Working with a youngster. Part I.
Posted by Irina Yastrebova on Monday, April 2, 2012 06:56 AM
My little filly Regala, nickname Chica, is growing up. She will be 2 years old on May 29. Since she came home last June as a yearling I have been handling her and playing with her twice a week for about 20-30 minutes plus she spends nights inside on regular basis, about 2-3 times a week. So overall she has been handled often. Apart from handling youngsters in Russia where I started riding at a riding/breeding facility I haven't worked with very young horse for a long time. It was very interesting for me to see how my experience and overall knowledge of training horses apply itself to such young individual.
I decided from the beginning that I have tons of time with her and I can introduce her to many different things very gradually with no pressure or time tables. This strategy really paid off. Chica has learned a lot since she came. I am going to list things that she does just to give you an idea on what I have been working with her:
  • She ties and gives to pressure of the halter. She knew a little bit of halter pressure when she came. Now she is really comfortable with it and listens to it well even in scary situations
  • She loves being groomed, picks her feet well, lets me trim her feet, though still learning about standing on three legs when one of the front ones is lifted. It is hard for her to hold the posture for long without starting to sink down. She lets me groom her head, ears and muzzle
  • Moves over, backs up from light touch, does not push into my space. She does it in the barn when tied or in the arena on the lead rope
  • Leads well on both sides, turns easily both directions from each side, leg-yields away if I am stepping into her space, stops and goes, understands whip
  • Calmly goes for walks around the yard, into the forest on trails, to the road on driveway
  • Easily walks over polls and cavalletty. She was very confident with them from the first attempt. She loves braking ice on puddles :)
  • She has learned the concept of longing. I do not exercise her on a longe line. She is too young for that. However, she knows to keep the distance without coming in or pulling away, she can walk on a circle or around the track, she calmly trots on a circle both directions (I have no fence around my riding arena)
  • She accepts the saddle on her back and is comfortable walking with it
  • She stands at a mounting block as I climb on it and scratch her I often lean on her back to scratch the other side. Every time I lean a bit more
  • She loads well into trailer and last summer went to 3 horse shows to accompany Santo and Goodwyn. Great experience for such a young horse!
  • Recently I introduced a bridle and putting it on is not a problem. However, she is trying to figure out what a bit is for and works hard on spitting it out :) I only let her wear it for 5-10 minutes at a time
  • But most importantly she developed very friendly and polite attitude, calm and confident in her work, obedient and responsive even when unsure or scared in situations such as being alone on trails. She loves going for work and practically puts her head in the halter when she knows it is her turn
Most of the things she learned happened in a very easy quiet way. If I saw her being nervous or scared I would immediately stop asking. It took her a while to lead from the right side. In the beginning I only asked for one step forward when she wasn't sure what to do. My first trail walks were 20 m into the bush. Before introducing saddle I played with towels, saddle pads, blankets, etc until I saw her being very comfortable with these items, getting them on and off, pulling on straps... The more carefully I observed her reactions the better I can break the learning process into very, very small pieces, frequently going back a step, or abandoning some lessons for a while. She learned to trot on a longe line not because I practiced it a lot but because after introduction of the lesson I didn't work on it for a month. When I asked for it again she calmly trotted around me on a circle.
I do not want to appear like I never had an argument or confrontation with Chica. I am not talking about little corrections that happen on ongoing basis when handling horses. I am talking about big ones where I had to exercise power and show her that I run this place and not her. Because I feed her and groom her it is easy to understand how she may see me as her subordinate. This creates periodical confusion in her eyes who is boss here :) And as all young horses she tests her position in "the herd". So far I had three big confrontations with her. I will tell you about them in my next blog. Plus some general thoughts and ideas on handling young horses.
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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