Endotapping is a technique that I ran across many years ago. It was developed by J. P. Giacomini. See his website at www.jpgiacomini.com. He is not only the inventor of this techinque but a reknowned horse and rider trainer. I worked with the Endotapping back then but there wasn't an awful lot of information available at that time. Although I found it to work really well I didn't know how to incorporate it into my work with horses other than they loved it and it made them feel really good.
In the past year, I have met a horse that rekindled my interest in Endotapping. I was pleased to find new information available on how to use the technique and have once again started using it. This technique is very unique and powerful. By repeated rhythmic tapping on the horse with a specialized whip endorphins are released which relax the horse. It is quite amazing to watch and is useful for many training and handling issues.
My understanding is that centuries ago it was used by the Indians to tame wild horses. The braves would capture the horses and tie them up for the women and children to tap on them with their hands until the horses relaxed. I have used Endotapping to overcome the flight instinct in several situations so it is a very powerful tool.
The horses react in a variety of ways mostly based on their personalities and their life history. Some take longer than others to respond. Ironically fearful horses will respond more quickly due to the excess of stress needing release. They usually have a large release in excessive yawning, licking and chewing and big sighs. Other shows of adrenaline release may be tail swishing, head shaking, grunting or groaning, pooping, etc. The rhythm and the intensity of the tapping is also different for each horse so sometimes one must experiment to see what the horse seems to like best.
There is a pattern that usually occurs with the horse at first resisting the tapping or seems to me sometimes misunderstanding the tapping as an indicator from us to go somewhere. By putting them back in place persistently they get the idea that it does not mean go somewhere. Aligning the horse against a wall or fence is helpful when they resist making it easier to reposition them or block them from moving forward. Resisting is then typically followed by attempting to ignore the tapping. During this phase tapping may need to be more forceful to break through the ignoring but returning immediately to soft tapping once they show that they are once again engaged and aware of the process. Our objective of the tapping and the next reaction in the pattern is for the horse to lower his head and relax. Sometimes that may be preceeded or include as mentioned above, licking and chewing, head shaking, yawning, pooping, etc. All signs of relaxation. I remember John Lyons saying on several occasions--have you ever seen a horse hopped up and excited with his head below his withers. He had his own equally impressive exercise of having the horse drop his nose to the ground by using give and release on the reins. There just seems to be a mechanical switch in the horse's makeup that says when my head is low as in eating grass I will be calm. By tapping, pun intended, into that natural response we can help the horse calm down and relax at any time.
Mary D. Midkiff of Women & Horses has a very interesting tip on her website in her April 2011~Issue No. 108 Tip of the Month: Natural Chemical Interactions From You. It says:
Knowing how to access and shift horses out of nervousness, tension, anxiety and fear comes through chemical interaction. And I don't mean tranquilizers and muscle relaxants. I mean through acupressure (acupuncture with a veterinarian), aromatherapy, red light therapy, dowsing, myo-fascial release and massage. All of these techniques release chemicals called endorphins (for many of us is like eating chocolate) which makes them feel euphoric, calm, relaxed and safe.
Once a horse learns that you have this power and you can give them this shift in emotions and feelings they will trust you and your bond will deepen. From this kind of relationship comes confidence and acceptance of education. Ultimately you will see your horse's personality be fully expressed. Your horse will enjoy a newly found freedom through you.
Although I have not tried many of the techniques Mary mentions, I think that not only does good calm training also accomplish this chemical interaction and bonding but Endotapping totally focuses on this with a clear endorphin release. I feel certain she would add it to her list if she were aware of it. As one continues to work on the Endotapping the horse reacts more and more readily. It can then be used in a variety of training exercises that help the horse to relax into their gaits and improve the reach and fluidity of their movements. Karen Rolf uses a similar exercise walking with the horse on line using her hands to help position the horse in better postures and looking for the relaxing and dropping the head as the horse becomes more comfortable in his own body. The Endotapping in my experience is easier for the novice horseperson in some respects and it really is like a switch. I can be working on an exercise that might be a little difficult for a horse, pushing him a bit to get where I know we need to go may upset the horse. Horses sometimes just don't think that they can move in the way that we ask so they resist and tighten up. With the Endotapping, I can push the horse to the place we need to go keeping him less tense and then immediately relax him with Endotapping helping them see that they can indeed do what I was asking and at the same time erasing the upset. It is truly amazing and can be used in ground work as well as under saddle.
Look for workshops in the near future
FOR AN EXCEPTIONAL SCIENTIFIC DESCRIPTION AND REPORT
BY DR. CINDY REYNOLDS ABOUT ENDOTAPPING
AND THE BENEFITS
PLEASE CLICK THE BUTTON BELOW
All beginnings require that you unlock a new door.
--Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav
Riding, Training and Emotions
Sometimes you learn things quite different from what you were expecting in situations. I participated in some lunging seat work a while back and came to some interesting conclusions that had nothing to do with my seat. The trainer that I was working with was very knowledgeable and I trusted him in the work. However my fear levels were hindering my work on the lunge line. Perhaps because I lacked balance in my seat and control of the horse on the lunge, I felt even more vulnerable than usual. In any case the more I thought about the train of events afterwards the more I realized how my feelings were probably very similar to how a horse would feel in a similar training situation.
This trainer was purposely pushing me to my limits, as any good trainer will do, and although I understood that, I still had an adverse reaction to it. As he pushed me too far beyond my limits, I shut down and mentally could not think. Believe me, being on top of a bounding; large striding horse which by the way was also making pissy faces at other horses in the arena is not the time to shut down. Fear took over completely and I was gripping onto the horse like a mad woman, literally hanging on to the front of the saddle with both hands and squeezing with my legs—which, by the way, is pretty much opposite of what I should have been doing. My mind totally shut down and I could not do what the trainer was requesting that I do no matter how hard I tried. My mind was locked up. The horse, being a school horse, was forgiving and I lived through it, but not unscathed. In fact, I was quite shaken. The next day, as I arrived for my next lesson, I was very apprehensive and somewhat fearful of what the trainer might have in store for me. I was definitely not having fun nor was I learning what I had come for. Not to mention that I had paid a good bit of money for this instruction and the travel involved. It all worked out in the long run but this experience made me realize that the horse probably feels exactly the same way I felt in similar situations when the trainer pushes too hard or too much and does not realize they need to back off. Now I have some powerful emotions and feelings that I actually felt myself to correlate to.
One of the first requirements we all hear in training horses is calm. Although that made sense to me before it now makes much, much more sense to me. If the mind is in turmoil, there is no learning. In order to teach, we do have to push to the edge of comfort zones, but I found that we have to be very careful how far we go lest we push too far, just as my trainer had done with me. Some horses, just as people, have higher levels of self-preservation thoughts than others and one must carefully monitor this. In the case of a braver horse or rider the push might send them into a break through with quick improvement and learning. With the more fearful and timid horse or rider it may be too much and actually cause a shut down and then a back slide in performance while confidence and trust is rebuilt. Perhaps one would say well that is just a part of training. That may well be but after my experience on the lunge I will try very hard not to push a horse or riding student to that emotional place because I know first hand how awful that felt. I would not wish that feeling on any man or beast. The fact is what I learned in that session was to be fearful of my trainer and his judgment—not to mention that I felt pretty much a failure because of my inability to perform as required. Would in not have been better to take a little more time than to cause that kind of stress. Based on this experience, I will take more time. AND next time I might speak up more if I can. Thinking back though I don't think that I was capable to. I was literally locked up in my mind and body.
There is a thought within me too thinking that because I tend to be more timid myself and that although these feelings make sense to me; they may not make sense to someone that is more brave and outgoing. Due to the nature of the horse and it’s herding and flight instincts, I would wager a bet that more horses probably feel the way that I do verses the opposite, making this very valuable information. It is interesting too, that this incident would be the first thing that I would write about after several days of truly enlightening instruction on a variety of riding tasks. Hmmm. That says volumes in itself as to the impact that it had on me. Do the horses feel the same? Something to definitely think about.
Leadership vs. Obedience vs. Respect vs. Understanding
This is one area that I think is the most important in training, riding and working with horses. In my studies and practice of working with horses and students, I find it can be difficult sometimes for handlers to determine exactly what is going on and what is needed. There is a fine line between having the horse respectful and obedient and perhaps the horse just misunderstanding. It takes a good deal of practice to figure out which it is. Most horses are pretty willing to do what you ask if they understand what you are asking. Many horses are accused of being stubborn or disrespectful when actually they just don’t understand what the handler is asking of them. Of course there are some horses that are spoiled and have been allowed to do whatever they please when ever they please. These horses aren’t too receptive to being asked to do anything much the same as a spoiled child. Depending on the personality and degree of spoilage these horses can be quite opinionated about anything that is asked of them that they don’t particularly want to do even though they understand perfectly what the handler is asking. Boy that’s a mouth full but very important to know as both of these situations, misunderstanding and disrespect, can be potentially dangerous if one doesn’t know how to read the horse’s personality and expressions and know what to do to handle the situation. This is why the ground work is so important. It helps reveal these problem areas with the handler safely on the ground. One starts quite a distance from the horse to observe the attitude of the horse by the expression that it makes and actions of its body. By reading the expression and actions one then determines what is required to help the horse become more agreeable or understanding. More on that later. First let’s learn about the horse’s expressions and body language.
This subject can be quite complex and takes a good deal of time spent observing horses to become fluent at it. It is helpful to have someone that is knowledgeable to help decipher what is what. I know this because I’ve had students totally misread a horse based on what they thought was pinned ears when in fact the horse just had his ears turned back listening to the rider. I have also had students admit that when I pointed out a subtle movement that they at the time did not actually see it but said that they did. In time they realized, quite excitedly, as they kept working with me that they too could begin to read the horse! There can be subtle differences but once you learn the differences and become aware they are in fact quite dramatic. Humans are not as in tuned to body language as horses are. Many times a horse has told its owner that it is thinking about biting or some other unsavory behavior by its expressions but the owner didn’t notice the warnings the horse is giving by his expressions. Sometimes the horse will build on that lack of response of the owner’s and it indeed acts on its thoughts by biting or running over the owner. Knowledgeable horse persons will nip such thoughts in the bud as soon as they see expression indicating these thoughts so the horse is much less likely to act on them. Horses being herd animals living in a herd are very familiar with the rules of the herd and abide by the rules of the herd unless they were raised as orphans without being taught the rules of the herd and how they should behave in the herd. It is paramount to the herd's safety that the rules are followed. This is true even in our backyard herds. There again horses taken out of a more natural herd setting kept in boxes and alone may not understand herd dynamics so need to be monitored carefully and introduced carefully.
Horses that are agreeable normally carry their ears softly. Sometimes they are forward. Sometimes they are pointing one to one side to listen to something. Sometimes they are both pointing out to the sides if they are unsure about something. Sometimes they are back as mentioned earlier listening to the rider. Sometimes they are stiffly forward if something catches their attention and startles them. They may be fearful too when the ears are stiffly forward. Agreeable horses tend too to have what many people call a “soft” eye. The lid above the eye is softly wrinkled and the eye has a calm look about it.
Nervous horses seem on guard much of the time. They are quick and agitated. They tend to want to immediately run verses check something out. Their eye has a troubled look to it with the wrinkles above the eye more concentrated and hard looking and many times the whites of the eyes showing. Please note that paint horses in particularly many times show the whites of the eyes but it is just a part of their breed. They may not be fearful--another exception to the rule to be aware of.
A horse that is disrespectful may pin his ears tight to his head along with sneering nostrils and tight lips when asked to do something he does not want to do. For example canter on line, canter in the round pen, going into his stall, you not turning out to pasture quickly enough, you not dumping his feed into his feeder quickly enough, etc. He might try to move you by coming too close to you. Some might actually run into you, disregarding your space. A sharply swished tail (keep in mind flies cause swishing tails so look for additional expressions) in response to a cue is a sure sign of annoyance and is many times accompanied by pinned ears and sneering. Some of the easy to read signs of disrespect are a horse that strikes, kicks, bucks or rears. Here again though if these actions are uncharacteristic of a particular horse’s personality, i.e. he normally is willing to do what is asked of him without the expressions described above, check out the saddle that it fits properly or some other physical problem. Is the rider too harsh with their hands? Are spurs being used improperly? Does the horse understand? Is the horse physically capable of doing what is being asked?
Once you have seen both personalities they will become clearer to you.
For safety reasons respect and calm must be established. A respectful horse is much less likely to bite, kick or run over you even if they are fearful and perhaps panicked. A calm horse vs. a fearful horse is less likely to harm you as well. The difference in the fearful horse is not domineering but truly is in fear for its life and will do whatever it feels necessary to stay safe. As Pat Parelli says over and over on his tour stops, “Folks these horses are looking for leaders.” Disrespectful and fearful horses generally will become respectful and calm if we, as leaders, are able to move their feet in all directions in a non threatening way. In a herd, that is how the horses discover their place in the herd hierarchy. They are moved by the other horses or maybe not if they are the herd leader. A domineering horse will require more assertiveness than a fearful one. Briefly, I like beginning in the round pen which is my preferred start with establishing leadership with the horse as there is less chance of injury to the handler by not being connected to the horse with a lead rope/line. Lunging can work but can also be challenging for a beginner to handle the long line to stay far enough away to be safe. The round pen work is fairly simple once learning the body language. It also seems to make a big impression on the horse that we can control them with nothing on them—no halter no rope, etc.—they are naked. Part of that I believe too is that it round pen work very much mimics herd behaviour so they understand it immediately. Once the round pen work is done successfully then the horse is usually safe to put on-line. There are a variety of exercises moving the horse’s feet on-line that help to further establish our leadership and their partnership. The exercises are also very beneficial for addressing asymmetries in the horse and are good exercises for the horse in general to begin learning balance.
Let’s go back to misunderstandings. For example in using the rein aids. Say I ask a well trained horse for a shoulder-in. As I pick up the inside rein I feel weight in my hand instead of a light response to my request. Is there a problem with the horse’s balance? Have I asked incorrectly? Is my balance affecting his balance? Does he not understand? Or is he just ignoring me for some reason? My natural tendency to fix this problem is to become more firm in my hand. Now the horse is leaning even more on my hand, so I attempt a half halt by raising my hand. The horse is still heavy on my hand so I raise it even more attempting to lighten the response to the rein. Now I’m in a fight with my horse, he is uncomfortable in his mouth, my balance has been affected by my more forcefully raising my hand, yet nothing has improved.
As I’ve gained experience I realize that the first element of my request should have been a light response to my rein aid. The fact is the horse basically ignored my request and did not give to the rein aid for whatever reason. A tap on the shoulder would probably have brought the horse’s attention to me and he would have answered my request and would have lightened to my feel on the rein. From there the neck and then the shoulder would have softened allowing the body to bend and the energy to engage the proper muscles to lift the ribcage and then my shoulder-in would have probably been performed, that is if the horse remained light and attentive. My point here is that we tend to try the same thing over and over with no result; or other things but with firmer and more forceful actions, in an attempt to get the end goal/movement to work. What we really need to focus more closely on what is not working—starting with the first element. We tend to focus on the end result instead of the pieces leading up to the goal. Had I, in the above example, focused on that first piece (the horse not giving to the bit pressure) not working, I would have never gotten into a fight with my horse. In that process I was showing him my weakness in attempts to change his way of going by force. My job is to work smarter using the posture of the horse so that he never realizes my weakness compared to his strength. There is a distinct progression of the aids that must be in place one after the other before they will work gaining the end goal.
On the other hand, had this horse not been as well trained, my question of does he understand my request, might invoke a different approach to fix this problem? If I determined that my answer was no to that question then I would go back in my work to help the horse better understand my request. Perhaps clarifying my request by revisiting the flexion and bridle work training for a longer period of time would have solved the problem. In the early stages of training it can be difficult to determine what the problem actually is. As you gain more experience it becomes easier to sort out.