Thursday, January 3, 2008

Hands-Free Leading II

Breakthrough! I went out to the paddock on my lunch break while my lunch was cooking on the stove, thinking I'd put in a few minutes lunging and leading my 3-year-old filly Gabbrielle. Just last week I was having trouble with her pinning her ears back while I walked her on the lead rope, barging ahead on the lead rope, charging me and kicking out to the side during lunging, and even rearing up at me when I turned my back to her. After the rearing incident, I decided that it was imperative that I work with her every day on my lunch break or right before her bedtime. Gabbrielle is at an age where she's still very young, yet old enough to be challenging my alpha mare and me for a higher ranking in the herd. Those hormones are kicking in and she has made it clear that she wants to be in charge.

Today I quickly haltered and tied her to a post, attached her splint boots, removed her blanket, released her from the post, and free-lunged her without a rope in the round pen. Keeping the lunge whip pointed just behind her tail and my shoulders squared off with her shoulder, I moved her around the pen in both directions at a walk and a trot. I had been using the words "walk" in conjunction with a tongue-cluck and "trot" in conjunction with a kiss-sound with her each time we changed gaits during leading with the rope, so she followed the commands in the round pen without the rope fairly well. Since I had to get back to my lunch on the stove, I only lunged her for five minutes, lead her around with the rope for about two minutes, tied her to the post, removed the splint boots, put her blanket back on, and released her.

That's when the breakthrough happened. I began walking around the round pen picking up tools, and realized that Gabbrielle was walking on my right side just where she would be if I were still leading her. I looked at the lead rope and halter hanging in my hand, and decided to remove it as a factor, throwing it over the fence. Even without the halter and rope in my hand, she continued to follow me. I then moved outside the round pen, leaving her inside, and began moving empty food troughs around in the paddock. I realized that Gabbrielle was still following me, only this time on my left side and with railings between us. I continued going about my business, moving to different locations in the paddock, and she continued to follow me the best she could.

The next step will be to get her to follow me without the lead rope and with both of us on the outside of the round pen where other horses are present. If I can do that, leading her into her stall hands-free should quickly follow. Stay tuned for Hands-Free Leading III.

DISCLAIMER: Please note that I am not a horse training professional. This is a blog in which I share what works and doesn't work for me and my horses. What works for you and your horses may be different.


photogchic said...

Isn't that a cool feeling to have your horse that connected? Very cool and exciting progress. It is clear you re-enforced your leadership role with your round pen work and you had her attention and respect. Love her color--very flashy:-)

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

That connection is what it's all about. The picture is of Gabbrielle as a yearling. She's much lighter now and forming a nice dapple pattern. Both her sire and dam were white as white can be, so it is fun watching her change from a very dark gray, almost black, to varying shades of gray to white.

Twinville said...

How exciting to read about you and your horse's breakthroughs! What an amazing relationship you two are creating together.

Well done!