Training the Mind of the Horse and Rider

Training the Mind of the Horse and Rider
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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Ground Driving Shaggy

Today warmed up to be a really nice day. A warm, sunny 60’s. And better, yet, the muddy lots aren’t quite so muddy. I decided that Shaggy could put his big boy pants on and come out of the lot by himself. He could be tied in a stall by himself, without a buddy in the next stall. And he could be in the arena by himself.

Shaggy has only had the saddle on a few times this fall. I’ve only ridden him on Saturday for about ½ hour. He hasn’t had much saddle time the last 3 years. He has just sat, or should I say stood, in the lot, growing into a big, mature 6 year gelding. Even though he acts like a big puppy dog, I wondered how he would be once I got down to work with him.

Shaggy stood pretty good, not perfectly quiet, but ok. I kept his lead rope loose in case he decided to pull back. Saddled and bridled, I tied the reins off on the horn, and lead him to the arena with his lead rope. I untied the lead rope and free lunged him. He traveled easily around the arena in both directions. There was no appearance that he would buck, or even wanted to. I turned him in both directions. I stopped lunging him and he walked towards me.

I tightened the cinch and walked for the driving lines. I don’t tie the stirrups together, I leave them to hang freely to move against him. I want Shaggy to know that the moving stirrups are nothing to be scared about.

I moved to his off side, putting the end of the line through his stirrup and hooking it to the D ring bit. I laid the other end of the line over the saddle. Moving to the near side, I repeated hooking up the line. I stepped back and away from Shaggy, picking up the line that was on the saddle and letting both lines drop behind him.

I put both lines in big loops and asked Shaggy to move off. At first, I kept the line to my inside shorter, asking Shaggy to stay in a circle. I let him move off in a straight line. Shortening the other line, I asked him to circle in the other direction. Shaggy stayed in a trot, beginning to give to the bit. He moved his head, finding the comfort zone.

Once Shaggy realizes to give to the bit more easily, I will move him into a short shank curb with a broken mouthpiece. I like moving into a mild curb bit as soon as I can. I like the feeling that a short shank gives as it gives some leverage so that the horse doesn’t lug on the rider. With leverage, it takes less movement of your hand to get the desired effect. When the horse gives easily, I move him from a broken mouthpiece to a small port, as I feel that the broken mouthpiece bites the tongue. The port gives a place for the tongue to lie and gives comfort to the tongue instead of a bite. Since the horse has learned to give to the bit, it becomes an easy transition to give to the pressure of the curb on the roof of the mouth.

Shaggy walked and trotted on the lunge lines, changing directions. He tended to drop his shoulder to the outside as we neared the gate. As soon as he leaned toward the gate, I changed directions. He started leaning less and less. At the end of the driving session, I asked him to stop, settle, then back. As he settled after the stop, he naturally leaned back, making the transition into the back a little easier. The first back was rough. Shaggy wasn’t sure what to do, and tossed his head from side to side. As soon as he moved one foot, I asked him to move off. I repeated the stop and back 2 more times, and by the 3rd time, he started to back extra steps after I let up on rein pressure. Good boy! He is learning fast!

Shaggy was being quiet and I decided to get on him. I unhooked the driving lines, first moving and flapping them to desensitize Shaggy to the long lines. I threw the lines towards his head, over his body and saddle, and around his legs. He didn’t startle, but a few times, he moved away. But each time he moved, I told him whoa, and he turned to face me. Good boy!

After I unhooked the reins, and moved away from Shaggy to lay the lines down, he followed me. I like that he was bonding with me after the work session. I untied the reins, tightened the girth, and lead him to the middle of the arena. I checked my stirrup length and mounted.

Shaggy walked off easily. He seemed to be accepting the bit and turning more easily after the driving session. We walked and trotted around the arena. I won’t lope him until he is giving well to the bit and trotting slower. I changed directions, circling and reversing often. I didn’t want to keep him on a straight line. I wanted Shaggy to get use to moving as soon as the rein moved and the bit gave a direction.

Shaggy was beginning to sweat. Before I ended the ride session, I asked him to back. Three times. I read some time ago, that you should do things in 3’s with horses. After the 3rd time, the desired result would be engrained. We’ll see if the next ride session is easier!

I was pleased with today’s results. Shaggy is riding well, and hopefully, I’ll be able to ride him in the fields soon. Come along on my rides with me.

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