Sunday, August 5, 2007

5th August, 2007 Long reins and long manes

A pretty exhausting week. I seem to be having a run of horses that are terrified of long reins - I wish someone would do some research on whether horses that have been kept with electric fencing or have gone through electric fencing are more likely to be frightened of ropes. With these three horses, one has been caught up in electric fencing, another has had pain in his pelvis and hindlegs and the other has been lunged with a dummy on his back at full speed until he was exhausted. I always go through a series of exercises to check out the horse's reaction / de-sensitize the horse to the lines before I begin. This includes turning the horse away from me with just one line around his hindquarters, walking round with the reins just dragging alongside and getting someone else to lead the horse while I just hold the long reins passively. All three horses are getting there but are a stark contrast to little Lennie where we could just pick up the reins and go. I am loathe to rule out long-reining with any horse because it gives a clear indication of how they may behave when they are ridden and what their default position is. If they are inclined to spin or bolt with long reins or they cannot cope with people being in their blind spot, then I wouldn't want to be sitting on them! In my opinion, long-reining is much better for a horse than lunging, especially when most lunging isn't done very well at all. Lunging encourages the horse to tilt his head outwards to counter-balance the weight of the line and cavesson where used. Long reining keeps the horse in alignment and puts no direct pressure on the horse's head. It is such a versatile technique too, allowing you to incorporate turns, circles, straight lines and rein back at the same time as teaching the horse about rein and lateral aids. I long rein horses over obstacles, out and about over the Forest and in the school and I consider it to be an essential part of a horse's education and fitness programme.Piper has had a couple of months with very little handling since he was turned out after being gelded. I shouldn't be surprised but he has regressed a long way and it is difficult to catch him even with clicker treats. Yet, once I have caught him, he let's me touch him all the way down to his hindquarters and today I washed him off with cold water and a sponge. I am going to start work with him in earnest again now that I have a little more time. I do wonder whether I will ever bring him round - he has had such bad experiences of people coupled with seven years of being totally wild. The Exmoor pony lives such an isolated life, unlike the New Forest pony, and I do wonder if they have evolved to the same extent. There are times when Piper goes onto automatic pilot and there is no communicating with him at all.