HARRY WHITNEY - 2004
Rogersville, TN
Linda Bertani

The following is a mixture of quotes and paraphrases and observations over a three week period. Please do not hold poor Harry responsible for any of my misinterpretations or outright errors.

Harry's theme is always: GET THE THOUGHT. He expects a horse to be responsive. This starts with each and every small thing we do with a horse. We get the response and THEN we can build on the quality of those responses. The bend … straightness … the give all the way through the body (indicating the “letting go” and that we have the change/the thought.) We all learned how much horses simply “tolerate” different activities. Change the environment (i.e. a different trailer, load with another horse, new location, etc.) and we all saw how many holes there really are in our work.

General and Miscellaneous Thoughts/Comments/Paraphrases/Etc. from Harry:
  • A horse really picks up on THE CHANGE.
  • The END starts with the STEP.
  • Horses don't like squishy things. (This was related to a discussion about a horse not wanting to cross a muddy puddle and why a horse probably doesn't step on us when we get tossed.)
  • Horses don't enjoy getting drug through life.
  • A horse's spine moves with the rider's weight.
  • Firm up to get her thinking/searching OR to block a thought. (Not punishment)
  • Where the mind goes …the body will follow. The body can come but the mind may not follow. Horses cannot separate what they are doing from what they are thinking.
  • “Traditional” horsemanship is based upon progressive firmness to get the result.
  • We hurry their thoughts all the time.
  • One important aspect of fairness is being prepared to finish what you start, regardless of how small it is.
  • Go to where it was a “good place”.
  • Don't rush. Let him get arranged to make a change.
  • If he isn't doing his best, he doesn't feel good (inside).
  • Draw/lead the thought not the horse.
  • If he knew better, he'd do better.
  • There [should be] no criticism for him taking care of himself.
  • How little can you dissect the process?
  • Change the goal to be each PIECE.
  • Just settle down.
  • Where the attention is/goes is where the pressure is put on NOT where we want to put them. This lets the horse make the decision that the attention area is NOT the “good place”.
  • The horse doesn't know that there is no mail in the mailbox … (he doesn't know what we want/what outcome we are looking for).
  • It's a process, not an event.
  • Learn and understand WHY we do these things. “People that know HOW will always work for people who know WHY.
  • People tell us [teach us] how to ride a “finished horse”, not how to ride and finish our own horse.
  • How they are feeling at the moment is often a result of what happened just before that.
  • Work on responsiveness when you DON'T need it (so it's there when you do need it.).
  • Be careful what you criticize your horse for today, you may want it tomorrow.
  • The ability to get a CHANGE is more important than getting the job done. Relating to responsiveness. Are they mechanically going through the motions or are they really listening to us and our requests? ( i.e. even “cutting horses” in competition - is the horse doing all the work, making all the decisions? Could the rider affect a CHANGE?)
  • The degree to which/indicator of how strongly a horse holds onto a bad situation is directly tied to how strongly his self-preservation was threatened (and this is the horse's determination, not ours).
  • A horse's disposition and temperament also contribute to the depth of a reaction or how long is continues.
  • Find what is happening behind what you are looking at.
  • For a horse to like you and want to be with you isn't about loving and petting on them.
  • Stoic vs. shut down - symptoms in a horse are similar to what we would see in people.
  • Is the horse PARTICIPATING?
  • The horse will only be as good as you ask and as sloppy as you allow.
  • Re: horses that want to be in front on a trail ride - this is often an insecure horse (“horse in the back of a herd gets eaten”). When working on this, don't leave that horse in the back too long - take him to the front and on through the group to the back - switch off. Get him listening to US. Get his … yep, thought.
  • If we allow a horse to continue to “shut down”, it just get him more upset [by not dealing with and addressing the real cause of a behavior]. Need to DIRECT - DIRECT the thought.
  • Let a horse try option. Don't just look for OUR outcome. TRYING is GOOD.
  • Rushing - tip the nose with a small bump to help hindquarters and slow.
  • One of the students said: “Everything is everything else” and we all agreed that so much of the smallest things then translates to all the bigger things. After a trail ride, though, when some things started falling apart, she changed her comment to: “Everything is everything else until everything isn't everything else”.
  • “It's sad that more of you haven't had to do a 'real job' with a horse” [then we'd see/feel the importance of responsiveness].
  • Many riders never worry about the emotional safety of their horse; they are too busy worried about their own.
  • We are teaching them HOW TO RESPOND to situations.
  • It's not that he doesn't want to do it; it's that he's not used to someone suggesting that he give.
  • Nip the “building up” in the bud.
  • He needs to explore if moving his feet is gonna work.
  • Get their thought - work on responsiveness - request quality, even in the smallest areas. Make it a habit - a way of life.

Round pen work:
  • A “drag” in a horse might mean we might need to put pressure on a little more strongly just behind the shoulder. Be careful about this on a more sensitive horse. On some horses, you have to stay a bit more forward until they relax a little more. Adjust according to each horse.
  • The nice thing about working loose is that we can find out how a horse REALLY feels versus how they behave when they have a halter on.
  • We are not there to MAKE him do something but to let him know that what he's doing “isn't working”. It doesn't matter what he does initially (go forward, back, etc.), the important thing is that he let go of his thought.
  • Those little spots tell you quite a bit about how they are feeling. If can't drive him without him feeling like he needs to leave, he's not ready to ride.
  • Don't think of *sending* a horse off - think of it as letting him know what's not working. Encourage that it's not so good over there.
  • Not trying to MAKE something happen --- offering a scenario to see what will happen.
  • ALLOW the horse to understand. Give him time. ALLOW him to make a decision. Let it be his idea.
  • Let him look - see if he can choose to make it back.
  • If the horse already knows the turn-and-face maneuver but isn't really okay inside, we'd probably need to up the ante - that is, change something because then they'll show you what's really inside.
  • Feel the moment when the horse commits to come closer and stop the flag.
  • Tap the flag until get a change.
  • The flag is trying to connect meaning to movement of flag/request being made/message being sent.
  • It's easy to get greedy and lose what you have. (Be careful about petting too much, too fast.)
  • Most people use (as in MIS-use) a round pen to create the difference between a rock and a hard spot.
  • Let the horse find his way back (so he feels good about his decision).
  • Don't just look for the dropping of the head. It's the moment the thought changes (and then the head will drop when she is completely “there” - when she is really okay.).
  • Build on each PART of the process THEN can increase the expectation/the quality of the response. Do not focus on the outcome - it's each part of the process.
  • RESET = pet - back up - start again.
  • Situation when a horse leaves - as in “gone” - thoughts are totally out of the pen - go with her as she goes (walk with her with life in the body) - to show her “that's not working”, “that's not working”.

Groundwork:
  • When asking for the horse to turn the head (and not move feet), tapping of lead rope under the neck and out from head. “Take your thought over there”. Keep tapping until the horse looks. (Small bump - take your thought - offers a “feel” on the line - means “move your feet”.
  • To get an increase in the bend --- it's (lead rope pressure) not tugging on the nose but a block to going the other way. Drive/Pressure on shoulder NOT pushing the hindquarters.
  • Relationship of groundwork to saddle:
  • o Opens the door for the horse to look for something different
  • o A horse carries those feelings with him (feels good inside before we get on - we should be aware that he
  • may also revert to the things he has historically done)
  • There is a big difference - and we should always be aware of this - between a horse “getting used to” a specific thing/activity (i.e. trailer loading, etc.) versus them really responding to US.
  • Curiosity is closely related to fear because they need to know what it is they fear so they can decide how to handle it.
  • Tom Dorrance once said that we can “work” on something with a horse for up to 4 ½ hours. If we don't get a change by then, we should just stop for the day and start over.
  • Light tomorrow with today.
  • It's all about directing the thought.
  • Poll (“head twirling”) - imagine a rod through to the end of the mouth - turn on an axis - eye and ear goes (turns).
  • Releasing of poll - muscles have to change on one side or the other, not equal. If sitting on horse and releasing/”twirling”, might notice a flip of the mane from side to side as this is done.
  • You can twirl the head all day long without “twirling the thought” - twirl their THOUGHT.
  • Groundwork but with another horse working a horse in the round pen: Harry rides Eazy in a circle, wanting Deva (horse) to also go in a circle. He waits for her to figure it out - to come around up front (just like on the ground when changing directions) - rock back on her hindquarters and come on across. Work both sides - get a bend - get “on the circle” - same as on the ground.
  • When asking hindquarters - angle changes on the lead (lift up a bit toward withers just as would do with reins) and change hands for changing direction.
  • We do not want them (or us) to move forward - want them to step OUT and to cross over, them move on out around on the circle.
  • As we stand in front, ask right (for example), we become a “wall” to help the horse rock back on hind end (and then be able to come across and then around us).
  • The foundation of collection = rock on hind and bring front across (horse “lifts” front).

Under saddle and use of reins:
  • “One rein stop” - Harry prefers to call this DISengaging the hindquarters and then ENgaging our thought. **Influence the position of the head vs. disengaging the hindquarters. Think disengage the THOUGHT. The inside front foot is the KEY. (That hind steps under, with front feet stopped, but the front is “ready” to go if asked to step over/out/etc.) The [tight] bend is just to get him into a physical bind … to get him to THINK. There is a spot that he SLOWS (say in the direction of home) - that's a CHANGE - ease of just a bit - eventually he'll stop. An example used: If you call throwing in the clutch on a car to stop forward motion … this is not disengaging (as in stopping all the way through).
  • “Ride ahead” - want to prepare our horses for the next request - don't snatch the reins.
  • If hold hands in the middle spot of reins, rather than lean down for turning, slide turning hand down the reins and out, letting the other rein hand (supporting) slide equally out to the other side. Try to move both hands equally but the inside hand goes down first and then out, the supporting rein just out. This puts the pressure” on the inside/turning rein.
  • “Stop with the earth” - not just hands. Choose a point ahead (at the beginning, helps to use a post or other point of reference). Prepare ahead - seat then hands. Our hands stop, even though our body may continue because the horse is still moving). The horse may come into the bit pressure but he has come into this if we have prepared correctly. We do not release until he comes off that pressure - yields all the way through his body. Do NOT yield the pressure - HE needs to give and put slack in the reins. Regardless of dipping head or raising head or turning - ultimately, he needs to FIND the place where he gives all the way through his body for the release. If our hands end up being behind us, we have probably not taken up enough slack in our initial preparation. (This is often called “running through the bit/ running through the hands”). Offer to stop with both hands. If that does not get a response, ask for a slight bend. You can slow the trot down by “waddling”.
  • Getting a “give” all the way through will help ease a horse's anxiety. We should get that release from them (backs off of the pressure they create on the bit) each time so that they do not continue to push down their anxiety.
  • If horse initiates a “give”, we give in return --- without affecting the balance.
  • “On the bit” - for every change in the rein, there is an equal change in the hindquarters … a softness is exchanged between horse and rider.
  • Once they yield (to the bit), they can have all the slack we want to give - rooting = nothing available. We don't want the horse just shoving forward - needs to be through the body and a straight body with the thoughts out there.
  • A bend will inspire a horse to turn his topline off. Support a little with the outside rein.
  • Forward - bend - stop and back.
  • Disengagement --- inside rein only, bend to a stop - hindquarters move only (vs stopping with both reins) - comes a moment where they have stepped under to the point that horse could no longer move that front across. (This is for a STOP - not for Harry's idea of setting up again to then ENGAGE, which requires that they rock back on the hind end to follow through with next request).
  • Under saddle: asking for the change occurs at the peak of the hind leg coming forward - it is NOT going with the swing (which would mean we are riding with the FRONT end). At the trot, we can feel a slight “lift” from that hind leg.
  • “Come on feet, get this mouth out of the way”. Usually they are pushing the bit out of the way - this means they end up pushing their feet back (biomechanically speaking).
  • A REAL turn is not just the hindquarters stepping over - must step across in front - that inside rein will become slack (the horse puts that slack in the rein).
  • Normally, inside rein asks for more - shapes up for movement with bend.
  • Backing - again, wait on the horse to come off the pressure. There is no release to be given for pushing on the bit, even though/if the feet are backing.
  • At a stop, most of us only get on the brake - not “neutral” or “reverse” so there is no real change of thought.
  • Back a step, wait for the horse to yield.
  • Ride with our weight slight to the outside of the bend - the outside seatbone can draw the [horse's] spine.
  • On a rising trot, when the body is up, squeeze. This will affect the outside hind to come under and push.
  • Don't release for emotion - release for “letting go”.
  • On downward transitions - keep riding … don't quit - still want forward movement.
  • Re: scary or new object - weave back and forth and in as close as can go; may go around, circling. Think about how we might imitate what a horse does naturally when “exploring” new or scary things.

Over the three weeks I was able to watch and ride with Harry this summer, I started collecting new words and language to better direct my own thoughts and to the, hopefully, better help my horse. I strongly believe that language is a powerful tool ... or weapon ... and that we can greatly influence our mood and productivity by the words we CHOOSE to use. With input from other students, I created the table below of my collected ideas.

INSTEAD OF . . . . . . . . . . . . . . TRY

TO [the horse] . . . . . . . . . . . . . . FOR [our horse]

Make . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Allow/Create situation

That’s not right . . . . . . . . . . . . . . That’s not gonna work

You did that wrong . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Make another choice

Convince . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Show

Go get your horse . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Go get your horse’s mind

Move your feet over there . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Take your thoughts over there

Load horse in the trailer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Load horse’s mind into the trailer

“Work” . . . . . . . . . . . . . . "Effort” into – as in OUR effort