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Monday, February 26, 2007

Harry Whitney Mon Feb 12, 2007

[I've put Harry's comments that I took down word for word in bold italics. There are more of his words here, but when I wasn't 100% certain what he said word for word, I did not quote him as such.]

SH's 4 year old reminds me of Rusty when she describes him -- mentally all over the place; intrudes on boundaries of people and horses; gets aggressive when you get close; insecurity based turmoil inside. Like Bo as well. Maybe he was raised separate from other horses, never learned how to get along in a herd.

Aggressive in play versus aggressive in defensive ownership.

Setting limits without squelching his curiosity and playfulness. Horse doesn't mess with electric fence so he can learn to not mess with human but still be curious and playful.

Auditor asked about horses who want to be tactile with mouth -- any common theme? Harry: no. Easy to become biters if uneasy inside themselves. Not necessary that it happens, can simply be a curious mouthy behavior. Mouthiness can be related to lifestyle when without 24/7 grazing, nibbling, munching, etc.

Horses who do not want to be caught -- this may reflect more interest in what other horses are doing; may reflect unease about what human offers.

Insecurity – can it significantly change? Versus should I be accepting of how it is and resign myself to offering more support as a regular thing? Ie, can Rusty ever be like Soli?

Cradling – leg contact that lets horse know “I’m here, I’m here” – a comforting thing.

Re riding away from the herd discussion: partly let them work it out, or keeping horse from being aggressive, partly get better at keeping them with me mentally so we can go places – responsiveness for example.

People don’t work on these things till they need them and then it’s too late. …Take time to work on them before it gets important.

Each of us has to decide how much focus and intensity we want to be riding – is it enjoyable to ride this way?

IM asked – how to bring up that amount of focus, like when we get into a little trouble, without the horse’s situation creating the adrenaline?

SH talked about riding through a blow up. Harry: times when horse lets go and lets down after a big old fit, even at the end of a lead rope. It’s over and they go on, they find out it didn’t change things. And it’s OK to work at it in little ways so it never gets to that.

There's a difference between worried and scared.

Experimenting by horses – if you can let them experiment.

Maybe try to avoid a big fit because things can go awry too easily. Harry prefers to avoid the big stuff. (But he's certainly willing to step up to the plate when we bring him our big stuff horses!) Don’t want the horses to think the solution is to get rid of us when they are pretty troubled.

On horses that are pretty confirmed that having a little fit is the answer – then set it up so they might want to offer a big fit – so let them have the big fit and find out that doesn’t work either and they can give it up.

SH in round pen with Legs.

Harry: get bigger when horse is unresponsive, not when he’s not paying attention but when he’s not responsive. He might get bigger when his attention isn’t there.

Harry in round pen: he won’t let Legs come in when he’s feeling bad even if he’s feeling better than at the start. Harry wants to see him try harder, put more effort into seeking a better spot.

Maybe before, he went, but he wasn’t changing how he was feeling.

I’m going to do the best I can being intolerant of him not searching for a better place.

I’m going to hang in there with quite a little pressure until he tried to find something better.


He comes in crooked – he has a plan then, he doesn’t need to have a plan.

(Me: thinking about attachment disorder and containment with Dan Hughes PhD as a helpful model for some horses who aren’t looking for human contact as comfort.)

This is not about not letting him look around; it’s about him not checking in. He’ll let go of a thought but it goes right by – he doesn’t check in with me.

Change – moving less but emotionally building up. Physically he knows what Harry is asking but he doesn’t know that Harry is asking for something else. The closer I get to those emotions, the more troubling it is.

Horse knows something about the good feeling but he’s not searching for it; it doesn’t have enough meaning.

He started out thinking what I was doing with the flag was a performance thing.

Hang in there with some pressure in those spots that don’t feel good until he puts some effort into checking in. Some day he may put some effort into seeking that spot. He’s finding it but he’s not really hunting for it.

Flag means:” you gotta change something”. When horse got lost going, Harry blocked him until he checked in.

It’s foreign to him to be asked to change his feelings. He’s pretty used to being asked to move. He’s pretty certain nobody is there for him.

I’m not saying ‘dang you for being that way.’ I’m saying ‘what can I do to help you feeling better?’

PV with Thor in round pen: Head on ground while moving – he’s hiding. No mental participation in what’s going on. He needs help to feel good then you can do anything with him.


Harry with Ziggy in round pen: Help them respond better to sudden noises. You can’t desensitize them to every sound you’ll ever come across. Ziggy gets stuck then moves big once she moves. Worked with flag and hula hoop.

Harry with Prince: circling – establish where his mind is. He’ll put his feet where his mind is. ... shouldn’t have to try to make it happen every time his foot comes off the ground.

JR riding: Harry stays close with a horse who is not responsive and listening. Once they’re listening then can have more slack in the reins. Close enough to get a pretty good hold if he needed. He’s looking for a feel between him and horse. The connection will remain even if “contact” is looser.

Try to get horse freed up without having to go fast necessarily. Get them thinking forward even if not going fast.

Fox trot – handbook says trot in front and walk in hinds. Harry says it isn’t that. It is a running walk but just on the edge of being trotty. Four beat broken trot: 1-2, 3-4.

My ground work and ride with Cajun: I was careful to help him find what I was asking. Looking me up. Ride – stiff but got better. Canter very stiff, reminded me of Scout’s canter. Stiff but lots of try!

My questions about: riding a line versus riding a path? How much to firm up versus let them wallow a bit and let them find it? (Harry later responded with his story about learning to drive between two ditches…)

Harry guided me to firm up sooner when Cajun wasn’t responding to “stop” or “back up" requests from me.

Listening to SH teaching a riding lesson: Bring your energy through inner calves into core and forward. Have your energy send horse forward. Use rate of seat to rate gait. Be black and white with the horse (regarding transitions).

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