Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Merlin's Assessment - Mr calm cool and collected

Merlin is a fun horse to work with, he is so calm in his nature and very willing. He tries really hard to figure out what I want, and he is very smart too.

We started with some ground sessions for him to really learn my cues for walk, trot, and canter on the ground. At first he didn't understand my send, wiggle to back up, or disengage, but very quickly he was learning these cues and by the end of the first session you would think that we'd known each other for a long time.

He responds really well to his ground cues and since he was already started under saddle for walk and trot, I advanced to riding him pretty quickly as well.

Merlin's dominance is fairly high out in the paddock - he is the top gelding, but with people it is fairly low. He is very respectful and doesn't challenge me on anything. He rarely tries to invade my space too. This likely because his owners have been careful to teach him good ground manners.

His sensitivity level is medium to high. He tries to look for the ideal cues and responds off of fairly light cues. He also isn't bothered if you put a harder cue on him - for example when riding I can give him a fairly hard squeeze and he isn't bothered at all. This is a really nice combination - he is responsive to my cues, but not overly responsible (sometimes really responsive or sensitive horses can be flighty and more difficult to work with).

His confidence is also fairly high, he has done excellent in the new arenas and around the farm and even under our 'tarp roof.' He has done traveling circles around the farm yard and over some rails. He is very willing and will try new things, and I expect his confidence to continue to grow over the next couple weeks as he will try more new things.

Last night we actually did our first canters under saddle together. He understand pretty quickly because I gave the same verbal cue of a kiss noise when riding as I do on the ground when asking for canter. We did canter in both directions, but only on the left lead.

When teaching a horse to canter, at first you want to encourage the horse that it is okay to move forward and canter. If you try to manipulate them too soon you can cause the horse to not want to go, so our first time cantering I just allowed him to canter on whatever lead he preferred.

Our next ride I will fine tune the transition and canter a bit more, and if he is ready I will start to ask for the correct lead too. Because I took so much time to develop a respectful relationship on the ground, and taught Merlin my cues from the ground, I expect the next portion of learning in the saddle to progress fairly quickly.

Stay tuned for updates!

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