How Quickly Do I Progress? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 3 Old 12-13-2011, 01:05 AM Thread Starter
Join Date: Nov 2011
Location: Alberta, Canada
Posts: 18
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How Quickly Do I Progress?

A little over a month ago I got ownership of a horse I have known for the previous year. I saw a huge change in her personality going from being the only horse on the property to being part of a herd in a new place. Here is my original post asking questions about her quivering and the change in our relationship:Mare Quivering All Over

Here is an update, followed by a couple of questions. Since then I've been doing ground work whenever I get out to see her (1-3 times/week), taking the time to work on yielding her hips, starting on her shoulders, backing, leading, stopping, bending at the poll, and doing everything from both sides of the horse. I'm just new to most of this and have the guidance of a level 3 Parelli student. I do only see her when she comes out to trim Sheena's feet every 3-4 weeks. (As a side note, I'm not necessarily a faithful disciple of Parelli, and I don't want to start a discussion on that. I do like the idea of natural horsemanship, but am open to any sort of common-sense advice, which is why I posted here and not in the "Natural Horsemanship" forum.) I am also reading up on natural horsemanship at the moment.

At this point, I can comfortably work Sheena when we're near the herd, and each time move her a little farther out of her comfort zone to try and work past being herd bound. At this point I've only ridden her when we're out with others (which has been only twice in the last month). When we went out yesterday, I did ride her away from the other horses, and though she wanted to go back to the others, she didn't get all uptight and nervous. Our greatest challenge was going in a straight line the direction I pointed her in. I'll save that question for another post.

On Saturday I was out working with Sheena in the field in the vicinity of the other horses, and the owner of the property was putting out hay and watched for a bit. He knows the trouble I've been having with Sheena. When he was finished, he called me over to the gate, and we had a discussion about differing opinions on training. His opinion is that you don't retrain an older already trained horse, but that you take her out on her own and make her do what you want. You have to show her who's boss. I need to stop babying her and making her a pet. My goal is exactly that!

I agree with the "show her who's boss" comment in the sense that I know I need to be the dominant "horse" in this relationship, and that's what I've thought I was doing with all the ground work Sheena and I do; the yielding and all that sort of thing. I also don't entirely disagree with the idea of taking her out riding on her own and making her go, but on the other hand, if she's not respecting me on the ground, pushing me around with her hips, bumping me with her head, not standing still, and generally nervous and uptight to the extent that I don't feel entirely safe, I'm not sure I want to be taking her out alone when nobody is home to rescue me should I need it. And why ride when I feel the risk is high enough that I'm the littlest bit nervous about her leaving me in the dust (or snow at this time of year ).

On Saturday the property owner and I got her into the barn yard area with less resistance than in the past, but that could be because she had someone walking next to her hips as well as me leading her. She did begin to get nervous in the barn yard (all enclosed, that's where the horse shelter and water trough are), though not nearly as badly as last time. Her head was up, ears pricked forward, eyes wide open, not paying attention to me. I said I wasn't comfortable taking her out riding alone yet, but did work her from the ground in the yard for a few minutes, and when I had her attention and she was listening, I let her go again.

So, questions.
1) Should I be progressing a little faster in working away from the herd? I'm a careful person, but not nervous around horses. Have to work on confidence in communicating "Okay, we're going here" instead of "let's see, maybe we'll go over here."
2) Am I going about the process of making her less herd-bound the right way?
3) Is my focus of "retraining" Sheena wrong? Is she too old to be learning natural horsemanship? Should I just be getting on her and making her go? I think the property owner and I have the same idea in mind of "showing her who's boss" and becoming the dominant "horse" in her life; we just seem to have different ideas of how to go about it.

I'll definitely be talking to my trimmer when she comes out next Saturday, but do want to be open to more than one school of thought on the matter, though so far what I've been doing has been getting results, though perhaps not as quickly as the property owner thinks I should be getting results. And by doing things this way, am I babying her? I know that's exactly what I don't want to be doing!

Sorry this is so long! I hope some of you won't mind answering some of these questions. All help would be much appreciated!
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post #2 of 3 Old 12-13-2011, 01:15 AM
Join Date: Dec 2011
Location: Nevada
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Hmm rather than thinking of it as showing her who's boss, think of it as showing her that you are a capable and trustworthy leader who she can place her faith in.

IMO a horse is never too old to take new training on board. They might not be as open to change and you might have to persist a bit more but they are all open to it. Horses are naturally inquisitive animals.

In your position I would ensure that the mare has a routine, so she knows what to expect. If you can I would try and get out to get everyday, at the same time and bring her in. Do some basic things with her and always end on a high note. Bring her in, groom her, give her some hay, etc and she'll start to associate you with good, positive experiences and she will want to be around you and build a bond with you. Then when she's used to you and starting to relax then do some work with her.

Missing Freya (05.28.05 - 09.30.11)
If love could have saved you, you would have lived forever
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post #3 of 3 Old 12-13-2011, 01:18 AM
Join Date: Jul 2011
Location: Melbourne
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Nope they are never too old. The longer a habit or belief is present the deeper it is ingrained. Last year I helped my boss do a very similar thing with a 22year old gelding.

Remember the theory of approach and retreat is the fastest way to extend the edge of the comfort zone. Sounds like your on the right track though
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