Monday, December 7, 2009

Intro to Tarp

I have heard Clinton Anderson say that horses are afraid of objects, especially if they move and make noise. It's funny because it's true. If it doesn't live in the horse's stall or pasture it comes under suspicion, and horses don't usually wait around to find out if it will kill them. They need to trust their rider's judgement, so lots of desensitizing exercises help the horse to build it's trust and confidence in the rider. I don't think we can ever prepare our horses for every situation they may encounter, but each time we have a successful training session, and the horse isn't hurt, it helps them to trust
a little more and look to the handler for guidance. Here's Calico's first encounter with the tarp. She's not too worried; she was more indignant than afraid.
In the second video, you can see the trainer has added the saddle. She uses the basic round penning cues; move forward, inside turn, change direction, come in to me, but has added the stress of something noisy dragging and flapping behind her. She did great.

Update on Training

From what I can tell, most people around here send their horse to a trainer for 30 days, 60 days, 90 days or whatever, and get a trained horse back. I want to train my own horse. I don't want to just ride. I like the process. I just needed help ironing out problems, and I need feedback on my technique. I found the perfect trainer for us. Robin Bailey is a John Lyons certified trainer. She is teaching me to train my horse in a very methodical way. I love it. It makes sense to me and to my horse. She starts with a basic cues in the round pen, then adds a new challenge or twist. After her initial evaluation, she offered to pick us up in her trailer and use her round-pen a few blocks away. It's great to practice trailer loading each time. We've been working together regularly since the beginning of October. The most important lesson she gave me right off was about establishing respect. Calico is very dominant and pushy. Well, I knew that. What I didn't know was that her pushiness was sometimes very subtle. I thought as long as she wasn't running over the top of me, we were doing okay. She was 85% better than when I first got her. I was letting little stuff slide or just wasn't unaware of it. For Cali, it meant she was the leader of our tiny herd and she was making the decisions. There's no sometimes for a horse; either they are the leader or they're not. Big 'ah ha' moment for me.
We are both quick learners. Now that I understand this and can correct it immediately, she is much more respectful of my personal space. She is loading in the trailer easily, accepting new challenges and I look forward to each lesson. She's accepting a bit and responding to the pressure from the rein. Yesterday, we did a lot of work with a tarp. She took it all in stride.

Professional help

Okay, I know it's been ages since my last post. I felt Calico and I were making great progress. On September 1st I was riding her in the arena; and we were going through all our usual exercises. Another rider was in there with us but we were staying apart. As soon as we tried to ride together Calico spooked then bucked hard and I came off. I got right back on and we rode some more, but my hip and sacrum really hurt, and my confidence was shaken.

Although I think we've made great progress this year, I know there are gaps in my training. Training has to come before conditioning. I quickly made a decision to get some help from a professional trainer.

One of my problems was finding the right trainer. I've studied Parelli, Clinton Anderson, Chris Erwin, John Lyons, Michael Schaffer, Linda Tellington-Jones, Sally Swift, Kitty Lauman, and Dr. Deb. While their end goals are the same; a balanced, supple, responsive horse that enjoys his work, their approach or techniques are very different. The tools are different, the jargon is different. They all have their method that they are marketing and the novice has to cut through all the hype to get to the heart of training. Reading about a technique and implementing it are worlds apart. I watched countless videos, read dozens of blogs & articles, discussed this for hours with my friends and spent hundreds of dollars in the process. I know where I want to be, but when I walk into the round pen with my horse, all this information is rolling around in my head, and applying it in the moment takes trial and error. It also takes time and patience. I only had an arena to work in most of this year, no access to a round pen until September. So I felt very good that I had been able to ride my horse through the neighborhood and out in the desert with minimal problems. After falling for the third time, though, I was ready to make real progress, and have a very solid foundation before I conditioning for distance rides. In the meantime, I've become very interested in Cowboy Mounted Shooting, but that will have to wait for another post. What matters most, right now, is to have a safe and willing horse, so here we go.