Taking time
Posted by Irina Yastrebova on Sunday, June 27, 2010 07:04 PM
Santo has been with me for 5 months since he arrived at the end of January. I didn't do too much with him during February and March due to winter weather, luck of footing and my trip to Frances. However, he has been working regularly 4 times a week for 3 months now. All the work I am doing with him now is ground work. I haven't even sat on him once. For many people it will look like a waste of time. So many horses "broken to ride" in 30 days. I met such horses. I had to retrain them. Not fun... Very often people are so preoccupied to get on a horse's back that they miss out on giving a horse very solid foundation from the ground. Taking time to do so safes so much drama and enormously speeds up training when it is time to ride. I will tell you later in this blog what Santo has learned during these 3 months. However, more important fact is what I have learned about Santo during this time.
The time I'm taking to do ground work with Santo gives me an opportunity to get to know him - his temperament, his level of energy, his level of tolerance, what makes him happy, what makes him upset, what he does when he is nervous, how much I can pressure him and when it is time to back off and find another way. He is challenging me constantly to find better ways of explaining things to him because I can only put very little pressure on him and only when things are very simple. If I make it just a little bit complicated he gets confused and upset, he gets frightened and stops thinking. He is very smart and learns things very quickly as long as I present new knowledge to him one piece at a time. And he is teaching me to make these pieces smaller and easier to digest for him. It is a great pleasure to watch him, learn from him and teach him. He is more complicated than a warmblood and he is much more fun than a warmblood. I will start riding him very soon and I'm looking forward to it.
What Santo has learned in these 3 months? Notice: All the work is done in outdoor arena 20x40 m with no fence around it.
  • Stands quietly tied for grooming and tacking, gives his feet willingly, willingly moves all directions for a couple of steps if asked
  • Accepts grooming from a high mounting block where I'm much taller than his head and I lean over him to groom the other side, from both sides
  • Understands actions of a long whip and is not afraid of it
  • Leads well from both sides, turns, stops, backs up, executes figures such as volte, serpentines, spirals, leg-yields, squares (with me on inside or outside of the turn)
  • Leads well on trails in the forest and rural roads with occasional cars passing by, listens well even if nervous
  • Well established on a lunge line in walk and trot - no pulling, understands voice commands, goes large, lengthens his trot stride if asked, spirals in and out, executes square figure, halts on command. Understands voice command for canter, however, still having difficulty to make a clean transition, tries very hard though...
  • Leads and lunges over poles, cavalletty, tarp, plywood board
  • Accepts things attached to a saddle or surcingle that are swinging, jingling and bumping on his sides
  • Is learning about actions of the bit at halt and walk
  • Started to learn long-lining, lines are attached to halter's side rings, willingly walks forward, changes directions, still a little bit apprehensive of me following him with a long whip in my hand
  • Accepts me jumping up/down by his side holding the pommel, pulling on the stirrups and on the saddle imitating forces during mounting
Besides all the stuff Santo has learned and can do, he accepted me as his leader, he trusts me, his attention has improved dramatically, he understands his work and he accepts it and willingly comes to me to be caught. Most of the time there is no argument between us, just quiet methodical work. He can be a pest sometimes as any young horse, however, days like that are rare.
Usually only one new thing added to a working session which can be as insignificant as introducing spiral on the lunge line or it can be quite a big step like introducing canter which cannot be broken into smaller steps. All these tiny new lessons accumulate in time and before you know it a horse has learned so much. In a few years no body will care if I started riding him in June or August of 2010. However, taking this time to laid a proper foundation will help Santo to be a better horse throughout his career as a riding/show horse.
Happy riding...
 
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My blog is about teaching, riding and training. I share what is important to me in my work with horses and riders. The writing helps me to think things over and have a better understanding of training ideas and priciples.
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