Romulus, 2 years old
Posted by Irina Yastrebova on Monday, October 9, 2023 08:01 PM
It has been almost 2 years since Romulus became a part of my family. He has grown into a tall and handsome youngster, 165 cm to be exact! :)
With his long neck I am very happy I taught him to drop the head down, otherwise, he can be out of reach. So far his life has been simple. Gradually
he has been habituated to coming into barn, standing tied, being groomed, feet picked and trimmed, leading, saddled, trailering, lunging, poles, bridling, double-lunging,
driving and work in hand. And the introduction followed the list described. All of this has been taught to him over those almost two years,
very slowly with 2 days a week work in first year, 20 min max including barn time and 3 days since he turned 2 about 40 min with barn time. He also still goes with me
and Santo to the field running free, galloping around, exploring trails, jumping over logs. He is like a dog now, he responds to me whistling and calling his name and runs back if he went too far.
That is why I do not take young horses to start. I do not do 60 or 90 days. I like to raise them and educate them, get to know them, built a relationship.
It is very important to understand when working with young horses that they do not know anything when it comes to humans: interactions, behavior, requests. etc.
EVERYTHING must be introduced and taught to a young horse. A lot of time I hear people are saying that their young horse is very friendly. First thing that
comes to my mind - "very pushy" and usually I am right. Fostering babies friendliness must come hand in hand with clear boundaries and teaching babies to know them.
Teaching youngsters to pay attention, to stay focused, to keep trying even when they are bored, distracted, nervous or excited. Also, making fast and assertive corrections when it comes
to nipping, kicks or aggression. ALWAYS be ready for unpredictable, the youngster must never catch you off guard. You as a handler must always be very aware of the
horse you are handling and with young horses that is absolutely paramount for so many reasons! Without exaggeration, your life literally depends on it!
No matter what method of training you decide to use, there are a few fundamental rules that must be followed to be effective with your training.
- The learning steps must be small. The smaller your chunks of info for your horse to grasp the better. Do not pile up too many of those small pieces even
if they are unrelated. Keep sessions short and sweet. Repeat same request several times then move on. Make sure you are asking in the same way every time. Do
not skip steps.
- Watch your horse very carefully, mindfully. Notice his responses, emotions. How he is grasping the concept, where is his focus, is he relaxed, distracted, nervous,
confused, etc Adjust your requests to your horse's ability to learn. Some concepts you will teach fast, some not. It is OK, your youngster "dictates" the speed of learning
as long as you continue teaching him regularly.
- Repeat learned lessons before asking for new things. Introduce new ideas/equipment one at a time. Test the learned material in a new environment. Just be mindful
with how much that new environment is challenging him. Keep the same principle of small steps in increasing the challenge.
- Do not be a perfectionist! :) You will make mistakes and you will learn from them. The progress is not linear or spotless. Just remember horses like humans do not
learn when they are frightened or panicking. You must be very calm, patient, consistent, focused, clear, assertive when necessary and very positive. Your baby will learn to trust you, to try, to
enjoy spending time with you, your relationship will flourish together with your horse's education.
Not to be too general I am going to give an example. I will describe steps to bridling a young horse to show a process of chunking the info into easy to learn steps..
Bridling involves handling horse's head, mouth, ears and putting pieces of leather/nylon around them and things inside the mouth. This understanding makes it easy to chunk up the process.
- As baby is learning to be haltered also teach him to drop the head on a cue by gently pressing down on a halter and on the poll
- Gradually habituate to grooming, rubbing and massaging ears
- Gradually habituate to mouth handling - holding and rubbing muzzle, lips, chin, placing fingers in the mouth, massaging gums and lips, touching the tong
- Make the baby familiar with different ways of haltering, especially, over the head from the front method. Start teaching it when baby wants to go (out of the barn) and is willing
to consider a new way.
After all these pieces are practiced enough that they are part of the normal handling, the bridling will not be difficult.
- At first use a headstall without a noseband to simplify matter
- Disconnect one side of the bit from the cheekpiece. After dropping the youngster's head on a cue and slipping headstall on over the ears, open his mouth with one hand and lift the bit with another.
Attach it back to the bridle (use small spring loaded snaps for convenience).
- Do not attach reins at first, let the youngster simply have the bit in his mouth and get used to it. Use simple mild bit - not too thick or too thin, can be plastic like Happymouth.
- After a few times with disconnecting the bit (if it goes smoothly) try keeping it attached and gently open his mouth with your thump as other fingers hold the bit near the mouth. When he opens it slide it
in and lift the bridle up toward the ears and put it on.
- Do not be hasty trying to put the bridle as fast as possible. Rather go smoothly and work on each moment at a time, "explain" to your baby how to behave, take more time if needed.
On the other hand clumsiness, nervousness, harshness and unnecessary delays are counterproductive.
Raising a baby is a challenge, big responsibility and a lot of fun! :) It brings so much joy to see him grow and learn and become well mannered, well educated young horse. Enjoy every step! :)