dancing horses

dancing horses

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Steele learns about side reins

Steele has been going so well on the lunge that I decided it was time to introduce him to side reins. Our new surcingle arrived and I wanted to try it out.

First time:
I went through our usual routine and at the end of the session I attached the side reins. I put them on the last hole so that they were loose. I made sure that they weren't so loose that he could potentially get a leg over them. He had lots of room to move his head. I know that many more experienced people might have him further along. I know that I am going really slow but I want each new thing to be such a a natural extension of what he knows that it seems to be ho-hum.  It was important that this be a low stress event as it could potentially decide how he viewed rein contact in the future.

I carefully fastened the reins on and walked him on the lead line. He was not sure of the contact although it was just the weight of the reins. However, as we went along he settled down. After 5 minutes I disconnected them and put him away.

Second Time:
Again I lunged him first and when he was calm and settled I fastened the side reins. I left him on the lunge but stayed close as I only wanted him to walk. I did not want him to go galloping off and hurt himself. Lunged both ways and he was fine. As he walked along he began to stretch down a bit and softly chew the bit. I was tempted to trot him but decided that no, that was enough and put him away.

Third time:
Again I wanted to lunge him first. When I brought him to the ring he was quite 'up' and full of go. Irish began to squeal and run in the next paddock with Steele trying to join him. I was glad that I had gloves on because he was a bit hard to control. However, I decided that enough was enough and he was to listen to me. I made him walk no matter what he wanted and as his attention wandered I brought it back by asking him to do something and then insisting he do it. Once he was trotting quite strongly and I asked him to walk. He hesitated and then kept trotting on. So I simply walked ahead to block him going around the circle so that he had to either run into the fence or stop. I could see him going 'whee, I just want to go' to 'ack! fence' he braked hard. I then simply took the pressure off and had him walk on. The next time I asked him to go from trot to walk he was prompt.

 I remember hearing many a  wise horseperson say that you work with the horse you have now not the horse you had yesterday. So I had decidedt that I was going to skip the side reins. However, as we settled into work he became more attentive so I decided to try it. I hooked them on and walked beside him. He strided along. A few bobbles as he got used to the feel of pressure on his mouth. I let him go out on the circle and we did some walk-halt-walk transistions. He halts pretty squarely for a green horse. I decided to ask for a trot and see what would happen. He had a lttle difficulty with it as the movement made the reins feel different but he was game. A brief trot in both directions and he was done.

By the end both of us were hot and sweaty. He had a lovely rub down with cool water followed by a scratch and a carrot. I had a cold beer on the deck and read my book.

Both of us were happy. A good day's work was accomplished and we are incrementally along our way.

Today I was going to try time #4. However, Charlie the bull next door got in the way.

That, however, is a different post.


  1. I am a VERY firm believer in taking it slow. No stress on their brain and no overloading the joints. I want my horses for the long haul, not a flash-in-the-pan five year old who is then used up by the time he is ten. You are started Steele just right.

  2. I was wondering something.... when I have Chrome around other horses who start galloping around and acting stupid I always make him stop, regardless of if I'm on him or have him in hand... my thinking is that if I'm ever on him and a horse bolts near him I want his natural inclination to be to stop. Is that a good idea or should he keep working? I'm not sure....

    1. I think that it depends on the horse. I like to keep the feet moving but in a controlled way so that they focus on me.


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