Wednesday, February 25, 2009


My name is Tom Simmons. I have owned and bred Morgan horses since 1963. I have known and seen many Flyhawk horses, and other Brunk bred horses. I would like to talk about a few here.
Warhawk; I saw him. He was 21 or 22 when I first saw him, he was owned by Susan Tilton at that time (for some reason no one who talks about Warhawk ever say that he was at one time owned by Susan). When I saw him he was past his prime, he was thin and he looked thoroughbredy. I don’t think he looked that way as a young horse. I knew a number of his get. Some had type and some did not. I will tell you about three, There was Big John who was 16 hands and had lots of body. He had a plain head, his get were big smooth bodied horses with plain heads and lots of trot. Sundayhawk. Sunday was about 15 hands with one of the prettiest trots I have ever seen. He had a huge eye, but was kind of straight headed. Some of his get were very nice horses. Sally de Jarnette. Sally was a big horse. She was only about 15.2H, but must have weighed 1200 pounds .She had an outstanding trot and won many Western pleasure and English pleasure classes. She could not be out trotted. These three horses by Warhawk look nothing alike. Only Sundayhawk would have been called typey. In my opinion most Flyhawk stallions are not consistent in what they produce. If you had a good mare you could use them, as many people did, and get that good trot while your good mare took care of the type…..Sorry that’s just the way it was.
Mr. Breezy Cobra: Breezy was a very pretty horse. He had this great big eye that you could see even if you were standing behind him. I would say that he could not be mistaken for anything but Morgan. I never saw any of his get that were gaited. Lewis Pape, Breezy’s owner, and I were good friends. Breezy sired 120 foals so somebody liked him. His sire, The Airacobra, was one of the prettiest horses I ever saw.
Dare Devil (Flyhawk x Coalita): Daredevil was owned by Jack Marks of Indiana. This was a very nice horse and sired many foals that were winners. At the Indiana State Fair and the Gold Cup his foals were almost unbeatable in halter classes. They looked like little horses-well filled out and seldom beat in under two year old classes. Many went on to be very good show horses. I will try to find a picture of him and post it.
Dennis K (Flyhawk x KathleenC): Dennis K was owned by Ethel Gardner and only sired 14 foals. This was a good horse and his foals were nice. His last foal was in 1973.
Flyella (Flyhawk x Silver heels) 1947 : Flyella was owned by Milford Fox and was bred to Devan Cap 4 times. She produced Cap’s Nugget and a mare called Blacap’s Lassie- the dam of DeeCee Laddie in 1963-the first Morgan I ever owned. I asked Milford how did he happen to have a Flyhawk mare. He told me that many of the Mansfield horses , who he dearly loved, had a short croupe. This Flyhawk mare gave his foals a very nice rump. And until this day I have not had a horse that had as nice a rump as DeeCee Laddie. Laddie was powerful and never lost a race to any Quarter horse that I raced. I was young then. I am trying to say that all Flyhawk horses are not bad. If you are a sharp breeder the blood can be used to great advantage. None of these horses paced that I know of. Most of these horses were also up headed. I will write more about horses that I have known. I will tell the truth about them good or bad. These opinions will be posted on my blog as well as this list. My next post will be about why breeders crossed different families.
Tom Simmons

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

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The Second Day

Now that Bonnie has started to assign me leadership, I started to work on her mouth. The mouth can have a number of problems. Maybe she has been rode or drove with too loose a rein or too tight a rein. Maybe she has had too many half halts. Half halts do not work very well on horses that are not ready for them. By the time you get a horse ready for the half halt you no longer need a half halt. Cold blooded horses may need a half halt, but not many hot blooded horses. The bit can be too high or too low in the mouth, depending on the horse. If you get your horses mouth right, you will not need two wrinkles. Cathy's early training had been with a hunter/jumper trainer who got her in the habit of being busy with her hands. When your horse is right, you let it alone. That is how your horse knows that it is right. If you are always pulling and bumping, your horse will think it is doing something wrong. Many horses don't know if they are being directed, corrected, or instructed. All a horse wants in life is to be left alone. So I have learned to let my horses alone when I am riding or driving and my horses are very happy. There is a difference in holding a horse or pulling on a horse.
So with this mare I put a surcingle on and checked her head to the left. I check her only about 5 degrees and turn her a loose. She walks, trots and sometimes runs. I let this be a time of discovery for her. Sometimes she turns to the right while her head is checked to the left. I let her figure it out. She will learn that left is left and right is right.....every time. She has to learn to follow her head. The surcingle is unrelenting, it does not argue. It just says left and never changes. It does not get angry and pull harder, it just stays the same. The horse will soon learn that when it goes left the rein will let her alone. I then do the same thing to the right. Soon I will have a horse that will go left when its head is left and right when its head is to the right. I want to get this automatic. When I get this automatic, I will start on her legs. The dumb jockey is no longer a dumb jockey to me- it has become a smart jockey because it will let a horse alone. Because it does not move, the horse can learn to get along with it.
More soon.

Second Work, Same Day

I put a training surcingle on her and 22 foot long lines. I use the best bit in the world, one of my rustable $4.50 work horse snaffles. Everytime I find one at Southern States, I buy it. I give them away. I use no caveson. I don't use a caveson because I want my horse to do what I call find the bit. In the round pen, which is 50 ft, I started the mare to the left. I let her set her own pace, which was fast. She came home from the show a little anxious and wanting to get back to her pasture friends. At this time I am standing in the middle of the round pen, more or less, almost like I am lounging her. The long lines, from this angle, tend to send her on a little which is fine. After a few rounds, she starts to slow down. Then I turn her into the wall using just one rein. She dashes off to the right and after a few rounds I again turn her into the wall using one rein. Then I start to turn her every other round. After this I turn her every round. I only go a very few rounds with any of this. After a very short time when I turn the horse she is walking slow and quiet. In less than 10 minutes she has started to learn that she is wasting her time to rush. Everytime she rushes I shut her down or interupt her. I train horses because I love their brains. If you really want to be good with horses, learn how they think. You will learn how to put things into their brain.
I just made this mare discover that she was wasting her time when she rushed. Once a horse learns that it is wasting its time it will change the behavior no matter what the behavior is. Now that she is walking fairly quiet to the left and right she is beginning to assign me leadership. After leadership she will give me authority over her body. This is all a process that can take a few days or it might take a few weeks. They are all individuals you know. After she is walking fairly quiet and has made acceptable progress, I quit. Then I unharness her and hose her off. The hosing has many benefits. It will take the sweat off her and help with the leadership and authority process. This winter and spring Cathy did not hose her off because of the weather. I never hose a young or untrained horse just to get them clean. There is always a training lesson. Training is a process, not an event. There were parts of her body that she was concerned about. I hosed those until she relaxed. Its all about programming her mind.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Perfecting of Bonnie

Its been a long time since I wrote anything in my blog. Sometimes I just don't care to talk. Sometimes talk only causes confusion. At this time I will talk about trying to perfect LH Bonnie Belle, my wife's 8 year old mare. Why am I trying to perfect Bonnie? Well, we just came home from a horse show and Bonnie was not what she should have been. Bonnie is a long story. Cathy, my wife, kind of lost her confidence to ride after Tori, our 7 year old daughter was born. So she wanted something that she could work as a project on her own, so Bonnie was chosen. Cathy did most of the training and handling of this mare. Problem is Cathy works and has over an hour drive to and from work, she has a 7 year old daughter and a husband to look after also. Trying to work this mare has not been easy. Not being a perfected rider or trainer plus the fact that she was trying to regain her confidence means that the mare has some holes in her. Cathy and Tori had a great time at the show but the holes in the mare's training was quite apparent. She received about a 100 opinions about what was wrong and what the mare I thought I had better fix this mare.
Keeping her stabled is the first part of my fixing. Today I started her work. The first thing I wanted to do was to work on confidence, take away her hastiness, and regulate her speed. A lot for the first day, but the mare did very well. To work on her confidence I had to be firm, yet let her know that I absolutely meant her no harm. I started this by fly spraying her. I sprayed her very aggressively and abruptly. She got a little uptight and started to move around in the cross ties. Every time she remotely got quiet, I soften my manner and spraying. In just a few minutes, she had figured out that when she was quiet, everything around her got quiet. This is part of teaching her to problem solve. The goal is to teach her that she can control chaos, all she has to do is to be quiet and chaos will go away. We all know in real time this is not always true, but it sure helps horses. More next time.