What is w-holistic joining and how is it different from round penning? And why the “W” before the word Holistic? W-holistic joining invokes a horse’s natural instinct to recognize you as their herd leader without using fear or exhaustion, horses are wired to require a herd leader at all times, even in their herd of two, you and your horse.
In a round penning session the horse is under pressure to keep moving as a method of controlling his feet to establish the trainer’s leadership in the herd, he who moves the other’s feet first is in control. During round penning a horse’s natural instinct is a fear response due to be chased so the horse is looking to the outside of the round pen for an escape. A rope may be used to toss at the horse or a whip to scare him into continual movement. Once the horse responds in the way the trainer wants whether the horse turns towards the trainer when changing direction or stopping and looking at the trainer, the pressure is released by halting the chase letting the horse know that was the right answer.
W-holistic joining uses prey animal psychology to invoke the horse’s natural instinct to recognize you as their herd leader without using fear, exhaustion or needing a round pen. When a new horse arrives at my barn I release the newbie into my training arena. My objective is to invoke this new horse’s instinct to recognize me as his herd leader, which only then do I have the WHOLE horse focused and relaxed knowing he has a competent compassionate herd leader. Using the horse’s instinct is the foundation of holistic horsemanship Training the WHOLE Horse®.
To do a w-holistic joining I allow the horse to run around the training arena checking things out. This is a great way to introduce a new horse to new surroundings as he’s sniffing and visiting, curiosity replaces fear, while I’m standing in one area of the arena that I’ve claimed as mine. As the horse’s herd leader my berth is very wide, and I get the best of all the food and places to stand and things to look at; that’s what you’ll observe goes on in a herd while out on pasture.
Now the new horse is milling around the arena, and I decide as the herd leader “I want that spot” so I run off the new horse and I instantly turn away dropping my pressure because he just ran off giving me what I wanted, horses learn from the release of pressure not the pressure itself. The horse will probably toss his head, bucking or kicking at me, but he ran off nonetheless – I got what I wanted so I praise him verbally “good boy”. I don’t care if the horse is snotty during this process so long as they are not charging me – that’s a whole other article.
After a few minutes I decide “I want that space too” and run off the horse where he is standing. I don’t make any physical contact with the horse when I run him off, I simply thrust my hands towards him with a strong look on my face saying “go on” and perhaps slap a rope on the ground for added pressure if needed. In running off the horse I’m acting just like the herd leader which soon invokes the horse’s instinct to recognize me as his herd leader. Once the horse turns to me with an “oh you’re the herd leader, what do you want me to do” look on his face I immediately drop my countenance, and turn my back to him while praising him, “good boy”. I will then reach out my hand, lower my head and eyes, turning my body sideways walking up with my shoulder towards the horse praising quietly, no pressure. I will allow the horse to sniff my hand and then I’ll gently stroke his neck, just a stroke or two, and walk off. If the horse begins to turn away or run off as I approach, I will run the horse off making it my idea to move his feet which affirms that I’m the herd leader in control of his feet. If the horse follows me, I will continue praising him, stop and stroke his neck, and then continue walking while he follows. I will have him follow for a short period of time and then put his halter on for training and we are done with the w-holistic joining. This is also how you teach a horse to be caught though it seems counterintuitive it works because it is based on prey animal psychology, not human psychology. I’ve used w-holistic joining in the pasture and the horse quickly remembers I am their herd leader and will allow me to catch them. This answers the last question, why the “W” in front of Holistic, “W” stands for WHOLE horse, WHOLE mind, WHOLE body.
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Missy Wryn is a Dressage rider and Holistic Horse trainer working with the WHOLE horse. Specializing in problem and dangerous horses, Missy has developed Training the WHOLE Horse® techniques that are about creating a SAFER Horse and SAFER Bitless Ride while developing Deeper TRUST and AUTHENTIC Communication between you and your horse all WITHOUT using FEAR, FORCE, FOOD or DEVICES!!
Visit HolisticHorseAcademy.com for information about Missy, and her Training the WHOLE Horse® program. Call 888-406-7689 to schedule Missy for your event or clinic in your area, or email Info@HolisticHorseAcademy.com.