Monday, September 8, 2008

Hunter -- 09/07/08 #1

Hunter is staying with Anastasia for remedial training. He'll return to Horse Haven Holler before winter, but for now, Anastasia will be writing his training blog.

I wake up Sunday, get a cup of tea and go out to view my peaceful kingdom with our new addition. There Hunter is, standing beside the fence grazing....the wrong side of the fence. He is calm while I halter him. Guess training will start immediately.

I tie him to the pickup. No real handling problems, but he is not as clear on his ground manners as he should be. He wants to lag behind, and is not always willing to go when I move. I bring out the bareback pad. He doesn't spook, but he shies when I touch him with it. I put it on the tailgate for his inspection while I get a towel.

I love towel training for a new horse. I let them smell it and I rub them with it and they quickly love the towel. Then I start rubbing their legs and draping it over their back, neck and rump. I rarely have any trouble with this step and it is an easy way to prep for the saddle. I flap the towel to make noise some steps away, tossing it in the air and spinning it. After a moment of this I move in with the 'quiet' towel to rub them. I continue this pattern, moving closer until either they get nervous or accept it readily. I always make sure I end on a point that there was no nervousness, for example I would go back out to the point they were not concerned and flap the towel.

Another thing I noticed when I observed Hunter's feet being trimmed the day he arrived was that he was not as nicely balanced as he could be. I worked with each foot, asking him for better balance and positioned him simulating farrier demands.

I have always heard that horses do not have a functional corpus callosum, but even if they do, any horse person knows that whatever you train to one side you have to do to the other. It is like there are two separately functioning brains. Much research is available out there on this. Assume on all of my posts that whatever got done to one side got done to the other.

I also have found that most horses will accept anything that has safely touched their legs. I work up to the leg touching on any equipment I introduce to the horse. Once they are seasoned, they seem to accept that if I bring it, the new thing will probably not eat them and trust me not to get them hurt. Still, even with a seasoned horse, I always provide opportunity to investigate something new.

Always I try to convey the idea that whatever is happening, it is no big deal. I frequently don't make eye contact during these stages and take everything as 'matter of course' - we just are doing routine jobs, the horse and I. It may not be the way others do it, but it works for me and the many horses that I have trained.

This training took maybe 20 minutes. In my younger days, I made the mistake of thinking that once I got a positive response from a horse, I should keep working right then to get improvement. That if a little training is good, a whole lot must be better. Those poor horses. I know I soured some, if not all, by this erroneous mindset. Now, I just try to elicit the first step towards the goal and then QUIT! It works soooo much better and I am always pleased at the next training session how much the horse actually understood.

This was not the end of Hunter's training for the day. But it is enough for one post. I will quit now so I don't sour the reader.


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