Monday, April 27, 2015

27th April, 2015 Not to Put Toof'n' Point on It

This may be my most convoluted title ever but I hope it will make sense eventually.

I have no great philosophical issue with using a round pen to work with a horse, it's just somewhere safe, and round, to be. When Moses showed me that he was a little anxious about having a saddle on, even though his owner has put one on him before, it seemed sensible to take him into the round pen for the session so that if he did just happen to explode then he and I wouldn't get into too much trouble.

I started off with a very gentle Join Up, more akin to loose schooling, to ask him to move around the round pen. He joined up very nicely and followed up even better.

Having rested the saddle on his back for a little while, with just my hand on top to be able to move it off again if he decided to leave, it was time to secure it into place. I am very careful about taking it in stages and where my ropes are and so on. The breast girth is clipped onto a little piece of twine on the D ring until the first strap of the girth is done up so that if he decided to buck or run off, the whole thing would just come away. Once the first strap is done up, the breast girth is fastened to the D ring so that if he decides to leave at that stage the saddle cannot slip backwards and form a  'bucking strap'. This also means that the girth doesn't have to be overtight and even if he suddenly breathes in so that the girth is loose there is nothing to worry about.

Once everything is secure he can be sent out again, without stirrups to begin with, to see how he feels about the saddle. Here you can see he is happy to look at it out of his left eye...

...but not so happy to see it out of his right, hence turning towards the outside of the round pen. This is common, particularly in former semi-feral ponies.

You can see here that I am encouraging him to follow me again (unclipped) so that he is turning to the right and therefore looking at the saddle out of his right eye.

He was soon fine with all of that and therefore safe to long rein at walk...

...trot (on that right rein again)...

...and even canter.

Halt is quite interesting because he has that Arabian habit of winding his neck when he is frustrated and wants to go forward. I blame Queen Victoria for loaning Arabian horses to the Commoners to 'improve' the breed.

We finished the session by long reining over and through different obstacles.

Theoden's tooth polishing is coming along too. This is a battery powered tooth brush and I started off by resting it against his neck, cheek and then his mouth. All in exchange for a click (no treat) and then three clicks and a treat.

Next I asked him to accept it into his mouth. He seems to like the Minty 'Horsodyl' which has been diluted.

And finally I asked him to allow me to open his mouth so that I can really see what I am doing. Not bad for only our second attempt and our first try with the battery toothbrush.

Now we get to the er...'point' of my title. You may just be able to spot that Theoden is quite excited about the clicker training. It is very common for geldings to relax everything when being clicker trained but some of them do get sexually excited too. It's just something to be aware of when gauging how emotional your horse is about being clicker trained and a bit of caution is required. I don't mind Theoden liking clicker training a lot but I don't want him to become aggressive around food like he used to be. Fortunately he seems to be a lot more mellow these days, especially when he understands that clicker isn't always available, that food cannot be obtained direct, and that I am training him and not the other way round.