Thursday, January 22, 2015

Covering Ground with Ground Work

I worked with the horses from sunrise to sunset yesterday.

First, I trail rode Lostine, which I already wrote about.  Then I took each of the other three horses to task in the round pen.  The day got windier and windier as it wore on, so the horses had to contend with the weeds, bushes and trees swaying and rattling, as well as the neighbor painting.

Bombay remembered all of his ground work exercises.  He was stronger on one side than the other, though.  This is what baffles me about him.  He's so good with his ground work, and then I get in the saddle and he acts like a green horse.  I guess I will just start riding him more in the arena and round pen to make all the cues from the saddle second nature in what he perceives to be a safe environment.  Then maybe he will be easier to slow down and stop on the trails.  My biggest problem with him over the past few months has been that he loses his temper when I tell him to slow down or stop, and then he starts bucking or threatening to buck.

Does anyone have a good training technique to share that is a calm down cue from the saddle?  Bombay could use it.

While lunging Bombay at the lope, a duck quacked and he came to a screeching halt and turned to look at me like, "What did you say?"

I burst out laughing and said, "It wasn't me.  It was a duck."

Apparently, the speeding neighbors who bought a rooster have now bought themselves a duck.  They originally said they were going to get a cow, but I guess they decided a cow was just too big for their parcel of land.  So, now our neighborhood sounds like an Aflac commercial.  Ducks crack me up.

Anyway, I told my daughter this story and said said, "Oh my God!  Now the old 'stepped on a duck' excuse is valid."

Gabbrielle was the softest, most responsive horse.  I forgot that P.S. had taught her several things I don't normally work on, so I was surprised that when I "beat" the ground with the whip by swinging it in a circle next to her to teach her to relax around scary stimuli, she began side-passing.  I decided to let her, because at least she was side-passing in a relaxed manner.  Ha ha.

I just love her slow lope.  You may remember that I spent years trying to get her to slow down when I lunged her, because she would gallop as fast as possible and her legs would fly in all directions with no sense of coordination.  P.S. and the horse trainer taught her how to carry herself, and lope at a slow, relaxed pace so that she doesn't kill herself or somebody else.  She still carries herself like a giraffe at the trot, but she's better about bringing her head down at the lope.  It's nothing like you see with Quarter Horses, who can practically lope with their noses to the ground, but for Gabbrielle to carry her neck at an angle instead of straight up in the air is a big accomplishment.

All the horses handled having a whip "helicoptered" over their heads, which is something I haven't tried before.  Rock was exceptionally lazy about loping.  Anytime I fiddled with the camera, he transitioned down until he was moseying around looking for a patch of grass to graze on.

I made up my own training method to help a horse stay out of your space and halt on command at the same time.  Maybe it's already in some trainer's program, but I have no prior knowledge of it.  What I did was lead Rock while walking backwards holding a carrot stick out.  Rock walked toward me and the carrot stick.  When I said "whoa" he had to stop his feet before running into the tip of the carrot stick.  If he hit the carrot stick, I backed him up across the round pen, which he didn't like because it was hard work.  If he did not run into the carrot stick, he got petted with it and praised.

While I was working with him, some people driving by stopped and got out of their car to watch.  They used the fence at the back of my property as bleachers.  Maybe I should hold horse training clinics.  I wouldn't even have to advertise, because it seems that at this time of year every time I work in the barn, arena, or round pen, people just show up to watch.

Maybe I can train Rock to carry a hat around to collect tips.

It sure would be nice if I could take the time to get set up for sunrise and sunset shots that don't include power lines, but I tend to take them on impulse without any planning, and I'm usually at the barn at sunrise and sunset.  My property is surrounded by power lines.

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