Today was the first day Dori has been back to work in over a month for various reasons, but mostly my procrastination. The last time I worked and rode her, we hit a (metaphorical) brick wall and she fell with me. So I have spent the last month or so focusing on my good horse, finishing out the race season and trying to dig deep into my training toolbox to figure out how to fix and get over our brick wall. I went to Facebook and asked for advice, I searched some training articles and books for help and asked a mentor what they thought. Yesterday, I round penned Dori just to get her mind back to thinking about work.
Today, I decided to saddle her and work her in the round pen, but not ride her yet. Part of the issue with this brick wall that we have hit is that when I ask for a turn in a certain direction, she fights me and tries moving in the opposite direction. When she fell on me I was asking her to circle to the left and she kept throwing her shoulder out to the right and not moving her body left. When she went down, it was because she wasn’t following her nose to the left. I needed to find away to get her to follow her nose with her whole body and not be fighting me.
What was the solution you may be asking yourself? Well, as I worked for and learned from some of the local trainers that are successful at what they do, I learned about tying a horse’s head around and to the saddle. (This has been quite the controversial on Facebook and the internet in general, but it is something that works for me.) With the proper training beforehand and a watchful eye, you can successfully tie a horse’s head around without much problem. I have learned several ways to do it and each one accomplishes something different. One of the ladies I talked to on Facebook had confirmed my idea to head back to the round pen and tie my mare’s head around in each direction, but added in that I need to put her on a lunge line and lunge her in the field where I was having trouble with her at. Another one suggested line driving her (which I will be doing in the coming weeks).
So for today’s session I did tie Dori’s head to the left rear D ring on my saddle, loosely at first and tightened it up as we went. I wasn’t getting exactly what I was looking for, but we were making progress. So I went to my next training tool, the lunge line. Well I discovered that this mare as probably never been lunged with a bit in her mouth because she didn’t get what I was asking. I took it slow, left the reins evenly wrapped around my saddle horn and showed her what I was looking for. Once she figured that out, I tied her head to the left and worked her a little bit with some slack still in that rein. It got tighter as our lesson moved on but never so tight that she couldn’t find the release. I only did the left side today (I do usually work both sides, but today we did a lot for her first day back), so tomorrow we will start with the left and move over to the right side to make sure she can do it both ways before move out into the field where there are no fences.
Lesson for today, make sure your horse can do what you are asking i.e. lunging with a bit before making the lesson more complicated by asking them to do it with, say, their head tied around! And remember don’t work them so long and hard that they are puffing for air, because getting air is all they will be thinking about, not the lesson you are trying to teach them.