Sunday, December 12, 2010

My feelings about TTEAM & natural horsemanship

I recently had a student ask me about the differences between TTEAM and natural horsemanship. As I mulled over her questions later than night, I got to thinking about why I had chosen TTEAM, and why I returned to TTEAM after exploring some popular natural horsemanship methods. This is my personal view on the approaches, and my view continues to evolve.

Natural horsemanship techniques typically rely on a combination of desensitizing, habituation, dominance and repetition.

Taking each of these components, lets take a closer look. Desensitizing equals removing sensitivity. Horses see, hear, smell, feel and sense much more than most people. Desensitizing is considered desirable in natural horsemanship because the process produces a calmer, less reactive horse. Personally, I value my horse’s superior senses and depend on my horse to notice things I wouldn’t. I also recognize that there will always be new and potentially scary situations in life, no matter how many objects and situations I would desensitize my horse to. So the question is whether teaching a horse not to react is better than teaching a horse to think through new situations. Another question is whether or not you prefer to depend on your horse’s senses to supplement your own.

Habituation. Habituation is the same as desensitizing.

Dominance is another common theme in natural horsemanship. Become the herd leader. Move your horse’s feet. Drive your horse. Send your horse on a circle in the round pen until he surrenders and joins up. If your horse refuses a request, turn up the pressure. Here I would ask, if you are building a relationship with someone, do you choose to have one person dominate the relationship, to lead without question? How would you feel in a relationship where your partner made all your decisions? How would it feel to not be allowed to say “no”? Can there be true partnership if one partner is not allowed to say “no”? How willing and eager can a horse be, without freedom to choose?

Repetition. I frequently see horses being drilled. Folks drill for 3 reasons that I can see – to reinforce a point, to perfect an exercise or to punish. Once an activity is learned, is there truly a benefit to repeating the lesson?

Another observation I have made about several natural horsemanship techniques is the gap between what is said and what is done. Using gentle words does not translate to gentle actions. I suggest paying attention to what is actually being done, and how the horse is reacting. For example: a carrot stick, a wand, a whip, a crop are all names for similar tools. If the tool is used to tap annoyingly until the horse moves away, or used to cause discomfort or pain, does a warm fuzzy name change the outcome? Pay attention to the obvious – your horse will tell you his/her feelings about the techniques and tools.

I am not suggesting that we anthropomorphize horses. Horses are horses – people are people. I am however suggesting that horses are capable of thought and feeling, and that partnership is only possible when the thoughts, feelings and boundaries of both parties are honored.

Allowing for our differences also means learning each other’s language. Would you deal with someone who spoke a different language than yours by shouting? By forcing? By repeating over and over? By creating discomfort and waiting for the person to fumble around until by accident they got the answer and relieved the discomfort? Or would you take the time to explain your request in a variety of ways until understood?

Brainwaves can be a good indicator of how a horse is responding to a given technique or interaction. Informal studies over the years using Electroencephalograms (EEGs) have shown beta, alpha, theta and delta brainwaves occurring together in both hemispheres during TTouch. TTEAM Ground obstacles produced beta brainwaves, indicative of analytical thinking. EEGs during petting, stroking, brushing and rest did not produce the mix of all 4 types of brainwaves in both hemispheres. These results suggest that the non-habitual movements and touches of TTEAM produce thinking horses and true learning.

With my horses, natural horsemanship techniques produced obedience, and horses that were subtly unhappy with the work and not as interested in spending time with me when given a choice. TTEAM produced calm, curious, trusting interested partners. So when someone asks me how TTEAM is different from other popular techniques, my answer is that for me TTEAM is about respectful willing partnership, conscious thought, and the right to say “no”.

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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Time With The Herd

I trimmed all 4 horses tonight. I generally trim every week or two, and I've started trimming them loose in the pasture. I find that they are all more cooperative when I allow them freedom to stand without a halter. Another change I made is I return a hoof whenever they pull it away, rather than holding on and insisting I be allowed to finish. I find the more I am willing to let go and offer freedom, the more they trust me to hold their hooves. Trimming has become very fast and easy approached this way. I can get all 4 done in about 45 minutes. I'm finding their hooves are much healthier on this frequent trim schedule.
Foster provided a learning experience tonight. He stood for his front feet, and walked away when I started his hinds. I found that he was mistrustful and thought the process would hurt. I did put him in a halter and lead, although I still allowed him to circle and step away when he chose. I figured out that I could rest his hind toe on my steel-toed boot and trim from the bottom while he stood comfortably. While I worked, Lucky stood behind Foster with his nose by my hands, watching me work and inspecting the results. By the end of the session, Foster was relaxed again. I'll be curious to see whether I can trim him loose next session.

I found this link on Facebook today. This is an excellent step-by-step description of a barefoot trim.

I also spent time with Lucky tonight. I brought his halter, lead and wand out in the field, without an agenda for our session. He started to walk away from me, so I put down the lead and wand. I approached, greeted him, and retreated. In a minute, I approached and greeted again. As soon as he showed reluctance, I backed out of his space. The third time I showed him the halter after greeting him, let him sniff it, then backed away before he could leave. When I lifted the halter to approach a 4th time, he came to me first and allowed me to put the halter on.
I chose to reward his willingness to stay with me by focusing on fun and pleasant bodywork. I spent several minutes just doing TTEAM TTouches, mainly connected clouded leopard, all over his body in a slow steady rhythm. I finished just standing in a grounding position, one hand on his chest and one on his back behind his withers.
Of course, while I was doing all of this, Foster was watching, nibbling, sniffing and just generally being a jealous pest. Foster loves attention and petting, and follows anyone with a brush or who even looks willing to give some scratches. Lucky took a break to chase Foster down the field before returning to me to resume our time together.
We watched the sun set together.
What a great way to wrap up a chilly evening outside.

Happy Holidays!

2010 has been a great year.

We had a succesful kidding season with several first-time moms producing lovely kids. Doelings and whethers went to several farms in Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

Our holiday contest winner from December 2009 took home 2 lovely whethers - congratulations Dianne!

7 Fainting Acres Gandalf joined our buck herd from down south.

We experimented with hay feeders and hay racks and came up with some goat-safe economical designs.

All our goats came through the year in good health, with no major illnesses & no vet bills.

The blog and eNewsletter were born and continue to grow. The website evolved & we added shopping options and more details on the breeding stock.

We watched & learned at a sanctioned show in Reading, Pennsylvania.  We plan to show there in 2011.

Our goats discovered that horses enjoy making them faint. Many thanks to my hubby's horse Foster for pulling this prank safely!

Our Facebook following grew to more than 300!  I appreciate all of you who helped make that happen!

Holiday Special 2 whethers for $110!

Buy a gift certificate in December for 2 whethers and pay only $110 - you save at least $40, more if the whethers have blue eyes! You must pay the full $110 in December to receive this special price. A limited number of whethers will be presold. All other terms of the application and sales contract apply. If the application is denied, the $110 is refunded. Offer only open to Oak Hill newsletter subscribers.  You can sign up for the eNewsletter anytime in December to be eligible for the whether sale.

With cold weather upon us...
I found plans online to build solar stock tank heaters from simple materials you can get at any hardware store.
These plans are for a full-size stock tank. The plans should be adaptable to smaller goat stock tanks or even water buckets. I plan to build some in 2011 and will post the results.

Thank you for being part of our farm! Have a fantastic holiday and Happy New Year!

Carrie & the goat herd