September 4, 2014 Training
Equine Training for
Law Enforcement and Animal Control
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On September 4, 2014 we held one of GERL’s periodic
trainings for Law Enforcement and Animal Control
Officers. Since I was responsible for organizing the
event, I have to say I was nervous. Without the help of
Lynne Yates I would not have known what to do. A huge
Thank You to her for all of her guidance. Miss Anne took
care of the registration and that was also a big help.
We were grateful to have over 20 officers in attendance.
If you have never seen what goes into one of these
presentations you should volunteer and attend the next
one in your area. Lynn did a great job with the GERL
presentation. She gave a short history of our
organization and outlined the programs we provide to
help horses in many ways.
Lynne’s presentation was followed by Mat Thompson, GDA Equine
Director. He spoke about the basics of handling and
interacting with horses, explained how to body score a
horse, and gave an outline of the responsibilities of
the GDA Equine Division. Mat did a great job of pointing
out why we need more Law Enforcement involvement in
equine abuse cases.
After his lecture, we all went outside for some hands on
work with two horses from the GDA Mansfield Impound. At
this point, everyone became even more attentive. GERL
had provided all of the officers with weight tapes and
part of Mat’s demonstration included instructions about
how they are used. It was easy to see that many of the
officers had not been that close to a horse before. Many
began asking questions once they were around the horses.
Many of the officers were given donated halters and lead
ropes in the event that they encounter a loose horse. We
are very grateful to Tractor Supply in Monroe for
donating several new lead ropes. When everyone had taken
a turn practicing haltering, weight taping, and body
scoring, it was then time for lunch.
The volunteers had prepared some awesome food. Linda Kundell
brought Black Bean Soup and Brownies. Anne Ensminger
brought Vegetable Soup and Crackers. Cynthia Anderson
brought a great salad. We had Lemonade donated by Chick
Fill A in Monroe. My daughter, Danielle and I brought
the breakfast food. Rose Williams helped us out as well.
After lunch Kevin Hearst who is a Field Supervisor/Chief Cruelty
Investigator for DeKalb County spoke. Let me tell you no
one was sleeping during his presentation! He knows his
stuff. He did a great job of detailing how to
investigate and collect evidence for abuse cases in
order to insure successful prosecution.
The final speaker was Ms. Sherwin Figueroa. She is an
Asst. District Attorney for Cobb County. Sherwin is an
outstanding speaker and is all about prosecuting
abusers. She informed the officers how they can help
their District Attorney’s Office prepare successful
cases against abusers by thorough documentation
including photographs, and protecting evidence. She let
it be known that she is willing to share her vast
experience dealing with abuse cases with any law
enforcement agency or District Attorney’s office in
All I could say was WOW at the end of the day. I am
proud to have accepted the job of GERL Education
Director. It is GERL’s goal to sponsor three Multi
County Meetings per year. I look forward to being
involved with the next one. I cannot overstate the
importance of our volunteers. I can’t imagine such an
undertaking without them. I also want to thank the
Walton County Extension Office for letting us use the
Walton County Agricultural Center near Monroe for our
Once again thanks to everyone that helped and I pray I
did not forget to mention someone. If you are interested
in helping to put one of these meetings together in your
area give me a call so we can decide on the dates and
make sure all of our speakers are available.
You might remember that, for me, the most important
element in Monty Roberts’ Join Up is that the choice to
join up, to trust, belongs to the horse. It is not
forced by the human. And when the horse makes that
choice freely, of its own free will, everything changes.
No-Agenda Time takes longer than Monty’s Join Up (which
usually works for him in 30 to 40 minutes). Our No
Agenda experiment with our new mustang Saffron took 35
days, but when it happened everything changed, like a
flash, right before our eyes. Everything! As if she had
just flicked a switch.
When we adopted her she had never willingly touched or been touched
by any human. She would eat hay near my feet so long as
I was sitting down, but if I stood up she was gone. And
if I dared to attempt to touch her she was gone. And she
came to us pregnant with a baby conceived in the wild.
Before we picked her up we had already decided to do
absolutely nothing with her until, by her own choice,
she had accepted us. Until she had told us very clearly
that she trusted us. We began No Agenda Time on her
second evening here. We chose No Agenda Time because I
believe that the more fearful the horse, or the more
abused the horse has been in the past, and/or the less
experienced the owners (us), the better it is to have
less contact and thereby less chance to make a mistake.
Also I’m lazy and No Agenda Time is definitely the lazy
person’s Join Up.
Had we introduced our first mustang, Noelle, to No
Agenda Time right at the beginning and made no moves to
attempt anything with her that could even possibly evoke
a fear response until well after she had, of her own
free will, committed to trust us, I believe things
would’ve been very different with her. But No Agenda
Time had not entered our imagination at that time. And I
made mistakes with her that caused fear, lots of it, and
cost us years.
What we didn’t know then is that every fear of human is caused by a
human. The current human, or some past human. Somewhere.
At some time. And therefore can be associated with all
humans. (See Born Wild – Chapter 29).
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to meet a
horse who had never seen a human before? Never been
roped and jerked and pulled around by one. Never been
physically forced to do things it didn’t want to do. Or
was afraid to do. Never been frightened out of its wits
by a human. Or chased by screeching men on other horses.
Or poked, kicked, and whipped. Or electric shocked into
submission. Kelly Marks wondered. And she set out to
find such a horse.
What she found in Namibia were wild horses who had no reason
to believe they should be afraid of the humans they
encountered because they had never encountered one. And
as long as Kelly and her team never once did anything
that even approached causing the horses to be afraid,
they were never afraid. Never reactive. Kelly could rub
them anywhere, even in their ears. And teach them.
And ride them! (See the documentary:
That is simply the best lesson ever! Do not ever do anything
that could cause your horse to be afraid of you.
Unfortunately we didn’t understand this when our Noelle
arrived. Still she taught us a huge lesson. She taught
us about No Agenda Time. We just didn’t realize it at
the moment. Without the history with Noelle, exactly as
it happened, Saffron would never have experienced No
Agenda Time. Nor would she be where she is today.
Firestorm was born three days after Saffron arrived and
we were already doing No Agenda Time. Every evening we
sat in folding chairs in the paddock with mama and her
new baby… and completely ignored mama. There was always
a great deal of contact and imprinting going on with the
baby, but no contact with mama at all. We placed hay
close to our chairs and Saffron would munch it with very
few apparent worries.
I believe that No Agenda Time is best accomplished sitting down,
for several reasons. You are less threatening seated
than you are when standing. Staying seated naturally
restricts your mobility, thus your activity. The less
you move around, the less threatening you are. And the
less mobile you are the better the chance that you will
not look at the horse, or attempt to touch the horse.
Obviously the horse must be at liberty. A lead line
compromises her free will to choose. And No Agenda Time
should be with only one horse at a time (unless it’s a
mama and baby :) Placing good hay nearby, hay that the
horse really likes, causes the horse to draw closer than
she might otherwise do, and the closer she is with
nothing bad happening, the more she will relax and begin
to believe that you are a safe haven. We do not use
alfalfa in our regular feeding regimen because, in
quantity, it is not good for any horse. But they love it
and it’s different than their regular grass hay so we
use it in small quantities for occasional treats, like a
condiment, or as an enticement in an emergency when we
need a horse to move somewhere quickly, and we use it in
No Agenda Time.
With Saffron we started the alfalfa placed maybe six feet away from
us. When she got comfortable with that we’d creep it
closer, to maybe five feet away. Then over time we’d
move it even closer until it was eventually only a
couple of feet away. All the while completely ignoring
her, showing her no interest and making no contact
whatsoever. She grew more and more comfortable.
No Agenda Time can be accomplished with only one person
and a good book, maybe ear buds and some good music, or
maybe doing homework… but I definitely prefer it with
two people in conversation. That seems to emphasize the
fact that the horse is being ignored. Left out. It’s one
thing to be buried in a book and quite another to be
chatting, laughing, and not even trying to include the
horse, and I believe at some level that resonates. It
might sound weird but I believe the horse reaches a
point of wanting to be included. And, too, Kathleen and
I are our own best friends and we really enjoy being
down in the paddock with a couple of small jelly jars of
wine catching up on each others’ day.
No Agenda Time proved to be one of the very best things that
could’ve happened to our relationship with Saffron. On
various occasions, she reached up and sniffed both of my
knees… and my gloves… and more than once asked for a
I sniffed back but understood that she was just
exploring. It’s important to know that there was nothing
in that desire to sniff that said I’m ready to trust you
forever. She had not yet made that choice. She was
working her way in the right direction, but only
building through baby steps. I made no attempt to engage
her in any way and merely continued my conversation with
Kathleen. In other words I was leaving it completely up
to her. Rather than make a mistake I chose to make no
move whatsoever until she almost literally grabbed me by
the shoulders and screeched Okay, already!!! I’m in!!!
In other words, please do not jump the gun. Make your horse say it
loud and clear.
There was a time, not too long ago, when I could not
have resisted trying to push the envelope. Reaching out,
trying to touch her. Forcing myself on her. But I sat on
my hands, figuratively speaking. Because the moment of
Join Up had not yet occurred.
It wasn’t easy. I know I tend to say some things over
and over but this is so important. Relationship First
continues to be the key. And the relationship is not set
until the horse makes the choice, of her own free will,
to say I trust you to be my leader. And that’s when
everything changes for the better. How long will No
Agenda Time take?
When we started with Saffron we committed to take whatever time it
takes. And, for it to work, you must make that kind of commitment.
The horse, its history, you, the paddock all are
involved in how long it takes. I know friends who have
accomplished this type of Join Up in a month by just
sitting alone in the middle of a pen, studying for
college classes. Once a day, maybe an hour a day. And
then there’s our Noelle who has already taken much
longer than a month, but she has so much to overcome,
and she is making progress.
On a recent evening it was all was quiet and nice until Noelle
caught the rim of the tub with her lip and it lifted
maybe two inches off the ground. Before the sound of the
tub’s plop back onto the pea gravel had dissipated
Noelle was halfway across the pen.
We hope we can recapture what we had with her before the
move to Tennessee, and take it further. But it will be
on her time, not ours. By her choice, not ours.
Meanwhile we are thanking God daily for Saffron. And
Miss Firestorm. And that very special surprise on the
evening of my birthday. Day #35.
We settled into our chairs in the paddock in front of
the barn for our ritual No Agenda Time. Baby Stormy, now
one day shy of a month old, came right up for a rub and
a sniff and promptly dropped onto Kathleen’s feet for a
nap. That, too, was becoming ritual. Miss Saffron was
munching hay near our feet, appearing even less
concerned than usual about being close to us.
I was doing my best to ignore her, which, remember, is
what No Agenda Time is all about. But every once in a
while, when she would get really close, I’d use that as
an excuse to break the rule. “She wants me to touch
her,” I might plead. “I can feel it.” “You know the
rules,” Kathleen would say.
Two fingers onto her cheek for little more than a second was the
best I had ever done. Only once. If pressed, she would
walk away. If I stood up she would walk away.
We usually use Monty Roberts’ Join Up to begin
relationship. But the good things that occurred when we
spent this sort of time with Noelle after her Malachi’s
death encouraged us to try it with Miss Saffron. We’d
been at it for a month, sitting in the same place every
night, since the day Stormy was born, which was three
days after Saffron arrived; and we had promised
ourselves that once started we would pay no attention to
time. We would take whatever time it took.
We hadn’t been sitting long on this birthday evening
when there was a crunch behind me on the pea gravel
covering the paddock. A close crunch. I glanced up at
Kathleen. “Is she close?” Kathleen’s eyes were widening.
She nodded. “Very.”
My heart was skipping beats. I wanted so to turn and see. Kathleen
was easing her iPhone out of its holster. And suddenly
there was this marvelous tickle. Whiskers on my neck.
And a warm breath in my ear. Then a rub, cheek to cheek
so to speak.
I was frozen in place for a long moment. I didn’t want
to blow it. Finally I couldn’t resist. I turned slowly…
and kissed her on the nose. Then reached around and
scratched the off side of her face. “Hello Miss
Saffron,” I said softly. “Welcome home.”
She blinked. And blew me a long slow breath. I returned
it. Kathleen’s phone camera was clicking away. “Happy
birthday,” she said. “I told her it was today.”
My hand began to sneak up her face to the top of her head, sliding
over to scratch the base of her ear. A thumb slid inside
and rubbed and rubbed. Miss Saffron purred.
I didn’t know what to think. The best progress I had ever had with
any of our horses was incremental. A little at a time.
Even now, four years after Noelle came to us, I could
barely touch her ears. And only then on some days. I
wondered if I should attempt to stand up. My hand slid
down her neck, rubbing and scratching as it went. I felt
like a school kid on my first date, trying to sneak my
hand onto her shoulder. I scratched back up her neck and
eased into a standing position as I went. Saffy took no
notice. Suddenly I hit a sweet spot and she responded in
ecstasy, stretching, reaching for the sky.
Yes please! More, more! I scratched
all the way down her back to her tail bone, slid down
her hip, and underneath to her tummy and her belly
button, then back forward, and down her front leg to her
hoof. I was tempted to lift it, but probably chose
wisely not to. This was enough for the moment. Leave it
Dropping back into the chair I turned to Kathleen with
my mouth gaping open. Saffy rested her chin on my
shoulder and actually dozed off. “I’ve never seen
anything like this,” I said. “A few moments ago I
couldn’t touch her. And suddenly… like she just flipped
a switch… she’s in.’” “All in,” Kathleen grinned. “Like
I said. Happy birthday.”
That’s the day we discovered with Miss Saffron that negative marks
on a slate from previous humans can be erased. Wiped
clean. It just takes time. We allowed Saffron to take
the time that she needed to clean her own slate and when
she was done, like the wild horses Kelly Marks found in
Namibia, she was able to experience trust without fear.
Which is why we spent that 35 days doing absolutely
nothing with Miss Saffron except to feed her, and be
available. And, for 32 of those days, be sweet and
loving to her new baby.
How do you know which method to use? A traditional Monty Roberts
Join Up? Pat Parelli’s method? Or No Agenda Time? I
would say if you know that the horse has had some bad
experiences with humans who came before you, I would use
No Agenda Time. If you know the horse has had good
experiences with previous humans and is familiar with
halters, maybe even has been ridden, perhaps try the
traditional Join Up. With any mustang – my opinion only
– I would use No Agenda Time. Had we known when Noelle
came to us what we know today, and had we used No Agenda
Time back then, I believe things would be very different
Try it. But let the horse make the choices. Don’t be an
opportunist. Let it roll along like a family
conversation and ultimately the horse will begin to feel
very safe and trusting, and one day that switch will
flick on and everything will be different. In an
instant. And how terrific that feels.
As I write this, we are back at it with Noelle. Take two. We will
report.Oh, and once the relationship is in place, of the
horse’s choice, once she has said I trust you to be my
leader, then you must be a good leader. See Leadership
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