Saturday, April 03, 2010

Bits and Swirling Ropes

We've had lots of sun lately and some good long sessions at the barn. On Thursday Brian(!) caught Sham with little difficulty and we took him indoors. But Sham is still antsy inside and I took over with the handling again. We managed to groom him and tack him and then we went outside, where I did more groundwork with him. I worked on a new method for "moving" him. While Steen really responds to the stick, Sham basically ignores it. While a light pop on the butt is a very good "pay attention" reminder for Steen, the same level of pop has approximately zero effect on Sham. I didn't like finding myself in a scenario that went like this: horse ignores me > I pop horse on butt > horse still ignores me. It leaves me either having to agree to be ignored or hit the horse harder. Since I'm generally against hitting horses except in very specific and rare instances, I needed to find another option.

back, back, back!

So I began to experiment with a technique we've seen employed by a trainer we're lately a bit enamored with - Richard Maxwell. He spins the end of the rope to move the horse. Since the horse can see and hear the spinning rope, its a pretty effective technique. I pitched my stick and started spinning and most of the problems I'd been having with Sham began to improve quickly. He began to learn not to crowd me so much when being led, not to barge ahead when lead, and that backing up and disengaging won't get him out of circle work. By the end I was feeling good about our day.

While I was working with Sham, Brian once again had fetched, groomed and saddled Steen, and rode in the outdoor arena. Steen was quite good for him. When he was done, I hopped on for a while too.


unfortunately, I've been doing so much groundwork lately I forgot how to ride

Steen really likes the outdoor arena. I think part of the reason is it's right smack-dab in the middle of all the pastures. He's got the pasture herd to the west, the feed-lot herd to the south, the stall horses to the east and the barn to the north. He feels very comfortable there, and was quite relaxed and responsive and a result.

***

Today Brian and I returned to the barn and had an all-Brian day with Sham. Brian caught him, Brian did groundwork with him, Brian led him indoors, Brian groomed him, saddled him and did inside groundwork with him. Then we took him outside and I stepped in to put Sham's bridle on. I managed to slip the snaffle into his mouth with only minimal protest once we sweetened the deal with some grain, and once it was in place Brian just continued with the groundwork using the halter as if nothing was different. I'd removed the reins from the bit, so he got used to just having it in his mouth and hopefully noticing it doesn't hurt anymore. Then Brian unbridled him, untacked him and put him away. I was quite happy with how the day went. The two of them are really getting to know each other, and Brian got very good at spinning the rope and getting the responses he wanted.

So, though I've been having fun getting my hands on another horse and seeing the differences in what works and what doesn't, hopefully today was the first step in transferring main Sham-handling duties back to Brian.

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