Project's Progress - Cheyenne In Training
I recently acquired a project horse to keep my beloved gelding Buck company.
Cheyenne (Formerly "Cookie"/"Oreo" - new home, new life, new name.) was adopted from a rescue group called Four Forks about 2 years and two owners back and hadn't really been messed with since. I purchased her for $125 from an elderly couple on SSI that didn't have the physical or financial capabilities to take properly care for a horse. She was sold to me as "green broke" but I wouldn't consider her trained at all; I backed her once to see where she was and although she didn't buck she also didn't have any steering... or brakes... or a gas pedal. I've since been focusing on groundwork to get her up to speed before attempting another ride. In the past ten days I have:
Taught her how to lunge. Queue lots of nervous trotting and LOTS of her trying to stay facing me at all times. I suspect that she may have been EXCESSIVELY trained to never turn her haunches towards a human. This is her fallback posture when she's nervous and unsure of what to do. Not turning her butt to me is all well and good, but it's pretty much impossible to lunge a horse that won't let you get behind her drive line. It took two sessions to get her comfortable with me standing next to and behind her (at a safe distance) and another four to get her reliably lunging at a walk, trot, changing directions, turning in to face me ON QUEUE ONLY and stopping on queue.
Today I decided to give ground driving a try, since I'd never done it before and it seemed like a safe way to teach her steering and forward momentum. It took about 45 minutes for her to get the idea. When she's nervous and unsure of what she's supposed to be doing she has a habit of trying to whip around and face me - a habit that needs to go. She also has some forward momentum issues that we're working on resolving. We spent three hours walking around the property and up and down the road, practicing turning, stopping, zig zags, etc. Just generally getting the idea of moving FORWARD while being given queues from the reins. She responded extremely well to being ground driven and seemed to really relax while being trained for the first time since I got her.
I'm thinking another two or three weeks of daily lunging and/or ground driving and she will be ready to try backing again. There have been lots of other little handling issues that I am continuing to work on, mainly involving sacking her out since she's extremely spooky. She also needs some work on picking up her feet - she will pick them up without fussing and I've already trimmed them once, but she's tried to lean on me a couple of times and I just generally feel like she needs refinement in this area. Despite her lack of training and general nervousness, Cheyenne is a really nice horse. She leads perfectly and is good natured and eager to please. I think that once I've laid the groundwork of trust and respect she'll shape up into a good little riding horse.
This is my second time training a horse, and my first time starting from the ground up. Feel free to comment on anything I may be doing wrong or otherwise give me your input. I'm really excited to get more hands-on training experience. I will update this thread with our progress as well as any questions that I might have along the way.
she looks like she will be worth all your effort. As far as I can tell, you are on the right path and doing a nice job.
looks great :)
I am running into some minor issues with gaining her trust. She is so very timid. I am used to my bossy gelding who has never been afraid of me. I'm being patient and consistent and definitely not coddling her or tiptoeing around her, but I'm having to dial down my corrections to about 10% of the intensity that my gelding requires. Where he might require a full strength open palm swat when he's being a brat, anything harsher then a light tap that wouldn't even sting my skin plus a firm verbal correction has her trembling. They still get corrected for the same misbehavior with the same level of escalation (ask, tell, demand) but her "demand" is much much milder then his. I have only had to demand twice, both when I knew she knew what was expected of her. When grooming or just hanging out tied or at liberty she is usually very tense with tight mouth worried eyes and an ear on me at all times.
She flinches when I touch her while catching her... I am still having to walk her down to catch her and I gently touch her withers before grabbing her halter. She was only caught with food before and had to be snatched by a long rope attached to her halter. I am having none of that nonsense and catch her properly no matter how long it takes. I have been spending time with her at liberty as well just scratching her and rubbing her around the withers and trying to find "the spot". No luck with that so far, but she's been brave enough to turn her head to sniff me a few times so there is that.
She does not like eating her hard feed in front of me... not a big deal since she's fat and really does not need hard feed, but I would like to be able to feed her and my other horse at the same time. He will steal her food after he is done with his unless they are separated. Being able to give her a little handful of feed in her bucket would be a nice incentive to teaching her to enjoy my company if I could get it to work!
I am not above the occasional act of petty bribery, but she won't take treats from my hand. It sure would be nice if I could give her the occasional treat after being caught, or for no reason whatsoever! Today I bought a bag of jelly beans and stuffed a few in her mouth and after spitting the first few out she did eat one or two this way. I had to teach my other horse to like treats also, because he had never been given any (now he is a horrible mugger and gets them rarely if at all).
She does very well at ground driving, but she is very nervous when lunged. I am starting to feel that lunging her may be counterproductive because although she does listen to commands, is very obedient and has learned quite a bit, it is clearly a frightening experience for her. How can I make lunging less scary? Just keep at it until she knows I'm not going to beat her to death with the lunge whip? Should I discontinue lunging until she is more comfortable? She's learned the basic commands that I intended to teach her, but I still feel like she would benefit from more practice.
Ground driving she is progressing well with. She is much more comfortable with ground driving then she is with lunging, and we have had several happy walks together. Sometimes when we've been at it for a while and she has relaxed I can catch a glimpse of the nice horse that she is underneath all the fear. She is very responsive to the rein and vocal queues I use and as in all things only needs a very light hand. She is very eager to please!
Here is a nice picture of her relaxing while we rested in the shade about 1/2 mile away from the pasture. It was very hot today, but I was determined to get some training time in. The scratch on her butt is from backing into the fence during a Grade A hissy fit about leaving her boyfriend behind. I'm actually pleased that she threw a hissy fit, at least she's showing interest in SOMETHING and feeling comfortable enough to attempt to assert herself. Plus it gives me an opportunity to teach her that throwing a hissy fit will get her nowhere with me. Note that we are half a mile away from the pasture. ;)
I did encounter one minor issue while ground driving today that I had a question about. On the way away from the house she went at an appropriate walk speed, but on the way back she was walking faster then I was and the bit was placing constant pressure on her mouth. I was not able to slow her down, but I did start working her in zig zags which worked a bit to relieve the pressure on her face. I like how she handles currently and don't want her to become hard mouthed. Does anyone have any suggestions on how to handle this situation when it arises again?
Cheyenne is trying to make habit of bolting at the mounting block before she is even what I would consider green broke. My friend mounted and dismounted and rode her a bit, then she decided that she no longer wanted to work and headed for the hills. After she was apprehended I set up next to the mounting block with her on a lunge line and sent her off at a brisk trot every time she tried to skitter out from under me or bolt. We ended the day after she accepted my full weight laying across the saddle while relaxed and comfortable. I suspect that a lot of her skittishness may be a put on, because what happened between us at that mounting block was a full on coming to Jesus meeting (ok I was mad) and she was much calmer when it was over.
Starting to see some cracks in her armor, she's MUCH easier to catch and is starting to actually LOOK at me rather then stand square and tense with hard or worried eyes and tight lips. She's so responsive on the lunge line that I can get her to move off by looking in the direction I want her to go. She's relaxing more on the lunge line - I ended up putting the whip on the ground and using my body and voice to drive her because she is more comfortable and responds better to that then to the whip. It still comes out when she gets cheeky though. :) I'm also working to desensitize her to the whip and to try to curb her flight response.
The way she jumps when she's told to do something makes me believe that she may have been trained using inappropriate pressure and release, or never given the chance to do the right thing before the whip came down. I think a lot of her nervousness is due to confusion and fear of making a mistake, with no small amount of "booger picking". I feel like I saw brain cells connecting today on the lunge line when she didn't immediately obey a command and I "told" her by swinging the rope at her. It didn't hurt, it wasn't that scary... just a slight increase in pressure and that's OK.
Still no rush to get on her and ride - with the setback of her bolting at the mounting block I feel like the lesson of standing still and relaxed when weight is put on her needs to be repeated on a daily basis for a week or two.
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