Learning the ropes !
11.02.2013 - 28.02.2013
This photo shows me working with a grey mare who was wild when I first arrived at Loose Rein. She and another mare were bought by Rebecca to be trained and eventually sold. It was to be my responsibility to work with them, 6 days a week every week until they were sold. I also had 2 other horses to work with each day.
Here I am trying my best to trim Chicken's feet! (a horse by the way definitely NOT a chicken! haha!) I learnt this very early on and I have to say it has to be (still to this day!) one of the hardest things I have ever had to learn how to do!! You have to balance the horse's foot on your leg, whilst trying to manage the equipment AND remember how you're supposed to trim them!?!?! EErrrr.............!!?? Yea like I said almost impossible............it took me almost half a day just to do do half a horse!!!! :/ Rebecca was not best pleased I can tell you! But like they say, practice makes perfect and I soon got to grips with it all and was able to trim without much supervision from Rebecca. Although I did always like her to check my work afterwards as I'm not the best hoof trimmer around!
Trimming hoofs like this is known as 'Barefoot Trimming' and essentially it means not putting metal shoes on the horse's feet and letting them grow/be worn down naturally. It is a much better way of keeping horses and with the correct training can work most comfortably on rocky/stony surfaces like this. There are 2 main types of trim, the working trim and the paddock trim and I learnt both as some of the horses were in work and others were not. I also met Rebecca's friend Tracey who does this for a living and she showed me where I was going wrong and how to approach hoof trimming. She also taught me how to hold my tools correctly!! haha!
Here I am with Rosie. She came to Rebecca from someone she knew who had purchased her from a riding school for his 10-year old daughter!! All I can say is WHY!?!??! She had ssoo much GO and not much STOP! She had obviously been allowed to get away with things whilst at the riding school and I was put in charge of re-schooling her and getting her quiet and respectful enough to be sold on. In the photo I have just been 'Roundpenning' her, basically sending her around the edge of the Roundpen, asking her to change direction (by moving in front of her and pointing with my hand, clicking my tongue and then swinging my stick & string) and then eventually asking her to come into me. Once she has turned into face me, I slowly back up towards her and she if she'll follow me by turning circles. (not too small or sharp) If she does that then there's every chance she'll then follow me to where her rope halter is and allow me also to place it on her without too much of a fight. I have to make sure that she lowers her head when placing the rope halter onto her, I will practice this with her everytime I hater her. Eventually she will just naturally lower her head without me asking her to.
FUN TIMES!!!!!!!!!! :D Here I am desensitising Rosie to the sound and movement of the string on the end of my stick. The aim to be able to walk all the way around her (without my arm touching her) whilst swinging the stick and have her not move or be worried by it. She was pretty good at this actually and it didn't take me long to get to that stage with her.
This is all part of Clinton Anderson's Natural Horsemanship Program. There are 3 levels, Fundamentals, Intermediate and Advanced. They consist of about 20 groundwork exercises and the same for the ridden ones. You need to complete all of the Fundamentals and about half of the Intermediate groundwork exercises before moving onto the riding but I guess that does all depend on you and the horses/s you're working with! The groundwork exercises consist of sensitising and desensitising the horses. First one means getting them to move their feet when applying pressure, the latter means asking them to stand still when applying pressure. Horses do not learn from the pressure itself, they learn from the release of pressure. So for example, if I am throwing the rope over Rosie's back and she moves I then have to continue throwing the rope over her back until she stops. The instant her feet stop moving, is the same second that I remove the pressure (in this example the rope) from her. Therefore she has learnt that if she stops moving I take away the rope. I want her to stand still whilst throwing the rope over her back. If I was to say swing the rope at the hindquarters I would expect her to move away from it (Sensitising). In this instance the pressure is released as soon as her feet move, therefore again she is learning what I am asking her to do by the release of the pressure (the rope swinging at the hind end). It is a fine balance getting it right, but horses are quick learners and soon Rosie is doing everything I ask her to do from the lightest of pressures.
Learning all this I am starting to change my view on how horses should be trained. This is such an awesome method that from now on I believe that I shall endeavor to train all horses I come across this way, or at least use elements of it. The horses all respond really well to it and they become so much more respectful and quiet and I can feel the beginnings of a beautiful relationship developing between me and the 4 horses that I am working with. I knew I would love coming here and learning everything. It is hard work, the days are long and the weather, (when I arrived) was hot, humid and rainy!! Not much fun but Rebecca and Darren are lovely people, the place is amazing and I also get the occasional day off! HA! (Yea right!)