Wednesday, March 26, 2008


I'm working with my filly almost daily now. Time spent with Libby is quite rewarding. Working on picking her up her feet is a drag, but we're making progress. The trick is not to hold her foot up long enough for her to take it away from me: If I think she'll jerk it away in three seconds, I put it down after two. Little by little I increase the time. She is getting better, and I'm learning to do simple things like making sure she's squared up on all fours before I pick up a foot, so she can keep her balance better. I am so awkward at things like this, not to mention that my reflexes aren't what they used to be. Anyway, we're making headway. One hind foot is still more of a problem than the others, for some reason.

Last summer and fall, before I ever attempted riding Libby, I was driving her in the round pen. I came to a point where I wondered if I was doing her more harm than good: when I first started working her, if I dropped the whip, she would come directly to me, facing me. That's what she is supposed to do. Later on, though, she started getting acting afraid, for some reason, and quit coming to me when I dropped the whip. So I decided to forgo round-penning.

I'm not knowledgeable about horse-training, and my confidence level isn't high. All I know is what I read online (like this), and the advice I get from experienced trainers. The folks on the Homesteading Today equine forum have helped me several times.

Today I groomed Libby and handled her feet, then rode her in the round pen; she's getting better at turning and stopping, and she will even back a couple of steps; mind you, I keep her at a walk because I'm still old and break easily. I led her back to the barn and was going to turn her out, but I decided to try lunging her first to see how she'd do.

And she did great! Well, she was confused at first because I had the whip in the wrong hand (stupid me); but once I got things right, she did fine. Every time I dropped the whip, she came right to me.

I am so uncoordinated that it's hard for me to remember some of the very simple rules of lunging: don't look the horse in the eye, for instance. That un-nerves them, and they feel threatened (that's what this article says; however, this article says the opposite. See why I get confused?). If you're driving the horse, you're supposed to keep your eyes on their buttocks to keep them moving forward. You don't use the whip to "whip" the horse, by the way. I very seldom even crack it.

All of this is supposed to establish pecking order and build trust. I'm beginning to think it might work, in spite of a novice trainer who hardly knows what she's doing.


The Guy Who Writes This said...

Donna, I never use a whip. I just keep walking behind their drive line and if they get lazy I will toss a rope at their butt clicking to make then trot or kissing to make them canter. Be sure to watch for signs of submission such as looking at you and dropping their head. Once that happens I will turn them around. You have to be careful not to nag them once they ask for relief. It's a give and take and it is hard for them to respect you if you don't read their language and give.

Midlife Mom said...

I too struggle with training methods but I do use a whip when I lunge, NEVER to hit them with it just a tool to keep them going in the right direction. I also drop it when I am done and they turn and come towards me for a good pat and head scratch.

I am so behind on working my guys as last summer I was laid up from May till about November and did well to haul this old body on for a trail ride. Hopefully both Buddy and I will stay sound this summer!