Tuesday, November 6, 2012

If the front door is closed, come through the back

We had a Tom Simmons horsemanship clinic at the ranch in June.  Being host caused me to miss most of the action.  I did get to see an excellent example of how horse training is "A thinking man's game".  Tom says that quote but it applies to anyone and every situation in life as well. A change in the horse's thinking has to be made and this is where thinking about how to go about it comes into play. 

A horse was brought to the clinic to get Tom's help changing the horse's mind about not wanting to go through water while being ridden.  This applies to driving as well as the concept is the same.  Yes, it is about establishing leadership and confidence in the horse's mind; but sometimes, you just need a horse trainer to get it done.

Previously, this horse had won many attempts to get it through the water to no avail.  The owner does trail riding primarily with this horse but also drives the horse as well.  Tom spent a short time in the round pen to gain the horse's respect as a leader, then took it out into the open arena on long lines to convince the horse to change it's opinion of going into water.

The water element in these photos is hard to see but it is 3 feet deep, 10 feet long and about 5 feet wide.  It is up against the granite wall but there is a 4 foot bank between the wall and the pool of water.  I'd like you to notice Tom's body language that shows how he allows the horse to make the decision to change himself with no forcing involved.  He guides direction with the long-lines and then allows the horse to make the decision.  It takes as long as the horse requires to give up previous resistance, affect a change of mind, and then comply with the request.  Tom persists and tries another tack to give the horse a new option by backing him into the water.  I'll let the photos and body language tell the story of giving up the resistance. 

asking to go right
keep it going forward

knocking on the front door

no answer

how about another option?

let's try going in the back door...

the battle is half won

well...what have you learned?

"ok...let me smell it"

here we go...

"ok...I can do this from now on"

Tom has to make haste or he'll go in the water too!

I recently came across the owner and asked how the horse was doing at crossing water after the clinic.  Great!  All it took was someone with a lot of experience reading how a horse thinks and having the judgement to present a situation in the right way to the horse to overcome a previous problem.

Sometimes you just need a great horse trainer...


  1. That is impressive! Tom appears to have all the time in the world. I notice no use of the whip or other nonsense. You are so right ... it takes a Great horse trainer! Wish there were more in that category.

  2. We have a sign at our barn that reads: "Tom Time" and has a clock with no hands. It is a great reminder of what a horse needs from us. Tom is like that in his life as well. Most of us have an agenda and live by the clock, but this does not work well with horses as they are in the present. Their gift to us is to bring us and keep us in the present while we are with them. Thanks for the visit!