Return to Training page
See Perry's training progress
Training Week 1 for Nordstrom ("Stuey")
Monday, June 5 (training Day 1) --Kelsy
I did not get to work much with "Stuey" but he was a good boy too. I put a tarp in with him, after a bit he went over to see it but he's not too sure about it yet. However I gave him his grain and he had to eat it as I was holding the bucket so now I'm his buddy, he loves to be scratched under the mane. I played with his mouth putting my fingers in it and he was fine so I tried the leadrope like it was a bit and he didn't care at all, so I went and got a bridle and put that on him and he was like "okay whatever". I think Ches plans to go out and play with him a little later when she gets home.
Oh yes, Stuey has learned his first "trick." And not from us. Murray (who is not a horseman by trade) has bought himself an elk horn (or whatever its called, it sounds like female elk and is meant to attract other elk). He blows his elk horn from inside the house and Stuey responds at the barn with a loud call... every single time. And trust me when I say, both Murray and Stuey are proud of this trick and eager to show it off.
Tuesday, June 6 --Chesna Training Day 2
This morning before class I went out to play with Stuey for 45 minutes or so. I started by brushing his wild mane. He expressed his appreciation by giving me shoulder hugs and blowing me kisses (can you say push over or what?). I practiced touching him all over, using belly scratching as a reassurance if he got startled (find their weaknesses and run with it). I grabbed his flanks, lifted his feet and tail, played with his ears and nose, etc. I put the rope around his middle and jumped on the tarp and rubbed him with a yellow cloth and made quick movements. He needs lots of this repetition to overcome his fears (kind of like the tortoise and the hare, slow and steady starting out wins the race in the longrun). We do all of this "desensitizing" without a halter so that they can leave and move away at any moment out of their own free will. We want them to want to be with us, not just to tolerate things but to accept them.
For example, I took an old navaho pad out with me. It was obvious that chicken boy Stuey wouldn't tolerate me just walking over and throwing the pad on his back. Instead, he got to follow me and the pad around, spiking his curiousity and building confidence. In no time I was rubbing the pad on him and throwing it on him like I would any horse. It is important not to be timid or aprehensive when working with them. Treat youngsters like any other horse. If they can't tolerate the pressure, they have the choice to leave. Anyways, Stuey got distracted by his sister across the way and trotted off with the pad draped on his back. He was surprised to find it bouncing and sliding along his back. He continued trotting with a cocked ear and bunched muscles until it slid to the ground. He instantly turned and faced up to me in the center. If he had taken off bucking and kicking at the pad, or if he had pulled it off bravely with his teeth, my response would have been the same. Let him do his thing and make his own decisions; reward him for the correct ones, help him through the bad ones. And he made good ones. They both are making huge steps in the right direction, with very little work thus far.
Later today I believe they both have a date with the highline. Cheryl and Murray set it up this morning. (A highline is a rope between two trees with a tieline hanging down in the center). They will spend time tied to this on a rope halter wearing their bits underneath. Tied to the highline they can circle or pull or spin, and learn to find their own release by standing still. Cheryl's theory (which we can't agree with more) is that they can practice all this without a human in the picture holding the end of their rope.
Wednesday June 7 and Thursday, June 8 (Chesna) Days 3 and 4
So again I came home late from school to find Perry being a super pony. Kelsy was up on her bareback with her halter, trotting around the roundpen, easy as pie.
Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday I was out of town, so Cheryl spent a bit of time with Stuey for me. She mainly worked on more desensitizing using the tarp, flag, and pad. He went on the highline and practiced his leading to and from there. He is becoming more and more comfortable with himself and with us.
Today I worked with Stuey in his paddock more, throwing things at him and roundpenning him. I also worked him on the halter for the first time officially. Cheryl said on the highline he disengaged his hindquarters very nicely on his own, but always chose to go to the left. We worked hindquarters/forequarters both directions, and eye-yielding as well. Kelsy (in the meantime) finished up her ride with Perry, who looked pretty nonchalant about the whole affair.
I took Stuey out into our outdoor arena. We have the makings of some jumps out there, a couple of barrels, and some cones. I drove him (rather than leading, you stand facing them with a leading direction hand and a driving hand, like how you would operate a lungeline but on a halter). He very bravely leaped over our 10 inch black plastic pipe and two foot wood jump with little encouragement from me. I was excited to notice he jumps like his mother Marlee (who competed very successfully at eventing) with a distinct tuck of the hind legs. I don’t know how correct it is, but it’s a cute style. Anyways, he practiced jumping the various obstacles until he was comfortable enough to step over them, and eventually bang them with his legs. It didn’t take long. Then Kels decided to take Perry out of our sight for some stress practice. He was anxious (go figure), but I just did hindquarters/forequarters with him to keep his attention, always making him stay out of my space bubble. Again, didn’t take long for him to chill. To finish up I had him follow me dragging our orange highway barrel. He was very interested in this game, so I started throwing it back towards him. He thought that was kind of scary, but fun to. If you press the edges of their scariness comfort zone without going to far, it is neat to watch their curiosity overcome their fear.
Friday, June 9 (Chesna) Day 5
He knows there is a release in his hindquarters, which is super. He was far from stressed so I decided to move on to the English saddle. A summer camp right of passage is “the little saddle.” It is a tiny saddle (reminiscent of a racing saddle) I used to ride in when I was about seven. It is small, we put it on leather to back (no pads), and it squeaks. Basically, if they can handle this saddle, they can handle any other English saddle. Plus, we can afford to let it get beat up. I started by letting him check it out on the fence, then carrying it with no girth, then girthing it up and sending him around on the halter, and then letting him loose. That sentence is about how quickly we went through the steps.
He was more interested in the hay in the middle, the cones and tarp, and me, than the saddle. I was very proud of him so I set off towards the house to be done for the day. After about an hour I got bored and headed back out to the barn. I grabbed my large Australian/Western stock saddle and lugged it out to the pen. I heaved it up onto the roundpen, and Stuey gave me the “who are you kidding” look. I put his halter back on him and threw the navaho pad at him a few times.
Then I hauled the saddle down and walked over to him with a loose connection with his halter rope. He tends to goose away from things at first (which I let him do, and keep approaching with confidence until he accepts it without concern. Once he is comfortable he is 100%). So he wanted to step away from the saddle and look at it. Well that darn thing is heavy, so in true cowboy fashion I just threw it towards his back and hoped for the best. As it landed squarely on his back (with a thud), he bunched up but accepted it without moving (good thing, because I had lost the leadrope and wouldn’t have been able to save the saddle should it have fallen). Then we walked calmly around the pen with it on and I cinched it up good and tight the first time around (we don’t girth newbies any gentler than we girth our horses). No issues whatsoever so I sent him loose around the roundpen, walk/trot/canter. (He makes an adorable Western horse, by the way).
To finish up I practiced a bunch of review in the saddle, and did a loud and obnoxious dance on the tarp until he decided to join me. I practiced slapping the saddle and bouncing next to him and dropping ropes allover his body. He is flinchy sometimes out of fear, but this is fading away as I work with him more consistently. Reading back on our day here I realize I left out a lot of things we did, but it is impossible to mention every little thing we do, especially because most of it is done on a subconscious level. The moral is, the more we do the better they become. And after about an hour and a half of easy, progressive work Stuey is saddle broke, with no bucking or drama involved in the process!
Saturday, June 10 (Chesna) Day 6
I am still struggling to find time to get everything done I need to get done, but I got a very productive 45 minutes in with Stuey tonight. After yesterday I would have/could have gotten on him, but nobody was around the farm for safety’s sake and help. So tonight I did review in the roundpen with him, mostly free or with the halter rope dragging. Yes, we have heard the story of the horse that freaks out and wraps the rope around their legs and falls and breaks their neck; in fact, we know of it from a first hand source. However, we have them drag their rope once we believe they will not react excessively dangerously and are in the right frame of mind. We do it on purpose because they need to be comfortable with that, because it is something that happens to virtually every horse at some point in their life, and because it should not be a life-threatening crisis. If they’re going to kill themselves over it, they are not horses we would ever want to be around. So back to Stuey, he stepped on his lead a few times and flipped his head around, but then figured it is no big deal. He is much more easy-going around us and all of our weird gear, taking on the aura of a domesticated horse and even a pocket pony.
I rounded up Kels and had her lead Stuey up to the fence so I could practice leaning my weight on him and throwing a leg over his back. He was no more concerned about this than the flag or some other thing. So I sat on him and climbed off, sat and climbed off (both sides). Then I hopped on and grabbed some mane (just in case…) and Kelsy walked us off around the pen. He was pretty cool about it all. I rubbed him allover as we rode around (neck, flank, and hindquarters), and swung my legs back and forth. Kelsy had to keep him out of her space bubble without getting him too startled, and he figured it out. We got to circling Kelsy on the halter rope and even trotting. Again, his biggest concern was not I riding, but his sister in the adjacent field spooking at our neighbor deer. It was just a short 10 minute ride or so, where I was just a passenger and Kelsy had the control. This is the first building block to real riding with him, and like with everything we aren’t going to rush it and make a wreck. An indication of his acceptance of the whole business was his ever-larger yawns during the process. A real killer these two are!
If you are going to put the first rides on your horse our advice (as I think Kelsy discusses) is get them moving. If you are not comfortable allowing them to go forward, especially if they become frightened or startled, you probably shouldn’t be riding a young horse. Terrible habits can form if they are encouraged to stop, back, buck, or rear as their first response in a panic or tantrum situation. If they are moving forward you can direct the feet, anything else is pretty much damage control. And, you can tell by Perry and Stuey and common sense, all horses are different and need different things at different times. I could have been turned loose riding Stuey right off, and likely we both would have survived. And/or Kelsy could have tried to get Perry going without Cheryl’s help with the flag that first ride, but it might not have been as confidence building for them or pretty a process. So having some understanding or “intuition” regarding what your horse needs at what times is key to your success.
Oh, and to address our first ride style: we like to get on all young horses bareback in the first go around. We are not cowboys and don’t wish to be bronc riders (well, I kind of do, but Kelsy says that’s only me and that’s what I have my Mikey for anyway). By the time we decide to get on a horse it means we are confident they won’t be bucking up a storm, so it shouldn’t matter that we don’t have saddles or do. Also, saddles were specifically designed to help keep you on the horse, especially Western saddles. However, this means if you want to get off the horse it can be a difficult process, or should you fall, you have gear that is trying to help you defy gravity and can tangle you up. As my bucking buddy last year confirmed, there is a time to accept failure and bail off for safety’s sake (an emergency dismount), and if you are bareback that’s an easier process. Who am I kidding, this sounds like rationalization, really we just like riding bareback more than in saddles!
So in conclusion, after less than a week both babies have had bridles, saddles, and riders, and both are having lots of fun. If you have specific questions or comments, don’t hesitate to email. We’ll write more in a couple of days!
Sunday, June 11 (Chesna) Day 7
Today was a big day for Stuey, his official crossover to real horsedom. First he got a bath. I was able to soak him while holding him myself, and start on his mane. He behaved fairly well. When I got to his body I had Kelsy hold him and the process went faster. He had several moments of running into our space to evade the hose, and Kelsy sent him away and moved his hindquarters to straighten him out. We made him adhere to “trained horse standards,” and did not baby him through the washing. The only nasty part of the procedure was washing his face and forelock (which I did by myself). He got so that he would stand, but not happily, while I scrubbed and hosed. He will get hosed down more frequently as the weather heats up, so this will become routine for him.
After bath time was barn beautification time. It was his first time in the barn and completely out of sight of friends, so he tried to throw a nervous fit. I directed his feet for a while, but when I was bored of all the movement I grabbed a ShowSheen bottle and started spraying his mane with it as he circled around me. This snapped his attention back to reality and me, and he stopped, stood still, put his head down, and took a nap while I finished brushing out his clean mane and forelock. I cut out a bridle path with scissors, and grabbed our clippers to finish up the job. I rubbed him allover with the clipper blades not running, and then flipped them on down by his shoulder and rubbed him again. He had no problems with this, so I clipped his bridle path and chin. Kelsy finished him off by brushing out and trimming his white tail. He looked like a new boy, all gussied up and handsome!To dry from his washing we decided to work him in the arena. Kelsy grabbed Arron and a Western saddle and ponied him around. Stuey was pretty good about following, but was concerned about the rope touching him. So Kelsy hopped off Arron and spent a few minutes throwing the rope over him to let him know the rope doesn’t always mean yield. He got the idea and chilled out.
In preparation for riding I climbed up on the wall and worked him from above. I swung a leg across his back and soon was sitting on him. I practiced bending him in the halter rope and swinging the lead over his ears to the other side at the halt (I didn’t tie reins with the halter, I just had the lead rope). I then asked him to bend and disengage his hindquarters from each leg, which he did on both sides nicely (I had practiced this on the ground beforehand by bumping him with my hand where my leg would go until he yielded). Here, Arron stepped in and Kelsy led us forward a few steps. Stuey caught on that he was chasing old Arron, so Kelsy dropped the rope and we followed him bravely around the arena. In no time we were trotting serpentines behind Arron, occasionally drifting off course or passing him (I was not going for steering). I practiced lightly applying leg as he was ready to move forward, and every now and then bending and moving his hindquarters. Only once did he get surprised when I reached back and touched his tail. But he just scooted and stopped, and I touched it again with no response. He thoroughly enjoyed following Arron around and wasn’t concerned about having a rider at all.
They both are used to us doing bizarre and unfamiliar things to them, so riding isn’t much different. We were really proud of him, and Kelsy knighted him “Stuey the Stud” (a title he can keep only if doesn’t buck people off in the future). Monday he gets a day off (well, he gets to be lead from pasture to paddock and caught in the big field and play with his new buddy Pippin, but no official work) and Tuesday I will try riding him without Arron’s help.
Stuey's second week of training (new web page)