Monday, December 17, 2012

How to Teach your Horse NOT to Pull on the lunge

Shaman, Rascal, Ranger and Black Elk All Mustangs from the Wild

All horses have one direction that is easier than the other, and some days are better than others. Our job is to help them become more balanced. Stretching on the outside and contracting on the inside. Today, Black Elk was not as relaxed and when asked to canter to the left, his less favorite direction, he cantered but pulled.
Rascal and Black Elk, the Butt Biter!

Now, he's big- 16-3, huge bone and well developed. When he's pulling it's a lot of horse out there on the end of the line.

So, what to do?

I started with having him walk and yield his hind quarters, then trot and yield his hind quarters. It's hard work, but when he's yielding, he's NOT pulling. So, once that was established, I let out more line and asked for a canter and VOILA! A beautiful round canter! No pulling on the rope, bending nicely, slow and round.

After a few steps, yes, that little, I praised him and let him come in for a treat.

Back again to yielding at the walk, the trot and once he relaxed into the trot, I asked for the canter and once again- it was just perfect!

I'd love to hear if this works for you as well.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

A Lesson From the Introverted Horse

Black Elk

Having had hot off the track Throughbreds, appendix quarter horses, anglo- arabs, I was pretty much unprepared for the Introverted Horse. At first he just seemed shy, then I thought perhaps he was a bit of a social geek, as the other horses often seemed to herd up and there Black Elk would be - all on his own. He didn't seem to mind being on his own so much, not upset by it. In fact, it was hard to tell what did upset him. Well, that is - until it was too late.  One thing was clear to me though -  HE DID NOT WANT TO BE PUSHED!

He was lucky to have found me for I was all about exploring draw and positive re-enforcement, clicker training and 'the pause'. I was lucky this was of interest to me, as otherwise working with Black Elk would have been very frustrating. Instead it has been

"wow, that's interesting!"

Rather than: 'what's wrong with him...?" He has taught me a lot about the Introvert - Horse and Human!

Today he taught me something new. I have long since found that working with my horses at liberty, companion walking and just hanging out with them for an hour or so, makes for a much happier training session on the lunge, or riding. I have grown to love this time so much, in the winter months it's how we spend the bulk of our time together. The minutes slip away, the horses all want to be with me, and I sing to them. Nothing is forced, no one is made to do a thing, but lots is offered and the enthusiasm is high. I leave them feeling in a state of bliss.

Living in the Pacific Northwest, the weather is always changing, and we had a low pressure system moving in. I missed the hour of quasi-sunshine, and while out with the herd, it grew progressively darker. With the falling pressure, the horses were feeling lazy and rather unmotivated.

My intention for the day was to work with Black Elk on his cantering, and so in preparation, I heard Carolyn Resnick's voice in my head, and I moved to 'Leading From Behind' with Black Elk. It was pretty fun as Rascal and Shaman companion walked with me, one on each side, while I pushed and paused and turned Black Elk around the rain soaked arena. All very gently, no hurry. This exercise is used for building a work ethic. 

Putting the other boys away with a winter treat of willow to chew on, I put a halter and rope on Black Elk. In the driest part of the arena, I sent him out on the lunge. Walking and  trotting are easy, but he's still not so thrilled about all the energy required to  canter. He has a lovely canter. This 16-3 mustang looks like a Warmblood and his canter is amazingly round, slow and relaxed.

At a trot,  he blew and started chewing and then completely on his own accord offered the canter. Three beautiful circles, no pushing from me, no pulling on the lunge from him, round, balanced, relaxed, the stuff that dreams are made of!

All from a simple, non-confrontational exercise, and of course the hours it takes to make a good connection. It's easy and it's natural.