11.30.2012 Downunder Horsemanship Fundamentals Preview

This afternoon, UPS delivered my Fundamentals kit of Clinton Anderson’s Downunder Horsemanship Training Method (Hereafter known as DUH).  It consists of a glossy book outlining Clinton’s horse training philosophy, DVD’s showing you how to do the exercises and little booklets for each lesson that you can take down to the barn with you.

I also ordered a handy stick, a knotted rope halter and a 14’ lead rope from his site.  The handy stick is slightly longer and much heavier and not as flexible as the one I have been using for the past several months.  The handy stick does not come with a rope on the end.  It has a hard plastic end with a hole in it. I took the rope off my old stick, put it on the handy stick and that seems to work fine.  I ordered it in blue, and I wish now I had ordered a white one, which I think would be much more visible to a horse.

My current training tools (left to right): 14′ rope, clicker target (red plastic plate on the end of a garden stake) blue Clinton Anderson handy stick, my old green stick/whip, and the knotted rope halter, also from Clinton Anderson.

The halter is much stiffer than the locally purchased one I have.  The knots are a little larger too.  I purchased a large horse size and it seems to fit Ophelia as it should.

The rope, well now, that is a thing of beauty.  It has life in it when you wiggle it, but it is slick and the leather frog at the end isn’t really enough to stop it from sliding out of my hand.  The clip on the other end is big and ballsy and easy to operate.

I spent about 5 hours watching the 1st and 2nd DVD’s.  The first DVD runs over 2 hours and is Clinton Anderson standing in a paddock talking about his training philosophy – same stuff as in the book just not as much of it, but you get the added value of seeing a small herd of yearlings interact with each other and with Clinton.  You can learn a lot from this DVD – Clinton and his yearlings are great teachers.

What I got from this on the first viewing is I have a cold-blooded half draft that is extremely rude.  Her lack of manners is entirely my fault.  I have let her get away with a lot that I didn’t even know was rude.  Clinton described a cold-blooded horse as one whose brain is all about eating and gaining weight.  What can I do to get fatter?  Yep, that’s Ophelia.

There was also a whole laundry list of  behaviors that I now know are rude. He also talked quite a bit about predatory and prey behaviors.  Understand predators and prey and normal herd dynamics and you can begin to train a horse.  It’s a lot like where I began when I was training Moose.  Learn how the pack trains its pups and you can begin to train a puppy.  But the big difference between Moose and Ophelia is one is predator and one is prey.  Whole different way of thinking and whole different body language.

The 2nd DVD is lesson one in the round pen.  It’s all about establishing respect and developing trust.  Surprisingly to me, Clinton does this simply by sending the horse off at a canter (no warm-ups) and asking the horse to change directions.  If he turns his head to the center and takes off in the other direction that shows respect.  If he turns his head to the rail and gives you his butt then that is rude.  I knew as soon as I saw this Ophelia and I were going to have problems this morning.

Once you get the change of direction down, or at least make some progress, you work on getting the horse to come into the center and getting him to yield his hind quarters and getting him to follow you.  You want the horse to think of the center as base.  In the center he gets to breathe and relax.

I am going to have to watch both videos again.  Getting the body language right is going to take a lot more observation and practice.

When we first got our horses, I purchased several books about training horses.  One was on classical training that was largely unhelpful.  One was Pat Parelli but his philosophy just didn’t click with me – I don’t remember why.  One was Clinton Anderson.  His ideas seemed to make sense to me.  But I have learned you can’t really learn to train animals from books because it really is all about body language.  You need to see it.  That’s why I am so fond of Caesar Milan’s – the Dog Whisperer.

To anyone considering purchasing the DUH method, you should know this isn’t a hands off method.  If you are dead set against striking a horse then parts of this method will turn you off.  Sometimes with some horses (big, fat, rude ones like mine or dominant, aggressive stallions) a whack on the butt or across the nose may be what is necessary to get the point across (or to save your life).  Horses strike and bite each other a lot in a normal herd behavior.  If you want to be herd leader (which you do for your own safety) then you should be willing to strike too.  Hopefully you won’t have to, but as Clinton says, “Do what you have to do to get the job done.  Do it as easy as possible but as firm as necessary.

I put off purchasing this kit for over two years since they cost more than a semi-annual vet visit.  But now that Venus is gone, I find myself left with a horse that is essentially useless.  Can’t ride her, can’t drive her, can’t seem to keep her from extreme fatness.  Reworking our relationship until she is either willing to pull a wagon or is safe to ride and can be sold are Ophelia’s and my best options.

So far, I am pleased with my purchase. The videos are top quality and Clinton is easy to listen to.  Reminds me a lot of my farrier. There’s something relaxing and reassuring about a Redneck Aussie.


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