Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Training Session

T.S. arrived before 8:00am this past Saturday. We exchanged pleasentries and headed into the barn. I showed him the rope halter I bought and he said it would do just fine. We went to get Rugby and the stable grooms had already taken him out to turn out. So T.S. and I walked down to the paddocks to get him.

T.S. liked the looks of Rugby the moment he saw him. We had been talking on the way to the paddocks about the issues I was having and what he was going to work on with Rugby. Rugby walked right over to us and I haltered him with the rope halter. T.S. then hooked up his training line and we headed off to the polo arena.

T.S. began working with Rugby and from the beginning I could tell my horse was very aware of the different energy being directed at him through T.S. At first, Rugby tried to do the things he would to avoid having to focus and work, such as being distracted by the other horses on their way to turn out, trying to simply ignore T.S.'s requests for a response. But T.S.'s consistent persistence began to get Rugby's attention. It wasn't a simple or short process and they were both working very hard but as I watched, I could see that Rugby was GETTING IT!

As T.S. had explained, he was going to work to increase Rugby's awareness of the cues to move parts of his body - specifically the shoulder or haunch. When he asked he expected a response. No response meant a more direct request. If there was still no response, the request was followed by a "tag" or a flick from the whip. Even a small response was rewarded by a release but continued lack of response got him seriously "tagged". At one point when T.S. slowed down the training to give Rugby a chance to take in what he'd been taught, T.S. turned to me and said, "I'm amazed you even got to ride him at all. This horse is not just green, he's not even broke!"

Into the second hour, he would respond faster to T.S.'s cues and stay focused on him for longer periods of time without letting himself be distracted by other stimuli. At one point, there was another horse being lunged in the same arena and T.S. walked Rugby over to where this horse was bucking and leaping around. Rugby just stood still and worked with T.S. on the softening of the neck exercises! His attention was on what T.S. was going to ask next and not on the actions of the other horse!

The transformation over the course of 2 hours was incredible. As I said in my previous post, my horse went from uneducated slacker to willing student. Even when T.S. handed me the line to show me the basic exercises, my horse was focused on me and what we were going to do next. A different horse walked out of that arena that day and I hope with T.S.'s continued guidance we continue to progress back to work in the saddle. As T.S. told me when we finished and I was putting Rugby back in his paddock, "your horse should progress well. I usually wind up working with the rank and nasty ones that need to be retrained. They always take longer to work with than a horse who just has never been taught at all".

I can't thank T.S. enough, for restoring some of my "nerve" and giving me the help to move this partnership forward. His teaching is clear and easy to understand and I feel so motivated knowing that with all I know, I have found something new to learn!


Anonymous said...

From your description, it sounds like the things that made a difference to Rugby's understanding were: persistence in asking, complete attention to the horse's response, and a release when the correct response (or a try towards the correct response) is offered. With the younger or distracted horse, just getting their attention consistently is an achievement. I'm delighted that Rugby is starting to figure things out!

jmk said...

Okay, now you know he's capable of being interested in you and what you have to offer him! Big step for a young horse. Now you have something to build of luck. Oh, and try and have some fun. Take some pressure off of yourselves. This is supposed to be an enjoyable journey ;-)

Kritter Keeper said...

wow, that is a long training session. was he sore the next day? glad you are feeling better about it. the visual helps so much. if my horse refused a difficult cross country jump, it was so helpful to have an upper level person take the horse over the jump which gave both of us the confidence to do it again!

Jean said...

Sounds like an excellent session. Long, yes, but necessary. Once a basic concept is introduced, the trainer needs to be sure the horse understands that day before he's finished.

Interesting comment that Rugby was "not even broke." I am guessing that he was just saddled and ridden with very little, if any prior ground training. If you start him all over again with this trainer and his techniques, it should make a world of difference!!

Be sure both you and trainer are aware that your ultimate goal is to have a good horse to RIDE, not just one to play with on the ground. It will take a while to establish the basics, but one they are there, Rugby will be a totally different fellow--far more focused on you.

Stephanie said...

Sounds like you had an excellent first session with lots of great feedback and homework.
It seems like this will really enable you and Rugby to form a great bond, plus I think it's better to have a 'clean slate' greenie to work with rather than a bad mannered monster. Sounds like with some hard work, training sessions, and lots of patience you are going to have yourself an excellent horse!
What a great journey for you both to be on. (even if it is an unexpected one!)

Once Upon an Equine said...

What a great training session. I'm so glad you saw immediate improvement. Rugby sounds like a good boy who just needs to be shown the way.