Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Hunter -- 09/15/08

Hunter got introduced to the lunge line and lunge whip today. I stroked him all over with the whip and he didn't care. Same with the line. I even threw it all over him and whooped and whirled and he could care less.

I knew tonight would be stressful from past experience with other greenies, so I spent a lot of time petting him everywhere and handling his legs and feet - which he is doing quite well now - so he would still think training is fun. Then we led on the off side to the work area. Previously, I have commented on Hunter's unwillingness to move at more than a mosey. Leading from the off side, I had the lead in my left hand and the whip trailing behind me from the right. When Hunter lagged or stopped, I tilted the whip so that it touched his hocks. He was very surprised and apparently thought someone was back there. No panic, but he sure caught up.

Whenever I start training on the lunge line, I always start out with the off side toward me. Horses tend to try to get their 'trained' eye - the left eye - toward you in unfamiliar situations so they can process the new info from the side they are most used to seeing you. Hunter was no exception.

He easily caught on to clicking/clucking at him. What DO you call that noise, anyway? But to keep moving and not eat grass, well, that required a touch - and I do mean barely a touch of the whip. The purpose of a lunge whip is to make your arms 'long' not to hit. For the first time since I met him, I saw the whites of his eyes. It was not raw panic, just a little spooking. I don't calm a horse when it spooks; that just teaches it that spooking will get it a reward. I don't punish, either; that just teaches it that training is horrible. I merely start over. We needed very few do-overs. Within 15 minutes he understood the rudiments of clicking/clucking, staying at the limits of the line without pulling or swinging the rear out, that walking is a desirable option at this point, whoa/stopping without turning toward me, voice ques, and that the lunge whip points toward the rear but won't necessarily touch.

Poor Hunter, I laugh at him almost every day. I hope he is interpreting it as something non-humiliating. He had the worst time figuring out where this touching was coming from. After he figured out it was me, it was like "hey, how did your arms get clear over here?". I stopped as soon as he was able to walk calmly on the lunge. On this lesson, I never do the near side the same day; too much radical newness for one day in my opinion. I will wait for the next time. I spent the next 15 minutes petting and scratching him in all his favorite spots so that he will still love training.

He is pretty smart. If he continues to learn at this rate, I'll bet this horse is broke by November.

-- Anastasia

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