October 11, 2013

Hugo learns to longe

One of the things EB mentioned when I was meeting Hugo the first time was how she had to free longe him because he doesn't know how to longe and bolted on her. Since the outdoor arena at EB's barn is not lit, and daylight is quickly waning in the evenings, I have pretty much run out of time to free longe Hugo and ride. So I decided to forgo riding, and start teaching the boy how to longe property. Happily when I arrived at the barn no one else was riding so I could put my plan into action.

My assumption with all green horses is that they've never seen or done anything. This way they get introduced to things nice and slowly. If it's new they will have a positive relationship with said object/task, if it's not new and they have a previous fear of it then they will make it known and we will work on desensitization and correcting the fear, and if it is old news then we can just reinforce the proper training and move onto the next task.

  1. First I "free longed" him. This consisted of me chasing him from grass patch to grass patch around the very large arena. He exhibited very little interest in running around, so I threw in the towel on that rather quickly. At some point I lost my desire and steam to run around an arena chasing a horse. I figure if they don't run around on their own accord then they don't have that much energy to burn off.
  2. Second, I did a little bit of ground work to try and get his attention on me, rather than the grass patches under the fence line. 
  3. Third, I put on my helmet and gloves and I introduced him to the longing cavesson. He clearly hadn't had one on before and only showed a mild concern (ear twitch and hairy eyeball) about the metal loops rattling on his nose. Once it was properly fitted I lead him around by it for a few minutes. He didn't know really what to think of  the longeline being attached above his nose and defaulted to halting a few times. After a few minutes I got him to walk better.
  4. Then it was time to longe. Because I had no idea how he'd react, and I assume his only "longeing" has consisted of being chased around at the end of a 10' lead rope in a rope halter and being kissed or clucked at, I decided to leave the longe whip out of the equation until next time and use what he was likely familiar with to apply pressure. If he didn't respond then I would use the longe whip. So I swung the end of my longeline in a circular motion like the NH people do (assuming this is his prior experience with longeing). My only goal for this was to get him to walk/trot on a good sized circle and begin to listen for and recognize my vocal walk trot commands. 

To my surprise Hugo is a very good and willing student. He clearly had no idea what I was asking him to do initially. I had to lead him in a circle and associate the words walk and trot of course. I even had to kiss/cluck at first, gah. But we got passed that and he was going off my verbal commands rather quickly. He also initially did the annoying NH thing where at the halt he would spin and face me. I hate this when longing. People don't get how dangerous it is for the person on the ground if the horse decides to charge you. Unlikely to happen, yes, but still very possible. I do think it is a good ground work exercise for babies to get them to pay attention to you, I just don't like it having an association with longeing. He figured out to stop spinning quickly though, as I would send him right back off to the walk anytime he spun. We longed in both directions, quitting once he gave me good upward and downward transitions and halted perpendicular to the line. He was also licking and chewing like mad by the time we stopped. I was so pleased with him.

As for the bolting, only once early on did he pause at the trot and think about bolting. The second I applied a tiny bit of pressure on the cavesson he abandoned that idea and continued on at the trot. So, no bolting = win! Granted we did not canter yet, and in my experience that is when more of the bolting happens with the youngsters. My plan is to get him going well at the walk and trot, so he understands that he is to just keep going in circles, and then I will introducing cantering. I don't want to jinx myself, but I don't think it will be much of an issue. Once everything becomes a non-issue then I will try longeing him in tack.

It occurred to me on my drive home that my training and reaction skills have become extremely well honed. Rose did that for me. Early on I think it was a matter of survival, but then became a wonderful asset to my training abilities. I had to think one step a head of her, anticipate all possible outcomes, and react before she had time to act. Certainly I can always learn more in regards to training, but if I had the skills that I have now back when I first got Rose many things would have been much easier. It makes me excited for my next youngster. I'm glad I have Hugo to help EB with in the mean time so that I don't get rusty on the green horse front.

Happy trails and swooshing tails!

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