Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Peace Zone

Early in 1999, Tom tried to express what he means by the “peace zone” to the Carriage Driving List . Here the four posts have been compiled into one article.

The Peace Zone

I will try to explain to the best of my ability the peace zone and how it works. First of all, nothing works without having good solid basics. The basics that the human needs is a thorough understanding of how a horse's brain works. I am fascinated by the mind of a horse. I have spent lots of time studying the horse and trying to find better ways to communicate with them. In studying the horse I learned two important factors. The first factor is that a horse learns by putting things in categories. The second factor is he learns nothing when he is afraid. So my goal was to learn how to program the categories. Once I learned this I found I could teach a horse in a few hours what would have taken me a month to teach before. I also found fear will let nothing enter the horse's brain. That is why when you have trouble with your horse, he doesn't stop ,turn or do anything that you want, because he is consumed with fear or anger. They work the same. This is what first started me to develop a peace zone for the horse.
Horses that pace the fence. There can be a number of reasons why a horse would pace the fence. I have found certain breeds do this more than others. Mostly Arabians, Thoroughbreds and Saddlebreds. They seem predisposed to this type of behavior. I think this is because they are the most intelligent and sensitive of all horses. Not all horses are born equal. Some are born with learning disabilities. Some of these horses, because of their sensitivity, just plain give up on mankind. It does not have to be from what we consider cruel handling. These horses never learn to have any peace in their life. The reason they don't get tired when they pace the fence and determine their actions are futile is because their brain has gone someplace else. They have spaced out. Once a horse has learned to space out it is virtually impossible to bring him back. They may ride good, and do fine as long as you have your hands on them, but the minute he has a spare moment he goes back to spacing out because there is no peace in his life.
These are some of the reasons why I try to give my horses a peace zone. The first thing I have to do is establish leadership with my horse. This can be done in a round pen, it can be done on the end of a lunge line, it can be done as you lead your horse from the stall to the turnout-there is never a time when I touch my horse that I don't consider it training. Every time you handle a horse you either advance him or take him backwards. Please understand that the things that I am talking about now are very important to you in your process of developing a peace zone in your horse.
In studying the mind of the horse I found that the horse is the most honest and sincere animal that you will ever encounter. There in lies one of our biggest problems with horses. Most humans lie to horses almost continually-we don't mean to- but we do. Our body says one thing and our mouth says another. If a horse could talk and he were asked to describe humans in as few words as he could, he would say that we are liars. For instance, if I pull on the left rein and the horse turns left or gives his head I should release some of the pressure on that side of his mouth, no matter what that pressure is, the horse should get some relief. Thats the agreement,-“if you give to pressure, I will give you relief.” If I do not release the pressure, I have lied to my horse. We lie to them all the time in the stall, in the pasture, in cross-ties, because we do not keep our end of the agreement. In this whole wide world all a horse , any horse, wants is to be left alone. This is the Golden Key. Learn to let your horse
alone. If you want to reward your horse, let him alone. Once the horse discovers that you will let him alone after he has completed a maneuver, he will work continually until he completes the maneuver correctly. In the beginning he should be rewarded by being let alone for making the slightest progress.
Gaining Leadership: A horse wants a leader, not a buddy, most horses would rather be friends with another horse. If you would like to test this, just lead your horse into a field where there are other horses, turn him loose and see if he follows you back to the gate or if he goes with the herd. Now I know there are some horses that will follow you back to the gate once in a while, not too many will do it consistently. Like I said, they are not all born equal
I mostly use the round pen to gain leadership. That way I can work the horse free.

But the same work can be done on the lunge line, but the work is a lot more physical. And you stand a chance of the horse getting away from you which will cause you to loose ground for a short while. Once I am in the round pen I turn the horse loose, I just stand there and wait to see what's on his mind. If he stands around I'll ask him “ can you trot? “. I may snap my lounging whip or just use it to make a whistling sound. This is all about control, but peace is not far behind. The peace zone will come almost as a by-product of control. If the horse trots a few rounds I just let him go at any speed or gait that he wants. Then in a very normal way I simply walk across the round pen and cut the horse off. I do everything at my normal speed, which is slow, I do not rush nor do I sneak. Everything has to be done at a speed that is normal to you. You will want your horse to know what is normal for you. Later when things get hectic, you will want your horse to know the normal you, the all is well you, the nothing to worry about you. Pretty soon your horse is going to start to imitate you. He is going to imitate the speed at which you move, but most of all, he is going to imitate the manner in which you take things that are NEW TO HIM.
In training horses, I think the most important thing that I have to do is prepare the horse to become a willing and pleasurable partner. Because he is 5 times my weight and 20 times stronger than I am, I can not force him to do anything. The only way to train a horse is to inconvenience him when he exhibits a behavior that you disapprove of. You just want to inconvenience him as humanely as possible
In the round pen when I cut the horse off, I am moving at my normal speed. Most horses will stop and go the other way. I will repeat this process in both directions for a few times or until the horse starts to look at me. When he starts to look at me, I feel that he is beginning to admire me. You see I have just defeated him in a horse type of confrontation. It was all display, no contact. When he runs to get away from me, I cut him off. He does not realize the pen is round. So he thinks that I can out run him. When I send him the other way, he feels like he is being directed, which means to him that I am dominating him. This is the way many animals select their leaders, it is all display, not much contact. Sometimes I will get a horse that will not turn when I cut him off. No matter how close I get to the wall they just keep on coming and would run over me if I did not move. When they do this I get out of the way, of course, but I slap him on the fore legs with the whip. The next time I move to cut him off, he will usually stop 20 feet away and go the other way. There are some that will try this 1 or 2 times, very few will try more than that. At this point I am merely saying to the horse I mean what I say.
Every time he stops, the horse is looking at me now. When he first came in he was looking over the wall of the round pen and when he stopped, he would have his rump to me. We have been in the round pen for about 20 minutes now. Now that I can control the direction, I start to control the speed. By this time the horse will be stopping and turning on the slightest move of my body. Any time that he forgets I will go all the way to the wall to stop and turn him if I have to. To control the speed I move from the center of the ring toward the horse's head. He will usually slow because he expects me to stop and turn him. When he slows I move back to the center of the pen. Within a very few trips he will learn that if he reaches a certain speed, say 8 MPH, I am going to interrupt him, so he will travel very steady at 8 MPH. I do the same thing in both directions. At this point I am getting a horse that is willing to be directed, one that will let me control his speed in both directions. At this time, I am training both eyes. Each eye has to be trained equally. By now we have been here 30 minutes. The horse is showing signs of wanting to herd-up, meaning wanting to come in to me and touch me. At no time have I been hostile to this horse, my body has been in neutral, which is normal for me when I work a horse. I have directed this horse, but at no time has my body transmitted any anxious, angry, aggressive, or fearful messages to this horse. So this horse has no reason to think that I am a leader that he should fear.
No animal wants a weak leader. An excellent example of this is in a wolf story that one of my customers, who knew that I study wolves almost as extensively as I do horses, sent me.
A family had a wolf as a pet, the animal was kept in a pen most of the time. One day when the man of the house went into the pen the wolf attacked him. He was able to get out of the pen without being hurt. After three days of the same kind of attack, the wolf was put down. The devastated family went over and over the attacks, trying to figure out what could trigger the attacks. They finally remembered that the first attack came the day after the man had come home from the hospital after an automobile accident. He came home with a limp. To a wolf a limping leader is
a weak leader. The attack was not one of meanness, just an attempt to make sure that the leader was strong enough to lead.
Now that the horse is willing to herd up I walk over and pat him on the neck and pull his forelock. At this point I will even put my hand around his ear, I make no attempt to hold it, I just put my hand around it. If he lets me put my hand around his ear, he has given me authority over his body. I do both ears. This is a horse that didn't even let me touch his ears before we went into the round pen.

When I walk back to the center he might want to follow me. If he is hesitant I will work one round and stop him. Now I am working him only one round at a time. I work him both ways. Each time he stops I will walk over and touch him. By doing this he learns that when he stops and stands quietly I will let him alone and pat him. So this time when I stop him I make no attempt to pat him or move toward him. The horse will stop and look at me. When I do not move, most of the time, he will walk over to me. I have been going to him and touching him but now he will begin to come to me He may stand a foot or two away from me or he may stand with his body touching mine. Most look past you and do not look you in the eye. To herd and pack animals looking into the eyes of another is considered a challenge.
I do not say much, most of the time I say nothing at all. Some will touch my cheek with their muzzle very softly and just smell me for a long time. After a while I will walk very slowly away and for a very short distance. The horse will walk just as subtlety after me. He is my horse now and he wants it that way. I move, stop and pat, move, stop and pat. The horse has learned that I am his leader, he has also learned that life is very soft, quiet, and slow when he is near me. Most horses want to be quiet. Horses that bounce off the walls in their stalls are usually overfed and underworked. The horse has his peace zone now, but by no means is it finished. The next time I work him the same process will be repeated with a bridle and surcingle on. It should be repeated with only the left rein attached lightly, then repeated to the right with the right rein attached lightly. I want the horse's head tilted in the direction of the attached rein. This will help the horse to start to follow his head.
The peace zone will get stronger each time I take the horse out. I will take him on walks, and every time he shows the slightest sign of concern, I will walk him up to that object and stand soft and quiet. Horses are individuals so some react differently. Some will walk right up to the object, some will jump around a little. At this point I say nothing to the horse. I make sure I do not verbally console or reassure him. I just stand soft and quiet. Most of the time in about 2 or 3 minutes the horse will walk up to the object, smell, and touch it. It is very important that the horse smell and touch it. Each time the horse stops, smells and touches a strange object he will gain confidence. Soon nothing will be able to stampede long as you are quiet and ask him to be likewise. Once you have given your horse this peace zone as a byproduct you will also have learned self control and have a peace zone of your own.

Tom Simmons