Friday, November 6, 2009

Standing Around Times Two

It was a beautiful day yesterday - temperatures up into the 50s, with a little wind and some sun. A perfect day for working with horses! I'm taking advantage of every day I can, since before I know it the days I can ride will be few and far between, although I'll continue to ride Maisie on the trail on days when there isn't ice and the wind chills are above 10 (said with hope that I'll stick to it!).

Maisie and Dawn both worked on different versions of the "standing around" exercise, to help them work on their self-calming and ability to relax. Maisie and I went back and repeated our exercise from a few days ago, where we went to a point on the trail where we could watch the school letting out and also see the road construction equipment, and worked on standing around quietly on a loose rein. She relaxed much more quickly this time - I only had to circle her twice before she chose to stand quietly in one place. We stayed there for a while watching things - she was more interested in the road equipment this time - there were a lot of pieces of large equipment parked just down the road. Then we turned back for home. She wanted to speed up, but slowed nicely when I asked and after a bit settled completely. Just what I wanted - the same exercise but with more relaxation!

Then Dawn and I took a break from our ground driving and scary objects. I wanted to work with her on mounted standing around. So we groomed in the parking lot - she ground tied from the get-go without moving a foot. Then we saddled up - she made a bit of a face at the saddle but I asked her to not pin her ears (or bite the saddle!) and she just put her wrinked-up nose on it for a moment - which was fine - I don't mind if she expresses herself! When I got on, she remembered how I wanted her to walk to the mounting block and stand still but we needed to do a little refresher course in standing for mounting - the first time she walked off as I mounted, so I hopped off and circled her around the mounting block and repeated, slowing down the steps, and she remembered and stood well. I was riding her in the fuzzy-nose halter with two lead ropes as the reins. Since we haven't been using the bit yet in our work - although she knows about bits - I used the halter. She steers and stops well with the halter in our ground driving, so I thought it would be fine and it was.

We did some walking around - up and down the parking lot, circles and turns, stopping and backing, and around the barn, and then we worked on standing still and just watching whatever was going on - horses being brought in from the pasture, people and dogs walking on the trail, etc. She was very quick to get this, although she kept casting glances back at me to ask what we were up to. Any time she wanted to move, we just circled until she offered to stop. I'll work with her some more on increasing her relaxation as she stands - she wasn't nervous but I'd like for her to be able to "turn the relaxation on" more easily - this can really come in handy. Then I'm going to work with her next to slow her gait and do walk/halt/walk transitions off my seat, improve her softening at the walk and in her backing and we'll do some mounted turn on the forehand and turn on the haunches work, all in the fuzzy-nose halter. And we'll start ground driving and doing patterns at the trot and then reintroduce the bit. And more scary objects, as well. Lots of fun things to do with Dawn!

We're expecting beautiful weather today - have a good day and may it include horses!


  1. Sky and I are also working on relaxing when we ride outside of the arena. You can tell she's probably never really been ridden outside of an arena before. She doesn't get overly worked up and most people would think she is fine, but she does get worried and will get a bit quick in her walk. We do a lot of standing around until she takes a breath.

  2. I'm really enjoying your posts on relaxing the horses and helping them to learn to self calm and stand relaxed. It's just what I need to do with my horses. It sounds like Dawn is doing so well! How do you ask Dawn not to bite or pin her ears at the saddle but still allow her to express herself? I'm currently having a dilemma with that with Mosco, as he's having some back pain that we are addressing & he's been getting a little aggressive when you work on those areas. I feel like we've achieved a good balance of him telling me it's uncomfortable (he cranes his neck & head all the way to me & gives me THE LOOK!) without snapping at me or getting mean, but I'm always interested in your ideas! You have such a way of explaining things & such a peaceful relaxed manner with your horses.

  3. Jen - an attempt to bite, or a biting gesture, gets the "you accidentally ran the side/end of your nose into my pointed finger" treatment. Pinned ears or other "pre-bite" behaviors - aggressive pawing (where they're sort of trying to reach you but not actually striking) - get a sharp hiss. That's usually all it takes if you're consistent. Wrinkled muzzles, frowns and ears indicating displeasure that aren't actually pinned are fine with me.

    It's good that Mosco's getting some help with his back pain - take your time so he doesn't hurt too much as you go - as he begins to understand that he'll feel a bit better after the treatment, he may find it easier to take. Also sometimes the job just needs to be done - shots, blood draws and medical procedures.

  4. Okay, that's pretty much what I've been doing. He's progressed from the aggressive behavior to just turning & telling me how he feels, and I think part of it is that he realizes that he feels a little better when I'm done. I feel almost honored that he even tries to tell me that he's hurting, because he usually comes off to strangers as a very quiet, kinda boring horse. However, once he trusts you he wears his heart on his sleeve & acts as though his opinion on things is of utmost importance to you. I just love my horse!


Thank you for commenting - we appreciate it. No spam or marketing comments will be published.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.