Rewards in Small Increments
Today is a happy day. No, I did not win any big show or blast past a difficult milestone…. I am just seeing steady (albeit slow) progress with my 2 mares.
I am a trail rider…a ‘backyard’, over 50 horse owner. I have no desire to show or win anything. I have my horses at home and sometimes they are muddy or shaggy looking but they are happy and healthy…and they help me to be the same.
I decided to do ground work with 2 of my horses even though they are both broke, and re-establish some trust and respect. One of the 2 is new to my place as of this past winter…and the other was sold this past winter and I bought her back. I know… I know…..I will be the first to admit that 4 horses in a home where there is just one rider is too many to keep ridden and exercised as they should be. But lets not get stuck on that– I am committed to getting these girls out on the trail and further along in their experience. Both came to me insecure and lacking confidence. I am not a trainer but I can do what I am doing and I am seeing rewards.
I love that when they see me they come right up to me- even now that I am working them.
They are respectful of my personal ‘bubble’ and stop when I stop when leading without me needing to pull on them to do so.
They back very easily. They disengage their hind and fore easily. They give to pressure.
They are responding to voice commands and their attention on me has improved 10 fold!
I have begun to ride both of them again (still just ring riding at this point) and the respect is showing under saddle.
Porsche especially has a great stop!! I am cantering her and she stops and keeps a calm head after a good canter!
Willow is not ready to jump out of her skin at every little movement. She came to me so unsure of herself around the other horses. She was an ‘only’ horse so it took her a long time to acclimate. She is finally there. She will stand in a grouping with my small herd at long last. Before that she always stayed a good 50- 100 ft. away. That is a reward. She finally feels at home.
Porsche and I have been venturing out and doing ground work out away from the barn. I have purposefully chosen times when things aren’t ‘ideal’ in order to have the opportunity to teach her to keep her focus on me when in new situations and/or under stress. This is the main advantage of ground work. I could (or would like to think I could) keep her attention and focus on me under saddle at this point, out alone, away from the barn – but to be honest I have seen a couple of her big spooks the first time we walked thru the woods and I was glad I was not on her…. I don’t need to get hurt….and I don’t need to prove anything to anyone….I don’t need to be on some set timeline….just need to keep progressing. 🙂 I chose another time to go out when we had gusts of wind- the kind that make horses forget they are domesticated! It took several minutes or more but I got her settled and focused on me and that was the reward. She learned to look to me and I could guide her. We even had a blip where she got the lunge line wrapped around a foot. For a moment her eyes flashed and she wanted to bolt… but she did not… she let me fix the lead and we carried on. That is the reward!
I am practising moving their feet (on the lead and under saddle) where I want them… and riding with a loose rein and working toward a halt with my seat only. I’ve ridden both mares in a snaffle and just the rope halter. Willow needed (and still needs) work on lateral flexion and bending to pressure.
Thanks for allowing me to ramble about my good horse day. If you like playing and tracking your horses progress in a fun way stop by my website for a free online horse training log and journal. To have access go to my website, subscribe at the bottom of the home page. Once you have subscribed, log back on to the home page, go to the white menu bar on the top, right to Member’s Only Page, sign in, and then the page will open to the page featuring the digital horse art and horse memes. They are free to download (in PDF form) and share.
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