THTF, by the way, is True Horsemanship Through Feel. You will be seeing a lot of that in posts to come.
Exercise number one involves moving the horse’s head. That’s all. When I did this exercise with a nine year old mare with attitude issues, when I was done, she had the best attitude she had had ever since I started working with her.
The goal of this exercise is to be able to move the horse’s head anywhere you want it to be, and to have the horse not resist you, but simply do as you ask. Now remember the principles of feel here – you want to ask imperceptibly. This means that when you are using your hand on your horse, there is no punching, or wiggling fingers in sensitive spots to create a response. Your hand is simply there, with feel. Your hand could also be there without feel, and it will look the same to a bystander. But to you and the horse, it will feel different.
Start on the left side of the horse. Loop your lead rope out of the way, over your horse’s neck, or over your arm. Never wrap the rope around yourself! Place your left hand on your horse’s poll, right between his ears. If he reacts to your presence here, go to the desensitizing posts and work on that, first.
Place your right hand on the bridge of your horse’s nose, now. Keep your head out of the way of your horse’s head. If he suddenly lifts it or swings it around, you may get a concussion if you are in the way. Now, try using feel. Lightly ask your horse to lower his head. Just stand there and do ‘nothing’ until the horse does what you want. This first time it is going to take a while for the horse to realize that you are actually asking him for something. As soon as he puts his head down, even a tiny amount, release all feel.
Okay, so what if your horse does not respond? It is not okay to add more pressure. There are some exceptions to this rule, but it takes a lot of horse sense to know when it is absolutely necessary to firm up on a horse, instead of going slow and easy. If you want fast results, do not use this method. It won’t work. You have to be absolutely patient and realize that the horse will get faster at this with practice. If your horse does not respond once you have given him sufficient time, try moving your right hand from his nose to the lead rope on his halter and apply feel there. He is more likely to understand this, and you can ‘show’ him what you are asking for a few times, and then go back to the right hand on his nose.
Once he lowers his head, ask him to raise it. Ask him to bring it to the side, to stick his nose out, to push it in. Do anything you want to with his head, and ask him to follow your feel and give you a good feel right back.
Until next time,