Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Truth Is In There: The Round Pen As a Model For Self Understanding

Natural horsemanship does not merely provide insights and analogies that give rise to parables that have meaning for human understanding. Instead, when conducted properly and thoughtfully, it is a laboratory to directly explain human emotional agony and to provide a guide to getting out of that misery.

In past months I have been working with people who have PTSD simply brushing horses and moving them in the round pen until the horse comes to attach himself to the patient. I am floored at the degree of stress relief this brings to those in the round pen. Our program is now part of the regular protocol for treatment at a local veteran's hospital.

I am working on a training program for law enforcement to use the round pen to enhance communication and leadership skills. I have no doubt that natural horsemanship, specifically round pen work, can impart skills that will reduce the chances of gun fire in hostile encounters.

And understanding the round pen can make one a better parent. We train horses using 51% control and 49% affection. We teach the horse by instantly releasing the pressure the moment the horse begins to respond as we wish.

It is very easy to teach a horse to ignore direction--simply continue the pressure even if the horse complies. The person who constantly keeps pressure on the bit because they do not want the horse to run away trains a horse to do one thing--run away.

The parent who never releases the pressure on a child produces a child who can find no peace. The instant the child responds appropriately every once of pressure must be replaced with a shower of genuine affection.

Absent such instruction the child learns that she is not good enough. That is the first thing that she learns.

The second thing that he learns is that she has no ability to effect her own future. It simply does not matter what she does--be she good, bad or indifferent--the result is the same. She becomes angry and resentful.

What else could be expected?

But there is something worse that should be expected and will be seen. She will become helpless. She will come to view life as a series of random events--good and bad--all completely outside her realm of control.

Why would she work hard to achieve anything? Why would she not choose to drop out and burn out?

Or, she can be taught that work has rewards. She can be taught that he is of value simply because he exists.

She can than understand that everyone around her is of value simply because they exist.

And if you work horses in the round pen, or if you have kids, and everything written above does not make perfect sense to you then you are likely failing, with  both your horses and your children.  


Anonymous said...

Hmm...another course application which could have some very long reaching effects.
No parent is without need of some reinforcement and support.

I have had a whole slew of conversations with Nelson, and two of the ones that stick out in this light was about the "hover parent" phenomenon, which might very well be the single most damaging influence on younger seems like most adults don't know how to really live (do any of us? Is it even possible in this day and age of fast life, and ever increasing societal complexity? Hint:life begins at the canter.) and many cannot allow their kids to learn to live. Let em fall off the horse..better they fall now and get back on, than to fall later when there is no support.

The other conversation was about how (I am not going into the root causes here..too early to pick fights at any rate) our schools have become petri dishes for the cultivation of bullies..Kid starts out afraid of the bully, then gets nailed for "tattling" then gets nailed for trying to defend himself or herself. To be blunt..that is beyond stupid. Speaking for myself and my little (bigger than me) brother, and our cousins..we were of course, never allowed to pick a fight, but failing to finish one..or defuse it, had unpleasant consequences..
Horsemanship will certainly build the confidence in a young person to help them cope with such adversity...after all, one who can move a 900 lb animal around with eyeballs and attitude should not have nearly as much trouble with a schoolyard bully. -Lloyd

Anonymous said...

Can't catch my horse even in a round pen unless he's cornered with a corral panel would be a good horse to do a demo with he rides good after and when u catch him thanks steve

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous #2 April 25th comment, Train your horse to come when called: walk to a point beyond your horse. Do not walk straight to him ever, always on a vertical off to the side a bit. Once you are 20 feet or so from your horse (if he is evading you, you are too close), turn 45 degrees facing away from him. Horses are naturally curious, but be prepared to spend 20-40 minutes out there just to get him curious. To help him "want" to know what you are doing, take something crunchy that you can munch on every now and then. I like crunchy carrots with the tops on because the horse can see/smell it better. Also, a dried ear of corn can work wonders, just never leave the entire ear of corn, your horse may be new to it and choke on the cob. Hold the cob at both ends when he approaches and allow him to bite off just a couple rows, say good boy, (don't touch him the first time, but 2nd or 3rd time try to give him a rub while he still chewing, if he backs off even a little bit, do not attempt to touch him-you will need to really pay attention! If he runs off-the session is over!), then put it away. Turn slightly from your horse, 45 degrees or so. But, stay out there. Allow your horse to approach as many times as he'd like. Each time, only pet and talk to as he is engaged and eating, or you run the risk of him running off and not coming back for the day. End the session when the ear of corn is depleted. Start again your next time out, or as many times as you'd like. I find two days of this, and when you sit out in the field near your horse and say his name, he will come over. Once he eats a couple rows put the corn away out of sight. If he stays, on the third day, just pet and talk to him until he walks away. Start calling him back over every 5-15 minutes (you need to be the judge here, you want him to came each and every time, so don't do this so quickly that he isn't interested yet) and allow him to eat a couple rows of corn each time after you have pet him... this teaches him to come when you call his name. He'll start walking over when you don't call him. alternate petting without corn, then petting with a snack. Pretty soon you won't need any snacks at all, and he'll just "like" to see you, get kind words and attention. It's really that easy. You must make the time at first though, and have patience, and be relaxed. You can also do things once he starts coming on his own, like putting a rope around his neck, then just take it off. But really, he should be following you around at this point and most likely would walk unaided to the gate and out. Good luck and have fun with your horse. Keep it simple, safe, and positive.

Anonymous said...

To the above comment about schools being "Petri dishes for bullies" you really nailed it. I took my child out of public schools for that very reason. It wasn't just the children, but the teachers as well here. I've found that the top salespeople in New Home Sales were also equestrians almost without exception. It gives a child confidence and control over emotions, communications skills, and a friend that never lies or judges.