Working with a youngster. Part II.
Posted by Irina Yastrebova on Thursday, April 5, 2012 09:18 AM
As I said in my previous blog I had few confrontations with Chica. I had three very big ones. They were not exactly during the working sessions but rather during everyday handling. First one, was during trimming her hind feet. After she was already familiar with the procedure (she had 3 trimmings done, I trim every month) she decided she didn't want her feet done today. She would pull her feet from my hands, fall on me, walk around. At first I tried to work with her, after 30 minutes I started to feel angry and hit her with the whip couple times quite hard to move her over. I started to worry about my ability to judge things clearly. So I left. I closed the barn door and left her tied in the aisle all alone. She couldn't brake the halter because my ring is high and she was small then. I came back after an hour. She pooped all over the floor, banged on the wall and chewed on stuff. However, after that she let me pick her feet and finish trimming. Since then she never behaved like that and even though she does not stand perfectly for trimming she is very good most of the time. After that incident I was not sure if she would be fine tied in the barn again. She was worried a bit at first but with quiet grooming and handling she became very comfortable.
My two other confrontations happened during routine handling - coming to the barn for the night and back to the paddock in the morning. One time she was impatient and wanted to get inside as soon as possible. She tried to run by me to get to the barn quickly and then didn't stop and pushed into me. When asked to back up or slow down she ignored. So I took a whip and chased her out of the barn, after that we stopped every step and if she didn't stop right away I would back her a few steps. It took two minutes to cover 10 m distance to get to the stall. Now she stops every time I stop and patiently waits for me to leave the stall before approaching her food. The last one happened very recently. It was coming through the gate to the paddock. She didn't want to come in, planted her feet in the ground and wasn't moving. I walked out of the paddock took a whip (I have an in-hand whip near by) and asked her to enter the paddock. She run around me until she realized what to do and jumped inside. So far she is much better now to enter the paddock. Plus I thought of a better way to enter the paddock with her. I open the door then mobilize her and only after her feet are moving I start walking through the gate.
I wand to draw your attention to the fact that I scrutinize my behavior after such encounters every single time. I thoroughly analyze my actions to learn more from them and find better solutions next time. Most of the time I think I had more emotions involved than I should have. I think I reacted rather then acted. Even though I got the results I wanted I feel if I was calmer I would use less drama than I did. During the heat of the moment it is very hard to analyze things quickly, act appropriately and have a very calm mind. I look at it as my quest to become a better horse woman.
There are few thoughts and ideas I want to share with you as a consequence of my work with Chica:
  • 99% of work with very young horses must be done with very quiet, friendly and confident attitude. Young horses are flighty and easily scared. Harsh or unfair treatment has detrimental consequences
  • Young horses are not aware of many rules. A handler must teach a young horse how to behave around humans. It must happen on ongoing basis. Little corrections done right away go a long way in avoiding big confrontations and accidents <>LI>The lessons taught to a young horse must be very simple and short in duration. The more a handler can split the learning process into smaller pieces the better and with less drama a young horse will learn.
  • There will be situations where young horses challenge the handler's authority, sometimes quite strongly. The handler must be ready to act quickly with as minimum emotions as possible. However, your actions must be adequate to create an impression on a young horse. If horse's behavior was dangerous, the actions must be very dramatic to leave a long lasting impression in horse's memory. Young horses challenge more than older horses because as they grow their status in a herd will change. It is in their nature to constantly check where they stand.
  • Just because a young horse was doing something well for a period of time it does not mean it learned the behavior or response properly. That could be a coincidence and the young horse didn't even know it was supposed to learn something; the young horse was in a mood and didn't want to challenge the asked behavior
  • A young horse changes its behavior with another handler. This is a common issue when inexperienced handlers/riders buy a young horse who appeared perfectly well behaved and trained when they tried the horse at a trainer's place. They bring this horse home and the horse turns into a monster. This is true not just with 2-year-olds. Until horse matures around age of 7-8 it considered a young horse. I personally know people who suffered badly after buying a 4 or 5 year old horse only to realize later they are in no position to enforce their will. Never buy a young horse for a child!
Work with Chica showed me very clearly how important very young horse's training is. Taking time and carefully teaching her all kind of things prepares her well for a future career as a riding horse. The idea of taking a 3-year-old out of the field, putting 30 days of work on it and consider this horse a rideable horse is a complete lunacy in my eyes.
Happy riding...
Comment by Jocelyn Davies on Sunday, April 8, 2012 07:34 PM
I have a fair bit of experience working with youngsters and what I would recommend is to "set the stage for success".... meaning, put the youngster in situations that they are challenged where you can control the situations.... if you do this a few times and have some really good sessions... they don't forget. and then when you have a day that you need to get something done and they are not willing, you have a foundation to go back to.. Another rule I have is if they come up to the barn to be wormed, or trimmed and they are not respectful and well behaved.. they do NOT get put back out with their buddies... they stay up at the barn go into a solitary pen and go into boot camp. When they are respectful again, they are aloud to go back out.. Keep things in BLACK and WHITE.. what is acceptable, what is not... reward quickly for good behavior :) Punishment is more the solitary pen and drilling until the right behavior is chosen... Another thing that I've realized over the years of having youngstock.. is that EVERY one of them is DIFFERENT... you can't train every baby and get the same result the same way. But, I've found that taking them into a controlled environment, like the arena and setting up obstacles to play with and work with, really helps establish trust and respect.. which is really the main goal for all future lessons.
Comment by Irina Yastrebova on Monday, April 9, 2012 08:39 AM
Thank you, Jocelyn! I really appreciate you shared with the readers these invaluable tips. You have such vast experience working with young horses. Jocelyn breeds and raises Connemara ponies. These ponies are wonderful horses for children or petite adults.
Comment by Jocelyn Davies on Monday, April 9, 2012 08:09 PM
I agree that inexperienced people should NOT BUY inexperienced horses/ponies unless they are in an environment where they can get CONSTANT help and assistance (ie.. full training program for both horse and rider). This happens way too often... hearing that a new acreage owner has bought a young colt to grow up with his kids! Talk about a recipe for disaster. Another BIG misconception is that a horse in their teens is an old horse. Horses can lead healthy and productive lives well into their 20's if taken care of well. I ride a 17 year old horse (Dillon) myself and he's better than ever, not old in any real sense. Gosh, he has so much to teach me and I've been riding since I was 12 years old (55 now :). I believe that the GOLDIE OLDIES are truly worth their weight in gold! Inexperienced riders can benefit from these horses training and their SAFETY value. Once the older horse has taught you enough that you are a competent and confident rider, then that would be a better time to buy a younger horse.
Comment by Irina Yastrebova on Monday, April 9, 2012 09:06 PM
So true! I have a few students with older horses and they are wonderful confidence builders, forgiving and kind. Especially, if a person is lucky enough to find a well schooled one that done some serious work in his life. These school masters can teach so much!
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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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