My love for horses began at the age of two. At the time I lived in the city and never had the opportunity to be around horses. As soon as I could talk I asked for a horse. When I found a spring pony on Christmas morning, I told my parents that wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted a REAL pony and wouldn’t even touch it. After eleven years of convincing, my parents agreed to buy me a horse. A co-worker of my mom’ said I could board at her house, so we went to look at horses at a local ranch.
The last mare we looked at became my first horse. She picked me. She put her head over my shoulder and I fell in love with her. She had been boarded where we bought her and was up for sale because the owners didn’t want to pay up for the training. She was more than three hundred pounds underweight, needed her hooves trimmed badly, needed to be dewormed, and had most of her tail and mane eaten off by a goat when she first arrived.
Her owners had sent her to be “broke to ride” at the ranch so she would sell for more money, but between boarding costs and all the money it took to get her in half decent shape the owners couldn’t and weren’t willing to pay up. Her training involved being lunged almost to death. I was told to NEVER try to lunge her or I would get hurt. She was smacked in the face to be taught “personal space.” She was sold for one month and bucked off everyone who tried to ride her, so she was spurred and whipped. This resulted in her being scared to death of men and whips.
The ranch delivered the horse and led her into the pasture and left. “Now what,” I thought? I was now a horse owner at the age of thirteen. I had hardly ever seen a horse let alone knew how to put on a saddle or even knew what a farrier was. My parents never were involved with horses but were supportive to me. When I went to a clinic at the ranch to see the man who trained my horse I was disgusted. Every time the horse he was working with got in his personal space, he would hit the horse in the face to “correct” them and to show them who was boss. No wonder my horse was so messed up! The trainer tried to get me to pay him to continue training my horse. I knew this wasn’t what I wanted.
For the first two months I was almost completely clueless. I knew I had to develop a relationship with her or she would never trust me. For two months I just spent time with her out in the pasture, she grazed and I read. I bought lots of books and videos on training, and searched for “the right thing.” I was getting more confused. Then I tried to take her out of the pasture, she tried to run me down and almost got loose. This is when I knew I had to figure out a plan.
I started off using Monty Roberts’ method of Join-up. It did work, don’t get me wrong. And I was very happy with it for a while, but did I have a true relationship or friendship with my horses? No I didn’t. That really upset me. The lady, who had my horse boarded, was supposed to teach me about how to saddle a horse, and basic things. She told my mom she knew how to handle horses and would teach me. One day while the woman was teaching me to how to put a saddle on my horse, I went to go untie the rope that blocked off the area, and she let my horse under the rope. As I turned, the rope got caught on the horn of the saddle and the clip was ripped off of the fence. I was in the way and ended up with a deep rope burn across most of my arm. She didn’t even help me clean it out. She told me to “get on” if I wanted to go riding. That was enough for my mom, so we looked for another place to board my horse. The second place was okay but instead of paying I had to work off board. Every day I did chores. But then the lady said I fed my horse too much and limited my hay. We had bought our own hay and grain. The lady told me I “spoiled” my horse, but she was hardly ever home so it didn’t matter.
I went to pick a puppy at a lady’s house and while there I saw a seven month old Quarter/thoroughbred filly. She offered me the horse for her “stud fee” She just didn’t want her. I felt bad so we bought her. My grandfather helped me pay for her. Part of the deal is that she would live there because I couldn’t take her until we got our barn and fences up. I found out quickly what I had bought, more challenges. When she was born she was imprinted, but it was done incorrectly which left her scared of humans and in fear. She was then chased around for over two hours and pinned in a corner of her stall and they forced on her first halter when she was only a few days old. She had rain rot on her back from never being brushed, she would bite or kick if I tried to touch her ears, flank, stomach, or legs. She was scared of brushes and people. She couldn’t be haltered or caught, let alone led or have her feet picked up. I spent time with her everyday. First working on being able to walk up to her. I only had my present knowledge, which wasn’t much to go on. It took me over an hour at times just to get her to let me come up and touch her. I spent many days just working on putting a halter on and taking it off. Well, I was now able to walk up to her and put on a halter and take it off most days in a matter of minutes. Some days it would still take longer but that was okay to me I was then able to halter her, but would she lead? Nope, not a chance is what she would be telling me as her feet were planted solid in the ground. So I would ask her to turn sideways instead which would free up her feet for the moment and I could get her moving again. When I fed her grain at night, I would work on getting her to accept me brushing and rubbing her without having to dodge a well-placed bite or kick. Through all of this, I didn’t give up on her, even though I ended up getting a broken nose when she hit me with her head, getting kicked in the ribs, getting stepped on, having her rear by me, and having to dodge teeth a few times.
They say most people don’t make it past a year of horse ownership and forget making it past five without selling their first horse and moving on. I had two horses at two different places that I cared for everyday. I was called crazy, sure, but it didn’t matter to me.
I then moved my older horse to where my young filly lived so it would be easier to care for them. I ended up taking both of my horses and boarding them somewhere else after we had a falling out with the barn owners. The husband and wife got in a huge fight. He almost strangled her. I watched him choking her after she threw rakes and a few other things as he drove away in his truck which she had been using at the time. She then almost hit him with an ax. That was really hard for me. That was really hard for me as I had never been exposed to anything like that. When we told the 4-H leader that is why we were dropping out of the club, basically we were called liars and shunned. We were called by the husband the morning we were to move our horses and were told that it my parents set foot on the property that they would be arrested for trespassing. They also found out where we were moving the horses and she tried to convince the woman not to let us board our horses. Luckily we were still able to move them.
As soon as spring came we put up our barn and fence on our ten acre parcel that my parents had bought. I lost all trust of people after everything that had happened to me. Everyone put me down for trying to find a gentler method of training. They told me my filly was going to kill me and she was a horrible horse. That left me heartbroken. I finally had gotten through to her, at least I had thought I did. Everyone told me my older mare was dangerous also. They told me to tie her head down, use with a bigger bit, you name it, I’ve heard it. I was called crazy because I walked my horses and let them graze instead of riding them. It was like a sin to most people to walk with a horse instead of riding. I just hated what people said about my horses. I knew they wouldn’t ever purposely hurt me. Gosh, I could sit on the ground and my older mare would walk up and put her legs to my back and rest her head over my shoulder. When the barn cat tried to come by me once, she jumped half-way over me to chase away the cat and came back and put her head over my shoulder.
I kept looking for a way to gain a relationship with my horses. I began the Parelli program. I didn’t agree with every thing he did, but man was I impressed with what the horses would do like laying down, and being ridden bareback and bridle less. What bothered me though was the look in the horse’ eyes. They HATED it. My older mare hated the Parelli system. My filly would do everything without a halter or lead before I was done with level one. But that didn’t make a bit of difference when she was out of the round pen.
I read about Buck Brannaman, Bill and Tom Dorrance, Ray Hunt’ methods and many others. You name it, I’ve read it or tried it, unless it involved abuse. I still kept searching for something better. My horses were doing everything that they were “supposed” to do in the books or videos. Sure, I never followed anything completely to the letter. Each horse is an individual and I believed that each method of training had to be modified for the horse in question. Every trainer thought his/her methods were the best, but it took all of their ideas for me to begin to get an idea of what to do and to get things to work. I also took my older mare to a local “natural horse trainer” for a while. He began to teach me what he knew but I didn’t agree with everything he did. I didn’t go back after he “helped” me put my horse in the trailer one day. She turned around and almost knocked him down and got loose. If I couldn’t even trust my horse or my safety with him, how was I supposed to learn anything? I got very discouraged over this.
Then a few weeks ago while looking through a Natural Horse Magazine, I stumbled upon an ad for a program called Friendship Training. Chuck Mintzlaff is the creator of this program. What stood out to me is that in the ad he wrote, “No gimmicks! No gadgets! Just plain old, everyday horse sense! Friendship Training does not use round pens, clickers, whips, carrot or endo sticks, lariats or any other type of traditional “training” aids.” I thought to myself, what’ left? What could this man possibly do with a horse without any of them? I just had to find out. I went onto the webpage and read everything I could. I was truly amazed by what this man had both written and the way he talked about horses. I ended up calling Mr.Mintzlaff and he spent over two hours talking to me. I then registered myself in the Friendship Training program, at the age of fifteen.
Friendship Training is completely different from anything you have ever seen. The whole point of the program is dedicated to forming a special friendship with your horse. This is not a program that just stops. You will carry on and advance every day. The friendship does not stop or quit either, but continually blossoms and grows. If you want a true friendship with your horse, you must build a foundation of trust, care, leadership, and above all, love. Then your horse will be your willing partner in life. On the other hand if you decide to use fear, betray your horse, and punish him, you will never know the true potential that your horse holds within the depths of his soul. Friendship training will lead you to be the key to your horse’ heart and you will be his.
Friendship Training does not use fear, whips, or anything else. There are a series of interactions that you will complete. This are called Friendship Training Exercises, but are more often referred to as Feeding Time Exercises. The first interactions you will have with your horse when beginning this program will be on the ground before you feed your horse. This is done in an open area which is the most natural to your horse. When you walk out to feed your horse, before you let the horse eat, you will ask that they show you the signs of submission that you ask for. Your signs of submission will be different from what another horse would expect but you will get the same results. This will “bridge” the human language with the horse language. Through this process you will begin to gradually teach your horse cues. Basically, you are teaching your horse your own language. It is not English and is not Horse, but it is the language that allows both to communicate with each other. This is a language that you share with your horse. You will begin to be able to talk to your horse through your bridge language and that is just scratching the surface. The possibilities are unimaginable. Basically any thing you ever dreamed of being able to do with a horse will become possible, but most importantly, you and your horse will be friends.
I have been using the Friendship Training program for a while now. It really has an astonishing effect on my horses. Their whole attitudes have changed for the better. They run up from the bottom of the pasture when I whistle. The look in their eyes is so wonderful. For the first time since I bought my older mare, I finally feel like what I’m doing is right, I’m not beating myself up anymore, I’m finally happy with a program that I’m using with my horses. I still am working very hard to earn their friendship and trust, but I am now on the right path now. I always knew what I wanted with my horses it just took awhile to find it. And that it is the Friendship Training program. Mr. Mintzlaff is a wonderful person and a great teacher for both horses and humans, and I truly believe he holds the key to our horses’ hearts.
PS: Day 31
Both horses did really great today. Mariah knows what I ask of her now and she is so gung ho about it. She is out there like “What do you want me to do now ma, huh?” She actually has progressed farther than Nia in some ways. It takes a while to get out the kinks with her but once you do, look out, she does great.
Nia- She was good as usual but the flies were terrible and bugging her so she was too busy worrying about them and I had to start over once because she walked over to me instead of standing. She did do really good and backed good, probably at least a good 12 feet. She stood for about 35 seconds today and I when I began to walk to clock she did come to me for a kiss and rubs first and then I told her she could eat. I did switch sides with her today.
Mariah- Complete and total attitude difference these last couple days. I broke through the ice and now she just loves being with me. No trying to get to the grain and no more pacing/walking off. She gets right to her place, I asked her to ho and then as soon as she sees that back cue and hears me she’s off. She backed until I asked her to ho and then stand. I began to walk the clock, and she then came right to me when I called her. She waited for her rubs and good girls and I asked for a kiss. She is just doing great. She backed really far today too. She must have backed over 30 feet I would think. Wow is all I can say. She is doing great compared to aggressive, temperamental mare we started out with a month ago!
Holly in Michigan