Just came in from having a great session with Sly. This was #3 and today it all clicked. She figured out that I wanted her to keep going in a circle and resisted the urge to stop and fly backward just because she was on the “open” ends (some of you may recall that our home arena is divided by a fence in the middle, so it’s like having a round pen on two sides of your longeing circle and open on the other two sides – otherwise known as “temptation” for green horses who think they might want to go somewhere other than a nice round circle!) She walked on the longe today without trying to break into a jog. She jogged when asked, without any of the jumpiness and snorting that had characterized longeing sessions #1 and #2. In fact, she didn’t even snort once.

I did have another horse tied in the arena today. I noticed that Sly gets very distracted and upset when she’s alone, and the other filly needed a tying lesson anyway, so we brought her in. Sly was definitely more able to focus on work with another horse in sight. We have about a half-dozen Thoroughbred mares who could use patience lessons, so we’ll just call this “killing two birds with one stone.” Yes, horses need to learn to work alone, but they also need to learn to work with other horses around so I don’t really care which they learn first and, actually, having to ignore a Thoroughbred filly having a hissy fit and pulling back is probably a good learning experience. (She is a smart filly. She only did it once; when it did not work, she abandoned the idea.)

We also worked on “ho.” This mare knows to stop when you give a sharp pull on the longe but there’s no voice command associated with that. If you don’t pull, you could ho-ho-ho like Santa Claus and get no response. I want a verbal “ho” installed on a horse. I want a “ho” that means, you slide stop and plant your feet no matter what – even if the headstall broke, even if you are really scared, even if you are pretty sure you do want to jump off that cliff in front of you. I want emergency brakes that work pretty darn reliably, so I am working on installing them now!

This reminds me of a funny story. The first time I ever went to a real hunter horseshow, after growing up at a polo barn, I thought the horses were just terribly mannered and I couldn’t understand why they were winning. The reason? They all took so long to stop! I had grown up on horses who slide-stopped on “ho” or when you drove your seat into the saddle and squeezed with your thighs. I couldn’t imagine why it would take a horse several steps to stop cantering (or to start cantering, for that matter). I had never ridden a horse who lugged on the bit and slowly ground to a halt. They all looked barely green-broke to me. Ha ha, culture shock!

Who else had a major “WTF” experience the first time they saw a riding style very different from what they were raised with? What looked weird to you (or still looks weird?)

Published in: on January 3, 2009 at 1:09 am  Leave a Comment  

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