On Your Mark…

Training a horse to go to its “mark” is super easy. In this video, Wiley has had 4 days of training to target to his mark. He got the idea of this game easily and loves to play it.  Since Wiley has a super high play drive, this is a great way to engage his mind while getting some energy out. He gets bored pretty easily, so I constantly have to find new and fun things to train on.

I used a mat for Wiley’s “mark” and started by just leading him up to it. When he put both feet on the mat, I rewarded him. It didn’t take long before he got the idea. Next, I free longed him, gave the command “mark”  and removed the driving aids. Wiley came in to the mat. It took Wiley a few attempts to understand that BOTH feet had to be on the mat for the reward, but I just hung out and waited. He eventually figured it out. When he was consistent at going onto the mat, I took him to the other end of the arena and gave the command “mark.” You can see his first attempts on the video below. By the way… the video and the still shot were taken by my little 8 year old man Karsten. He’s getting pretty good!

 

Sweet 16 Ride!

For Wiley’s 16th ever ride under saddle, Kelsey (13) took the reins. Wiley is already 16.3 and Kelsey is just at 5 feet, so they made an interesting pair. I just let them walk around, and Wiley was a perfect gentleman. I was so proud of them both!

Although this was a fun thing to do for Wiley’s Sweet 16 Ride, there really is a reason why I did it. I wanted to start generalizing Wiley’s under saddle training. I don’t want Wiley thinking that I am the only one that can ride him. He needs to learn that it is OK for others to get on him. I start slow, and feather in other riders occasionally. Everyone gives aids a bit differently. Wiley needs to understand that all of that is OK. He passed his first test with flying colors!

Wiley has gotten to the point that if I told a competent rider he was an old, un-tuned lesson horse, they would get on and ride thinking nothing of it. His steering is a bit jerky at the walk and trot.  And at the canter, his steering is still a work in progress, but he rides like a kid’s lesson horse. He knows the basic aids, it  just takes him a bit of extra time to process them.  Wiley’s transitions are decent. He only trots a few steps before the canter. He picks up his correct leads most of the time and he keeps a consistent pace. He can trot serpentines, and he can back, turn on the haunches and forehand relatively decently. He just needs time in the saddle and his response times will get better. I started riding him outside the arena as well. So far, so good, but of course, I am taking it sloooooow!

First Canter Steps Under Saddle!

Wiley is growing up fast! With a few trotting rides under his belt, it was time to try canter.

Just like when I first asked Wiley to trot under saddle, Wiley was put on the longe line. This way Wiley can focus on 1 variable of change-carrying a rider under saddle.  He doesn’t have to think about too much. I am in the middle giving cues and supporting him the whole time. Once again I chose Amy for the first canter ride because she is a quiet rider that won’t lock up if Wiley should pull a baby horse stunt.

Of course Wiley has no clue about canter aids under saddle, so Amy’s aids are only a pre-cue. Wiley is taking his commands from me. I just like him to get used to the idea of the under saddle aids. Eventually, he will start cantering off the pre-cue alone. Amy will only use her legs for transition to the canter and then take them off completely (no steering with them…that comes later). Her only steering is through the reins.

When Wiley first transitions into the canter, I click him after only 2-3 strides. This lets him know that the transition was correct. It also gives him a reward before he thinks too much about what is going on. After rewarding him for the transition twice, I go ahead and let him canter a full circle or so before a reward. In his 4th canter transition under saddle, I let him canter 3 full circles before giving him a  jackpot reward and ended it there. That is plenty for Wiley to think about day 1.

Training Shoulder-In at Liberty

After all of the ground work Wiley has been doing at liberty (turn on the haunches, turn on the forehand, side pass, etc), performing a shoulder in at liberty was straight forward. I took this video on day 2 of his training. I exaggerated the movement so it is easy to see on the video (he is clearly on 4 tracks and bordering on leg yield), and I am still working on controlling lateral movement. The video is a combination of 3 uncut videos, so you can see the work in progress along with some good steps.

To help Wiley understand what I was asking, I used a target for him to follow. Wiley is trained to touch his nose to the target. Since Wiley is already trained to move away from the driving whip, I used it to shape where his hind end needed to go. In essence, his nose follows the target and his hind end stays with the whip.

In a few more months, Wiley will be 3 and I can start lightly riding him. I really want to get all of this foundation training complete so I can transfer it to under saddle work. It makes that stage of training so much easier and less stressful. I can’t wait!

DelMarHorseGirl

Carrots for Breakfast. Squirrel for Lunch.

I spent Sunday morning with my new squirrel friend Spot. I decided to push through my squirrel phobia and see if I could hand feed Spot.  I was only at the barn for a few minutes when Spot parked himself next to my whip. This was my big chance. I held a carrot out with my gloved hand. I could barely watch. I was so afraid he would bite me, jump on me or who knows what? But to my surprise, Spot walked up, gently wrapped his orange teeth around the carrot and waited for me to release it. He never tugged or made any fast movements. It was like he had been doing this his entire life. I couldn’t believe how easy it was. I fed Spot a few more carrots. He was always gentle and slow in his movements- so very un-squirrel like. At this point, I was feeling pretty proud of myself for overcoming my fears and planned on getting a picture of this to share.

I finished my barn chores and returned to the tack room ready to try for my squirrel photo op. As I went to open the door, I heard a slight rustling noise off to my left. According to my daughter I said, “Oh geez” and took 2 steps back. Right in front of me was the local bobcat with a squirrel in its mouth. It was so close, I could have touched the cat with my whip. Since the squirrel’s entire head and shoulders were in the cat’s mouth, I couldn’t ID the squirrel. A quick glance around revealed 3 other squirrels in the area. Were any of them mine?

Today is Friday, and I have not seen Spot since Sunday morning. It looks as if my little friend made a tasty lunch for the local bobcat. While I do miss my friend, I realize the bobcat provides a valuable service. With all the squirrels around, I just wish he would have picked another squirrel for lunch. Sorry Spot. Life is pretty rough when you are a squirrel.

DelMarHorseGirl

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