Last week, I went back to Penrose to play with horses at Equi-sense. I spent the entire week working with Brandy, asking her to do things horses normally don’t do. With the help of one of the workers there, Brandy and I took on the obstacle course every day, and worked on improving communication skills. As the owner said, a horse will put forth no effort to communicate on your level, you must communicate on the horse’s level.
The end goal was to get the horse to walk sideways in an open area, and to stand with it’s front legs on a tire while rotating around it. To get the horse to understand what I wanted took a lot of work, divided into small steps.
For the first task, I brought the horse up to a fence so it couldn’t walk forward, then I held my hands up, one towards her face one towards her rear to ask her to move sideways. We practiced that for a while before moving to a smaller obstacle, a log on the ground. She kept wanting to just walk around or jump over the log, so the man helping me stood in front and moved with the horse. Brandy had a harder time with this, but we were able to get it done. We also had to work in small steps to achieve the tire rotation. We started by having her in an open area. I waved one hand at her rear while pulling her head towards me to get her to spin around. We worked on this for a while.
It paid off beautifully. On the last day, we had no trouble getting her to spin on a tire. We still had some trouble getting her to walk sideways in the open, but for only four days of training I think we did pretty good. We did get her to walk sideways from the open over some barrels (so her front legs were on one side of the barrels and her rear legs were on the other) and continue to walk sideways across their length. That was pretty cool.
I did get to ride Brandy a bit the last two days. Fortunately, there was a smaller saddle available, and we did eventually get the stirrups shortened to a length that allowed to me to lift myself off the saddle (I’m quite short) so this time I was able to ride a galloping horse (couldn’t do that with Boots.) I had a great time.
- Take small steps when training an animal.
- Horses are heavy, and they won’t care if they’re standing on your foot. Happened twice that week, once with each foot. Ow.
- When riding a horse, it’s best to have it walk or gallop. The speed in between is… painful. I still have bruises from bouncing on the saddle.
I figure now is a good time for a round-up.