Wednesday, February 6, 2008

A Day in the Life of an Arabian Horse Breeder - Part 3

Part 1

Halter schooling for the Arabian horse went better than I had expected. The poor horse had not had much regular schooling in this discipline. It seems that I am doing good if I can manage to pull together a session here and a session there, but certainly nothing that is consistent.

Despite this fact, Storm has actually learned how to set his feet pretty darn well. I would even describe him as solid in that department. I guess that just shows how smart this horse is.

I will take a little credit. I have been comfortable with schooling the horses on how to set their feet for several years now. It is the rest of the halter stance that I haven't been totally comfortable with. But after the last two clinics I have taken, I am really beginning to feel comfortable with halter.

I haven't schooled Storm on halter since that weekend at the clinic but the horse really took to it right away. At first when I stepped out in front of me, the horse acted like he wanted to come along. With just a slight tug on the lead and a "whoa" Storm locked up his legs and waited for me to get in position in front of him just like we'd schooled yesterday.

For me, the illusive thing about halter has always been the elevation of the neck. They want that neck up high and arched showing how the horse would look if it were animated. For years I thought the only way a horse could be taught this extreme position was by beating on them. That's why I have never been into halter. But I have learned that it can be taught easily to the horse.

Armed with my new tools, I think I'm might even look forward to showing halter. I know that Storm really likes being in the ring with all of those other stallions strutting his stuff. Standing up and blowing is something he likes as well. I swear you could never had told me years ago that a horse could truly like halter. But this fiery redhead of mine is quickly changing my mind.

Once in front of the horse, I asked the horse to walk towards me. The hard part of this has always been it needs to be in a straight line and at the rate of speed that I am traveling. Walking too fast, the horse will set his back feet too deep. Walking too slow makes the set not enough.

On this occasion Storm crowed me a bit but all I had to do was a slight jiggle of the lead and the horse backed off where he belonged. Then he was dropping his shoulder to my left. For that I switched the whip to my left hand and just used it as an extension of my arm. I didn't even have to tap the horse (although I would have if need be) and Storm immediately corrected. Had he over corrected I would have used my voice to warn him as I changed the whip to my right hand.

With just a slight raise of my lead hand the horse planted his back feet in perfect position. Then I moved slightly to the left and put light pressure on the lead for the horse to follow with his front feet. Storm was right on cue first moving his right foot then placing his left. (This order is desirable because it keeps the shoulder lifted up, reversing that order causes a dropped shoulder) Both feet were in great position.

Now comes what is the hard part for so many amateur halter handlers, making the horse lift up his neck. The cue for this is the raising of the hand. The horse's head should follow the hand up. As long as the hand is moving up, the horse's head should be following it up. The correction that Jesse Saldana taught me is to flick that lead up and under the chin in a sweeping upward motion. It causes the horse to go up to avoid the lead, which is exactly what we're asking from the horse in the first place.

So I raised up my hand and Storm wasn't even looking in my direction. He was thinking that pony filly right outside the arena is pretty darn cute. I flicked the rope and the horse jumped back with his eyes bulging. At the same time his head flew up and I praised him with my voice. Then dropped my hand and walked forward to pet him.

The stallion cocked his head at me just a little with this quizzical look on his face. As I began stroking his neck he gave a quick, almost frantic sigh but dropped his head and licked and chewed. There's that phrase again, that got all the discussion going before. What's Up with Licking and Chewing and Arabian Horses Clearly for this horse, something was changing.

I returned to the front of the horse and stepped him up again. Then I raised my hand asking him to follow it up and Storm was right there with me. I help it for just a brief instant, not wanting to bore him. Praised him and walked forward and loved on him some more.

Three or four more times I repeated this procedure. Just enough to make it clear to the horse what I was asking but not enough to make him tired of the whole thing. Then it was time to put him away and move on to Reflection, the other wild thing. What would he have in store?

To be continued..........

Part 4

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  1. I can't remember where you said it, but you said the chestnuts are more fiery. I never thought of it, but thinking back I can think of many examples.

  2. Good job! It's the commitment to the process that I admire in you.

  3. Hi MiKael
    Sounds like he gave you a nice chance for a breather in between the action LOL. So glad that went well. I look forward to seeing how he does this year when you show him.

    Sorry I missed you last night, I fell asleep again!!! Hell to be getting old.

  4. You know, I never heard anything about chestnuts being more sensitive or firey until I bought Kaswyn. Then someone said to me "Uh rider on a red-headed horse..this should be interesting!" So now it occurs to me that people probably didn't make red-headed horse comments around me because of my red hair. Now I just think it's funny.

  5. WOW! This photo of Storm is even more gorgeous than yesterday's!
    Breathtaking!!! He's an awesome horse to be very proud of, for sure!

  6. What an absolutely lovely horse!

  7. lovelee, I made that comment in yesterday's post, I think. It has sure turned out to be the case here. Not in a bad way, they just have that different aspect about their personalities.

    molly,i think it's so much easier to deal with horses looking at it as the process it is. That way I don't get ahead of the horses and screw things up.

    lori, yes, it was a bit of a breather and it's good for this horse to do things quieter and smaller in his relationship with me. It helps to focus that fire of his in appropriate directions.

    dressagemom, I don't know that anyone ever said it to me when I worked in trainer barns. I just heard it after I had commented on the first chestnut foals I had born.

    My mother was a redhead and I really never thought about that much either.

    dj, he really is a cool horse but this picture doesn't do him justice either. I think the white making hides how dishy and short his face really is. I can hardly wait to show this horse under saddle.

  8. MiKael - Stop by my blog to pick up your latest award!

  9. Beautiful pictures as always! I have been catching up on your posts since I got back from the convention. Really enjoyed your post on haltering. Good information. Still need to do my 7quirks, I WILL get to it soon!

  10. Even though I've never attempted halter training, it sounds interesting. Storm is beautiful and smart, he seems to be catching on pretty fast. Can't wait to see how his training turns out with this, but I have a hunch it will be a good ending, because of correct and sensitive training.

  11. victoria, thank you, I will get it posted.

    midlife mom, I'm glad you liked the halter post. I always worry I am boring folks.

    grey horse matters, I didn't really like it in the beginning. But I have found it really helps in the other ways that I handle the horses. Once they have learned that discpline, they are so much better about staying in their space and giving their attention when asked.