Gentle Training Solutions
Horsewhisperer Frank Bell’s Gentle Training Solutions
Editor’s Note: Frank Bell and his accredited instructors have helped horses with their people problems for several decades. He writes interesting and educational stories about horses and their challenges. He also helps people better understand how to communicate with these magnificent creatures by answering questions on his website.
Frank has designed a logical set of exercises that immediately places both parties on higher ground . . . without the need for a round pen. Suddenly both parties are riding in confidence instead of fear.
Frank Bell’s 7-Step Safety System has been featured in horse magazines and e-zines throughout the world including a three-part series in Western Horseman magazine. Frank’s video " Discover the Horse You Never knew" fully outlines " the system" and is available in the audio/video library that includes thirteen works.
Read Frank’s article below or visit WWW.HORSEWHISPERER.COM. See Frank Bell’s Gentle Solution Revolution for yourself and breakthrough your training barriers now!
by Frank Bell, Horse Whisperer
I got wind of a troubled quarter horse named Leo long before I ever set eyes on this sorrel well-built gelding of seven years. Far too often, by the time I get my hands on such horses, they’ve had a pretty rough journey, as have their owners.
Libby Newnham followed the trainer grapevine and sent me an email in the spring, explaining her plight. Leo, it seemed was just completely unpredictable. One day he was an absolute jewel of a horse. The next day he was a complete maniac, acting out, bucking and rearing and backing dangerously. We set a date for later in the week and on a bright spring afternoon I finally met this horse with quite a reputation.
Libby deftly backed Leo out of her two horse trailer and we had a long discussion of his odd behavior. Long story short, she just never knew what she was dealing with. He was a good-natured horse who had completely irrational meltdowns just when everything seemed to be going well. At times he would bite at his sides as if something bothered him. And while saddling was not much of an issue most of the time, there were times when he just shook at the sight of a saddle and pad coming his way. I listened intently and one word just kept ringing out in my mind PAIN.
Pain as a Possibility
In the twenty years that I’ve danced with horses, a lot of them, I’ve had the great fortune of meeting some very gifted healers and of course brilliant trainers as well. With disturbing clarity there seems to be a very clear message coming through from many of these caring souls- a huge percentage of horses are in pain. And many are acting out dangerously because of that pain. When I reflect on my journey, I shudder at my ignorance as I unknowingly witnessed horses melting down and screaming out so clearly,
I need help. The pain is excruciating. Listen to me or you may pay a very high price later.
For five winters in the early 90’s I traveled from my home in Montana south to Camden, South Carolina to prepare Argentine thoroughbreds for the fast game of polo. I also did some buying and selling as well to augment my income and add to my experience, buying a handful of thoroughbreds off the track during those years. One exceptionally sweet dark bay gelding I named Top Gun. He was a real pleasure to ride and had no vices, so I used him for fox hunting on several occasions and he performed like a champ. But I’ll never forget our last hunt. As I placed my English saddling gently onto his back, he sank down under that minimal weight. How ignorant of me not to heed his message, for he was crying out in pain, but I didn’t even realize that anything was wrong. Within a few more weeks he looked really bad, losing weight and hair and that bright eye that he arrived with. It is embarrassing to admit my insensitivity and it was a long road bringing him back to good health. As it turned out, the saddle pad provided no protection- zip. And I was ignorant about his nutritional needs. It was a very hard lesson for me.
Last spring I became acquainted with a very interesting man who attended one of my clinics in Ohio. Mike had a mustang that had pitched him a few times resulting in several painful injuries. As we talked I searched Wyatt’s back and located a sore spot on his back. He ducked out from under my probing and swished his tail angrily in a very clear signal of his discomfort. I started doing t-touch, Linda Telling Ton’s gift to the world, working the skin around the affected area in circles, beginning at 6:00 and ending at 9:00, thereby doing 1-1/4 rotations clockwise. As Mike and I discussed a variety of subjects I worked on Wyatt, getting progressively closer to the painful area. We probably kibitzed for twenty minutes, and then walked Wyatt around a bit and presto, the pain was gone! Gone. Shortly thereafter Mike rode Wyatt bareback and all was well. Today they are a fabulous team and Wyatt is rock solid.
Do not take this as gospel. It isn’t usually so easy, but sometimes is. The point is that Wyatt was in pain, obvious pain and acting out because of it. With help, he healed and the story ended a good one. Interestingly, Mike, in his late fifties was thinking about a career with horses and was quite interesting in my accreditation program. While I did encourage him, I as well suggested several other options, namely- equine massage, chiropractic, and dentistry. Mike, a very focused, determined, high-energy man looked into dentistry and ran with the ball very successfully. Sometime later, after several months of equine dentistry classes, we reconnected and he shared two very poignant stories about owners not heeding the clear signals from their steeds and ended up six feet under. That is right. Both horses reared over backwards and killed their riders after screaming out loud and clear-
That bit is pinching the sharp points of my teeth into my gums and mouth and I can’t handle it, so I’m going to evade it by going backwards or rear over. Listen to me oh ignorant one!
Our knowledge of equine dentistry is exploding to the good as horse owners become enlightened to this very dangerous condition. Learning to check your horse’s teeth should be as routine as worming, if not more so. It is not rocket science. Sadly veterinarians receive very few hours of dentistry and few perfect the art of floating teeth well. And some vets are excellent. Find a competent vet or dentist to check your horse and teach you how to do at least a cursory inspection as well. Those points can become very very sharp, so be careful.
The point of this discussion is that a huge percentage of horses are in pain and crying out for help. Heed that advice. When a horse suddenly starts acting out with odd behaviors, most of the time it is pain related. Stay off the horse and get help. If you have the desire to work with horses professionally and feel you have an aptitude for massage, chiropractic, dentistry, or any of the other budding equine careers, look into it. There is real good money and prestige in these professions and you’re doing a great service for horses and their owners.
Back to Leo
After listening intently to Libby, I introduced myself to Leo. We bonded and developed trust before beginning my explorations. I rubbed his eyes and under his jaw, then got inside his mouth, feathered his tongue and massaged his gums. Then I eased my thumb up along his upper molars and quickly checked the outside edge. Sure enough, Leo had very sharp points. Bingo. One part of the equation was uncovered. Leo licked his lips and lowered his head and said to me- Thanks, maybe now we’ll get my teeth taken care of.
Then I ran my index finger, supported by my thumb, down Leo’s back, beginning at the withers. His withers shuddered noticeably and then about 2/3 of the way to his hip, he ducked out, just as old Wyatt had done, though even more pronounced. Now Libby is a wisp of a person, perhaps tipping the scale at barely over one hundred, so it wasn’t her weight.
Let’s take a look at your saddle and pad, I suggested. The pad was mediocre at best. It was one of those quilted pads that really look effective, but there is none- zip. So her Aussie saddle was basically sitting right on the horses back and upon investigation, the very spot that Leo was sore coincided with an obvious protrusion on the underside of the saddle. Bingo yet again. And saddles do change over time and do wear out!
I’d find a good masseuse and do T-touch in the meantime, I suggested. I showed Libby the circular touches and together we gave Leo a very pleasurable half hour of relief and hopefully repair. By the time Libby loaded Leo to go home, he was noticeably improved. She called me several weeks later and delightfully informed me that after several massage sessions with a professional, a new pad, and proper dentistry, she had a new horse. Good on ya Libby and Leo!