Training to walk over poles
My boy Boe is an OTTB. He's been off the track since late March, and had some nice down time followed by being wormed w/ a panacure powerpac and is now finally a good weight. I'm starting to work him more under saddle now, and he's QUITE barn sour. He'll do anything he can (non-agressive so no bucking/rearing/etc) to avoid having to ride. He fights for the first few min. of the ride and then settles down. But his biggest issue is that he's bored. When we're doing something that will mentally stimulate him he LOVES it. But mindless circles/8's/serpentines/etc. just bore him to pieces (and me too, honestly). That's how we've arrived at his current aversion to working.
He LOVES to jump and will be a fun jumper, but to get him to that point he needs to build up muscle tone on the flat...and he hates it so he fights. You can see, vicious cycle. I have direct access from my house to 25,000 acres of trails...but no one to ride with. He not a spooky horse, and the few times I've ridden him up the road a bit he loved it...but would feel more comfortable with another horse. Personally, I don't know the forest at all, so I'm not comfortable riding alone b/c a) I don't know the forest/trails b) if something were to happen...I'd be alone: safety.
My landlords own a big QH barn behind me, and a big group goes out on trails every Sun. am...when I'm at church. They said they'd spread the word among the boarders that I'm looking for a riding companion...but I'm not expecting much to come of it.
So, to give him something to do mentally as well as build up his muscles some, I introduced a few ground poles. He likes the idea, but he's a clutz. BIG time. He keeps kicking the pole (usually with his back feet) and he HATES it. He can handle 2 poles okay when they're about 8 strides apart, but any closer and he starts bumping the poles and it irritates him.
Do y'all have any advice?
try out with one pole at a time and work on lengthening and shortening his stride, without a pole at first. Then go over the ONE pole and as soon as he stops knocking it add another one. Lengthen and shorten his stride to prevent him from knocking the pole. As soon as he stops knocking it about 5 times, another pole. repeat this until you have the amount of poles you want. Tips for building topline: work loooong and loooow at the trot. there is a thread called "topline-the how to"
I wish you were near me. I'd happily go out trail riding with you. My OTTB likes to keep things fresh too. My suggestion is a game I call obsticle course. Instead of two poles in line with each other, throw poles all over the place. Make a 9' x 9' box of trot poles, make a clock of ground poles at 3, 6, 9 & 12 o'clock, a set of poles 4'6" apart, put things up you can go through like milk crates or jump standards, anything you can walk or trot over or through. Then make a game of going any which way to go over poles, through standards, weave around things, etc. My TB loves this game. It keeps their mind engaged and sometimes helps alleviate their anxiety of hitting the occasional pole. As you've already found out, TB's need things refreshed a lot to keep them happy. I know you don't feel great about going out alone, but even a short walk through the woods will help him find his feet. My TB was very clumsy at first, but now he picks through things like a mountain goat.
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