I thought it would be an interesting detour to explore how horses see, and how that relates to our understanding them when it comes to training.
Horses evolved in open grasslands. They’re designed to be awake and grazing day and night. They have excellent low light vision, unlike humans who need to see well in the daytime.
Did you ever wonder why your horse’s pupil looks bluish-grey? That’s the tapetum lucidum which reflects light back through the photoreceptor layer of the eye so that the horse has high sensitivity to light.
Remember, horses graze at night and need to see predators and be able to move quickly over uneven ground to escape.
We humans don’t have that so our night vision is poor, but our eyes adjust more quickly from bright to dark. Horses adjust more slowly, but when they do, they see better than we do.
This is what we see walking into a barn during the day.
This is what your horse sees walking into that same barn.
In twenty minutes, this is what your horse sees – it’s brighter and in more detail than you can ever perceive. Which is why you won’t notice a sudden movement at the far end of the barn, but your horse will.
Which brings us to loading in a trailer. This is what we see.
This is the “black hole” that they see.
By opening up the 2 windows, it becomes much less forbidding.
Many thanks to Terri Golson and her article “In Light and Dark”. I’ll share some more in my next article!
Troubleshooting. Common problems in the pivot, and how to fix them:
• Too much bend. This is caused by trying to pull your horse around with the direct (inside) rein, so overbending his neck.
We resort to this when we can’t make his shoulders move. This will actually cause you to end up going in a circle instead of a spin.
To correct it, think “kick” more than “pull.”
Use your legs assertively to keep your horse’s body aligned and to keep him moving around; use that inside rein just enough to keep his nose tipped in the direction of movement and engage your indirect (outside) rein towards your belly (but not across your horse’s neck).
• Counter-bend. This happens if you use too much indirect (outside) rein, trying ineffectually to make the shoulders move, and in the process pulling your horse’s head to the outside creating a counter-bend in his neck.
Correct this by using a little more inside (direct) rein and a little less outside (indirect) rein, plus bump with your outside leg at the cinch more assertively.
If your horses shoulders won’t move- go back and work on your side pass until you can move them in any direction especially away from the gate (or magnets).
Many times when turning a cow on the fence, it manages to come off the fence. There are a few reasons why this happens.
One would be the cow jumping over the horses rear end (see the picture).
There’s no way, that this wouldn’t require a loop. There’s no penalty for this either, as working advantage was never lost.
It is a penalty (1pt), if loss of working advantage was the cause of having to loop in the first place.
What that means is there was a big space/gap between the horse and the cow. Either the turn wasn’t tight, or the horse was slow exiting, or the horse got too deep into the turn and caused it to jump out.
Whatever happened, the horse lost working advantage and so had to loop the cow.
Working advantage can also be lost during the execution of the loop. That means that somewhere in the loop, the horse got far enough away from the cow, to lose working advantage.
I’ve heard it said, that if you couldn’t rope the cow at any time during the loop, you’ve lost working advantage.
So, let’s go back to the picture.
The cow jumps over my horse’s butt.
I would have to wheel around to the right (towards the cow, otherwise I’d be turning tail and get zeroed).
Then, I’d have to shape the cow around to the right, by staying off to it’s left just a bit, or I’d risk jumping it into the fence, or turning it left and switching sides of the arena.
As soon as the cow was approaching the end wall and was committed to going right, I’d switch over and be just off the cows right hip. This would enable me to drive it along the fence until I was ready to turn it again.
If I was on the fence and turned the cow and it came off the fence at a 30* angle, I probably would not loop it, but would try to shape it back to the fence for my next turn. If it was more than 30*-40* would have to decide whether to loop or not to loop.
There’s a higher degree of difficulty and a bigger risk taken if you don’t loop it. It definitely requires more skill for the horse and rider to shape it back to the fence without looping or to execute a good open field turn.
In that split second, the rider has to choose. If you have a horse who can really do an excellent open field turn, go for it! If the angle is wider than 45*, you’d probably want to loop it around.
It’s good showmanship to get the cow shaped however works best, so your horse can get the best turn possible.
Practice all the different scenarios at home, so when you’re showing, choosing the best option becomes second nature.