Saturday, November 12, 2011

Let the Training Begin!

By the end of the winter, I’ll have two more riding horses.  That’s what I told myself this morning as I commenced the winter training program for Dee and Stormkite.  

The siblings, realizing I'm up to something.
Dee has been in pre-ride training before, actually a couple of times, so I’m restarting her, again.  Re-restarting, you could say.  Stormkite, on the other hand, has had basic leadline training, and some round pen training once-upon-a-time, so he’s starting pretty much fresh in the pre-ride groundwork.

Dee stood patiently for the grooming, saddling and bridling.  She’s an old-hand at all that.  When I plopped my 38-cm Duett on her back, I noticed it seemed to fit her very nicely, and, as if to show she agreed, she did not squirm around or try to walk away when I tightened the girth.

Dee in the Duett.
For the longe-line work, she was her usual hyper self, paying more attention to what might be happening in the barn than with my commands.  I did get her attention by refusing to hold her up while she zipped around, her weight on the line, and she cooperated by gaining her own balance on the circle.  I like it when they work harder than I do!

After she listened well enough to follow my command of “walk,” both ways (good work by her, as she just wants to race), we did a little ground work where I asked her to yield to my pressure this way and that.  She cooperated, so soon we called it good, and I put her away, retrieving her little brother.

Uhh, not exactly the nice, round bend I'm looking for.
Stormkite cooperated through the grooming, and I took him out for the longe-line lesson.   This is quite new to him, and he is very one sided, so, while going counterclockwise (left), he did OK, but in the other direction we had a balk at the same place, over and over.  It was always at the one spot where, in the circle (a very loose description of the shape he was  trotting), he started to turn away from the barn. 

Again and again he got a correction, and I had to pull out the BIG TRAINER. I haven’t had to get big like that lately.  The mares and I are so used to working with each other that I rarely need to pull out the big.  I can use the small most of the time, sometimes the medium, but rarely do I have to be the BIG WALL OF TRAINER.   
Stormkite keeps himself bright white, unlike the girls.

I worked patiently with him as he tested me, bumped into the BIG, and then complied.  As we did this, I mused that it has been a while since I have worked with one who resisted so much before trying to answer my ask.  But they were all like this at first, before they trusted me, before they realized that what I was doing with them was a bit of a puzzle they could solve if they tried.   Stormkite wanted to do what he wanted to do, and when it didn’t match what I wanted him to do, we had a bit of a conversation, and then he realized he needed to do something different.  When he happened to hit on the right thing, he got praise and the big trainer got smaller, so he would keep doing that.  

First time a saddle has touched his back.
Stormkite wasn’t at the point today where he actively tried to decipher what I wanted, he was mainly just reacting to pressure and the release of pressure.  And that’s how they all started.  Then they go back to the stable and think about it.  No, I’m not anthropomorphizing here.  I’m quite certain they think about it, because most horses will come to their next training session acting as though they have been practicing in their heads, ready to show you what they can do.  And I’m sure Stormkite will be the same.  He’ll be better next time, not perfect, of course, but he will start to understand the game.

Our work was a positive first step in our winter program here on the hill, the start of good things to come.

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