Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Training my horse to cross bridges

My horse has a love-hate relationship with bridges.

Back when my trainer and I were first walking him down the trails on a lead rope, she took him back and forth across a bridge to get him used to the concept. He's also crossed many a bridge behind his more experienced trail companions, Kiki and Lil. He was therefore doing great with bridges until our first trail ride with his girlfriend, when Texas balked at going over the bridge.

Since then, he's gotten progressively worse: When Karen and I rode recently, we tried to get Panama to lead over the bridges, and he just wouldn't do it.

Today I decided I'd had enough, and I was going to work with him on this bridge thing. So when Dani and I reached the longer bridge — the one that worries Panama more — I let him balk for a few minutes while I watched Dani fight with Texas. (Dani tried everything — forcing Tex, backing her onto the bridge, dismounting and leading her, etc., but she just wouldn't go. There were a couple of pedestrians watching too, so it must have been entertaining.)

When I grew tired of watching Texas dance around, I dismounted and led Panama across. Naturally, he followed quite obediently when Mommy was leading (unlike Tex when Dani dismounted and tried to lead her). I walked him back and forth across the bridge several times, and seeing Panama on the far side actually got Tex going across too (with Dani on her back). Then I mounted and rode him back and forth several times.

I'm guessing I'll have to repeat the whole process on at least one more ride, but that's okay. It's satisfying to do training like this and see results.

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