Training Log Moochie and Storm
I really wish I had pictures from these sessions, but all hands were in "trainer mode" today! So this reads more like one of my "personal logs" instead of a really visual blog, but since I was creating the entry for Colleen and Nichole and Brad anyway, I decided to make it a blog post as well! If all goes well, we'll video Moochie (fingers crossed for the same weather) and do photos of Storm on Wednesday!
Moochie had big day...and he got a Gold Star, A+ Smiley Face!
To start , free lunge in bull pen with of changes of direction and gait. HOWEVER, it was very evident that he was very much still trying to anticipate whatever was next....I still don't think he realizes that the ULTIMATE goal is to simply "excecute when told to"...but I think he's trying hard ...just not quite there yet...but getting closer. He definitely defaults to "slow down and stop" unless he's "pushed" After about 20 minutes in the pen loose, then he was saddled, stood tied for a while then we went back out to the pen for about 5-10 more and he was good...still a little too interested in the stopping and turning...so, now that I've established my authority over gus movements (even when he's loose), I need to "string" more relaxed laps together to get him consistent and to have a bit more of a simple quiet work ethic.
Since I was going to help work on a horse with a bridling issue, I had Mike swing up with the intent to have him just ride him around the outside area of the barn. I'm definitely utilizing Mike as often as I can because Mike and Brad (Moochie's future owner) have the same build...long and lean. So Mike's cues will feel much more like Brad than mine would. Anyway, it seemd like Mike was gone a loonng time. Since I didn't see Moochie loping by anywhere by himself, I could only assume good things were happening. Turns out that by the time Mike got back he and Mooch had done the complete loop of the Overbrook Pasture (Justin has mowed a great path for us), gone across the creek (like a champ..,Mike reports that he positively "styled" the creek!) and loped the great big field across the creek!
He was stellar being out by himself. The only critique he had was that he did get a bit "pushy" the closer he got to the barn because (Moochie being Moochie) he was thinking "ahead" to the "I'm almost done" part....just because he was back at the barn. He was assuming he was finished. He had been great, but to make lay the foundation for future rides, it was really important to NOT be done. Not quite. Not just because they were back. So Mike rode him up and down the tie up area and just sat on him for a bit til Moochie gave up trying to figure out when Mike was getting off....then he was done!
In the future, the way Moochie is "finished" each ride will be one of the most important parts of the ride!
I really wish I had pictures from Storm's session. I know I already said that, but really...the light this afternoon and the moon were amazing!
I got started on him about 6:45....lunged him "no tack on" in Colleens outside work area...a LOVELY spot this time of year and in the nice weather. I didn't use a chain but did loop the lunge line over his nose. He's just "amped up" enough out her to need something more than just his halter. Footing out here is great! He was a nut for about 5 minutes...very unfocused and silly...I let him canter it out for a bit, but then got down to the business of changing gaits and directions. He settled down about twice as fast as the first time I did this. Then took him up to the barn. Saddled him and put on my 'soft" two toned bosal with a bridoon over. Lunged now in indoor as it was starting to get dark...voice commands good. He has a LOT of respect for the bosal. Long lined him. Stops are good with voice command, but at first still not great response to pressure, but he improved in this area a lot. Set up a 4 cone pattern to work turns...did superb job at the walk.
Final note...I did notice that all work "off the wall" he was pretty darn soft to stop and turn...however, when following the track along the wall of the arena he would pull...I finally figured out that he has done enough loose work in there to think he knows all there is to know about the route around the wall. VERY trainable horse. So to finish I did the arena wall work with light veer off before each corner and then a 360 to the outside. Also, did walks directly behind him with stops half way down the wall. Finished these really well and he started to concede that MAYBE I could have some say in how we were going to work the wall area.
To finish, I decided to take him out the far door into the small paddock where he had such a temper tantrum last week. I had noticed him looking out the door, almost like he was anticipating that we were going to do that. I almost didn't do this because we'd reached a really good spot in the workout, but it was a gorgeous evening with a tremendous full moon and I was willing to take a chance...worst case scenario, he'd get too anxious and I'd have to stay another 30 minutes.
Drove him straight to the open gate and deliberately asked him to pause and relax. Then asked for the walk straight out....it wasn't perfect...there was a very subtle "juke left, juke right", BUT he corrected perfectly, took a deep breath and walked on out. I stopped him after a couple of strides and let him "dwell" again. He seemed so taken with the evening I asked Colleen if he's ever been out at night, and no, ...he hasn't.
Like me, Colleen likes to have her horses some place safe and secure after dark and she doesn't have a paddock that she'd be comfortable leaving him in outside over night. There are lots of coyotes in the woods right around her barn and we heard them start singing right then. So this was a perfectly rational reaction from Storm...he acted like he was afraid of the dark outside because he has never been out there. This ended up to be as valuable a training time as anything else I did. I had plenty of time, it was a beautiful evening, so Storm and I ended up just standing at a perfect halt and admiring the moon. And then walking a little more and then stopping and relaxing.
While I won't say that he ever was completely "ho hum" about that, he did get much better and I'll do this again as often as I can. I think that making it a quiet, structured training session is actually better for this horse than simply turning him loose out there on his own. He's not an alpha and would most likely "escalate" in his anxiety. He'd have to be brought in at some point, and if he were brought in, while still in a state of "hysteria", it would just reinforce the idea that "his people" finally agreed with him and he needed to get into the safety of the barn.
In a structured setting, with a handler there to give him a good example of the idea that "it's no big deal" to be out after dark, he'll develop more confidence.
It would be inaccurate to leave you with a final image of Storm and me and the gorgeous full moon as our ending. When I took him back into the barn (whew, he was relieved to find all his buddies where he left them), we pretended to be a showmanship horse, working walks, stops, pivots and set ups, up and down the barn aisle. He's beginning to get the idea that good behavior is something that you only have to do in a "training area"...it's a life style!