“Developing a calm connection and confidence building are my expertise, my passion — and this past month has been the perfect example of that.”
Compete a mustang in mountain trail on ride five and cut cows on ride six? Ride an off-track Thoroughbred with no bridle and no neck rope on a cross country course?
Take a horse at liberty through New York City?
Developing a calm connection and confidence building are my expertise, my passion — and this past month has been the perfect example of that.
Even though I just had my first baby five weeks ago, I started back to ground work as soon as we were out of the hospital on July 1 and got back to riding around 3.5 weeks post baby. I’ve been feeling great, and have lots of friends and family that are helping watch Evelyn while I ride, so it’s given me some time to keep up with training my Makeover horses. Each of them has come leaps and bounds in confidence, and we have something we can learn from each.
My Thoroughbreds for the 2019 Makeover
Fairly Obvious (Fairly) has been going through some major self-exploration this month as we try to figure out what she will compete in at the Makeover. Freestyle for sure – I have been working on some pretty cool liberty tricks (one of them I teach inside the Connection Club this month) and we started working with the tarp. We started with walking over the tarp, then dragging it around and then bringing it up and over her. I also taught her to lay down.
Once she was super confident with both of those tasks individually, I decided to try putting them together and cued her to lay down and then snuggled her up in the tarp. She didn’t mind in the slightest because I had built her confidence individually with each task first and then put them together. Another practical example of this would be to practice going over liverpools without them actually being a jump, and then practice jumps. Once your horse is confident crossing liverpools and jumps separately, then try jumping a Liverpool jump.
I still don’t know what Fairly is going to compete in, but within this last week she competed in a mountain trail competition, jumped cross country, cut some cows and did her first trail ride. I have to decide by August 15th, so stay tuned next month for what I decide.
Regina Christina (Bling) is preparing for Field Hunter and Trail. To help her do well in the future I not only need to dissect each discipline and train her for each task, but also I have to make sure I don’t create bad habits. As part of her training we went to her first jumping shows and her first field hunt. During her first jumper show she was a bit nervous so she wasn’t using 100% of her brain, which meant she was doing some cross cantering and not giving me her clean flying changes that I know she can do.
Because I want Bling to be a confident, thinking, accurate jumper in the future, I slowed her down, brought her back to trot, rebalanced and made sure she picked up the correct lead to every fence – I could have ridden her forward and try to win the jumper class, but I knew I was not riding for the ribbon that day. Instead, I’m preparing her for her future.
I was super happy that by her second jumping show she was already so much more relaxed and gave me a clean flying change in her first round (didn’t take long to settle). We still need more positive experiences offsite before she will be ready for the makeover, but I am building her confidence by teaching her to be accurate rather than rushing for the ribbon.
Kibou is my next superstar horse. This horse is a great example of what can happen when you have a positive attitude and you are willing to try new things. I am training him for the Georgia Mustang Challenge, which is in hand only, but I am also training him for the mustang class at the world championships in Texas for extreme cowboy racing.
I did a lot of ground work the first two weeks, and then started in saddle work. He was awesome and we did ride three offsite at an obstacle park to practice. Ride five was at a mountain trail competition where he did all the obstacles — even the water box and teeter totter that other horses refused — and ride six I took him to do some cow sorting.
I noticed his confidence wasn’t high, as he had trouble standing still and was very fidgety. I realized I had rushed him and needed to step back and build his confidence to just be with me. So for rides seven, eight and nine, when we were at Horse Country Campground for a clinic I was teaching, he got to be my “chair.” He got to practice just standing still with me while I taught, and occasionally moving around to demo an exercise or obstacle. Sometimes the best training we can do for a horse is to do nothing together.
Our horses need to be 100% confident in our presence and not worrying about what we are asking for next. If your horse can’t just stand still with you, that is part of your foundation. By the end of the trip at Horse Country he was so much more relaxed with me – just be careful not to sit on your horse’s back for too long or you may make them sore. A ThinLine impact protection pad can help.
Meraki is the most scared and timid horse I have ever trained. He is extremely flighty and simply looking at him would send him to the other side of the pen. I have a lot of retraining of responses I need to teach him. One of the things we needed to get done soon was his hoof trimming. I worked on picking up his hooves and giving him positive reinforcement for letting me touch his legs and then lift them.
When it came time to get his hooves trimmed I decided to use classical conditioning to set him up for success. This is where we try to create a positive association with a task so the horse learns to enjoy it. In this case I let him eat grain while his hooves were being done. He stood really well for the farrier and now his hooves are looking so much better. Because it was such a positive experience, he should be great for the next trim.
If I keep using grain for each trim, he soon will associate the farrier with grain and eventually I won’t need to give him grain, but he will still have happy memories about the farrier and will simply enjoy having his hooves trimmed. It’s one tactic that can be used to help horses have positive associations with certain things.
It’s been an action packed month with a lot of experiences and training – for more updates and tips from the horse’s experiences, check out my YouTube channel, Harmony Horsemanship.