if he blinks he understands, put him and give him time to digest a lesson. He will go where he is looking so make sure he keeps his focus on you.
If they are pinned he is unhappy. Does his head bob when he moves? If its yes, maybe he uncomfortable, or maybe you are not handling him correctly.
If he licks his lips he's relaxed and feels comfortable.
Should remain centered between his legs. If it is off to the side he is probably not happy. If he switches his tail he is nervous making him unpredictable indicating that his predator instincts for flight heightened (right side of his brain is becoming active).
This list should do real time analysis as you work with your horse to determine if he understands your communication or not.
As you learn the various skills presented here you will be able to modify your approach depending on his needs. Remember to reward on the slightest try by letting him stand still and petting him. Let him rest when we get the desired response. Keep in mind that we need to be polite as a handler/rider, but clear with our request in progress in the following manner in order to achieve the desired results.
First, always ask with the finishing technique. This way the horse has the opportunity to do it correctly and with a light cue from the handler or rider. If he doesn't respond to a cue in one to two seconds (if stationary) or two steps while moving, ask him to wake up (these cues are different depending on what we are attempting to achieve and are covered in detail in the text) this will call the two step-two second rule, If he still doesn't respond in the one-two seconds are within two steps, WAKE HIM UP and get him with the program. DEFINE YOUR SPACE!
When working with your horse, be very specific about what you want. If you were giving a pile of lumber and you just began to nail boards together, you probably would not end up with a very attractive barn. But if you had a picture in mind of what the barn should look like most likely your finished product would be what you wanted. So be very specific whether you are working your horse from the ground or riding-your horse will respect you more and you will get better results.
The decision below is focused on moving the back end. Front end and backing up which actually defines your space while around your horse. By applying pressure and letting him decide to move so that his comfort zone returns after giving the correct response, he actually is submitting to you and moving where you want him. This act helps establish you as the lead horse...and the herd will move out of the way of the lead horse. By going through these three exercises you develop the control over his position while around you.
The equipment we use is a hand made rope halter and a 15" poly blend lead rope for this set of exercises.
First rub the rope all over his body, we need to do this on both sides-remember when you change sides you change horses.
Nest, stand at 45 degree angle to the shoulder about an arms length away and toss the rope over the body and then around the legs.
Toss it on the legs so it hits back and front legs around the elbow. Keep your body energy low as you toss the rope. If he objects to the rope landing on him, stay with him and keep throwing it on that spot until he stops, stands and relaxes. I have had them pull me back 100 feet or more so don't get upset, keep them looking at you by tugging and releasing their head (remember, their attention is where they are looking) and continue to toss the rope on them. Once he stops moving continue tossing the rope on him until he relaxes. Then stop and reward him by petting him and letting him know he did a good job. Do on both side .....why? Yep, you got it, change sides change horses.
We want to desensitize our Paso Fino horses to objects that might be scary in sensitize them to pressure from it. Remember that as you teach him to make the choice and move from your pressure, you are defining your role as the lead horse. Some of the reasons for this exercise will help teach your Paso Fino horse to turn and face you when you approach and give you more while positioning him while on the ground. Additionally, he will feel more balanced and learn quicker how to move his back end before you ask him to do this as you ride him. So we teach this to him from the ground first. The correct response in this exercise is to direct his back end to move around (pivoting on his front feet) to face you. Start by standing at a 45 degree angle to his shoulder as before about arms length away and about two feet of lead line loose to his halter. This is important so that he turns to face you (the object of the exercise) by moving his back end he won't ram his head into your shoulder limiting his movement. So be sure you give him the room to turn. If you start by standing at his left shoulder he should move his (left inside left hind) leg underneath him and across in front of his outside leg (right hind).
If you start by standing at his shoulder, he should move his (right hind) leg underneath him and cross in front of his outside leg (left hind).
By working with your Paso Fino horse beware of his actions, he should not move forward or walk backward in this exercise. If he moved around, use your hand holding the lead line to stop the unwanted motion, but dont stop applying the pressure towards his hip to move his hind end. Once he does step his back end around brusquely and looks at you (his head should be positioned in front of your chest) pet him so he knows he did right.
Ok, so how did we go about applying pressure and getting the results discussed above? You start with the finishing technique by pointing at his hip using your four finger. That repetition our Paso Fino horse has become very sensitive to body language and that is all that is required. Now-something you can achieve as well with consistent practice. His head should be curved slightly towards you so that he forms an ark about you at the shoulder line. Using the two second rule, if he doesn't move as you point or shake your finger at his hip, start to swing the end of your rope in a clockwise vertical circle at his hip. Move with him to maintain your position a 45 degrees to the front shoulder while at arms length. As he dances around trying to figure out your request. If he doesn't move his back end around to face you (or doesn't move), keep the pressure at his hip or you may have to tap him with the popper at the end of the rope.... But read your Paso Fino horse here. If he is sensitive you may only have to let the end of the rope lightly end on him, if he is moderately sensitive a harder tap is needed, and if he is laid back, you may need to land a sharp spank at the base of his tail to sensitize him.
The end result that you are looking for is a pivot on his front legs while stepping his hind end around to face you. When he does, be sure to put him so he knows this is what your requested...Typically, he should lick his lips or blink that he understands your request and is relaxed. There are too many bearable situations that can occur to list but the most common are; moving forward or backward to avoid the pressure directed at his hips, turning his head to look our of his "favorite eye" (typically Paso Fino horses are more comfortable to look at us with their left eye, so when on their right side, they will try to turn their head with their left eye... this blocks your movement and needs to be discouraged by placing your right hand up by his right eye as you continue pressure directed to his right hip).
They move their back end around slowly...a tap with the end of the rope will wake them up. They may not square themselves to look at you.....again a tap with the end of the rope at the base of their tail will get them more sensitive. DON'T FORGET TO DO BOTH SIDES. The correct response in this exercise is to direct his back end to move around (pivoting on his front feet) to face you.
MOVING THE FRONT END; this exercise will help keep them from crowding you while handling him from the ground as well as helping to develop soft fluid turns while mounted. The correct movement we want is for him to pivot on his back end and step his outside front leg (left) across and in front of his inside front leg (right in this case). Start again at a 45 degree angle to his left shoulder at about an arms length away. Keep about two feet of lead line in your left hand loosely connected to his halter. Raise your left hand up so the palm is towards his left jawbone and your right hand is towards his neck-shoulder line, about 8-10 inches away. To begin the pressure, pulsate the air towards these two spots (more pressure being applied by the left hand) and wait two seconds. If he doesn't move tap him with the left hand at the jaw line so he turns his head away from you (turns to the inside) and as soon as he moves from you stop and pet him. Then repeat the process and begin with the finishing with technique (namely, no contact) with your hand. If he moves forward or back, stop him and keep the pulsating pressure up until he steps with his outside leg across and in front of his inside leg (right front) repeat on both sides. Again, there are many situations that can occur as you try this but typically you might experience the following.
If he moves forward, stop his movement with the lead line and continue the pressure at his jawbone and neck-shoulder line. If he continues to move forward, stop and back him about 15 feet and go right back to the exercise. You may also step more forward of his neck-shoulder line than the position that you at to help "block" his forward movement.
If he backs up, stop him with the lead line and continue the pressure. If he continues to back adjust your position more towards his shoulder and keep the pressure on him until he gives you the correct response. The correct movement we want is for him to pivot on his back end and step his outside front leg across and in front of his inside front leg.
BACKING; This exercise will help your Paso Fino horse get comfortable with standing away from you and listening to you. Backing is a difficult motion with a horse and very submissive-once he has backed to the position you want he will stand facing you waiting for your next request showing respect to you as the leader. Face him and hold the lead line loosely draped through your thumb and forefinger. Begin with the finishing technique and shake your forefinger at him.
If he makes the slightest movement backward, let him rest (he will probably lick his lips here) and start again. Otherwise give him two seconds and if he hasn't moved back shake harder so the lead line begins to rattle the clips under his chin on the halter. If he still hasn't moved shake harder so there are "waves" running down the lead which will probably cause him to lift his head... keep the pressure up until he takes a small step back. Then quickly release and let him stand quietly so that he relaxes before you begin again. Pincel backing almost to the end of the 15 foot line and remaining very attentive to my forefinger.
Again when we first began this exercise I had to start by shaking the rope quiet hard and have refined it to just a small "way" of my forefinger- this is what you should work for as well. A few suggestions as you try this exercise, remember to release the pressure quickly so that he associates his movement with the correct response. This could be just seen his body just seeing his body lean back to start with. Then ask again after petting and look for a small step back before stopping and letting him stand quietly as a reward.
Eventually ask him to back out about 10 feet from you and stand quietly. If he looks around while standing, "kiss" to him if that doesn't work shake the rope at him as you "kiss" once he turns his attention back to you, stop and stand quietly.... this is his reward. Let him stand initially five seconds (you certainly should ask for longer as you progress in this exercise) and then begin to "comb" in the rope softly with open hands asking for him to approach you. If he resist then initially squeeze the rope so more pressure is added as you continue to comb the rope to encourage him to move forward.
Keep the "combing" up until he comes up about arms length away (not to your chest, define your space!) so you can pet him. If he refuses to move forward when requested grab the rope and lean back on it. Continue until he takes a step forward, then release pressure and let him "digest" that lesson. Then ask again by combing the rope until he comes with a light pressure added to the lead line. He needs to learn that coming to you is acceptable only when you request it (define your space) and to stand quietly at a distance when requested.... namely, he doesn't have the option to move freely about when working with you. You are the leader and define the space in which you work and where it is acceptable for him to be (please refer to our Horse Psychology on our Web Site for more details). As you get more experienced with this exercise try the following. If he backs away from you at an angle stand in your place and put pressure (remember to point first before adding a swing of the rope, but he should have learned this lesson well enough to respond to your finger by the time you try this) on his back end to move it over and straighten his body to face you as you ask him to back.
Once at 10 or 12 feet from you and the lead line is loosely draped from your hand to his head, walk around him in a circle and see if he turns to face you (this will help you when entering his stall or pasture as you approach him). If he isn't sure what to do from a distance, walk in a circle around him for about 3 to 5 steps, stop and kiss to him so that he turns his head and looks at you. If you wait a spot where he has to keep his head turned and look at you without turning his body, his neck will tire and he will eventually move his back end about to face you. This will make it more comfortable.
SUMMARY; These three exercises have done a great deal to develop respect from your horse from the ground as you handle him by letting his decide if was more comfortable to move from your pressure. It will help teach him not to crowd you, to stand quietly, look to your for direction when concerned, stay out of your space as you lead him, move in a more fluid motion as his front and back end are disconnected and many more.
Remember to relax and enjoy your Paso Fino horse. Don't add more stress to your life it will strengthen your relationship with your Paso Fino horse to just go out and have fun on occasion. We hope this helps and look forward to sharing future ideas in the near future. Please check back with Paso Fino Trainers' Directory often for more training tips and suggestions.