Last week I was asked to train a quarter horse using the Clinton Anderson Method. I've taken care of feeding Rose and her paddock mate, Cody, when their owner Gary left on vacation. Now, Gary would like me to use some of the methods to help his horse Rose.
Cody (a Bay horse) has gone through the Fundamentals training method with Sarah (the trainer in Reno). Rose has not had any method training. Rose needs to learn respect and Gary and his wife would like to have a better trail riding experience with the horses.
My plan is to work Rose a few days a week. I will report on Rose's progress.
Yesterday (Wednesday, April 6th) I worked Ruby and planned on working on her buddy sour issues. I got her out and for fun and to test her, I took her lead off. I am able to get her to follow me around in the arenas and paddock without any lead. On the way I stopped, had her back up, and then if she started to walk away I would just look at her hindquarters and she'd yield and face me. I could back her up pretty well by adding some pressure when I'm facing her. Or if we're side by side I could lean back and walk backwards. I could usually get her to trot by leaning forward but she's a little sketchy so I sometimes need to help her.
When we got to the arena I decided not to work on her buddy sour with Sugar but just worked her in the arena, especially backing, lunging for respect stage 2 and the sending exercises. It was a little windy/cold and at the end it started to rain lightly so Ruby was energetic.
CA method groundwork:
Backing (all methods)
Lunging for respect stage 1 and 2
Yielding forequarters and hindquarters (1 and 2)
Flexing from side to side
CA method in the saddle:
Yield to a stop
Rate my seat
One rein stops
Follow the fence
Flexing from side to side
While I was working on follow the fence a little bird on the ground started chirping at us from the ground. Ruby spooked a little bit but the next time we came around I could see that the bird was on her eggs and this time she came flying at Ruby. Ruby spooked a lot this time but thanks to the method, instead of falling off or Ruby running/bucking off wildly I had her yield her hindquarters while making our way away from the bird. I kept her busy moving her feet while turning in circles until she calmed down. If I hadn't brought her head there's a good chance I wouldn't be in the saddle and she'd be running off. So I loved how well it worked when she spooks!
There's been a lot happening with the horses lately. But I'm going to talk about the last few days I had with Shelbi before she left for her home in Wyoming.
For the first part, we started in the paddock. I met up with Gail and we talked about the lessons while we groomed and desensitized the horses before Shelbi arrived. My little sister stayed a little bit for the grooming and was excited to brush "the white horsey's tail" (Sugar). When Shelbi arrived, she had Gail start on the lunging for respect stage 1 and 2. I had completed that and a couple others and all I needed was practice on the sending exercise. After a bit I took Ruby to the arena and left Shelbi and Gail in the paddock while I saddled Ruby up. Ruby is very impatient when it comes to being tied up, so it will be my goal to fix that.
I rode Ruby in the arena for bit and worked on one rein stops. I also worked her by the gate where she wanted to stay, and I rested her at the farthest end of the arena, until that wasn't much of a problem. By that time Shelbi and Gail were there and saddled Sugar (Gail got a beautiful new saddle!!) and they did some more lunging in the arena. I circled Ruby around them for awhile and rested her at the farthest end of the arena like I did with the gate. I do this because I could feel that Ruby wants to go where she thinks the ride is over (for instance: the gate or to Sugar because she's buddy sour). So if I work her there she doesn't want to go there as much and won't argue with me.
I actually rode most of the time outside the arena. I took Ruby out of the arena, leaving Shelbi and Gail to their lessons and rode Ruby around the arena for a change. Then I rode out in a field nearby and practiced the one rein stops. Gail and Shelbi moved to the round pen where Gail was to be more comfortable to learn the one rein stops without worrying about steering. I worked Ruby near the round pen and rested her out in the field (repeatedly doing this).
I've mentioned in the past posts that there's a girl (14) who has her horse there. She has a horse named Athena and her mom has a horse named Duncan, both of which I take care of when they go on vacation. Amber (the girl) took Athena out and we both ended up riding and talking together while Shelbi did the last lesson with Gail.
Gail said that in the past Ruby doesn't take to other horses and can be unfriendly towards them so I kept that in mind while I rode with Amber. But Ruby did mind Athena and they both got fine together. In fact they were "too fine", Ruby especially got attached and didn't want to separate from Athena. So while Amber walked Athena I trotted or cantered Ruby around them and rested her a little ways off. But I only did this when Ruby tried going back to Athena on her own. We had had fun cantering both the horses in the open fields and took turns going over this little hill (more like a big mound). Amber pointed out that Ruby had very fast gaits compared to Athena. She made me laugh when she said that when Ruby walked, Athena had to trot just to keep up!
I love how Amber can just take Athena out and ride her very easily. I can do that with Ruby, but for Ruby and Sugar's buddy sour, they don't like to be separated and they whine about it. Athena and Duncan aren't buddy sour which is so lucky for them! ;P
Amber commented on how she wished Athena could tight turns and back up as well as Ruby could. Tight turns I think are easier once she can flex from side to side. Backing up was challenging with Ruby. She's a very testy and pushy horse and she hates backing a lot. Her early stages were not that pretty. Sugar is a lot easier to back up. I'm sure Athena will be a lot better than Ruby for sure and maybe better than Sugar if she had the same training.
My last lesson with Shelbi was on Thursday the 16th. It was also the last day before the weather got worse (except for one partly sunny day in between). We did riding this time! We did ground work for the first half and then we rode. Shelbi had me practice the one rein stops at all three gates. We actually ended up doing almost only one rein stops because Ruby and I still had a lot to learn. Ruby was rusty and I wasn't very balanced when I did one rein stops at a canter. In fact, I don't canter as much as I should, so I needed to loosen up and go with the flow.
We did the riding in the round pen with Shelbi in the middle. At the starting lesson of the canter she wanted me to get used to it so she lunged Ruby. There was no one riding her and I had to rub all over her while she cantered around. I don't sit up straight enough in the saddle (especially at a canter) and I don't keep my heels down in the stirrups all the time...
If Ruby doesn't respond to me relaxing at a walk (cue to stop) then there's no way she's going to respond when cantering. We got a few good stops at a walk and a few slow downs trotting but other than that we didn't get anything better (which is normal).
In the past when I rode her I was actually able to get really good stops just by relaxing in the saddle. Ruby even took a few steps back on a few of them. She did some at a trot as well but since I didn't canter as much, I didn't get anything out of that. The more I ride, the better the both of us will get!
I talked over with Shelbi on when to meet her down at the stables so I could watch her train Sugar and maybe work with Ruby as well. I met up with her and watched her back Sugar up into the round pen. Sugar is actually better at backing than Ruby is. I watched her round pen Sugar while she talked to me on what she's doing or answering any questions I had. I noticed Sugar had a lot more energy with everything, too much in fact. She was more on the overweighted side and got winded faster than Ruby would have, especially since she kept speeding at every little pressure Shelbi put on her. Ruby needs a lot more pressure more often than not. We basically need a horse in between so we're working on evening them out.
Shelbi then saddled Sugar (after a few other exercises like desensitizing and yielding) and took her to the big arena. I went to go get Ruby so we could both work them in the same arena and Shelbi could help me. When I went out to get Ruby from her paddock, she was much better to catch than the day before.
Yesterday I worked with her and had some really bad moments and some really good ones. That day I worked with a couple of the exercises and so far I was satisfied until I got to the "lunging for respect." I pointed for her to turn and move in a circle around me but that's when the trouble started. First she just stood there so I added pressure to her front end to move off. She still stood so I added more until she started backing, and then she decided to rear up and suddenly she came forward at me a few steps to test/challenge me.
That's when I made my greatest mistake. What I should have done was come back at her more fiercely and make her go the way she was supposed to go, but what I did was I lost the fight by moving back. I moved back because she frightened me when she get's nasty. That was the wrong move on my part so now the next time I ask her, she'll try it again most likely worse than before because she's succeeded on been able to back me up. I was unsure about trying again because I knew I was doing something wrong at the time so I did some more of the other exercises I knew how to do and ended at a good stopping point.
Today Shelbi gave me the answer to my problem. I told her what happened yesterday so she had me do it again. But first she had me back her up with the different methods. I noticed when backing Ruby to the arena that she tried to move to the side and pass me. She unfortunately succeeded in that once but I did NOT want her to win me over again! The only good things that comes out of Ruby winning is that she's making me that much more determined not to let her win the next time. I backed her more in the arena and not once did I lose to her. After that and some yielding, we did the lunging for respect! Shelbi had me point in the air and swing my stick to set her off. She had a similar attitude the day before and reared and challenged me but just as I expected, she did it a little more. Shelbi had me 'get in there!' and I whacked her on the neck until she turned and obeyed with a swish of her tail.
Mistakes and problems I made during Lunging for Respect stage 1:
At the end I felt much better and felt like I got a lot accomplished, both with myself and with Ruby. It turned into a lesson from Shelbi even though Shelbi was working Sugar at the same time. I took longer, so she watched us with Sugar resting. She worked Sugar on lunging as well. She kept Sugar turning and working hard next to us and then she lunged further away from us (and the gate) and slowed the work and let her rest over there. It helps resolve something called "buddy sour." Buddy sour means that the horses constantly want to be together because they feel safer and rested. But we don't want that, we want them to be parted easily when we take them out. We want the horses to want to be with us and feel safe around us like we're their herd. So Shelbi is teaching Sugar that being near Ruby means work. The same exercise can be used for "barn sour" which is the same thing but the horse feels and wants to be near home so the rider has a hard time bringing the horse away from home. You work them where they want to go and rest them where they don't want to go. Basically they need to be balanced out so that they only want to go where we want them to go.
The other day I had another lesson with Shelbi. It's been overcast, windy and rainy for awhile and I haven't gotten lessons or had enough time working Ruby on my own. That day was windy but thankfully didn't rain during the whole lesson. I can tell she had energy and usually if I was on my own I'll admit I probably wouldn't risk taking her out or at least not to work on. She gets really frisky and I don't have enough knowledge on what to do when she does that, especially when we start the training. She starts getting in my space.
Halter: Halter knots on the nose goes on the beginning soft part on her nose. Higher up when the horse is tied. Too low it can stop her nostril breathing and panic her.
Yielding the hindquarters: Her anchor foot needs to stay still and planted. Drilling in while the other three feet move around. Nearest front foot.
Backing: Ruby knows how to back so I can take it a step further. She needs pay attention and give me two eyes. Yank on the rope when she's getting distracted. And hurry her feet because she needs to get out of her lazy steps back and respect me.
Too firm?: If someone thinks I'm too firm with the horse, think of it this way; I may work with her about 2 or 3 hours a day (most likely not every day) and the rest of the 24 hours the horse does whatever she wants.
Rhythm: I need good rhythm in almost every exercise. Not too slow to where the horse is thinking she got away with disobeying, and not too fast where I'm freaking the horse out and basically whipping her. It needs to be quick like I'm going to get it done but not too fast. I also need to work on my aiming and awkwardness of being a beginner.
Good habit: Backing Ruby all the way to the arena is a good habit to get into. And if she can lead without getting sticky feet after she's done really well with backing, then give her that as a reward.
Yielding the forequarters: First time doing this exercise. Hold the stick straight in front of the horse's neck, stand in the middle of the horse's neck, hands on either side of the stick. Handle end at the neck with the other end at the horse's face so I can rub the horse between the eye and ears at a stop. Since I'm new and not very good, Ruby will test me a lot. She'll try to get out of it and make out like I'm doing it wrong (even if I'm doing it right). Don't have the horse step in front. If a little tap/whack her on the nose, if a lot make her back up. Going too back, follow and force her to turn. If really bad make her back up and keep doing so, so she no longer wants to back.
Round penning/lunging: This time we tried Ruby more on making tighter turns. She didn't turn so well or gave me two eyes quick enough. What to do: If Ruby doesn't give me two eyes when I'm asked her to face me, keep walking until she does. If she doesn't and I hit the fence, I have two options; go along the fence to her and try to force her to turn. Or drive her forward and hard and then ask again. (option 2) If she does it again do the same thing and ask again till she faces me.