Friday, February 17, 2012

Stair steps

Yesterday was a big day of progress for Dinah. I started with grooming and I was having a little trouble getting her to pick up her back feet. She was wanting to move her body into me, so we had to have a lesson about how that is not ok. Up until this point I have been using carrots a lot as a reward and she is starting to expect them. Now it is time to start doing things for a voice reward or scratching, and start to use carrots a little less. I want her to do things because she enjoys learning and I set up positive experiences for her, not because she expects a carrot. However, the carrots were important to gain her trust at first, now we can start to move away from food rewards. After grooming I began to work on desensitizing her using a rope on her body. I allowed her to walk a circle around me and I continued to move the rope on her. When she stopped walking I praised her and decreased the pressure. That way, she learns the way to get the pressure to decrease is to stop and think about what I want her to do, instead of panicking and running off, which is a horses natural flight instinct. After awhile she really got it and I was able to move the rope all around her body on both sides and she remained standing and relaxed. Then I moved on and did the same thing with the saddle pad. This time, the saddle pad was no problem. After that I took her to the round pen and continued what we did yesterday, working on staying out, keeping attention on me, and transitions. She was great! It is so fun to watch her learn, she is so smart it seems like I only need to teach her things once and she says, I know you taught me that yesterday I got it! What's next?? After the round pen I took her out on the same loop behind the property and we also climbed a big hill to start working on her endurance. I was glad she didn't try to run away at the top of the hill, because I was very tired. I guess I need work on my endurance too! When we got back to the barn area I decided to try to walk her over some of the obstacles. One of the great things about moon valley ranch is that they have lots of wood bridges and steps and logs and platforms to practice walking the horses over. Many of these skills will be required at the competition, so it is great to have this stuff to work with. The first time I tried to walk her up the steps she did it no problem. Then she figured out she was up on something and she wanted to come down. These kind of exercises are challenging because it requires that the horse think about each foot individually and where they are going to put it down. It requires a lot of thinking and is a "high pressure" exercise. After the first time I got her up she didn't want to walk straight onto the platform again. I decided to just work on her front feet. I got her to put her front feet up, and back down and I was happy with that. It was a good lesson for me that you really need to plan and think out each thing you are going to ask of the horse, to make sure they have the skill set they need to be successful. This creates confidence and a desire to keep learning, it is a lot like teaching kids! Really big dangerous kids though. In the afternoon Darby went and worked with her some more. She worked on Dinah's pen to make it smooth and level so we can work her in her pen without worrying about hurting her legs. The rain we got made the pen soft and easy to work on and it looks great now. Darby took Dinah over some more obstacles and even over a platform that moves! She also has trouble with Dinah moving into her when she was working on her back feet, so that is an area she needs more work on. This morning I did the same thing with the rope and practiced putting it around her feet and belly. Then I put the circingle on and she was unfazed! I think she is almost ready for the saddle.

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