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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Hi! I wasn't sure if I was supposed to update my previous thread or make a new one, so I opted for a new thread. If I'm violating forum etiquette or anything, please let me know! I don't want to annoy people.

Anyways, I posted a little while ago on the 22nd about my horse Ladybird, asking a few questions about her training. (You can find the thread here. It includes some background on Ladybird, along with my queries.)

I got some replies, and everyone was very nice! It's been 5 days since then, and a LOT has happened -- all of it good, though! I made progress on the lunging problem, and thank you to all of you that offered advice there. I also worked on her clinginess issue, and made headway there too! She's a smart gal, and she picks up on things very fast.

As mentioned in my previous post, I'm in the process of saddle-training. I had my concerns about it, and my mother was EXTREMELY anxious about the whole thing.

But it's been about a week and we're... baffled.

A while before I made my previous thread, I was just focusing on getting her used to the mounting block, the sensation of me putting my arms over her back. That went extremely well. I could lean over her and touch her sides, and she didn't mind me at all.

After a few days of that, I tried hopping to put my torso over her. From there, I'd let her hold my weight before slipping off. Practically no reaction. She walked away a few times, but never ran off or got upset. For the most part, she was curious.

One day, I put on my helmet and asked my neighbor to keep an eye on me. With no trouble at all, I hopped up on her back, swung a leg over, and sat up. Nothing. After a minute, I patted her neck and slipped off.

I heaped praise on her and gave her some alfalfa, and did the same thing the next day. No spooking, bucking, or rearing. I was amazed!

Three days ago, my neighbor lent me a saddle set, and I decided to try tacking her. I figured this would take a few days, so I just let her sniff it and put the saddle-pad on. As always, nothing! I've put towels on her before, and she didn't seem to mind that, and the pad was no different.

I ventured forth and tried the saddle, and walked her around without the girth. Cheerful as can be, she didn't mind. I decided to try the girth next, and she only nipped me once the first time I tightened it. I was all prepared for chaos, but there was nothing! She let me tack her up, and I walked her around with no problem.

Even letting down the stirrups and trotting her got no negative reaction. I've seen horses throw FITS over getting saddled for the first time, but she didn't even hop.

The next day, I enlisted my mother to watch my back while I got in the saddle. Like every other time before, nothing. She stood by the mounting block, waited for me to get on, and didn't bat an eye. I got off and on a few times, and every attempt went off without a hitch.

Convinced that the previous owner trained her without my knowledge, I called him back and asked a TON of questions. He seemed just as surprised as me. In all of her three years, little Ladybird hadn't seen a day of training.

Today, I asked my mom for help again, saddled her up, and tried to ride her -- instead of just mounting/dismounting. She walked just fine, spontaneously trotted a few times, and threw a tiny fit when I asked her to trot. It was the shortest fight I've ever encountered -- a few choice hops, and she settled right down.

I'm not saying she's a miracle horse; she's far from it! There's a long way to go until she's trained, and her temperament could do a 180. That, and she's got some issues we're working on: clinginess, for one, and she likes to nip at people she doesn't know -- particularly my mother.

But, have any of you encountered such an easily-mounted horse? What is the best way to reward this behavior so she keeps being cooperative? I don't give her treats, just alfalfa and the occasional grain after lessons. Should I start doing that, or continue on like normal? I don't want to make her good behavior dependent on rewards, but I don't want to deprive her of praise.

Also, while everything happened rather quickly, I don't plan on keeping this pace regarding her training. I really wasn't expecting her to fly through all of my goalposts like that. Should I worry about her getting bored with our lessons if I slow us down, or should I keep testing her limits?

As always, thank you!
 

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I am not a trainer and can't comment on steps taken and outcome expected very much...


What I will say is slow down...
You have done and thrown a tremendous amount at a horse with nothing previously done in training to speak of...
Because the horse is good-natured does not mean she is not affected, not stressed and not going to react to what you are doing...

You sound to have a gem in your midst, but she still is a animal learning and learning needs to be done slowly & completely with understanding from knowledge not just compliance, she needs to understand what is next to come..
Review and expand on the previous days lesson...
Build a foundation, a solid one..

:runninghorse2:...
 

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You will want to utilize repetition and slow down - if you miss any step on the process, she will let you know, and you will get hurt. I would take a step back, and tack her up, but instead repeat any groundwork that you have done up until this point. Bring her on walks around the property - a horse's confidence can change when new things are introduced. Make sure you can have her w/t/c on the lunge while being tacked, and still listen to your commands. Then, after everything is 100% on the ground, you can start mounting and walking. Emphasize a good whoa.

I am a big believer in taking things slow, or else you will mess up, and you will be back at square one. You see many trainers set on getting a w/t/c on their first ride or two - imo, this is usually way too fast.
 
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Discussion Starter #4
I am not a trainer and can't comment on steps taken and outcome expected very much...


What I will say is slow down...
You have done and thrown a tremendous amount at a horse with nothing previously done in training to speak of...
Because the horse is good-natured does not mean she is not affected, not stressed and not going to react to what you are doing...

You sound to have a gem in your midst, but she still is a animal learning and learning needs to be done slowly & completely with understanding from knowledge not just compliance, she needs to understand what is next to come..
Review and expand on the previous days lesson...
Build a foundation, a solid one..

:runninghorse2:...
You will want to utilize repetition and slow down - if you miss any step on the process, she will let you know, and you will get hurt. I would take a step back, and tack her up, but instead repeat any groundwork that you have done up until this point. Bring her on walks around the property - a horse's confidence can change when new things are introduced. Make sure you can have her w/t/c on the lunge while being tacked, and still listen to your commands. Then, after everything is 100% on the ground, you can start mounting and walking. Emphasize a good whoa.

I am a big believer in taking things slow, or else you will mess up, and you will be back at square one. You see many trainers set on getting a w/t/c on their first ride or two - imo, this is usually way too fast.
Thank you, seriously. I thought it was a bit too much too quickly, but I wasn't sure if I should hit the brakes or just roll with it. She's very cooperative and she likes to listen, but I still felt a little uneasy when she took everything so quickly. Sure, I was pleased, but I also want to avoid overwhelming her.

I appreciate this advice, and I'll take it seriously. She's a smart mare, and I want to encourage that by helping her learn things properly. I work with her every day, so I'll make sure to back things up and make sure she's actually adjusting -- not just complying.

Again, thank you! I've taken this to heart, and I'll focus on building a stronger foundation before taking things further.
 

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I've seen lots of trainers do as much as you did , in one day! if the horse is ok with it, there is no reason not to.



this is a not so rare way of 'breaking'. All in one or two days, then the young horse is put back out to mature, sometimes for months.




However, I might give a couple of days fully off (if she has turnout) and let her just relax, before you go back and repeat the procedure to see how much of it 'sticks'. I think you've done splendidly! it's not just the horse, it's YOU!


and, no point in giving grain afterward. any treat that isn't give practically instantly after the desired behavior will not be associated with the behaviour you think you are rewarding. Her reward is a pat, your praise, and you letting her have turnout.
 

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It's not the 1st or 2nd ride you should be watching out for. It's the 4th or 5th, when they start getting comfortable enough moving under you that they unstick their brain, that the sillies come out. People get in trouble with the easy ones because they are quiet, until one day they aren't. It's also often common to misinterpret internally stressing for quiet.

Have you done ground driving and mastered w/t/c on the lunge line? Does she know how to steer and give to the bit/pressure, and what whoa means? Are they relaxed and listening for all that? It's also good to take them into another environment, maybe just a different paddock or arena and try a regular session there. Keeping their brain on you in new situations. I've taken babies out ground driving on trails to get them used to working in new situations.

When getting on a horse for the first time, I'd never swing a leg over as fast as you did. Make sure they walk forward with you leaning across them first, both bareback and saddled. They are often good until things start moving. This also true for the canter. They'll rock the w/t, but things move more at the canter and happens faster, so you are more likely to get a reaction.

If you want to keep her interested. Don't over-face or scare her. Give her the chance to figure things out and set her up for success. You also need to be tactful enough in your own handling and riding that you aren't inadvertently punishing her. If you can't keep a quiet seat or a soft hand, someone else would be better off starting her.
 

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Well this is all good news!

It is of course hard to tell over the internet, but to me it sounds like you are taking it slow!

Keep in mind the best reward for a horse is the rider getting off. Also important to stop on a good note. Seems like you are doing both those things.

I would call what you have described as the slow approach, getting on and off a few times and stopping. That is why she is so calm, because you are going at her pace!

Spend time taking her for walks in hand where you plan to ride, and make sure it is all positive. Stop and let her graze, give her a little grooming, etc.

She wants to be with you, so that is a good thing! Trust is what you are working on, building trust.

I would do a little ground work, practice saddling and mounting, then take her for a walk tacked.

Keep doing that, but every day sit on her for a little bit longer. Then slowing add a circle at walk.

Keep slowly building up the saddle time in baby steps. Doing it slowly but progressing a bit each day and you will have a willing horse (that probably will act "broke" every day)

PS - easier to stick with the same thread, that way we get notifications when a poster updates
 

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Discussion Starter #8
It's not the 1st or 2nd ride you should be watching out for. It's the 4th or 5th, when they start getting comfortable enough moving under you that they unstick their brain, that the sillies come out. People get in trouble with the easy ones because they are quiet, until one day they aren't. It's also often common to misinterpret internally stressing for quiet.

Have you done ground driving and mastered w/t/c on the lunge line? Does she know how to steer and give to the bit/pressure, and what whoa means? Are they relaxed and listening for all that? It's also good to take them into another environment, maybe just a different paddock or arena and try a regular session there. Keeping their brain on you in new situations. I've taken babies out ground driving on trails to get them used to working in new situations.

When getting on a horse for the first time, I'd never swing a leg over as fast as you did. Make sure they walk forward with you leaning across them first, both bareback and saddled. They are often good until things start moving. This also true for the canter. They'll rock the w/t, but things move more at the canter and happens faster, so you are more likely to get a reaction.

If you want to keep her interested. Don't over-face or scare her. Give her the chance to figure things out and set her up for success. You also need to be tactful enough in your own handling and riding that you aren't inadvertently punishing her. If you can't keep a quiet seat or a soft hand, someone else would be better off starting her.
I woke up to more great advice, it seems!

I don't plan on doing a 2nd ride very soon. Going off the previous posts, I think it would be better for me to slow it down and repeat what she's already accomplished before moving forward to riding her again. I also want to improve her lunging, and your advice comes in handy there.

And you're right, moving is different than standing still. My first ride involved her getting used to moving beyond an idle walk. As I mentioned above, she wasn't entirely pleased when we started trotting. She's very compliant and accepted it quickly, but I don't want to push her too much in case she's internally stressed.

Moving forward, I'm going to follow the advice I've been given, and introduce her to some new places. Walk her around with her saddle on, reiterate what I've already introduced to her, and lunge her. As for "whoa", that was the first thing I taught her -- when you're dealing with big animals, you gotta make sure they know when to stop.

I also want her to have some days off in the coming weeks -- she really enjoys playing follow-the-leader while off-lead, so I want her to have some easy days where we just have fun.

Thank you!
 

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I've seen lots of trainers do as much as you did , in one day! if the horse is ok with it, there is no reason not to.

this is a not so rare way of 'breaking'. All in one or two days, then the young horse is put back out to mature, sometimes for months.

However, I might give a couple of days fully off (if she has turnout) and let her just relax, before you go back and repeat the procedure to see how much of it 'sticks'. I think you've done splendidly! it's not just the horse, it's YOU!

and, no point in giving grain afterward. any treat that isn't give practically instantly after the desired behavior will not be associated with the behaviour you think you are rewarding. Her reward is a pat, your praise, and you letting her have turnout.
Good to know I wasn't going too wild! Everything happened over the course of a week, from leaning over her back to actually saddling & riding her for the first time. Now that we've done all that, I'm gonna slow us down and go over what we've learned.

She's not stable-kept; I always turn her out to enjoy her pasture once we're done. The day after her first ride, I gave her a day-off and let her be. Since then, I've just visited to say hello and spend some quiet time with her. As for rewards, she's done well with praise, pats, and turnout, so I'll keep doing that!

Thank you!!
 

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But, have any of you encountered such an easily-mounted horse? What is the best way to reward this behavior so she keeps being cooperative? I don't give her treats, just alfalfa and the occasional grain after lessons. Should I start doing that, or continue on like normal? I don't want to make her good behavior dependent on rewards, but I don't want to deprive her of praise. ...

Should I worry about her getting bored with our lessons if I slow us down, or should I keep testing her limits?
The first horse I ever started by myself sounds like her - she was too easy, totally unflappable. In my inexperience I too thought the previous owner must have told me a fib & she'd been started before. Over the years, I've started a number of horses that were as easy as her, and absolutely there are certain horses like that who have far easier 'temperaments', but really, if you do things right, the rest shouldn't be much more... excitable either. I think the biggest thing is reinforcing the 'baby steps' along the way, and quitting at whatever *before* it's too much for her.

That said, I wouldn't take it for granted that she's barely started, will take a lot more to become 'solid' about stuff, and expect that she will likely 'test you out' at times. As for bored, no, I don't think slow has to be boring - just don't drill her over & over. But I don't think you should be aiming to 'test her limits' either - if you find her limits regularly, that to me would mean you were going a little too quick.

As for rewarding her 'good stuff', I do use food treats, among other rewards. I find it's a generally strong & convenient way of rewarding. Remember though, that animals learn from *instant* association, so you must reward at the time of the good behaviour & giving them a feed after they finish 'work' does not reinforce the 'work'. Also, food treats do not cause 'mugging' or nipping or other 'rude' behaviour. If you give food treats at the time of a 'rude' behaviour, of course you will reward/reinforce it though. You just have to be aware of what it is you're actually rewarding, what's going on at the time, with whatever 'method' & 'tools' you use. Same with food causing them to 'only work for food' - it is when/how you reward, not what you use that might cause the dog to become 'reliant' on rewards.
 

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As for rewards, she's done well with praise, pats, and turnout, so I'll keep doing that!
I've just read the replies. Agree with Tiny & Anita that you're not *necessarily* going too fast at all - sounds like you're doing well. If you were getting reactivity, then I'd say you're moving too fast. As for giving her 'days off', if you're not doing heaps with her, wearing her out, no burning need for that. And one thing I think is so important is that you teach/do in such a way that the horse doesn't think of 'work' as Work, but as Play. That they learn to enjoy what you ask of them.

But as for the above comment, I beg to differ, generally speaking...

Behaviourally speaking, a reward is a positive reinforcement. That is, something desirable that happens/is given at the time of a behaviour, in order to strengthen that behaviour & make it more likely. Horse people often confuse this with negative reinforcement, which is removal of something UNdesirable(eg. pressure) at the time of a behaviour, in order to strengthen that behaviour & make it more likely. These 2 things both effectively do the same thing, but they do make for effective differences, such as in attitude of the way the horse feels about Work for eg.

Why I (generally) disagree with the above as rewards/reinforcements...

Reward/positive reinforcements are something the horse actually desires. Praise, of itself is just a meaningless noise to a horse. It is not a reward/reinforcement. Although as they learn from instant association, it can gain meaning as a signal for something. They can learn that it is because we're happy, although horses do not do stuff because they have a 'desire to please'. They can learn that praise often goes with negative reinforcement, so it can become a signal that the pressure is off. Or praise can be associated closely with positive reinforcement, become a signal that that is likely. The latter is the same as 'clicker training'(tho arguably a short, sharp sound like a click may be more effective), where the sound of the clicker is the signal that a reward is imminent. The advantages of praise/clicking is that you can do this without always pairing it with an actual reward, and it can 'buy you time' - as said, horses learn from *instant* feedback/reinforcement, but of course, it's not always possible to reward instantly, and if praise/clicker/etc has been already associated with reinforcement, you can do this at the time of the behaviour, reward after that. But praise or other noises/signals are not rewards of themselves.

Patting a horse tends to be a very weak reward at best. Or it becomes a 'bridging signal' like praise, to tell the horse reward is on it's way or pressure has ended. Often it is simply tolerated as a necessary something to put up with. Of course, some horses actually like being patted. And a good scratch in an itchy spot can be a great reward.

'Turnout' can indeed be an effective reward. But it is of very limited value in training. After all, you don't want to reward every(or even many) good behaviour with letting the horse go. And the other thing is, if you make training fun for the horse, it could potentially be a punishment to tell them to go away, quit playing with you.

So... whatever you use as positive reinforcement, it must be something that is desirable to the horse at that time. It must be done/given instantly, just like punishment or negative reinforcement. Whatever you reinforce/punish, you need to be aware of what else is going on at the time, to be careful not to inadvertently reinforce 'rude' or Wrong behaviour, or punish Good. And things such as praise are not rewards of themselves, but can gain meaning/value when paired with something worthwhile.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
The first horse I ever started by myself sounds like her - she was too easy, totally unflappable. In my inexperience I too thought the previous owner must have told me a fib & she'd been started before. Over the years, I've started a number of horses that were as easy as her, and absolutely there are certain horses like that who have far easier 'temperaments', but really, if you do things right, the rest shouldn't be much more... excitable either. I think the biggest thing is reinforcing the 'baby steps' along the way, and quitting at whatever *before* it's too much for her.

That said, I wouldn't take it for granted that she's barely started, will take a lot more to become 'solid' about stuff, and expect that she will likely 'test you out' at times. As for bored, no, I don't think slow has to be boring - just don't drill her over & over. But I don't think you should be aiming to 'test her limits' either - if you find her limits regularly, that to me would mean you were going a little too quick.

As for rewarding her 'good stuff', I do use food treats, among other rewards. I find it's a generally strong & convenient way of rewarding. Remember though, that animals learn from *instant* association, so you must reward at the time of the good behaviour & giving them a feed after they finish 'work' does not reinforce the 'work'. Also, food treats do not cause 'mugging' or nipping or other 'rude' behaviour. If you give food treats at the time of a 'rude' behaviour, of course you will reward/reinforce it though. You just have to be aware of what it is you're actually rewarding, what's going on at the time, with whatever 'method' & 'tools' you use. Same with food causing them to 'only work for food' - it is when/how you reward, not what you use that might cause the dog to become 'reliant' on rewards.
You've left me a host of great advice!

Since the update was posted, I still haven't found a "limit" yet. Given, I haven't ridden her, but I have been working with her nearly every day. She's still very cheerful about the whole thing -- showing up by the fence around the time I usually come out, and greeting me. After lessons, I always brush her down, sit with her, or take her for a stroll without a lead. I don't want her to feel like I'm shooing her away after we're done. Turnout is supposed to be a fun thing, not an exile.

You said some interesting stuff about food treats in another comment. It was a VERY strong point, and you're right. I talked to my mother about treats last week, and was on the fence about making some. Needless to say, you've sold me on them, so I'm going to work them into my training. I thought praise and pats was enough, but I never thought that it might just be noise/touch to the horse. Thank you for the comment, I appreciate it!
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Hello again!

It's been a while, but I felt compelled to drop in and let whoever's here know that training is going well! We've had a few days where she's shown her temper, but I expected as much from an untrained horse as spirited as she is.

I took much of the advice I was given, and it's served me really well! For the past few weeks, I've been focusing on reinforcing what we've already accomplished, and doing a lot of general stuff. I do a lot of things off-lead, since many of my exercises don't require a rope. She seems genuinely curious and happy to play with me, even when I ask her to do silly things like step over poles.

She's never run off, and always sticks around until it's obvious we're not gonna do anything else. (I typically rub her down & sit with her until she wanders off to visit with the neighbor horses.)

As for saddle-training, we had two small hiccups, but that's all. I've only gotten on her back a few times since the last update, and most of our lessons have been groundwork/getting used to saddling & mounting.

Here's a photo to break up the text before I start talking, haha.



The first hiccup was somewhat inevitable, in retrospect. It was kinda hot (it's summer/fall here in Uruguay), and she had been a little less enthusiastic since I came out. I just wanted to get in the saddle, sit for a moment, and dismount. We did warm-up stuff, I saddled her, and we walked down to the lower pasture.

She was being fussy about standing still during mounting, so I corrected her a few times and she stood still. I got on, sat for a moment, and slipped my toes into the stirrups like usual. Then she turned towards me and went to nip my shin. I lifted my toe so she snubbed her nose against it, and this seemed to incense her. She turned back around, took a few steps, and threw a fit.

Ladybird usually gives up hopping & bucking pretty fast, and I'd stayed on both times before. I've even stopped a few bucks before they happened by just talking gently to her. But she caught me off guard and she was obviously in a bad mood. I barely had my butt in the saddle for more than a few seconds before she managed to throw me backwards. I hit the ground (hard) a few feet away. No aggression beyond that, though. She took a few steps forward (away from me) and stopped.

I immediately got up, shook the stars from my eyes, and walked towards her. She seemed determined to have her fit, so I said "fine, have your fit" and followed her as she ran around the pasture. Didn't try to catch her or run after her, just walked. Eventually she got tuckered out and approached me, so I took her lead rope, lined her back up to the block, and tried again.

No problems this time. She stood still while I got on, sat up, and put my toe in the stirrup. I patted her neck and praised her, and got back off after a minute. Right there, I unsaddled her, let her have a drink, and rinsed her off with some cool water. Then I scraped the water off and took a walk around the pasture. She followed diligently, so I patted her some more and left.

The second fit was exactly the same. She kept hopping around & getting started while I was leaning across her back, and got an attitude with me (throwing her head, refusing to back up) when I corrected her. So, I walked after her while she galloped about, until she finally circled back and did as I asked.

That's really all that's happened. I've only ridden her once since then, and she walked very nicely & I got off.

I think it's going quite well! Here's a little gif before I go, and I'll try to update this thread as we make progress.

 
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