses:  A suitable moment is identified to invite the horse to become part of the team again.  The invitation takes the form of a sweeping motion in front of the horse and is similar to the natural gesture of displaying one’s flank, while eating.  The passive nature of the maneuver asks the horse to slow down and step closer.  He will choose to stay close to the wall, come part of the way or all the way to the handler.   If the communication is done correctly but the horse does not return to the handler this may possibly point to a problem, issue, or habit the horse developed before the session.  Ultimately, the greatest compliment is that the horse comes up to the handler and reaches out towards him with his nose.

Close Connection:  An invitation to the horse is given to come into the heart space where he receives lots of reward and reassurance – creating a close connection.  A rub on the forehead will reinforce his positive behavior.  The ultimate reward for a horse is the release of pressure, which translates to walking away.  Horses naturally move in arcs and angles so, when the time is right, the handler walks away in a clockwise direction to perform a figure 8.  The qualities of a leader are displayed to bring the horse back to the center of the round pen, which becomes a familiar comfort zone.

 

Reaching out to your horse is the foundation of all communication.  It can take on many forms and will allow you to learn to read and communicate with your horse, while building a trust-based relationship.  It is the beginning to all success and will aid in improving existing relationships, embarking on new partnerships, and assessing character and health.  From here, you can lead into starting young horses, problem solving, improving ground manners, teaching to lead & load, eliminate kicking, biting, and rearing, just to name a few.  Creating this trust-based relationship with your horse can be a magical experience and the moment you feel that true partnership is a moment you will never forget.

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Be a Team Leader

In Partnership with our good friends at The Horse’s Hoof Magazine, Anna’s Winter Issue Article (no. 73) is on assuming a leadership role with pushy, playful, and even potentially dangerous horses.

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Anna in the news… The Horse’s Hoof October Issue 2018!

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Handling Common Herd Dynamics

No matter age, color, breed, size, sex and appearance, place a herd of horses together and you will witness the dynamics unfold before your eyes.   Within moments horses become extremely “vocal” discovering their ranking, displayed clearly by who moves who’s feet.  From subtleties such as a glance, ear motion or energy shift, through to bold moves that include a charge, bite, kick and squeal!

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Horses can be born into leadership positions, groomed by their parents over time to become all they can be, displaying a passive form of leadership, while others fight their way to the top, bringing forth a dominant style of leadership.

One misconception is that alpha mares rule through dominance, and yet all too often they lead by a strong example of simply “being”, observing all and only acting when need be.  It’s the second in command, known as the dominant mare, who ensures much of the discipline is enforced and displays her emotions freely.

Within every herd there are very specific roles to secure a safe and harmonious environment, coupled with individual personalities and life’s imprint, herds bring forth colorful observations.

Remove unrealistic expectations and realize that our human behavior is equally reflected in our horses.  As we find loners and socialites, we find them in the horse world too. Those seeking adventure balance those seeking a simple life and there are natural born leaders together with followers.

Imagine a classroom of juveniles ruling themselves, or adolescents without parental guidance…where would this lead?   The very same place it would take the foals who find themselves orphaned and the yearlings unsupervised frolicking freely; often in a misguided place causing future behavioral challenges or social ineptitude.   Elders carry wisdom for those venturing into uncharted territory.

While we see wild horses gather cordially during daily water hole rituals, put isolated un-socialized stallions together, and you may find yourself faced with extreme violence and potential loss of life.  These are the extreme horse handling situations experienced over the years.

It would be remiss of us not to consider our horses’ environment, as space is a distinctive concern.  Behavior is often accentuated in small enclosures and of utmost importance for health and wellbeing.  Movement is a must.  And while horses are natural-born grazers, the presence of food influences all horse behavior.  Fighting often occurs when there is a lack – remove the lack and a more harmonious feel ensues.  Means is a strong motivator and where space is absent, slow-feeders take precedence.

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Another behavior consideration is the direct reflection of good or poor training techniques:

*          Inappropriate foal over-handling             =   crowding & unsuitable behavior/habits

*          Lack of socializing                                               =   social ineptness

*          Lack of knowledge and lack of boundaries    =  special boundaries and aggressive tendencies

*          Incorrect hand-feeding                                    =   crowding, mugging and biting

*          Stall-bound                                                        =   pent-up energy, vices/habits, physical issues, lack of socializing & often dangerous behavior

*          Stressful environment                                    =   vices/habits/emotional, mental and physical issues

*          Fear-based training                                         =   displacement/depression and aggressive tendencies

If you and your horses are happy and healthy, make no change.  However, if you feel concerned and your horses have incurred physical injuries, it’s time to make change and review your horse-keeping.  Take time to review your habits and patterns to find an all-around better solution.

IF Your Horse(s)

  • Has been moved recently…try accommodating for this time of transition and be the support he needs during this adjustment period.
  • Is not accepted in the herd…evaluate his personality, role, past and current mental, emotional and physical health…try building him up (through physical & complimentary therapies and nutritional support)
  • Are not worriers or performance horses and keep you to a schedule by kicking stall doors or containers…try simply changing the feeding times.
  • Are crowding the gate…try training them to take a step back and create the safe entrance space or organize feeders from the outside of the paddocks for your own safety.
  • Has a sudden behavior change…try exploring all recent changes to determine the cause and have him checked physically.
  • Does not want to be caught…try to discover the true cause of this behavior be it pain related, ill-fitting tack, your relationship, his activities/discipline, simply a lack of motivation and energy or his strong desire to be with his family herd.
  • Is classed as herd bound…try building a stronger partnership together through a trust-based connection while discovering his motivation.

 

A happy horse = happy human = happy trails

Make this year’s recipe all and more you had hoped for.

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About the author: Anna Twinney is a Natural Horsemanship Trainer, certified animal communicator and Reiki Master. She is unique in her field, as she solely works in the horses’ own language.  Anna became the only person ever to be entrusted with the title of Head Instructor at the Monty Roberts International Learning Center in
California. Exploring the “language of Equus” in its rawest form, Anna gentled mustangs in CA for 2 years before becoming the founder of the Reach Out to Horses® program. Her expertise is sought worldwide as she conducts classes and clinics to educate people & horses on gentle communication techniques while showing them how to have a true trust-based relationship. Anna has been featured on TV nationally & internationally and writes for equine magazines. She is not only one of the world’s leading teachers, but her interest in the “Language of Equus” has led her to focus increasingly on the power of animal communication to strengthen and deepen our relationships with all species. For more information visit: http://www.reachouttohorses.com.

We would like to thank Yvonne Welz, Editor of The Horse’s Hoof, for all she does on behalf of the horses and their people.  Truly an advocate of what is Natural and Holistic, Yvonne and her publication are a beacon to innumerable horse people who are looking for a better way!  Yvonne, we salute you!

 

A Confused Burden, too much to Bear…

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Yvonne Welz, of The Horse’s Hoof, decided to feature not one, but two, of Anna’s Animal Communication stories in their Issue #70 this month!  Thanks, Yvonne, for your continued support and for sharing in the message of Animal Communication as an important part of Natural Horsemanship and Problem Solving!

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Want to discover the gems within The Horse’s Hoof? Visit their Website here!

Are you interested in studying Animal Communication?  Anna’s Home Study Kit can be found here, or you can join Anna at any one of her Animal Communication Events around the WORLD by finding an event near you!

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Take me to the Events Calendar so I can find the Animal Communication Event nearest me!

 

Call to Me and I Shall Answer…

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One of our favorite publications, The Horse’s Hoof, edited by our good friend, Yvonne Welz, is dedicated to Natural Hoof Care for horses.  The newest release featured two of Anna’s articles in their Issue #70.   Here is a look at a successful communication with a unique racehorse who had come in late for the last time, until Anna was able to speak with him and change his mind about his choices during the races.  Enjoy!AnnaTwinney_70.pdf Horse's Hoof for Yvonne_Page_1

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Does Natural Hoof Care intrigue you?  Would you like to know more?  Visit the Website for The Horse’s Hoof publication and gain access to all the information about Natural Hoof Care for which one could hope!

Take me to The Horse’s Hoof!

Anna’s New Book, Blind Leap of Faith, in the News!

The first chapter of Anna’s new book was previewed in The Horse’s Hoof, a publication with whom we have been happy to partner over 2017, and now into 2018!
Blind Leap of Faith
Aptly named, Anna’s forthcoming book, out in late 2018, is the tale of her courageous decision to leave life, love, and a career behind in pursuit of a dream. She also shares how her foundation as a professional in the horse industry began and developed.
Many don’t know about Anna’s time at Flag is Up Farms with the legendary Monty Roberts® and all that she did in the early part of her career. Blind Leap of Faith™; A horsewoman’s journey with the legendary Horse Whisperer Monty Roberts® chronicles key  stories from that time, including her experience as a British police officer and the emotional turmoil it caused. You’ll get a glimpse into how Anna became who she is today, her time with Monty and her mentor, Crawford Hall, and some of the horses that influenced her the most along the way.
As a special holiday treat, we have released the first prologue chapter for you to read FREE!  We hope you enjoy this little sneak peek.
An Excerpt from Blind Leap of Faith
All Roads Lead to Flag
“PC 4244 Twinney, you are required to report in.” My heart sank as I heard those familiar words jump out of the patrol car radio, I instantly felt nauseous. My intuition must have kicked in because I asked my colleague to pull over. I quickly leaped out of the Panda, the endearing nickname we gave our small patrol car, and began to heave, shake, and cry.  As the only rape trained officer on duty I knew I had no choice but to comply. It was my second rape investigation call for that week and my body was telling me that I could not cope with another. 
Click on the Link below to read the rest of the chapter NOW! 
The password to read the chapter is sneakpeek

 

The Horse’s Hoof Debuts Anna’s Two Most Recent Articles!

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Reach Out to Horses is elated to announce that The Horse’s Hoof, a quarterly journal,  is featuring two of Anna’s most recent articles: “From the Horse’s Mouth” and “Conversations with the Wild Ones, a Day at the South Lakes Safari Zoo.”

Check out the publication for the information and the articles themselves!  And a very heartfelt and sincere “thank you” to Anna, for her tireless work on her own, personal time, which if I say is “limited” that term doesn’t even begin to cover it.  She always takes time to write about her adventures to help raise awareness for the animals all over the world and to share the good news about the possibilities when we give a voice to the voiceless.

Thanks, Anna!  Keep shining your light!!!