The hardest part of this process with Storm was a result of the breaks caused by the weather. I very much believe in starting the work week out slowly and building each session as we go. That way I don't push my horse to do something that will make him sore or put undue stress on him that can result in injury.
This method has worked for me for many years. Knock on wood, I have never had a horse injured using this method. I think it has also contributed to the happy, willing attitudes of my horses and the fact they get to the point they actually appreciate their work.
It probably contributes to me taking longer to train a horse than other methods but that's ok with me. With Storm it meant we just weren't stringing any time together so he could really understand what I was asking. While I am a believer in giving a horse a day to "think" about something new, the days and days of bad weather definitely did not help the training process or the thinking process.
I think the biggest issue I had with the horse under saddle in the beginning was he really didn't understand what I meant when I tried to squeeze him up with my legs. To Storm that squeeze meant go into the next gait. If I could get him to the point he was considering that maybe going to the next gait was NOT what I wanted, then he was convinced I meant he must go faster. It sure didn't mean push deeper, round up, lift your back, whither and shoulder or anything even close.
What complicated this, of course, was the fact the horse gets frustrated. He doesn't like to be wrong or to not understand. I'd guess the best way to describe this horse is to say he is a classic over achiever. He wants to be good. He needs to be good. He thinks if he has to repeat something, that he has done something wrong and he gets frustrated. The more frustrated he gets, the harder he wants to get it right so the more frustrated he gets if he doesn't get what I want.
It is a vicious cycle and could be very destructive if not taken into account. The training needs to be done in a way that doesn't push those buttons for him or that pushes them as minimally as possible so the horse doesn't fight the process because that's what Storm does when he gets frustrates, he fights. He thinks he's getting it right and I am being unfair by not giving him a release or accepting the gait he's given me.
I suppose I could have just galloped him whenever I rode but galloping takes strength that I don't have when I am not riding regularly. I get very sore in the hips from cantering and even more sore from galloping so that wasn't going to work. Also, I am not convinced that galloping alone would have fixed this particular problem with Storm so I took another tack.
I decided to eliminate part of the options for him so we just didn't canter. Once he understood we weren't going to canter in a training session, then he could eliminate that from his options of what the cue of squeezing him with my legs actually meant. That made it clear to Storm that squeezing him up with my legs did not mean cantering. Once he began realizing that, he became open to trying to figure out what it might mean instead. That was my starting point.
I decided the best way to do this was to begin on the ground. Even bitted up, I did not ask the horse to canter. When he did canter, which he did a lot, I corrected him by telling him "whup" (which he mostly ignored in the beginning) and shaking the lunge line at him. I didn't quit shaking the line until he broke back down into the trot.
Shaking the lunge line may not sound like much but it really is annoying to the horse but it is not hurtful. It's just an in your face, pay attention to me, cue that I have learned works with most any horse. Some take longer than others to realize it means something but once they get it, they get it "good." Any horse I have worked with that goes through a "whup" cue will usually respond immediately when I begin wiggling that line. Even if they are highly excited, they will get the wiggling lunge line, although those excited times can require a longer period of shaking. My horses have learned I won't stop the annoying shaking until they do what I ask.
Of course, Storm used to know that cue pretty well but like everything else he has unlearned over the two years he was gone, he had unlearned this too. I think had we had some days strung together in a riding week, say even three, he would have settled into this cue pretty quickly. As it was with a day here and a day there, it would take a while before he was easily responding to that cue and understanding that he was only supposed to walk or trot on the lunge line.
Also, having more days off than on, we always started off with a highly excited horse with an attitude. The first day Storm tended to be in his own world on the lunge line. He was happy to be out, running around like a lunatic snorting and blowing making Arabs look nuts. We always had to get through that phase into a listening phase before he would even consider we were in a training session to figure out we weren't supposed to be cantering at all BUT I stuck to it. By the time I ended the lunging session, Storm knew we were NOT cantering or galloping for that matter.
To be continued..................
Signs of Progress..... and a Little Whoops......
Visit Blog Village and vote daily for this blog Here They are now measuring the rankings by votes out, so if you find my blog on the site, please click that link too to improve my rankings. TY