Tag Archives: horse training

Testing our training with gates, Brio part 4

In addition to spending heaps of time with our favorite metaphor, the tarp, I’ve also spent lots of time working on gates with Brio.
I’m a firm believer that a good horse should let his feet become his riders feet. When I ride a horse through a gate, I want to open the gate, and keep my hand on the gate when I go through it, and close the gate without removing my hand.
Brio has an opinion that differs from mine on every single aspect of how I want to operate a gate. If he had his druthers, the most cooperative he would be about a gate is to do a Hollywood stop by the latch, let the rider fling the gate open on the move, pass through the gate, and never look back.

Brio doesn’t like to stand close to the gate, be near the gate when it is moving, stand in the gap of an open gate, back through a gap, step towards the gate as I close it, and stand by the gate while I latch it. Rather than continually work with a gate to achieve my goal, I addressed each aspect of his distaste individually.

To help with his lateral movement, I worked on his joystick control, and his rein yields.

I worked on his patience training to help his stand quietly as I operate the latch.

I worked on backing between cones, then through gaps in the gate and other narrow places.

I used this set up to have control over the narrowness of the space I wanted Brio to get comfortable in
I worked on having him stand by the gate as it swings away from him and towards him. This is fun to do with a partner, playing “catch” with the gate with riders mounted on either side. This was a particularly difficult task for him. ( There was a point where he got fed up with the game, jumped onto a plastic lawn chair and got loose…twice in one day)

I worked on him standing while I shifted in the saddle or did something else with my hands.
Again, the gate wasn’t so much of an issue as the aspects of his training that were lacking in his response to a gate. We worked on all of these training aspects on the ground prior to doing them mounted. The gate was a test of his skills and training and he failed. Rather than take the test again with no additional preparation, we went back to study the curriculum that he wasn’t understanding.

The process took quite some time, and isn’t perfect yet. As a result, Brio is much better at opening a gate and we can do it the way I like now. While it has taken me months of training to get to this point with the gate, the journey has given me a better riding horse with more malleability. These days we are getting about a B- on our gate test. Breaking down the skill into parts makes it much easier for horse and rider to understand.

Anthropomorphism in Horse Training, Brio part 2

Brioso del Amor , or Brio, is Liz’s unicorn-in-training. I don’t know too much about his history, except that he’s been passed around a lot in the past year. His breeder had him at a sale barn that sold him to a dressage home with an amateur. It didn’t work out there for Brio, he reportedly started rearing, so he was back at the sale barn within 3 months. Then Liz and Brio seemed to be a good match for each other. He did well at his pre-purchase exam, and arrived home in time for Liz’s birthday/Christmas.
Liz immediately picked up where she and Sawyer left off. While Brio was a good boy, he didn’t quite have the life experience that leads to the kind of confidence that Sawyer had. A loud motorcycle speeding by him led to Liz’s first fall in three decades. Between that and the discovery that Brio had a habit of breaking loose on the longe line and trying to mount the other horses in the arena led to Brio and Liz going in training with me.

We figured out a solution to the longing issue, and Liz learned some good things in her lessons. Then she got diagnosed with an issue with her spine, which required surgery and recuperation. I became Brio’s sole rider and had the opportunity to work on his confidence three days a week.

I began to really get to know Brio. My impressions of him was that he was upset with changing homes and owners so much. He seemed stressed out that he wasn’t sure what was going to happen to him next and what kind of rules his next handler would have. He would try to hide in his paddock when we tried to catch him, and he would flinch really hard when putting on his blanket or saddle. He just seemed to have a low grade worried expression all the time.

The longing issues and general disrespect of the halter seemed to stem from an issue of trying to posture himself at the top of his new herd. His herd consists of his stable mates, his handlers, and whatever random horse happened to be walking by or working in the arena with him. He was always looking for a way to express himself as being a cool and confident guy, while really harboring some self esteem issues.

I’ve often heard that it is not good, and even dangerous, to anthropomorphize horses when attempting to understand their behavior. I fully agree that horses are different than people in the way they interact with each other, humans, and their view of the world. However, my job isn’t just to train horses, it is also to help other people learn to understand horses. It is in that role that I find anthropomorphizing to be a very useful tool. Not because the horses are doing human-like things, but because it is easier to teach a human about something if you can relate it to something they already have experience with.
Most people have far more experience with humans than they do with people. If I can relate a horse’s actions, to a known trope of human interactions, I can be much more effective in helping a person understand a horse’s behavior.
To this end, I can relate Brio’s behavior to that of a kid who is a bully because his home life sucks. Or maybe the guy who has road rage on his way home from a day of getting pushed around at work. These are things that are easy for people to understand. Bridging the gap between anthropomorphism and equine behavior is the crucial step between evaluation/understanding and execution/correction.


When I interact with Brio, I’m going to treat him like a horse, and not a person. To address his low level anxiety, I am going to give him consistency. To address his issues with his confidence, I’m going to work on things that make horses more confident.

A new project: Making a Match (Brio part 1)

I’m starting a new blog series about my latest project, which is already well underway.Photo by Kathy Colman Photography

Meet Sawyer. He is a 28 year old Morgan gelding. Sawyer is a unicorn. He’s one of the rare horses that has a platinum character and pizazz to go along with it. He can teach the smallest child to ride safely. He can pack your husband through traffic and hard trails. He can willingly prance and gallop along the trail, jumping creeks and looking damn fine doing it. He’s everything you’ve ever dreamed of in a horse. So why does he need training? He doesn’t. He’s 28 with a soft tissue injury, he needs retirement.

Liz is Sawyer’s human. They are both lucky to have each other as they made each other very happy and had lots of fun. She is giving him the retirement he has earned at a great place in Pescadero. Liz isn’t ready to hang up her riding boots with Sawyer, she wants another horse just like him. Liz is also nostalgic for the beautiful Spanish horses that she was around as a teenager residing in Spain. She wanted to buy Sawyer, but a little bit bigger, a little bit younger, and Spanish. She turned to me to help her find her second unicorn.

Liz and Sawyer, photo by Kathy Colman Photography 

So I went to the unicorn emporium and found him, right between the leprechauns with pots of gold, and the flying carpets.
Actually, we had a typical horse buying experience. We tried a bunch of horses, vetted one that failed, amended our criteria, and had many learning opportunities. Finally we found a horse who fit the bill perfectly.

These are my notes from my first meeting with Liz to talk about horse shopping.  She wanted a horse with Brio.  I think I delivered on that one for sure!


Brioso del Amor, aka Brio, is a 12 year old Andalusian (Pura Raza Espanola) gelding. He has low miles, which consequently means he is quite green for his age. If you look hard enough, you can just see his Unicorn horn starting to come in.

Horse trailering tips for feminists

When I was a pre-teen, I was a member of Danville Junior Horsemen’s Association.  DJHA was a local club similar to Pony Club, but much more casual.  We had monthly lectures from guest speakers that were given to us in the local ballet studio.  

One lecture that has stayed with me was given by our local trailer dealer, an old cowboy by the name of Jack.  To help you remember him, he had a caricature of himself printed on his business card.  

Sorry everyone, Jack has since retired from the horse trailer business

Jack stood up in front of a dozen girls in the 10-14 age range and told us some tips that I’ve remembered to this day.  One of them was to never unload your horse on the side of the road.  “I don’t care if your horse has his goddamn leg up in the goddamn manger, do not unload him on the side of the road.  The cops can shoot him if he gets loose because he can kill someone if he goes through their windshield.”

There were not any orangutans at the meeting, but this is the face all us kids were making after Jack used both profanity and talked about shooting horses.   

In hindsight, I’m not sure if the police are as trigger happy to shoot loose horses as Jack led us to believe.  In fact, just last week a horse and a mule were running loose  on the highway just up the road from Danville, and they didn’t get shot.  Read the news story here.  Maybe things were different 25 years ago.

Another thing I recall Jack saying is to make sure you trailer your horse in a leather halter and use a cotton hay net.  You can cut your horse free if he gets hung up in those materials.  To that end, you should always have a knife when you haul in case you need to do some cutting free.

Yesterday, In the dark hours of the morning, Jack’s words came back to me.  After getting in my trailer to go to a show, our beloved mustang put his foot through the corner hay bag in my trailer.  River got his foot stuck up there, in the goddamn manger, and was standing on three legs.  

Now I’ve done a lot of work with River and ropes around his feet, so he didn’t panic.  In fact, I almost didn’t notice that he had hung himself up.  I couldn’t find my knife, but was quickly able to borrow one and cut river free.

This event also got me thinking about wearing a knife myself.  I used to ask my friend, Brandon, if he had his knife.  He would always answer, “I’m wearing my pants, aren’t I?”  Brandon has since moved away, but I shouldn’t have been so reliant on him to have a knife at the ready.  I’m a strong(ish) independent woman. I should wear my own knife.  In fact, I should start wearing my knife every day that I’m with horses.  Those suckers are good at getting themselves in to trouble, and humans are good at putting horses in situations where they can find trouble.

Women of the horse world, let’s do our horses a favor and start wearing our knives!  At least when we are hauling our horses.  I like this knife.

——

About the author: Ali Kermeen started with horses at nine years old and has been a professional for the last sixteen years.  Ali is always looking for ways to teach the horsemanship and the leadership she was given through Danville Junior Horsemen.  Her training business is located in the hills east of the Silicon Valley, and she teaches clinics in dressage, cowboy dressage, and horsemanship throughout the region.  

TPR: Temperature, Pulse, Respiration

A couple years ago I was at my in laws house for Thanksgiving.  My baby was about 6 months old, and I was nursing her when I noticed my phone was blowing up.  Seemed like one of my clients was having a veterinary crisis with her horse.  I excused myself and called her back.  She told me that her horse was behaving oddly, and doing something funny with her leg.  She was getting ready to call the vet.

I really like my vets, I consider them friends and I don’t want them to have to leave their families on a holiday for no reason.  I also really like my clients, many of them are friends too.  I don’t want them to have to needlessly pay a huge emergency call fee.

So I asked some questions to determine if the horse needed to see the vet right away.  Is she breathing normally? Does she have a fever?  What’s her pulse?  The answer to all of these questions was “I don’t know.” I was able to walk her through the procedures on how to collect this information.  With the assistance of a more knowledgeable boarder who happened upon the scene, I was able to determine that there was no real emergency taking place. 

This incident got me thinking, how was this client supposed to learn to do these tests to determine if her horse is ok?  If she were in pony club, or horse masters, it probably would have come up in preparation for a testing.  Even the D1, the most basic test that the walk/trot kids take, includes a portion where the kids had to know their mounts’ temperature, pulse and respiration (TPR). Many riding lesson students don’t want to pay for lessons in horsemanship, they want lessons in how to jump higher and dressage better.

So I started requiring everyone who leased a horse from me to take a lesson to learn how to take the following measurements:

Temperature 

Have a digital thermometer on hand as well as some lube.  If no lube, use spit.  Many years ago I was in a class at UC Davis where we examined a mare’s cervix.  The instructor told us the motto at the horse barn was “when you think you have enough lube, put some more on.” Pretty good life advice, if you ask me.

To take your horses temperature, stand to the side of his haunches, lift his tail, and slide your well-lubed digital thermometer into the rectum until only the screen is visible.   A horse’s normal body temperature can range from 99-101·F. Elevated temperatures can be signs of infection or illness. 

Last month Mark learned to pick his horses’ hooves, this month he learns to take a temperature.  This should be a basic skill for every horse owner.

Respiration 

Watch your horse’s sides, not his nose, to determine breaths per minute. 8-15 breaths per minute is considered normal for a horse at rest.  Some horses breathe faster than that so it’s important to know what is normal for your horse.

Ann watches Blue’s flanks and counts his breaths per minute.

Pulse

The”P” in TPR is the most difficult for most horse owners to assess.  Practice finding a pulse by pushing a vein under the horses jaw into the inside of his cheek.  For shy pulses, it’s often easier to find a vein around the eye to push gently on.  

The average adult horse’s pulse is 30-40 beats per minute when at rest.  Higher than that is an indicator for pain or other physical distress.

Ann finds Corny’s pulse near his eye.



The brothers both had very difficult pulses to find.  If the horse was in pain, it would probably be easier to find if it was throbbing.  The difficulty finding a pulse might be a sign of well being!

Normals

It’s important to know your horse’s baseline metrics for two reasons.  The first is so you will know what is normal for them.  The second is so you will have experience finding TPR when you are freaked out about your horse’s health.

I keep track of all the horses in my program with an ap on my iPhone.  The one I use is called Equi Sketch Records.  Blue’s record looks like this 

Compare his medical normals with Poni’s:


You can see the difference in what is normal for each equine. Poni’s resting  respiration is way out of what is considered normal.  If Blue was breathing 42 times per minute at rest, I would be very concerned.  For Poni, it’s just how she is.

If you don’t know your horse’s healthy TPR, please make a point of checking it the next time you visit him.  Write them down, and keep it in your tack box just in case.

A little bit about bits

I love talking  about bits.  Last year I did an unmounted lesson for our pony club and the leaders had to shut me down after I had been going on for an hour and a half about bits.  While I don’t intend to be a hoarder, I think everyone should be allowed to have a collection of one thing.  My one thing is bits.

I started both geldings off in my go-to bit for green horses.

A three piece D ting snaffle bit

I choose this bit for green horses because it works on their lips and tongue.  It may also work on the bars of their mouth, depending on the position of the rider’s hands.  Because it had three pieces, it does not have a center joint that pokes the horse in the roof of the mouth.  The dee ring shape encourages green horses to learn to take a cue  for turning by pushing on the opposite side of their face from the activated rein (e.g. when pulling on there left rein, the right side of the bit will be pushed against the right side horses jaw).

Did you follow all that?  No?  Here are some diagrams that may help you out.

Anatomy of the horse’s lower jawParts of the snaffle  bit

Did that clear some things up for you?

Well, niether brother liked my choice of bit for them, so it was time to go to my bit box.

Blue’s bit

Blue accepted the bit easily.  He seemed to fuss quite a bit with the mouth piece though, so I decided to put him in a slightly more rigid single joined snaffle. His new bit had a thinner mouthpiece and was a few sizes smaller than the original bit.  In subsequent work outs he seemed very happy with the way his new bit fit and carried the bit quietly with a relaxed mouth.

Corny’s bridle on the left, Blue’s bridle on the right.

Corny

Yesterday’s blog entry talked about Corny’s tongue acrobatics when wearing a bit.  He would twist his tongue, flip it over, draw it up, or loll it out his mouth when wearing a bit.  After one of his early workouts I noticed that his tongue was purple on the bottom.  I don’t typically study the underside of horse’s tongues, are all horse tongues purple on the bottom?  I checked out the other horses that were currently on my tie racks. Neither Dom, Poni, nor Blue had purple  bottomed tongues.  While my sample size was very small, I felt confident that the purple  tongue was not normal.

My theories for why Corny’s tongue is purple were:

  1. Bruising from getting his tongue over the bit
  2. Some kind of dental problem
  3. Lack of circulation to the tongue
  4. Metal allergy or sensitivity

I decided to change Corny’s bit to one that offered plenty of tongue relief, without encouraging fidgeting.  I choose a Mullen mouthpiece (no joint) with a port (an upwards swoop in the center).  To address the metal sensitivity post of my theory, I selected a plastic covered mouthpiece.

It worked!  While the tongue issues have not gone away, they have drastically reduced.  Corny showed improvement the next workout with the new bit.  After he got dental work, he improved even more.  

Bridle set up

You may have noticed that there are no nosebands on the brothers’ bridles.  I could probably cover up some of Corny’s mouth issues if I slapped a noseband on him.  However, it would only be a cover-up and not resolve any of the issues that cause the mouth issues.  I’d rather address the issues and solve them in the early stages of training , rather than fight against them for the rest of his riding career.  Niether horse actually needs a noseband until they begin jumping or competing.

Since they don’t have nosebands, there is a danger of pulling the bit all the way through the horse’s mouth.  To mitigate that risk, I’ve attached a chin strap connecting the rings of the bit.  I simply use a spur strap, but purpose built chin straps do exist.

I’ve been working the horses with their halters under the bridle so I can hook my lines to the halter, or to the bit.  That way the horses can learn to move with the bit in, without also being responsible for responding to it.

Management Strategies, part 2

We got some much needed rain in the brothers’third week of training.  California horse people have a love/hate relationship with the rain.  We love rain because our state is in a constant drought that requires mindful water rationing at all times.  We hate it because when it comes, it dumps too much water on our riding surfaces.  HC Equestrian is located at Indian Hills Ranch; we are lucky to have a nice indoor arena there.  However, it is very difficult to get good photos or video marking the brothers’ progress in there.

During week 3, I took off one of my long lines and worked again on longing with one line.  The thoroughbreds are really getting the idea, especially Corny.  However, as we continued to work, there consistently became signs that the brothers had discomfort in their bodies.

Teeth

It had been a year since the horses had their teeth floated, so I scheduled them to get done. 

 Corny has some issues with the bit and does acrobatics with his tongue when wearing a bridle. I’ve noticed that sticks his tongue out the right side of his mouth. Before I try to pick up reins, he needs to learn to accept the bit and hold it steady in his mouth. I want to rule out, or address, any physical issues that could be causing this behavior.
Corny’s tongue. Notice that I have the lines on the halter, not the bit.

I got them scheduled for dental work as soon as I could. Both horses were reported to have needed lots of work done. 

Amy Scripps floated both horses

It worked!  In two workouts since their dentistry,Corny has gotten much quieter with his tongue.

Chiropractic 

In his first month of work, Blue had a hard time holding a canter lead, especially with his hind legs. Corny always started off extremely stiff. Both horses acted as inverse Zoolanders and had a hard time turning right.

Derek Zoolander can’t turn left

Fortunately, I can get Wally Palmer, DVM, to come to my barn. Some of you local folks may know him as the guy who took over Mike Gleason’s chiropractic practice. Anyway, Wally is great. He gave me a good assessment on both horses, adjusted them, and sedated them for Amy to do dental work.

In the next two workouts Blue has been holding his canter lead better, and Corny is more capable of bending.
The brothers are up to date on vaccinations and shoeing, so we don’t have to worry about that right now, though there are definitely some improvements that can be made in their shoeing.

The Double Longe and Interpretive  Dance

Blue and Corny are the thoroughbreds I hope to take to Kentucky in October for the thoroughbred makeover competition.  Niether of these full brothers longed very well, so my last entry was about how I taught them direction and speed cues while they were loose.  Now it’s time to put the lines back on and try longing again.

Both horses might have had a little bit of Parelli training at their previous farm. My guess is that this is why they turn in to face me as soon as they feel the slightest pressure on the longe line.  Usually when a horse does this, I hurry to get behind them to send them forward again in the same direction.  I tried that first with these two, but that seemed to confuse them more and make them a bit frantic.  That certainly isn’t going to help me.  Being frantic is not a mindset that fosters learning, so I’ve got to figure out how to explain things more clearly to the brothers.

Enter the double longe!  Sometimes called long lining, it’s a way to have influence on both sides of the horse independently.  I am fairly it experienced with double longing, but it’s best to learn on horses that already longe pretty well.

My set up is:

  1. A surcingle 
  2. A folded saddle pad 
  3. A halter
  4. A slip (a snaffle bridle without a noseband or reins)
  5. Long lines

Corny ready to learn double longing

In an ideal world my surcingle would have turrets, but I get by without.
 Unlike longe lines, long lines are rolled, for the first few meters.  The first couple years that I did double longing, I preferred to use two different colored longe lines.

I have already gotten the horses used to ropes moving around all their legs and tail.  I also introduced their boots previous to this session.

Week 2, day 1

I worked both horses in the roundoen wearing all the equipment, but not hooked up to the long lines.  I noticed that Corny has a real problem with holding the bit in his mouth and keeping his tongue steady.  I’m not going to attach lines or reins to his bit until he learns to hold the bit calmly and quietly.  

After a quick review of speed and direction cues, I attached the long lines.  The line closer to me clipped directly onto the side of the halter, or inside bit ring.  The line on the opposite side ran over the horses back, through the top surcingle ring, and then to the bit.  Now I could  influence the horse to turn to the outside, while they could still see the inner line run from their face to my leading hand.

Here’s some footage of Corny’s first session on the long lines.

https://youtu.be/tw4zT-KwjlU

Week 2, days 2-3

Long lining went well in the round pen  yesterday, now it’s time to try in the arena.  I was able to keep the horses moving forward by using my outside rein to keep them from turning in or cutting in.  I could also use my outside rein to keep them from drifting out to some extent.

However, both brothers are pretty convinced that the”circle” I want them to do looks like this:

Corny and Blue’s idea of a longing circle

They are super consistent about making this god awful shape! It’s the same in both arenas, and flips over when we change direction.

Seriously, what is that?  Are they football fans? 


Or maybe it looks like 

Virginia

Oh, I get it!  They are trying to tell me they want to go to

To see Corny’s interpretation of the circle, check out his first day on the double longe:

This clip shows the 3/4 circle where he turns to face me when he hits the inside rein.  This happened pretty  much every time before we started the double longe.  It also shows me using my body language to shoo him away.  This is the dance of the giant demented bird. thehttps://youtu.be/4eMHL92f8Z8

Now he’s getting the hang  of ithttps://youtu.be/rInC4yrrKzE

https://youtu.be/L-s52N2h0Fg
In any case, that’s not a circle. However it’s great progress and I will take it!

The before picture, part 2

Blue and Corny are doing great with their ground manners.  They are able to be handled by their inexperienced owners, and are relaxed around the ranch.

I like to make sure that there horses in training with me understand several concepts of human partnership before I climb aboard.  The first day I worked with the brothers, I had a pretty unsuccessful time longing them.  I knew I was going to have to start from scratch with this concept.

On week one, day two I put the horses in the round pen.  At first I only cared about the direction they were going on the circle.  Corny tried to change direction once on his own, but was otherwise content to do as I ask.  Blue challenged my leadership about the direction of travel several times, but eventually settled into the routine. 

 Next, I worked on establishing a cue to go to the next faster gait when I lift the finger on my driving hand.  When working on the ground, I refer to the driving hand as the one closest to the horse’s tail (maybe holding a whip).  I refer to the leading hand as the one closest to the horse’s head (maybe holding a line).

To get a horse sensitive to my gesture to change gait, I go through the following process. Each step takes about two of the horse’s strides.  I stop the process when the horse moves to the next faster gait.

  1. Lift my index finger on my driving arm
  2. Lift my driving arm
  3. Lift the butt of the whip
  4. Point the whip at the horse’s haunches
  5. Tag the horse with the whip

This process teaches the horses how to go forward from a light cue before being ridden. Its consistent escalating sequence gives the horse a chance to think about the initial cue without waiting so long that they forget about it.  Done with repetition, most horses pick up on this quickly.  The brothers were no exception and understand the concept after this first session.

The last thing I worked on was changing direction. I made sure the horses would stop and turn towards me when I stepped in front of their shoulder.  They did this well, though Blue did try to run past me a couple times.  

I was looking for signs of relaxation in the horses.  I didn’t see many once we went faster than the walk.  I want this to improve before I consider mounting.

The next day (week one,day 3) I reviewed these concepts in the big arena instead of the round pen.  I asked for direction changes, changes in gait, and drawing the horses towards me.  Sort of like a turnout/roundoen hybrid session.

It’s taken long enough, but behold the before video of the horses moving free on the arena!

Here is Blue, see if you can spot his subtle signs of disrespect.https://youtu.be/1q-mH96EUXM

Blue cocking his hip at me.  I’m just out of frame but you can see my shadow

And here is Corny https://youtu.be/tLji4dp1RVw

The before picture,part 1

Every makeover show worth its salt has a “before” reel.  Since Blue and Corny are aiming for the Thoroughbred Makeover in October, I figured they should have one too.

Initially we weren’t thinking about the makeover, and I’m kicking myself for not getting footage of their first day in training with me.  Instead I’m going to have to paint you a word picture.

To give some perspective on timing, I work with the brothers three times a week.  November 2 was our first day together.  Initial assessment of their training is as follows.

Cross ties: it is unknown if the brothers had every been straight tied or cross tied before.  Owners Ann and Mark have never seen them tied up in any way.  Both horses showed separation anxiety to one another.  Blue weaved in the cross ties, Corny gaped his mouth, flipped his head and even pulled back once.  The pulling back wasn’t a big deal, we have breakaway cross ties and the brothers wear leather halters. 

Grooming: Blue was hesitant to pick up his feet, and very sensitive to brushing.  Corny kicked out a bit when I was working with his hind feet.  He’s also ear shy

Leading: They both have pretty good manners.  Blue likes to get in front of his handler and Corny nearly mowed me down when Blue went out of site.

Longing: so long as I could conform to their ideas of what longing is, it was kind of ok.  Both horses tend to turn and face me when they feel the slightest pressure on the halter.  Sometimes horses with a Parelli background do that.  I don’t want my horses to do that.  I had to walk along with them, and niether horse wanted to canter.

I planned to address each one of these topics.  My next couple sessions were done in the round pen.  I really got a feel of the brothers’attitudes, and boy are they different from each other!

Blue was the successful racehorse of the two.  He ran for the years and won several times.  He still has that warrior mentality.  Since there’s is no one to compete against in our sessions, he’s trying out competing against me.  He hasn’t done anything major, but I see him cocking his hip at me, snaking his head, and trying to choose our direction of travel.  I get after him for each of these little infractions so he doesn’t escalate these behaviors.

If Blue was a person

In contrast to his warrior of a brother, Corny raced only a little bit.  With him it’s more like they gave a kid a sword and sent him into battle.  He doesn’t seem to have any agenda towards competition.  He wants to figure out what I want and keep tabs on his brother.

If Corny was a person

So my work needs to help the horses become more confident in themselves and learn to understand what I am asking for.

To address Corny’s ear sensitivity I did some flagging with him.  After he accepted the soft flag over his ears while he was standing still and in motion it was much easier for me to rub him slowly and he was able to keep his head low for bridling after about a week of this.  
To address Corny’s issue with kicking out, we practiced lifting his feet with a rope.  This kept me out of harm’s way, encouraged his feet to yield to pressure, got him comfortable with ropes tangled around his legs, and started to develop his sense of trust in me. 

Corny quietly yielding to the foot rope.  

I did all this stuff with Blue too.  I also sacked them out with a saddle pad to help them not be so flinchy about putting on the saddle.  While Corny seemed to have bigger issues that were resolved with these exercises, Blue also benefited from them.  It became easier to handle Blue’s feet, he became less ticklish to grooming, and began to engage with me in a more positive way.

The brothers got rapidly better in the cross ties over the first two weeks with this sort of work.  In my next entry I will talk about learning to longe.