Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Story of Me, Clinton Anderson and A Puller; Part 1

[Pre-cursor - for some reason, writing this post makes me feel very vulnerable, so if you have any advice on my horses issue I'd love to hear it, but know that I don't, at all, in any matter, see myself as a trainer, and am always open to advice]

Jingle has tying issues, like... very learned, sometimes extremley explosive, tying issues. Quite honestly, they freak me out... the one thing that makes me truly uncomfortable and nervous is a horse that is pulling back. When I was a kid I was in a stall with a horse, when another got loose and came charging towards us, she pinned me against the stall, and probably saved my little butt. (She was the ugliest of ugly nags, and so, so mean, but after that moment I always had a soft spot for her. Ironically, her name was sunshine.)  That story has nothing to do with the actual act of a horse pulling back, but ever since then the idea of a horse pulling back in the small standing stalls we have at the ranch, has made me nervous, and clausterphobic.

Jingle has had this issue since we first met, couple that with his jaw problems, bridling becomes a give and take of pulling and side-stepping, and just general nonsense. Last year he pulled back so hard he catapulted forward and his jaw slammed down on my head. For some freak reason I had thrown my helmet on before going in to bridle him, so he came down on that surface... not my skull, but I was still seeing stars afterwards. Another time two counsellors were brushing the horse beside him, while he was pretty much asleep. He startled himself awake, saw two shapes beside him, and awaaaaay we go. He ran around the barn like a freakin' idiot for 5 minutes before I saw what was going on and got my big mom voice on with him. Last summer I was, admittedly, bad and just kind of two-stepped my way around his problems. This summer I vowed to be different.

Now, call me a soft-hearted pansy, but everywhere I looked and everyone I talked to gave me the same answer. Something along the lines of tie him up with multiple halters, crazy knots, tie him to a massive tree, or the strongest surface you have, and let him thrash about. Everytime he thrashes, release the knot, so he falls, then do it all over again, until he figures it out. Or, just let him thrash and thrash and thrash for days until he figures it out. Wellllllllll... I'm not really willing to go into that territory yet, couple my soft hearted pansy self with the fact I just don't think that's very fair to do to a horse that has been pulling back for years, and in comes some Natural Horsemanship voo-doo. (Are you rolling your eyes yet? I wont be offended).

I hit up the internet, and started to read up on chronic pullers. I came across the Clinton Anderson Mag-Lock and read some really positive, (independent from the company) reviews. So I decided, what the heck - let's try it. The idea behind the lock is that there's a few knots that you can use to bump up the resistance of the lock, but in the first phase - the phase for bad pullers, the lock will provide a slow release, so there is no halter breaking, or lead snapping, or running around like a goddamn 1200 lb chicken with it's head cut off (Been there, done that) but there's also no falling over, hurting ones self, hurting others, scaring poor defenseless counsellors and children. Honestly... for how much Jingle hasn't desensitized from pulling, he's desensitized me... looking back on the summer I think my fear of him turned more into an annoyance, but a fear for others. I don't want my horse freaking a bunch of people out... that's not nice.

So, the lock came in the mail... with nothing but a small pamphlet showing the tie methods, and the lock itself. Uhm.. did I mention the skeptics of this thing? Not a lot of people in these parts drop the word "Natural Horsemanship" without snickering, and then you bring in a clinician with an online store... and you purchased something.. that you now don't reaaaally know how to use and you don't want to use the tried and true method first... well, I'm going to be a bit of a laughing stock.

So, I called the Clinton Anderson store and talked to a very nice rep. She first asked me if I had the "Clinton Anderson Halter"... ugh, what have I gotten myself into? "No ma'am, I have a perfectly suitable Weaver tie halter." I was getting a bit of a frosty vibe from her, but then we started talking about the philosophy behind the tie, and I explained I want a bit more detail into when the appropriate time to bump resistance up is. She told me some very "uhm, duh, knew that" information, but then she told me she had started colts in it, and one of her colts had figured out that he could just walk backwards, and she was new to the tie so she didn't increase the resistance. Eventually, her colt just started walking backwards everytime she tried to saddle him - and he just kept going! Got a good laugh out of that, also, I appreciate when salespeople acknowledge the defects, or negative side effects of a product - especially one that deals with a live creature.

Finally, she figured out what I was asking and she said that if I wanted a little more information, and visual assistance, I could try watching one of Clinton's DVD's on the subject of tying horses. She then asked me if I was a member of his "No Worries Club"... lady, you are losing me again. When I said no, she told me i'd have to buy for the dvd full price with shipping, so about $25... then she realized that I lived up in Canada and suddenly the price jumped to something like $50 because of shipping. What?!She sympathized with me and offered me the Dvd for free, if I would pay the shipping and I agreed. She didn't have to do that, and I really appreciated that she did. However, from a marketing stand-point I had mentioned that no one around here has ever used the lock, so, if it works well for me, and I had a good experience with the company - you know i'll be telling me friends all about it! (and blogging a review... because, you know, I am kind of a big deal with all 13 of you lovely followers)

So - that's where we are at now! The DVD was shipped yesterday so I should recieve it soon, and I'll watch that and review it for you guys, and then once baby boy is home, and I am home with him as well, we're going to see if this technique has any value for his issues. If it does turn out to be just a gimick, my ego will be a bit bruised, but honestly, my philosophy about all these clinicians is that they do have big followings, so people are using their methods and it's clearly working, and a lot of the stuff they say makes sense - so why not give it a try? If it doesn't work, just like anything else, or any other training technique, switch it up and try something different. Mainly, the safety and happiness of my horse is the most important - so if this creates those two things for his anxious, nervous moments, then I'm happy too.


  1. The best method I used for teaching a horse to tie up (now I have never had one that was silly and pulled back for years before I got them, just newbies who dont know how to stand nice) I either just wrap the rope around the pole so it stops if they pull but gives if they freak out (kinda what the tie thingy is supposed to do I think) Or if there is somewhere to tie them so they hit thier butt before the end of the rope that works wonderful too.

    Also just have to say I really like Clinton Anderson, I have a couple of his videos and he is very normal say it like it is and get it done kind of person.

  2. Yikes, I don't envy you pulling issues. Been there, done that. Hopefully you can figure something out!

  3. My mini Chance has tying issues. But it isn't about him being tied up, it's about me not standing by him or giving he attention. I could be right there with the horse next to him or two horses down and he will pitch a massive fit. I am writing a log about itin a few(: good luck with this thing tho. Hopefully jingles figures it out

  4. I use a similar device in the horse trailer. Sure hope the tie ring works for you. I can't help but to think that even if it doesn't cure him, it will at least make tying him safer.

    1. Yeah, in the end i'm the most concerned for his safety, and those around him. So hopefully it helps his issues, but if it just makes him safer.. that's fine by me.

  5. I realize this might sound counter-intuitive, but the best way to teach a horse to stand tied is to stop tying him for a while. A horse that has learned to pull back has discovered he is big and strong and can pull through pressure. The trick is to set up your situation so his speed and strength do not, in fact, win him any victories.

    When I got my horse I had lots of problems similar to the ones it sounds like yours has, and actually Clinton Anderson's book "Establishing Respect and Control for English and Western Riders" helped me tremendously. I'd highly recommend working on all the exercise he outlines in there.

    Here's how I cured my horse of his tying issues: I put him on a long rope and draped that over the rail at the edge of the arena, then went about my business tacking and grooming, etc.. When my horse decided he wanted to leave for whatever reason, there was nothing for him to pull on, so he was free to start going. The trade-off was I went with him. Any time a foot moved, I pulled the rope off the fence, grabbed my stick, and we got to work. The best thing to do is jump straight from grooming into fast, demanding ground-work, asking for lots of changes of direction and disengages... movements that help turn the horse's brain on (just letting him run in circles will turn the brain off).

    Work the horse until he's starting to look like he wants to stop, then keep going for a little longer. When he's good and quiet and attentive to you, pet him, tell him he's wonderful, put the rope back over the fence and return to grooming. If he's only willing to stand for 10 seconds, that's fine. Take him straight back to working. Repeat as needed. It might take a few weeks, and you have to be systematic about this, but if you keep at it you will teach your horse that fidgeting and pulling lead to work instead of escape and that standing tied is awesome.

    With a confirmed puller it is still probably a good idea to tie him to something that offers a staged release even after you've taught him to stand (just in case). But if you teach him to stand quietly first you'll be safer and also avoid giving him the chance to come up with new and clever ways to defeat whatever you have him tied to. Added benefit to taking the time to teach him a new way of thinking: if there's nothing around to tie to he will stand anyway.

    As for bridling, our new guy has this issue. We're just back from four days in Colorado at a Buck Branamman clinic and Buck addressed this issue at some length. I just wrote a long post about what he said. (The bridle prep tips start about halfway down the post.)

    I hope this helps!

    1. Hi Robin!

      What an awesome reply - thank you! For the most part, he goes untied, we have standing stalls and I just loop his shank through the stall boards twice, so - similiar to your method he can pull free.

      However, as I mentioned in the post, I feel as if I've tapped-danced around his real issues, and although I don't tie him, I haven't worked to figure out the root cause and actual fix the problem. Plus, every once and awhile, he needs to be tied, or left alone, or someone else ties him without my knowledge, and that is when the problems begin.

      I will definitely look into the book you recommended - I have lots of reading time over the summer, and I'd like to look more into Clinton's methods. I'll add that to my super-fun-easy-reading-summer list along with the biggest book in the world, aka Wiley's Third Edition of Equine Nutrition and Feeding.

      I definitely plan to use some of the methods you talked about in this reply in the training. I'm not hoping the tie will work its miracle without additional training by myself - just create a safer environment in which to train.

      I read the post - how awesome that you've ridden in Buck clinics! I've audited one (that was expensive enough for poor 'ol student me), and would love to one day ride with him. I have also heard from other people the techniques he discussed, and again - those will be going into play.

      I hope it all comes together in a very beautiful way, only time will tell! Again, awesome and insightful reply.

  6. Hi Louisa! I'm so glad you thought my comment was helpful. I never want to be the pompous windbag who goes around telling other people what to do all the time. :)