Zeke and I spent most of this week reviewing lunging and tying his head around so he learns to follow his nose – all in preparation for what we started today. Ground Driving! Here’s a picture of the head tying, so you can get an idea what that’s about:
With the above, I would tie his head to one side, then ask him to move with a cluck or a snap of the lunge whip. When he tried to move, he’d feel the pull of the reins on his bit, asking him to go to one side. As long as he gave in to the pull, it wouldn’t keep pulling – so by doing this to each side of his body, he teaches himself the correct way to respond to a rein being pulled sideways. That’s important, of course, because when you’re riding him, you want him to know that a pull to the side means ‘turn’ – not “jerk you head, have a fit, and run away from it” – which is often a first response! But he learned this very well over the week.
Yesterday after his session, I pulled out a flag. It was very windy, and the flag rippled and crackled in the wind. I wanted him to get used to the noise, but of course when I held it up all he wanted to know was whether he could eat it! He had no fear, so I walked him back to his pen with the flag held over our heads, sometimes letting it drag on his rump. He didn’t care, but a lot of the domestic horses we walked past got startled!
So that bring us to today. Today I attached the ground driving rope to Zeke. It’s a very long rope that clips to his bit on one side, runs through a ring at the side of the saddle, and loops back to attach the same way of the other side. The purpose it to lunge the horse, but hold the long rope and start using your hands the same way you would from his back – you can pull back gently on the reins when you ask him to stop, and pull one rein to ask him to turn. By lunging at all gaits and asking for frequent stops and turns, your horse gets more prepared for signals from a real rider!
We moved back to the small round pen for his first day, because it’s easier to maintain control in a small space. Cindy suggested that I connect the reins then ask him to move and ‘drag’ them, before I took hold. That way when the rope jiggled across his butt or touched his hind legs, he could figure it out without me trying to hang on. It was good advice, but in the end unnecessary, because Zeke never kicked or fussed about the rope dragging around him! I was proud of his patience.
So then I took the reins, and we started working at all the gaits, with me asking him with the same “whoa” I’ve been using to ask him to stop, then right after I say the word, I applied pressure to both reins to signal the stop. Whenever I wanted to turn, I’d shorten the outside rein and loosen the inside one, so he could follow it to the new direction. He got ‘stuck’ once or twice, not wanting to turn then deciding it was the only way out of his situation (good for him!), but for the most part, he got the idea and was very responsive!
He was such a good boy, and Cindy once again reminded me that I was going to be in trouble if I don’t stay on my toes, because he is very smart!
After his workout, Zeke stood tied for a while, and got a grooming. And I decided that since he’s wearing a bridle consistently now, he should have a little bridlepath. That’s the portion of the horse’s mane directly behind the ears, where the bridle sits. It’s commonly shaved flat, to make pulling the bridle and halter on and off easier, without getting all tangled up in hair. Of course, I didn’t want to wreck his gorgeous thick mane, so I just made a small path. And he stood for the noisy clippers as though they’d always been used on him! He wasn’t worried a bit.