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.

World’s Best Pony Loves Liberty Jumping!

My daughter ‘s pony Sutter (AKA World’s Best Pony) really took to liberty jump training. He is a pretty athletic little guy and loves to jump, buck and play-basically he loves anything that gets all 4 hooves off the ground. Sutter is just learning how to jump courses, but I can already tell he is going to excel at this ;-). Check out his video below:


Probably Time to Get a Dog….

Some tricks are inherently easy to teach an animal because they are based on their core instincts and behaviors. Teaching a horse to play catch is definitely not one of those kinds of tricks.

Horses don’t naturally like to catch objects in their mouths like dogs. They aren’t hunters. They don’t have the instinct to follow an object in flight and try and grasp it with their teeth. Add to this that a horse has a bit of a blind spot directly in front of them, and you can see how this trick can be a bit difficult for a horse to learn. Most horses can learn to “catch” objects by just opening their mouths wide and having the handler toss the object into their mouths. When they feel the object, they close their mouth. Dino, however, has learned to have pretty good eye – mouth coordination, and plays some real catch by grasping the object with his teeth. Check him out in the video below.

If you are wondering why I would teach a horse to play catch….let’s just say that I sometimes have some extra time on my hands while I wait for my daughter to finish with Pony!

Baby Dino Learning Half Pass

Baby Dino is growing up and beginning to learn some big boy dressage movements! Dino is still 3 (4 next month!), and spent most of the year riding-wise just goofing around hacking in a relaxed frame. But, his young age hasn’t stopped us from working on some upper level movements. We just do them in-hand!

The half-pass builds on the very basic lateral movements that baby Dino began learning in-hand as a 2 year old. Dino knows how to perform haunches-in and shoulder-in from my touch. This was then used to build the side pass. When Dino had these movements down, the half pass, was the next logical progression.

Half pass is a forward and sideways movement where the horse is bent in the direction of travel and around your inside leg. Although this sounds similar to the side pass, it is a much more difficult gymnastic for the horse to perform. It is a great exercise to teach in-hand as there is no weight of the rider to influence the horse’s balance. The horse is free to figure it out himself.

Dino picked this up fairly easily at the walk and is progressing to the trot.  He still has his 3 year old moments, but he really does try. You can see his concentration in the pictures below. Gotta Love the Dino!!

On the Road to Passage

Dino has graduated from Spanish Trot at Liberty to attempting Spanish Trot under saddle, and he is even trying a few passage steps! If you are wondering how a horse with 5 months under saddle can begin thinking about passage, remember, I started this training a year ago. Until now, all of the Spanish Walk/Trot/Passage training was performed without a rider. It took months of slow work to get the first few steps under saddle. Even now, it will take much longer to shape this into Dino’s final passage. He still needs to learn to take even steps, collect and shift more weight to the hind end, but you can already see that his passage will have power and impulsion. The collection and sitting will come slowly as Dino gets stronger. For now, Dino does mostly long and low work to develop his back muscles. We usually only school at most 4 steps in a row of Spanish trot/passage. I just threw a few more in for the video, but clearly he isn’t ready for more than a few steps.

The benefits of teaching passage through the Spanish trot is that:

  1. You can use clicker training the entire time
  2. It is less stressful/easier for the horse to understand than some of the other pressure/release techniques
  3. When completed, you will have a horse that can passage easily and will LOVE doing it
  4. You can start the passage much earlier in the training and take your time
  5. Your horse will also be able to passage at liberty (which is a pretty cool thing)

The downside of clicker training a passage:

  1. It still takes a long time to train (plan on a year from starting the Spanish walk to the first Passage steps under saddle)

The video below shows Dino just starting to think about passage. I wanted get this video to show some intermediary steps on the road to passage, so you can see what it looks like….warts and all!


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