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My Join-Up® Experience

Shattered His Trust

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Hi All,

I made a mistake (or actually probably a series of mistakes.)

 This is all on me so I don't want anyone to think I'm blaming anyone for any of this but myself.

If you remember Mijo and Mija are my two paints and I love them with all my heart, it has been a bumpy road with them, they are about 5-6 years old now.

This all started back in Aug 2020. There's a "Hand" at the ranch "Horse Company" where I keep the horses who said he would ride them both for me for a small fee each. I was like sure, someone thinks they can ride my "wild" horses I was all for it. I am just too old to be getting up on an unstarted horse, I'm not in my prime anymore, twenty years ago I probably would have done it myself but enough excuses. I paid him to ride them, and he rode them once each and neither one of them bucked, he said. I was not there at the time he chose to ride them. He did not tell me he was going to do it then or I would have tried to be there for it. I want to be there for everything with them, but he didn't tell me until after the fact and more or less just sent me pictures. Which, at that moment, I thought was a good thing for them. I did not see any real change in their behavior at that time. However, he did say it took him about an hour to catch Mijo in the field, that he basically chased or followed him until he got him cornered in one of the corners and then finally caught him and harnessed him.

Nov/Dec 2020 The round pen went up for use at the Horse Company. I took Mija in there a few times. She was not hard to harness in the pasture, and is still not today, even wants me to do so she will even let me do it from over the fence on the outside while she is on the inside.

I took Mijo in there once. He has never been hard for me to catch, From day one when I got him back when they came to the Horse Company last year I've periodically harnessed him and took him out of the pasture, not real often, but as my schedule and so forth will allow. Maybe harnessed him half a dozen times and played with him in the pasture and 3 or 5 times taken him out, either to the hitching post working with his feet or just walking around, I did take him once out last summer/fall for the Ferrier. 

About this same time Nov/Dec I took him to the round pen and did join up, which I thought was an absolutely perfect join up and follow up. Did not have a hard time harnessing him at all, he did great with his groundwork, leads, backs up, all that.  I did not do anything else at that time, took him back to the pasture, and let him go, he seemed happy.

Then, I bought a harness/rope set and I love it, turquoise and silver, kinda shiny, and he decided he did not like it. (Mija loves it, harnessed her with it today actually...) Anyway, he let me put it on him once but then started getting spooky about it.  

Then he wouldn't let me harness him with anything, and I was thinking "live by the principles of join-up even in the field" so when he wouldn't let me go up to him and moved away from me when I tried, (which never happened before) I moved him away, rope and long line in hand and sent him away. A bit I chased him to try to get him to join back up with me and he wasn't having it. So I didn't catch him. 

Even though every time I go there he still whinnies and comes right up to the gate (they both do) when I come and/or whistle for them.

2021 The winter storms came, and I couldn't work with them through all that cold so I shored them up with sweet feed so they would stay warm (they don't have anything out there but a big tree to hide under.) I was struck with covid, in Feb, and the whole month from late in Jan to the end of Feb I couldn't even go see them. The "hands" took care of them for me while I was very ill. I finally got well.

I went back to work about two and a half weeks ago and started going back out to see them first part of March. If I so much as go walking out to the gate with rope/harness/longline whatever in my hand (anything other than feed or grooming things) Mijo will go away. 

There were a few times this happened where I chased him with it in my hands but never did catch him, on one Sat I chased him for 3 hours in the 5 or so acres, til I thought my feet were going to fall off and never did get him to do join-up in the field with me, never did catch him.

If I even hang the tack on the gate post he is tentative about it, hesitant, if I reach for it he will go away. Mija is not scared at all, loves the attention, and will let me harness her from outside or inside as I said before, her behavior has not changed at all, or actually, I think it has improved.

A week ago, (Sat today) so last Sat, took some honey out and kinda showed them what it was, Mijo was not trusting it, and I think only got a little taste, Mija loved it, I just put a little on the rail where they could get a taste for it and she really liked it.  One of my close friends was with me, and I tried to get Mijo with the harness and the long line, but he wasn't having anything to do with it. I didn't run him off, I was trying to be very gentle but eventually, he just went off on his own while I was playing with his sister and paying her attention and never came back over to the gate area at all. I didn't go chase him when I started to walk up he started to walk away I quit and went back to the gate. We made our plan to build a catch pen at the gate the following Sat, (today.)

Tuesday I took the curry comb and brush and nothing else, no tack or honey. Mijo let me brush him from outside the fence and Mija loves being brushed and the attention, well until he runs her off from me. He gets very jealous of my attention on her and often gets in between or runs her off.

Thur I went out to them as I usually do before work, took some honey and the curry comb and brush and a wooden spoon with me, Mija did great with it, took it just like the videos on the Uni, (like a bit.) She loved the honey. They both let me brush them (again not in their space) but from outside the fence. Mijo was not having anything to do with that spoon. When I was getting ready to leave the "hand" that rode them happened to come up and struck up a conversation because I had originally paid him to ride them more than once and he has not done a second ride and did I still want him to do that? I said no, and told him about Mijo's behavior. Well, he thought he could go out there in 15 min and catch them, so I said ok, go try. 30 min later and three loops (some at high speed) around the pasture, neither horse was caught, I called the "hand" back because I had to go to work and I knew at that point it wasn't going to happen, and I had to go to work at that point I was running late.

Friday went out again, did not take anything but the brush and curry comb with me, and just spent some time loving on them and grooming them from outside the fence.

Today, built our catch pen at the gate, Mijo did great, but I was afraid to go in there with him because I didn't want to get run over or kicked, there is enough room in there though, it's the width of a gate and length of a panel. We worked with him from outside the fence, my friend on one side and me on the other, and just tried to "desensitize" him and show him that the dually halter and the long line were not going to hurt him. Then changed to the blue rope halter (his halter and lead which is much shorter but not the blue and silver one he decided he hates, a different one.) And we rubbed that on as much of him as we could get close to concentrating on his head and neck. 

One of the other owners came by a friend of ours and I guess he must have been watching me and asked if I wanted that halter on my boy, I said sure I did! He went right in the catch pen with him and harnessed him, not aggressively at all, but slowly and talking softly and just harnessed him and left. I thought that was really nice, I guess I've just heard too many times people say "those horses will hurt you" even though I've ridden and been around horses all my life I still am a bit cautious, and perhaps too much so. We were then able to work with him rub the rope all over him, both sides. Really, just head, neck, shoulders, back, not the legs yet or derriere. So then unharnessed him, dropped everything on the ground, and went and had a break. When we went back 10-15 min later, I went right in like my friend and harnessed him again not fast, not aggressively but moving slow and talking softly. He let me do it and again we rubbed the lead all over, and this time rubbing the long line all over on him, and again, took the harness off and let him have some time to process.

When we went back I took the shiny turquoise and silver one, which he even reacted to it when I walked by him to his sister who was hanging out farther down the fence line. She let me harness her, just put her head right in, her inside the fence and me outside, she loves the attention.

We turned Mijo loose in the pasture, took her in, and groomed her, I didn't want her to feel left out.  He couldn't run her off because she was then inside the catch pen. So that worked out.

I know this is all my fault that his trust is shattered and he's now afraid of the ropes and tack. I hope that I can get him over it by summer cause I really want to be able to ride them both this summer.

As always comments and suggestions are always welcome! Thanks for reading I hope it's not TLDR.



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Forgot to mention in that first post above, When I took him out for the Ferrier, he wouldn't do his back feet, and when Mijo started to spook a bit with him, (they (the Ferrier and his mom) wouldn't use the dually and then wouldn't let me hold Mijo for the work. Which I knew was a mistake cause I already trained him to stand still for me and to pick up his feet but with the dually and not with the rope halter, which is what they were using. At any rate, Mijo started to spook a bit and back off from the Ferrier and he had to "go with him" so then he was using the rope to lunge him around. I cautioned against that as it had never been done before to him. The mom said "It's so he could think about where his feet are." and didn't stop doing it, but he didn't get his back feet done either. I never invited them back.
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Hi again,
Today is Sunday, and we went out to see them, they always come to the gate and today they didn't when we drove up. Mijo whinnied like he usually does and they moved toward the gate a bit from where they were hanging out down toward the big tree but they did not come to the gate.

That concerned me and as we made our way to the gate they still did not come up. They usually beat me to the gate from where I park. After a few min of waiting to see if they would, I went out into the pasture with nothing in my hands, just my gloves on, and did a join up with him in the pasture, which he did great.

I just walked circles in front of him and when he looked at me I would turn sideways to him and hold out my hand and he would sniff it and I would pet him and move off from him. I only had to do this a couple of times and I had him following me and he followed me all the way to the gate, nearly beating me there. When he saw my friend he went to the gate and I was able to close the catch pen gate behind him. That was good.

I went up to the tack shed and got his harness and lead and the dually and one long line. We did a little bit of holding it out to him letting him get the scent and taking it back from outside the pen and then after a few minutes I went in with him and basically did the same thing from inside. After a bit of that, I started rubbing the lead on his neck and tried to get both sides doing that, when he seemed relaxed I let the line slip over his neck, and then it was no biggie to get the harness on once he knew he had the lead around his neck.

Once that was accomplished I led him a bit in the catch pen and told my friend to open the gate and let him right out into open. Took him into the open area and did a figure 8 leading him and backed him up and let him have a moment to process on the other side of their water troughs where the green grass is growing and let him have a min or two to process and get a bite or two of that green grass and then my friend did the same thing with him. After that, I took him back and we led him into the round pen.

We worked a couple of hours in the round pen, just trying to get him to let me rub him all over with the lead, which was fine as long as I had it clipped on his harness. I went to the ground and above my head with it, he would lift his head didn't really like that much and I repeated that until he was a bit more relaxed and did it on the other side. Everything I did on the left I tried to repeat on the right. After a while with that, I wanted to take the lead rope off the halter but it was tied on so tight I couldn't do it inside, had to take the whole thing off him in order to take it out to my friend who worked it until he could get it off the halter.

We have another rope in the same color with a bull snap and I put it on the halter and went back in and was able to harness him again pretty easily with it. Then I just tried to work him again as I had before but I had unsnapped the rope and had my friend tie that and the other one together to make them longer.  He was pretty ok with me rubbing it all over on him from both sides, well then I tried the ground to sky and he did not like that the first time, and on the second time he basically bolted and took off running the round.

He did laps of his own volition, I did not try to send him on, in fact, I tried to slow him using the fingers clasped down close into my body and not making eye contact, shoulders soft. It did not work he wasn't slowing down. I dropped the lead, again just trying to get him to slow, when he realized the lead was on the ground he went faster and even buck/kicked a bit. That scared me, it's not a very big round pen. His smaller circles at high speed scared me too, I don't fancy getting ran over by a 1000 lb wild horse at a gallop or even a walk for that matter. I put my hand out to try to get him to change direction but again I didn't want to get run over so that didn't happen. and I could have changed his direction if I had picked up the lead but I didn't want to reinforce running from the rope, so I did not. Finally, he slowed and stopped and I did a join up with him. He followed me and followed up in both directions. At that point I went out of the round pen took the lead with me and left him, just had to process what had just happened and I needed a break. Which I am sure he did too.

When we went back over my friend went in with him and just tried to go up to him and get a follow, which he did and rubbed his hands all over Mijo and then took the lead in and rubbed it all over on him, both sides, finally clipped it on and led him around a bit. Then we took him back to the pasture, a bit of the green grass as a chill point between, a few moments in the catch pen, led him into the pasture, and let him go.

Tried to get Mija to come into the catch pen, but just ended up loving on her from outside the fence and grooming her bit with the curry comb and brush. Again he came and chased her off from me but then lost interest and she came back up. Did a bit more loving on her and after filling their trough we left.

From the round pen today I learned a lot about what is going on with him. I definitely did this to him. Not intentionally but he definitely believes ropes mean "go away"  as does lifting my hands, this is not good. I have to undo what I have done as far as that, I do not want him "going away" every time anyone lifts their hands, like a little kid on the side of the road might do the "mommy, mommy, mommy" thing with their hands to the sky, I could see this sending him reeling. Also, I don't want him running from the rope every time he sees it or every time someone happens to raise one in their hands.  This is a learned behavior, that I did not mean to teach him.  I guess I just need to de-sensitize it out of him.

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Yesterday (Tuesday 3/23/21) 
I went out yesterday morning and they both came to the fence/gate area, I whistled as I came up and they responded like they usually do, coming right up to get love. I go out every other day during the week in the morning just to make sure they have food/water, that everything is ok with them, and spend a little time bonding. I did some grooming from the other side of the fence. Mijo is still a bit leary and I really think he wants me to come in there with him. Mija loves it and will pretty much move along the fence as I ask her to and turn about for me with a little coaxing so I can do both sides of her.
These horses are my heart and soul and I don't want anyone to be mean to them or abuse them in any way.
I have one friend who said he would ride them, but I'm not sure about him, he's already shown me last summer that 1) he won't listen to what I say and as a result, I got hurt. 2) he will hit a horse and be mean to a horse if the horse isn't doing what he wants. So I hesitate to even let him do anything. I watched him trim someone else's horse's hooves and when the horse moved in a way that he didn't want the horse to he hit the horse in the stomach repeatedly until the horse moved back, yelling at the horse the whole time. That is not how I want my horses treated. So that's pretty much out. Besides that, he wants more than I can pay to ride them anyway and isn't keen on taking payments.
The other "hand" that rode them once each when I wasn't there, that I mentioned in my earlier post, is an option, but I really would want to be there if I let that person do it because I'm not trusting of anyone with them now after all this.
I've been thinking about Monty's option of a "counseling session" but the cost of that is a bit prohibitive to me too at the moment.
I guess I just plug along and hope for the best.
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Hi Tara. You're a bit younger than me so I understand your assertion that 20 years ago things would have been very different! Friends don't need paid to help - possibly reimburse costs yes but not paid. Clearly this man has little regard for your wishes & is doubly foolish - no regard for safety and fixed in old fashioned, violent ways. I suggest you consider a different option. You have a great deal of knowledge, gathered over the years but now you're not so nimble. You could offer a young person, teenager, the benefit of your experience & the opportunity to bond with your horses & immerse themselves in Monty's methods in return for youthful assistance. You must be very clear at the outset just how 'green' your horses are & that whilst unnecessary risks will be avoided there are no guarantees - horses are big enough to be dangerous even without the intent to injure. Also, these horses belong to you & this young person has access to them only under your supervision. Make the point that you have a violence free approach to horse training which is not open to discussion & your word is final. The ideal would be to create a training partnership so that you both grow a relationship with these horses that all of you can enjoy. It's a golden opportunity for your rescues & you to promote fairer horse treatment in the future - leave a bit of a legacy as well as enhancing the present day training. Such an arrangement has worked for me so it's worth considering. Cheers, Jo.

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Ah Hello, Jo,
That's a great idea! I will certainly keep my eyes open for such a youth, though I can't think of one at the moment perhaps one will come into view.
In the meantime, I shall plug along.
I was talking to the friend that came in and harnessed him and left in my post above, fellow horse owner. He's got 3 horses at the Horse Company across the pasture. He says, "you cannot make a mistake in the round pen," and said, "whatever you can do with them is good for them." He's told me a lot of things over the winter, and some of what he says I don't agree with, but some I do. He's our age too, and has a young filly he's working with.
Oh, how I wish I could have started these ponies younger! Though Mijo had groundwork done by the old Mexican man, and Mija's spent at least 3 months with a "trainer."
Perhaps it's just I should be braver!
My tack is coming in the next few days, I went ahead and invested the money in it because I don't fancy borrowing other people's stuff. You never know when something might happen. 
Going out tomorrow morning, but I imagine it will be the normal workday routine. My good friend and I are going out this weekend and I have every intention of taking Mija to the round pen and seeing what I can do. Perhaps even saddling her up (not riding, just saddling,) if I get brave enough.
Mijo this weekend, I'm not sure what I plan to do with him, still thinking on it, perhaps more desensitization.
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Hi again,

Went out this morning and both horses seemed to be their normal selves, beating me to the gate and Mijo jealous of Mija. He always snarks at her and runs her off when she gets close to me. 

He is still a bit cautious and pulls his face away. Though I think that's because of his white face getting sunburnt, and I'm getting him a UV mask for this summer cause I can already see that starting to happen around his pink mouth. 

I don't remember him being "ear shy" before but he seems to be now. My friend (the other horse owner) thinks they have been abused, but I can't imagine it, still again I blame myself for the time I wasn't with them and have no idea what other people did. I just hope I can get them over it.

I didn't go in except to get the feed bucket, just mainly hung out with them from the other side of the gate/fence today.

My tack came today and the bit I bought is not going to work with the bridle, I have no idea if the saddle is going to fit yet or not, but they won't be ready for this tack for a few weekends anyway. There's some other tack I'm thinking of trying this weekend that's the Horse Companies' tack. 

We'll have to see how that goes, but I really want to at least saddle her (or both of them,) and see what kind of desensitization I can do with them. It's the ideal anyway, a goal whether I reach it or not.

I did finally get a surcingle! That was one hard piece of equipment to find! I hope to be using it on them very soon because when I'm too old to ride I at least want to be able to drive!

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Hi again,

I'm happy to say; I just got a lot more time at least for the near future to be with the horses! I'm excited about this for sure!

I went out to see them today twice actually, had to move the hay ring and went into town and got a plain jane stainless snaffle (egg butt I think) for the bridle. 

Of course, they beat me to the gate both times!

Mija is doing great, she is very calm and responsive to everything in such a positive way I'm really pleased with how she is behaving. I'm looking forward to seeing how she does with a saddle and perhaps bridle tomorrow. Think I'll work on picking up her feet a bit beforehand and then also see how she reacts to the lead being rubbed all over her.

Mijo blew me away today, he didn't act head shy at all. I introduced a new brush to them, a mane brush, and at first, he was like, "what is it?!" then he was like, "oh I like that" then it was, "don't stop," and moved in closer. I was able to scratch him behind the ears with it and even played with his ears with my hand and he let me get good feels on his pole. He even released to pressure on his pole. Which is like he always did before all this happened.

This leads me to believe I just scared the bejeebers out of him trying to run him in the field with the rope to get a join-up in the field (not how to do it I found out later) and then again throwing my hands up with it in the round pen, (again not how to do it.) I guess you could say he's teaching me alright! Throwing one's hands up with a rope definitely means "go away"  which may not be a totally bad thing, as long as he isn't actually afraid of the rope itself or a person throwing their hands up, but the combination of the two... time will tell.

Looking forward to tomorrow!

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Today Mijo got very little attention. It was all about Mija. I took her in the round pen and just did some ground stuffs. She let me pick up her front feet. Then my one friend came, he needs money and I need the horses ridden, it’s a fair trade. He worked her in the round pen much better than I do and saddled and worked Her a bit more. She bucked a little with the saddle. Then he rode her, she bucked a tad. He used an old fashioned hackamore. I don’t care for them so much, they are super stiff, strict, and pokey. However, didn’t seem to be causing her pain so I allowed it. She did amazing. I laid out the foundation rules beforehand and he did what I asked, and didn’t cause her any pain. We’re going back out tomorrow.
Should be fun,
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Again today Mijo got little attention, and it really seemed like he didn't want any. He can see the round pen from the pasture and is somewhat interested in what is going on with his sister but he's leery still of everything it seems. 
Mija did great! She didn't buck at all with saddle or rider and she learned a lot. The guy helping me with her is still using the snaffle but tells me maybe one more ride with it and he will probably put a bridle on her. We will see how it goes. Such a beautiful horse. I definitely want to do some desensitization work with her before he takes her off on a long ride. Just not trusting of that yet.
I can't wait to see what the guy can do with Mijo.
We are scheduled to go back in a few days.