Groundworking, training, and "tricks" - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 4 Old 03-26-2012, 12:50 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Apr 2011
Location: Grand Lake, Oklahoma
Posts: 666
• Horses: 2
Groundworking, training, and "tricks"

First of all, I'm going to start off by saying how much of a genius Butterscotch not only thinks he is, but how smart he really actually is. Now, I'm going to explain to you what I've been up to lately so I can move back onto the subject of Butterscotch.

When I first started riding again after several months of not doing so, and months before that, and months before that, I noticed fairly quickly that I gained this wretched habit of pulling on the horse's mouth in attempts to make it go where I want it. Obviously, I know that to be the wrong way so I've began the hard job of focusing on my legs. I'm not really soft (I don't think) in the hands, but I can keep my hands quiet, which is a bonus on me.

So, every time I ride Butterscotch now, I've been doing my best to focus solely on leg pressure. I've even went into the small white arena when it was empty, dropped the reins, and let him venture. He responded about 45% of the time to my legs. I didn't discipline him or fight with him, as it was an experiment mostly against myself. Cue my ideas for picking up English again. I've got a strong feeling that it'll help me regain my muscles, balance, and skills that I used to have.

Rewinding a little. Butterscotch is an intelligent equine, and really does believe himself to be a genius. Why would I think that? The tests he dished out to me when we first started out together. He still tests me, and I like a horse who will remind me to not mentally wander off. The problem for him is, my first and last horse both tested me as a rider, and so I'm quite capable of staying on without panicking. Because of this, he's really mellowed out for me we're both progressing fairly well (in my own opinion).

He's an amazing trail horse, and has stopped his fighting the past couple times. It's really nice to ride a horse like him without having to kick and slap a butt so he'll go forward rather than go home. And, I've also decided to wait on trailing alone on him until I'm sure he's "perfect" (hence quote marks; no such thing as an actual perfect) with other horses first, then we can work on it gradually.

I'm going to ride him on trail ride, hunter/jumper, and a little bit of mild Dressage. Obviously, only when I'm okay with myself as a rider in the latter areas. Why so many things? To keep him mentally stimulated, and so I can know he'll be conditioned when the day comes for me to start practicing long, multi-day trails. I honestly don't plan to show, and if I do, it'll be purely for fun and something to do.

Now I'd like to bring up the "tricks" subject. I've done this more in his pasture without any halter or lead rope, just so I know he's really paying attention. I have been able to go out, walk away from him, turn, and call him over by clicking. He'll even stand there watching me until I call him, which makes me smile. So far, he's pretty decent at following me until something nifty grabs his attention, as he's a really curious 8-year-old. Our main problem on the ground is that he has a thing for trying to walk on top of me when I stop, so I'm trying to teach him to not do that by treating him during "practice." I'll lead him around, letting him walk directly behind me (with me keeping the corner of my eye on him), and I'll randomly stop to see if he's really watching me as a leader. When he stops and doesn't bump into me or walk on me, I treat him. When he does, I make him do a few circles (without a hand on him) and start all over - no treats. He's gotten a bit better, but I need to go out and continue this experiment a little more.

I'm looking for ideas for interesting groundwork activities while I wait to be taught how to start him on a longe/in a round-pen. So far all I've really got is walking over poles in awkward angles so he learns to pick up his feet and not stumble, so when we cross over funky logs, he won't wipe out on me. The other day when I started this with him, he had a tad too much focus on me for crossing the poles. Before it was over, I managed to get him to focus on the poles (most of the time).

Sooo, now I'm sure you're wondering what the point of this thread is. Well, I want opinions. I want ideas, advice, tips, stories, whatever you can throw at me. Like I've said a few times before, when I get an SD card for my camera, I'll be recording my rides for critique. Anyone who's interested in critiquing most/all my recordings, please let me know and I'll link you to my YouTube account when that day arrives.

I love this horse, and I'd like to do right by him. So far I've been complimented on him as being a strong rider with little fear. I haven't fallen off of Butterscotch yet, but I'm sure that I will before our run as partners is over. Maybe he'll even be the horse to break my back, or cripple a leg. Do I care? Hardly. It's the rush of not knowing how your day will go that kinda drags me in. I'm no adrenaline junky, but for some reason I'm in love with every risk horses can give me.

So, back on track; Tips, ideas, advice, questions, stories, answers, whatever you find suitable for me here, I'm happy to read and take your words into consideration and to heart! :)

Big City

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post #2 of 4 Old 03-27-2012, 03:18 PM
Join Date: Nov 2009
Location: Maui
Posts: 910
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I have a genius horse too, ha ha, so I think I know how you feel. That said...

Do NOT let your horse get even close to running over you. I'd suggest a wider personal bubble for a time. I love my genius too, but sadly, I really HAVE to "move her feet" whenever I first greet her, She comes up, I back her up or get her forehand to move over, then I let her come back for strokes. She okay with this. She EXPECTS it. It's exactly what she does to my other horse, in fact.

Once, when she was younger, and just getting a little bold, I had to work with her by not only stopping randomly, but then doing some really big, fast jumping jacks (hoping no one was watching). Sometimes I'd spin, swinging a length of rope hard enough that it would sting if it caught her. She learned her manners well. She's okay with it. She EXPECTS it if she gets too close.

The other thing is treats. Horses expect to be surrounded by food, so it's not really as big a deal as we think (except they're not surrounded by SWEET food.) Anyway, I suggest not giving treats for NOT doing something (like running over you) but save them for something more voluntary. Example: you're lunging your horse to jump but he keeps going around it, and you don't do anything, just keep him going, and one time he finally hops over, then you sit down and give him cookies. (This is a Parelli game.) It's by this method my horses will hop over little "jumps" about a foot wide. They have to look for it; if they want cookies!
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post #3 of 4 Old 03-27-2012, 04:41 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Apr 2011
Location: Grand Lake, Oklahoma
Posts: 666
• Horses: 2
Like I said, I don't treat him if he does something I'm not happy with, but I'll take your other advices. ;D

Big City

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post #4 of 4 Old 03-27-2012, 04:47 PM
Join Date: Mar 2012
Posts: 1,620
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Why don't you look up some showmanship patterns and practice them? Jogging alongside you, pivoting away from you, backing up in a straight line, these are all great activities to learn.
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