I’m sure there will be times down the road, when Dandy, a.k.a. my very own Jac, will give me trouble, make sweat, cry, and wish I did tapestry instead of horse training. We sure did have some rough patches at the start. But I have to say, since those rough patches have been taken care of, this colt has just kept getting better and better. Yesterday was fun, today even more, so, and I can only imagine what we’ll tackle tomorrow. All the work is paying of, and he’s very pleasurable to be around.
It wasn’t HARD work, either. Just lots of it. Just being consistent, not skipping any step, getting the basics right, and once you’ve started with that, you discover you can fit a lot of variety into “the basics”. These days we’re working on several things. Picking me up from the fence, is one. We worked on that quite a bit before he was actually ridden, and I’ve petted and rubbed and nearly straddled him from there, but never got to actually mount (I know, I’m a big chicken). So after not visiting this exercise for a little bit, I watched an old (very) Buck Brannaman DVD the other day (more on that later) and Buck was telling his students they’d have to get their colts to pick them up from the fence the next day (within a clinic), that they would not be allowed to mount any other way, and to chuckle at how much fun that would be (Buck can tend to be very “horse honest”, which stands for blunt, borderline rude, sometimes). He said that working on that would be important to the colts, and that achieving it would put a lot of little things into place, good things. So today was the third day we worked at it. Initially, he’d come and park parallel to the fence, but then would roll his but out. Yesterday, it was close, oh so close, I think a few more minutes might have pulled the trick, but I didn’t want to drill on it, so we switched to something else. And today, BAM !, there is was, on the third try. Real smooth and easy. I rubbed on him and let him stand there and enjoy a little quiet. After all, this is horses’ best reward. We’ll do it again tomorrow, maybe a couple of times, then again until it’s real smooth and easy, than we’ll get it good from the other side, too. Later we can revisit it periodically, it’s just a skill he will have acquired.
Dandy bending himself to a stop !
In this old DVD Buck was also flagging a bunch of colts from his own saddle horse, a sorry looking sorrel that wouldn’t win any blue ribbon, but seemed to operate great for Buck. He said “If you can get your horses to where you could flag colts around like this, maybe they’d behave better next time you take them to a show” (or somewhere along that line). No problem, Buck, my horse knows a flag like his mother, at least from the ground, so let’s see what we can do in the saddle. I changed the ragged plastic bags at the end of my dressage whip for a solid piece of cloth, made sure Dandy was fine with it on the ground, and hopped in the saddle. Waved it around, from one side to the other, over our heads, over his ears, even started steering him off the flag, just the right amount so he’d move off it, and not get troubled. Once it was good at a standstill, we wallked, then we trotted. It was fun to see the face of the two barn aids, two sweet teenage girls who are not used to crazy middle age housewives trotting a 2 yr old around with no rein and steering him by waving a flag in his face. Dandy and I had a blast, and I felt this was greatly building his confidence ! We’ll try it at the lope tomorrow. I’ll probably try to swing a rope off his back, while I am at it, and I have some tarp, then log dragging projects in a corner of my mind.
In the meanwile, we are still working on our steering, or “guiding”, as Andrea Fappani calls it. Yes, because I’m a very eclectic horsewoman, I like to watch Buck one minute, and a 4 (or is it now 5 ?) million dollars reining competitor the next. Plus, in my eye, Fappani is the best reining trainer on the planet. With the 2 yr old colt, he does quite a few things differently from Warwick Schiller, whose plan I like to stick rather close to, which makes things interesting for me. I respect both and both have great results, so I try to find the why they differ on some stuff, and how I want to do said stuff. Warwick doesn’t introduce backing-up until later, both on the ground and in the saddle, while it’s a prerequisite for Buck to ride a colt, and Fappani puts it right there with steering as the very first thing he works on with a 2 yr old. That suits me, and I have a pretty well installed back-up on Dandy from the ground already (though he has seen it very much as a dominant move on my part, so he has protested his share against it, in the past), and I’ve started in from the saddle for two sessions now and it’s going great.
Bending while moving forward, or having a good bend in the turn, is a major difficulty for my colt, which we work on everyday…
Back to the young Buck. The way he starts, or re-starts, colts, is really fascinating. Back then the rider’s security was not a top priority on his list for colt starting. Helping the colt feel good about the experience, was. So no touch on the leadrope was allowed to the rider at all, Buck would flag the colts and the riders’ mission was to rub on them as they moved off. I’ll write more about this later, I need to watch it again, but the way he offers peace to the horse on the ones he’s riding himself is just a treat to watch.
There isn’t nearly as much bending involved in Buck’s older way, and Fappani stops his green colt by just gently riding him all the way to the fence. Not to say I’m not glad my colt could be under lateral flexion’s control during the first rides, but I feel I’ve overused that a bit, and now he needs to straighten out and not bend himself so much (which he does when he wants to stop, out of habit). But overall I am so pleased with the time I took to do the things I did, because at just 2 I have a wonderful little horse who is confident, curious, and shows a big heart with a desire to share. I’m blessed 🙂