The Clicker Center
Early Lessons
Patience, Persistence and The T'ai Chi Wall
Part 10
Patience, 
Persistence, and 
The T'ai Chi Wall
I did my very best training when I knew the very least. I was surrounded by people who knew how to "get tough" with a horse.  They knew how to get the job done.  I was taking lessons at a hunter jumper stable that was run by a trainer who was at one point in his career top ten in the country in rodeo bull riding.  So when I say he knew how to "get tough", I mean it.  

What I knew was that I couldn't go down that road.  I couldn't get in a fight with a horse because I knew I didn't yet have the skills to win.  I had to find other solutions.  My trainer kept a string of young race horses.  I spent time at the track learning how to handle them.  When a two year old stud colt was bubbling over with energy - or in some cases - boiling over - I learned how to shank him into submission.  I saw lip chains used, and much worse, so I know the tools that can be used to make a horse submit.  But I also saw the damage that it can do, and with my own young thoroughbred I was choosing different solutions.
It was my own horses who taught me the lessons of persistence and patience. They are the pillars of good training. Long before I knew anything about marker signals or training with positive reinforcement, my horses taught me about small steps. 

I learned that no matter how small a step is that you're working on, it can always be broken down into at least ten smaller ones. And each of those steps can be made even smaller. Make the steps small enough, and eventually you will find a yes answer. That was the lesson Peregrine's mother taught me. She had neurological damage. Before I bought her, she was injured during what should have been a routine grooming session. The damage to her spine made it difficult for her to feel where her hind feet were. She taught me about small steps. She taught me that when you piece enough of those small steps together, they can add up to great things. And she taught me the most important lesson of all - that patience leads to trust. 

When I started working with her, I was greener than green, and she was a yearling thoroughbred. That was a lot of years ago. At the time of this writing, Peregrine, her only foal, is twenty-seven. I've learned a lot of skills over those years. Now when a horse is bubbling over, whether it's from enthusiasm, fear or anger, I have more tools in the "tool box" to help him. But I still don't want to get in a fight. I may have more skills, but I also understand even more how much can be done with patience and persistence. They are the pillars upon which good training is built. And they are the pillars upon which the t'ai chi rope handling is built.


Rope handling is an important part of clicker training. Throughout this course you've been watching examples of good rope handling. In this section I'm going to present a series of videos that tease apart the details that go into good rope handling. 

Some of you may watch these clips and think - I just want to have fun with my horse. I don't want to have to think so much. That's fine if you have an easy-going horse who isn't rattled by too much. But if you're working with a pushy horse, a nervous horse, a horse who is not very clear about boundaries, you'll find these details are the very thing that makes being around him possible. They are what keeps things safe and manageable so you can have fun.

One of my favorite quotes from the clinics came from a professional dog trainer who had recently bought her first horse. Mid-way through a clinic that was filled with rope handling, she declared: I never knew sliding down a rope could be so complicated! We all laughed and that became the quote of the weekend. It's not really that sliding down a lead is complicated. It's just that over the years the horses have been telling us that there are a lot of details that make a difference to them.

Clicker trainers thrive on details. We know that success is built in small steps so that's how we'll be building your rope handling skills. We'll begin without your horse. For this series of exercises all you need is a halter and a lead. 

Rope Handling
Patience, Persistence and The T'ai Chi Wall
The T'ai Chi Wall
Patience, Persistence and The T'ai Chi Wall
The first part of this course puts everyone on a level playing field. If you are greener than green, you can still clicker train. That's the beauty of this system. Use protective contact. Teach the foundation lessons well. Break your training down into small steps. Be patient. Be persistent. If you run into a problem, go back and review the principles of good training. The more skills you have, the more important all of this becomes. It's all too easy to substitute skill with a rope for patience and end up with a train wreck.

As you work through this program, you will be ready to tackle more challenging environments, more difficult horses, more complex tasks. You will be building your training on a solid foundation of basics. The pillars supporting that foundation are patience and persistence.

Now it's time to add to that clicker-compatible rope handling skills. I've referred to the t'ai chi wall in other parts of this course. Now we're going to look at it in detail.

You'll learn how to use it both as a basic safety tool providing "on the go" protective contact, and as an advanced training technique for developing balance and finesse.
Learning Goals for the Horse
Patience, Persistence and The T'ai Chi Wall
Your horse:

       will become comfortable with the use of the t'ai chi wall.

      will find his balance in his own space instead of pushing into you.

      will become a head-lowering champion with the help of the t'ai chi wall.

      will become very light in your hand but very connected to you when you lead him.
Learning Goals for the Handler
Patience, Persistence and The T'ai Chi Wall
You will:

       become comfortable with the use of the t'ai chi wall.

       learn how to use it with bone-rotation structure and finesse so you can let go of make-it-happen force.

       know how to use the t'ai chi wall to diffuse potentially explosive situations.

       know how to use the t'ai chi wall to develop softness and finesse in your horse's balance.
know how to help your horse find his balance in his own space instead of pushing into you.
       become more balanced yourself as you explore the details that make the t'ai chi wall more effective. 
       become very soft with your hands as you become even more connected to your horse.


Bottom line: You'll develop great rope handling skills to accompany the rest of your clicker tool box.





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Home
About Us
Introduction
Course Contents
Part 1: Intro
Part 2: Getting Started
Part 3: Loopy Training
Part 4: Foundation Lessons
Part 5: Teaching Strategies
Part 6: Training Plans
Part 7: Cues
Part 8: Chains
Part 9: Clicker SuperStars
Part 10: Rope Handling
Part 11: Riding Pt 1
Part 12: Riding Pt 2
Part 13: Riding Pt 3
Part 14: A Look Ahead
Part 15: Bibliography
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Intro
Part 10