Friday, September 11, 2009

Things To Work On

The first step in creating my training program is to clearly identify what it is that we need to work on. Here is what I have come up with so far.

On the ground

Fox: As he pretty much needs a total overhaul in this area it is hard to pinpoint things but I've found a few

1. Respecting my space.
He is terrible at this and until I realised that it wasn't such a good idea, I've been letting him get away him crowding. This also applies at feeding time.

2. His issues with being touched in certain places.
This includes particularly his feet and his nose. Both of these are highly inconvenient as they interfere with trimming and drenching.

3. Lunging.
I mentioned in a previous post that Fox can get aggressive when lunging. This is a real no no and has kind of put me off lunging so this is something we will probably work up to as his other ground manners improve.


1. Consistency
I think this is the most important thing for me to work on as Fox will find it very difficult to learn if I am not consistent in my rules.

2. Calmness
This means no anger, no fear, no frustration. I am getting better at this already but it still needs some work.

In the saddle


1. Rhythm
Regular rhythmical strides without me having to push and without him rushing.

2. Balance
Staying balanced through transitions and within gaits. No falling in or out on circles.

3. Impulsion
Really getting his big butt working and getting him off his forehand

4. Suppleness
Fox is still quite stiff so getting him to really bend throughout his whole body.

5. Collection
This is really the ultimate goal. I want this to be natural and unforced. I want Fox to carry himself.

6. Sideways movements
At the moment Fox doesn't really understand and the aid needs to be quite forceful. This is something that can be worked on from the ground too which should help.

7. Light aids
Getting Fox to respond to a nice light aid

8. Relaxation
Fox can get quite tense and when he does, his back hollows and his head pops up.


1. Aids
One aid at a time, either leg or hand, not both at the same time as it confuses the horse.

2. Lengthening of leg
I want my leg to be nice and long and no chair seat which I sometimes slip back into especially when Fox starts to rush.

3. Hands
My hands are often too low so learning to keep a straight line from my elbows to Fox's mouth.

4. Stop riding defensively
When Fox starts to rush, I start to tense, my chair seat appears and my hands get too hard.

5. Light elastic contact
Not too hard, not too soft. No pulling!

Wow that's a lot of stuff to work on!! I'm sure I've missed some out too.


  1. I haven't been keeping up with your posts, but I am glad to see you have found Andrew Mclean and agree with his philosophy.
    Definitely get to one of his clinics if you can. You will learn so much in a couple of days. And there are instructors in NZ who can teach you more. There is a movement to this ethical/scientific way of training that I hope will change the horse world. Forget about Tortilas and his flashy (hackney pony) trot - look to the classics.
    And I would recommend Andrew's new book, although expensive, it is a fabulous resource. Keep up the good work!

  2. I'm totally psyched about finding this way of training. I'm quite a scientific person, love reading studies and articles and finding a way of training that is based on sound scientific principles totally works for me. And the fact that its completely ethical is just awesome. It's given me so much more motivation now that I know there is way that fits with the way I want to train.

  3. Regarding the nose touching, and not knowing how he reacts or what you are doing when he does, here are a couple things I would suggest. Remember that horses have a blind spot right in front of their noses. You may be surprising him if your hand is coming up from that blind spot. Try touching higher up his face and stroking down, and see if he reacts differently. Also, due to that blind spot, horses have whiskers on their muzzles as an early-warning system. Try not shaving them off and see if he improves, he may bummp himself a lot and be hyper-sensitive about it.

  4. Thanks for that. I definately don't shave his whiskers off. Not a big fan of that. I do start from higher up, problem is he's been twitched a lot to get him to do things so he automatically associates hand on nose with pain. We did have a bit of a breakthrough today. He let me keep my hand for about 5 secs with no sign of resistance. Yay!

  5. Oh that's great! Small progress but progress nonetheless. I learned the value of leaving whiskers alone when my mare went blind, it certainly helps her. You are right, the twitch all the time would make him that way. It's too bad people take shortcuts instead of teaching horses right the first time, and people like you have to fix them after.

    Having made the progress you did today, I would see how far down his nose you can go and leave your hand for ten seconds. Not all the way to where he reacts, just above it, and stay there longer and longer. After you can stay there and go back and forth to it without him reacting, gradually and slowly go a little further, even a centimeter at a time.

    This is a great blog, I'm glad you wrote to mugwump, I have become a big fan of hers, the way she thinks about and explains things makes so much sense! I am like you, I grew up around horses and just did stuff, it wasn't until recently that I started putting a lot of thought into how and why.