Monday, 18 June 2012


I have a fairly varied equestrian past, with learning at a riding stable on the lesson ponies, then the new horses at the barn, along with learning how to ride at camp, moving up the levels to the point where I was the horsebarn director.  With all these different influences, one person has stood out the most from everyone.  Let's call her E.  I met E when I was working at camp.  She came into the camp and certified the riding instructors to teach different riding levels.  E has an incredible history in the horse world and is one of the few people I would call a true horsewoman.  She's done the rodeos, she's done jumper shows, dressage shows, 14 day packing trips through the wilderness, driving, vaulting, and more.  She's a certified nurse and I would trust her with my life in any situation.  Simply, an incredible person and I'm blessed to know her.  For the past 8 years I have been assisting her at the certification workshops at one camp or another.  The workshops are a week long with 60 hours of class time along with 'homework' as well.  This passed workshop, one thing that really reasonated with me and what I need to be working on with Koda is allow the horse to make the choice to do what's right.  Don't escalate the question, don't lose your cool, just keep asking until you get even an inkling of the right answer.  This, of course, isn't the best training method for every situation, but it really helped me tonight.

Last weekend, Koda and I had a trailer loading issue.  All the other horses were hobbled and grazing, and he was tied to the fence.  I arrive, hookup, and look to load him up.  He balks, and hesitates, calling to his pals, so I ask the SO to gently tap on the hock with the dressage whip.  He did, Koda went on, closed the door, ok.  Before we even leave the yard, the insane pawing starts along with calling out.  The calling out didn't bother me, but the pawing did.  This horse hasn't pawed yet in the trailer, and this was MAJOR pawing, over half-way up the wall.  I didn't want to trailer him like that, so we got him out and worked on loading calmly.  Long story short, he walked in calmly and called it a day. 

Tonight I wanted to work on trailering again because we have signed up for our first HT and the only place we can work on our stadium is at the haul-in arena.  So I implemented some of E's training methods tonight:
1) Ask in small steps
2) Don't increase pressure, continue to ask until you get a try to what you want
3) Make it the horse's choice, do not force it

It was really interesting to see how Koda worked through this.  He knew what I was asking for, but he was a touch nervous about so I broke it down into steps.  The ideal - keep the same pressure on the lead rope, and wait for him to make the right choice.  I only had one rule - he had to continually listen to me.  No looking other ways, no losing focus, no calling, no grazing, focus only on me.  Koda knew exactly what I wanted, and he was getting very frustrated with me, making him choose instead of forcing him into the trailer.  After a bit, he put both fronts on the trailer - released pressure and let him relax.  Right before he put those feet in the trailer, he did the equine version of the eye-roll and "really mom?!?!".  It was hilarious.

Now to make this post short and hopefully it isn't tl:dr already, we got him in the trailer nice and calm with the only pressure on Koda being a slight pressure on the lead rope and clucking/kissing.  I think with a few more sessions like tonight, we'll be back to where we were with no loading issues and just on we go with no issues.

Happy Monday everyone!

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