Friday, March 25, 2011

Results from Last Week

Last week I talked about how to reenforce some of the training that was done early on with a young horse.  My client and I worked the horse one hour like we would have if he was just starting.  Then the following lesson we went back to our normal schedule.  What happened was the colt remembered the earlier things and the importance of them.  He was a changed horse over the last few lessons. 

What changes did we see.  The colt was refusing to move off smoothly.  He would toss his head and tail or he would very slowly move through the motions.  He would also kick his hind legs when asked to change gaits or speed up in a gait.  This was his response to having to move forward.  We had started asking for more collection when riding which meant more pressure was put on his mouth.  We were also using an elastic neck stretcher that would mimic a rider asking for collection and being able to release pressure when the response was given.  We then went back to just asking the colt to move forward and when he did let him be.  This reinforced the action of moving forward when aked.

Some people when working with a colt that is kicking its hind legs will stop the colt and try to start again.  Others will keep asking the colt to move forward.  What needs to be determined is why the colt is giving this reponse.  If the colt is kicking because it is spooking from something then determine what is spooking the colt.  Then work the colt around the area that is spooking the colt.  Sometimes noises or shapes can spook a colt which in turn will cause the colt to kick out its hind legs.  The other reason why a colt will do this is because the colt is refusing to move forward.  This is when the rider needs to increase its aids to encourage the colt to move forward.  This particular colt responds correctly when a riding crop is used.  The rider starts by asking for the motion forward and keeps increasing its aids until the colt is moving forward at the correct gait.

There are many different cues to use determine the desired ones you want to use with your colt.  Then work with the colt.  Have fun and spend time with your horse.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Reconnecting with your Horse...

This last week a client and I reevalutated where she stood with her horse.  She was concerned that her colt was not respecting her space when leading him around.  We took the time to reconnect with the colt.  As may happen with others who have multiple people handling a horse there may be different behaviors from the horse.  As in our case the colt was not pushy with me but would have different behavior for his owner.  We will discuss how this can be overcome.

First, make sure everyone who is handling your horse understands how you want your horse handled.  I will have different rules or expectations then the next person.  Ultimately we all want horses that anyone can handle without an issue.  This will take time and consistent training.  When working with your young colt try to limit who is handling the colt.  Try to have a year at least of consistent handling.  I have seen  colts that were going great to only have an inexperienced person have something go wrong.

Second, as you move along with your training and your colt is progressing reaffirm the basics.  As a person is able to do more and more with their colt they can forget about the basics.  Remember that your colt's foundation needs to be checked.  This should take only a few minutes every ride but will help keep them grounded. 

Third, use different exercises to check your colt's abilities.  I have a dozen different exercises to test my colt's ability to respond to my leg cues.  This I will go into later on.  Know what your colt is having trouble with and work on that often.  Then finish with what your colt is able to easily.  This will keep the colt's confidence high and each training session will end with you and your colt happy.

Please post any comments or questions.  Next time I will discuss 3 activities that will help you test your colt's abilities.  Have fun and spend time with your horse.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Rehabbing that old pasture companion....

Lately I have been working with an out of retirement mare.  This horse was put out to pasture 7 years ago after having a lameness issue associated with OCD ( osteochondrosis).  The owner wants the horse to feel like a horse again and be able to lightly use the horse on the trails.  What I have to start with is a horse who has not done work for a long time.  This horse is used to walking 50 yards to her paddock then back to her stall every day and night.  Her routine is entrenched in her.  I am treating her the same as young colt.  Some things will move quickly because she has experience.

Move slowly at first.  Just like you or I when we sit around for a long period of time our bodies cannot handle a long workout right away.  Smaller amounts of exercise with more exposure activities have benefited this mare.  The first couple of weeks were light workouts.  Usually only a small amount of trotting and no cantering.  Giving days off in between workouts will also give your horse's body to recover.

Now that the mare has been working up her endurance and that the lameness has not been an issue yet I am moving her amount of work up.  Incorporating more trotting and a longer sustained workout.  I keep a close eye on how the mare is moving.  With OCD a horse may start moving awkwardly so it is important to make sure that the horse moves correctly.  I feel that this mare starts to move incorrectly out of not having to move correctly for so long.  The stable managers and I have not noticed any lameness with the increased work.

Always make sure that you watch your horse when out in its paddock to make sure there are not signs of lameness.  Also consult with your vet on what your horse can do if your horse has had an injury.  Always take things slow.  Have fun and spend time with your horse.