I've gotten my beautiful girl back in training - finally. It's been a very long haul, but she was weaned from her baby a month ago and came back home to Leighton Farm. I was worried about her reaction to being separated from Z but she basically told me she'd gladly trade that baby for her turn out blanket. Graycie gets colder than any horse I've ever met and Jerry looked at me like I had six heads when I asked him about blanketing her at his place. I decided to wait until she got home. To be honest she did cry about the separation, but the blanket helped.
I know much more about training horses from racing to riding horse now than I knew when I had her in training before. Graycie spent her entire race career as the Queen of the World and I thought she could have that when she became a riding horse too. Not so much! She needs to learn to listen to me and have at least a shred of obedience. She basically looks as me as a convenience, not a boss. This made for some exciting rides on this incredibly athletic horse.
I made a plan to retrain her with all of my new knowledge starting with the behavior modification and I had visions of her being really mad and nasty. I expected this to be a very long haul, but I made a pact with myself that I would not move on in her training until we establish our new relationship. This was a real opportunity to start over. This time I want to do it right.
About a week ago I put her in the grooming stall on cross ties which was her first time with no problem. I groomed her, which she loves and saddled her without issue. It was the first time she'd had a saddle in over a year and a half. As we walked down the drive to the arena we did walk halts and after the third one she willingly walked when I spoke the words "walk on" and halted when I said "ho". She is very, very smart. Wow, I thought, this is going to be easier than I thought, but in the back of my mind I knew, this was Graycie. She wasn't going to give up her power that easy.
We proceeded into the arena where I planned to longe her. Now in the past, longeing was considered by Graycie to be the most heinous activity a human could dream up. To say she hated it would be an understatement. Add to that the fact that I did not understand longeing when I taught her how to do it and you have a recipe for failure. She basically knew how to run around in a circle on the longe line. Not much control there.
I know have tools in my tool box. I knew I had to start from the beginning with complete control and I also knew she expected complete chaos. She went out on the line uptight and on the verge of cutting and running. I asked her said "ho", she walked a bit faster and her head came up. I said "Graycie, I'm going to shank you." She said "so what" and started to trot. I shanked her and said "ho, walking". She did the downward transition to walk as she looked at me with the expression of I can't believe you did that. I did not want to trot until I had the walk. We did walk, halt transitions and in true Graycie style, she understood quickly and began to respond to my voice commands. "This is fun, Human, aren't you cute." When she would tighten her frame and lift her head, I would halt her because I knew she was thinking trot.
It was going well. Much better than I expected, but I also knew it couldn't be this easy, could it? She was becoming more obedient with each passing moment. I changed directions. To the right is a little more difficult for her, but she managed well. After about the fourth walk/halt transition, a disgusted look came over her face. As if to express "Wait a minute here, you're taking my power away, forget it human" and with that she was Airborne One. That's a little expression I use to describe what she does when she's not happy. It's not pretty and did I mention she is the most athletic horse I have ever encountered? I kept my composure and we "conferred" on who really was in control, out of the arena and up to the side of the barn. I never left my goal of the walk/halts. Graycie eventually gave in and went back to responding when I asked. It was a good day.
Now over the past ten days, I have worked her every day. She is now doing walk/halt, walk/trot, and most recently trot/canter transitions. Aside from a few disagreements, she has been doing as asked. This is good.
Yesterday I did not get to her until late. I normally do her as the first horse in the morning, but we've just changed her turn out time so I did her around 5 p.m. Last horse of the day. She seemed really grateful and it occurred to me that she probably thought I wasn't going to work with her. Graycie has always loved training, except when she had the foot problem. She enjoys a routine. I am starting to see a softer side to her. I think she is happy that I am taking more control. The responsibility is off of her and she seems to be relaxing.
I know she will always be Graycie and she will always have that athletic ability to manufacture exciting resistance, but this new foundation I am laying with her is exciting because I think she is embracing it.
My beautiful girl is back and this is very good for me.
On Laying Down The Foundation in Dressage
6 years ago