Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Drifter and I Continue to Work it Out

Drifter and I had another ground work session today, and although we're not yet where I ultimately want to be, we did make some progress.  I started by moving him around in his small paddock.  I got some resistance - some rearing, some kicking out in my general direction and some avoidance of my asks to move in a particular direction at a particular speed - I was using a 10' lead line as my aid.  He was particularly sticky moving from a halt into a new direction.  We made some progress and he was doing well walking and trotting in both directions at my request, but then his patience started to wear thin and he was starting to think about coming in towards me when he was rearing - I don't know if he would have actually charged me or not and he wasn't angry but rather petulant.  But horses are big - even 14.3 horses - and that wasn't going to go anyplace good, and I didn't want him starting to think along those lines, so I decided I needed a way to look a little more formidable, and the footing in the paddock was pretty slippery.  I got the lunge whip, put him on the lunge line and took him out of the paddock and into the arena.

I started out holding the lunge whip - I didn't actually use it at all - and he started out by running in circles out of apprehension.  After a few seconds of that, I dropped the lunge whip and was able to go back to lungeing him using only the tail of the lunge line and my body language.  The only time he kicked out close to me he got swatted firmly on the rump with the tail of the line and that made a big impression on him and he scooted off - that behavior wasn't repeated.  There was still some resistance initially, particularly on taking up a new direction, but we worked through it and pretty soon things were going fairly well.  I took care to maintain a better body position this time and to watch his ears and head posture carefully to improve my timing, and we had no unintended changes of direction.  We started doing some serious transition work, using both my body language and verbal commands - he doesn't know these but is picking them up quickly - we did lots of walk/trot/walk transitions, and ended up with some inside turn changes of direction at my request.

He finished much calmer and more reponsive than when we started.  We finished by doing some just standing around work in the parking lot - his job is simply to stay out of my space on a loose lead, and ideally to just stand there and relax with me - he startled once but didn't move his feet which is good progress. I want to get to the point where he comes out and goes straight to work on the lunge without resistance, including changing directions and gaits whenever I ask.  We also need to work on desensitizing him to the lunge whip - I started today by holding out the butt of the whip for him to touch with his nose - this was still pretty scary for him.  The next thing we need to work on is accepting ropes touching his body and leading by the legs, together with outside turns, in preparation for ground driving.  It's clear that for him, this ground work is needed to fill in some holes.

It felt cold today - wind chills in the 20sF, but I certainly stayed warm!


  1. Drifter likes to keep your blog suspenseful! Good report.

  2. Don't like his threatening you, no matter what. He does need to learn his place in the pecking order--well below you!

    Good start with the whip. I suspect from some of his "attitude" that he learned fear of it because of his aggressive behavior. What he needs to learn is a respect for it, not fear. But, at the same time, you also need to have it at your disposal as a defense if he gets out of line.

    Either way, a good start. A horse can tell the difference between a strong whip used fairly and one used unfairly.

  3. leading by the legs: I feel like it is something you have talked about before but what does that mean again?

  4. Golden the Pony Girl - here's some info about ground driving preliminaries, including leading by the legs:


  5. I'm glad you're working on the whip issue. I think it's a good idea for him to learn it and respect it and get down to business on the lunge.

    You sure like to tackle the hard stuff. The standing around - that is something we should all do with our horses. If I don't have any patience, I cannot expect my horse to.

  6. What if you started more with desensitizing with the whip, and from there build up on your groundwork. I think Drifter needs a better foundation that what he came to you with for respect, and from there will come more understanding naturally. He seems to revert to dominance when he's frustrated or unwilling.

  7. Sounds like a horse that has gotten his way quite often by upping the ante. Is that your impression? He doesn't appear fearful from what I've seen on your videos, but I'm not there.

    Wish you had a round pen, it's much easier than working off a lunge line in my experience.

    Hope he gets it - certainly a challenge but one I bet you can handle.


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