I have been reading and searching for information about Natural Horsemanship training. Especially on the Parelli training methods, since I am scheduled to have our first session this coming Saturday with T.S., the trainer recommended to me by my friends. I called him yesterday to confirm this Saturday mornings' lesson but no confirmation call-back yet. This was arranged over 3 weeks ago due to T.S.' busy schedule and I hope there are no problems. I have really been looking forward to this. (UPDATE - JUST GOT IN TOUCH WITH T.S. AND HE'S DEFINITELY ALL SET FOR SATURDAY MORNING! (HAPPY!)
I the meantime, I have either avoided the barn (yes, I know, that doesn't solve anything) or gone and kept my visit a brief grooming session. I have to say, Rugby has excellent cross-tie manners. He stands quietly, he has learned to move over and give me room with a fingers touch on his side and the command, "Over". He picks up each hoof to be cleaned when I tap his cannon bone with my hand and ask, "Foot". He has no cranky spots when being groomed - from curry to brushing to polishing rag he stands quietly and seems to enjoy it all. I have even been working on pulling his mane a little each night and he is wonderful about it, in fact, he'll even lower his head as I tug the hairs out with the comb. Not many young horses are tolerant about that and he's exceptionally good. He uses his regular leather halter when on crossties and we have no problems there.
With that said, outside the barn is where we've had our backslide. So, after reading and surfing the web, I decided one of the key pieces of training equipment that I didn't have was a rope halter. Every trainer gave very valid reasons why it is an excellent tool with a green horse when used properly. So I browsed off to Ebay and found a ranch that hand makes them for NH training at a very reasonable price. I bought him a simple, black warmblood sized one. It was shipped to me super fast and I couldn't wait to try working with it.
After I fitted it to his head, I clipped my longest, heaviest lead to it and we went for a walk. He's usually pretty good about leading and we walked the yard a bit when he noticed another horse being led outside. He snorted and started prancing. With a firm, steady tug on the lead, I asked him to "Ho!" and he quit his nonsense immediately as he felt the pressure from the halter! We walked in a few small circles as he settled and then strolled back through the yard to the barn. I was very pleased.
Last night we did some more leading work. This time he decided to try his balking and not moving routine. When he stopped 10 feet from the door and refused to walk out, I took up the slack in the line and began gently but firmly giving small tugs just by moving my wrist. What had taken 10 minutes and a lot of effort with the regular halter to get him to walk forward took about 15 seconds with the rope halter. He felt the pressure and moved forward into the instant release with much verbal praise from me. He tried it half-heartedly before we walked out the door and with one tug to remind him he simply put his head down and came along.
What a great feeling to find a tool that allowed me to get the point across without frustration for both of us! That's also why I'm excited to have this training session, I want to know more and see more by someone who works with this simple equipment all the time. I like to learn new things and like the feeling of gaining a new perspective.
I'm almost fully healed from the fall. I only occasionally feel a slight twinge if I move differently but it's almost imperceptible. I'm more ready now to try again in the saddle. My outlook is getting more positive. I want this to go well, I want to move forward again.