Saturday, April 3, 2010

More Learning

Thursday was more or less and nice repeat of Wednesday. Except Robin came, so I wasn't pretending to be anything other than myself.

It was sunny and very, very windy. Sham was lethargic on the lead line and that gave me a little bit of trouble. We are changing some of our groundwork tactics with Sham because he doesn't quite respond to the cues in the same way that Steen does. So Robin explored some rope swirling as a way to engage Sham and get him to move, and I went to get Steen for a ride.

The rope swirling is something we picked up from a Horse Hero video of British horse behaviorist Richard Maxwell. Maxwell is my new favorite trainer. His methods are simple, productive, and watching him work with a horse is pretty amazing. He is cool as a cucumber and very relaxed, but he still commands a lot of respect. If you haven't already, I recommend checking out his videos. The Horse Hero subscription has been well worth it for us.

Steen, again, was a dream. It was crowded and busy inside but he just stood quietly while I got him ready. In the arena he would occasionally look over at Sham trotting and kicking around on the line, but he wasn't bothered by it and never veered from his line. We're getting to be better and better buds.

Friday stormed, so I stayed in all afternoon and read Buck Brannaman's The Far Away Horses.

It's true, Steen lets me hug him like Brannaman does, but I'm no horse whisperer yet

I am very interested in learning new training methods, but it can get tiresome reading "how-to" books over and over again. So I was excited to encounter some tales of real life horse training. Buck goes through the ups and downs of his life and the numerous horses he has worked with over the years. I'm a bit of a literary snob, so I can't say it was extraordinarily well written, but I can say it was entertaining and informative. I would love to read more books like it, and I'll definitely pick up his more recent Believe in the near future.

Saturday we woke to clear skies and pretty, white, puffy clouds. The water also brought out some more intense green in the grasses. I'm sure this made the horses happy. At the barn we worked exclusively with Sham, and today was the first day in a long time where I did 95% of the handling. He continues to be easy to catch. Both Thursday and today he wandered off on my first attempt to halter him, but he only went a few feet away, and I was able to get him willingly haltered in about 2 minutes. I'm very happy with where that is at.

In the outdoor arena I worked on the rope swirling to get Sham to move and then on standing comfortably out of my space. He got pretty good at that by the day's end.

After we all felt relaxed we brought him inside and put him into the tie-stall. He doesn't love it in there. We think because he knows it is a precursor to getting the bit in the mouth. And the bit hurt his mouth sores, which he doesn't know are gone. So he fidgeted off and on while I groomed him. If he moved his feet I put him right back into place, but the milder head tossing and lipping at things I just ignored (Maxwell's big on ignoring the annoying behavior that cries out for attention, and so far we've had pretty good luck with that. After a minute, it stops).

Putting the saddle on was a little trickier. He kept pushing forward to get out of the tie-stall (he was tied, don't think we left him loose), and eventually he pushed all the way out and started swiveling to and fro in a rather uncomfortable manner. This is when it is nice to have Robin. She deftly grabbed the rope, pulled it off the post, and walked him around, disengaged his hindquarters, and backed him right back into the tie-stall. He continued to be pushy, but we countered that and finished with the saddling.

Then we brought the rein-less bridle out with us to the arena. I calmed him down with some simple groundwork and easy standing. Then the two of us worked the bit into his mouth. We lured him with grain, and this worked quite well as what we were asking of him was so associated with his mouth. He never tried to walk away, but he did hold his head pretty high. It will continue to take a little while for him to realize that his head sores are completely gone and the bridle no longer bothers him.

Today was a big step in that direction. With the bit and bridle on I continued to do groundwork, and he didn't mind at all. And with all those positive moments we decided to untack him and put back out in the pasture.

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