A breakthrough

Today we had a breakthrough moment, the session started with Benny going backwards through 2 poles. Then backwards with the pole between his feet, he kept offering sideways so we did a bit of that too. He was excellent at away and towards me sideways so definitely remembered our last session.

We tried the squeeze over the barrels next but he wouldn’t jump them – may be he had frightened himself last time so I made a gap between the barrels and walked him over – turned with a look and walked him back. Did this 3 times and rewarded the tries.

Whilst the barrels were out Benny did  nice sideways over the barrel even if he didn’t go quite straight and was waving a leg around wondering where to put it, he sorted himself out.

Then I thought why not try some liberty – so let him loose and breathed out to get him to trot round me, didn’t quite go according to plan but he did trot round the arena from my breathing. He stopped and turned to face me when I took a deep breath and relaxed when I relaxed with a sigh. Then on the some stick by me and backwards – when I walked backwards. Did have to direct on the first go but then it was no problem.

Then the breakthrough moment came when I decided to try him with the handheld trimmers I just bought. I had treats in my hand as well as the trimmer – he was a little apprehensive at first but his stomach won. After he let me move the trimmer over his neck I switched it on – again with a treat in hand – he took the treat with the trimmer next to it. I then kept the trimmers on and moved them too his neck – trimmed off some of the long hairs on his neck. Benny was very relaxed and just stood and let me trim his neck and face. All this at liberty – he made no attempt to leave, I am so pleased with him. Well done Benny.

Exciting Session

Well I had a lesson with Tracey Duncan (a 2 star Parelli Professional) today and Benny was very lively. We started off doing some nice weaves around the cones, circles and figures of 8. He seemed fairly tuned in but did get a bit excited in trot. I need to up my energy to match his and run when he runs off, keeping up with him in zone 5 until he stops then I need to stop too and wait. If he looks at me I turn away until he becomes inquisitive and he either moves forward again or comes to see what I am doing.

After saddling him we worked on the squeeze over the barrels at which point he was super excited and took off bucking and leaping in the air, unfortunately his saddle slipped at this point which set him off even more! Once all sorted we tried again until he was doing it calmly.

When he ran off I ran behind him and stopped when he stopped, slowed my breathing and relaxed until he relaxed. Then I use my energy and a big breath out to move him forward again, still walking in zone 5. Then traveling circles until he was back by the barrels.

At one point during the session a horse and trap went down the road, he was loose at the time (having just got away from me on a circle). He was standing looking down the road to see what was happening – I breathed slower and relaxed, as the trap got nearer Benny looked at me and approached as if I was his safety zone – a huge breakthrough for us both. I stood by him as the horse trotted by stroking him and then got him to lower his head on a cue. At this point the other 2 horses in the field decided it was scary too and galloped around the field next to the arena, Benny took no notice and stayed with me.

We then went on to do some nice sideways by the fence and then tried the sideways towards me. He got a bit confused at first but Tracey showed me to direct his quarter towards me and he soon was coming nicely to a cue.

Once he was calm and connected to me I hopped on board to do some one rein riding, I am getting better at changing the rope over and changing direction. Did follow the rail with Benny nice and calm and listening, he stopped on a breath except on one occasion when I had to do a one rein stop.

Very please with Benny and my progress, got lots to work on now the weather is better.

Apple Sauce

Benny is very food motivated but I need him not to ask for treats. So I have been teaching a bridge (a cue so he knows when he has done something right) which is then rewarded with a treat. The aim is to get him to react to the word i have chosen – “EX” (short for excellent) so I say the word and treat until he associates the word with the treat, it is a slow process but one which should last.

Today however I was also trying to get him prepped for worming, he just turns his head away from the syringe so I filled one with apple sauce only to find he doesn’t like the sauce! Oh well tomorrow I will try honey to see if he likes that. As my hands were then covered in apple sauce he didn’t want the treats either so I may have to start again teaching the bridge.

Bitless and Barefoot

Benny has been barefoot for a while and I see no need to change that. The farrier says he has good feet and will be OK on the roads, he may have some problems with the stony tracks but will have to see how he goes. If shoes are needed then he will have them – hoof boots may work but his feet are so huge!

I rode Benny in a halter at first and then went to the Parelli Cradle bridle he came with – for refinement. At a recent clinic with Terri Martinus I rode in the halter with one rein – really gets you off the hands, I am just getting my balance back. Then we did no reins and just a stick for direction when needed. The problem I had was that Benny wouldn’t stop from my seat – he does in the school on his own but with other horses around or indeed when I took him down the road – no brakes.

I have had a few lessons with a Ride With Your Mind instructor – Sally Ede – very good for the posture. Biomechanics and breathing are taught – useful as I seek to be a more balanced rider.

I have also found a useful resource in Jenny Rolf with the focus on breathing to be more intune with the horse. A book and DVD are on the way – so watch for updates.

In the meanwhile I have bought a Light Rider bitless noseband to convert the Cradle Bridle to bitless – not had a chance to use it yet but it fits well. I have ridden both Kit – my Connemara and Dougal – an Irish Cob – bitless with success.

Not done much with Benny over the last 2 days but he is very good now with the verbal cue “whoa” to stop – both online and at liberty. The head down is working nicely too, need to keep up the training until we can get it every time and then transfer the cues to the ridden work.

Benny

Benny is the reason I started my journey, he is a very exuberant cob, left brain extrovert in Parelli language. completely different to any other horse I have dealt with.

Benny was given to me as his owner wanted a horse for endurance riding, so I though he would be perfect to regain my confidence on. He is a bit of a challenge as he marches off down the road with me as a passenger. We need to put some whoa in place.

On the ground he pulls away in trot on a 22 foot line – usually just as he is behind me. No telling off just a calm walk to him and pick up the rope and try again. This is what we did initially but now I am searching for some positive re-inforcement to help. I am now teaching him to stop when the rope is dropped – needs some more sessions but he is getting better.

He is very food motivated so was beginning to ask for treats, I am now teaching him head down before the delivery of the treat. This also helps in a reactive situation as it lowers the adrenaline response. He is a little spooky sometimes in the school when motorcycles roar down the lane and this technique will help to keep him calm. More information is on the TTouch site

Also teaching a verbal “whoa”, first with a rope and some pressure to achieve the stop, reward with a treat – then progressing to no pressure just a verbal command – a treat when stopped. Finally it will be at liberty too, but not done much of that. His attention is not with me for long after I take of his halter – but we have got a few steps and a whoa.

I will add blogs of our progress and some pictures soon.