First Time Working with a 2YO; Green + Somewhat Less Green=Chance of Success?
I planned on starting working with Lily earlier this spring, but I was preoccupied with Tango and riding and whatnot, and it kind of slid aside. So now that Tango's lame and is not to be ridden for a few months, I figured now is as good a time as any to start working on Lily's ground manners and such.
So for a bit of background...Lily is about 2 years old, and she's some sort of crossbreed. We're pretty sure she might be Thoroughbred/QH, but all we know of her background is that her sire was a racehorse (TB or QH I know not) who had some sort of leg problem and couldn't race anymore. That news in itself I don't like; it could be setting Lily up for a future of soundness issues, but you never know. She's about 14 hands, maybe a bit more. To me, I think that she's going to be huge, since she's already nearly as tall as Tango, but then again, to me 15 hands is a big horse (I'm so short:lol:).
Lily is, by law, my sister's horse. My sister was the one who bought and paid for her. I believe she was under a year old when my sister bought her at auction, and that really ticks me off. My sister hasn't rode a day in her life, the only horses she's ever sat on were old, deadbroke trail horses for a few minutes at a time, yet, when dad bought me my first horse (Tango) it made my sister jealous so she went out and bought her own. Now logically, when buying your first horse, would you not go for a well-broke, calm older horse that you'd be able to learn on? Nope, my sister bought an untrained filly simply because it was the cheapest thing she could get. And then, shortly after buying, my sis decided she was afraid of horses and that resulted in Lily sitting in the field, virtually untouched, seeing visits from her owner once every couple months if she was lucky. Bah. Rant over.
For the longest time I resented having Lily around-she was just taking up space that could house another trail horse so I could take friends and family riding when I went out with Tango, and I still would probably rather that, but there's nothing I can do so I may as well make the best of it. My goal now is to get Lil well-behaved and quiet so that maybe someday we can break her and make a trail horse out of her yet.
Just one thing may hold us back: when my sis first bought her, she kept her at her boyfriend's parents' place for a long time. Last winter, the parents told us that Lily had slipped and fell on the ice, and her back legs were injured. Well, they healed, and she can move fine now, but the scars still crack and bleed at times, and it's very likely that it's going to hinder her from leading a perfectly sound life. When you look at the scars, it looks more like she got caught in wire or something than fell...the entire story is just very fishy. Well, anyways, the injury shouldn't resurface too bad if we just keep work light...all I wanted to do with her anyways was trails and such; I had no aspirations of making her an Olympic jumper or anything..
Ok, I guess I should say a bit about me now..well, I'm not going into detail about my entire personal life and age and all that on a public internet forum, but I've been riding nearly 2 years, and have been around/had horses a couple years before that, though initially I was involved in driving and heavy horse stuff (plowing, wagon rides etc). It was a friend of mine who got me interested in riding, and after having had to deal with my dad (it's a long story), I was glad to jump at the chance to get away from driving and teams. It's coming up on a year that I've had Tango now, and man, have we learned and progressed so much. From being literally afraid to ride her last year to winning grand champion of our division at a horse show a couple months ago, we've had a long journey and she's taught me so much.
Well, I guess now is the beginning of the journey with Lily, who already, after only about a week of work, has taught me a lot, and who already shows progress...at times, when she's not acting like a spoiled brat =P
(These are all really old pictures, but just so you get an idea of what she looks like)
Just because, I have kept a [written] journal log of all our work so far, so I'll recount all that before we move on...
Thursday July 29
Work began this morning after I finished the hot water & liniment oil treatment on Tango's lame leg. As soon as I clipped on the lead she began testing me and trying to wear down my patience. Even walking forwards was a struggle, as she would dig in her heels and refuse to budge. I solved that by reaching back and giving her a smack with the lead. The rope wasn't quite long enough to reach her butt and always hit her sort of on the side. It made her jump sideways a bit, but by the end of the session she was a lot quicker about walking with me.
We moved on to backing up, and she was stubborn about that but soon learned that standing still when I wanted her to get back earned her a lead rope smack in the chest. Then we went to getting her to stay out of my space, and moving off of pressure. She needs work on all of that-she still isn't 100% consistent about walking on the lead and is very difficult with backing up. Oh well, time, patience and perserverance will bring her around.
To finish was "desensitizing" her to the lead rope. At first you couldn't even throw it over her back or neck without her tossing her head up and her eyes bugging out, but throwing and rubbing and wrapping and gently flicking it all over her body resulted in her head going down and her relaxing. By the end I could pull it over her head and she didn't bat an eye. Besides fine-tuning all the basics, every day I'm going to desensitize her to one new thing.
Saturday July 31
Today I desensitized Lily to the whip, though she harboured little fear for it anyways. Having the whip there to give her a tap if she wants to be stubborn about leading has helped her make sure she keeps pace all the time, but she's still rusty about backing up. She also tried biting me today. I asked her to pick up her foot and she gave it easily, but then snaked her head around and tried to bite me. She didn't use teeth (for that I am grateful), but the gesture and intent was obvious so I gave her a firm smack and continued holding the foot, and when I moved on to her other feet she had no further objection.
Sunday August 1
I took her out of the field, away from Tango, for the first time since our work began, and we only went a short way. She was being pretty good so I turned back before she got the chance to act up. Walking back to the field she was upset and nervous, and afterwards I realized that I wasn't being very confident myself.
She's leading well now-as in, doesn't refuse to go forwards anymore even when I don't have the whip, though she still walks slowly and doesn't want to come up beside-she wants to follow right behind. Backing up is still a challenge, though she's getting better about moving away from pressure. The one thing with her (and she's always been like this) is that she likes to always be gently lipping and nibbling and snuffing and grooming at you, and sometimes she tries to rub or bunt-all of which, obviously, is a no-no. I stopped a lot of it simply by walking around with my elbow up and she ran into it when she tried to come near.
Today's desensitization object was a plastic bag, though again, it didn't really scare her. I've found with her that when something is a little bit scary, but not enough to make her run away, she freezes up and just stands there, tense and with her eyes bugged out. She quickly became relaxed in the presence of the bag, though she didn't like it up around her ears. Still, I can hardly blame her. I don't think I'd like to have a deafeningly loud, rustling object by my head either.
Monday August 2
Once again I brought Lily out of the pen, but this time I set us up for success. First thing I did was go and tie Tango in the shop yard-out of the way of where me and Lily would be, but there in presence. I also made sure that I was completely calm and confident; I had a relevation the night before, remembering that time, a few years ago, I was in a pitch-black haunted house and I was absolutely terrified. I was so scared that I reached out and grabbed dad's arm and held on so tight, because I knew he wasn't scared and we'd get through this. Now you have to realize that our family...isn't that way. Me grabbing my dad's arm or hugging a family member is as likely to occur as a four-legged chicken. But I reacted out of fear, and I thought maybe that's what horses do. They know normally not to crowd you and get close to you without your say, but they want to be with someone so they don't have to face the scary thing alone. So I made sure I was as much like dad was to me in that situation, and provided a strong and brave arm for Lily, and as a result she was a lot less fussy.
We went for a walk up the lane, where a piece of demented old antique machinery was sitting beside the road, and at first she went stiff and did her loud snort-breathing. She allowed herself to be brought near it and calmed down some, then we slowly and calmly walked away. The second time down the lane, she looked at it, but without any real fear.
She's a lot less concerned about the other horses than I expected she'd be, seeing as whenever Tango would leave she'd pace the fence line, calling, but maybe she doesn't mind as long as she's busy and someone, anyone, is there with her.
Things that are improving: she rarely nuzzles and nibbles anymore, and she never plants her heels and refuses to walk forwards anymore. She's also learning to stay calm in stressful situations and look to me for reassurance or instruction. Things that need work: Backing up-still, and respecting my space when I have treats or another object of interest, though she's not too bad-she mostly just stretches her head out and takes a step forwards.
Tuesday August 3
The same stuff went down today. This time, she didn't even bat an eye at the horse-eating piece of machinery crouched at the end of the lane, but she had her first encounter with a motorcycle. It roared past in the blink of an eye and she threw herself back half a step and tensed up, but after a second a look came over her like: "Omg...it didn't eat me.....I guess I'm ok to continue". My dad also keeps two Jersey bull calves in a small, portable pen and I showed them to Lil for the first time. As soon as she caught sight of movement under the shady tarp she froze and started snort-breathing, but it didn't take much convincing to get her to come forwards and she stood there for a bit looking at them interestedly. Then, slowly and calmly, we walked away.
I then tied her, to get her used to standing still while tying, and she fidgeted, but nothing serious-it wasn't like she broke away from the tie or anything..Still, that needs work.
Wednesday August 4
My sister was teaching swimming lessons in our pool, and her boyfriend was waiting to pick her up when I got Lily out today. I probably shouldn't have so blatantly started working with her in plain sight of them, but oh well. She was being disrespectful and rude today, ignoring me, disregarding where I was walking, so finally I pushed her away out of my space. It only took a few times of me growling at her and making big postures to learn that she couldn't come in my space unless I said so.
After that she was a dream to work with-her head was down, her ears and attention on me..I got the whip and made her walk in circles around me, though at first she didn't really understand why she was walking by herself and not being lead. I tried the tapping her on the butt with the whip, increasing force with each tap, hoping to annoy her into moving, but in the end it was a verbal cue and a firm swat with the whip that got her moving. I'm also making sure that she learns to stop exactly when and where I say whoa, none of this turning in to face me bullsh*t that Tango pulls every time she's on the lunge.
I think you are going to do just fine... always keep in mind you are training the horse for a lifetime, not just that moment and read/study/watch something that you are trying to teach your horse so that you have a multitude of plans in your mind, especially for when your horse does not go by the book.... have fun :)
Thursday August 5
I was too lazy and tired to do anything truly productive, so I just went out and practiced getting her used to the saddle. She has had a saddle on, a person up on her back and a bit in her mouth before, but I figured what the heck, I might as well anyways. I didn't give her a chance to get rude and ignorant; I pushed her out of my space right away and made sure she knew that I called the shots. It made for an overall more enjoyable experience.
I let her sniff the saddle pad and the saddle, maybe I shouldn't have, but too late now. Slowly and gradually I put the saddle on her back, and was going to tighten it up but she started getting antsy. I maybe should've just gone with the "suck it up, buttercup" mentality, but that is way too expensive a saddle to take the risk of her taking off, bucking or rolling and destroying it. I spent my entire last summer's work savings on that saddle-no way am I going to let a horse that's not even mine ruin it. So as soon as she stopped moving around and stood still, I took the saddle off.
We went for a short walk around the field, and I found that I have to constantly be reminding her who's boss. Like, every 5 minutes. I think that's probably normal for a young horse like she is-if they're anything like young children, they're always trying their limits to see what they can get away with.
She's also picked up the idea of lunging very quickly. It's not real lunging-she's moving at a walk, and the circle's small and kind of wonky-shaped, but it's a start. She's always trying to turn in to face me, but is less persistent about it than Tango. Which just means that I better get her out of doing that now before she's stuck in her ways.
She seems so much more...docile, than even a few days ago. There's always just this dangerous, unpredictable air about her, like the tiniest thing will set her off. I'm seeing that less so now, and I'm glad. She seems so big and strong, but then you realize that Tango's bigger than she is. Lily just seems so unpredictable because she's a lot less calm, responsive and experienced than Tango is. Tango never pulls on the lead or tries to run me over, and Lily does and has. Hopefully with a couple weeks more work I can get her much more quiet and responsive.
As for breaking...I think she's still too young, but dad wants me to start riding her. I guess I don't mind riding, but I really don't want to try anything without my instructor, or a trainer (we have a friend who I think would be willing to help us) there. I know I'm not experienced enough to train a horse entirely by myself. Even if I was the one riding and one of them was instructing me...but honestly, it would probably be better, safer, and more productive just for the trainer to break her (though I really want to be there to watch and maybe help from the ground). I think I've been bucked with-once; I don't know if I have a good enough seat to be on a youngster, and the greenest horse I've ever rode was Tango, who was not very green at all. Hmm...well, we'll see what happens. It's a bit early yet.
Monday August 9
*Sigh* I've kind of lost interest in this whole thing. Or lost heart. She's not even my horse, what's the point of working with her when I have no say in what happens to her later on? I know we've probably made decent progress, but what am I thinking in trying to train a 2 year old horse? I'm probably way in over my head. We should have a real horse that is trained and that I can ride with Tango, not a pushy filly that we won't even be able to break for another year, and who will be green for quite a while after that.
Well, most days when I'm out there I'll do just basic stuff, like reminding her to get the heck out of my space. She's very good at waiting for me to invite her over...when I'm facing her. She'll approach confidently but slow as she gets closer, then when I put my hand up and make a short little noise, she'll stop and give me that sad puppy dog look, and then I'll let her come in. If I have my back turned she'll come right on up and be stepping on my heels and right up in my grill. Overall she's better about moving when I tell her to move, and getting out of my way.
Saturday August 21
Muahahaha! We're back...after several weeks of vacation and little activity. I've been feeling kind of a failure with Tango recently, so I figured hey, why not switch things up and get working with Lily again? Plus, I feel bad for Lily being alone now that Tango's confined to a stall. The first day or so she kept whinnying and looking for the others, and now she's totally chill about it. Of course, she'll still call and run over when I get Tango out or something...but she did that even when Tango was in her field and I'd take her out. But ANYways..Working with Lily does boost my spirits, however slightly-she's so much of a challenge that when you move on to Tango immediately afterwards you feel almost blessed to have such an easy horse.
Since it's been so long I wasn't terribly concerned with her being perfectly behaved, but she was pretty decent. I took her out of the field for a walk, and the same horse-eating piece of machinery we'd encountered all those weeks ago completely freaked her out. Not turn-and-bolt freaked out, but snorting, wild-eyes, stiff and tense posture, and head sky-high. It's difficult handling her sometimes..she's so unused to contact and proper manners that she has little respect for the lead, and when she's scared she has little respect for me, either-which has to stop soon. She's just so big and tall and strong, and when she gets her head up there... Surprisingly, she's very good at lowering her head when I put pressure on her poll and say: "Head down". It only took her like two tries to get it, and I wasn't even pressing that hard-just with the flat of my hand...maybe her previous owners taught her that. She likes to try to drag me when she sees something of interest, which is not fun.
When she's calm and not outwardly engaged, she is nice to handle and be around-but her attention span is so short that it doesn't take much to get her mind to wander. Her problem is she hasn't seen very much of the world, and a lot of things are scary and strange to her. I just need to get her out more and show her more things...though I'm not looking forwards to the day that she decides to bolt from something, surely dragging me along in the process XD One thing I do not get is that Tango and Lily are rarely scared of things in the shop yard. My dad is a mechanic and a huge pack rat, and the yard is surrounded by machines and vehicles and scrap metal and all sorts of stuff you would think a horse would be terrified of, but nothing there ever really bothers them. Then you simply park an old horse-drawn binder at the end of the lane and they think the world is ending. One of my friends works at a neighbour's barn where she helps the BO break and handle babies-and they're all ridiculously high-strung Thoroughbred/warmblood types(though she doesn't do the riding or serious stuff). So I think she'd be helpful in my conquests with Lily...she offered to help, anyways.
Well, I put Lily back, making sure to walk her into the field, stop her and turn her towards me, then release her (because it's really annoying when a horse just yanks your arm off as soon as it hits home turf) and as soon as I let her free she went NUTS. She took off at full gallop, nearly trampling some chickens as she did, went bucking and kicking all around the paddock and did several circuits at top speed. Finally she slowed down, thoroughly tired out, but continued to trot around a few more times. She trots so gracefully-her head is up, her tail fanning out like a flag, and her legs are so long and striking. But man, what if she had tried that while I still had a hold of her? I guess I would've pulled her in and stopped her, but it was then that I realized that I do need help-professional or not; I probably can't do this on my own. I'm going to get ahold of the friend, and we'll see how far we can get with her before getting real help from Tiffany (a trainer).
Sunday August 22
Rain >=( I really needed to work on tieing with her today, because that's a bit of a concern. She's so ADD that anything gets her attention so she tries to look at it, then she realizes that she's tied in place and then starts getting nervous and antsy. I am just concerned she's going to hurt herself-or something/someone else. I think I'll use just a lead rope as opposed to the impenetrable chain that we have as a tie on the hitching post. At least if it snaps it's not going to like, explode. Or maybe the chain would be better, because it's a lot less likely it will break. Hmm...I don't know.
Friday August 27
My friend and I made plans for her to come over and help with Lily today, but she was busy, so it was a no-go. The friend (as I mentioned before...did I? Anyways, as I think I mentioned before) works at a neighbour's farm where she feeds horses, cleans stalls, and helps handle them. She also has watched the neighbour break quite a few horses, so I think between the two of us we'll be able to get Lily to a decent point.
I never realized how much I do like Lily. Tango has been a complete butthead these past few days, and it makes me appreciate how much less excitable and reactive Lily is. I can't wait to see what she's like once all this is done and over with-she's already showing some really great qualities. The only thing wrong with her is she's untrained and inexperienced. Neither is any fault of her own, of course.
She did the cutest thing today: I was in her field walking her around as dad moved his horses across her paddock, and as soon as I let her go I started walking off and she followed. I broke into a jog and she started trotting to keep up with me =) It's stupid, but it still makes me happy.
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