Sunday, July 5, 2009

Review of Horse, Follow Closely by Gawani Pony Boy

iconiconI recently promised a review on my newest horse book, Horse, Follow Closely by Gawani Pony Boy, and here it is.

In my first post about this book, the informal review, I talked about some of my revelations about my relationship with Panama making up for my lack of riding skills. This was a big moment for me, when I realized that I was getting stuff done with Panama because he understands and trusts me.

The book is a great, easily readable combination of generally written advice, personal anecdotes, relationship-building exercises, and even a few native legends. There are some great ideas in the bbook, and I will most likely read it again — once my mother-in-law is done with it, that is!

The book is great, but I was especially pleased with the DVD that came with it. (Not sure if the DVD comes with all editions of the book, so be sure you check before ordering it online!) The DVD has lots of stuff that isn't in the book: additional training exercises, including basic training from the ground up, trailer loading, etc., and clips from talks Pony Boy has given.

One thing I found especially interesting about both the book and the DVD was his talk about her dynamics. Pony Boy says in both the book and the DVD that in order to have an effective relationship with your horse, you must be the alpha over him or her. I was incredibly pleased about this, because this is something I've been saying for a while. It was very validating to hear it from a world-famous natural horse trainer.

On the DVD, he expanded this somewhat to explain that you being the alpha, and your horse being the beta, is why your horse occasionally jockeys for control. He's challenging your alpha status, which is a perfectly normal thing for a beta to do. There's a funny clip where Pony Boy talks about the omega, which is the bottom of the totem pole, the one that gets picked on and acts as a release valve for the stress the alpha puts on the herd. He says that's why so many women's husbands complain about their wife's horse not listening to them: The husband takes on the role of the omega, an outlet for the horse's stress at being beta. It was a funny segment, and if you can get your hands on this DVD, I highly recommend watching it!

More seriously, though, I think Panama (who is most definitely the omega in nearly every herd he's been a part of) is not really beta with me. Occasionally he steps up and challenges me, but not very often. I think he's so used to being picked on, that he retains his passive submission even when it's just the two of us. He's omega to my alpha. It's kind of funny, but it explains why he is so sweet and obedient most of the time!

As I've mentioned before, I'm not 100 percent on natural horsemanship, but I think there are some really good things to take away from it — the same with any training method. This book and the DVD that came with it both reinforced certain ideas about how I related to my horse, and gave me some new ideas for things to try. To me, it is hugely valuable as a training book because it explained what it is I'm doing right in some cases, and gave me a nudge in the right direction in other cases. And that's exactly what I think a good training book should: Fine-tune your overall philosophy of working with horses.



At July 5, 2009 at 5:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not so sure about the alpha stuff - Mark Rashid's approach is a little different - he believes in providing leadership to the horse but not in a dominance sense. I've seen Pony Boy at a horse expo, and his way of working with horses is interesting and worth understanding. I try to take the best from all the effective horsemen and women I've encountered. My daughter only rides her mare Dawn bareback as a result of hearing what Pony Boy had to say.

At July 5, 2009 at 5:30 PM, Blogger Katharine Swan said...

The way I understand it, Pony Boy seems to be saying that in order for you to provide effective leadership, your horse has to respect you as the alpha, because that's what the alpha does in the herd -- leads. It totally makes sense to me. I don't think he's saying that you always have to be this domineering, overbearing figure, but that you have to have the confidence and the status in the relationship with your horse that s/he will naturally follow your lead.

I've also been riding bareback more since reading this book and watching the DVD. Pony Boy is right, communication is much more effective that way. The only problem I'm encountering is that Panama is still young and not very broad, and my balance isn't as good as a more experienced horseperson's would be. The combination makes me a little uncertain about keeping my seat at the trot or if he spooks.

I do agree with you about taking the best from each different philosophy. After all, that's essentially how all these great horsepeople developed their philosophies on training -- by combining different methods, borrowing ideas, and perfecting something that they found worked for them.

At July 5, 2009 at 9:36 PM, Blogger Nuzzling Muzzles said...

I was given two copies of this book as a gift, and both DVDs were corrupt. They must have come from the same botched batch. I could only see the first couple of sections and then the DVD would get stuck, no matter whether I put it in the DVD player or in different computers. I did a review on the book a while back too.

At July 5, 2009 at 9:54 PM, Blogger Katharine Swan said...

NM, I found your review! (For anyone interested, it's here.) I loved your story of seeing Pony Boy at the local expo! May I be so lucky someday!


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