I’ve been thinking over some things and thought I would clarify them here in a blog post about training Dante.
I’ve been struggling with Dante and that is because I bought him with expectations of A and instead have ended up with B (isn’t that always the case with horses!? argh). Instead of reconciling myself to living with B, I’ve been mentally fighting myself and being angry with myself (not Dante) that he isn’t A.
So it’s time to “fish or cut bait” as the saying goes.
I do wish I was riding. I’m not giving up hope that it will happen this year. But I also need to start walking in Dante’s horseshoes (if he wore them) and take a step back emotionally and start thinking with my head screwed on straight and without the pity party.
1.) I had expectations about what I would be doing with Dante (trail riding) but for now it looks like I will need to put those plans on hold. I need to remember that this isn’t “forever” but just until I get a better understanding of him and his issues.
My biggest issue here is with outsiders who feel the need to question why I am not riding him. I own him, so I’ll do what I want. You have a different idea? Then buy him.
2.) The health issues need to be examined thoroughly. I feel this is finally being addressed even though my pocketbook is screaming OUCH! A horse can’t work to his best when in pain; that wouldn’t be fair to him and I wouldn’t want to put him through that anyway.
He is obviously feeling much better already so yes, let’s just keep living in the moment and not projecting past issues (i.e. Pepper’s illness and death) into the present. Continue to work with my vet on diagnosing his condition.
3.) Dante needs a regular schedule of rehabilitation. What form that could take is up to me but it does need to be consistent which it means it needs to be something I am interested in doing and will keep doing, as well as offer some variety.
I also feel it needs to combine several types of training (in-hand Straightness Training for gymnastic training, Liberty Play for motivation and power, Mark Russell’s removing blockages and encouraging relaxation, and Art2Ride principles of head long and low for back).
Tail pulls are now up to 5, at 5 seconds.
Working on Farrier leg lifts through Clicker Training and Linda Tellington Jones TTOUCH exercises such as leg circles.
Masterson Method – working on different parts of the body each time I see him, Bladder Meridian, Hindquarter points and Stifle points.
20 minutes of walking each day. I’ll start taking him up and down the little hill I’ve got in the pasture. It may or may not be combined with formal lunging and in hand work but definitely he needs this as a minimum.
10-15 minutes of trotting. This can be done with his Free Play routine, lunge or in hand work. 10 minutes of walk warm up prior is essential due to PSSM. 3x a week minimum.
Body Crunches – I’m going to be teaching him this with CT. Right now he is clueless. Looks like the easiest way might be to back him into a stall wall or to walk backwards up a hill. I think I’ll need a spotter for this to note behavior at first.
Foreleg Power Walk – I started teaching him to lift on command through a target and mimicry. Since he likes to paw-lift his leg when I am putting his food together, Another way I’ve taught this is to have a place where a horse steps up – as they bring the leg up to step you click before they actually take the step upwards. I’m going to see if I can capture that and reinforce with CT.
Chase the Tiger. This was a game I had seen some time back (wow! 5+ years ago) on the Art of Natural Dressage forums and now I’m seeing it again as a prelude to “Panther Walk.” Great play motivator but the game can turn intense and aggressive so you need to make sure the horse knows boundaries. Start with the principles of following a target first.
What do I know from my studies about horse and animal behavior?
1.) Horses need to be left “wanting more” – do not over train or over work; these lead to loss of motivation. End on a high note.
2.) Horses have the intellect to understand consequences and cause and effect. Do not treat them like robots. The the more ‘buy in” they do because of their own free will, the better the end product of training.
3.) At a point, animals (like humans) will put the desire to work, higher then the desire for food. Science confirms this over and over; this behavior is called Contrafreeloading. For him to express a desire to work above the desire for food means I’m really “cooking with gas.”
4.) Horses that have tuned out humans (which Dante clearly had), have to be given time to “wake up” that you are different. That the relationship will not be the same as the ones they had before. This requires consistency on your end as the trainer and time on their end to believe it.
This is probably where I grow the most frustrated and I’ve seen others do so too. “I love you! Why don’t you love me back!?” is often the refrain I hear. Well, that takes time and consistency especially for horses who have seen all humans behave the same: selfishly.
5.) To learn well we must be in a relaxed state of mind and body. If not relaxed, we strive and work too hard and retain too little. It is why when a horse approaches “play” he is more relaxed and open with his expression vs. what he views as “work.”
6.) If Dante is given the choice to work or not through free play, he will let me know how he is feeling and what he is up to doing physically. If I “enforce” through traditional methods, he might work through an injury that goes unnoticed.