Sunday, October 25, 2009

Solving the indoor problem

Tie stalls at my horse's new home

I have a lot of catching up to do. I have been terribly busy the last few days, and as a result I haven't had a chance to blog.

On Thursday I blogged about the problem I'd been having with Panama balking at doors. He was getting a little better with the tie stalls, though he still balked about half the time. The indoor barn he hadn't entered since he'd seen a truck come in there with us, and the only time we'd been in the arena, I had to take him in directly from the outside (rather than walking through the indoor barn).

I'd blogged about my mixed feelings as to whether I should let me trainer fix the problem for me. Kate said:

It's all new to him, and it'll take time and patience. Although perhaps your trainer could help, I'm with you - he needs to have confidence and trust in you, not your trainer, and that will only be developed by you working with him.

Nuzzling Muzzles said what seemed like the opposite:

What your trainer can do is watch your technique and timing and give you some feedback. I came to the realization that the reason why Gabbrielle went backwards (literally) in her training was because each time she walked backwards I released the pressure to concentrate on my balance. So, I essentially trained my horse to walk backwards when I'm urging her forward. If I had a trainer watching me, he/she probably would have recognized that and changed my behavior before it became a habit.

But although these statements seem to conflict, I realized that they are both correct: My horse needs to trust me, but my trainer is also good at catching things that I don't fully realize I'm doing.

Luckily, our session the next day turned out to be a good blend of both points of view. My trainer worked with Panama a little bit first, just to "unstick" him from where I was having problems with him, and then promptly turned him over to me. She coached me to be sure I was using the right techniques, and sure enough, she found a couple of things I was doing that may have been contributing to the problem: When Panama balked, I always turned to face him, and also, I was pulling constantly on the rope instead of alternating between pulling and releasing. She also coached me a bit at being sure I gave him a more adequate release when he took a step on his own, and reminded me to turn him away and then back to unstick him when he locked up.

My trainer said again what she'd said when we tried to load him into the little trailer: that Panama likes to make it his own decision. He is not a horse that responds well to too much pressure, but he is a smart horse, and given the time and the right circumstances, will usually make the decision you want him to make.

Within 20 minutes or so, Panama was walking through the indoor barn, down the hall, into all the indoor tie stalls and wash rack, and into the arena with very few problems. He also had an absolutely adorable encounter with one of the arena mirrors. He'd noticed them on Tuesday, and expressed some curiosity. On Friday he walked toward the mirror with his ears forward, clearly intrigued by our reflections, and not at all startled when they moved. Then I walked closer and tapped my fingers on the glass. Panama walked right up beside me, sniffed the glass, and felt it all over with his nose.

His behavior on Friday was a good reminder that although there are times when we get stuck and I don't know what to do, Panama is overall a very curious, intelligent, and remarkably confident horse.



At October 25, 2009 at 9:29 PM, Anonymous Veronica said...

I think that is probably where I'll run into problems. I don't have a trainer, or a professional I can ask. Let's just hope I can muddle my way through it without mucking up too badly.

Emma, my mare, she spotted her reflection in our window the other day and had to come over and snort all over it to see what it was. I've still got the clean the slobber off.

At October 26, 2009 at 7:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great session - and NuzzMuzz was right - having someone experienced watch you can be very helpful. I think what I was trying to say (and didn't say very well) is that just having the trainer handle the horse and work on the problem (without you holding the lead and doing the work) sometimes doesn't translate very well when you start handling the horse yourself. But you handling the horse and getting some advice on what to do really can work well - good going!

At October 26, 2009 at 11:54 AM, Blogger Nuzzling Muzzles said...

I'm glad you two got past that. At first when I wrote my comment I thought it did sound like I was contradicting Kate, but then thought about it more and realized that we were saying the same thing. Your trainer can help, but she needs to train you and not just Panama. That's why I don't like sending my horses off to trainers for a month or two. There is some benefit, but I can't get the full benefit unless the trainers are willing to train me too.

At October 26, 2009 at 7:45 PM, Blogger Katharine Swan said...

Veronica, if you can find a trainer you can trust, I definitely recommend working with someone at least occasionally. I went for a while over the winter without my trainer, and when we started doing lessons again, I was amazed at how much it helped both me and Panama!

Kate, I knew that's what you were worried about. My trainer knows I like to learn to do things myself -- when we started him I had her show me everything so I could work with him myself when she wasn't there -- so she made sure she had me take over as soon as she had him past the first hurdle.

NM, as I said in response to Kate, I don't like the idea of sending a horse off for training either. I was there at all of Panama's baby training sessions, and my trainer showed me everything she was doing. I learned A LOT doing this and I am so glad I did it, as I was pretty much a novice when we first rescued Panama!


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