Monday, November 14, 2011

Working With Horses

Welcome to my first 'Informative Horse' post!

I will be talking about ground work.

If you've owned an energetic three year old filly before, you'll know of some of the problems I've had with my Quarter Horse Beauty. Don't get me wrong, she's a wonderful horse, but I've had some obedience issues (like running away from me when I call her, not responding to woa, stop, ect. ect.)

These are common problems, but I know she was trained to be better behaved than this. Lucky for me, Beauty's trainer (Allan, who broke her in) visited for a few days and helped me with some training exercises.

I have found them to be so helpful, and my relationship with Beauty has been much better. She is now trying to please me, and she is much more obedient. These are the exercises I do every time I see her.

1 -  Flex

First catch your horse and put a halter and lead rope on (I always leave Beauty's halter on, so she is easier to catch). Then stand beside your horse and hold the lead rope close to your horse's head and gently pull the rope to a bit above where the girth strap goes.

The horse then puts it's nose where you are asking. The idea is to ask your horse to flex his/her neck, not force. There is a major difference. Your horse has to do it him/her self. I ask Beauty to hold that position for different time intervals before I let her head go. Notice that in the pictures Dad and I are loosely holding the rope, there is no pressure. We are simply asking Beauty to obey us. If Beauty decided not to do as we ask, we then firmly pull her head where we want it, but she has to hold that position until she is told to release. If she doesn't, I start again. There is no point in forcing the head in that position. That isn't the horse doing what you want, and the horse will try to resist it if you do.

Remember to give your horse lots of pats and time to download what they've just been taught after every exercise. Your horse needs to know if they've done what you've asked them to do, before you move on. Twenty seconds of pats is good.  

This exercise is helpful for obedience. 

2 - Lunge

Lunging is pretty simple and effective. 

First attach a long lead rope to your horse's halter. Then stand away from your horse, and point your hand with the coiled up end of the rope in the direct that you want your horse to go. Put your other hand behind the horse, as if you were going to smack it to keep him/her moving along (of course you can't because you are standing a distance from the horse). Make a loud kissing noise (smacking your lips sound) and your horse should start moving along.  If your horse doesn't, shake your hand behind the horse or stamp your foot towards the horse. 

Choose whether you want your horse to trot or walk. You can canter, but I don't because Beauty gets too hyped up, and I want her to be calm. I usually trot so Beauty isn't being lazy. 

Make sure your horse is walking or trotting the pace you want. If the horse is being lazy keep making kissing noises until he/she walks or trots at the speed you want. Remember if kissing noises don't work stamp, make other noises or tie a plastic bag over a stick and shake it behind your horse if he/she is still being lazy. 

Look for your horse's head to be down as a sign of humility and recognising that you are the leader. I have found that this takes weeks to achieve though. Also look for your horse's ear to be constantly pinned on you. So that he/she is listening to your commands. The other thing to watch out is the eye, if the horse's eye has white around the pupil, your horse is stressed. maybe slow the pace. 

If you have other horses keep an eye on your horse as he/she approaches them in the circle. You will notice that your horse will likely want to go to his/her mate and will try to do so, or change the course of the circle by trying to get closer to the horse. Remember this and stand your ground so the course of your lap will not change. Also if your horse turns his/her head towards the other horse, yank it back towards your circle. 

Also remember to stand still. You will get very dizzy if you keep turning around with the horse. As the horse goes behind you pass the rope behind your back. If the horse stops or slows behind your back, turn around and kiss him/her up. 

 After a few rounds say WOA in a loud and commanding tone. Your horse should stop in a few paces and turn to look at you, like in the right photo above. You might also notice that my hand is in a stop sign position. I am telling her to stop and to NOT come towards me, I will go to her for cuddles. It is a sign of disrespect for a horse to come prancing towards you without an invitation. It can also be dangerous if your horse has that habit. If the horse starts coming towards you stand still and put your hand in a stop sign position (which should block eye contact) and say 'woa' again. If your horse still proceeds, shake the rope, or find a way to shoo your horse.

If your horse stands still, you can go towards him/her and give your horse attention and pats. Make sure your horse feels appreciated and that he/she has done as you've asked.

Change your horse's direction and start all over again.

This exercise is helpful to achieve obedience, listening to instruction and excepting you as the leader and boss.

3 - Circling 

I can't really think of an appropriate name for this exercise, so circling will have to do, and yes, it is diffrent from lunging.

First stand in front of your horse, but a bit to the side, with the lead rope clipped to the horse, loop the lead rope over your horse's head with the end on the rope facing you.

While holding the lead rope near the halter (for safety reasons) try to flick the rope over  the horse's hindquarters. Carefully let go of the top of the rope clipped to the halter and while still holding the end of the lead rope walk backwards and slightly pull on the rope and the horse should do a 360 degrees turn. Your horse should finish facing you.

Unfortunately these photos aren't too good so you can't really see this exercise because the photo was taken too late. The photo's are of the last stage where I am walking backward as Beauty turns.

The idea is that the horse walks through this exercise. This may take a little practise since your horse won't like you pulling on a rope that is behind them, so have patience. When we tried this exercise with Dad's horse Banjo, he didn't like it at all and tried to kick his way out of the rope, and then he turned so fast he was a blur.

Remember to reward your horse with love and attention for at least twenty seconds before moving on. 

This exercise is useful for building trust between your horse and you. Your horse has to trust you to walk through this. 

4 - Lay Down

This is the ultimate act of humility and recognising you (the rider) as boss for the horse. I think it is also the coolest and most amazing exercise. It is definitely my favourite. 

You will need two long lead ropes and a helper. It is best to choose someone that knows something about horses, someone you can trust not to do anything silly that could be dangerous or they won't get scared if the horse reacts badly. A helper that is also strong is a benefit. I choose my Dad.  

Clip one lead rope to the horse and give that rope to your helper. Next clip the other lead rope onto itself and create a slip knot. Lift your horses front leg up and loop the slip knot over the hoof. Then put the rope over your horse's back and through the space between the rope and the leg. The results should look like this...

Stand facing your horse's side and your helper should face your horse's front. Pull on your rope so that the leg with the rope is lifted up. keep pulling and the horse should eventually kneel. Don't worry if your horse is jumping and trying to get out of the ropes, that is what your helper is for. Your horse won't like this exercise at first so be patient. 

Once the horse is kneeling on his/her front knees, he/she should roll over to his/her side. Then you can carefully unclip the leg rope and go over to the horse's safe side, the back, so you can't get kicked if he/she tries to get up. 

Talk to your horse the whole time and tell brothers on motorbikes or dogs to leave you alone for a little time. Your horse is defenceless, so try to make it seem as safe as possible. Stroke your horse and rub all around his/her body. If your horse is head shy or doesn't let you touch certain areas of his/her body (like places you should be able to touch), this is your opportunity to rid your horse of this habit by stroking your horse all over.  
You might notice that in this photo Beauty is absolutely relaxed. Her eyes are even closed. After a while, your horse will trust you completely, he/she will even be able to sleep!

You might also notice that I look like I'm wrestling her to the ground. Well I'm not, I'm putting pressure on her neck because it comforts her and that way she can feel I'm there. 

Stand away form your horse and click or do what ever to let your horse know he/she can get up. You probably won't have to do much persuading! But your horse MUST get up when YOU want, not as soon as you stop putting pressure on his/her neck. 

I hope this post has been interesting and if you have had similar problems to me with my horse, I hope this has helped. 

From Lauren 


Rebekah Brielle said...

Wow! That is awesome! I have done all of those, but the last one. I gotta try it!!!!!!
My horse, would do it though, I just know it!
She is so obedient (most of the time) hehe ;)

Alice said...

Lovely post Lauren! I absolutely LOVE horses! I'm going horse riding for the first time *ever* on Saturday, I'm so excited! I've never had the chance to ride a horse properly before, so I'm really looking forward to it! One day, hopefully, I'll be able to meet Beauty. She's gorgeous! Love your blog. xx

Izi said...

Good Job, Lauren.

Really like the post and the pictures too. You should post some more pictures of yourself on this blog!!

Izi :)

Bri said...

Hey Lauren!

Wow! What a great post. :) You're so amazing with horses!

Definitly do another one of these posts. :)

~Bri {Diamonds and Pearls}

P.S. I'm going to email you now; can you recive and reply to emails now?

Lauren said...

@ Rebekah Brielle - I am glad this post has something to offer to people that already have horses. I didn't know these exerciser until recently, but I didn't know if it was too simple for other horse owners.

@Alice - I am glad you love horses! It is always nice to meet other horsy pople! I hope you really enjoy your first ride! I can't actually remember mine, I hope it is very memorable ( : I'd love for you to one day meet Beauty, I think she's the prettiest horse in the world, but I am VERY Biased. Maybe one day when you come to see the Farrels?

@ Izi - You're so sweet ( : but seriously, I don't think you want to see many more pictures of me, I am NOT photogenic! Thank you so much for all the complements you've given me on this blog! You are such an encouraging person!

Melody said...

Thank you for taking the quizzes on my blog! Here are your results.

"Which Pride and Prejudice Miss Are You?" - Elizabeth Bennet

"Which Lady from Emma Are You?" - Isabella (Woodhouse) Knightley

I'm glad you enjoyed them! =)

Alice said...

Hi Lauren!
I'd *love* to meet Beauty one day! There's a chance we'll be coming to see the F's in January, maybe then! <3
Yes, horses are gorgeous creatures. xx

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