Thursday, April 9, 2009

A Wild Spring Day

I took Cowboy out for a ride today--hoping to take advantage of what may be our last nice day for the next week. Beautiful was really excited and just went nuts bucking around her run--all four feet off the ground several times. A lot of head tossing, rearing--having fun, being a baby. (Oh yeah, she's not a baby anymore--he he).

When I got back, it was her turn. I went and haltered her (with Andrea's wonderful creation--I love that thin halter--lots of control!!) and led her to the round pen.

From there, I did something she'd never had done--I lunged her on a long line. I had decided to do that rather than free lunge because I feel I have more control.

At first she was a little confused and mad. She bucked like crazy, but as long as she was moving along in her circle, I didn't care. It didn't take long for her to settle down.

Then we practiced going the other way--whoaing--turning in---and switching directions. At the very last, when I was letting her rest, I tossed the lead rope all over her from both sides and practiced tying her up.

All and all, she did pretty good for what may have been her first "big girl" lesson.

One thing I was very impressed with while watching her run those circles today, was how far she had come with balance. When I first got her, her feet were so awkward, she had a hard time running right. Today she got down low and dug in those heels--she was a regular Speedy Gonzales. She might not be very tall, but boy can she run circles. She's come a long way.


  1. Good news, sounds like she's really progressing nicely! I bet she was going nuts. Spring fever has set in with the horses, I think! Are you using a "stick" like a carrot stick while she's on the line?

  2. Yep, Spring nuttiness has arrived. They're feeling real good about the warm temps! I do have a carrot stick, but I used the long lunge whip for the lunge line--it has a longer reach. She's so sensitive though, that I eventually dropped the whip and worked with the end of the line. She's VERY responsive--you know how some horses are kind of laid back?!?--not her. She really watches your body cues and reacts fast to an uplifted arm, a movement forward, etc. and that new halter really heightens the response as well.

  3. She still sounds very tuned in to you. What is the purpose of this training, or what would it be leading up to?

  4. Good question, Joanne! And, I probably only know part of the answer--professional trainers could probably tell you much more. I lunge my horses--usually in Spring--or when they're young and green like this to get their attention--get them tuned into me and taking cues off of me. (It also works off some off their buckiness when they're "cold backed" with a saddle, etc. and some people do it before every ride). Mostly, I use it to tune them into me and establish me as their leader. (Horses HAVE to have a leader to feel safe.) They want to tune into their horse buddies (who they're with all day)--or lead the human--or both--Beautiful had her ears on Cowboy who was tied near the roundpen and I had to anticipate that around each corner on that side.

    Beautiful (and other horses) challenge me (us) in the roundpen by switching directions when I ask her to trot left---she might flip a U'ey and go right (seems harmless, but it isn't) I have to move my body toward the front of her path and assert myself which, if she respects, will turn her around the right way. She might try coming into my circle (my space)--I have to push her out with my body cues. In the wild and in herds, the dominant horses make the other ones move where they want them to go by body language.

    Yesterday, Shadow, our leader, gave my filly, Cia, a new lesson on who's the boss--he ran her all over the pasture and wouldn't let her return to the barn. He did exactly what I do with Beautiful in the roundpen.

    Horses are awesome--the language they speak is universal and quiet. All horses understand it. If you move behind them--they should move forward--behind their center line (from the center of your circle) they should also move forward. If you move up to about the withers (if you were to draw a straight line from you in the circle to her on the outside circle--she should slow down--a little more forward and she should stop. They are that good at reading body language. The whip is only an aid--an extension of my arm. If she tries to back up, turn the other way, get into my space, I extend it like I do my arm and tell her no--the other way.

    Also, lunging helps to work on taking the right lead on the right foot, so their bodies are nice and rounded, relaxed, collected, supple, and ears are, eventually, tuned in to me--which means she's listening.

    After lunging yesterday she much, much easier to lead--respectful, tuned in, and relaxed. :)

    Hey, this was a long answer--I hope this isn't a case of TMI. (Too much information!) :):)

  5. Sounds like a great day! I love it when I have time to work with more than one horse. Glad you like the halter!

  6. Linda, thanks for the explanation. It's amazing how even body language works, and between species, no less. Some of what you say is familiar to me on a different level, in the way dogs need to have an alpha wolf leader, and that is our role as the owner. If we don't assume that role, the dog will. So in a conceptual sense, it seems kind of like the same thing, you're the alpha. I'm definitely seeing horses with a wiser eye from visiting your blog!


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