Sunday, May 31, 2015
Training: Going As Fast As You Can, but Slowly
This is where experience comes in--When is it time to move on to the next step when starting a horse who has not been handled? When the horse completes the step you are on to your satisfaction move on. Otherwise one gets a bored horse and the horse's willingness to learn is stifled as is curiosity withers.
But what about the other side--When is it time to move back a step when a horse does not seem to be progressing at all towards achieving the step being taught? When the horse shows so much fear that it is not even remotely showing signs of learning the step being trained, it is time to go back a step or a half step.
I took Stitch, the Corolla stallion shown above ,into the round pen. He became perfectly responsive to my cues. I gave him an opportunity to join me in the center of the round pen and he refused. I did this two more times. Each time I stopped he would face me but not come to me--I took it back a step. Instead of running him more I worked on advance and retreat until he stood happily to be touched on the face. He was more nervous the further back my hand went. I stopped that exercise and lunged him.
With in a few minutes he lunged to one side tolerably well. The other side was not as much of a success but I got him moving in circles.
Intermittently a great deal of time was spent simply simply rubbing him and talking to him. I then took a pool noodle and rubbed him with it until he would calmly accept it over 85% of his body. He eventually came to enjoy it.
Then I returned to lunging and, as if by magic, he lunged in each direction on a completely limp lead. Minutes earlier he was pulling constantly on the rope in one direction.
By now his head was down and he was relaxing. I put a saddle pad on his back and rhythmically removed it--over 100 times in all. He walked on a limp lead with the saddle pad on his back.
I put him back in the pasture. Total work time was just over an hour.
I could have spent that hour marveling at how beautifully he wheeled and turned on cue in the round pen. Would have given both of us a great deal of exercise but the horse would learn nearly nothing.
On the other hand I could have spent that hour continuing to move him in the round pen until he walked to me and started following me around. Maybe he would have in that hour. But even if he did that is all he would have learned.
Bottom line--when training patiently go forward or backward but do not stay in the same place revving your engine. That is true whether the horse has learned the step or shows no progress toward learning the step.
Posted by Steve Edwards