Blue's Winter Training Diary

by Donna DeYoung

Introduction to the Horse Training Diary

I purchased my spotted draft “Khitans Blue Te” as an unbroke/unhandled yearling. Blue was born in the spring of 2001. This diary started when Blue was 18 months old. I am training Blue using a combination of natural horsemanship, round penning, clicker training, and modern day dressage/English/western methods. My goal is to make the perfect, bomproof riding horse for trail riding as well as to have a partner for some dressage riding.

January 1, 2003 Wednesday

Today I worked on spook training, picking up feet, getting a bath, and tying.

The first thing we did was get a bath. Believe it or not, it was 60 degrees in Texas on New Years Day. Blue seems to like to keep her feathers dirty and had never had a bath before so today was a good day to do it.

In a previous training session three days prior, I had taught Blue to enter the wash rack and allow me to wash her feet. I wondered what she would do with a full bath?

It was easy. She actually seemed to enjoy the warm water spraying on her. She seemed a tiny bit touchy on her belly and by her flank, but other than that she stood perfectly still. I had a regular halter on her with a stud chain over the nose and strong lead rope. The stud chain is necessary because Blue does not understand whoa and has just recently been halter broke.

The next part of the training was a 2 mile walk down the semi-private driveway which is bordered by several horse farms. The first obstacle was the garage under construction and large rollboxes parked by the driveway. I used a form of training that involves working the horse closer and closer to the scary object. I lunged her in very small circles at the end of the lead rope and encouraged with a dressage whip. We worked closer and closer to the garage and I focused on not letting her cut off the circle and invade my space. As we got close to the drop box, Blue showed an inclination to want to sniff it so I immediately clicked and rewarded with a small treat of sweet feed. I was wearing a beltbag and had a clicker attached to my right wrist. We then went to doing more small circles on the driveway. The terriers were barking the entire time so I decided we should move along.

Next we came to a bird feeder swinging round and round in the wind. Blue’s eyes got big but I clicked and treated her for standing near it and then held it still for her to sniff. Click. Treat.

We continued our walk and at each scary object opportunity I rewarded her for sniffing the object. Some of the things we encountered were a brick flower garden, a realtor’s sign, and several mailboxes. At this point I’m encouraging her to go up and investigate each object. Eventually I will focus on getting her to walk past the objects without looking at them at all.

As we went up the driveway, several herds of horses got excited at our presence and came galloping up to the fence. This was Blue’s second time down the driveway so she was expecting it and neighed as we approached the horses. I scolded her for neighing by saying no no and jerking on the rope. By this time I had taken the chain off because she didn’t need it. Even though there were horses running around on either side of us in their pastures, Blue remained calm. She got a little excited when one herd took off, but was easy to control.

At the end of the driveway we came to the main road. Here I decided to teach her about being away from other horses. So we crossed it and went behind some trees into a grassy area. I let her graze on some of the lush grass that was growing (yes, even in January). She eagerly ate some grass but was pulling me along a little bit because she really wanted to get back to the other horses. We stayed a few more minutes and then with me leading, we went back across the main road and started home.

Back home we did a tying up lesson in the stall. It was rather unsuccessful because she broke the bicycle inner tube and managed to pull back several times even though I held the end of the rope looped around the pole. We will try it again. It is still not safe to tie her and I don’t want her to get injured.

Tip of the day: Hiking boots are good apparel to wear when taking a young horse for a walk. They provide stability and will protect your feet somewhat if you get stepped on. If you have long hair, tie it back so that you can see your horse coming at you. Its not fun to get knocked in the head when your horse is spooking. Don’t do anything rash with your horse while walking them such as trying to hit them with the end of the lead rope for acting up or stepping on you. If the horse overreacts and pulls away, its possible you’ll have a long walk home by yourself. Leave the tricky stuff or the indoor arena or round pen. Use the training walk to reinforce the skills you’ve taught previously in a confined area.

January 3, 2003 Friday

Today I worked on clipping, tying, and walked around the barn area

Armed with a car inner tube tire, heavy rope, and leather gloves I headed out to the barn. Before the tieing lesson I decided to trim a few winter whiskers from her chin. This was the first exposure to the Wahl cordless clippers. Blue panicked slightly and backed away from me 10 steps down the aisle. I led her back to the grooming area and held the clippers away from her while they were on. Then I used an approach and retreat method to get her used to the sound. When the clippers touched her she yanked back. I gave her some food and rubbed the turned-off clippers on her. Then I used them on. Repeatedly gave her sweet feed to eat. She accepted the clipping but I didn’t try her ears.

Then I rigged up the rope and inner tube, put Blue in the stall, and waited. And waited. And waited. Nothing.

At first Blue’s nervousness was evident by her high head carriage. She shifted back and forth and tested the rope ever so slightly. About a half hour later she had settled in and let her head drop naturally. While the horses were led into there stalls for dinner feeding she failed to pull back or panic.

Afterwards I released her and tied a plastic feed scoop to her tail with some twine. She was also dragging the long rope. When the scoop hit her back legs and she stepped on the rope all at the same time she appeared startled but quickly settled.

After that I took her for a walk around the barn and showed her the scary tack boxes and horses that pinned their ears at her.

January 5, 2003 Sunday

Today I free-lunged and groomed.

I put Blue in the round pen and used a lunge whip to encourage her to go round at a trot. She did well and kept up a good tempo. I asked her to canter and she trotted faster. So I had to encourage a bit more. One time she ran at the side wall of the round pen pretty hard and decided she couldn’t run through it. At the trot I said whoa and she stopped perfectly on a dime. She is not turning into me yet but will stand still until I come over and grab the halter and bring her to the center. Once in the center she is “joined” up with me and turns whenever I turn. I let her stand there calmly and patted her all over and moved around her rump. I sent her out again and practiced both directions. When I got in front of her action to turn her, she didn’t try to run me over but stopped or went the other way. I ended the session after about 15 minutes and finished with grooming and a walk around the barn.

May 23, 2003

Catch up on the diary.

Since January, Blue has been moved to a small boarder’s stable in an urban area. The stable includes a large 8 acre turnout pasture and a lighted riding area. Set among mini “ranchettes” a gravel road allows plenty of walking opportunitis and an 8 mile equestrian/hiking trail along a lake is just down the road.

Blue has reached a more formal stage of training. She now lunges both ways of the circle at the walk, trot, and canter. She goes easily over low cavaletti and walks in hand without being pushy. I’ve taken her on several long hikes on the equestrian trails, trained her to stand for the farrier, and have been working on the tying up issue.

Two weeks ago I took Blue for a lesson at the dressage barn. It was suggested that I get a milder bit than the western breaking bit I was using and a milder cavesson than the Spanish serreta. Blue did well for her lunging lesson and was complemented on being “very good” for a two year old.

The only set back we’ve had in the last couple of months was a bucking session with the western saddle. It was Blue’s second time to wear the saddle and she was acting very cold-backed and hard to control. I let her go into the arena at liberty which was a mistake. Blue let off with a huge bucking explosion that would have made a rodeo bronc proud. I finally caught her and removed the saddle. The next lessons were only conducted with a sircingle since Blue’s behavior showed me that I’d gone too fast. I also reprimanded her for showing any bucking inclinations and rewarded her with some click/treats for walking and trotting slowly and relaxed.

Its almost the end of May and Blue is large and strong. She has been selected as a demonstration horse for a horse training clinic held by Chico Bond. Supposedly Chico is an expert in round penning and will work with each horse until they are “broke” or finished. This will be interesting with Blue. It may be her first time to be mounted.

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