Passage at Liberty

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted. We took a couple years off showing due to some health issues with both of us, but we didn’t just sit around. We worked on some cool liberty stuff. I had started the passage on Dino when he was just a young man. We took it slow, and I tried to make it fun for him. Dino’s passage was trained using 100% positive reinforcement. I used the whip as a target and guide. I like to think his passage is powered by carrots!

One of the the challenges with training the passage at liberty is increasing the collection. Dino is a pretty chill (kinda lazy) horse. He likes to expend the minimum energy required. We are working on increasing his push energy without going forward… all at liberty. It’s an interesting concept to train at liberty, because you have very limited controls. When I transferred the passage to under saddle, I found it much easier, because I have tactile rein aids and leg aids to help him understand.

Here’s a little video from DelMarHorseGirl on TikTok, showing some passage at liberty.

Half Pass at Liberty!

Now that Dino is at a new barn with lots of space and arenas to play in, I thought I’d get back to doing what I love….Liberty Training! It’s been eons since I have played with teaching Dino the Half Pass at liberty. So imagine my surprise when I asked for it and Dino gave me a few beautiful steps! Sometimes Dino makes me sooooo happy!

The Half Pass at liberty takes a ton of shaping. Notice the nice bend in his body toward the direction of travel. He leads with his shoulder and crosses over behind. I’d like to see more forward movement, but that will come. Also note that I didn’t use the arena wall or a circle to get the bend. This bend is from straight up shaping! Fun stuff (for a horse training nerd anyway!). Also for my western friends, the primary difference between a Half Pass and a leg yield is the direction of the bend. A bend INTO the direction of travel is a much more difficult gymnastic than a leg yield. Leg yields are pretty straight forward and easy to train (even at liberty). A Half Pass at liberty takes a bit more creativity!

The best part about filming this movement is that I had to change my visual aids. I normally use both arms to cue Dino for a half pass, but that wouldn’t work while holding my camera. So, I improvised trying to do everything with one hand. I held a whip so it would be more visually obvious. In hindsight, the cue looked nothing like the normal cue. Dino was probably just guessing. I only have two movements that I have trained that give commands from behind Dino, and the other cue is very different. The half pass was just a great guess from the dinosaur. It just goes to show how smart horses are. They probably fill in the blanks more often than we think!

A Year of Ups and Downs

Well the good news is that Dino was year-end dressage champion again for 2018, showing at 2nd level. The bad news is we seem to be having a few little speed bumps

Dino had a fantastic year right up until October. He was hit hard with allergies. I couldn’t figure it out but thought it would be best to change stables as there were a lot of trees and brush by his stall. The barn was on a preserve, which is a fancy way of saying everything and anything can grow unencumbered. You could literally see pollen floating through the air some days!

The new barn proved to be what Dino needed. Most of his allergy symptoms decreased within weeks of arriving. No meds needed.

I had the allergy tests done anyway and guess what? Dino is allergic to Maple and Sycamore trees….. The very trees that shaded his old stall. The leaves would fall into his pen offering a nice afternoon snack. No wonder he had allergies. He was living right underneath a tree he was allergic to! Well, at least I know now. Poor guy.

Of course life isn’t so simple as just staying at the new barn where Dino doesn’t have to live under his biggest allergy offender. That would be too easy. That barn just announced its closure. We have 2 more weeks to be off the property… And there were about 80 horses on this ranch just 30 days ago. It’s a hard hit for the local horse community. So many horses trying to find homes….

So, we are on the road again. 2019 will be an interesting year. Hopefully with a few less ups and downs… Even if it hasn’t started out that way. Fingers crossed!

Seeing RED….or not.

Ever wonder what colors your horse can see? Horses see color differently than we do.  It is believed that certain colors can appear grey to the horse. So, I thought I’d play around and see what colors Dino can actually “see”…. But first I had to teach him to discriminate between objects, which was kind of interesting.

Day 1:

To start, I thought I’d see if Dino could discriminate between a red and a green bucket. I started with just rewarding him for handing me the red bucket. After a few tries, I introduced the green bucket. Of course he had no idea what I was asking. I have never taught him to discriminate between objects before. The results had me laughing and a maybe even a bit bruised.

I rewarded Dino when he gave me the red bucket, and I ignored him when he tried to hand me the green bucket. He just couldn’t understand why he wasn’t getting a reward for the green bucket, and he started getting violent with it! He slammed it into my leg trying to get my attention. He was basically saying, “Hey lady I am handing you the freakin’ bucket. Take it and give me a treat!!” Do you know hard it is to not respond when your horse is throwing a little tantrum because you won’t take a bucket from him? It cracked me up!

At the end of the first session, Dino was no closer to figuring out what I wanted. So, I ended after he handed me the red bucket and put him away.

Day 2:

Sometimes horses process the lesson when they are sitting in their stall, and that is exactly what happened. I started the lesson the same way I had the day before, but now Dino picked the red bucket 80% of the time! He was figuring the game out.

Day 3:

Dino had a 100% success rate discriminating between the red and green buckets by day 3! He was super confident in this game too. So, I added more buckets. Dino kept a 100% success rate discriminating between 4 different colored buckets. He only faltered when I added the fifth bucket. It was a black bucket.

Horses don’t see color like we do and it is believed that red is not a color they see. In fact, red probably looks grey to a horse. So this dark red/magenta bucket looks almost black to Dino!

Next up, I think I will teach Dino to pick out the green bucket….. This should get interesting!


Do Horses see color


Every Horse Mom’s Dream

If you ride and show horses and have a kid, then you will know what I mean here….but I just hit the holy grail. That’s right…my daughter is now an expert show groom. You just can’t get any better than that!

Dino had his first show of the season today. He did fine, but that isn’t what has me so excited. Kelsey actually offered to braid Dino! And, she did a REALLY good job. Add to that that the fact that she accompanies me to the horse show. She helps groom and tack up. She checks ride times and scores and does everything you would expect from a professional groom. Yep, I couldn’t be happier!

Seriously, this professional grooming service almost beats the fact that Dino made is 2nd level debut today and he won the class! He also pulled a first and second in his first level classes. He beat a couple of trainers (one who trains with an Olympic medalist). So I am pretty happy with Dino’s progression. He is still only 5. We have a long way to go, but we are inching along. Now would be a good time for us to start attending some clinics or work with an upper level coach. If you have ideas/recommendations, send them my way… It’s been years since I have had any coaching. I need to get back in the habit!




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