Keeping a 2yo's attention?
My trainer is having me work with her "babies" (they're 2, 3 and 5) - and I decided to start on the ground. I LOVE The 7 games by Parelli. I incorporate them in nearly every thing I do.
Anyways, The 5yo knows 4 of the games, and listens well. The 3yo is learning, and is very easy to work with. The 2yo, Moon, is not like the other two. He is very head shy, spooky, and anxious. I worked with him for a few minutes yesterday.. It was pretty unsuccessful.
I first tried to catch him (he's a hard catch because he's head shy.) - but stupid me forgot he's never worn a rope halter. I got it on his face - when I tied the knot, I applied a tiny pressure. He FLIPPED, the halter untied and slipped off his face. Luckily, Moon is friendly and came back.. But would not let me near his face. I caught his brother, Chester (3yo) - haltered him, and Moon followed us into a smaller pasture. I re-haltered Moon and took him to the round pen. On the way to the pen, he kept spooking. In the barn, by the trailers, at leaves on the ground.. He was a mess. I stayed calm and got him in the pen, reassuring him it was okay. I showed him my carrot stick. He smelled it, and let me touch his back with it. After a few tries, he would let me touch him all over, but kicked when I touched his legs.
After three minutes his attention was gone. I tried making him back up by shaking the rope. He just walked in anxious circles, not knowing what I wanted. I tried 4 or 5 more times. He still didn't understand. So I just kept steady pressure on the halter until he backed up. After a few times of that.. Attention was gone. I couldn't even move on to the next game. I knew I wasn't going to get his attention back. So I walked him over some raised ground poles and put him back in his pasture.
I know young horses take patience, but I know I can get through more than a 15 minute session. He didn't even learn anything. I'm going back tomorrow to try again, but should I do anything different? I kept my cool and tried to end on a good note.
Firstly - you probably need to review how to tie a rope halter if it undid and slipped off his face - likely you're tying backwards.
Secondly - don't expect more than 10-15 mins out of a youngster. Their brains simply can't handle it. It sounds like the Parelli approach may not work for this horse.
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Allie, you seem to be the first to reply to all my threads.
How should I approach him, then? I'm training ponies to pay for my board.
If you're having problems, 5 minutes is probably enough. I had my "wild" one at home, so we had "work" only a few minutes long. But many times during the day. I didn't get a halter on her for a good week, because she was shy of ropes. But she loved being groomed from afar (I used a sweat scraper, so I was a good foot away) until I could get up and lay the rope over her back. When she got used to all this, I'd maneuver the rope around her legs, so that later, I could use the rope on her foot for security (mine). But she never kicked, so it never became an issue I had to deal with.
So patience is what I recommend, keep cool, keep the mistakes small.:-)
As already mentioned, babies do not have the attention span to handle intense training sessions. If you are having problems with one area, catching him for example, just focus on that. Or just do one 'game'. Once they do the right thing (or if they're having a hard time, make a step in the right direction) praise them and let them go. It sounds he was frazzled from the beginning, and that's not setting him up for success.
You need to tailor your training sessions to the horse. If 5 minutes is all he has, start off in 5 minute sessions. You could do one 5 minute session (ie: haltering and desensitizing to your stick) at the beginning and turn him loose. Go work with the other two, then do another 5 minute session (backing from pressure) afterwards. You have to listen to your horse and find out how to make your session with him the most productive. Quality over quantity.
Thanks all, I know babies have a "timer" - I just wanted to make sure I wasnt pushing too hard.
You probably are. Back off a little and see how he reacts.
I think you need to remember that just the haltering and walking to the pen was part of his training. Maybe just starting there would help. That was what I did with mine and it helped a lot. So much "training" happens by just doing the basics without realizing it.
My advice would be to halter, walk, groom, walk, un-halter. Keep it simple and be sure that this baby learns to trust you while his attention span grows.
I have some advice on the constant spooking. My 2yo has basically been in his stall for the past 18 months (I just purchased him a month ago), so he has very little exposure to new things. He's used to cars, ATVs and tractors because his stall is right on the road (35' X 30' open pen with a shade), but other than that, he spooked at EVERYTHING. So, we made a game out of investigating new things. I slowly walk him up to something new/unfamiliar/scary, talking to him calmly and reassuringly the entire time. Once we're in touching range, I start patting the object and saying "What's this?" (or variants of that phrase) until he leans his nose forward and touches it. Then I praise the heck out of him. He soon learned that 1) whatever he was afraid of really isn't that scary, and 2) investigating something scary gets him big time rewards/loving. We did this last week when we were doing an in-hand trail walk (he'd just been gelded and needed to be walked at least 45 minutes, so we walked part of an easy trail near the barn)...we passed a mailbox that was shaped differently and he looked at it crosswise, so I made him investigate it. Soon, he was tugging on the lead rope and looking at me like "Can we go over there?!" every time we saw a mailbox. :-P
Also, as JustDressageIt mentioned, Parelli may not work for this horse. I had an arab/saddlebred gelding that they tried to do Parelli with and it ended up making him a completely unmanageable 8yo with no ground manners at all.
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