Thursday, February 12, 2009

Young Horse + No Distractions = Training Success

It's amazing what you can accomplish with a young horse when you don't have high winds and other distractions going on around you. After the endless spooks and bolts from yesterday, I did the exact same lesson today without experiencing more than a single spook, and that spook was definitely my fault. I blame my lack of brain cells.

I always go outside with a game plan, but on my way to halter a horse I get distracted by things that need to get done around the place, such as dwindling water supplies, tarp ties that need to be reattached, and blankets that need to be removed in the mid-day warmth. Then when I actually get around to haltering Gabbrielle for our leading lesson, I forget what the game plan was.

So, I walked her straight up the RV lane to the front of the house, through the gate, up the driveway, and onto the street. The entire time she was walking on a loose lead totally relaxed and I was thinking, "I'm just going to keep going since she's in a great state of mind."

Then up popped the head, the tail flipped up over the back, and the snorting commenced. "What the?"

I couldn't hear anything over the roar of a truck engine, but here came Bombay galloping around the barn toward us. Gosh dirn it! Now I remembered what my game plan was! I was supposed to tie up the other horses before taking Gabbrielle for her walk. I turned Gabbrielle around and took her back to the house, tied her up, and then tied up the others. I knew this was no guarantee that things would go smoothly, because at the same time Bombay had been galloping around the barn toward us, a truck driver decided to pull a U-turn on the street we were walking on. Since both distractions happened simultaneously, the experience was that much more intense for Gabbrielle. It must have felt like she was being attacked from all directions. Despite that, she held together pretty well. At least she wasn't running circles around me and rearing like last year.

We began our walk again, only I had lost that nice, relaxed loose lead I previously had. She was definitely on alert, but it helped not to have other horses charging us and trucks turning around on the street. We were able to get further off the property than ever before. Oh, we didn't walk for blocks and blocks, just a few feet further than ever before, but an improvement none-the-less.

The other change I made was holding the riding crop in front of her chest. I was trying to use it as a cue that she needs to slow down if her chest touches it. It did help a little, but one technique I found to be really crystal clear was tapping her front legs with the rope if she takes a step after I say whoa. As soon as she saw me bringing that rope down to her legs, she remembered to stop moving her feet.

I can't tell you how nice it was to just spend 15 minutes walking my horse without her jumping on top of me. My next major goal is to get her to stop pulling on the lead rope.

Sorry for the lack of pictures. I have them all stored on another computer that I don't have access to at the moment.


fernvalley01 said...

Sounds like a good lesson, we all goof up ,sometimes ,not a biggie all things considered.

Katharine Swan said...

Yay! Progress!!! :o)

How old is Gabbrielle, by the way?

Saddle Mountain Rider said...

Keep working at it with consistency and your pony will be "stylin'". I would really like to see some more pix, if you can access them, because this is good, helpful, interesting stuff.

Leah Fry said...

I HATE that when you get buzzed by the buddy!! If I want to ride one horse on the property, I have to put the other one in the round pen or we'll get harassed in the lessons. And both my horses do it. Used to be just Poco, but Jaz does it too.

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

The story behind Gabbrielle is that I bought her as a yearling. She is now four-years-old. You shouldn't start Arabs under saddle before the age of four unless they are really big and have filled out well. She has always been tall, but petite. She's had a saddle on her, but no rider, and has been longeing and ground driving since the age of two. She has great ground manners when it comes to grooming and tacking up, but she's always been difficult to lead. She pulls and tries to get ahead of me in her juvenile excitement to go places. Her dam was an endurance champion.

Katharine Swan said...

NM, Panama is 3 1/2, and we also got him as a yearling. We're pretty sure he is part Arab, though we don't know any particulars about his breeding, since we rescued him from backyard breeders.

I'd never heard that about not starting Arabs until they are 4. What is the concern -- the shape of their back, their shoulders not having filled out yet, etc.?

We started Panama when we was about 2 1/2, but it was pretty light work (and still is, really -- I'm not a frequent rider), and I did get the vet's approval first. Like you, we started lunging him around 2, and I originally intended to wait until he was 3 to start riding him, but he caught on much more quickly than I anticipated. He clearly loved the challenges, so it seemed natural just to keep going with the training.

Anyway, that's funny Gabbrielle and Panama are so close in age. Puts a lot into perspective, too, as I didn't realize she hadn't been ridden at all yet. Panama has gotten better about leading, especially in new places, since he's gained more experience under saddle. I think it gives them more confidence. He used to try to rush me too, but the biggest problem was that he'd try to lean on me when he got nervous.

I look forward to hearing about your progress with Gabbrielle!

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Katharine - Don't quote me on this, but I vaguely remember that it has something to do with Arabs growing at a slower rate than other breeds, and with them being such small horses in the first place, trainers recommend not putting too much weight on their spine and legs until the age of four. My trainer agreed last year she was still too small to ride.

Katharine Swan said...

NM - Really? I'd always heard the opposite, that it was the cold-blooded breeds that took the longest to mature. Hmmmm. I think this justifies some further research. I'll let you know if I find out anything interesting.

Breathe said...

I know what you mean about the charging - we have a donkey in a nearby field that loves to charge Canyon and he finds the entire experience unnerving.

Then he spooked at a cow hide. But that's another story...

KD said...

You are much more ambitious than I am! I have two horses to ride, but usually wind up riding my favorite 90% of the time. Good luck with Gabrielle's ongoing training.

Jenn said...

I stick with the 4 years old rule before riding with every breed. None of the breeds has finished growing entirely before four...their knees are still "open" and they really have developed their muscles fully before four.

That being said, everyone has their preference. A lot of people ride them at two because they need to get them trained, shown and sold. I believe that if you have the time, give 'em that two extra years to develop fully and you'll have a sounder horse longer.

I need to take Gabe for a walk down our road. We've gotten to the end of our driveway, but I haven't ventured down the road yet. I think once it dries out a bit more we will. With company, of course! He does so much better when my hubby takes his mare on our walks. :P

Lulu said...

This sure is a wonderful post to find after being away for a while! Congrats! Progress!!!

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Yay! More success with beautiful Gabrielle! Makes you feel so good when she picks up the things you're trying to teach her, eh?
I'm so happy for you!

Oh, and my mare sometimes would get a little over eager about going for a walk, too. What worked for me, was stopping her the second she pulled or moved ahead, and then disengaging the hips several times. If she didn't get it after we resumed our walk, I'd stop and do it again.

She rarely did it again after that initial reminder. But I'll keep that in my arsenal of tricks for the future. hehe
Maybe that would work with Gabbrielle, too?

Or what other techniques do you typically use for pulling or moving ahead of you while being led?