Sunday, July 5, 2009

Driving Miss Beth

I need to get some horses sold before next winter. The three that are on the market are Maddie, who's green broke, Beth and Amy, the two "babies." There is a small private treaty sale the middle of July, sponsored by our local rescue group, Rodeo City Equine Rescue, that all three are signed up for.
I would like to get Beth at least started under saddle before then, and more ground work done with Amy (who's just barely over two, so I'm not planning on getting on her before late summer or fall). I've been working with both a little sporadically since school got out. It's time to get seriously consistent.

When I first saddled her up, Beth pranced and danced all over the place. So I left her to stand and think about her manners, and went to work the two-year-old, Amy. Only a fifteen minute session, her second saddling and first time wearing the bridle, but it was a good session. (Sorry, no pictures.)

In the meantime, Beth stood tied in the spare stall, ready to go--and got absolutely NO attention for her pawing and carrying on. When she finally stood quietly, I went and got her, and we went to the round pen.

First, a little lunging off the halter.
Then feed the long lines through the rings (hanging from her cinch rings), and I ask her to bend each direction a half dozen times, towards me, on each side, then ask them across their withers to bend away from me--not as reinforcing for them.A nice, soft give.
Ask her to move forward, with me still in the lunging position towards the center of the round pen.
Reverse to the outside, feeding the new outside rein out, while gathering the inside line up. (This is new--it is the opposite of lunging, where they turn towards you.)

Walk and trot both directions.
Beth still does a lot of jawing at the bit--this is only her second time feeling it's pressure. If she doesn't relax a little about it, I may put a little figure-eight noseband on her, so she doesn't develop any bad habits--but I'll give a few more sessions before I go there.

Starting to settle in behind her.
She didn't seem as worried as some do by my "disappearance." Her ears indicate she's still listening for my cues.
A decent whoa.
Next big step: out into the "almost-an-arena."
A good forward effort....
Yikes! What's that?!?
You want me to go where?
What is it that's got her so worried? There's a plywood "bridge" along the fence line, but even as we work back and forth, trying to get her closer, that doesn't seem to be what's worrying her.

I finally gave up and snapped one line to her halter and led her over to the fence. What was the horse-devouring monster predator?
The backyard hammock!
Silly girl!
Went back to lunging past it.
Then drove her up and down the fence line a bit.
Just to prove that it wasn't the plywood "bridge" that was the issue...
First try!
(And the hammock is to her right, just past the board.)Back into the round pen for one last mini-lesson:
Stand next to the straw bale (stump, tailgate, rock...) so the old lady can get on.
There are several reasons for this important lesson:
1) I don't move as well as I used to.
2) I don't want the saddle tight enough to keep my weight from pulling it to the side (youngsters will quickly learn to resent the girth being this tight).
3) I don't want to surprise a young horse by pulling them way off to one side.
4) I don't want to be struggling half-way up, if they decide to be naughty.
Basically, it's safer for both of us.
Leaning over her back, "flappin' and slappin'."
I actually got my weight in the stirrup for a few seconds, then stepped down again. Then Beth figured out (she's too smart for her own good) that if she moved away from the bale, I couldn't reach. We went back and forth a few times, but it was just rewarding her, so, after getting my foot in the stirrup a time or two more, I decided it was time to quit for the day.
I was getting tired, and Beth was still full of energy--she wouldn't stand quietly enough for me to feel ready to step aboard. So we called it good for the day.
I'll let her stew on all of that for the night, and see how it goes tomorrow.


  1. She seems like a really nice mare, and very pretty too! I'm a big fan of ground driving - it's a nice way to deal with the "spookies" and to learn cues. Thanks for sharing all the pictures!

  2. I will see you at the RCER event. I am in charge of doing the flyers for the horses and the horse "parade".
    Were you there last year?

  3. Thanks, Kate--Beth is probably the "prettiest" most feminine of the fillies. And, in spite of her naughty streak (she likes to think she's in charge), really likes the attention.

    DOR--yes, I was there with the same three fillies--I haven't found the right forever homes for them! I gave Mally my entries (she lives just up the road), complete with copies of pre-made flyers and APHA papers and such--Did you get the info? Would it be easier to work with in digital form? Email me... evensongpaints [at] yahoo [dot] com

  4. Beth is very pretty and I really enjoyed reading about and seeing how you train her. I have no experience with that, but I do enjoy learning about all things horse. It was also a relief to see you having to use a hay bale for mounting. With my bum knee and hip troubles hubby bought me a three step mounting block. I am looking forward to using it one day. haha!

    Best of luck finding good homes for the horses you are wanting to sell, too.