Monday, November 28, 2011

Learning respect

I have managed to put a fairly sizable dent in the big man's belief that he's the boss of me.

There is definitely something to be said about good, solid groundwork that keeps a horse moving and thinking and constantly responding that gets their little equine minds working good and hard. Not only did I require him to use his brain quickly and frequently, the poor guy worked up a sweat and I wasn't asking him to do anything terribly strenuous!

We did lots of yielding the haunches, changing direction, backing away from me, halting as soon as I asking and popping over 12" crossrails with quick changes of direction after each little jump. Lots and lots and lots of lip-licking as well as him having "two eyes" on me the entire time. It took a bit of work to get him responding correctly, but once he figured it out, he was asking how far? How fast? Which way? each and every time I asked him to move his feet somewhere else. And most of the time, I never touched him...just pointed to where I wanted him to go, moved his haunches with my eyes and body posture and moved him backwards by lifting my hands and "marching" my arms. I asked him things in rapid succession to keep his brain working, then gave him a chance to stand and just think about it afterwards.


After 20 minutes of groundwork I got on and worked exclusively on him yielding his neck without moving his feet. "Control the body and you control the feet." He's never really understood just giving me his head/neck without moving his feet, a la' Clinton Anderson. This weekend, he finally got it. Sure, we did lots and lots and lots of little circles with me only releasing his face the instant his feet stopped moving. He threw a few fits because he didn't understand at first, but once he got it, he GOT IT and relaxed while he yielded his head and neck. Yay! More success! So, he's begun to really understand the lateral suppleness, relaxation and yielding...we'll work on that a bit longer before I start introducing longitudinal suppleness, relaxation and yielding. Bit by bit, body part by body part, we're putting it all back together and fixing some of the holes that I've found.

I wish I could work with him every day, but this danged fall/winter lack of sunlight and abundance of mud makes that a big of a challenge. Not to mention working and going to school at night. Ugh. Big outdoor lights, even a floodlight or two, would make my riding/training life so much simpler.


  1. Great job! Bet he didn't know what hit him (so to speak) ;)

    I'm trying to rig up some outdoor lights as well - hard to scoop poop in the pitch dark!

  2. Perfect practice makes perfect... atta boy Gabe!

  3. I totally agree with you about the lights. The dark months certainly do make training hard. Seems like you're making the best of it though. He'll be a whole new horse come spring!

  4. Good stuff!

    Ground work has helped me a lot for sure. One of the recent lessons I had was from a Dressage trainer who asked more about what we did and made suggestions along the lines of what you're doing with Gabe. Surprise them little, see what horse is really in there.

    The other thing she did with me was sort of the opposite of what you were doing with his neck. I'd pick up the rein close to and out away from his mouth and he had to move his hindquarters over. (I'm in the saddle of course.) It took a little while and some sensitivity to him, but he got it and it's been a really good exercise for us.

    Keep at it!