Thursday, January 22, 2009

Parking My Frustrations

Teaching a horse to park out nicely seems to be a bigger hurdle for me than it really should be. I think this is partly because I usually don't have anyone to help me from the ground to get the transition from the ground to the saddle, and probably partly because I don't have the most patience with this exercise. So, I have worked on this once or twice for about 2 minutes total with Louie up till now. He hasn't quite got it figured out yet. So today, since I didn't get out to the barn until after sunset, I figured I would bring him in, groom and spend some time "bonding," then maybe work on parking out from the ground since I had those left over grapes. Well perhaps the grapes were the problem, but I found myself fighting off his searching muzzle more than getting anything accomplished with his feet. I am glad that I finally found something that Louie likes as treats, but now I think it's time for them to be out of the barn, haha. So I am teaching him to park by rocking his withers from the ground to shift his weight between his front feet (using my feet to guide his). Well, it is slowly coming along, but I think I have a problem with patience with this exercise (meaning, it seems to take a lot longer to grasp this concept than some of the other things I have taught him). Perhaps it is a larger amount of information to process and therefore takes longer to learn. Perhaps I would see faster results if I switch my method to using a whip or tapping on the elbow. Whatever the issue, I have been a little bit frustrated and tired over teaching this concept, which is silly since it is so simple. He is onto the idea, and I swear I saw the light bulb switch on today for a second, then a minute later it was definately off. Young horses can be like this, one step forward- two steps back, at times, and I think I will just have to get up the motivation to work on parking out more regularly and move it up on the "importance" scale of things to work on.


  1. Consistency and LOTS more practice. Any time you stop him anywhere, for whatever reason, mounted or unmounted, ask him to park. We always used the gaited whip and lifting the head and "Out!" These are commands that should work both in the saddle and out of it. Just hang in there... twice isn't enough time for him to get it quite yet, but he will!!

  2. I confess I never did teach Grey to park when mounted. Part of that was because I decided to keep him as a hunter and I don't want him parking when we halt on the rail. And secondly, as a three year old, the big brat flat out refused to learn to park at all. He hated it. So I understand your pain. When a "Park Out Learn'n Session" transpired, he would switch off his brain. So, I gave up. It wasn't until sometime last fall that I realised that I had been unconsiously parking him when I got to the mounting block, and that he now knows how... two years later. I can also park him while mounted using a whip on his elbow. However, that being said, he is far far far from ready to ever park properly in a halter class and get up over his front legs and use his neck. So, the moral of this story is... it will happen. Eventually.

  3. I've had great success teaching horses to park by backing against a wall, giving the command and when each front foot comes out, they get praised. I really don't know why the wall works, except that it helps even up the back end.

    Once they get it down and understand that the park command means to move the front feet out a step (this only takes a couple short lessons, in my experience), you can start tweaking the command (getting them to park farther, introducing the whip as part of the command, etc). Just beware that they might start pulling out the park when they've been bad (the whole "You're mad? But look how nicely I'm parking!" game)... both Santana and Piecey like to try to stun you with a nice park in order to change scolding to praise.

    Currently I'm dealing with Santana's complete and utter refusal to use his neck and ears when parked. I'd like to show him in some model classes this year, but no matter what I do, he sits there with his ears tilted back and his neck all scrunched up.

  4. Thank you all for your wonderful words of wisdom! I have just been a little frustrated since Social was such a stinker about it and Louie doesn't exactly seem excited about doing it either. Today I worked with him using a whip on his elbows and he had several lightbulb moments. He's getting it a lot more consistently now. I want him to know how to do it, but I don't want it to become a big habit every time he stops since I may show him hunt and western, saddle seat, who knows. I do want him to stop square, and I used to do that, every time I stopped him while in-hand I'd square him up. Now if I turn back to look at his feet he usually knows it's coming and gets his feet mostly square on his own. But anyhow, thanks for the tips on the parking, it's coming better, and I do need to just be patient and keep working on it. :)

    Kalin- I totally know what you mean about the ears thing- Social was that way, he would stand perfectly, but he wouldn't put his ears up or use his neck to save his butt. I showed him in halter and used peppermint wrappers and that would usually get at least a few flickers from the ears. A plastic bag on a whip worked awesome for both the neck and the ears, but I couldn't use that in the show ring. You could also try bringing him somewhere new or to a place you don't usually hang out and ask him to park there- that usually will be enough to get them to set up and use their ears as they look around.

  5. Hi Leah! I had the oppurtunity to teach a young Morgan mare to learn to park - and from your posts, it sounds like you are trying the same things I did! (which means you will succeed!!) As a young girl, we didnt have much money to spend on a trainer and lessons every week, so I spent a lot of time reading and just being with my horses. I actually taught her to park by moving her feet with my hands and praising, so eventually she knew to park out when i "bumped" her with the bit. On her back, I had someone bump her bit while I tapped her shoulder with a whip, and she knew exactly what to do. Like you, I needed to be able to show in Huntseat and the occasional dressage class in addition to Saddleseat, and parking out at the halt is a huge no-no. Thats why I taught her to park only with the tap of a whip. Hope this is encouraging,