There are many different methods out there now on working with or training your horse. I encourage folks to find what works for them and their horse because no two horses are the same. What works for one, might not work for another, and it's up to us humans to work through the trials and errors to find what does. I myself am all for doing things in a simple manner. The reason being is it's easier. I don't use shortcuts to get the results I'm looking for, so researching and "trying something on for size" is how I go about things.
I have been experimenting with different amounts of pressure to get a result. Always starting with the least and moving up until an attempt or movement is achieved. Some horses move away from pressure with a mere suggestion, while others don't quite get that suggestion and actually need a touch. Then there are others who just don't want to move anything unless you wake them up a bit. That is where Cookie has been wanting to reside this past week. Of course, she didn't get her way.
Any time I teach her something new, I always break it down into smaller steps and build on it. For example: The side pass. I started with getting her to move her front feet sideways, then her back feet. We kept practicing this until she understood what I was asking and readily gave me the answer. When she tried to get her own way by backing up or moving forward, I put her nose to the fence and kept pressure on her rear until she started moving sideways away from me. Aha! Now we're getting somewhere.
Some days she would be on her toes, lickity split moving those feet, other days she would stand stock still and act like she had no clue as to what I was asking. Those are the times for wake up calls, when adding more pressure until those feet would move.
I have started putting bell boots on her hind feet with splint boots on her front legs. This gives her the idea that I want her to pick those hind feet up and stop dragging them. Even though she becomes somewhat adjusted to them, she still picks her feet up so they don't drag. When she drags her feet, she miss steps and often times will land on the hoof wall instead of the bottom of her foot. This is problematic in many ways.
I should note here, the Vet was out the other day to give her her 4-way vaccines and I asked for a courtesy check. I gave him the information Cookie was giving me such as; dragging feet, coughing, sleepiness. He confirmed what I already knew. She just needed to "wake up". She is sound and healthy. The coughing is a learned behavior to try and get me to stop working or riding her. Dragging her feet is laziness as is the sleepiness.
So, I woke her up! Got her blood pumping and kept her attention on me instead of everything else that "seemed" more interesting. In order to wake her up I had to really get after her and keep her mind focused on what I was asking. Changing directions often, backing up a few steps, yielding her front and back and finally the side pass. When she tried to anticipate what I was going to ask instead of waiting for me to ask I pushed her into an extended trot for a few circles then a complete stop. I gave her a few moments to think about it and asked for a movement. She will give me two answers at any given time. Either the right one, or the wrong one. If whatever I'm doing doesn't ask for the right response, I'll try something else and if she continues to anticipate, I'll stop her for a few moments. Then ask again with vigor. We continue the whoa-settle down until she stops anticipating what she thinks I'm going to ask.
I don't want her to anticipate, I want her to move when I ask for movement and not move when I'm not asking for anything. I make sure the two are not confused. When I don't want her to move, I'll drop the lead or lunge line on the ground. When I want her to move I'll pick it up and give a little pressure on the halter then ask for movement.
The thing about pressure with Cookie is you don't always know how much you're going to need until you begin. Some days I can point and say back and she moves back, other days I have to push up that pressure and really get after her to move her feet. I did an experiment the other day while we were working out in the lot down the street. We had already finished our lunge-ing and our walk around the block so I let her graze on the grass for about an hour. I sat down on the ground and each time she would move her butt towards me, I asked for her to move it away. I started by just lifting the lunge line and flicking it against her hind leg. That wasn't working so I took my lunge whip and popped the ground beside her foot and said "move your butt". She started to kick the ground and I popped the whip on the ground a few more times and said more firmly "move your butt". She finally decided the right thing to do was to move her butt and she swung it away from me several steps.
Today, I did that same experiment. This time I had to tug the halter in my direction and pop the ground and she moved her butt. When she is in her stall eating and I approach the door I ask her to move her butt. She thinks a moment, then moves over for me to come in.
These differences in amount of pressure needed is her testing me. Horses will test you every day to make you prove you are still their leader. It doesn't take long to re-establish that fact and they are willing to work with you. One of the most direct ways is to move their feet. It may take just a couple steps or it may take many. Once you've moved their feet the testing is over... unless you have a pushy horse. Then you may have to establish yourself over and over until they learn that being pushy isn't going to work.
Cookie and I have a good foundation so far. Any time we come across a problem we'll review and move forward onto something new.
*Note* I rode for about twenty-five minutes today. It's the longest time I've been able to ride without having spaghetti legs. Yay me! I'm getting stronger each day and each time I ride I find my balance more and more. I can't wait to be able to ride out on a nice long trail.
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