April 22, 2014

Longeline training

I have been riding Hugo about two times a week for the past month now. It feels great to be riding somewhat regularly again. Now I just need to get back in the habit of blogging! Hugo is coming along well. EB and I have had a few "team meetings" regarding his training and I think we have a fairly in sync plan at the moment. I have also come out to give EB some pointers on her longeing and riding of Hugo to help sync our training/riding as well. What does that all mean? I have a lot of blogging backlog already! I even have some tattoo look up research to share. I will get to it all, but let’s start with the first order of business.

The most pressing training item at the moment is developing Hugo’s longeing skills.  As such, Hugo has been going through longeing 101, and he has become a stellar student. It became clear to me last fall that he had never been correctly trained to longe. Unfortunately the weather promptly changed and winter rolled right on in. 

Fast forward to this past month…

It was time to start working on longeing Hugo again. The big challenge with longe training him is erasing his past “training”. His only understanding of “longeing” has been being chased around a leadline by a stick with a plastic grocery bag on it, in tiny circles, until frothy and anxious until then being taught to stop, spin, and face his handler and not move except for going backward.  Unlike training a completely green horse how to longe we have the added challenge of erasing the wrong behavior at the same time. 

The longeing “re-training” game plan:
  1. Hugo has a longeing session before every single ride with either me or EB. Depending on his energy level and cooperation these sessions are 5-20 min long on a 20m circle.
  2. To start off, I had EB come out and assist me.  I stood in the middle of the circle while she walked on the outside of Hugo. We had him walk and halt on the circle. EB’s job was to reinforce what I was asking of him so that he would associate the correct behavior with my words and the signals from the longewhip.  We had a couple sessions like this, and EB also had her boyfriend come out and help her in the same manner. 
  3. Next I began longeing him, still just at the walk, without a helper. He had a few moments in the downward transition to halt where he would stop and spin and look at me. I would persistently put annoying repetitive pressure* on his inside shoulder asking him to walk on. The moment he began to relinquish his shoulder and move on to a walk I praised him and removed the pressure. *I have found that Hugo responds best to gentle-medium annoying repetitive pressure than abrupt abrasive pressure. 
  4. Once he began responding correctly to downward transitions and then moving off at the walk from the halt, I started working him at the trot as well. This is where we are in his longeing training at the moment. 
  5. The next step will be to start working at the canter. He still has a tendency to bolt off the circle when at the canter, so I am slowly working him up to this. The plan is to just ask for short bits of canter, rather than full circles and praise him for that effort. My hope is that he will associate the little bits of cantering on the circle as the correct thing to do, and then I will slowly ask him to canter longer and longer. Eventually the bolting should stop. In the mean time, he no longer gets to be free longed in the arena. This is because his bolting off the longeline is exactly the same pattern as when he bolts across the arena free longeing. It’s just one more association that needs to be broken. So, no more free longeing.
Good boy, halting squarely on the line. He know's his did right too!
Last night when I went out to ride he was stellar on the longeline. He didn't stop and spin once. He just halted nicely and squarely on the line and then continued on when asked. I almost felt like we were ready to work on the canter a bit, but I wanted to end with a big success, and I wanted to canter under saddle some, so I felt it best not to push it too much and leave it for another day. All in all Hugo is a smart boy, eager to work, and very cooperative. I am having lots of fun helping EB with him and I can’t wait until he gets to the point where she can feel comfortable and safe taking him to a show, and longe him amid chaos if need be. That is the goal for the summer!

Happy trails and swooshing tails!

1 comment:


Related Posts with Thumbnails