Riding with Harry Whitney in Arizona

~By Peggy Martin

February 25-March 1, 2002

(Everything in parentheses is my observation or thought. Everything else is what I wrote of Harry's words.)

*Start with what you want to end up with. Don't lie to your horse. Use most subtle cue first. You may have to do something big to get a good clear change. It needs to be something that makes sense to a horse. Say it and mean it or keep your mouth shut. Don't suggest it in the first place without getting it, or else you are lying to your horse. You can get big, don't get mad. Often people are unwilling to do what it takes.

*When you ask for the change, get it, then leave him alone. "I can get it right" becomes the horse's thought. If a horse doesn't feel he can get it right (like when too much is asked too fast or there is no clear YES), the horse has two options: He can shut down or he can do everything to get the annoyance (human) to shut up. Some horses are strong-minded. Some just dull out. If horse has learned that resisting or acting out has worked, and then you change the program, he's likely to up his end. "Whatever it takes".

*Sometimes people get big with no specific thought in mind just defensive. (Harry whether big or small has a specific thought in mind). Problems when self-preservation or anger kicks in for the person.

*Set it up so there is some benefit for the horse. As soon as his feet hurry, slow down, make it good for him.

*Look for correctness. When he goes toward something correct, give him a break, then you can go for more.

*He will continue to believe it (try doing something he wants to do) if he is kept from doing it. So go with him, then ask for more speed to change his notion that his was such a good idea. Willingness to go makes the willingness to whoa. (Or willingness to turn right makes the willingness to turn left)

*We have trouble getting horses to turn off muscles he doesn't need =resistance. Total relaxation = zero tension. Letting go is most important. Let him know when it's over = release in body language/ voice.

*There is a difference between throwing a horse down and getting him to lie down. Anything we can do to help a horse to let go adds up. The benefit of lying down is what happens before he lies down. It matters how he feels when he lays down, not that he lays down.

*Horse learns to search for an answer. We rob the horse of his ability to search for the right answer in expecting him to know it. Give the horse a chance; don't rush him through it; slow down. Build in the ability for horse to search for the right answer. The horse has the freedom to search; direct him in his search.

*Need to do things at speed. Can the horse listen with speed or is horse listening enough in slow work. Ask for speed without asking anything. When he offers to slow down, direct and ask for more. Can he run and then stand?

*How to know when to stop? If things get worse, find a good spot and quit.

*Now that he has some understanding, could add in some hurrying.

*The people who know how will always be working for those who know why. (Harry teaches why before he teaches how.) If you don't know why, then you can't make an adjustment. I'm in the awareness business. Clinics help people become aware and then go home and do something about it. Become aware of how to help the horse. It's more important if you know what happened rather than how it turned out.

*You need to do things so you can do it when you need it.

*Just because you have the right to do something, it doesn't make it right.

*It's possible to over do it and under do it. Don't guide every step; horse feels like you are criticizing every move. Give him enough to understand.

Physical aspects of the horse:
*Everything from the horse starts in the hindquarters. Several joints direct the energy. There is a connection between the poll and the sacrum; what happens in one joint happens in the other. Feet go where the mind goes. Mind directs the poll, which tell the hindquarters where to go. If you tell the hind what to do, the front will be there. You are actually directing the thought.

*If horse is leaning on his inside shoulder, he's not using his hind end well, no matter what the hind end is doing (e.g. stepping under). He hasn't changed his balance. If giving clear through, can tell by asking for a stop; it'll be soft. Drive from behind and give from the front. If both parts not working, there's trouble. Wait for the shift to hindquarters to bring the front around. Help the hind get right then the horse can get ready behind.

*Playing with him to let go of his head (twirling), to let go of his thought. Bloop of ligament along mane from side to side when head twirls indicates he's tight through the top line. You can have a twirl. without a bloop, but you can't have a bloop without a twirl.

*Feet sometimes come quicker on his stiff side because he's not bending.

*You don't tear a relaxed muscle. Ask the horse and get him to do it with his thought because it is the most efficient way. He's not using muscles he doesn't need. It is therapeutic riding, most efficient, preserves the horse's body for the long-term. Physically good for the horse.

Mental aspects of the horse:
*NOT discipline, just get a change and go on, it's over. His actions dictate what you do. The horse understands it. Discipline has no meaning to the horse.

*Horse's feet are working to be where his brain is. If you can keep a horse mentally, his feet will come. It is easy to see the front leg step over, but it came from preparation from behind, from his thought. When the hind gives, it disengages his thought. If horse is troubled or bothered, all you can get him to do is to let go of his thought (release the hinds) before he's able to go with my thought (be directed). Look for the mental change. Tension gets built up, offer him a chance to let go of his thought; just get the brain back to his feet.

*You can pull a horse through it (move fores across), he did it, but he won't be sound of mind and body 10 years from now. How does the horse feel about it? (he pulls Sandy around, Sandy's head is up, tension in his body). Wait on him to let go of his thought; give him time to search through options. It becomes the horse's thought; he arranges his body to come around. Not me dragging him around.

*It's OK for the horse to look, just bring his thought back over here. Not the goal to control his thoughts in the halter.

*(Horse wanted to turn left whenever aimed toward the fence and resisted my suggestions to go right). Be ready with the right rein sooner, keep the feel active in the rein OR let him go left and find out it is not such a good deal by hurrying his feet when he chooses to go left. People often get in the way of their horse learning from experience.

Emotional aspects of the horse:
*Ask ourselves, how does he feel about doing things with us? Horse gets to feeling good when HE is figuring it out, e.g. he keeps the float in the rope.

*Loose reins allow the horse to express himself. Using rope rather than halter allows more freedom for horse to express himself. We want him just feeling good going forward with us. We are not trying to make anything happen here, just for the horse to feel good about going with us.

*When you keep touching the rein, there is no point for him to go.

*(In regards to a question on transfer of information from one side of horse to the other or lack thereof) If you don't get a change on one side, it doesn't carry over, it doesn't feel good, second side is worse. The emotion is what carries over.

*If he knows he could, he doesn't have to. By not allowing horse to know that he can escape keeps him worried. Ask for responses that are clear enough to her that she can do it relaxed. She needs clarity in direction, then leave her alone, she lets down. She slowed down internally, so she can listen. If you asked too much, she'd tense up a bit. Don't rush when horse is tense. How does the horse feel? Not what is she doing.

Some "hows":
*Down transitions are vitally important! Don't let him die out. Energy forward through the down transitions. Keep him forward through his turns. He's a sucker backer!

*Turn him into the fence, as head comes past the center point of the turn, let go of the reins. The fence is a visual aid, like cows or a spiny mesquite bush, a reason to turn, makes it more clear for the horse.

*Inspire her to move up into bigger transitions. Your body trot big or trot small. To stop the horse, stop riding. It only works if you have been riding.

*Don't let her stop where you don't want to be. Keep her moving through where she wants to stop; let her stop where you'd like her to be.

*Many transitions within gaits and between gaits, helps the mare get clear. Make up and down transitions, then back her, gets the backing freer.

*Be there sooner, not faster. Help him a little, then leave him alone. Hold the rein, wait, then drive his feet. Build confidence with no rushing. Turning, sweeping circles. How little can you do? Don't worry about how quick it happens, just smooth. With you is the best place to be.

*Canter depart:
cues depend on the bend and the leaning of the horse. If horse leaning out, use your inside leg to free up. Goal: set up with outside leg, weight my outside leg, so "I" and "he" can strike off with inside leg. When horse doesn't know, may do canter depart all kinds of ways, depending on how horse is moving. Want the horse doing something with me.

If stop riding, he stops on the forehand. Many transitions help him use himself to stop well. One-step back each time. It's not about stopping, just going forward and back. Somewhere in between is a stop. Present it in the way horse can prepare. Think of the bit like an electric fence; shouldn't try to push it out of his way.

*Teaching horse to back: Softly up and down transitions. Feel and take the hinds. Let him know when he is doing well. Pet him. Slowly use little finger on the rein to direct; get the mind. Get the hinds good, then ask one hind, bring the other rein in and back. (I did this, AWESOME, totally different feel in the back, comes from behind).

*Put macate line loop from above the belt downward. Helps to get it out in a wreck; human inclination is to grab and pull up.

Mounting without a cinch.
Get close to your horse, otherwise you are a lever. Support your toe at the shoulder of the horse.

Peggy Cummings mounting position.
Pull with you left hand on the crest of the mane. Push down with your right arm. Use an up orientation, not aim for the other side of the horse. Think about the right ear of the horse.

Goals in round pen:
* Get responsive enough so horse will listen to me. Can he be attentive? Can I be important in his life?

* Make a mental connection while moving his feet in the round pen. If not, don't get on him.

* Can he just walk off with your direction? Yield his shoulder?

* Can you get his attention back? Make a noise(small cue), use flag (bigger), purpose is not to have him go, but to get his attention..

* Transit ions with his own energy? Flip the flag if unresponsive to my own energy.

*When driving, direct your energy not toward the hip but just behind the shoulders (where your leg would be). Walk around behind horse to draw him loosen up his hinds. Watch tail, head, legs, movement; looking for more softness. Ask for a change of some kind, transition/turn, at least every lap. Don't stop until he checks in with me. Don't want abruptness. There is too much "flee" in the go. Make a tight spot (on side of round pen), put pressure on him as he leaves the tight spot; he begins to think not to go through. As soon as you get a change, give the horse a good deal: slow down/draw him. When horse can let go and soften, soften and slow yourself.

*If he thinks he needs to move, direct it. Then the horse will look to us for direction.

*Make the leaving difficult, it is not about sending him on. He was leaving anyway. Leaving becomes not the best deal in the pen. Work with the movement he has, not make him move. It's OK for him to come right back. If his attention goes to go, do something to bring his attention back.

Weight the outside of the bend not the outside of the turn. (Harry showed with leg yield and half pass. Backing (where is Harry's weight?) You can cue a horse any way. What is easier for the horse? (Harry stays pretty well centered.)

Releasing through the hinds, moving the fores across:
*If you hurry the horse with the front end, you are not helping him to prepare. He has to get the back end right; it feels good to the horse. This teaches the horse to get ready. When you use smaller circles and then take up the outside rein to get the spin, you are making the horse rock back. (Not what you'd want).

*Stay upright, don't lean forward reaching for the reins to ask the front end across; throws the horse on the forehand, the opposite of what we are looking for. Keep the feel (contact) throughout the movement (hinds then fores). Don't throw the slack in the rein, it drops the horse on the forehand. Like a down-bow on a violin. Lead him out of the turn.

*When asking for the hind, it's not about feet moving. It's about softening and giving through to the hind, which ultimately results in the horse shifting his weight back over his hinds. This in turn allows the horse to physically and mentally prepare to move the fores. Don't ask for the fores until the shift of balance happens. Eventually when taking up the rein, the horse prepares behind right away, no need to take the hinds away; then you can ask for the fores to move across.

*If horse gets all wadded up and stuck (when asking for the fores across), you can help a bit with the outside rein. Do NOT pull the fronts across. (Harry used outside rein lightly giving energy to the neck in front of the withers).

What is impulsion?
Can you have impulsion without collection? Yes, you can, e.g. horse running to a stop on a loose rein. Harry's definition: Impulsion is energy available for direction. Deb Bennett has 8 pages on impulsion; short answer: upward energy, like a fountain. You need impulsion yourself. Be able to raise energy up and down and not get all flustered.

Tricks are how humans view it; for the horse it is everything he would do on his own. All is built from pieces the horse does naturally. People's imagination is the only limit. Break it down into pieces.

We discourage the horse's behavior rather than encouraging, e.g. a horse picking up our grooming tools or rearing. Capture it; get it under your direction. The behavior will show up less at other times. If horse offers when you haven't asked, take it, even if not under our direction. Then later stop allowing unless under our direction.

Treats are not a bribe. Positive reinforcement. If head moves toward the treat, hits my elbow. My hand comes to his mouth and I give it. Horse does not take it from me; I give it to him.

Problems with carrot stretches:
Gets the horse greedy about treats. Gets the horse bending without its feet. Can over-stretch and tighten muscles. Cow Work OK to let horse run past the cow, just hurry him after the cow. The horse learns himself to get the turn.

Kicking horse:
When pressured by approach of another horse, help her learn to move away rather that kicking if horse coming up behind her, when you feel her tension, give her something to do. Ask something before the kick. Rider's responsibility.

Wanting-to-hurry-home horse:
Take up a rein and turn horse gently (no one rein yanks and high speed turns) until feet slow, then guide horse out of turn. If OK, go along, if hurries, turn again. Don't throw the horse away out of a stronger correction. If energy comes up big, do just enough to get a change (rider needs to be really tuned in to what is happening to release a bit when change happens in horse), then keep directing. NOT discipline, just get a change and go on, it's over.

Horses that buddy up:
* Stretch the envelope of separating a few steps at first, then greater distances and gradually greater times apart. Help horse be OK and build confidence. Don't let them get too worried.

* Work him when he's in a group of horses and let him drop out; helps him to be able to not go with the other horse. Good deal is away from the other horses, not with them.

* Work him off of another horse; changes his expectations, not to just go with other horse.

Horse worried about being separated from other horses:
Take his hinds away, draw his attention back. Get more active, don't wait to see if he's going to get better or worse. Don't give him time to get bothered. As soon as his thought drifts, get busy. He doesn't need to look over there, just stay here. When his feet go to move, direct them. Before he can't deal with it, ask him to move.

Bothered horse:
When horse understands (not a colt), you need to build "let go of that thought", you can get stronger. It is wrong to be fast to take the slack out; once you have contact in the rein, you can be strong. (Harry proceeded to demonstrate by pounding my shoulder and then shoving my shoulder. Trust me, I could feel the difference). You want the horse to prepare. The more scared the horse is, you can do less, give him time. With lower level of worry, get a change quicker: Hind end away! Be there a little earlier, get the hinds, firm up. Get his mind. Where is he looking? If you are early enough, you can be softer.

Barn sour horse:
If keeps turning right (to turn back to barn), keep left rein available. Or you might just let him go back to the barn and it wouldn't work out as well as he thought....

Young horse just under saddle: Riding the young horse out:
* Work in a secure/familiar area (round pen/arena) then ride out a bit then back to the secure area, out and back, venturing further.

* When going from point A to point B, go with a steady older horse

* I'm an uninvited guest on his back. Just go with and explore. Urge him on past things he knows (like feed) and not too long on any one thing.

Fearful horse:
When horse is fearful about something, such as cattle/big red ball, where is the "safe spot" for the horse? A horse may get too curious and get himself in trouble by being too far out of his "safe spot". Help him by not letting him. Other horses won't venture out of their "safe spots" and need support to try a bit.

Horse bothered by rope under his tail:
(Lariat around neck and under horse's tail.) Tension, release, til softens. Keep the feel until he softens, then release. Teach him how to respond, then he doesn't have to react.

Busy mouth:
A busy mouth indicated anxiety, confusion, or resentment. Can get rid of resistances in side pull then go back to bit. Give him more to think about.

Goal: horse is responsive and understands the job. Give him lots to do: left and right rein, move a foot, rub a butt. Notice what is not working; know what to work on. Side pull isn't the answer. Need to get change inside, then can go back to the bit.

Saddle fitting otherwise known as educating our butts ("Harry has the best educated butt" per Dave Genadek) 6 women and 3 men each finding their own preferences (and you can't tell by looking!). It is all about angles and slopes.


Bosal versus side pull: Bosal tips the head away, doesn't twirl the poll. Paso style has the nose loop on the bosal, makes direction real clear. Until around 5 years old teeth issues with horse, therefore rode without the bit. Bosal is lever working toward rounding. Snaffle is for directionality. Bosal can stiffen a horse right up. Side pull is clearer in average hands; you get more twirl.

Prefers the true French snaffle. The extra joint give more independency to the two sides of the bit. Regular snaffle has the potential to hit the roof of the mouth. Bits can feel different to the horse, even with similar action. Longer length of the cannons protects the bars in any broken mouthpiece. Even if mouthpiece is unbroken, it's a snaffle if no shanks. Lots of horses would prefer a solid mouthpiece. (e.g. Kimberwick with reins on top ring).

Side rings: Type of rings changes the dynamics of action. Loose ring allows movement. Offset D, eggbutt give similar feel. D ring and full cheek give similar feel. The corner of a D ring can dig into horse's face. Full cheek can be dangerous; can catch on gear, your own or others. Wouldn't want to work one horse off another with full cheek. Side ring on snaffle, which is shaped like a teardrop: can work like a regular snaffle and also gives the feel of curb action. Helps transition to a leverage bit.

Tom Thumb/Argentine: not a snaffle. So unclear to a horse; too much happening. Lever still working; huge pressure even when using one rein.

Curb: Loose shank lets horse not tip but can press against face. Where headstall hanger is affects the face of the horse (One bit has offset hanger not just in line with shank; nice). Best if curb strap has a separate hanger. If rein on a ring where attached, more directional.

Myler: Original bits looked good; bit with independent action without pinching. Many have too much hook in the cannon.

Changing bits: Harry likes to change around with different bits after a horse is going well, with no resistance, so that he can ride in anything.

Bottom line regarding bits: How things are operating on our end of the reins is most important. (Harry is a superb teacher of horse and rider. His emphasis is on why, building understanding. As a person working with Harry, I have a sense of how the horse must feel. He is so clear and encouraging. I really want to try and feel so good when I get it. Spending time in Arizona with Harry is different than riding in a clinic. The pace of each day is set by each horse and each rider. The focus is present and in the moment even as everything is part of a grand fabric of principles guiding the learning. A very special experience and fun!)

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