As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, we’ve started riding Tex, one of the ponies at the rescue. This is pretty exciting because it is a huge milestone in his training. So far, I’m happy to report, he’s been brave and confident and taken everything completely in stride.
Here’s a short clip from Wednesday (his second ride) as well as a bit of information about what we’ve been doing so far. Starting horses under saddle does not have to be frightening or stressful for the horse. Clicker training helps our horses learn to be brave and confident so that they happily accept new experiences, even a rider on their back.
Tex had quite a bit of handling this fall. He’s worn a saddle and saddle pad and done some ground work exercises. Before actually getting on him for a ride, I spent several sessions leaning and crawling all over his back. This included leaning all my weight on him, kicking a leg over his hindquarters, laying on his back and hindquarters and sliding off each side. By the time I finally sat up, he was pretty bored with it all!
For his first ride, I let him do whatever he wanted, which was a lot of standing around. Since he had no inclination for voluntary forward movement I just waited for him to offer to move forward. Whenever he would, even if it was just a step or two, I would click and give him a treat. Eventually he got the hang of three steps forward, click, treat!
This is where people often get into trouble. Rather than giving the horse time to stand around and think, they try and make the horse move forward. Demanding too much at the beginning can easily lead to a confused or frightened horse.
For our second ride, we did more of the same. He will stop and flex his head around from the slightest touch on the lead rope, so I’m not too worried about working on woah at this point. Right now we’re working on forward motion and not worrying too much about which direction it takes us in. I want him to readily move forward when asked and to keep moving forward until asked to stop. I’m not asking at all at this point, I’m just taking what he offers me. We’ve built this up to about half a dozen steps so far.
You’ll notice on the video that he is very flexible! He is still figuring out exactly how to take a treat while I’m on his back, this requires a bit of balancing and positioning. However, overall he is doing great so far. I’m really proud of him and I think that he is going to turn out to be one really awesome little pony.