The weather gods have not been kind this winter. Torrential rain, heavy snowfall, black ice, and more heavy snowfall, followed by a rapid thaw have seen us on a meteorological roller coaster. Combine all that with the day job and very short days, I have not had much time for my horses.
That changed yesterday when we had some sunshine accompanied by bitter winds which froze the ground overnight. I took the opportunity to scrape as much mud off Elektra as possible, and head for the round pen.
Elektra is rising 5, and is as ever a delight to work with.
People ask me what I do when I’m in the round pen or on the outdoor school. Well, yesterday’s session with this young horse looked like this:
I started off by leading her around the round pen, leading her in both directions so she could make sure there weren’t any tigers lurking in the melting snow, ready to pounce on her as she went past.
Then I threw the rope all around her, working through her blind spots, making sure she hadn’t developed a sudden aversion to things flapping around her.
After that, a short walk around the arena as a reward, which also serves to move us to a different part of the arena so we’re not always working in the same spot. Horses are creatures of habit and can develop favourite parts of the arena, so I make sure to move around a bit.
I moved on to the switching eyes exercise, followed by some backing up in circles, again from both sides.
Then I sent her out to the edge of the round pen and worked through some walk-trot-canter-trot-walk-halt transitions. At this point she was still on the rope and rope halter.
Each section/exercise lasts for a few mins. and I make sure to stop on a good note and let her have a break before moving on to the next exercise.
Again we have another break after finishing the “lungeing” on a good note.
Next, I took the halter off and moved on to some liberty work, sending Elektra out to the perimeter of the round pen, and bringing her back in to me in the middle where she trotted around me. Again I did this in both directions, finished on a good note and went for a walk around the round pen.
After that came practising putting on the bridle. Elektra has a SUPER sensitive right ear, and once smashed me in the face when I was taking off the bridle (see blog post). I started off with a few dummy runs, and then slipped the bit into her mouth and the headpiece over her ears.
I want her to keep her head lowered while I’m doing this. I’ve been practising this off and on over the winter; on the days of really bad weather I’ve spent 10 mins. or so working on getting her comfortable with putting her head down and letting me pull something over her ears (usually the rope). I don’t linger or try to make her keep her head low, but have progressively built up her (and my) confidence over a series of short sessions.
This time, she was quite relaxed about it, but it is by no means “sorted”.
After that I let her relax with the bit in her mouth. She’s had a bit in her mouth 3 or 4 times, but has never been ridden in one yet. She had a yawning fit and is quite comfortable with the bit.
Once she’s stopped yawning, she is quiet in her mouth. I spend a lot of time rubbing her neck and withers, finding the nice spots where she likes to be rubbed.
And then off again for another walk around the arena.
I finish off with asking her to yield to the lateral pressure of the rein and she responds by bringing her head around to me in the “one-rein-stop” position.
Again I do this from both sides. I stop when she is comfortable with this exercise.
Then I prepare her for taking off the bridle – head down low, carefully letting the bit slide out. She’s fine with that, so I rub her again, go off for another walk and then take her up to the stables for a feed and pick her feet out.
So that’s what I did with Elektra yesterday.
Always wear appropriate safety items of clothing, gloves, shoes and head protection when handling or riding your horse. There is always some risk involved in horse training for both you and the horse. Be sensible and stay within your level of training. This information illustrates the training methods and techniques I and my colleagues use. It is your responsibility to use it wisely. It is not intended to replace personal instruction from a professional instructor. Keep yourself and your horse out of trouble. If you wish to learn more about these methods contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org www.horsetrainingsolutions.com
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