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Step 10 – Common Mistakes With Creating Connection

Step 10 - Common Mistakes with Creating Connection

Today you’ll be practicing the same exercise you did yesterday, Creating Connection Through Change In Focus. There’s a video with a different horse, which gives a different perspective on the exercise. Additionally, there’s a video on common mistakes made during the exercise.  Don’t skip watching these videos because you don’t have any perceived problems.  Having this information is important so you know what to do if a problem arises. Once you watch both of these videos, go out and try the exercise again.  

Remember how to navigate this course? Just click on the topics below under Lesson Content. Then at the bottom of each topic, there will be a button to move you to the next topic. If you click on Next Lesson at the bottom of this page without going through all the topics, you will feel lost! LESSONS = STEPS and the TOPICS = What we want you to learn about during that step.

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Hi Warwick and Robin. Hello from north-central British Columbia, Canada! I first discovered you on You Tube about 18 months ago, looking for help with trailer loading (a long story for another day). While I learned a lot from the videos, I felt that I was missing important elements and so recently signed up. I am really enjoying the Jump Start course.
I am an adult amateur(55++ crowd!) dressage rider; also do a bit of hacking and some jumping (small stuff). I have a 17 yr old Oldenburg mare that I got as a 4 yr old. She is lovely, very sensitive, and fun to ride. However, she can still be explosive and wound right up (then I get more stressed, etc.). A few months ago, I moved her to a friend’s horse farm. She’s still getting used to the indoor arena and can be quite anxious. Learning to watch for the subtle signs of her rising stress and discomfort, while also letting go of my own stress and remaining calmer, has been a game changer.
Two days ago, I was trying the flag exercise ‘Creating Connection Through Change in Focus’, after watching the videos. She was like the horse in the 2023 Outback Spectacular – running constantly, totally wired and distracted. I could get an ear, eye and sometimes her head but she never came up to me. I stopped after 30 mins; came home and watched the videos again.
Today was entirely different in a good way. I corrected my mistakes: stayed further away; asked less often; made sure to wait 30-60 seconds between asks; waited till she turned her head, then stopped and pivoted. She was much calmer and came up to say hello three times. The shorter session was more productive and positive – yay!
After in the tie-up area, she was calmer although a bit antsy to leave. So I tried a breathing technique. After two or three breaths, she turned her head to me as though to say ‘what are you doing?’; then turned back and had a lick and a chew. That’s me with a big smile leading her back to her paddock.
Looking forward to the rest of the course, especially ‘Standing Still and Present’. Thank you!

Warwick Schiller avatar Warwick Schiller (Administrator) December 8, 2023 at 10:58 am

Great work

I signed up for this training as I embark on working with a new horse, a QH/saddlebred mix that I just adopted. After 3 sessions, where ears and head would acknowledge me, today after less than 30 minutes, he came up to me, greeted me with his muzzle, then followed me around.
I decided to try this with my recently adopted donkey (small standard). She wants nothing to do with me in the stall and is difficult to catch in the outdoor dry lot where she is in charge of my two gelding horses all day. She does have redeeming qualities, safe for children to pet, leads pretty well, picks up feet willingly, and loves to be groomed, once she decides it fits into her schedule. (lol)
Well, in the arena today, I let her off lead and did this exercise. The ear movements are so much easier to see on a donkey! I got her ears a lot, but it took time to get an eye. She was fixated on the stall area at one end of the arena. After about 20 minutes I got a foot. Shortly after that, she started to walk toward me. She came halfway, then turned back. After several of these attempts, she came right to me and leaned her head into my side. After this, I went and got her halter and lead, but when I was approaching her, she backed off, far away. I repeated the exercise with the lead line as my “flag”. She eventually (less than 10 min) inched her way to me and stood still. I was able to put on her halter and she did not try to escape. This was shocking to me, as this is usually a battle.
I want to assure you and anyone else that wants to know, this worked for my donkey today! I’ll see how this plays out as we move on in training!

Warwick Schiller avatar Warwick Schiller (Administrator) December 12, 2023 at 12:01 pm

Great work.

Follow Up. When I went out to catch my donkey this afternoon, she was at the far end of my 1.7 acre pasture. I went into the gate, stood still, and she ran all the way to me, veered sharply away when she got close. I never moved a muscle. She then walked gingerly toward me and stood still right in front of me. I again was able to halter her with NO avoidance moves on her part. No treats, no grain bucket shaking, nothing! I am still shocked. Perhaps she never felt safe or “seen” by me before. I could cry.

Warwick Schiller avatar Warwick Schiller (Administrator) December 12, 2023 at 12:02 pm

More great work.

“I am now 10 days into a 30-day Jumpstart journey. There are two reasons for this: first, to ‘restart’ one of my horses who is slow under saddle (actually slow in almost everything). I am very curious to see where this will lead us; learning a lot is certain. The other reason is that I am planning to organize workshops soon for riders with riding anxiety, and I am confident (actually quite sure) that I will find useful insights in Warwick Schiller’s material that can help in reducing riding anxiety. I managed to do it myself three years ago, also with the help of the video library, which is now much easier to navigate. Thanks for that. It has been life-changing for me, the journey I took with my other horse through the videos, and we are still on that journey. It has been life-changing not only in terms of horsemanship but also in my personal and work life. From staying a lot in my comfort zone to continuously stepping out of it. And that has brought me a lot. Thanks.”

PS. and I am also very curious what to learn this time with doing al lot of stuff ‘again’ from the beginning.

Warwick Schiller avatar Warwick Schiller (Administrator) January 7, 2024 at 1:48 pm

Good luck and enjoy the journey

Hey Warwick.
I am really new to horsemanship. I bought my little QH 2 years ago after 2 riding lessons on him as a really quiet safe kids horse. I spent a year riding him almost everyday. We’ve spent hours just relaxing in the paddock together. We had a great relationship, I could find him on the property and ride him to the tack shed with no tack before our rides. We learned together with no professional guidance. I leased him out for a year while I was overseas and have only had him back recently. I have done no work with him and have just been following your corse. Yesterday I had him in the arena. He already follows me around a lot so once he got bored of that I could start the exercise. After about 6 goes of noticing him notice me he got the turn around and would come to me. I finished the lesson on a win but the rain was pelting and i could tell he didnt like it so it may have been an unpleasent exercise for him. Today we tried the same. He followed me for one lap around the arena then went off to do his own thing. He started sprinting and bucking, kicking out. I just thought he was letting off some steam. Once he settled I would wave the flag. He’d notice me. Id turn. More often than not he’d walk up to me. When he’d stop following me we would do it again. One time though instead of walking to me he faced me head on sprinting, kicking out. I thought he’d settle and stop before getting to me but he didnt. It was too late to do anything and I froze assuming he was going to take me out. He side stepped just missing me. I have never been afraid of this horse but I was today. He slowed to a trot, then a walk and came directly back to me. I walked away and he followed me zig zagging around the arena for quite awhile. I settled down and got back to the training – 70% of the time he was following me around as I changed direction. When he wouldnt Id go back to getting his attention with the flag. Once I felt like he’d done a good job I walked, he followed back to the centre of the arena where I dropped the holter. As I got there he kicked out again and pointed his backside to me.

I do think he was being aggressive. I think maybe he was getting frustrated by the exercise? He will always push people that lead him if the are unsure what they are doing and has walked me into countless fences in our time so does have a tendency to be a little dominating sometimes. I don’t really know where to go from here.

Warwick Schiller avatar Warwick Schiller (Administrator) January 16, 2024 at 4:06 pm

I thik you may have been a bit too focused on the following you around. If they are running directly at you, you have a lot of draw, so I definately would not be walking and having him follow you

Today I spent about an hour, working on connection by change of focus. I was able to get ear and eye, she walked up to me twice, second time got a little spooked by the flag in the wind (I had it pointed to the ground but it was windy). She walked away several times, and I went back to getting an ear and an eye, a few times got a head turn. I then just sat in the field with her for a bit and left. Would this be considered success?

Warwick Schiller avatar Warwick Schiller (Administrator) January 20, 2024 at 11:02 pm

It was a success the first time you got the ear. Then all the rest were successes on top of that.

I am sorry for being dense, but I do not see a playlist under Creating Connection through Change of Focus. I am looking the video on How to be Effective, and you told me where to find it and it seems I am still looking in the wrong place. Could you possibly give me a link to it? Thank you!

Hello again!
So I tried the exercise today and it was a total fail. Well, I guess it depends on the way you look at it. So I will withhold judgement and tell you what happened, and how I reacted. And hopefully you can tell me I did not mess it up too bad!
So my horse lives with only one other horse across the fence (dangerous riggish behavior, had to separate). So they are a bit like frenemies, but they have no other choice but each other. I tried to make the situation a little stressful in the pasture by putting the frenemy away in the stall inside the barn.
My horse definitely has more draw tha drive. Especially now that he is kind of lonely. So I walked out in the pasture and unsuccessfully tried to get away from my horse. Not for one second did his attention waver from me. OK, may be a few one second periods, haha. Anyhow, no matter how far I got, he was always watching with his “what’ya doing there?” face. he is very curious. So it was not long till he began to follow me. I know, poor me, right? So I stopped, and let him hang out with me trying to decide what to do. He started mouthing me (he is always mouthy), I let him “lip” me and played with his muzzle, but every time he tried to “groom” me with even a little teeth, I lightly smacked him away – it is fun when you have a winter coat on, not so much in summer, so I do not know how else to discourage him. He left a few steps away a coupe of times, but kept coming back for more. Then he made a mischievous face, and tried to play nip me, got another smack and retreated a little further. Came back lipped me some more, with less teeth and then turn around, looked at me and trotted away with a COME PLAY demenour while bucking and inviting me to play. I followed along a couple of times. It was clear, he is VERY interested in me, and we are not gonna get this exercise going today. He is the king of distracted when I do not need him to be distracted (tacking up at the trailer, spooky things, etc), but no, in the pasture we are happy and focused on me. He is leery of the flag and unfortunately he was not giving me the opportunity to make the flag a positive thing.
So I decided not to waste all the winter layers I put on expecting to spend over an hour in the pasture and took him out to hand graze and match steps. We did this for 20 minutes and he was very concentrated on the grass. So I decided to see if I can get his attention with the flag. I waived it at his flank gently that made him startle at first, then he did what he had been taught to do previously – stop reacting (head locked forward and almost frozen) so it would go away, but I kept going until he turned his nose towards the flag. So I kept repeating it till he was turning all the way to the flag and touching it with his nose. I successfully untracked his feet with the flag several times. We finished at this point. So I do not know wether what I did was the right decision or not. Should I have created more drive? pretty much discouraged him from hanging out with me? I felt like even if I drove him away, he would still be watching me, and I would not have an opoortunity to practice capturing focus anyway.
So I am at a loss. Should I go to the flow chart or continue the flag focus exercise in some other modified fashion? Sorry for TMI, I am lost.

Warwick Schiller avatar Warwick Schiller (Administrator) March 5, 2024 at 7:46 pm

I think putting the other horse away was the start of a problem. Id leave the other one over the fence.
I’d not suggest smacking him, watch the videos on mouthy horses, that way you will solve the issue without causing a problem.

Thanks, Warwick. I have watched ahead and realized my mistakes. I let him mouth me to his heart content now haha.

I will be going out for the 3rd time tomorrow for the Connection exercise. It has gone very well, I believe. I’ve been doing the “hanging out”, matching steps, and other things for 5 years, along with the riding lessons, obstacles, etc. After being away after an accident, and some training, I decided to restart at zero. He has holes, I have holes. And, we’re just going to take them one at a time. So,even though he greets me at the gate, easily comes over to walk with me, etc. – we are following the lessons. I have now done the flag in both the outdoor and indoor arenas. Same results. He will usually turn to look at me. After 3 or 4 of those, he will saunter over and check me out. When he decides to leave, I go back and do it over again. I get 3 or 4 trips in before I return him to his pasture. Yesterday I filmed – I thought. I wanted to see if I was turning correctly. It’s a long way (100+ feet) – and I can’t see always the detail of an ear flicking. But it seems to be working. I have two questions. 1) Do I keep doing this until he just turns to me every time? So, until, for instance, I should be able to take a couple steps and get his mind off his herd out the window, sooner than 10 or 15 feet in. And, secondly, once he saunters over to me – I present my hand. He uses his upper lip to brush it, and will often also do my arm, my shoulder, the top of my head. Now before, he would “groom” me when I found the right scritching spot (usually his breast) by brushing all over my back. Rarely uses his teeth, and when he does, he rubs with them, he doesn’t bite. My friend, who has had horses for 30 years and follows Warwick a bit, as well as others, is adamant that this is a domination thing. And, I should not allow it. Licking, lipping, etc. I don’t “get” that feeling though. Now, there are times where he will push me forward with his head when we’re walking, if I don’t have him at my side. And that I don’t allow. I don’t get made or change my energy, but I stop and move him over. But, the “smooching” seems more affectionate to me. But, that might be my human trying to imprint on him. ANYWAY – I am taking this day by day, and trying not to plan ahead. Like, right now he is only getting hay. I have to feed him if I want him to have anything else, and I have to bring him out of the pasture to do it. I am only able to get to his barn 1x every other day, so I waited. But, I’m going to try feeding him the wild forage. Hopefully we’ll be far enough along in the lessons that I can do this as part of the process. I haven’t ridden or even saddled him yet. And, I was also waiting to groom him (it’s a very claustrophobic area, and he doesn’t normally do well in small spaces including stalls). So, this is all leading to the rest. I’m doing my best to gain his trust – and I’m sticking to the plan. Sorry about the length. Wow.

Warwick Schiller avatar Warwick Schiller (Administrator) March 17, 2024 at 9:56 am

Sounds like you are doing agreat job developing a relationship with him. I too do not think his behaviour is dominance. Keep up the great work.

I have a 5 year old Gypsian mare who I bought in December 2022. She’s been through 3 trainers since then. She goes well for the last trainer, but although she’s better, still not so well with me. Our problems have been running away when spooked, running through the shoulder towards the gate, and refusing to pick up the canter. The last trainer told me there was not much more she could do to help us (as did the last two trainers). I just brought her back home 5/1.
I found your program and hope it works for us. I’ve worked on the connection with focus exercises. She barely notices me. I end up close and wave the flag quite strongly. I feel like she’s been sacked out and possibly shut down. I see the videos for horses who have a lot of drive, but what to do with one who just doesn’t care? She walks up to me in the pen, but I feel she’s pretty balanced draw/ drive.

Warwick Schiller avatar Warwick Schiller (Administrator) May 6, 2024 at 10:13 am

Hi Debbie

These 3 issues ” Our problems have been running away when spooked, running through the shoulder towards the gate, and refusing to pick up the canter”, will just go away during the process, without having to address them.

Do you feel like she is shut down to humans, or just to the flag?

Shara Teo avatar sharateo@gmail.com May 13, 2024 at 10:30 pm

I am starting groundwork with the horse I’m leasing from scratch because he had issues previously when being ridden in that he would balk and just not move. I am working on this exercise with a horse in the arena (he lives with two other horses in his paddock so it’s not suitable to leave him in there). However, he is quite resistant to walking towards the arena. If you can get him halfway he will normally walk the rest of the way, the first half of the walk is the issue. If I have carrots or treats and treat him as he walks we can normally get there pretty easily. If I don’t have any treats he tends to just stop walking. He does not seem shut down or upset by my presence (he has licked and chewed whilst just standing there), he just seems to want to graze, that’s why I don’t think scratching for connection etc will work. I have just waited at the end of the lead for him to eventually come to me, which may take up to 10 minutes and then we’re starting the whole process again. When I finally got him to the arena and did this exercise he was excellent. The problem we have is getting him to the arena and there is nowhere else suitable to do this exercise except the arena at the moment. What do you recommend doing? Is it ok to keep using treats to coax him to walk towards the arena whilst we work on creating connection through focus exercises?

Warwick Schiller avatar Warwick Schiller (Administrator) May 14, 2024 at 11:02 am

Instead of using treats, when he stops just arc around him in a circle and that will untrack his feet

Hello! I’ve been doing the CCTCIF exercise with my mare and it’s been going well! The first few times we did this, I had a lot of opportunities to “start over” and turn around when she noticed my walking/flag. I do have a question about moving on though. I noted you recommended moving on once you can easily draw their head with the flag. I lose her head when arcing back toward her hips, then backtrack and get the head again, and then turn around. A lot of the times, she will then walk over to me and just hang out. She will also follow me around a bit at this point (not the goal I know). Should I continue to “get the head” better/easier before moving on? Thanks!

Warwick Schiller avatar Warwick Schiller (Administrator) May 18, 2024 at 9:47 am

You could spend a little more time getting it better

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