Moose~ Today's training session was mostly an evaluation of what Moose knows already and where she is in her understanding of the basic aids. We definitely need to start with some heeding work. She was quite scared of the saddle that was outside of the round pen. LOL! Because she knows nothing of heeding we did a combination of heeding and various forms of leading to get her down to the round pen. There was a lot of stopping and standing and letting her relax. During these stopped times we spent time making friends and grooming/scratching the shoulder. Once she was in the round pen she immediately relaxed significantly. She has at least some problems with challenging your space and does not respect the handler's personal bubble.
We gave her a chance to decompress and just blow it out of her system. To do this I only worked on keeping her going the direction I asked and let her settle down. Once she tried to run me over, we did a few changes of direction establishing that she would move away from my presence instead of continuing to go or speeding up.
Once Moose had settled we began some basic transitions on the lunge circle. She was very responsive to body language. Going to the left when changing directions she prefers to turn away from you on the circle. More than willing to turn toward the handler going right. She has three nice gaits, but does seem to lack basic rhythm.
After the lunge work I asked her to come. She had no problem at all with this concept. Once she had connected with me she was quiet and soft through the eye. She gave me pieces of rhythm and relaxation and an occasional moment of freedom of gaits.
She stood quietly for tacking and made no issue of any piece of the process. I followed the tacking with a bit of lunging to see how she accepted the saddle. She through in a few good sized bucks but quickly returned to her relaxed state (this was relaxed for her, though not what one would call relaxation in a warmblood, or other non-anxious type horse).
When I brought her back in to the middle she was quiet again and willing to come. She bridled fine. We left the flash piece loosely attached because she had never had one on before. I tightened the cinch and the re-tested her readiness for riding by lunging her around in walk trot and canter. She was fine, so I mounted.
Once on her she got a little worried manifesting her anxiety through turning her head side ways and other various head evasions. I rode her in walk and trot. She seemed backed up once mounted. She only slightly understands the leg aids. She accepts them (does not body armour against them, or tense or over react from them), but her response to leg is hesitant and delayed. I picked up the riding whip at this point. She was not worried by the whip itself and went a little more forward while carrying it. Steering is at very basic level and she braces into rein aids. She does not understand moving over from leg at all. She will stop but is a bit fussy with her head in the halt and once halted. I did not actually do any real reinforcing of the leg today. She seems just uneducated as to what it means. Perhaps a little sore or just backed up.
Sue wanted to see if she would back. She fussed a bit through the head but would move back, hesitantly. Did not show any signs of over reacting in the back (rearing, or getting overly worried about it).
Whizard~ Once again this was mostly an evaluation training session. Whizard was also a bit worried about the saddle next to the round pen. He also needs some ground work, establishing boundaries and developing a system of communication for heeding. He showed similar behaviors as Moose when leading/heeding him to the round pen. He was distracted, invasive of personal space, and threatened to run around me as I heeded him. I spent some time establishing relaxation by standing and grooming. I had to do some mild interrupting of his impulse to run forward past me and or over the top of me due to his fear of the saddle.
Once in the round pen, his breeding and personality differentiated itself from Moose. Whizard is a Oldenburg Paint Cross while Moose is a Thoroughbred off of the track. He settled much faster, had a more natural rhythm and was more relaxed through his topline, offering a lot more freedom of gaits then Moose.
He was much more respectful of personal space once in the round pen, never threatening to try to push past the body pressures. He would rather trot big than canter. He is short through the neck and this will be a touch point for his training. All work must be done to work him in the longest frame possible to keep and improve his gaits and connection from behind. To date his muscling through the neck is mostly on the under side.
He was a little less clear when I asked him to come, but once he understood was very willing to do so. He stood quietly for tacking. When I lunged him again, right away he seemed hesitant and began to hump through the back. I asked him for a few walk trot transitions. They were obedient but he seemed a bit concerned about the saddle. This was his first time in a dressage saddle. He was ridden previously in a full sized western saddle. When he hit canter, he showed off his discomfort to the full extent of his personality. He brought out the big boy bucks. I didn't fuss too much with him about the bucking desire but did insist he go forward. After about the third canter transition the bucking stopped and he cantered nicely. I worked him a little bit more until he seemed to tell me he had worked himself through the problem and was no longer worried about the saddle or girth.
He came again readily and I bridled him. He seemed a bit worried about the bridle itself. He tensed his lips and they began to quiver when placed the bit up to his lips and teeth. I waited it out and he took the bit willingly. When attaching the straps he put his head almost all the way on the ground. LOL! I just ignored it. It will probably disappear on its own with repetition.
When I tighten the girth and re-lunged him a bit he showed no inclination to buck at all, so I mounted. He stood quietly for the mounting. I rode him in walk trot and canter. He is crooked and has a bit of tightness through his back. You can feel it through the bars of the saddle. He is especially crooked to the left and likes to counter bend that direction. Moves somewhat willingly from leg though not as light as what we will aim for. A bit wandery but not too bad for only having 100 days+/- under saddle. Quite attentive to seat aids for down transitions. No real canter transition but felt much more organized then in canter itself then it looked from the ground. Has a nice big round rocking canter. Showed no real inclination to buck under a rider.
I rode some of the trot work after the canter on a loopy rein and he stretched out some off and on.
Over all I was pleased, and think he will develop nicely with some consistent work.
Bebo~ Observational data...I went out with Bebo's owners to see him and watch him get worked. Cute appendix quarter horse. He is well muscled, healthy coat and skin, small feet, and short through the neck. They tied him to tack him and we were watching them work. The girl who groomed him did not respond or seem to notice that he visibly flinched the first time she touched his back. He held his head high and was showing the whites of his eyes intermittently. The trainer placed the pad on his back and again he seemed to brace himself and visibly tensed his muscles and skin. Upon placing the saddle on his back he jumped stiff legged bronc style and dumped the saddle on the ground pulling back against the line he was tied with. The trainer seemed startled that he would react this way.
So began the untied version of tacking Bebo up. He was bumped with the line and the saddle was tossed up on him a couple of times followed by loud whacks on the saddle and stirrups and banging upon the pad. He began to stand and take it though he didn't really look more relaxed for the loud treatment.
After being saddled he was led to the round pen where he was run around in circles for a good while. Occasionally being pulled off of his line of travel and being sent in the other direction abruptly and without warning. Bebo, continued to look stressed. His gaits were hurried and jilting. He often cross cantered and was almost always counter-bent. Once he was pretty tired the trainer mounted and rode him around often pulling his nose around abruptly to his boot and holding him there until he stopped, and or stopped fighting.
He worked him in walk, trot and canter. The trainer seemed to have pretty good control of his hands and seat, he sat quietly and there was no accidental disruption of the gaits or head carriage of the horse. There was the intentional disruption.
The trainer would occasionally roll Bebo back into the wall. Not a single one of those turns were controlled or organized. Mostly he swung his haunches around a stationary front end. He was often behind the bit and shortened thru the neck.
His owner wanted me to get on and ride him. I rode him in walk and trot. He felt a bit tense he was fussy through the bit. I rode him in a longer frame then he had been being ridden, but because of the lack of relaxation and his previous lack of background did not ride him how I would have had he been in training. I only rode him in sitting trot and did not rise. I felt that to introduce another new thing in his state of mind would have further confused and distressed him. He would occasionally soften through the back a bit. Worked on trying to establish some relaxation and rhythm. It got better but was not ideal. I did a few halts and backed him into a couple of roll-backs. Going right he seemed to be understanding the concept. Left he just wanted to turn his nose to my boot but not actually move his shoulder (another reason I don't recommend the one rein halt solution). He was trying to be good, but had no basis for actual understanding of many of the aids.
None of the work done with Bebo by the trainer was overly harsh, though some of it would appear illogical from a horse perspective. He seemed stressed by the work and tired. I saw no purpose in working canter. He mostly needed relationship building. He seemed to have no concept of cooperation.
Taylor~ Because of the owner's goals with Bebo, we decided to do some work on learning how to do proper ground work from the basis of the training tree. So we took Taylor and I demonstrated how to use your body to influence your horse for transitions on the lunge line. Her owner got so excited that we ended up spending the rest of the lesson time helping her learn how to free lunge using natural methods.
Taylor is sensitive and particular. She requires someone with a good sense of feel to be able to really get connected to her and seamlessly communicate from the ground.
Fancy~ Next we worked with Fancy and her owner. Fancy picked up the heeding/lunging method quite easily. The only piece that was a bit of a challenge was getting her interested in coming. She was quite sensitive to shoulder position and if you are not placed just so she will change direction or try to grab a bite to eat. In fact the food issue was the biggest distraction to getting her to come. She would start to come and then lose focus and have to be pushed back forward to avoid her changing the subject to eating versus calm focused attentive communication. Overall an amazingly effective afternoon.