This is another article that I found in the back end of the website when I revamped it.
I have a strong affection for Monty, pictured here – because he is my horse Bobby’s brother.
I float trained him way back when he was a yearling getting ready for sale. I was sooo… happy to be part of Gina’s joy and Monty’s contentment when they solved his very dangerous biting problem in just one morning.
Some of the best and most spectacular horses can be the most difficult until you find the key that turns them into happy pussy cats.
And that picture certainly fitted Monty. I had tears in my eyes the day I took these photos.
He was in the beginnings of the self carriage that we look for before we start to collect our horse. He was soft, he was elevated, he was dancing into Gina’s hands with the most awesome power – and he’s on a long and loose rein. Wait until he’s ready to be asked for collection! We ain’t seen nothin’ yet!
Monty came into a four day clinic with me in October 2006. This photo of Monty and Gina was taken in an afternoon private lesson about 6 weeks after the workshop.
We’ve grown a lot more over the many years since Monty came to his clinic. We’ve since developed an understanding of how to set our progress into cement quite quickly – you can read more about that when you look at Fast Track.
Monty was a difficult and dangerous horse. He had savaged Gina’s non horsey partner, who was no longer willing to go in the paddock and fed him if he had to, by leaning over the gate with a piece of poly pipe in his hand to protect himself.
Gina herself had sported more than a few bruises over the years from being bitten and other “bad” behaviour. Her friends had told her to her face that they were worried about him killing her. “Get rid of him!” they said repeatedly.
Gina was a competent rider, working hard at it, riding most days, having regular and frequent lessons from excellent dressage teachers. She had tried bit changes, saddle changes, teacher changes, riding style changes and although she got some results, progress was not coming with any kind of consistency and she still had a horse that most people considered dangerous.
“Although I was working with a very understanding and skilled dressage teacher, who has a wonderful kind training method, Monty still had some very dangerous habits, on the ground and under saddle. He was constantly biting – no matter how much I reprimanded him, he would not stop.
He was often difficult to catch and would charge at me, teeth flaring. I wasn’t sure how to deal with this, so I would fill up his bucket with carrots and apples, so that he would come happily. But if he decided he was not going to leave the paddock, he would go backwards instead and we would spend half my riding time just trying to get out of the paddock. I tried to never get angry, because that made him even more dangerous.
Under saddle he would often use his energy for evil instead of good. There were many times that he would do things like not going forwards properly or going backwards and not going forwards at all. If I forced him, he would get angry and throw his whole front end in the air, twist his body and basically do anything that he could, to not do what I wanted. 17 hands of incredibly strong and determined warmblood fighting with me was very difficult to handle.
I am happy to report that all these things are now of the past. (Note from editor in June 2008– apart from the odd hiccup as they settle in with the new method!) Monty now comes to me nicely when I ask him to, with no biting and with a nice look on his face. He follows me to the gate and then I put the head collar on, again no biting!
He walks out of the gate nicely and happily I no longer even have to tie him up cos’ he stands there nicely for me and no biting still! It’s just so exciting! I have shed so many tears of joy that my Monty comes to me and follows me around like a puppy with no biting and a soft face cos’ he wants to be with me.
The riding has also improved dramatically. He can now carry himself for longer and longer periods of time in the most relaxed, soft and rhythmical way because he is my partner now and working with me. I am having so much fun with Bobby’s method, both on the ground and in the saddle. I think it’s made me a calmer person in general.
I know my partner enjoys the success cos’ Monty doesn’t bite him any more either and he no longer needs to feed him with a piece of poly pipe in his hand and can even grease his hooves.
I hope you have enjoyed my success story and I am sure that there’s a lot more good things to happen. Well done and thank you to Jenny and Bobby for sharing this with us.
A very happy Gina and Monty.”
Gina’s Understating The Improvement In Her Ridden Work
Gina is so excited by their progress on the ground, that she’s understating the improvement in her ridden work, which was also dramatic. When she applied Bobby’s Way to her ridden work, on the first day of riding, Monty found self carriage on the buckle of a loose rein. When a horse is in self carriage, his stride is soft and rhythmic, he’s relaxed, he lifts his back up to better carry your weight in a relaxed manner and he covers the ground nicely with his stride.
By the end of four days, he was only coming out of self carriage occasionally. Six weeks later, using some new material that Bobby had given me that has been included in “Bobby’s Diaries”, he was elevating his back even more powerfully and using his body spectacularly – still on a very long rein and dancing into her hands. This was the day we took the photo you see here.
There is nothing unusual about the speed of Monty and Gina’s progress. Every horse has gone into self carriage to some degree in the four day workshop. Many people get it in the first day of riding. And they ALL get it in our on line program Fast Track to Brilliant Riding.
One of the loveliest things about helping these two find each other, has been listening to the admiring jokes about “Just leave that horse in the paddock for me on your way out” and “I’ll give you a dollar for him”. All these comments are much nicer than “get rid of that horse he’s going to kill you!” I suspect that there is no amount of money that would prise Monty from her hands now!
The clinic that Gina did with Monty was way back in 2006 and we’ve come a long way since then – but here’s the story that I wrote back then that explains what was happening to Monty and how come, no matter how hard he got whacked, or how often – he just kept on biting…
This (below) is a bonus excerpt from my book Bobby’s Diaries – Straight From the Horse’s Mouth to You
What Gina did to change her biting horse
In the clinic, Gina did her brand new leadership at liberty work and did it beautifully. And here he was … coming into her with soft legs, soft eyes and the most beautiful energy … and then with the most beautiful energy …
… he bit her again!
I was flabbergasted! I’d never seen anything like it and I remember it sat me back so hard that it took me a moment to figure out what was happening. Monty had only ever been told biting was unacceptable when he was in his what I call the “oh shit I am dead” zone. In the oh shit zone, the horse (and we too!) can only react the same way that they have done in the past, they CANNOT learn to think through issues and respond to things in their Oh Shit Zone. You’ll find a detailed explanation of the Comfort Zone model and the Oh Shit I’m Dead Zone in hter FREE LESSONS The 9 Keys to Happiness with Your Horse.
The way the brain works, Monty was reacting the same way all the time, even though that reaction was getting him whacked and not serving him at all. Because he was in his oh shit I’m dead zone, he didn’t learn anything at all from the whack that he got whenever he bit – only how to duck faster and avoid the whack.
He had reacted to the whacking, but never actually learned that biting was unacceptable.
At the time for me, this was an amazing realization, with implications for all kinds of behavioural problems and training techniques. I have now this proved so often, with so many horses, consistently – that these days that knowledge has become part of my way of being with a horse.
To fix this biting, Gina had to change the way she was dealing with it – obviously the old way of punishing him for biting was not working.
So, instead of punishing him for biting in ways that put him into his oh shit zone, she aimed to keep him in his Not Too Sure Zone where he could learn new things, where he could learn that biting was unacceptable to her – where he could learn to co-operate and try – and where he could respond instead of just react.
When he went to bite her, she defended herself with her elbow or whatever she needed to do to actually keep herself safe, trying to keep him in the Not Too Sure Zone with however she chose to defend herself – then she waved her rope at him, sent him away and changed speed and directions with the right attitude (no “blame” or “bad boy” – just “no thankyou, that is not acceptable”).
In a very short period of time – minutes not hours – he had stopped biting at her altogether. I actually felt him looking at her with this quizzical look on his face, as if to say “You mean you don’t want me to do that?” The way that it had been dealt with in the past, he had never understood before…
This had been going on for ten years, so this was a pretty amazing deal!
But remember, even with such a dangerous habit, this was still not a “bad horse”. It was a horse who was checking his owner out for leadership, it was a horse with behavior that he had learned, it was a horse who had never learned to think and respond, only to react with biting that then became a habit. But he was never a bad horse.
I’m smiling as I’m telling you this story. I don’t know how many times I watched Pat Parelli giving a seminar. And every time, without fail, in question time, someone would ask him what they can do when their horse bites. Pat would stand there seriously and ask “do you mean before he’s bitten you, or after?” The person would always look puzzled and say “after, of course”. And Pat would reply “I find rubbing the spot really helps”.
What he’s getting at, is that WHILE the horse’s head is coming towards you to bite, you can do something to stop it BEFORE he bites you – you can change his mind. But AFTER, there’s nothing to be done except figure out how to get rid of your pain as best you can.
Even better than that, you can use deep connection techniques, listen to your horse, understand WHY they’re biting and communicate gently that you don’t like that behavior and your willing and co-operative horse says “yes ma’am, sure. I don’t need to express myself like that any more. 🙂
These days, with the techniques and approach that we teach you with on Fast Track to Brilliant Riding – we would deal with Monty a little differently and a whole lot more easily than before and we would have the behavioral improvement in Monty’s muscle memory faster and with even more co-operation AND have a clear path forwards to take this progress into every aspect of their lives together.
BUT … if you just want to solve a biting problem and you’re not prepared to change the way that you do all sorts of things with your horse, then we’re not going to suit you here. Because this way of being with horses, this way of gentle solving of even the big problems, is LIFE TRANFORMATIVE
Talk to me if you need a plan to deal with a biting horse a whole lot more safely …