dancing horses

dancing horses

Monday, July 18, 2022

Old Learning/ New Horse

It's very interesting to have a 2 year old in the barn. I have gotten so used to my more mature equines that it's been a bit of an adjustment having a youngster. It's like having grown children and then having a preschooler. 

Young horses are such sponges and they learn things very quickly.  It can be a bit stressful, to not screw up. I am sure that you are all shocked to learn that I am doing my best to be methodical.  

Things continue to improve with the three of them, which is nice. 

Carmen choosing to be in the paddock away from the boys.
And Irish is not freaking out. 

Carmen lost a shoe so I couldn't really school her. Fortunately, I have a boot so I could ride but not school hard. Then the weather turned really hot so I decided to set up an obstacle course. 

I knew all the horses could enjoy it. I haven't set up one of these since back in October when I was teaching her to seek out the tarp.   When I mounted Carmen walked around, spied the tarp and marched right over to it. 

Carmen: I know this- this is where I rest. 

We played with obstacles and then I brought Quaid up to the ring. A few years ago I wouldn't have set up something like this. Or, if I did, I would try to do all the things and push my horse. But the help I've had with Carmen has taught me a better way. And it really pays off. 

The cones were no big deal. The first time we had to check them all out, which is fine. Curiosity is a good thing to encourage. My goal is not to get through everything fast. My goal is to teach Quaid that I can present him with puzzle and that there's always a solution. 

disengaging his hind end

the poles are fun. We can go into the square and turn around without leaving. I have some scattered poles too and it's good seeing him figure out where to put his feet. 

Our sessions are getting longer but we take lots of breaks to let him relax and to figure things out.  When we approached the tarp he was, of course, suspicious. I let him sniff it and then we walked away. Then we returned and each time I asked for a little more, but staying under threshold. Within 5 minutes he walked over it and was very proud of himself. 

After a couple passes I left it and we did a couple other things and went back to the barn where I proceeded to put some braids in his mane. I figured I'd get one or two in before I exhausted his patience but I got them all in. 
sorry for the angle but he kept following me

The next day it was no big deal. 

After reviewing all our current learning, I decided to introduce him to the plastic bag on the stick. It's the most scary thing I've done with him so far. And he reacted as I expected. 

Quaid: nope, nope, nope

The trick is to keep just enough pressure for him to seek the answer but not so much that he can't learn because he's too frazzled. When he faced the bag I would move it away. It didn't take long for him to figure it out. 

Quaid: What is this thing and why must it torment me? 

Of course, it's not like he got it and then was all 'oh hey this is fine'. He would get frightened again and then face it. Once we got to a good spot I put it away. 

It's so much fun to take these things that I learned because of Carmen and use them with Quaid. I am no expert by any means but I like seeing how these principles work. Do a little, leave it and then when you return to it it's all there. 

In the past I would think drilling is the answer. I was wrong. But it was what I knew. I am guilty of reflecting on past horses and thinking that I did wrong by then because I didn't know 'X'. It's easy to fall into  the trap of 'if only I knew then what I know now'. 

But that is the real trap- being paralysed by guilt over not knowing what you couldn't know until you learned it. Each horse has taught me more, that's the way it goes. To quote Albert Einstein "the only source of knowledge is experience'. 

I am excited for what I'm going to learn from Quaid


  1. Yes! The power of micro sessions. ❤️

  2. We can’t know everything, that’s for sure, and it’s hard to unteach our mistakes, (I’m currently working through a couple), but I really believe time is more important. You have always put in the time with Carmen, and that has made you a better a horsewoman for her, and now Quaid. Good job.

  3. Replies
    1. Thank you. I figured you would approve. :)

  4. Everyone's settling in so well - so excited and happy for you, he's going to be a star (and do I even need to say you're doing a fantastic job with him)

  5. So fun and exciting to see how the techniques you learned with Carmen are benefitting Quaid. He's such a good looking guy with brains to match!

    1. I think he's pretty good looking too. I love that he has such a great brain.

  6. i love this -- he looks like such a thinker, and clearly is already latched on! i have like... the absolute most limited experience in ground work, having only really done it with my sweet placid charles lol, who... has maybe never been a sensitive 2yo ever in his life? and i know all roads lead to rome and consistency is what really matters. in my mind, tho, comparing notes with what i worked on when charlie was brand new to me, ideally the behavior of the target (bag on stick, in your case) would not change unless the behavior of the horse changed. so in those moments when he's calm, head down, facing and contemplating the target, i would not move it toward him (ie increase pressure). with charlie, those were the moments i used as either a rest moment, or a moment to turn my back and walk away (with horse following, basically getting him moving again but in the mildest way vis-a-vis pressure). my understanding is that this method teaches horses that a calm thoughtful response results in decreased pressure, and shows them that their response influences what happens to them (vs no change in their behavior still resulting in a change in the stimulus). take that as you will, tho, bc clearly he's already super hooked (and super cute!) <3

    1. Thanks for this. It's always hard to know how much video to show and how much to explain. Tristan Tucker explains that horses can be bothered by things that approach them or approaching things and noise. I have quickly figured out that Quaid is bothered by novel things coming closer to him. Totally makes sense. So my earlier work was all about what you describe- face the thing and it will go away. However, I was also pushing it a bit because i want him to accept things coming closer. You will see that I did it slowly and let him decide. Once he let it come really close and touched it we were done. There were a couple times earlier when that happened but he wasn't really relaxed. In the final one he wasn't totally relaxed but getting there so I finished.
      In the end it's having a process and being consistent that is the key. It's so much like riding in degerming when to push, when to ease up, when to reward, when to repeat.

  7. He is a smarty pants! We do learn from our mistakes which is a good thing. I love how curious and willing to learn new things he is.

  8. Just getting caught up, wow congratulations!!!


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