Today, I decided I would test ZZ and take her the same route as Big Guy a few days back (which is down the lane, along the busy road, down into the dead end street of the neighborhood and then retrace our steps back).
Although she has improved much, she can become problematic when being lead so doing many leading exercises, building her confidence and skills is really important to her training. For instance, she will stop and not go forward; when walking she will often veer into you, not respecting your space; and sometimes she will go too far forward and then cross in front of your walking path.
Of course there can be the temptation to just spank the daylights out of her, jerking the leadrope and swakking her rump with the tail end of the rope – and between heat and frustration with a horse that simply WON’T MOVE a nasty part of your mind thinks that sounds like a great solution!
People who have never felt that twinge, have never dealt with a horse that tests them. Being real means accepting your human with faults and then not giving into those base desires.
What has evolved is a more organic way to lead her combining ideas from Klaus Hempfling, Bill Dorrance, Carolyn Resnick and my own experiences training horses. ZZ proves again and again that being dominant and totally self-assured of her place as Princess coupled with her Baby Mind, means approaching training sometimes sideways.
There is a rationale behind what I’m doing and I hope this helps in explaining it:
Starting out she didn’t want to leave. A horse had been moved and she was more interested in what he was up too then following me. With the lunge whip I stood to the side and waved the tassel. She would take a few steps forward, then stop. Wave tassel, go forward, repeat, which got us through the gate without touching her physically.
Taking this slow can really be frustrating. Especially, when you have people watching and judging you… oh well! do it your way! and ignore everyone.
None of this though would be possible, except we had a Come to Jesus Meeting where I did have to strike her with the lunge whip and emphatically get her respect for the whip (for those that are concerned go view all the videos where ZZ shows clearly she simply has no fear of the whip at all even after the C2J meeting; her attitude is more of “oh well, if I must….”).
Out the gate, we walked a third of it with me at her heart girth. Some people don’t recommend that position, however, I don’t mind it as long as the horse is respecting my space and not shoving into me, stopping, or veering into my future path. I am also comfortable with that if we are keeping a nice, striding out, energetic walking pace (no dawdling!).
If your horse is constantly shooting forward, dragging you along, and ignoring you, leading from the side should be shelved – and go directly to leading from behind.
When she started picking up speed, I let her pass me and evolved it into a leading from behind. This driving position with me behind her rump, using the slack leadrope for contact and the lunge whip to shape direction is the stallion dominant position according to Klaus Hempfling in his dvd Coming Together.
This position is fine by me as long as she is going the direction that I want and working the side that I want. If she starts to veer, then I turn her back to me, go back to the front, leading backwards or with my body front parallel to the side of her (a combination of Dorrance and Hempfling techniques). This correction might return to a leading from behind or stays as leading from front.
Leading from front (which Hempflings puts as the Lead Mare’s position – see his Coming Together dvd) is okay with me as long as she is not bumping into me, trying to trod on my heels, and is staying to the side so I can view her instead of walking directly behind me.
When Leading from Front, she is most likely to stop. If she stops, I give her a moment to regroup her thoughts but I do not allow her to graze. Watching her I make the decision is this a “need to look around and now I can come with you” pause, or is it a “no, I don’t want to go with you” pause.
If she needs a look around (not panicked hysteria fixation), I give her time to think because of her Baby Mind, and then (from the front of her) take a step backward/away from her, hand out to see if she will come forward to me. It’s important to try to remember to keep the lead rope slack – and WAIT for the response from her.
When she makes the correct choice to approach and follow, this increased the amount of Buy-In. Once she moves off, it strengthens my position that yes, I got her to move and I did it because she acknowledged who I was – the one to make that decision.
If the second, then I step off to the side, slightly in front of her shoulder and tap her with the lunge whip tassel as a cue to move forward.
As we left the auto-gate and approached the road, a loud vehicle went whizzing past. She startled, and I, who had anticipated this response, used the whip in front to prevent a forward move that would shoot her past me.
The horse that barges past is intent on his own survival and not your leadership. The horse, who is startled and/or frightened, that waits at your shoulder or behind, is respecting your space AND your leadership.
As we continued our walk, my favorite position was back at her heart-girth, holding the lunge whip with the butt parallel to her head, my hand about two feet back from the butt end, and the tassel behind. With the whip parallel to the ground, I had the option of swishing the tassel at ZZ’s hip or rump (as a move on cue, or widen the space between us cue). A tipping, up and down with the whip butt, would keep her from veering her head or shoulder into my boundary.
A more sensitive horse would not need the whip, however, I have always found a nice, stiff dressage whip works well to give visual cues to the horse, set boundaries, and serve as an extension of my hand in terms of pointing and guiding.
Luckily, the dogs on this walk (who are fenced) were all inside and the yard sprinklers were not on. The 104 temps also kept things a bit quieter though a dumpster got a snort!
Great job, ZZ!