I don't have much experience with foals, having never raised one myself, but I got to help out with a newborn this morning. On Mother's Day Lena (gray dappled QH mare) had her baby! A little girl! This filly is a red roan and the cutest thing ever!
I got to help Debbie imprint the little foal this morning. Imprinting is basically introducing humans to the horse at a very young early on age. In fact as soon as their born! It's letting the horse know who you are and not to be afraid of you or your tools. Teaching respect should also be taught through the foal's life. Imprinting a horse so early in his/her life is so useful especially since it helps the foal get used to farriers, vets, riding and anything else the horse will encounter in the future. They're also easier to train because they've been introduced to humans and their tools. Imprinting is harder to do the older the foal is because he get's stronger and could hurt you easily.
Imprinting a foal may look abusive to a lot of people, but it's not! Basically it's laying the foal down so he's on his side. keeping him there by holding on to his foreleg that's closest and hindleg that's closest. Also keeping the foal's head bent around to his withers. This keeps him in a bind so it's harder for him to get up or struggle loose.
Imprinting has a lot to do with desensitizing. Clinton actually has videos and information on this too.
There are a lot of different ways of doing it but when I've heard and got to do was basically rub/pat a spot on the foal about 50 times and if the foal reacts, start over again. So as you can see it takes a bit of time. And this has to be done all over the foal's body. Every horse has a spot where they loved to be touched or hate to be touched, or may not even care! Doing this all now is easier than trying to do it when it's grown. The bigger the horse the easier for him to hurt you. If we touch the foal 50 times in a spot and she doesn't react then we move on to another spot. We did it all over her body! And I mean all over, even in her nose and ears! Touching and tapping on her feet too, which prepares her for the farrier when she's big enough.
The last thing we want to do is let her go when she reacts. It's desensitizing, so if she relaxes we can move on. If she reacts we have to stay there until she relaxes again. Imprinting is done about 3 times. This morning was her last imprinting and she did great! She had a better side.
SO many horses have a good side and a bad side in almost any situation. The goal is to always even them out.
I just came back from Europe and haven't been with the horses for 3 weeks. The other day I rode Sugar and did groundwork with her on the obstacle course. Overall Sugar wasn't as bad as I thought she would be not working with her for those 3 weeks. She gained some weight and started to get a nice tan that shows her dapples.
Amber had been starting to practice jumping with her horse Athena. So that first day being back I also tried jumping with Sugar. I wanted to do more groundwork with her first but since Amber wasn't going to be there for long so I jumped with her. It was a lot of fun and Sugar had the energy!
I want to teach Sugar starting from the ground to not only jump but pick her feet up more. She's more on the clumsy side and not paying enough attention to where's she going a lot of the time that I thought obstacle work would be great for her.
Circle logs are perfect for this. This obstacle is basically logs fanned out in a circle. I can do this obstacle with Sugar on the ground or in the saddle. It's similar to poles but the logs are bigger and usually fewer causing the horse to take bigger and higher steps. Sugar lacks in picking her feet up and often knocks things or hits jumps when she goes over. She's on the lazy side when it comes to that. So when I have her do jumps for instance I have her doing it until she can clear them with ease as well as be able to find the rhythm and timing of the jump instead of getting distracted or "falling asleep". Circle logs keeps her mind in constant focus on where to put her feet next. I have her trot over the logs and just as she's over one there's already another one to go over. This really helps keep her on the thinking side of her brain. Usually at first she'll go around awkwardly, maybe trying to get out of it or hesitating before going over but the more I work on it the better she does timing and picking up her feet.
Jumping she's pretty lazy at. There's a lot of groundwork to be done there. Depending on how big the jump she'll try to trot over but usually she'll have to canter to make the jump and a lazy little jump that often ends up in knocking the poles down.
I'm going to be back tracking and working on mostly her stopping and smooth cantering. She does have a great slow canter but not so much if we're going out on the trails. I can stop her but I want her to stop off my seat rather than a one rein stop. Most of everything I've worked on her has been turning, being and things like that. But not enough work on just going straight and easy as much as I should of done.
To be able to send the horse through tight, narrow spaces (without moving your feet) at both a walk and trot and have the horse yield and face you, and then go back in the other direction.
Horses are actually naturally claustrophobic. Some more than others. Wether the horse goes between you and a fence, through a gully, between fences/through gates or just between two close objects. So sending them starting off the fence and making that space smaller and smaller helps get them over their claustrophobic.
It also teaches them to be lighter in the halter, that halter pressure behind they're ears. They should be able to go in the direction just by me pointing that way.
And lastly it's also very useful for trailer loading. Being in a big box like thing that moves can be really scary for a horse.
Teaching this exercise to a new horse that has never done it was a challenge to me. I was teaching a horse named Rose at the time through some of the fundamentals awhile back. Some horses will have a hard time learning certain exercises and sending was one Rose and I had a hard time on. In fact it was very frustrating! She just didn't seem to get what I wanted her to do. But it was also fault too..
From what I can remember I was asking her to step between me and the fence in a space too close too early. I didn't start at a good starting point. I should of took a few steps back and have her go between that. I can definitely remember her being a very claustrophobic horse, very unlike Ruby and Sugar. I don't remember either Ruby or Sugar ever being very claustrophobic.
My other problem was not adding enough pressure. She would start by going forward but as soon as she realized how small the space was she would back up...and back up, and back up! I followed her like I was supposed to do but didn't add enough pressure. And now that I'm remembering I also think I had way too much loose rope. Which made it harder to reach her and easier for her to back up or try to run off.
When Shelbi (CA Ambassador) was here I asked her to help me with this after we finished with Ruby and Sugar. It was a hot humid day and there was a lot of dust...and I was so tired and sore...BUT it never felt better! We spent a long time, she having me teach the lesson to Rose while correcting any of my mistakes. I did it over and over and over until I could send Rose 5-8 times without a fault either from her or me. It was so tiring but the next day when I took Rose out to teach her the same lesson I don't think she messed up once! I was so excited about this and a little surprised on how well Rose remembered the lesson the day before! I practiced sending her everywhere! I was just so excited she was finally able to do it I was having fun sending her all over the place.
Those times when it's feels SO hard and tiring but as soon as I push through that point it's SO worth going through again!
"Sometimes you have to go through some ugly stuff to get to the good stuff"~Clinton Anderson
I've always wanted to do liberty work! I also think Sugar would love doing it too!
Liberty is it's own kind of sport in the horse world. It also has a lot to do with trick training, (trick riding is separate). Liberty is all off line tricks, so no halters, no leads. The horse listens to the trainer's commands without having anything connected to the horse. There are a lot of tricks in liberty like bowing, rearing, lying down, leading beside, circling, jumping, Spanish walk, side passing and a lot more. Being able to lead beside well is one of the biggest fundamental parts in liberty. But overall do be able to do liberty there's a lot of fundamental groundwork involved.
I've practiced liberty-ish type of stuff with Sugar. She's actually very quick to learn! Today I spent a little time riding her bare back. But after that I took the bridle off and tied a string around her neck. This is just in case I need to pull on her head if I "lose her". There's an invisible circle around me where as long as Sugar is in that space of the circle she'll listen to me. But if she's outside she'll start walking off or not pay attention to me. My mission is to make that circle bigger! These exercises are a bit of a side project but since they're very useful I'm going to start working more on it.
I taught her to lead beside me pretty well. She's not pushy at all! I can ask her to trot just by leaning forward, stretch my hand ahead as if i'm pulling on an invisible lead, and if I have to tap her with my stick towards her rump if she doesn't respond. I also encourage her to trot by doing it myself.
I can stop her easily by stopping myself. A lot of the time as a to let her know ahead of time I'll say "woah".
I also taught her to back up without having to turn around and face her. I march my arms and lean back a little. That's her cue to back up. If she get's "sticky feet" I'll add pressure by marching with more energy and tapping her legs with my stick.
I can also back her up when facing her a pretty good distance. I can actually back her out of the invisible circle and still have her backing and not walking off.
I can yield her hindquarters and forequarters with ease. I can yield her forequarters her with ease from beside her as well. A lot of horses will get pushy when you starting walking in a arc turning into them. Sugar is really good about respecting my space as well as following me.
The only thing I can technically do but not very well is changing sides. I've done this with her before but I need to a lot more work on this as well as more work on her other side. To change sides I look over my shoulder away from her and around to her butt. That's when she switches sides and now she's on my other side.
And lastly, I can ground tie her. This she does very well in her paddock, arena, hitching posts or obstacle course. But she doesn't do as well anywhere else. A lot of the time she will stand there but I can't do off doing something else without wondering if she'll walk off or stay.
Here's a picture of a ground tie session I did with Sugar awhile ago: (with a halter and lead)
"To have the horse trot around beside you in a circle, staying exactly 4 feet away while remaining relaxed, maintaining an arc in his body and keeping slack in the lead rope both in the circle and during changes of direction."
This exercise teaches the horse to bend more in the ribs and softer in the halter. They're also a lot closer to you (4 feet) than they are in lunging. But this exercise is really good for a nervous, reactive horse as well as a pushy horse.
Pushy horses: Been able to work beside you but respect your space. This also helps have them pay attention to you while working so close to you on the ground.
Softer: Arcing that rib cage and getting softer will also help for when you're in the saddle. Softer circles!
Lighter in the halter: This helps for when you pull on the halter for the horse not to pull against it but go with your direction.
I'm going back to some of the basics in this post..
For most of it I just had to be taught once and I had it down. In fact I feel like most of what I learn I can make a good habit of doing. But...I better learn the right thing too because I can make a bad habit fast and it's harder to get rid of.
I'm going to talk about saddling, grooming/care and some of the tack I use.
Grooming/Care: For the grooming I don't usually do a lot if I'm about to ride. The the winter it takes longer to groom because the horses are usually buddy, hoofs caked and tangling mane and tail. In the summer it's very dry here so they really only get dusty (which is very easy to clean compared to mud) and they're hoofs stay clean. I'll do a quick brush down on they're bodies depending on how dirty they are. If I'm in a hurry to start working I won't bother brushing they're manes and tails out. But if I do I brush all the knots out and spray it with this stuff (called Shine-On I think) where it detangles and gives it a shine. I like to use the same spray on their bodies too, to shine it up ;)
I'll clean their hoofs out either every time I ride or every other ride/work with them. Sometimes it just depends how caked they get with pebbles and mud. But like I said it get's caked in the winter and almost always stays clean in the summer. Although in the summer it's very dry so I'll paint they're hoofs with oil so it doesn't crack. Depending on how dry I'll do this once or twice a week. In the winter I don't need too of course since it's wet enough.
I also like to bathe them in the summer usually after a ride or groundwork session. If I bathe them before I ride I have to make sure they're dry enough so the pad and other tack doesn't rub.
In the winter the nights are colder and I ride mostly in the afternoons so I need to make sure they're dry from sweat before letting them go. Horses can get really sweaty and hot depending on how much you work them even in cold winter. I can do a cool down by riding them at a walk for about 10 minutes before getting off or I could lead them for the same time. When I untack them I'll rub them down as much as I can to dry them off. I'll use a beach towel or straw. After if they're still damp I'll throw a special kind of blanket that helps cool them down and dry them. I don't leave the blanket on, it comes off after awhile. So even though the horse may be very hot and sweaty it's bad for them to be exposed to the cold because they're temperature can change really fast and being wet and sweaty in the cold have bad results. I want to make sure they're dry after I'm done. Horses also like to roll in the mud where they have a they're own homemade coat on to keep them warm. But mud is SO annoying to get off in the winter because any brush hardily works and the best way is to wash it off...and I can't even do that because it's cold out!!
When I throw the saddle on the horse's back, I'll put it just where the front cinch will line up with the girth. Not too far forward where it can bother the horse in the shoulders, ,making movement hard and not too far back either.
I always (and I mean always) tighten the cinch 2-3 times. I make it a habit to tighten it at least twice (never once). Horses like to push they're stomaches out. So even if it feels tight enough after awhile it'll get loose and nothing's worse than having a loose saddle! The saddle can slip under the horse and usually he'll spook...A LOT!
For the bridle there is an old rule for how tight the bridle should be. If you pull back on the bit the mouth will make wrinkles. We judge how tight it is by the wrinkles. The more wrinkles, the tighter it is. The old rule was three wrinkles. But I agree with Clinton, and that is too tight because it's already adding pressure on the mouth when you don't want it. It'll have pressure on the horse's mouth all the time and it will make it that much harder when you want to add pressure. It doesn't help the horse get any lighter or softer in the mouth. It actually teaches the horse to push against the bit.
The bit should sit on the corner of the horse's mouth. Not any further or it will fall out or hang in a uncomfortable spot. When I pick up on the reins it should add pressure, but when I release it also releases any pressure on the horse's mouth.
There are also many different types of bits. I use what's called snaffle bits. I use a twisted snaffle which looks basically like this:
(Either with a D rind or a O ring)
or a smooth snaffle which looks basically like this:
Although this smooth bit has copper lining. We just got a whole bridle set that has the bit with copper lining but I also use the same smooth bit with no copper. (The copper is for a nice taste in the horse's mouth).
The twisted snaffle has more bite to it than the smooth. So sometimes depending on how the horse is behaving I'll use something that has more bite but most of the time I use either one. I always want to ask as lightly as I can to get the lightest results with either bit.
There are also shank bits which I don't use and personally don't like very much. I've used this bit in the past and compared it to a snaffle bit and I don't like it very much but especially for training horses. Snaffle bits encourage lateral flexion; To be able to turn easier where as the shank bits are more straight and forward. Although shank bits can help with vertical flexion and can teach a horse to tuck his head in, it's still harder to soften a horse's whole body. Where as the snaffle bit makes it easier and can do both lateral and vertical. I find that horses can be SO much softer and lighter in my hands.
Now for the reins..
I use Clinton's reins and overall tack.
These reins are different than the usual reins most people use because they can adjust in length. With what are called slobber straps I can change the length of the reins any time I want instead of having to buy different reins for a different length. They are made out of yachting rope instead of leather. (CA's halters are also made out yachting rope as well). For me I like either rope or leather but I prefer the affect of being able to change the length and have slobber straps which tells the horse I'm picking up on the reins earlier on. This is really helpful to get a horse lighter. But the rope reins does win me over more because it's also easier for me to slide my hands down the reins or lead than it is with leather.
Slobber straps: (Funny name for it XD)
(fuzzy picture of Sugar in my favorite bridle set)
There is a ton of other tack I use but I'll save that for another time..
Before I mount I always do a little groundwork to make sure the horse is using the thinking side of his brain. The last few rides I've only had to do short groundwork sessions. For more than one reason I make sure to do some groundwork even if it's just 5-10 mins. Sometimes it might be an hour, it all depends! I'll do short sessions of groundwork if I've worked the horse a lot for a couple days in a row and I'm wanting to work on something in the saddle. As long as I'm satisfied and the horse is using the thinking side of his brain.
When I get in the saddle I make it a rule and habit to always flex the horse's head around while I'm mounting. This is for my safety. If the horse happened to spook or bolt when I'm in the middle of mounting it can get ugly fast, especially if I already have a foot in the stirrup. It also helps the horse to focus on you and not be able to look around and get distracted. It makes it harder for the horse to start walking off when you're trying to get on.
In a lot of Clinton's exercises it all starts from the ground. Whenever I can teach a horse something from the ground first, it will make my job a lot easier in the saddle as well as safer.
Flexing is where I can pick up on the reins lightly and flex the horse's head to where his nose towards the girth where he is either touching his belly or my leg/foot if I'm in the saddle. It should be light enough to where I can use two fingers on reins with no stiffness.
I teach this from the ground first before I do it in the saddle. This helps the horse get softer laterally as well as respect. Horses don't have hard mouths, they have hard stiff bodies. I'm working on getting my horse soft throughout his whole body (not just his head). There's five body parts of the horse that the method goes through to soften: Head and neck, poll shoulders, ribcage and hindquarters. Here's a picture of Sugar and parts of her body:
By teaching flexing it softens the horse's head and neck. A lot of the time a horse's first reaction will be to push against any pressure in the bit. Teaching the flexing teaches him to respect you more when controlling his head and softens his neck. And it's also very useful in spooking situations.. XD
I've taken both horses (Ruby and Sugar) in the water and swimming. They both loved it but I can tell Sugar loved it the most. Not only did she love it but she definitely had trust in me and didn't lose attention to obey me while being in a different and new environment.
Probably the biggest reason a horse would try to avoid water would be fear. Fear of it being very deep or just fear of drowning wether or not 3 feet deep or a 100. Because they have monocular vision it makes it very hard to tell deep or far something is. Other spooky reasons like something might be in it that could eat them WHOLE!!!!! Not all of the time but most of the time when introducing a horse to water they'll be a bit reluctant to get in. BUT, they are natural swimmers! And are known to love swimming! Like me ;)
There's an old saying; "you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink". Which is true. But I can teach them to want to be in the water. I can actually change their minds from avoiding water to dying to go in.
Now if the horse is afraid of the water, which a lot of the time will be the case, I'll prove to him that there's nothing to fear. I've said this a lot in the past but it's basically all it is, make the hard thing look easy the easy thing hard. In this case the dry land is the easy part and the water the hard. So I'll move the horses feet/work her on land and let him rest in the water. In the beginning I'll let him investigate a little the water by himself. If he doesn't go in then I'll keep adding pressure till he does. Then release as soon as he's in. Horses learn from the release of pressure, not pressure itself.
I'll lunge him around to where almost half of the circle will be in the water. But as much as I can and especially in the beginning I'll make it very easy for him to be in the water. Sometimes it takes forever to get a horse comfortably in the water and other times it hardily takes anything to get him in. It all depends on the horse. Every horse is different. When lunging and he's going around on land, if he slows or tries get out of it then I'll add pressure. Because that's where he feels safe but I want him to feel safe in the water too not just on land. So if he stays on land then it just means a lot of sweat and work. Another important part to this is to establish a starting point. A lot of mistakes people make (and I've made) is asking too much in the beginning. Don't expect he'll go right in. Don't ask for him to go to swim where he can't touch right off. If it's a very difficult horse, start smaller. Even if that means two feet have finally stepped in the water-STOP! Take the pressure away and reward him.
I love the way Clinton Anderson teaches. He has his own way of explaining and puts it in this order:
Success Tips (optional)
He has all of this in order but to break it down for most important, it would be Goal, Why and Teaching Stage.
Goal. For this he shows what your goal should look like. For example, in a video, he'll bring one of his horses that are already trained and know the method. He'll do the exercise he's about to teach you on this horse. Let's say...yielding the hindquarters (groundwork). He asks, the horse does exactly what he wants; crossing hindquarters while pivoting on his forefeet. He brings in a horse that already knows the exercise to show the audience what the goal should look like.
Here's an example for the goal on yielding the hindquarters:
"To be able to disengage the horse's hindquarters 360 degrees with minimal pressure. His inside hind foot should cross over his outside foot and he should keep his front feet relatively still."
Why is exactly what it sounds like. Why? He explains why you would teach this certain exercise. What you and your horse would benefit from it. I used to wonder a lot on why people would do some of the things they did. Like backing for example. Of course I'd want my horse to back a few steps every once in awhile. And even if he's terrible at it, I'm fine with just a few lazy steps. But why teach him to back up so well? The only reason at the time I thought was it looks cool. To be able to have your horse back with speed just by a wiggle of a finger at about 14 feet away! That's cool! And it can be a reason I would teach my horse. But there's more to it than just that.. Backing is actually one of the most important lessons you could teach your horse. Clinton said if he had a choice to be able to teach a horse only one exercise, it would be backing. Backing is a huge fundamental part in the horse's training. For one, it teaches respect. (Very good lesson for a pushy horse).
It also helps for when you're in the saddle too. Wether you're backing on the ground work in the saddle. Horses are constantly thinking forward, forward, forward. When do you ever see a horse back up? Hardily ever. In a horse's everyday life, hardily at all. Because they hardily actually need to back up unless they feel trapped and backing is the only way out. So when you teach the horse to back, and I mean to back a lot, it actually helps the horse to start thinking about backing and stopping. It's very helpful for a better stop. You have to stop first before you back up. It helps the horse to think about backing/stopping instead of forward all the time.
"A horse that backs up really well is showing you a lot of respect. The better you can get a horse to back up, the more respectful and responsive he will be in everything else that you ask him to do. A good backup is the foundation of the stop as well as collection. A respectful horse backs up with energy any time you want. A disrespectful horse ignores you and walks toward you with pushy, dominant behavior. If you don't back your horse up, he will get pushier and more disrespectful."
There's a reason for all of Clinton's exercises why you would teach a horse a certain lesson. In the Fundamentals there's always a fundamental lesson for the horse to learn before he can something more advanced.
The teaching stage is all the information on how to teach the horse that exercise. I'll go into this another time...
Starting: Always start with a starting point. People have a tendency to start out big. Backing, they ask for 10 steps in the beginning of the first lesson. It's like asking a kid to read a sentence full of big words when he doesn't even know the alphabet yet. Always ask for 1 or 2 steps in the beginning and reward the slightest try. Build off of that until the horse can back 20 feet with ease.
Goal, Why and Teaching Stage are the three main subjects.
Handler Mistakes: Handler mistakes are where Clinton shows any habits or things you might not be doing right or to make sure you are doing "this" right.
Horse Problems: Horse problems are what the horse might do. How he might react in the wrong way and what you should do.
Practical Purpose: Where you can/should do "this" certain exercise.