Thursday, December 3, 2009

More On One Step Back

When I thought about the "one step back" skill I talked about in yesterday's post which relates to Tom Widdicombe's book that I reviewed in this post, I found a whole set of ways I've been using it with the horses in addition to just keeping a horse out of my space and directing its feet while we're standing together. To me, this skill horses need to learn is so basic, so fundamental, in establishing a good relationship with the horse that I no longer really think about it, but just use it in a variety of circumstances. I thought of a few ways I've been using "one step back" - there are probably more.

When feeding treats, I ask the horse to take a step back before I feed the treat - I'm not interested in being mugged. When feeding hay or grain where I'm in the stall or paddock with the horse, particularly with a horse that is greedy about food, I ask the horse to step back before I feed, or in the case of a horse like Charisma who likes to lunge for her food and is exceptionally greedy, I ask her to take two big steps back and turn her head away. If I'm in a stall or paddock with a horse, I'll ask them to move away if I need space to do things. These things are so automatic with the horses and me now that usually I don't even have to do anything to ask for the step back or away, I just wait and they do it all on their own.

I also use one step back a lot when taking the horses out to turnout. I'll use it if they seem anxious when standing in the open stall door while I'm haltering. I'll often use it with a horse as they're in the barn aisle and ready to go - one step back and then we go. Sometimes I'll combine this with a head-down with a horse that seems excited. This reminds them that I'm there and will be asking for them to follow my directions, and also immediately introduces some softness into the situation. I'll use it at the pasture gate if a horse is thinking about rushing. Whenever I use one step back, I try to be as quiet and soft as possible, and I focus on the feet, and the movement of the feet, not the head of the horse.

I'm grateful to Tom Widdicombe and his book for reminding me of how important one step back can be.


10 comments:

  1. Interesting - I think it is so smart to get into habits like that. I hadn't really thought about it much, but seeing your explanation makes alot of sense.

    Rusty isn't very pushy, but a step back is a must with him when bringing food into his stall. I actually use the same concept a bit with my dog at dinner time. He has to sit and wait until I say he can eat. I don't like being mobbed by an animal, whether 60lbs or 100lbs! :-)

    ReplyDelete
  2. oops - I meant to type 1000lbs there... d'oh!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Interesting series of posts! Like you, I've always used this technique in training horses and dogs (and children *lol*) but I've never really thought about it. I think I'm going to add Mr. Widdicombe's book to my winter reading list!

    ReplyDelete
  4. I think that's very wise advice, and if followed, could prevent a multitude of problems. There'd be far fewer accidents if we always reinforced our space.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Wise work Kate, steps back can really focus (us and the horse). I use it with the disengage hip exercise for the really energetic babies ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  6. I expect the horses to take a step back if I turn and face them directly when I am putting feedbags on in the group. If I only turn sideways towards them and make eye contact then that is my 'invitation' for them to lower their head, be in my space, and have their feed bag put on. Most of the horses pick up on this after a week or so, but I have a few that I have to remind of the rules almost every.single.day at feeding time, they are just that food aggressive. I guess I never realized I was doing anything overly productive or positive aside from trying to keep things orderly and keep myself out of harm's way at feeding time!

    ReplyDelete
  7. I'll look for that book. I've been trying to do something like this with Misty at feeding time, but I feed through a feed door into her manger. I don't like her grabbing at the hay while I drop it in. I had a pony when I was a kid who grabbed at a flake of hay I had tucked under my arm. It was quite painful when those hungry teeth grabbed my arm.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I totally agree with you about a horse understanding that they need to be out of your space. I just struggle with the new ones that haven't been taught. They can be quite intimidating

    ReplyDelete
  9. It is a very very good skill that everyone should use. We use it for mealtimes and treats, although I suppose I never really thought about it.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Catching up on posts, Kate.
    As usual much interesting reading!
    Your posts have made me decide that I will start out with an extra 30 mns just to hang around in the scary new indoor arena before my training tomorrow.
    Maybe we'll sort out the ghosts in the corner...

    ReplyDelete

Thank you for commenting - we appreciate it. No spam or marketing comments will be published.