Endotapping and Effet d’Ensemble
My Tennessee walking horse, Ranger, does not like to calm down. It doesn’t matter if you are at home on familiar ground or on the trail. Sure, he hardly ever spooks and he never bucks or rears, but he is always tense. If something happens while you are on the ground or riding him, he starts to tune everything out. This makes schooling him, rather a challenge. So, my quest has been: How do I teach Ranger to calm down in face of his nervousness?
Up until recently, I hadn’t had any luck. As soon as I started to train him to do something, he would tense up, stick his head way up in the air, and ignore any cues I gave him. Any pulling on the reins was met with resistance. This was a very good time for me to learn that I could not over power a horse.
Over the past winter, I began endotapping Ranger from the ground. I just went into the pasture, haltered him, and began endotapping his back. It took him a while to learn to put his head down and, when he did, he would throw it right back up. So, over many short sessions, I worked at tapping him all over his body and having him keep his head parallel with the ground or lower. We did gradually make progress. He became a little more trusting of people and easier to catch.
This spring, I started riding him. That didn’t go so well. Since he doesn’t ever do anything “bad,” it was okay, but he was super nervous and very quick to tune me out. I started endotapping him from the saddle at the halt. It did teach him to relax a little, but that would quickly deteriorate if he got too nervous. He would just tune me, and the endotapping, out.
However, I then read a post on JP’s Yahoo Groups forum, 1Art of Training, that talked about Effet d’Ensemble (or comprehensive effect).
“Use the legs to hug him and stop him with the hand until the combination of immobile seat, held hand and closed legs gets you complete quietness and stands still. It is called ‘Effet d’Ensemble’ (“comprehensive effect”). You can use it for control and calming anytime you need it.”
I decided to try it. I rode Ranger in the round pen, halted him, and closed my legs, and held the reins. Ranger didn’t quite know what to do. He only tried to take a step or two before he halted. At the first sign of him dropping his head, I released the pressure. I praised him. Then I closed my legs and held the reins again. This time I waited for him to drop his head a lot farther. He quickly started to get the idea. While it wasn’t perfect, he would raise his head after I released the reins, it was a start. After a few repetitions of this, I asked him to walk of. Shock of shocks, he took some super slow steps! This was indeed progress!
Over the last few training sessions, I have continued to use both the endotapping and Effet d’Ensemble to help him relax and not tune me out. He has also gotten lighter and lighter on the reins. It started out that he would drop his head quickly, when I did the Effet d’Ensemble, but then raise it right back up. However, with the practice we have had, he now stretches down with his head and neck.
We still had problems when we would ride on the road. Today he wanted to walk fast or gait and not relax. I continued to do Effet d’Ensembles again and again, asking him to calm down. I would go back and forth on the road in front of our drive way. About the sixth time I headed away from the driveway, he dropped his head and gave a big sigh. I stopped him right away and praised him. Then I turned him toward home and down the driveway. You know what? He walked slowly toward the barn! Really, it was a big change. About half way down the drive, I hopped off, gave him some grass, and then walked with him the rest of the way.
For me, this has been a huge learning experience. I am so thankful to JP for being so willing to share his knowledge, both of endotapping, and classical dressage.