dancing horses

dancing horses

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Steele's First Time

So after our initial meeting I asked the trainer to come back the next weekend while I did my 'homework'. He called me on saturday and we made an appointment for later that afternoon. He asked if this time he could do 'everything'. Not a problem I said.

The remainder is a description of the events as I recall. I may unintentionally misrepresent what the trainer said so please don't take this as his training method but my interpretation of it. I'm also editing a bit so you don't have to read me droning on and on.

I figured he was going to lunge and drive him again. He came with 'stuff' including his own lunge whip (purple), lunge line with chain (I worried a bit about that but more on it later), his helmet and saddle. "I like to be prepared for everything" he said. He also said that it was his job to make sure that this was a good day for Steele, not a bad day.

I groomed Steele and put on his boots. Royce then led him up to the ring. I told him how our week had been including that my leading him through the woods and how he wouldn't spook no matter what I did. he commented that Steele must trust me. Which I would agree with - I trust him as well.

As he started, Royce warned me that it takes as long as it takes. And that he won't hurry the process. That's fine with me. He started in the barn teaching Steele to lower his head with pressure on the poll. The idea is that this is calming to the horse. Once he learned that Royce used it periodically during the session to return to something Steele understood and to help him relax. It was then up to the ring and he hooked on the lunge. He took the line and wound the chain up and over the nose band and through a strap.
The idea of this set up is the the chain does not actually rub or hurt the horse but he can rattle it to make noise as a stimulus if needed. Royce's goals for the lunging were simple- he wanted Steele to respond to his cues to move away, turn, whoa, come closer and follow (but not crowd his space). Initially Steele was quite challenging. He didn't really see why he should listen to this new person. But Royce remained completely patient and clear. He did not run Steele nor did he allow him to run away. In fact any canters were completely Steele's idea not his trainer. Most of the work was mental. By the end Steele was standing perfectly still with Royce 20 feet away and moving in the direction that Royce chose. A few times he had to get very firm (like when Steele challenged his space) but otherwise he was calm and relaxed. He told me that he likes to set up so that a horse can make a choice. Which means that they can make a mistake but when they figure it out they really have it figured out.
Irish was riveted (so that's what it looks like )
at the beginning: "so what are we doing? "
note the listening ears
 He also spent some time rubbing him with the whip. As you can see in the photo Steele is tense and not sure. For the record I do this all the time. I can only attribute it to the fact that he didn't know this guy who was taking such liberties.
note the slack in the line. There was no 'holding' 

Steele relaxed and Irish watching

 this all went on for a while. Then Royce brought Steele over to the gate. I figured that we weren't putting the saddle on next but calling it a day. I was wrong. The saddle went on. He walked him a bit to let him get the feel and then took him to the middle of the ring. He put his foot in the saddle and hopped up a down a few times. Steele didn't move. After a few trials he put his full weight on:

Steele figuring out what was going on Again note the slack in the line
then everything was repeated on the other side

and then he was on. 

He did it so quietly and smoothly that Steele and I didn't notice what happened but there he was. He did this 2 more times and then he dismounted and that was it. Steele was quiet going back to the barn and seemed happy enough to get his hay (after all he hadn't gotten to eat for a LONG time).

That night I took him out to crop on some grass.  I really hadn't thought we were going to get there on saturday. Somehow I expected a bigger a lead up. But I can see how well this went so am not going to argue.

I don't know what he thought about all of this but I know that we are embarking on the next big step of our partnership.


  1. So exciting!!!! I'm confused by the jumbled mess on Steele's head, but I guess if it worked and didn't hurt him then all is good hehe. It's been a long day and I'm totally drawing a blank, but have you ever had a western saddle on him before? He really took everything in stride! I can see how tense he was in the beginning, but he did relax and he doesn't seem too worried with having a rider on his back. :) I can't wait to read about his next lesson when he starts walking around for the first time!

  2. I'm kikeing this guy's style.


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