As I mentioned briefly in Friday’s post, Tex and I have been playing around with riding on a star. Well, we’ve been using cones tied to the round pen to ride a star pattern. He did absolutely wonderful with this last Thursday, so I need to come up with some ideas to make this even more interesting and complicated. (Any suggestions?)
One thing we’ll try which I really like to do after the horse gets really enthusiastic about moving forward and going to the next cone is to start throwing in random woahs. So, when we’re ten feet from the cone, and the horse is totally focussed on touching the cone, I’ll ask for a halt for several seconds. I won’t follow this by a click and treat. Instead, once the horse has halted and is quiet and relaxed, I’ll use the opportunity to go forward and get a treat for touching the cone as the reward.
But, back to what we’re doing now. Above, diagram A, is what we started with, five orange cones tied pretty much evenly around the round pen. We started with ground driving between them (thanks to some good discussions in last week’s comments that reminded me that more ground driving would probably be really useful at this point). Ground driving went pretty well, especially once he got the hang of the exercise.
Next I got on and we did the same star pattern (diagram B) mounted at the walk. He did great, especially after we had ridden through it once or twice. By the end, he seemed a lot more comfortable about moving forward for the entire distance. This is also a great exercise for walking in straight lines. The horse learns that once you point him in a certain direction, he should keep going, until you give further instructions.
Toward the end, I made the pattern a bit more complicated (diagram C). We’d start walking toward the next cone, but then veer off to the one beside it, instead. He was very focussed on going to what he thought was the correct cone, so he got a bit frustrated with this at first. I think incorporating some woah and go and a bit more variation into our straight lines will help him out.
Patterns are powerful because the horse learns where he is suppose to go. This can be helpful for teaching and emphasizing basic concepts. However, we have to make sure the horse is still paying attention to the rider, rather than just walking the pattern. It’s an interesting balance to play around with, but I think predictable patterns are a really useful concept to explore during some stages of a horse’s training. Do you have any specific patterns or exercises that you like to do while riding?