July 2, 2015

Calling and Rearing Oh My

It wasn't on my goals list, but it happened anyway. In prep for our dressage show last weekend, I rode Gentry more often than I had been since first bringing him home. I think I probably averaged 3 rides per week. That was the average, some weeks there were a few more. It sounds pathetic to me, given that I used to ride 4-5 days a week come rain or shine, literally, in Oregon. However, balancing life with a kiddo under foot, and snow in the winter, has definitely eaten into my self indulgent, therapeutic, ride time.

What does this have to do with calling, you ask?

Well, because I rode so much last month, there were days when I rode alone. In the arena, down in the park, 1/2 mile walking/stretching/warm-up ride from home. That meant Hugo was back at home. Alone.

Dear lord. You would think it was the end of the world!

Not really, it was just annoying to me how often Hugo would call for Gentry, and Gentry would call back. He would also get anxious as soon as we stepped foot in the arena. Tight backed and threatening to try and do little rear pops. He doesn't do any of this with a buddy in the arena, so it was a bit of a surprise the first time it happened.

I was having none of that nonsense, and drove my point home immediately!

How? You want my magical anti-calling anti-arena anxiety training methods? Well here you go. This is what generally works for me. I've addressed these issues before on other horses, and so far these methods have with all of them.

Problem #1: Calling

The second I feel the horse start to call, I immediately pull my inside rein to my knee, I do nothing else and I mean NOTHING, and I let the horse spin in tiny circles until he stops. I probably have to do this once more if I am on a smart cooperative horse that already accepts me as the brave leader, and a few times more if I am on a smart yet stubborn horse. Gentry sorted it out I believe after the second spin. After that I could still tell he was listening for Hugo but could feel him think about it and choose not to call back.

Problem #2: Tightening up and threatening to rear

I believe that rearers are made by bad training, and once you have one, well, you have one because no one else is going to buy that horse from you. So no matter what, I discourage any rear-like behavior the very moment it ever is attempted by a young horse. And in my experience, most young horses do attempt it as some point when they get confused about what to do with their feet, or anxious in the arena like Gentry.

How do I correct it? It couldn't be easier. As the horse is popping it's head up I smack them between the years with my crop (if I am lucky enough to have one in hand) or as hard as possible with my free hand (much to my soon to be sore free hand's dismay). The horse will immediately put their head down and then I immediately get their feet moving and make them go forward in whatever gate or direction they go. It doesn't matter what they do so long as the feet are going forward and not UP! After a couple times of this the young-in's get the picture and generally don't try it again. Problem solved and prevented!

So that was one of our surprise training accomplishments in June. I'm pretty happy that we quickly got past them and have moved on to more fun things like improving canter transitions and the beginnings of shoulder and haunches in.


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