Leading and Cooperation on the Ground - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 6 Old 04-17-2019, 11:23 AM Thread Starter
Join Date: Feb 2019
Location: Kentucky
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Leading and Cooperation on the Ground

I intend at this weekís riding lesson to get a real quote from my instructors on what it would cost to board Dreama with them for a couple of months (or as long as it takes) to be able to work with her there and to get help with her training. But, if they donít have time or a space for her for a few months (or if the pricing is such that I need to wait a few months and save up) Iíd like to be able to continue making progress with her until then.

On the ground, weíve been working on basic ďDonít run over me, donít walk so close you step on me.Ē Iíve been doing this by backing her up or moving her over every time I am leading her and she is too close or trying to walk ahead of me. She no longer tries to push past me to get out of her stall before I lead her out. She waits until I move off or apply a little pressure to the lead rope. With almost every walk I have to correct her slightly (usually backing her up when she tries to walk ahead of me.) It definitely doesnít help matters that I have only been able to work with her on weekends (another reason I think moving her to the ranch to be boarded closer to me for a while could be helpful.) Sheís also been letting me go out to catch her when she is outside without having to be lured in with food, which also felt like a big accomplishment for us.

However, I realized something while helping my aunt bathe her gelding on Saturday. We donít have a ďhitching postĒ or cross ties set up where we are, so I held his lead close to his chin while she sprayed him down and washed him. Even though he wasnít the biggest fan of a bath and wanted to move away from the hose, I could feel the bend and give in his neck. It didnít feel like he was trying to pull my arm; his head stayed with me.

And this is the differenceÖ Dreama has learned what I want: Donít walk in front of me when I am leading you, donít walk so close to me that you step all over me. But when the situation doesnít suit her anymore, she puts her head up and moves off forward. This includes if someone is holding her lead while I am trying to put a saddle and bridle on her, trying to bathe her, or if sheís in a situation thatís out of the norm and not at home. Even though she has stopped doing this when we are just walking together, I donít know how to work on getting her to yield cooperatively to me instead of mechanically repeating an action Iíve asked her to do (donít walk ahead of me.) Is it just a matter of more repetition since we only get to work together a few days a week, or are there things I should be doing besides asking her to back up/move over when she tries to walk off without me or too close when leading?

Iíve seen videos of trainers holding a horse gently by the lead and asking them to yield their back end on both the right and left sideÖ walking toward the horseís hip and the horse moving their hip over. Iím not sure how to ask her for this or if itís something I should be asking for at this point? I do know that when I need to ask her to back up, there is still a resistance to backing up, whereas I have seen examples of horses backing up where they instantly give to pressure on the lead or to their handler walking forward in front of them. Again, I am unsure if this is something that just needs more repetition or if there is a different way I should be asking for this movement.
We donít have a round pen. Are there any exercises I could be doing with her with a lead rope inside the fenced area until I can board her at the ranch and have access to their facilities/additional guidance? Iíve watched training videos but obviously everyone has their own way, and sometimes itís good to hear multiple viewpoints and experiences.

She behaves a little differently under bridle and saddle, although I havenít been able to ride her enough nor am I a skilled enough rider to be able to really judge the difference. My aunt has suggested that maybe whoever owned her and rode her in the past didnít do a lot of ground work, and instead mostly rode, so she was never expected to behave on a lead for any length of time but was expected to react a certain way under saddle. Or sheís just been out of work so long and was able to do whatever she pleased with her previous owner (the kind woman who adopted her from the animal shelter) that she has just learned a habit of getting by with whatever she wants by pulling on the lead rope. I think this second scenario is highly likely, and something my instructors will be able to help me correct. I would just like to be able to do what I can for her in the meantime.

"I am the one thing in life I can control. I am inimitable I am an original. Iím not falling behind or running late. Iím not standing still I am lying in wait." - Wait For It
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post #2 of 6 Old 04-17-2019, 11:28 AM
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post #3 of 6 Old 04-17-2019, 12:42 PM Thread Starter
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Location: Kentucky
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@AndyTheCornbread Taking some sharp turns with a loose lead like that is something I've been doing when I feel she's not "paying attention", but I haven't been specifically focused on her head going past my shoulder - I will have to start doing this. Thanks!

"I am the one thing in life I can control. I am inimitable I am an original. Iím not falling behind or running late. Iím not standing still I am lying in wait." - Wait For It
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post #4 of 6 Old 04-17-2019, 03:16 PM
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I love that video!

Yes, you are seeing the kind of ground skills your horse needs. Now you just need to learn how one gets there, step by step. The horse doesn't do all that so nicely, at first.

#1 is that your mare needs to see you as IMPORTANT. And that comes in how you handle her, how clear you are with your requests, and how firmly you back them up, and the 'bar' that you set for her, and how consisten you are with making sure she reaches that bar; every time.

I would suggest looking into Julie Goodnight's video series on ground manners. I find that she is a very clear trainer and good for beginners to learn the basics.

You are basically getting your horse to respect a feel that comes through the leadline, instead of YOU having to physically block or push your horse over or back.

For example, her going past your shoulder problem, or running you over . . . By the time your horse has passed you on the ground, it's too late. You should have addressed her intention to go past you when she was approaching the 'do not cross' line of your hand , held out to the side holding the lead rope. That hand is both a guide to your horse (follow this), and a barrier. the minute his nose is up to the position of that hand, you vigorously back him up.

There are all kinds of ways to back a horse up. YOu can turn and face him, push into his chest with a sharp finger or stick, you can wiggle the lead rope, or swing the tail end at him. Or, you can drag backward on the line while pushing on teh chest.
I think the last one might be ok for a hrose that really is just learning what that backward pressure on teh leadline means, but for a horse that knows already, but is simply not paying attention to your authority, I do not like to be that close in to the horse.

Here's how I do it. . . I walk along with my guiding hand out. If the horse's nose gets up to that hand, I lean back with my upper body, start to wiggle the rope enough to get his attention, and start to step backward. I do NOT turn around to face him. If he doesnt' move, I accelerate the wiggle on the rope until it's really moving back, kind of slapping under his jaw and into his chest. Yes, he will raise his head and get upset. I don't care. The second he steps backward, I decelerate the wiggle. I then ask again, with a soft wiggle, and if he backs a step more, I stop asking, pause for a mintue to let him soak on that, then walk forward again.

Over time, the horse will be more attentive, and if he strays too close to my guiding hand, I only have to raise that hand, and maybe say, "Ah, Ah!", and he will pause, allowing me to step forward and put more space between us.

Julie Goodnights videos will show all this.
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post #5 of 6 Old 04-17-2019, 03:44 PM Thread Starter
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@tinyliny Thank you for the video series suggestion!

The interesting thing about how you describe walking your horse with your hand out as a guide: If I put her bridle and saddle on, I can walk her like this without a lead rope. With my hand out as a guide she will follow me, and occasionally I have to stop and remind her to stay behind my hand, but not nearly as often as we seem to have a problem on a lead rope. Maybe that is where I've been confusing... when holding a lead rope I expect her to follow, but she doesn't have my hand out for guidance, when under tack I've always asked her to follow my hand.

We used this mainly as an exercise in the very beginning as I was practicing putting on tack and getting comfortable walking and spending time with her before getting on her back.

But overall she seems much more attentive and calm with her tack on. I've wondered if maybe she's afraid of a more harsh correction with the bit in her mouth, if perhaps someone was rough with her mouth in the past; but it doesn't really seem like she is afraid with the bit in her mouth either (ears forward, relaxed, will even eat with it in her mouth).

"I am the one thing in life I can control. I am inimitable I am an original. Iím not falling behind or running late. Iím not standing still I am lying in wait." - Wait For It
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post #6 of 6 Old 04-17-2019, 04:13 PM
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Yes, there is a lot of value in having your hand out as a 'guide'. Horses are instinctively drawn to something moving in front of them. This also helps YOU stay focused on YOUR job, as his leader when you are leading.

A lot of people just sort of mentally turn off when they are leading a hrose. Their shoulders slump, they hold their hand down by their side, the don't look back, even out of the corner of their eyes, to the horse. They don't notice when the horse is getting too close, or lagging behind. they really aren't even 'present' as far as the horse is concerned. They are not offering ANY body language for the horse to cue into.

When I lead, I sometimes walk out like I have a bus to catch, and I'm late. I lean forward, my hand is out and forward, and THEN (after telescoping to the hrose my intent through my body language) I walk forward, and I mean forward! that horse better be ready to leap forward with me, or they will get a hard pull on the halter. I SAID we are going, and the hrose wasn't listening.

Same as when you stop. tell the horse with your hand and how your upper body is positioned, that in a second you are going to stop, and if they don't 'see' that, then do something to wake them up. But be sure YOU are clear with your body. Don't lead them in a sleepwalking manner.
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