Step 22- Common Problems with Focus & Bend (FAB)

Step 22 - common problems with focus & bend

We often hear that it’s valuable to observe people making mistakes, as it can be a more effective way to learn. While Warwick can explain what might go wrong, sometimes seeing it happen serves as a better teacher. In our video library, there are clinic videos and virtual lesson videos available, organized in a separate section following a process order. However, when Robyn began teaching Rey the “Leading with Energy” exercise, it unexpectedly turned into a highly instructive video series.  We decided to do the same thing with Focus & Bend. 

For this reason, we encourage you to watch the video of their initial day working together and see if it resonates with your own experiences.

We understand that every horse is unique, and Rey is no exception. He presents his own set of challenges and quirks, just as your horse does in its own distinctive way. However, by watching the video, you can observe how we tackle some of the more common issues related to this exercise, often connected to the human’s body control and understanding the necessary steps for the horse to perform the exercise correctly.

After watching, go out and work on this exercise again. 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. 

Consider whether you can relate to any of the problems that Robyn encountered. It’s essential to remember that Robyn made several mistakes, even though she is married to Warwick. So, be kind to yourself and grant yourself some patience and practice as you work through this exercise. Mastery takes time and learning from your mistakes is part of the process.

If you encounter any problems with the Focus & Bend, work on them until they are solved and then go back to the Focus & Bend exercise. 

You will continue working on the Focus & Bend exercise to the left until your horse goes off around you, off of the point (not having to use the flag) every time and maintains the correct bend.  Then you will keep them walking around you (we are not lunging them, but they are going to circle around you). This will be a tool you can use if you ever need to show a vet your horse in a circle – we do not teach it for that purpose, we teach it for collision avoidance purposes and to get them to read your energy, amongst other things. 

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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This was perfect. I made ALL the mistakes.

Warwick, I am trying this with a horse that has been taught to “lunge for respect” by another training method (before I owned him). As a result, he is very sensitive to pointing, etc. On the one hand, he is really teaching me to be very careful about my energy and body language during this exercise, but it’s difficult for me to get him to stop when I release. He also anticipates a direction change (consistent with the lunging for respect method.) Suggestions?

Warwick Schiller avatar Warwick Schiller (Administrator) April 30, 2024 at 11:16 am

Are you stepping back to draw him in to stop?

I’ve tried that, with little to no success. He seems to become robotic the minute I raise my hand and expects an almost immediate direction change (consistent with that method). What did work last night, as I was thinking this through, was to quickly flash the flag in front of him after 1-2 steps away, then release. He stopped, straightened out and was totally focused on me then, rather than the gesture. I could see the wheels turning as he looked at me. I went through the steps again, repeated the flag and he did the same. I left him the night to think about it and we will try again tonight.

Warwick Schiller avatar Warwick Schiller (Administrator) May 1, 2024 at 10:27 am

I believe I asked if you step back and draw him in. Your reply was ”He seems to become robotic the minute I raise my hand and expects an almost immediate direction”.
Im unsure what you mean by “raise my hand”?

I’ve tried stepping back to draw him in, but that doesn’t seem to be effective. “Lunging for respect” means taking off at a trot or canter from the lift the lead and point to the left, so it’s hard to step back in time to stop that–he’s already past me. What I mean by “raising my hand” is the part of the Focus and Bend exercise when I lift my hand with the lead in it to point to the left.

Last night I tried the steps of Focus and Bend again and this time, he took one step, I lowered my hand and energy and he straightened out perfectly and stopped. I’ve had this horse for several years and he’s eager to please and tries to anticipate every move I make, so slowing him down to focus on me (rather than immediately reacting) is helping us both.

Warwick Schiller avatar Warwick Schiller (Administrator) May 2, 2024 at 4:05 pm

“so it’s hard to step back in time to stop that–he’s already past me.”

You need to rotate always so you are facing him, then there is no “past you”.

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