For anyone who has been following my work with Moon on Facebook, you will know that I've been taking it VERY slow since she arrived in January.
As you watch this video of our second ride, I hope it will be clear how much that extra time will benefit our work under saddle. I'm still only riding her bareback and will keep our sessions to under 30 minutes for a couple more weeks, but she is much more in tune with me than she was when she arrived four months ago. The in-hand exercises, desensitization and ground driving have all helped me figure out some of her "buttons" while giving us time to establish a working relationship built on trust.
In the video, I utilize 3 ground poles setup like the mathematical Pi symbol. This is quite possibly my favorite configuration of ground poles for two key reasons: it's very simple and quick to setup and it can be used for a multitude of different training exercises for green and advanced horses alike.
The double poles are set perpendicular to the single pole and are spaced 5 feet apart. This setup gives me the ability begin introducing trotting over ground poles with first a single pole that has two "guide rails" leading up to it and then also to begin introducing a series of poles (2 in this setup). The 3-sided "box" created by the ground poles also gives me a visual space to practice halts and rein backs, and if I space the poles slightly farther apart (closer to 9 feet) then I can even use the full box for practicing canter work over ground poles.
Additionally, I can practice side pass by having my horse either straddle the poles or utilize a pole as a front "boundary." For a more advanced horse, I will use the slightly larger box to focus on transitions. Each time we enter the box I will ask my horse to either halt/walk before trotting back out, or I might trot into the box, halt and then do a turn on the haunches to trot out a different direction. As I'm REALLY starting to ask my horse to work more on her hind end, we can also trot into the box and "pivot" out of the box by making close to a 90-degree turn out a different side of the box without losing our rhythm.
The key to this setup of ground poles is to challenge your brain to always be using the box area as a space to change something about your horse so your training rides never get stale and boring.
After confirming that I have a reliable halt, back, go and change of direction with a halter and lead rope, I move forward by introducing changes of direction in a bridle on the lunge line.
This is the first time I ever worked with Moon in a bridle and also the first time I ever lunged her.
In the first part of the video I review some of my thoughts on safety, necessary equipment, and the key training steps to "test" before moving on to ground driving.
In an earlier post, I mentioned that one of my criteria for getting on a horse for the first time is to know that they can stand quietly at the mounting block while I move around them.
Here is a video of my first time working with Moon as part of that preparation. My main approach with this ground work also translates to many other applications beyond the mounting block as it teaches the horse to yield to pressure and remain calm and relaxed to stand.
My key components for this prep work for the mounting block include:
Please keep in mind that there are several mistakes by both Moon AND ME in the video, but I don't edit those out because I think it's important for everyone to see that perfection is the enemy of good. The key to training a horse is to remain patient, go slowly and celebrate the small successes. It's also important to acknowledge when you have advanced too quickly or stacked too many requests on at once. Give your horse mental and physical breaks and don't nag and get caught up in the details. If you do mess up, just know that you're not the only one out there who isn't perfect :-)
For our first day of training in preparation for the 2016 Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover, Moon and I started with lessons in ground tying.
Over the next month, we will be focusing on ground work and will not start any work under saddle until April.
It's a long video, but hopefully you will find it valuable to help you teach your horse how to ground tie, and as always, feel free to ask questions in the comments.
By Kyle Rothfus
This blog is dedicated to providing insight about OTTB re-training, Thoroughbred pedigrees and general equine care. You can also track the progress of horses I have for sale through posts here.