Happy Success with Prophet - Finally!!
By Lindsey Forkun, www.LFEquestrian.com
Yesterday was a special day for both me and Prophet - it was a day where we achieved a big milestone together. Prophet is an amazing horse - extremely smart and very talented, but he is also very claustrophobic and panicky (like most horses are, except Prophet had a habit of 'exploding').
Prophet would get very tense with anything around his belly - even a rope around his mid section, or me just hopping up and down beside him near his belly could send him exploding (leaping forward with some bucks).
My goal was to teach emotional control - to keep going to Prophet's 'threshold' and showing him that he could stand, think, and relax. I interrupted the bucking pattern and after a couple months I could saddle up Prophet, send him over jumps, sideways over a barrel, do tons of different ground work patterns and exercises, hop beside him, and sit on him. We even did some walking while riding, but he still felt very tense.
Every day Prophet comes into his stall for his daily grain feeding. Most of the time he gets saddled too - just to eat dinner. Then sometimes he gets unsaddled and turned out, sometimes he gets put in the round pen to eat grass with the saddle on, and sometimes does a training session. Prophet has learned that the saddle is nothing to be feared - he can do 'normal' things with a saddle on.
Recently I started ponying Prophet on trail rides - the goal was to help get him out of the arena and show him what riding can be about. It got him used to seeing me up high on top of a horse. It got him used to getting close to me and having his belly occasionally brush up against my leg as I was riding right beside him. He also started to really move into the saddle as we went up and down hills, through water, over logs, and let him see a purpose to what we were teaching him.
We discovered that Prophet did great on trails - he loves them. He became so relaxed and moved so nicely into the saddle. When we got back from rides I could swing my leg over, bump Prophets sides, sit on him, and he felt the most relaxed he has ever been.
Last night was an exciting night because I decided to try riding Prophet - but not the normal way I would start a horse. Instead I had the help of Cait - Prophet's owner's daughter who is an accomplished rider and has experience exercising polo horses... so she has experience ponying 5 horses at a time!
Cait rode Vinnie and practiced ponying Prophet in the arena. Once she felt ready we hit the trail - me walking on the ground to start, and Elana on Shawna taking up the rear. After about 15 min and Prophet was super relaxed, I decided to hop on him.
I got on Prophet, made sure he was relaxed, and asked Cait to continue ponying him. Prophet took a few steps at the walk, and stopped. We allowed him to stop and think - this is a great response compared to exploding. We want to encourage Prophet to stop and think if he feels nervous.
After he had a minute to look at me on his back and then relax and lower his head, Cait cued him to walk again. I just sat there like a passenger, not doing anything. We rode the rest of the trail walking and even some trotting! A couple times I tried doing simple little things like dropping my stirrups and picking them up, picking up the reins to ask for halt when Cait was too, etc and he was fantastic! I did get off and on a couple more times throughout the ride and Prophet was relaxed for all of it.
When we got back to the arena I could cue Prophet to trot and he was listening really well and stopping!
It was a really exciting night for me - we finally made some huge progress with Prophet - but it took some creativity and willingness to do things a bit differently.
Next steps for me are to try riding him on the trail again, with Cait leading me again, and then for me to start picking up the reins and initiating more of the cues until its me doing all the cues. Once I am doing all the cues (not Cait) then I can try un-clipping the lead rope and riding Prophet on my own.
Some tips when starting new horses:
- If the horse feels tense, don't bother trying to go to the next task. A horse needs to be relaxed at walk if you want trot or canter to go well too.
- It is important we teach our horses to stop & think when they are nervous or scared. If your horses gets nervous or scared, don't just try and tell them to 'go', or you could end up teaching your horse to explode or take off.
- It's okay to ask for help! Sometimes it is safest and best if you have someone else help you. Every horse is different.
- Keep it positive. It is important that Prophet felt like he could do the things I wanted - so I always keep my exercises realistic for what he is both physically and mentally able to do.
Key learning this week: There is hope for even the most difficult horses - time, patience, and natural horsemanship can help!
Tuesday, July 17, 2012
Happy Success with Prophet - Finally!! Read the blog at http://lfequestrian.blogspot.ca/
Happy Success with Prophet - Finally!!