Sunday, February 21, 2010


Sham is a big, strong guy who is used to a firm hand. And over the past week I have been trying to be that firm hand. The problem is, I don't send very strong signals (I'm used to working with Steen and Cal, who really don't respond to a firm hand). Thankfully Sham is willing and tries to respond to me. But he does get frustrated when things aren't clear. Then I get frustrated when he starts pushing his weight around.

This is what happened shortly after we got into the arena this morning (we did have an easier time getting him haltered today, so that was good). He was a little nervous and started to get pushy. I worked on making him move. The problem was that I asked for many things over and over again, and sometimes in different ways. And I never really stopped to praise him when he did it right. I had certainly been praising him the last few days (I am excited he's my horse, and he is a very good horse, too), but I haven't been doing it enough, and more importantly, I haven't always been doing it at the right time.

Robin could easily see what was happening and volunteered to show me a few things. This was extremely helpful. I learned many of Clinton Anderson's groundwork practices over a year ago. But I learned them on Steen. And Steen is a groundwork pro (all because of Robin). But I never saw what these exercises looked like when the horse was just learning them. So today I got to watch Robin move Sham around and get very excited at his little progresses. Before today I didn't know that I should get quite so excited, and I also didn't know exactly what to look for. I was used to seeing Steen take huge, enthusiastic steps when I'd send him in a certain direction. Today I got used to praising Sham for starting to move in the right direction and having that head down "I'm really trying" look on his face.

And he responded very well to the praise. He loves the excited "good job." He also loves the big scratches and the big pats. Really big scratches and pats. Some horses don't like the pats, they are a little aggressive. But remember, Sham is a big, strong guy. He is far more masculine than I am. He likes those signs of affection that make sound. The ones where you firmly say "I love you man" but are also softly hitting them at the same time.

So today was another big step forward. Every day I'm learning new things about both Sham and my own horse handling skills. It is very fun.

Here I am getting some very good yielding to the right out of Sham. We've improved a lot at this.

And here I am explaining some moves to Sham, but he's more interested in Robin and the camera. We've obviously got a ways to go here.

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