dancing horses

dancing horses

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Back to School

After an afternoon and night of rain Sunday dawned clear and lovely. Perfect for my plans. I fed the horses and then went in for morning coffee. After a coffee I went out the paddock. It was difficult to get the halter on Steele. Not because he was resistant but because Irish kept getting in the way. I guess my work on making him agreeable to be caught is working. I finally got the halter on Steele and led him into the barn. After a groom that he thoroughly enjoyed I started to put on his protective boots. It was funny- I put on the first one on his right fore and he proceeded to wave it around.
"um mom? there's this thing stuck on my leg"
 I put on his back one. With that the penny seemed to drop.
"oh right. These go on before work"
I haven't put them on since November. He stood still for the other two.

My plan is to start by reviewing all the learning from last year. I don't want to 'assume' that he remembers everything. How fast I proceed will depend on him. So for our first time back I just wanted to review the basics on lunging.

We headed up to the ring and he stood still while I unhooked his lead and hooked up the lunge. He walked off before being asked so I quickly brought him back to a halt and then asked him to walk on. I could see that he really wanted to run off but I wouldn't let him. Once he was walking calmly (all of 2 minutes) I asked him to trot. He headed off promptly and was perfect for about a circle and a half. He then decided that a full bore canter was called for. However, I brought him back down immediately. A few more walk-trot circles and then he got excited again. It all makes sense- it's spring, he's young, the air was fresh and he was full of energy. But I don't believe in letting horses run and carry on on the lunge. It's too easy for something to go wrong. Besides you can end up feeling like your flying a 1000 pound kite.

It really took no time at all.  It was lovely to watch and a bit amusing. When I finally requested that he 'canter' his wole face was 'yes! finally!'  He started to buck. I immeditately brought him back to trot. So the next time I asked he tried it again. I brought him back again. When I asked for a canter and he did a nice depart I gave him verbal praise. The next time I asked he launched like he was jumping a 4 foot fence. I didn't praise him- I waited for half a circle and then brought him to trot. When that was going well I asked for canter. He did a lovely depart that got him more praise. I could see him working it out - he was all excited but he was allowed to run, buck or bolt. How was a young and enthusiastic horse to shake off his tension? He finally settled on a course of action- as he trotted around he shook himself like a dog coming out of the water

He looked quite proud of himself for figuring out a way. After that shake he settled right back into work. We worked our way up and down the ring - he never once pulled on the line. By the end he was prompt and obedient. I found myself mesmerized by watching him go around. I could see that his physical maturity has resulted in a much more steady rythm and balance.

All of this took about 15-20 minutes. I ended it and we headed back to the barn. I let him have a few bites of the new grass before going in while Irish looked on appalled that he wasn't getting grass. No one can look more affronted than Irish.

In the barn I took off his boots and gave him another groom. I then took his bridle out and put it on. I spent a few minutes getting him to yield to pressure on the bit- it was simple and he caught on quickly.

The whole thing was simple and without drama.

Exactly like training should be.


  1. Love reading about Steele's thoughtful, patient (and therefore successful) training sessions. Keep up the good work!


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