Friday, February 18, 2011

A tip of the nose... and the bum

It's been beautiful here for the last few days, sunny and warm! Yet yesterday there was still too much snow to trail ride. Oh well, I decided it would be a good opportunity to work on a few of Coriander's training holes. Not only can he not stand still under saddle, I also don't have any influence over his hindquarters. With that in mind, I hopped on Coriander with the bareback pad and worked on moving that butt.

What I found out is that there's a delicate balance needed between rein and leg to get that elusive stepping through with the inside leg. I don't know if this is correct or not, but I really exaggerated how far back I held my inside leg, trying to make it as obvious as possible to him that I wanted the hindquarters over and not the shoulders. It took many repetitions and a lot of careful timing of clicks but I finally got that step. Once you feel that, it really becomes obvious just how powerful that step is. No wonder it's central to all facets of riding.

After that success, it was time to work with Gwen. I didn't post this but I mounted her again Sunday using the exact same routine I used last time with the same results: an outstanding mare! This time I thought, "what the heck?" and put the sidepull on her. At first I just mounted and sat while she contentedly ate her hay (Yes I'm still using hay to keep her happy, I'm watching out for my butt here.). It was wonderful to sit there and enjoy the warm temps while she happily sighed and chewed away.

When I was done soaking her in, I dismounted, remounted, and then very gently pulled on the left rein. There was a bit of hesitation, which I think was due to the hay, and then her nose came around. Click treat! I then repeated on the right side, well the poor girl is so stiff on her left side that she preferred to back up rather than tip her nose right. At least she has no problem moving back while I'm on her, right? I kept a little tension on the right rein and just waited until I could see her eye, then I rewarded her.

How do you western riders deal with that saddle horn? I had to lean so far forward to give her treats on the right that I had that thing right in my diaphragm. Ouch. We've gotta get that left side loosened up.

I kept it as low-key as possible and she did great. For me, the challenge is going to be keeping every request I make of her as clear as possible so she doesn't ever get confused. I do not want to be sitting on a confused Gwen! With that in mind, in the upcoming posts where I talk about her training and anyone has recommendations, worries, or questions please comment. I'm going to need all the help I can get.


  1. Nice work so far - she seems to be taking things in stride.

  2. That is great that you got Coriander to move his hinds over. I have start work on these things with my boys. Pie is excellent at moving and understanding signals. Sovey isn't.

    You should be safe with Gwen as long as you keep it within her comfort zone. You sound like you are doing that by keeping the asking small. Good for you for getting on again. You must be so proud and happy!

    I have been meaning to ask you -
    with clicker training - I bought Alexandra's book. I am having nice success with the boys, but the one thing I don't understand is about asking. Do you actually use words? I am a great talker - I ask the boys to do everything with words. Now, with clicker I don't know if I am supposed to say "touch" or "back". She says "ask" in the book, but does that mean ask with body language or ask with words or both? If we get the "calm, head down" position, how would I ever do that if I am on their back without using words? Maybe I am getting ahead of myself and our training, but I was just wondering. Thanks!

  3. I don't think it matters how much you have to exaggerate a cue when you are first teaching a horse. I go for whatever it takes, my leg way back, a little tap of a bat anything that will help the horse understand what I want. Once you get it and the horse begins to understand the cue can get smaller and smaller until you have the normal one.

    Sounds like Gwen is just taking things in stride. That's very cool.

  4. We're also in the land of exaggerated leg aids lol. I guess we just have to consciously refine them as we move forward. Looking forward to hearing about your progress with Gwen :)

  5. Thanks everybody, it's always good to get backup and know you aren't screwing up your horse :)

    And don't worry, I'll post every itsy detail about Gwen's progress.