Training a young mare. Part II
Posted by Irina Yastrebova on Saturday, November 21, 2009 09:45 PM
After only a few ground work sessions mare calmed down significantly. She stood quietly for grooming and saddling, became much more attentive in work in hand and learned how to lunge. It was time to ride her. Already she was so much better in the saddle compare to the first time I rode her. She was walking willingly forward, was easier to turn and didn't spook much even in outdoor ring (before she only worked indoors). Even though the mare was so much better and started showing her sweet and gentle nature I didn't stop paying a vigilant attention to her every move. Now and then she would very innocently try to lean into my space or ignore my request. I would correct her here and now and we will calmly go about our business.
During the first month we progressed to riding walk and trot on single track, leg-yields and shoulder-ins in hand, beginning of leg-yield in walk under saddle. On the lunge line she learned to canter from a voice command. She became very good at it which lately helped to start very nice canter under saddle. The mare had a habit of being very stiff in her back. At the end of the first month she started to learn how to relax and lower her head down. During riding I didn't try to pull her head with my hands. I rode her forward and used my seat to keep her straight to encourage her to stretch. I could feel every time I succeeded to straighten her out she would stretch down almost spontaneously. There were moments in trot where she looked like a hunting dog. To help her learn to relax her back I used the stretch with a hoofpick. During grooming I would pock her under belly right behind the girth place. It made her round her back. Every time I did that to her she would lower her head.
When she became confirmed in canter on the lunge line I started asking canter under saddle. I always initiated the voice command during lunging with her name called out in a clear and uprising voice. Very often she would canter right there before I even say: "Canter!" The same happened under saddle. In a week she was cantering as soon as I call her name and she would canter right away without speeding her trot or falling on the forehand. Her canter was fantastic - balanced, steady, very round stride with natural uplift in front. Very soon she was cantering boldly with good energy and could sustain her canter for some time. She was so good at it I started incorporating it in our warm-up. Canter helped the mare to relax her back. It improved her trot work. She started giving me glimpses of what she can do, powerful and round trot, the one she did in the paddock by herself.
Exercises we rode were turns on the haunches, turns on the forehand, shoulder-in in walk, circles, spirals, serpentines, all kinds of changes of rein, leg-yield in walk and trot. This mare never needed rein for downward transitions, only seat. At the beginning I didn't do a lot of transitions because she was having a hard time going forward. Lately, when she became almost self-propelled, it was much more fun and useful to ask her for all kinds of downward transitions.
After I was confident the mare was obedient on the leading line - walking, turning and stopping with me I started taking the mare for a cool-down walk in-hand through my property which is almost all dense pine forest with trails cut through. This is very easy way to introduce trails to a young horse. You watch your horse's reaction and turn back home at any time. During second month of training we started trail riding . She was very brave and very obedient. Our first encounter with a deer who jumped up just a few feet in front of us made her spin 180 degrees on her haunches in a split second. However, a moment later I stopped her and we walked back home on a loose rein.
Everything that I have done with this mare - consistent regular work, proper handling, ground work, proper riding - turned her around. From confused, very restless, spooky with low confidence creature this mare started to show her true self - very kind, smart, level headed, fun to ride horse and not that spooky at all! All she needed is to know her place, reassurance and security. This mare thrived on praise and love that she truly deserved. Honestly, I started looking forward to our work together. And I was sad when she went home because in 3 months we just got to know each other, we have established connection and understanding. The training strategies to improve this horse have emerged and began working for her. The owner is planning to bring her back next summer for more training. I'm looking forward to it.