Monday, August 10, 2009

Training Happens Anywhere

Still coughing but starting to get better. Thanks to all who wished me a "feel better". I give it another week. These colds seem to just linger lately.

Yesterday was one of those days that just got away from me. My husband rode his bicycle with the cycling club in the morning and when he got back we went out as a family and did some stuff together. We had tickets to go see G I Joe that evening so there wasn't much time to work with Rugby again. In addition, there was rain and T-storms in the forecast and I could tell by looking at the sky they were not far off.

So I went to the barn with about an hour to work with. I decided to take Rugby to the grazing area and let him have some grass. But I took my training stick and used my rope halter and 12 foot lead. I wanted to see how cooperative he would be if I asked him to perform a simple task while he was doing his favorite thing - eating!

We led to the grassy spot. If he started to speed up his walk, I walked him into a 10 meter circle, then sent him back a few steps. Then we moved again, and repeated the same if he did it again. He figured after the 3rd time that he wasn't getting there any faster by trying to force it and stayed just behind my shoulder as we stepped onto the grass. And then I looped the lead at him and let him graze.

For about 10 minutes, I let him munch away, I turned my shoulder so I wasn't staring at him but could see what he was doing from the corner of my eye. Then I faced him and lifted my left arm to point and send him onto a circle and at the same time slightly wiggled the stick in my right hand. He stopped grazing immediately and started to walk in a circle! I could see he wanted to keep eating but he didn't argue and kept walking as long as I kept pointing. I asked for just a circle and a half then stopped him with a haunch disengage, made him face me and keep his head up, not just dive for the grass. It took a few bumps up on the halter with the lead to get him to focus on me and not the turf. When he kept his head up and waited, I looped the lead gently so it touched the ground and let him lower his head to continue grazing.

I gave him a little more time and asked for him to walk the circle again. And again he did what I asked. Then I got creative.

There were two resin lawn chairs side by side on the grass. Some of the boarders like to sit and chat while they graze their horses, so the chairs were left there. I moved the chairs apart so there were about 6 feet between them. Then I gave the send signal and Rugby began to walk on the circle. As he approached the opening between the chairs, his ears snapped to attention and he stopped and gave a snort. I quietly kept offering the signal to send, even stepping slightly to the front of the chairs to "lead" him between. He cautiously stepped between and then, without hurrying finished walking through the gap. He wanted to just stop and graze right after he passed through and I had to get his attention and have him keep walking. He walked around and this time as he approached the gap he slowed, but kept walking and passed through without further hesitation!

I was impressed! I expected anything from him absolutely refusing to try, to him charging through the opening. His alert but cautious handling of the situation and that he trusted my asking him to do it were better than I could have wanted. I let him graze after that. Another few minutes later I sent him in the opposite direction through the chairs and he did it that time as if the chairs weren't there. If I'd had more time, I would have slowly kept closing the gap and having him pass through a tighter opening until he did it smoothly and without concern. But I was satisfied with what we did and let him just finish the time I had left with grazing.

So even with very little time, training can happen anywhere. Working on the grass is great because while it is a distraction, it is also a reward. The fact that he will stop grazing when I ask for a task is a big plus in the respect department where he's concerned because this big boy LOVES to eat!

And we beat the rain! It started drizzling as we walked back into the barn. Mission accomplished!


Breathe said...

What a great training session! Who is the trainer who always says:

You're ALWAYS training your horse - the question is what are to training it to do?

It goes with the philosophy of being deliberate - all our actions have consequences. Especially from these incredible perceptive animals...

Horseypants said...

I love those kinds of days, because even when there isn't enought time for me to ride, I feel we have accomplished something. Plus time on the groundwork always benefits you the next time you ride. Sounds like Rugby is awesome! I'm so glad you found him.

Anonymous said...

It's fun to get creative - and use what you find - like those chairs - he's doing great, isn't he?

Jean said...

Excellent! Just the kind of training together you both needed on a summer evening.

The resin chairs...I am impressed. Moby Chair at my house is a resin chair. When it was in the paddock, it was OK to approach, but on the outside....Moby Chair, the great white monster lurking just beneath the bushes, waiting for the unsuspecting Thoroughbred to pass by before striking!!!

Maybe I should use it for some lunge work....h-m-m-m-m...

Seems as if Rugby has a good head on his shoulders.

Once Upon an Equine said...

Great idea to make use of those chairs. Very clever. Good boy, Rugby!