Monday, November 9, 2009

The Line of Death!

horse training

(Please excuse the bad cell phone pic!)

Today Panama and I rode in the indoor. Unlike yesterday, when I had a nosy boarder butt in while I was working with Panama, today there was only one other person around. That was good, because it turned up we had to do a little bit of catching up after yesterday.

Panama balked a little bit walking into the indoor barn. It was one step at a time for a bit, and I experimented with the preciseness of my pressure and release: Pulling increasingly harder only when he was obviously locked up, and releasing as he took a step whenever I could time it that closely. The first time he took a step and got a release, his ears shot forward, as if he were saying, "Oh yeah, I remember this!"

I have done this before, but I'm sometimes a bit late on the release, so I wanted to work on my timing. I also wanted to try to encourage him to take a step without me having to pull first, so that he sees how much nicer that is! This is where verbal praise came in handy: Every time he took a step more or less on his own, I made sure he knew I was pleased, even though there wasn't an actual release in there.

Another thing I've found works well for Panama is walking back to him and rubbing his neck for a minute. I don't let him back up, but he seems to relax when I stand next to him and pet him. He responds better to the affection than the release or the praise, and is less likely to hesitate when I lead him forward again.

Anyway, within a few minutes I got him to the point where he was walking back and forth down the aisle pretty easily, so we moved on to working on the hallway again. He seems to have the hardest time with this. In the picture you can see the metal strip in the ground between the barn aisle and the hallway — to him this is the Line of Death. Once he gets all four feet over it he'll follow me anywhere without hesitation, but getting each foot over can be like pulling teeth, especially if it's the first time that day. You can see in the picture how he has his two front just barely over the Line of Death, and is looking around very suspiciously.

Once we got all four feet over the line, I walked him all the way down the hall, turned him around, and we did it again. And again. And then a couple more times after our ride. He's gotten a bit worse about it lately, probably because I've usually had someone with me and haven't had to work through it just with him very often (he does better when my trainer or husband is walking with us). He has also shown signs of progress, though: He doesn't spook when I slide the arena and barn doors open anymore, and he walks into the tie stalls with absolutely no hesitation whatsoever. So he's getting there!

Another thing we worked on today was the mounting block — but there's a lot to talk about there, so I'll leave that topic for another post!



At November 10, 2009 at 4:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good progress - nice the nosy boarder wasn't around to "help"!

At November 10, 2009 at 4:25 PM, Blogger Katharine Swan said...

It really was good progress, and it paid off, too -- today he barely hesitated (and didn't stop at all) going into the barn, and only went very slowly over the Line of Death. It was such a significant improvement!


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