When I work with horses for other people the idea is to usually get the horse under saddle pretty quick so that the "training" can begin and I'm not wasting precious time and money for the owner. Lets face it... the longer the horse stays in training, the more the "$" goes up. I've always been one to help my guests out as much as possible so costs don't sky rocket out of their limit and their left with a horse they still aren't sure what to do with.
The training process has usually gone- get the horse saddled and a first ride on in the first week they arrive. This includes a day to get acclimated to his new environment and stable buddies. Do some lunging, a little sacking out with a rope, and then start to incorporate the sacking out with the blanket and then finally get the saddle on. This fast process usually end up with a horse kicking his legs out and getting a hump in his back because he now has something strapped to his back for the first time and it's .... weird and scary! Can you blame them though? In a matter of a week they went from their home to a new place with new people and horses, and now their working a little bit and getting new things thrown at them and then they get strapped down with saddle on their back!
It can be a traumatic experience for a horse if it's not done the right way. I've always been a patient and gentle one when it comes to working with horses. That's probably why the horses I work with don't put up to much of a fight when the saddle gets cinched up for the first time, even in a short period of time. But I've seen trainers that have literally gotten a horse to start training, and the next day they have the saddle on and on day three their on their back. This process has usually ended up with some bucks and kicks and sometimes and rider in the dirt.
Although I still understand that the training process will be somewhat faster when a horse arrives for training, I've changed my ways to an even more gentle and slower approach for the horses sake. I usually take the first week and let the horse get settled in for a day and then gradually start on groundwork. Lunging is my first priority. This lets me look the horse over see how he moves, how he reacts to me and things around him, his attitude and can help me decide the best way to move on with him to the next steps.
After lunging I've started to do more groundwork that I used to. I start with getting the horse to move off of pressure with a lunging stick, sack out with plastic bags, tarps, ropes, and more, and some exercise that free up the horses feet and keep him from getting "stuck in the mud" and only want to stand their waiting to bolt. I also have started doing more work with objects like barrels, poles, pallets for bridges, and just getting the horse to place his feet where I ask him to until he trusts me and willingly does different exercises. This helps the horse relax and also become used to me and different cues (without having a "bolt and get out of here" attitude.
Below I'll show a few example of some of the exercises I've been doing with my 2 year old. These are things I just had laying around the place and are great for those who don't have the extra $MOOLAH$ to buy new things.
He probably wasn't sure what it was all for, but by revisiting these exercises they become more relaxed and excited to see what your going to ask them to do next. It beats running circles over and over and over again until your both dizzy!
If your like me you get a little antsy about getting in the saddle and getting to "work", but remind yourself that the more you do on the ground, the better things will be when you do get in the saddle!
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