Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Tiny Work, Bigger Gains

And... I've met many horse owners who talk about all the training their horse needs, the work on this, work on that...

Sometimes it's easier to recite the list than actually get around to doing any of it, especially if the work seems mundane or repetitive, never mind both. One thing I aim to do with Saxony is actually do the work, stay disciplined and committed about it.

As a horse who knew only one owner for the five years before I got her, and who before that was a backyard pet who was taught to lie down so her owner could stretch out on her and read a book (really!), working with Saxony means introducing her to me, deliberately and slowly easing her into the changes I'm bringing to her life. Whenever I'm with her, I'm mindful of the ancient concept that you are training your horse every second you are together. I try to keep that belief present in my thoughts during our encounters.

I've learned so much with Scout, and in some ways I learned even more during the nine months that was Dar. Those experiences gave me more than I imagined and prepared me well for Saxony. Not only can I see the work she needs, I also see that I'm capable of doing lots of it myself. That's a thrilling feeling for me.

Sax walks off at the mounting block. She doesn't do it all the time, but enough to attract my attention. Standing quietly for mounting is something I want in my horses. After two weeks of introductory rides, I felt ready to take Saxony back to basics at the mounting block.

I saw an opportunity to deal with two tasks at one time, so I placed five ground poles near the mounting block. Because Saxony needs work on picking up her feet, ground poles are a regular part of our arena rides.

I stepped up on the mounting block, gathered the reins, and Saxony moved off. I led her then over the ground poles before circling back to the mounting block. Round 2. I stepped up and just leaned into her. She walked off. Again we walked over the ground poles. At Round 3, I weighted the near stirrup heavily. Sax walked on, and I led her over the ground poles. Round 4 saw me settle into the saddle, but Sax was already moving out. I dismounted and quietly led her through the ground poles. Round 5 was the keeper. She stood statue-like and listening. It's a small thing, but I could feel her paying attention, figuring it. We then had a half-hour walk/trot schooling ride, relaxing for both of us. At the end, I dismounted, walked her around the ring a couple of times and then got back on. She stood. I'll begin our rides with variations of this kindergarten lesson until Saxony understands it completely.

It's tiny work, but it creates a sense of accomplishment in me. Teaching Saxony is one thing, but that she will accept me teaching her and even learn what I'm teaching, that's wonderful.


Valentino said...

No work is tiny. Besides you killed two birds with one stone, patiently. Great job!

Anonymous said...

Finally standing still is actually a huge accomplishment in any horse, I think. Good job!

Anonymous said...

Good stuff - standing still for mounting is so important, and I think there are some other lessons buried in there too!

Shannon said...

You are so right, every time we interact with a horse we're training it for good or ill. Never underestimate the little things, it's a lot of tiny work that makes the big work right!

Anonymous said...

This is a big deal to me as well, having my old guy AJ that would swing his hip away as soon as I was ready to get on. When I was about fourteen he did this to me, as he always did, and rather than fix him him I decided to just jump, and I jumped all the way over, landing on the pavement on the other side!
I very much appreciate my Cass that stands nicely now:)

Wolfie said...

I only now read this post. Once again, it seems that our stories and challenges are similar. I did something similar with Gem when he walked off. After a while, I started walking him around the arena a few times, making him stop and back up before I took him over to the block. Adding this to the routine has had a positive effect. Good luck!