Thursday, May 28, 2009

Whoa!

This was our lesson today. Louie has been playing too hard out in the pasture and is still sore on one of his hind legs. Ugh, baby horses. . . I hope he starts feeling better soon, it's been a week and no clear signs of what is hurt- you just get that terrible feeling in your stomach when they are hurt, hoping that they recover fully. Anyhow, so we're making due, and working on brain exercise rather than body exercise. We worked on a very important lesson today- whoa. This is, in my opinion, one of the most important things for a horse to know, both to be responsive during work or emergency, and to stand and be patient, trusting that your horse will not walk away when you've asked him to stand.

So we started out in the arena. After just a minute of light trotting to plant the seed- "remember we're working now," we started our lesson on the lunge line. I asked Louie to whoa and took a step back from him. He didn't move, so I praised him and moved on to a bigger challenge- a few steps back. This time when he took a step towards me, I shook the line at him until he went back to where he was standing, and repeated my command to whoa. We repeated this once or twice more until he caught on to the concept, and continued, working farther and farther away from him until I was at the end of the lunge line, praising all the while.

Then I moved on to a little more difficult challenge, especially for a joined-up horse such as Louie- moving to his sides. This blog doesn't go back quite this far, but joining up is my first lesson with any horse, teaching the horse to respect me as the herd leader. In this exercise, the horse learns to face me and not take his eyes off of me as they would face and watch a dominant horse in the pasture. So, naturally a horse who has done this exercise wants to turn to face you when you move around to his side, thus this whoa lesson was a little more of a challenge here. But Louie is smart and he figured it out quickly. After a few corrections, Louie figured it out and I was able to move farther and farther from him, leave him standing for longer periods of time, and make more distractions, kicking dirt and moving my whip around. I was even able to approach him from behind, using my whip and my opposite hand along his sides introducing him to the feeling of the shafts of a cart as if he is being hitched.

After he mastered standing on the lunge line it was time to let go of the line and test what we have learned. I just had to give him a quiet verbal reminder once, but Louie stood perfectly, ground tied in the middle of the arena while I walked all around. Yay! Good boy! Louie may not know it, but this is one of the preliminary steps to getting him broke to drive. Standing quietly while hitching is a must!

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