Teaching Equines to Pull Loads

Horse Drawn Stone Boat


Good morning Doc,


I have a question related to a pony pulling in harness.
What would be the appropriate size of a stone boat for a pony that is approximately 12HH and 600 pounds?

Thanks,  Jeri

Hi Jeri,


Good to hear from you.


 

The size of the stone boat will not matter as much as the weight you put on it and the terrain/ground conditions on which it will be pulled.

 

We have a wooden stone boat about 3′ wide and 6′ long that Cathy’s pony (about the size of yours) can pull easily with 50 to 100 lbs. on it over a hard surface or grass. He can pull it with greater effort loaded with 150 lbs. for short distances with air/rest stops in between pulls. In conditions like loose dirt, sand, mud, up hill, etc. it would pull harder with whatever load was on it.


 

There are two very important considerations when asking any equine to pull a load: 

  • 1. What are they physically capable of pulling? 
  • 2. What are they psychologically capable of and comfortable pulling? In my experience most animals are physically capable of pulling more than they can handle psychologically.

 

However, if we train and manage them skillfully they will get better and better at pulling – if we don’t they will go the other way.

 

Always start with a very light load to test them out each time you work.Then gradually increase the amount they are asked to pull. In other words, warm them up and give them confidence before asking them for the heavier pulls.

 

The most common mistakes people make are to ask them to pull too much before they are ready, and to pull them too far without a stop for air and rest.


Repetition, repetition, repetition with gradually increasing loads is critical. 

If they get anxious or confused stop, calm them down, lighten the load (rather than removing it), and proceed when they are relaxed and comfortable. Lighten the load to a point where they can pull it and remain relaxed and comfortable as they work.  Add weight in small increments to keep the equine comfortable and working in a relaxed way.


 

Please contact me if you have more questions.


 

Take care, stay safe, and enjoy those horses, ponies, mules, and donkeys!

Doc

Jay Jay and Tom Triplett

Here is a photo of Tom Triplett and Cathy’s Welsh pony Jay Jay, approximately the size of the pony Jeri inquires about.  Jay Jay is a great cart pony and he also ‘pulls his share’  around the ranch by hauling loads that are suited to his size.  Here, he is dressed in the collar style work-harness Tom made for him (notice the antique wooden hames: some Tom’s father had used ranching in Montana in the 1900’s).   Smaller equines, like Jay Jay and Jeri’s pony, can make  great working contributions on your ranch or farm.  Smaller equines are well suited to get into (and out of) some of those tighter spaces that are trickier for our larger equine workers. 

 



 

"The Mind of the Horse" Doc’s presentation at SFJ 2012

WOW!  This is amazing….nearly 100 people were up early to attend Doc’s presentation, “The Mind of the Horse” here at the Small Farmer’s Journal Auction on Wednesday.  It was a great turn out and fabulous beginning to activities at the 2012 Small Farmer’s Journal Auction.  Thanks to all who attended.

Below is a question from an attendee:

Ben:

 I really enjoyed your class yesterday. Which of your  DVDs would you recommend to a beginner? I can harness and hitch but am pretty inexperienced.

Doc:

Hi Ben, Thanks for your comment. There are two very important areas of consideration. The first area of consideration, the basics, details, and safety considerations of harnessing, hitching, driving technique, equipment, and working in harness are covered in our Fundamentals 1, 2, 3, and 4 DVDs. The second area of consideration, equally important, is an understanding of the nature of horses, how their mind works and how we can influence behavior and learning in ways they inherently understand and willingly respond to. These topics are covered in Gentle Training – The Round Pen and Gentle Training 2.

Doc Answers Questions about Issues when Bridling a Horse

“Bridling a Horse: It’s a Relationship Thing”

This student has generously given her permission to share her story of challenges and triumphs she is experiencing with her horse in hopes that it might benefit other people and their horses.

A bit of background:

Heather is one of our many very committed students and is incredibly dedicated to her horse and to using gentle/natural horsemanship techniques with her. It is very common for us to work with people who want alternatives to using force, pain, and physical punishment when working with their horses. These people seek our advice because they do not yet have enough effective and gentle “tools” to achieve their goals and deal with the many levels of challenges horses can and do present us with. Our student’s horse came to her owner with a long-standing issue with difficult bridling. Lucy is a wonderful horse, very gentle, generally a willing and cooperative mare; and has the dominance qualities of a lead mare. The mare has been responsive to the new techniques her owner is using, and has responded extremely well to the techniques of natural horsemanship compared to the more conventional style of harsher training from the horse’ past.

The text that follows is our students’ questions and concerns, Doc’s responses, and the students’ response to Doc’s statements.

Hi Doc and Cathy,
I was hoping that you could help me with a problem I am having with Lucy. A horse-friend of mine has a great horse facility in this area, and lately he has invited me there to attend a monthly training session with a local trainer. She does English, Dressage, Western, and driving. He even trailers Lucy there and back. We have gone 3 times. I figure just trailering her anywhere is great for her, no matter the reason. She is still trailering pretty well I think. Anyway, I think these sessions have been generally beneficial to Lucy & I. Last Sunday, I asked for help with 2 basic problems that Lucy came to me with, bridling (you knew that one) and mounting. We really made great progress actually. We made progress on Sunday, and I have been able to repeat our success several times since then (success on every attempt). I have also seen Lucy every day since then. We had an absolutely awesome time together last night. She bridled perfectly, walked and stopped perfect when led, and mounted perfectly. I was on a cloud all day today because of it. Then tonight I went out to see her, just clean her stall & bridle her again, just because I thought that was a good idea. I expected success, we both seemed just the same as we were last night, she had finished her dinner just like last night, and for some reason it went terribly. I tried to bridle her for 45 minutes tonight, without success. I did exactly the same things that the trainer had shown me, which had worked perfectly at least 4 sessions in a row. I just don’t understand. I am so sad, upset, confused, and tired right now. I’m afraid it is going to be as bad or worse next time because we didn’t even get the bridle on tonight. Do you have any advice at all for me?
Sincerely,
Heather



Doc working with Lucy



Hi Heather,

Horses are our ultimate teachers, they make us soar and they humble us, teach us patience and persistence and constancy and the value of repetition and baby steps.

Hi Doug, Thank you for taking the time to send me your thoughtful reply today.


– Yes, they are the ultimate teachers… I am trying to do better with the consistency and the baby steps, I guess I’ll always be working on those things.

Most of all they teach us that relationship is about visualizing the best and accepting best efforts and best responses – no regrets, no judgments, no guilt, no shame, no blame.

– At least I had part of that right; I did visualize “the best”. … I know, there is no right…

Several times in your letter you mention variations of the words “success” “progress” and “perfectly”.You also mention the word “problems” and the phrase “…went terribly”.

– I knew that you would say something about that, too, but I didn’t know how else to say that everything had gone so well, and then so not-well.

As long as you give Lucy (or anyone else) the power to cause you to be “sad, upset, and confused” you will bounce between euphoria when you get what you want and sad, upset, and confused when she gets what she wants.

When we do this we set things up as a competition and in competitions someone wins and someone loses.

– It made me smile when you said that it is basically a bad idea to let anyone “make you feel happy, sad, or upset”. The funny thing is that I TOTALLY know that, I never let human people affect me that way, I just never thought of applying my thinking about this to animal people. Maybe that is why my sadness and upsetness (sic) was so profound, I’m just not accustomed to being affected like this, I have no practice (thank goodness). You also said that when I did this with Lucy, I set us up for being in competition. I know it is a very bad idea to be in competition with Lucy, there is no way I could ever win, and I do not want to go there!

Rather than spend 45 minutes trying to get her to do anything that is not working, evaluate in the first 10 to 30 seconds if she is resistant or receptive to what you are starting to ask for (accepting the bridle). If she is receptive proceed in baby steps and pause often to reward her cooperation.

– I knew I was in a death-spiral, but after I had missed that 10 – 30 second clue that this wasn’t going to work, I didn’t know I could stop asking her to accept that bridle. I wish I had figured that out then…

***If she is resistant: FIRST create a consequence for resisting and then SECOND immediately ask for (and reward when you get them) a series of other things you are pretty sure she will willingly let you do (back up, pick up a foot, disengage (move) her rear end to the side, disengage her front end to the side, put her head down, flex her head and nose to her side, etc.)

– O.K. – that gives me a game plan that was what I was missing (or at least an important thing that I was missing). That looks like a good plan. Even after last night’s “whatever-it-was”, there were still things she would still do willingly for me, and I will assume that she will still be willing to do some things with me today. Thank you, I felt lost, not having any idea where to go next.
I still can’t stop myself from wondering, though, how long it will be before she will accept the bridle after what I did last night, if I were her, I don’t know why I would ever accept it. I might not be able to ride her for months that would be sad. I will do what you suggested, and I’ll keep you posted.

Better yet test her out on a bunch of these things each time BEFORE you try to bridle her. If she won’t cooperate and do these small, easy things for you the chance of her accepting the bridle is low. Build a pattern of successful requests and responses before you ask for her to accept the bridle. However, if you meet inattentiveness, resistance, or refusal at any time you must create a soft, appropriate consequence or she will take advantage of the situation and increase her inborn tendency to have her own way – this is just a natural part of being a horse. Anna Twinney, an amazing horsewoman, explains it best, “If there is a leadership void somebody must fill it; the horse will if the human doesn’t.”

– Thank you. I need to remember this. Do you have a suggestion as to a appropriate consequence? I have one idea, but I’d guess that you have a better one. I am so happy that you got to meet her, so you have her & I in your mind as you think about this. I think I should be paying you for this much of your time.

How long did you work with her putting her head down for you before you went and got the bridle?

– I did almost not at all. She had been accepting the bridle with my barely doing it for maybe 2 times previous.

The mere sight of the bridle is a concern to a horse that has issues with it. We can’t expect to hide it from them but if we get cooperation on some other exercises and get them relaxed and comfortable and cooperative first we sometimes have a better chance with the thing that concerns them.

– I watch for her reactions when she sees brushes, saddle/blanket, harness, halter, & bridle. She has a reaction to all of these, but only an acknowledgement that she sees them, not an upset or uncomfortable reaction. She doesn’t even react if I place the bridle along the front of her face. If I get a reaction, it isn’t until the bit touches her lips, and then she first wiggles her lips to keep the bit out, then throws her head if I persist.

I’m working with  mare here at the ranch on bridling issues and some days we never get to the bridle because she does not become completely comfortable and cooperative with the preliminary test things I ask of her – so we work on them that day.

– That is good to know.

If you approach next time with the fear of failure you are expressing you will be going backward and doing her a great disservice. You did not fail, she did not fail, she did not win, you did not win. There is no win or lose, there are no problems when playing/working with horses only learning and relationship building OPPORTUNITIES.

The goals of gentle/natural horsemanship are – 100% trust, 100% respect, and 0% fear.This goes for the horse and human alike as far as I’m concerned. You cannot fail with her, give up your goal, success, and judgment based thinking, beliefs, and fears; have fun and learn with and from your time with this horse. You trust her and she trusts you. Work on her respecting you. Eliminate your fears and concerns (completely and at all times) and hers will evaporate.

Become emotionally neutral when with her – there is/are no right or wrong, good or bad, problems or perfection – everything just is and we accept it and move either forward or backward which doesn’t matter because there is no forward or backward either. We just move on to whatever we think of to move on to.

– So much Zen… It is so weird. I don’t know why this work/play/learning with Lucy affects me so strongly, I am NOT normally like this. I am reading your words and thinking about them and crying for some reason and I don’t even know why. Weird.

You are doing just fine, relax, breathe, and smile – especially when she won’t accept the bridle.

– … And laughing now, too….

Thank you for seeking help. Let me know your thoughts about this please.

– I profoundly thank you for your help. I added my responses and emphases’ to your words above.


I appreciate the opportunities I’ve had to spend time with you and Lucy, and enjoy sharing things I hope are of value to both of you.

Doc

– I am grateful, and you know I think these thoughts of yours are valuable.


– Heather



Heather, in the photo above, observes Doc working with Lucy


Dear Doc,

I have been thinking about all of this “Lucy & I” stuff non-stop. I’m sure something must be gelling in my sub-conscious; we’ll see how long it takes to make it into my unconscious mind.
I just wanted to give you an update. I went out to see Lucy after work today, with Aaron for moral support. Lucy & I worked on leading & stopping (she has been doing willingly, something we have developed lately), then I decided to try the bridle. I took baby steps again, lowering her head, touching her lips, putting my thumb in her mouth, putting the bridle up to her face, no resistance. She gave me a small clue that there might or might not be resistance to bridling when we got to that, so I decided to see if she would let me. I went back to the way I held the bridle before, which was easier for me (I’m not so coordinated sometimes, so making this easier for me was a good idea). She gave me just a touch of attitude, just on principal, but she allowed me to bridle her. So, I took a breath, petted her, and then just led her to where I tie her. I picked her hooves, then unbridled her and put her back in her stall, where she likes to be. I feel much better now, I was worried about how long that would take after my “whatever it was” the other night.

Thank you for your help, patience, & support.


-Heather

Doc is Interviewed on the "Driving Radio Show" by Dr. Wendy Ying and "Glen the Geek"

A suggestion from one of our driving horses in harness students, Robin Kane, encouraged “Glen the Geek” and Wendy Ying to contact and interview Doc for “The Driving Radio Show”, which aired April 3, 2012.  If you would like to listen to this fun interview, click the link below. 
http://drivingradioshow.horseradionetwork.com/2012/04/03/driving-radio-show-episode-39-doc-for-the-distance/

Thank you Robin!  Also thanks to the show hosts, Dr. Wendy Ying and “Glen the Geek”

Four States Ag Expo, Cortez, Colorado

Our Clinic here at the Four States Ag Expo in Cortez, Colorado filled!

Photos from the Hands-On Driving Clinic, March 15 & 16, 2012:

Doc discussing with students the finer points of “pressure-release” line handling skills

Thank you to all of the students attending the Hands-on Driving Horses in Harness Clinic

Doc, students, Chuck Baley’s Suffolks, and the sunny Cortez, Colorado sky

A special thanks to Chuck Baley and his great Suffolks.

Chief and Joe, Doc and Chuck

A particular thank you to the Four States  AG EXPO for inviting  Doc Hammill
to Cortez, Colorado, 2012

WE ARE IN COLORADO!

COLORADO ROCKY MOUNTAINS just a few minutes before landing in Durango, Colorado.

We are on our way to the Four States Ag Expo in Cortez, Colorado.  Doc will be doing a 2 day, hands-on “Driving Horses in Harness” Clinic with Chuck Baley on Thursday and Friday, March 15 and 16.

March 17 and 18, Doc will be doing several presentations, including “Starting a Horse in Harness”. These presentations will be open to those attending the Four States Ag Expo, in the Draft Horse Arena.

 

Doc and Cathy find time to do some sight seeing at Mesa Verde

 

Stop by our booth if you are at the Four States AG Expo March 15-18, 2012.

Doc on Rural Heritage’s TV program on RFD TV !

Doc Hammill Horsemanship:

See Doc’s 2011 DVD on RURAL HERITAGE’s  RFD TV program:

This is EXCITING! What is Rural Heritage  Showing on RFD-TV? Preventing Wrecks Part 1 (New) – Doc Hammill provides essential advice and rules to follow to prevent accidents. February 3, 2012! Check your local listings for times.

And, on RFD TV: Rural Heritage’s Hour on February 17, 2012: Preventing Wrecks Part 2 (New) – Doc Hammill provides additional advice and rules for avoiding mishaps.

Announcing 2 New Doc Hammill Videos

“Preventing Wrecks”
“Gentle Training 2 – Daily Opportunities”
Regularly priced at $42.00 each

ORDER NOW by phone: (406) 250-8252 or at Doc’s store:
https://dochammill.comstore

Preventing-Wrecks

Preventing Wrecks — Learn how to prevent common wrecks with horses in harness from a respected master horseman. Get Doc’s Essential Safety Advice regarding Harness, Equipment, Knowledge and Skill.

Gentle Training 2-Daily Opportunities

Gentle Training 2: Daily Opportunities — Daily interaction can and should be more than just feeding and care giving. These moments provide powerful opportunities for you to become your horse’s most important and valued companion, leader and trainer. In essence-training all the time.

The Natural Gait

A Quote from a student at the 2009 Natural Gait Clinic:

“This clinic was AWESOME! The people, the setting and the general atmosphere was like no other clinic we have attended. The free flowing of information was special.”

This Driving Clinic is one of the few that Doc holds where students may bring their own horses. This is a unique opportunity for students to have instruction directly related to them and their own horse or team of horses. Students may also come WITHOUT a horse, and drive the quiet, well trained horses that we will have there.

This is also a unique clinic in that Steve Woods and Theresa Burns are co-instructors with Doc. Students have tremendous advantage of three very knowledgeable instructors to help them advance their driving skills during the 4-day clinic.

Doc with Ike checking the harness fit

Pictured below are Doc and Steve helping 2 students work with their saddle horses laying a foundation for driving as a team.

Tennessee Walkers work side by side

To see the beautiful setting, fabulous accommodations and additional information, check out The Natural Gait website at http://www.thenaturalgait.com/

to make reservations, contact Linda at the Natural Gait, ntrl@acegroup.cc or 877-776-2208

Theresa helping a student work with the student’s team.

Karen, Theresa, Cowboy and Paige

Come join the fun, we hope to see you at The Natural Gait for DOC HAMMILL’S DRIVING CLINIC, June 23-26, 2011

Horse Drawn Haying with a Side Delivery Rake

What a great Workshop!  Not only were we able to work through our typical hands-on activities with our human students, but we also had the opportunity to help our new horses learn to accept a piece of noisy equipment while working on our hay at the same time.

We had hay down in our biggest hay meadow…25 acres.  Doc decided to use Brisk and Solven, our Norwegian Fjord geldings to demonstrate  a safe way of introducing horses to unfamiliar equipment.  We acquired this team last fall.  They are a well-experienced team, with a life time of pulling carriages and wagons in a variety of situations.  They work quietly and willingly.   Brisk and Solven however are new to all farm activities. This noisy hay rake is the first piece of farm equipment that these horses have EVER been hitched to, so we wanted to make sure it was a safe and comfortable experience for all.

Solven and Brisk checking out the rake

Doc drove the team to the hay meadow, where the truck and rake were parked.  He drove them to the rake, let them see and smell it while it was idle.  Cathy then drove the pickup with the side delivery rake attached, around the edge of the mowed hay meadow. She first pulled the hay rake out of gear – not raking hay. Doc drove Brisk and Solven hitched to their fore cart behind the moving rake. The horses were completely comfortable being driven behind the rake while it was  traveling out of gear, so Doc then drove the Boys  along the side of, and in front of the pick-up and hay rake. There was a point, when the rake ‘dissappeared’ (due to their blinders) behind the Boys  that they showed some concern.  Doc slowed the Boys down so the rake again came into their view, and they regained their comfort.  After a few times forward and back, the horses showed no concern at all when the rake and truck were behind them or beside them.  All these steps were repeated next with the rake traveling now noisily in gear behind the pickup. The horses showed no signs of concern at the  rake traveling behind, beside or in front of them even when they were driven very close to it.

 

This advance and retreat method is a technique we use to expose any horse to new equipment, processes, environments and activities. This process gave the horses the  ability to see and hear the machine working, and to ensure they were comfortable with it before they were asked to rake hay with it. Breaking activities down into small steps, like this, lets horses accept new situations in small increments and stay comfortable.  If we see concern on the part of the horses, we  drop back a  step to again allow them to feel comfortable. We go back (retreat) as far as is necessary to allow the horses to regain their comfort.

Incidentally, this process also gave us a chance to make a couple of necessary adjustments to the rake before we hitched the horses to it.  It is good to  make  adjustments  to and make sure equipment is working well BEFORE putting the horses on the equipment.

After one round of the meadow with the rake attached to the truck, Doc determined that the horses were not concerned about working in this new area or the noise associated with the side delivery rake.  We stopped the truck, unhooked the rake from it.  Then hitched the rake (again out of gear)to the fore cart with Solven and Brisk; the Boys walked off comfortably.  Next, we put the rake in gear and when given their signal, off the Boys walked. We spent the rest of the evening raking hay with them.  They continued to work quietly, steady, and calmly.