Monday, April 16, 2012

Bree and Chica - Getting used to the bicycle

Bree and Chica - Getting used to the bicycle
By Lindsey Forkun,

Bree and Chica have the goal of becoming quiet and safe trail horses. There are many things that horses have to become desensitized to as a trail horse. One of those scary things is a bicycle.

Over the weekend I had Bree and Chica in the ring for training and James was riding his bike nearby. It spooked both of the girls. We decided to let the girls loose in the ring, and have James ride his bike around the ring. James was careful to ride his bike in a non-threatening way - not going directly at the horses.

Letting the horses loose in the ring allowed them a chance to develop some confidence on their own, but it also allowed me to learn more about each of these horses and how they react.

At first both horses were pretty excited and nervous about the bike, running away from it and keeping at a distance. In a matter of minutes they became curious though. They started watching the bike and James as it was ridden around the ring.

The next part was quite interesting. Chica decided the bike wasn't a threat and just started to eat grass, but Bree decided the bike was interesting and she started following the bike around the ring. She followed for a little while before deciding to eat grass too.

Watching the girls respond to something new and scary let learn a little about how they react in extremely scary situations. To my delight, these horses settled really quickly. This is great news for becoming a trail horse!

We finished up our training session me riding each of the girls at walk, halt, and back up. Erin was there to hold a lead rope in case the horse got confused or lacked confidence. It was getting darker and windier so I didn't want to take any chances with them getting nervous. It was my first time board Chica and Bree this weekend so I wanted to make it a really positive experience.

Both girls were excellent. Chica was a bit more relaxed than Bree, but both of them relaxed and understood the cues.

Key Message This Week: Desensitizing horses is important, but it doesn't have to be traumatizing and directed at the horse. In this case we allowed the horses to be free in the ring and rode the bike around the ring, not directed at the horses. It allows the horse to show you when they are relaxed.

Merlin learns to canter - Using the buddy system

Merlin learns to canter - Using the buddy system
By Lindsey Forkun,

This past week I have been working on Merlin's canter. He was already trained walk/trot when he arrived for training, so we were able to progress fairly quickly in his training because he had some really good basics already developed.

With Merlin I realized fairly quickly that he doesn't have a lot of 'go'. He is the type of horse that needs a bit of encouragement to get moving. This can be a really nice thing for having a laid back and quiet horse, but it makes it more challenging when teaching a horse how to canter.

I started his canter work in the round pen. We practiced transitions on the ground, with no rider, and making sure he understood a 'kiss noise' meant canter. Once he was responding to the kiss noise really well, I tried in the saddle.

It took a couple times but he picked up the canter in both directions, but only on the left lead. Every time he cantered I gave him praise, and I didn't ask him to canter for more than a few strides. This is because we were really trying to get a responsive transition - so I didn't want Merlin thinking that if he cantered, he would be made to do a lot of work.

After some more training sessions in the round pen, we moved into our riding arena. This gave Merlin more space to canter which can really help a pokey horse because its more fun to canter in a larger space.

We continued to work on our canter, and were finally able to pick up our right lead. I have to bend his neck fairly precisely and then he will pick up the right lead... otherwise he always gets the left.

Once he was understanding the transition, it was time to get him doing some longer canters. This can be a tricky thing to teach a pokey horse. If you are too rough with a pokey horse you can provoke them to buck or get sour.

I decided to use the buddy method. This is where the pokey horse gets to follow another experienced horse around the ring. I decided to do this with Riddler because Riddler has a very steady and reliable canter - it is a good one teach a horse to follow, but also Riddler doesn't mind if a horse gets too close to him. Riddler has never threatened to kick at another horse while being ridden.

So Erin headed out with Riddler at a canter, and I followed with Merlin. Merlin picked up his canter much more easily and he really enjoyed following Riddler. He maintained his canter with minimal effort from my part and we did 2 whole laps around the ring. We finished with a ton of praise.

After some praise we did some more canter both ways. Now that Merlin understands canter I can be more specific and I correct him if he gets the wrong lead.

The buddy system is a great way to motivate a slow horse - however, you have to be careful because sometimes following another horse can get a horse excited. The round pen is usually the best place to teach canter because the horse can follow the rail easily, but also the space isn't too large so the horse can't get going to fast if they get excited.

When first teaching a horse to canter you don't want to be too picky about speed or canter lead because the horse doesn't understand - and if you keep trying to correct what they don't understand, then the horse will get frustrated and lose confidence.

Merlin now has a lot more confidence about cantering and is fairly easy to get into a canter, and he can do full laps around the ring without following anyone. Because he is a pokey horse, I still will do some short sections of canter so that Merlin doesn't think it has to be a big effort all of the time.

This next week we will spend some time developing his canter skills into some large circles, as well as developing his jumping skills.

Key message this week: Teach new things in small steps. Think about what the important first step is that you want to teach your horse. This week for Merlin it was the canter transition. Once your horse understands the basic concept, you can ask for more. Keep your expectations realistic so your horse can keep up!

No comments:

Post a Comment