Sunday, January 18, 2009

Training Pete

Yesterday was my first day working with Pete. Background on Pete is as follows: He is of unknown breeding and of unknown age. He was rescued a few years ago from a place that was feeding him loaves of bread. After this rescue situation, his next owner brought him out to the place he is now, paid the first month's board and then abandoned him. After three months, the barn owner contacted the horse owner and told her that she would absolve all debt AND pay her $100 for the horse. So, now the barn owner is the horse owner as well. His tail and forelock were matted up with burrs which is why he has a bob tail and no forelock, in case the pictures made you curious! She hasn't ridden since she was a kid and wants the horse to be 'finished' before she gets on. The barn owner hired another boarder to 'finish' him and the kid got bucked off pretty much right away. I later learned that he had spurs on and had the horse in a full spade bit. So, owner's husband fired that guy and hired me because he "has been watching me train my horse and knows I can get through to them when they get stuck or stubborn". I am just so happy for the opportunity and experience!

I took him into the round pen and started to longe him. It became apparent pretty quickly that he doesn't know much. Asking for downward transitions only made him speed up, especially if I applied any pressure on the longe rope. He is the first QH I have ever worked with that wasn't fully automatic and dead broke to ride. So, it was interesting to see how he learned. After a few minutes of trying to get from walk to woah and from trot to walk without any success, I asked for more speed. I had him canter around about 5 laps until he was starting to slow down. Then I asked for the walk and got it in like two strides. I reversed him and repeated. So, after he was a bit worn out, he was ready to comply. This is so different from Arabians who NEVER wear out! I pretty much just worked on woah, walk, trot, and reverse commands. He didn't really seem to be catching on, except with the reverse- he got that down! I rarely saw him lick and chew his lips. I don't obsess over licking and chewing, but I do think it is a sign of thinking or a kind of 'lightbulb' moment. Pete didn't have many of those yesterday. Hopefully he will do better today. I also worked with him on yielding to pressure on his girth and hip areas. I like to simulate the leg of a rider from the ground by teaching a horse to move away from pressure. When I press on his girth area, he moves his front feet away, when I press back towards his flank, he crosses his back leg over and steps away. Pete did not understand this. He would lean away when I touched the girth area, but didn't quite get it. I praised him and stopped pressing as soon as he stepped, but again- no lightbulb moments for him. As for moving away from pressure at the hip- no way. He leaned INTO me with all of his weight. I will try the pointy end of a whip today to see if that will send the message any clearer. I also worked on backing him up. He just seems to be a 'heavy' horse. Slow reactions, dead sides... I am working with it, but he sure is reinforcing why I like Arabians!
I am really excited here because he spun on his haunches the second I asked for a reverse!

This is interesting because his ear is on me when I am asking him to 'woah', but he is still moving.

He went a few more steps before I tapped his nose with the whip as a visual/physical cue to stop. His ear is still on me, but no licking and chewing.

John recommends clicking on this picture to get the best view :)

The hind feet were much more difficult to move!

He finally stepped over, so he got some scratches.

I am keeping a log of hours and a journal for his owner, here is what I wrote:

1/17/09 1 hour

I worked Pete in the round pen today to test out what he knows. My impression was that he doesn't know as much as he puts on. While he is fine with a saddle and rider, he doesn't respond to 'woah' or to pressure on his sides.
My goals for him are to have him respond to 'woah', 'walk', 'trot', 'canter' and to yield to pressure on his girth and hip areas before I start riding him. Once I get on him, he will need those cues reinforced, from that point on it will just be a matter of gaining experience.

While I was working with Pete, I had Boomer tied to a tree. He watched everything we were doing. After I cooled Pete down, brushed him, and turned him out I put Boomer in the round pen. He was a bit pissy about being tied up so I worked him until he looked at me instead of over the rail. I tacked him up and went for a trail ride with John and Charley on foot. I wanted to take it pretty easy on him because he scratched his back left pastern a few days ago. It isn't bad but I didn't want it to start bleeding due to a hard workout. So, we walked and trotted some around the big pasture. He was very good.

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