Friday's clicker training lesson was all about preparing my horses for lateral work. I had originally planned to use Coriander for the lesson, but when I arrived he was hobbling around pathetically on three legs. I picked up his sore foot and found a twig sticking out of his frog, poor boy! (He's fine now, time and some bute took the soreness away.) Instead, Gwen got her introduction to the one rein stop/ disengaging the hindquarters.
I'm pretty sure most of you have heard of this, in case you haven't here's a link. Some people refer to the one rein stop without mentioning disengaging the hips or vice versa, but in my mind you can't have one without the other. Just pulling your horse's head to your boot does not a one rein stop make, I've seen videos of horses that learned how to run right through that, to make it effective the horse has to move their hindquarters sideways along with their nose.
This is a very handy skill for your horse to have before you climb into the saddle for the first time. Check out this demonstration and note how the hind legs cross when the horse swings sideways:
Gwen and I worked with the halter and lead rope and really focused on getting those hind legs to step in front of each other. Every time she did that, click and treat. She was really getting it by the end of the lesson and we quit before she got too tired.
Saturday morning I got to the barn bright and early to check on Coriander's foot, he was doing much better but still a little ouchy. Since I couldn't ride him I decided to do the next best thing- take Gwen for her first trail walk!
After applying some fly spray and the western saddle, we departed on Gwen's first excursion. Almost right off the bat she found something to spook at. A horse-eating canoe right next to the driveway set her off. She didn't spin or jump or try to bolt, it was basically just a plant and stare. I moved so I was between her and the canoe, providing a buffer, and with gentle pressure on the lead and inviting body language I asked her to step forward. At first she really didn't want to until, all on her own, she put her head down to the ground, took a deep breath, and was totally fine. Frankly I was a little flabbergasted, it seems that she really understands what I'm asking her for when we practice head lowering, maybe even better than I do!
After that there was no more spooking but she was VERY forward. Do you know what that meant? Time to practice the one rein stop! Every time she surged ahead of me provided a chance to practice. I would slide my hand up the rope, turn towards her shoulder, and click to her every time I saw those hind legs cross. Worked like a charm, ten minutes into the walk she was thoroughly tired of it and just started to stop as soon as I slid my hand up the rope. Good girl!
I also would like to note that she took no notice of the saddle and the flapping stirrups on her back through all of this. Operation Make Gwen a Riding Horse is progressing!