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By Meredith Hodges
Most equines can be taught to carry a rider in a relatively short time. However, just because they are compliant doesn’t mean their body is adequately prepared for what they will be asked to do and that they are truly mentally engaged in your partnership. We can affect our equine’s manners and teach them to do certain movements and in most cases, we will get the response that we want…at least for the moment. Most of us grow up thinking that getting the animal to accept a rider is a reasonable goal and we are thrilled when they quickly comply. When I was first training equines, I even thought that to spare them the weight of the rider when they were younger, it would be beneficial to drive them first as this seemed less stressful for them. Of course, I was then unaware of the multitude of tiny details that were escaping my attention due to my limited education. I had a lot to learn.
Because my equines reacted so well during training, I had no reason to believe that there was anything wrong with my approach until I began showing them and started to experience resistant behaviors in my animals that I promptly attributed to simple disobedience. I had no reason to believe that I wasn’t being kind and patient until I met my dressage instructor, Melinda Weatherford. I soon learned that complaining about Sundowner’s negative response to his dressage lessons and blaming HIM was not going to yield any shortcuts to our success. The day she showed up with a big button on her lapel that said, “No Whining” was the end of my complaining and impatience, and the beginning of my becoming truly focused on the tasks at hand. I learned that riding through (and often repeating) mistakes did not pose any real solutions to our problems. I attended numerous clinics from all sorts of notable professionals and we improved slowly, but a lot of the problems were still present. Sundowner would still bolt and run when things got a bit awkward, but he eventually stopped bolting once I changed my attitude and approach, and when he was secure in his core strength in good equine posture.
I thought about what my grandmother had told me years ago about being polite and considerate with everything I did. Good manners were everything to her and I thought I was using good manners. I soon found that good manners were not the only important element of communication. Empathy was another important consideration…to put oneself in the other “person’s” shoes, and that could be attributed to animals as well. So I began to ask myself how it would feel to me if I was approached and treated the way I was treating my equines. My first epiphany was during grooming. It occurred to me that grooming tools like a shedding blade might not feel very good unless I was careful about the way I used it. Body clipping was much more tolerable for them if I did the hard-to-get places first and saved the general body for last. Standing for long periods of time certainly did not yield a calm, compliant attitude when the more tedious places were left until last. After standing for an hour or more, the animal got antsy when I was trying to do more detailed work around the legs, head, flanks and ears after the body, so I changed the order. Generally speaking, I slowed my pace and eliminated any abrupt movements on my part to give the equine adequate time to assess what I would do next and approached each task very CAREFULLY. The results were amazing! I could now groom, clip bridle paths and fly spray everyone with no halters even in their turnout areas as a herd. They were all beginning to really trust me.
There was still one more thing my grandmother had said that echoed in my brain, “You are going to be a sorry old woman if you do not learn to stand up straight and move in good posture!” Good posture is not something that we are born with. It is something that must be learned and practiced repetitiously so it becomes habitual for it to really contribute to your overall health. Good posture begins at the core, “the innermost, essential part of anything.” In a human being, it lies behind the belly button amongst the vital organs and surrounded by the skeletal frame. In a biped, upon signals from the brain, energy impulses run from the core and up from the waist, and simultaneously down through the lower body and legs. The core of an equine is at the center of balance in the torso and energy runs primarily horizontally from the core in each direction. Similar to bipeds, they need the energy to run freely along the hindquarters and down through the hind legs to create a solid foundation from which to allow the energy in front to rise into suspension to get the most efficient movement. When their weight is shifted too much onto the front end, their ability to carry a rider efficiently and move correctly is compromised. To achieve correct energy flow and efficient movement, the animal’s internal supportive structures need to be conditioned in a symmetrical way around the skeletal frame. People can do this by learning to walk with a book on their head and with Pilates exercises, but how can we affect this same kind of conditioning in a quadruped?
The first thing I noticed is when we lead our animals with the lead rope in the right hand, we drop our shoulder and are no longer in good posture. When we walk, our hand moves ever so slightly from left to right as we walk. We inadvertently move the equine’s head back and forth. They balance with their head and neck and thus, we are forcing them off balance with every step that we take; and since movement builds muscle, they are being asymmetrically conditioned internally and externally with every step we take together. In order to correct this, we must allow the animal to be totally in control of his own body as we walk together. We are cultivating proprioception or “body awareness.”
During the time you do the core strength leading exercises, you should NOT ride the animal as this will inhibit the success of these preliminary exercises. It will not result in the same symmetrical muscle conditioning, habitual behavior and new way of moving. The lessons need to be routine and done in good posture from the time you take your equine from the pen until the time you put him away for the best results. Hold the lead rope in your LEFT hand keeping slack in the lead rope, keep his head at your shoulder, match your steps with his front legs, point in the direction of travel with your right hand and look where you are going. Carry his reward of oats in a fanny pack around your waist. He’s not likely to bolt if he knows his reward is right there in the fanny pack.
Plan to move in straight lines and do gradual turns that encourage him to stay erect and bend through his rib cage, keeping an even distribution of weight through all four feet. Square him up with equal weight over all four feet EVERY TIME you stop and reward him with oats from your fanny pack. Then wait patiently for him to finish chewing. We are building NEW habits in the equine’s way of moving and the only way that can change is through routine, consistency in the routine and correctness in the execution of the exercises. Since this requires that you be in good posture as well, you will also reap the benefits from this regimen. Along with feeding correctly (explained on my website at www.luckythreeranch.com), these exercises will help equines to drop fat rolls and begin to develop the top line and abdominal strength in good posture. The spine will then be adequately supported to easily accept a rider. He will be better able to stand still as you pull on the saddle horn to mount.
When the body is in good posture, all internal organs can function properly and the skeletal frame will be supported correctly throughout his entire body. This will greatly minimize joint problems, arthritis and other anomalies that come from asymmetrical development and compromises in the body. Just as our children need routine, ongoing learning and the right kind of exercise while they are growing up, so do equines. They need boundaries for their behavior clearly outlined to minimize anxious behaviors and inappropriate behavior, and the exercises that you do together need to build strength and coordination in good equine posture. The time spent together during leading training and going forward slowly builds a good solid relationship with your equine and fosters his confidence and trust in you. He will know it is you who actually helps him to feel physically much better than he ever has.
Core muscle strength and balance must be done through correct leading exercises on flat ground. Coordination can be added to his overall carriage with the addition of negotiating obstacles on the lead rope done the same way. Once familiar with the obstacles, you will need to break them down into very small segments where the equine is asked to randomly halt squarely every couple of steps through the obstacle. You can tell when you have successfully achieved core strength in good balance when your equine will perform accurately with the lead rope slung over his neck. He will stay at your shoulder, respond to hand signals and body language only and does what is expected perfectly. A carefully planned routine coupled with an appropriate feeding program is critical to your equine’s healthy development.
The task at the leading stage is not only to teach them to follow, but to have your equine follow with his head at your shoulder as you define straight lines and gradual arcs that will condition his body symmetrically on all sides of the skeletal frame. This planned course of action also begins to develop a secure bond between you. Mirror the steps of his front legs as you go through the all movements keeping your own body erect and in good posture. Always look in the direction of travel and ask him to square up with equal weight over all four feet every time he stops and reward him. This kind of leading training develops strength and balance in the equine body at the deepest level so strengthened muscles will hold the bones, tendons and ligaments and even cartilage in correct alignment. Equines that are not in correct equine posture will have issues involving organs, joints, hooves and soft tissue trauma. This is why it is so important to spend plenty of time perfecting your techniques every time you lead your equine.
The equine next needs to build muscle so he can sustain his balance on the circle without the rider before he will be able to balance with a rider. An equine that has not had time in the round pen to establish strength, coordination and balance on the circle with the help of our postural restraint called the “Elbow Pull” will have difficulty as he will be pulled off balance with even the slightest pressure. He will most likely raise his head, hollow his back and lean like a motorcycle into the turns. When first introduced to the “Elbow Pull,” his first lesson in the round pen should only be done at the walk to teach him to give to its pressure, arch his back and stretch his spine while tightening his abs. If you ask for trot and he resists against the “Elbow Pull,” just go back to the walk until he can consistently sustain this good posture while the “Elbow Pull” stays loose. He can gain speed and difficulty as his proficiency increases.
Loss of balance will cause stress, and even panic that can result in him pulling the lead rope, lunge line or reins under saddle right out of your hands and running off. This is not disobedience, just fear from a loss of balance and it should not be punished, just ignored and then calmly go back to work. The animal that has had core strength built through leading exercises, lunging on the circle and ground driving in the “Elbow Pull” before riding will not exhibit these seemingly disobedient behaviors. Lunging will begin to develop hard muscle over the core muscles and internal supportive structures you have spent so many months strengthening during leading training exrecises. It will further enhance your equine’s ability to perform and stay balanced in action, and play patterns in turnout will begin to change dramatically as this becomes his habitual way of going. Be sure to be consistent with verbal commands during all these beginning stages as they set the stage for better communication and exceptional performance later. Although you need to spend more time in his beginning training than you might want to, this will also add to your equine’s longevity and use-life by as much as 5-10 years. The equine athlete that has a foundation of core strength in good equine posture, whether used for pleasure or show, will be a much more capable and safe performer than one that has not, and he will always be grateful to YOU for his comfort.
To learn more about Meredith Hodges and her comprehensive all-breed equine training program, visit LuckyThreeRanch.com or call 1-800-816-7566. Check out her children’s website at JasperTheMule.com. Also, find Meredith on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.
© 2018, 2021 Lucky Three Ranch, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Wrangler is such a goof ball! Because Wrangler would lock up in front of the Tack Barn and not want to walk over the grate, I got smart and learned to take Chasity to the Tack Barn first. Then, he didn’t even notice the grate and walked right in! However, he gets pretty rambunctious about waiting his turn. I could lead them both at once, but he needs to learn to be by himself with me sometimes…and BEHAVE! When I first got Wrangler, he would get excited like this and then just try run over me when I opened the stall door. Through repetition and humane discipline, I changed his behavior with Behavior Modification, a systematic reward system of training. To be successful, one needs to target the behaviors that need to change, set up the equine for success and promptly reward the positive behaviors as they occur. AND, you need a specific, consistent and humane way to stop bad behaviors in their tracks when they occur. We work on the premise of POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT, but we also need to learn how to use NEGATIVE REINFORCEMENT if one does not want to be hurt, or even killed, by these VERY LARGE and STRONG animals!
The negative reinforcement that I use really works. When he got aggressive the first time, I raised my hand like a stop sign and when he did not stop, he got a firm slap to the side of his mouth as I said, “NO!” as loud as I could. I promptly raised my hand like a stop sign in front of his face again after which he started to turn back around. I quickly took a handful of oats from my fanny pack, took a step forward and offered him the oats. He did a double-take and came back for the oats to which I replied, “Thank you for giving me my space!” Going forward, he still occasionally gets too aggressive, but he always stops when I put my hand up like a stop sign in front of his face and takes a step back. He won’t need to be slapped again since this was done correctly the first time. He remembers!
As soon as I open the stall door now, Wrangler immediately stops his antics and becomes a gentleman that can be rewarded. He stands stock still while I put on the halter and then drops his head at my shoulder. I hold his lead rope in my left hand while pointing in the direction of travel with my right hand. I tell him to “Walk on” and look down to see what foot he is leading with and follow his front legs, step for step. We get IN SYNC with each other and I lead him that way from the time he leaves his pen to the time he returns. I do this the very same way with ALL of my equines ALL of the time. Consistency breeds familiarity and compliance.
Donkeys have issues with chronic runny eyes and noses. The way to stave off any infection is to clean their eyes, nostrils and ears with a damp towel daily. This also encourages them to accept handling around their face in general.
Donkeys are inherently desert animals and can severely founder or colic on lush feed. Symptoms of too rich feed will be manifested in the hooves as abscesses, crusty growth, collapsed heels and frogs, or just plain stress rings. Wrangler has abnormally small rear hooves and it is important that his core strength is developed in good postural balance to make sure the weight distribution is even so none of his hooves are carrying too much weight for his size.
Wrangler is rather flat-withered and needs a saddle that will “hug” his body, leaving ample room for his spine.
I initially tighten the girth snug, but not too tight. The crupper is adjusted so the tail lies comfortably.
I gently press on the bars of his jaw to open his mouth for the bit and carefully bring the crown of the bridle over his ears, protecting them with my hand. Being polite and considerate will get much more cooperation from your equine.
I adjust all the straps on the bridle so it is comfortable, paying special attention around the ears. The drop noseband helps him learn to hold the bit properly. I always gradually tighten the girth over several times.
The walk to the Round Pen is still IN SYNC…all three of us! Wrangler’s “Elbow Pull” postural restraint is adjusted and he is reminded how to release the tension.
Wrangler’s posture has greatly improved over three years and has given him added strength, endurance, stamina and animation to his gaits. He defies the slow and pokey characterization of donkeys in general! He’s a true athlete!
Wrangler and Chasity do a very nice reverse in sync with each other. Wrangler resumes the working walk.
Five rotations at walk, five rotations at trot, reverse and repeat in the other direction. We do 3 sets with a 3-minute break in between. Rewards are in order with every halt. With every halt, Wrangler is asked to rebalance and square up!
Then I begin riding with three rotations at trot in each direction. I carry a riding crop in case he needs a little encouragement to keep going. If he gets too tired, we call it quits and will do more another day.
I always end the sessions with a halt and rein back. Then I dismount and reward him again for a job well done!
Back in the Tack Barn at the work station, I carefully remove the bridle. I always hold the halter crown strap in my right hand while removing the bridle. I then slip the bridle onto my left arm, pick up the nose band of the halter in my left hand, bring it over his nose and buckle the halter. This way, if he pulls away, I still have my arms (and halter) around his neck to hold on to him.
We make our way back to the barn and Wrangler waits patiently while Chasity enters the stall first (Ladies first, you know!). He follows her sedately into the stall and they both turn around to me to have their halters removed and to receive their rewards. Wrangler “suggests” to me politely that I should hurry with Chasity’s halter and get to the rewards…QUICKLY! He’s still hungry!!! Silly boy!!!
Due to the colder and more inclement weather here in Colorado, Chasity has been off her exercise program for about three months. It was time to get back to work! No matter how long it has been between lessons, when you have a specific routine, the equines seem to comply easily because they know what to expect, beginning with going to their regular work station to be groomed and tacked up. In order to keep upper respiratory disease at bay, eye infections and ear problems to a minimum, it is advisable to clean these areas with a damp towel regularly. Be polite and wipe the towel in the direction that the hair lays and clean the nostrils with a circular motion. This repetition will prevent them from getting head shy.
Chasity still thinks the vacuum cleaner is questionable, but she tolerates it now. Not only does it pull the dirt from the skin for healthy hair growth, it also promotes circulation better than massage and does a better job at softening her “fat roll.” I used massage in the beginning when Chasity first came here with her enlarged crest (photo below on the right).
It had become somewhat enlarged again about three weeks ago, but after two sessions with the vacuum cleaner, it has decreased substantially already.
Another valuable therapeutic grooming tool is this simple human, multi-bristled hairbrush. It is not only VERY helpful during shedding, but also works to further stimulate the hair coat and promote better circulation, as well as efficiently removing dirt from the skin. I have found it to be more helpful for healthy hair than any equine grooming tools. The long, thick hair coats of winter and spring stay soft and healthy when I use this hair brush over the entire body. I only clip bridle paths when the weather gets warmer and I leave body clipping for showing. The only other grooming tools I use are a shedding blade to remove mud and a dandy brush to finish the coat. They can have balding spots from rubbing during the shedding season and may even get sores, but I just treat those with Neosporin and they recede quickly. A healthy hair coat will insulate your equine from the heat and cold and protect them from insects better than any artificial products or practices.
Equines do like feeling clean all over and really do appreciate your efforts at keeping them this way…although, they don’t necessarily show it when the first thing they do after a good grooming is to go for a good roll in the dirt!!! Still, they do seem to realize that you care and will show their appreciation in a multitude of other ways…like being happy to leave their companions to go with YOU and stand quietly during grooming, tacking and hoof care!
Feeding is a very important consideration for healthy hooves as are regular trims when needed, usually every 8-10 weeks. For donkeys, it can even be longer between trims when they wear their hooves in good balance. Chasity had hoof issues when she first arrived, but is now sporting healthy balanced feet! Remember that Longears will be more upright and have more heel than horses and ponies…and donkeys will typically be more upright and have more heel than mules.
Fitting saddles can be tricky. Make sure the saddle makes even contact behind the withers and over the back with relief from pressure over the spine. Many saddles sit too high and cause centralized and uneven pressure across the back. Pressure points are easily identified after a workout. The back will be sweaty, but the pressure points will be dry.
Place the saddle in the center of the back, behind the shoulder blade, the girth falling 4” behind the forearm where the skin is thicker and body begins to swell. I have successfully used cruppers with the buckles set away from the tail to hold it in place. The crupper is adjusted with just enough tension so the tail will still be able to rest comfortably.
I am using the neck sweat on Chasity for lunging to promote a decrease in the crest. When bridling, I press my thumb on the bars of her mouth to get it open and protect her ears with my hands as I pull the crown piece to the poll. This promotes trust and keeps any equine from getting ear shy.
On an English saddle there is a small d-ring that I use to tie up the reins.
Then it is off to the Round Pen. I always stay in sync with their front legs when we walk and execute the gates EXACTLY the same way EVERY TIME! All movements are predictable, never abrupt. They comply due to trust.
I adjust Chasity’s postural restraint, the “Elbow Pull,” and then remind her to give to the tension to get the release with a reward of oats for flexing at the poll. Wrangler, “Mr. Curiosity” watches intently…they do learn from each other!
Chasity’s overall posture has changed dramatically as has her movement. She uses her body much more efficiently.
Chasity has strong hind quarter engagement with an uphill balance to promote enthusiasm, endurance and stamina.
A reward is always in order for a job well done. Her forward stretch has improved greatly in one short year.
The lateral stretches are also much improved. After five rotations of walk, then trot, then reverse and repeat the other direction, 3 sets with a 3 minute break in between, then stop. Done once a week is adequate to maintain conditioning.
I hold the halter crown strap in my hand and protect her ears as I remove Chasity’s bridle. Then I slip the bridle onto my left arm, bring the noseband over her nose with my left hand and fasten the halter to the strap in my right hand. This ensures that I can keep hold of her should she try to pull away. Last, I fasten the tie strap from the hitch rail.
I always unfasten the girth on the left, then tie up the girth on the right, slide the saddle back, loosen the crupper from the tail and take off the saddle on the right side. This gets the equine used to being handled from BOTH sides. I always rinse the bits and wipe any dirt from the bridles and saddles before putting them away…saves work in the long run!
I remove Chasity’s neck sweat to see how much sweat is underneath…encouraging! We are definitely making progress!
To end, we do a few more stretches in each direction. These are improving immensely, too!
Then it’s walking IN SYNC back to the barn for turnout in the larger dry lot. They enter the stall, ladies first, and then they both turn around to allow me to remove their halters and to enjoy their last reward. I keep all my donkeys off grass most of the time. I find that they stay healthier and do not run the risk of getting obese that way. They do have large dry lots for turnout on pea gravel every day and a couple of acres of dirt pen for really stretching their legs every other day. They do get some grass when we go for walks, but do not seem to miss it most of the time. They are too busy playing and resting with each other…and looking forward to our next lesson TOGETHER!
The following is from All About Equine Animal Rescue:
We got some not so good news this morning. Zena’s right eye, the good eye, lost the battle with the ulcer; her right eye ruptured. As a result, she needed surgery to remove the eye. Fortunately, everything went well, and she’ll be coming home soon.
We will be happy to have her back at the barn soon to help her adjust to a new world. Her left eye is doing much better and will likely require ongoing treatment for uveitis. Fortunately, uveitis can me managed long term if it doesn’t resolve.
Please send Zena some healing thoughts!
Need to catch up on Zena’s health situation? Read about it here.
Thank you to the supporters who have already donated towards her care. We are so grateful for our community!
If you’re able to help with her surgery and additional care costs, Zena and everyone at AAE would appreciate your support.
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BOOTS IS BACK!!!
We are so excited our 8th Annual Boots and Bling event is scheduled (in-person), Saturday August 21st at the El Dorado County Fairgrounds. This event will feature a BBQ dinner, DJ music, and live, silent, and dessert auctions. We hope you will be able to join us! Stay tuned for more information to come!
Would you like to help? We are looking for volunteers to help with event planning, decor, ticket sales, sponsorship, auction item donations, and more.
If you are interested in helping, please email BandB@allaboutequine.org
If you are interested in becoming an event sponsor, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are interested in donating to the auctions, please email Dani@allaboutequine.org
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For more information, click on the name to visit the horse’s or donkey’s webpage, and submit an Adoption Inquiry if you’d like to explore adoption.
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A lot of people tell me they have problems when their jennets or molly mules are in heat. And, they expect the behaviors of their gelding to change drastically when they are castrated. In my experience, it really doesn’t make much difference if you have a fair and equitable management and training program. When their bodies are managed in a healthy way and they are consistently taught good manners, they will be willing and able to perform well regardless. I always approach training in a fair and equitable manner that does not throw too much at them all at once so as to avoid anxiety. Wrangler and Chasity both appreciate this (as did my jack, stallion and other females). It wasn’t until AFTER this lesson that I realized that Chasity was in heat and Wrangler was EXCITED about it! This program is a slow, logical and sequential approach that the equines truly appreciate and respond to positively no matter their mood. The results are miraculous!
Today, we were to begin with an interview about donkeys. Wrangler watched intently while Robbie wired me with the microphone. Then we went to the center of the Round Pen where I set him up and asked Wrangler to stand quietly while we did the interview, and he did what he was told. Such a good boy!
After the interview, Wrangler did his exercises of five rotations at walk, trot and even a little bit of canter. He is getting really good about stretching his spine from head to tail and his flexibility is greatly improved.
Since Wrangler had previously bolted with the lunge line in the dressage arena, I thought another lesson might be in order. I asked for the halt. Then we went to the open arena where I tied the end of the lunge line to the his bit with four inches to spare that I ran under his chin and snapped to the bit ring on the other side. This would prevent the bit from being pulled through his mouth.
I first lunged him to the right at walk and trot, halted him and changed the line to the other side. I gave a slight pull on the lunge line as his outside front leg was in suspension as a cue to keep him on the arc of the circle.
Wrangler did very well, so I stopped him and he stood quietly while I rolled up the lunge line. He followed me when I put away the line and stood still again while I prepared to mount.
Once mounted, the reward was in order followed by a rein back. He was offering more steps in each new lesson with only very slight squeeze/releases from my little fingers.
We did a very well-balanced turn on the haunches and made our way into the Hourglass Pattern. Wrangler proceeded forward with an energized working walk.
Wrangler remained erect in his body carriage as we made our way through the pattern, bending his body appropriately through his rib cage to the arcs of the turns and moving in good posture on straight lines.
Wrangler remained soft in his response to my hands, seat and legs. Donkeys are notorious for leaning against pressure, so it was imperative that I kept myself relaxed and “giving” to his movement.
Wrangler’s internal pendulum kept him moving through the Hourglass Pattern in a very nice balance, first through the pattern one way, across the diagonal and again in the opposite direction. My inside leg at the girth on the turns helped him to stay erect while my outside leg was well back to support the bend and encourage impulsion.
Wrangler obediently executed a square halt followed by a nice rein back with the lightest of cues from my fingertips. When you are patient and spend the time to train your equine this way, it makes a world of difference in their gaits and produces an incredibly smooth ride!
Wrangler stood quietly during the dismount and went through the gate perfectly! It was truly a resistance-free lesson! That is what you will get when you spend time on accuracy and wait for speed to come later.
Wrangler and Chasity both stood stock still while I got Chasity untied, then we all walked happily in sync together back to the Tack Barn! Leading them together is never a problem! The boundaries to good behavior have been established from the very beginning. They both know clearly what is expected!
Chasity and Wrangler enjoy working with each other nearby and seem to learn things a lot quicker with a lot less resistance. It also affords me the ability to work more animals in less time. It’s a win-win situation. It doesn’t mean they won’t work by themselves. They will do that as well when they get to work with and without each other. This consistent routine with minimal variety greatly reduces anxiety and bad behaviors. The “Elbow Pull” is convenient for tying one while the other is working. There is no need to fuss with halters and lead ropes. I tie Wrangler while Chasity waits her turn patiently. It is a passive way to teach them to stand quietly when tied.
Today we will be going to the outdoor arena for riding in the Hourglass Pattern, but I opt to do some warm-up in the Round Pen first because I do not want to ask Chasity to trot in the Hourglass Pattern just yet. It is better to get her exercise done first, so we can then work on fine tuning her response to the aids: hands, seat and legs. Trotting will come later when she is consistent in her good posture, ultra-light in the bridle, moving off my legs easily and is following my seat.
Wrangler is tied outside the arena just as he has been tied outside the Round Pen. Chasity comes through the gate, stands squarely and receives her reward with no abrupt changes to the routine.
Chasity stands quietly as I mount, settle gently onto her back and politely receives her reward. She is enjoying being in a larger space, but is not anxious to walk off. She will do so only when I ask.
Chasity’s rein back is greatly improved and she is offering more steps upon request each time. She will only step one step at a time as I ask for them, and will also stop when I relax my seat and loosen the reins. I maintain a light connection to her mouth and I give the cue to move forward with my calves wrapped lightly around her belly. I maintain this contact with my legs and just nudge her on each side through the turns while I give a slight squeeze/ release with my little finger in the direction of travel.
Chasity enjoys the feeling of “being hugged” by my legs with only gentle nudges from each side that push her into the direction of travel, and a nudge from both sides at once should she lose energy.
Most of the time, my legs lightly hug her sides and allow her the freedom to move while they simply support the even balance through the straight lines in the pattern. As we turn, the inside leg will move forward to the girth to keep her erect while the outside leg is back further and supports the bend to the arc of the turns.
When Chasity is balanced in self-carriage, the “Elbow Pull” remains loose, she is light in the bridle and sensitive to my seat and legs. Wrangler watches her with intense interest! He knows he will soon have a turn!
Keeping lessons short, slow and accurate will enhance Chasity’s ability to learn. We track once around the Hourglass Pattern with circles at the cones, then cross the diagonal and do the same in the opposite direction.
In the beginning, I do not use the ground rails as I did for leading exercises. It is more important for Chasity to focus on balancing my newly added, shifting weight before asking her to shift her own body weight and mine over any obstacles. I want her secure in her own balance with me aboard before we do any obstacles.
Chasity is learning to execute an energetic, forward working walk in complete postural balance. She makes a smooth turn, maintains her forward energy and tracks up the centerline of the pattern.
Chasity comes to a nice, balanced halt, waits patiently for a few seconds and then reins back easily upon request.
I dismount, loosen her girth and release the “Elbow Pull.” Chasity remains attentive and then stretches her neck and spine before we exit the arena. It was a relaxing and comfortable workout for us both. Maybe next time, we will be able to add the trot…if she offers it! We want to keep things controlled and accurate so she builds up the core elements in her body symmetrically. This is vital to good health and optimum performance!
After extensive work in the Round Pen getting Chasity and Wrangler light in the bridle, we are finally ready to graduate to the Hourglass Pattern in the open arena. They enjoy working together, so I just take them both together and tie one outside the working area while I work with the other. We only do these lessons weekly, but they seem to practice good posture on their own during turnout in between lessons. Their play and rest patterns are changing and their posture is improving dramatically. They can now support my weight efficiently in the saddle, so it is now time to hone their skills in a more open setting where we can work more freely. They could trot while sustaining their good postural balance in the Round Pen without my added weight, but that is a pretty restricted place to introduce the trot with my weight in the saddle. So I will tie up Wrangler with his “Elbow Pull” while I work with Chasity.
As always, she leads easily, politely negotiates the gate and stands quietly while I adjust her “Elbow Pull” and adjust her equipment. I will tighten the girth a bit more for lunging to hold the saddle in place. I always tighten the girth a little at a time and not all at once for her comfort. She appreciates my consideration.
In preparation for riding, I will lunge Chasity first. When I ride her, I want her sufficiently warmed up and responsive to perfecting our communication skills. The five rotations at walk, then trot in each direction is sufficient exercise with some speed as she is now well-balanced while performing these tasks. The faster gaits under saddle will come later.
Chasity executes a very nice reverse and immediately slows to the walk, maintaining her good posture. When they are in a good equine posture, the entire length of the spine is stretched, causing space and elasticity between the vertebrae.
If the equine is perpetually allowed to carry their head too high, the vertebrae can become stuck and calcified too close together and over time can cause a condition called “Kissing Spine” that keeps the spine rigid and inflexible.
After a sufficient warm up with the addition of a bit of canter while tracking to the right, Chasity is ready to be ridden in the Hourglass Pattern. She obediently comes out the gate and turns to me for her reward.
I politely mount, settle onto her back softly and offer her reward as I did in the Tack Barn and then in the Round Pen. She stands absolutely still.
Then we do a rein back before moving forward into the Hourglass Pattern. Contrary to popular belief, this “pattern training” will allow Chasity to concentrate on the details of tracking forward, bending and staying light in the bridle.
The arcs and turns in the Hourglass Pattern allow Chasity’s internal pendulum to swing from side to side and come to rest at dead center when she finally halts. She maintains straight lines and bends to the arcs through her rib cage.
When an equine is perpetually schooled on the rail or in too many circles in one direction and then another, this radical movement does not allow the internal pendulum to become centered and balanced.
There is an optical illusion that takes place when riding the rail that “pushes” the balance continuously to one side. Straight lines become difficult and bending will be stiff at best.
This swaying in the Hourglass Pattern from one arc to another keeps the internal pendulum moving freely from side to side while the equine moves freely forward. It produces fluid motion and relaxation in the equine.
All of this keeps the animal responsive, light in the bridle and facilitates good postural movement that results in squared halts and straight rein backs. They enjoy their work because it FEELS good!
Chasity stands still while I fish in my pocket for her final reward for a job well done! Her balance is solid!
We then go back to the Round Pen area to retrieve Wrangler from his “spectator seat!” Wrangler and Chasity have been taught exactly and consistently the same way, so they are quite maneuverable and willing to do as I ask. I have not experienced a “balky” donkey or mule in years!
Wrangler always eagerly awaits his weekly lessons! When things are predictable and are not “drilled,” your equine will look forward to his time with you. I always try to keep lessons short (30-40 minutes), done in a logical order and consistent in the task executions. For instance, we always walk the same way, with the lead in my left hand, with a loose connection to his head to encourage self-carriage, repeated verbal commands and I walk with my feet in sync with his front legs. The gates are always executed the same way. He is rewarded with crimped oats from my fanny pack when halted and waits patiently while I close and latch the gate. Even though Chasity is tied outside of the Round Pen, Wrangler’s attention is 100% on me. Minimizing distractions by being consistent with the way we do things will create a solid base of habitually good behavior.
Wrangler continues to stand quietly while I make sure his saddle is centered in the middle of his back and the tension on the crupper is adequate, but not too tight. He should be able to relax his tail. I check both girths to make sure they are snug but not too tight (the front girth tighter than the rear girth), adjust the tension on the “Elbow Pull” and make sure the fleece at the poll is centered to prevent undue chafing when he has to “lean” on the “Elbow Pull.” The “Elbow Pull” will not tie his head down, but it will prevent him from raising his head so high that he inverts his neck and spine. It will assure that he is in a good balanced equine posture during his workout.
I first ask Wrangler to walk for five rotations before asking him to trot. Occasionally, he will be so full of energy that he offers the trot first. If he trots, I just adjust and let him do five rounds of trot first and let him walk five rotation afterwards. To start, I only asked for walk and trot until Wrangler began to break into canter by himself. I then added one rotation at canter after the five rotations at trot before allowing him to walk.
I will add one more rotation at canter in each of the upcoming lessons. Then his warm-ups will consist of five rotations of each…walk, trot, canter, walk…then a reverse, and the same progression in the opposite direction before mounting him. He should always slow to a walk before executing the reverse so it is done in good postural balance.
This will begin to improve his balance and build his bulk muscle symmetrically.
After checking both girths one more time, Wrangler stands stock still as I mount him. I offer his oats on both sides as I did in our first mounting session in the Tack Barn. This is to make sure I keep his attention on ME! The oats are taken politely. He fully understands that these are NOT treats, only REWARDS for good behavior.
Once mounted and and seated in balance, I ask Wrangler for a rein back with a few more steps than he had done in his previous lesson. He responds nicely to the squeeze/release motion of my lttle fingers.
I keep a very light contact with the bit as we proceed forward. We add circles at random points along the rail to add variety to the workout and keep it interesting. We work on staying erect while he bends to the arc of the circles through his rib cage.
Wrangler’s “Elbow Pull” remains consistently loose as he walks leisurely along the rail and executes the “S” turns for changes in direction.
Wrangler gives Chasity a wink as he passes the spot where she is tied along the rail. She is proud of how well her “beau” is doing and watches intently! Wrangler is soft, flexible and elastic in the bridle. This is exactly what I want from him. We will be able to graduate to a larger area next week!
Wrangler spotted a jogger coming toward us along the road and didn’t quite finish his square halt, but halted nevertheless. I prudently waited for the jogger to go by before I asked him for a rein back and he complied easily.
I think too many of us get in too much of a hurry to RIDE and forget that our equine athletes need the same consideration from us that human athletes get from their coaches. They need to do exercises that prepare their bodies for the “game.” When they are adquately prepared, their skeleton is symmetrically supported, joints are able to operate as intended and do not develop arthritis from uneven wear of the cartilage, and the internal organs can function in good health at maximum capacity. When we are patient and take the time to prepare our equines properly, there is much to be gained…a happy and willing equine companion that is capable of performing to their optimum ability. Training really CAN be safe and resistance-free! Being herdbound is not an issue because they really enjoy being with YOU as much as, if not more than, they enjoy being with their equine friends!
Wrangler has now completed his preparation for efficiently carrying a rider while staying in good equine posture with adequate core strength. Doing these kinds of logical and sequential exercises in a consistent manner makes all the difference in an equine’s physical development and mental attitude. Groundwork needn’t be boring for either you or your donkey. Doing these exercises the same way, every time, creates an unbreakable bond and deep understanding of what is expected between you. Before mounting your donkey in the Round Pen, there is one more interim step that needs to be done to keep your donkey standing still and his attention on you as you mount him. In the grooming area, I will mount the donkey and have him take oats from both sides of his body as we stand there. Then we will go to the Round Pen, do the preparatory lunging he has done before and mount in the same fashion. This will set up your donkey for success!
By now, your donkey should know his verbal commands and will not be complelled to just take off at the trot. He will walk leisurely along the perimeter of the Round Pen until you ask for the trot. He will remain in good posture and keep the “Elbow Pull” loose throughout his workout. He will have a rounded topline and overall balance that can easily support the added weight of a rider. Wrangler is doing beautifully!
After five rotations at walk and five rotations at trot, I ask Wrangler to slow to a walk. I then turn away from him in the opposite direction he is traveling and step in front of him to encourage him to reverse.
Then I send him to the rail for five more rotations at walk and then five at the trot. Wrangler is relaxed and moving freely forward. He is obviously strong in his balance and ready to be ridden.
I ask Wrangler to “Whoa,” reward him for his stellar performance and ask him to stand four-square with equal weight over all four feet in preparation for mounting. I do not want to throw him off balance as I pull my weight into the saddle. Most equines will move if they feel a loss of balance. I politely mount and settle my seat easily in the saddle. I do not rudely plop myself down on his back.
As soon as I was mounted, I balanced myself in the saddle and offered rewards for standing still from both sides. My first move while mounted was the rein back. This would get his attention off bolting and put his mind on a task he can easily do. He is then rewarded again and happy with his accomplishment.
We walked for two rotations tracking to the left and then did an “S” turn through the middle of the Round Pen to change directions. I paid special attention while bending his body through the “S” turn to keep Wrangler’s body erect. I encouraged him to bend through his rib cage to make the turn smooth, forward and fluid.
We did two more rotations at the walk, then I asked for a balanced and correctly executed reverse. It is important to pay attention to the minute details while working slowly. This will promote accuracy later when you speed things up.
I walked Wrangler into a smooth and balanced halt. I made sure my own body was over the center of balance and that my hands and legs were even on both sides. I waited quietly for a few second to allow him to settle.
Then I asked Wrangler for a rein back with a pull/release action on both reins, but added a little more alternate pressure from one side to the other in sync with the front legs that were coming backwards. Wrangler did very well for his first riding session, so I thought it best to quit while we were ahead. It is easier for your donkey to learn when you keep lessons short and productive. Drilling for hours never really works…they just get tired and can’t really listen or perform well.
Although Chasity waits calmly while she is tied and Wrangler is working, he has to play with the artificial flowers in the planter when it is his turn to be tied. Next time, I will remove the temptation of the flowers! After Chasity finished her workout, we all made our way back to the work station. It was another successful and enjoyable training session for all of us!
Chasity has come a long way since the end of March. She has worked hard and is now enjoying true strength in a balanced and correct equine posture. Her health has greatly improved as has her mental attitude. She is happy to be working with her companion Wrangler and they both enjoy being able to share their lessons. Sometimes they are walked together to the Round Pen and sometimes they are taken separately. This promotes independence while preserving their friendships with each other. I do not believe in deliberately separating my equines from their equine friends as that will only create anxiety. I want them to know that I am also a friend that they would like to spend time with or without their other companions. Sometimes they are worked alone and sometimes they are worked together. Tying one outside the Round Pen while working the other teaches them to stand quietly while tied with purposeful patience. I leave nothing to chance, so I break everything down into doable steps to promote success. Chasity is mounted in the work station first and rewarded with crimped oats from her back. This routine will keep her attention when we finally go to the Round Pen as she is mounted.
Chasity executes the gate perfectly, stands quietly to have her “Elbow Pull” adjusted and is then sent on the rail to lunge in preparation for mounting. She is now keeping her “Elbow Pull” loose at all times. Her balance and good posture is exceptional now considering her imperfect conformational restrictions.
I slow Chasity to the walk before asking her to execute a nice balanced reverse and she complies easily. It is important in the beginning to keep things slow and accurate. Speed can come later with much better results.
Chasity will now walk on command and will not change her gait until she is asked. She fully understands the verbal commands. She has smooth, upward and downward transitions as she changes gaits. She promises to be a smooth ride!
I ask Chasity for a halt and offer her a reward for a job well done! She is patient and stands quietly as I mount.
As I did in the work station, I offer her a reward from both sides. When she has finished chewing her oats, I ask her for the rein back. I use an even squeeze/release on the reins with a bit more pressure on one side and then the other as each front leg comes back. Even one step is sufficient for now. Chasity will give more with each new lesson.
Chasity walks calmly forward and I sit quietly to allow her to balance my weight. She keeps her body erect and bends through her rib cage as she executes an “S” turn through the middle to change direction. It is important to execute these moves with the lightest pull from my little fingers on the reins to encourage Chasity to become ultra-light in the bridle.
Donkeys tend to “lean” on the bit, so doing this kind of work in the Round Pen is really important if you want your donkey to be light in the bridle and respond to the lightest pressure from your seat, fingers and legs.
Be prepared to spend a lot of time on this. It will enhance all your donkey’s responses to your cues. Chasity executes a nice reverse and maintains her ideal balance at the walk afterwards. This is not easy for her to do with her hips being higher than her shoulders, but I am very pleased with her progress. She will only get better!
Chasity does a perfect halt, but is a bit reluctant to rein back. This move is difficult for her, so I will just take my time and accept what she has to offer. I know she is always honest in her attempts. One step is good, so I call it quits and reward her efforts.
Wrangler is outside the Round Pen waiting patiently for his “Lady Love” to complete her lesson. Then we all head back to the work station after our enjoyable time together! More lessons will promote more learning and more refined performance! We all look forward to our time together!
THE FINAL 911 FOR 2020. ANOTHER OLD LADY AND THE SADDEST STORY EVER – WILL YOU SAVE THE LAST 2 OF 2020??
The following is from Chilly Pepper – Miracle Mustang:
ANOTHER 911 – LAST CALL FOR 2020!!
THE DEADLINE HAS PASSED FOR THESE 2! LET’S GIVE THEM THE CHANCE TO LIVE IN 2021. THEY ARE DESPERATE, and the gelding’s story will make you cry. It literally made us ill. :(
I had to go on faith.
Meet “TREASURE”. The saying, “One man’s trash is another man’s Treasure” is beyond true. TREASURE was “THAT HORSE”. He was the bomb proof, been there – done that horse. The one you could put any kid on. The one you put the visitors on, knowing that no matter how they rode or what they did to him, the horse would take care of them through thick and thin. He was the RANCH HORSE that worked for years.
TREASURE was literally the perfect horse,
UNTIL – He could no longer work. After 20 some years of perfect service, he no longer “had a purpose”, so he was thrown away like trash. When the shipper wouldn’t even take him due to his poor condition, he decided that if he didn’t get what he wanted he would just leave him out to die. He was not going to waste money and feed him through the winter. He was not even going to waste a bullet…..
TREASURE is starved, weak and so full of worms I don’t even know if he will make it. He is exhausted and the first thing I am going to do is get his bloodwork done. Please say a prayer for him. He is so tired and so sad. He still doesn’t understand he is truly loved.
MEET “SMURF”. She is the old lady that was shipping to slaughter. She was lucky we could save her, because I received the info that she was a “done deal” and had no chance. Another “miracle for a mustang”.
She is 18ish?, a total sweetheart and did not need to end up on a dinner plate somewhere.
Saving these 2 lives is our “Last Hurrah” for 2020. Let’s end it with victory and save these precious lives! Treasure is going to need vetted asap, and will need all of us to pull together for him.
Christmas is at her new home and all settled in. Noel is with me, and sadly lost about 150 # before we could get her. She will also need lots of TLC!
I did manage to get our beautiful Annie Oakley home, in spite of the weather and incorrect forecast. I am so thankful to the folks that cared for her until I could get her. She is in better condition than when she came in, but still in horrible shape. She is extremely thin, very wormy and they literally picked 100’s and 100’s of ticks off of her. The ticks nearly killed her, and the worms are trying to finish the job. She HAS been dewormed, but is still in extremely poor health.
So we are *wrapping up 2020 with the usual 911 calls and desperate situations! PLEASE help us save these kids.*
_A quick personal note – I found out I have had Fybromyalgia for some time now. Sadly it explains why I have had such an increase in the chronic pain. Hopefully it won’t have much affect on my rescue, but prayers are greatly appreciated!
I guess being partially crippled and having an existing disease that causes chronic pain just wasn’t enough. (haha) But I know God has a plan and He will keep me going! I will keep fighting as long as I can, and I hope y’all will keep fighting with me!_
This is the link to our Chilly Pepper’s Wild Horse & Orphan Foal Adoption Page, where you can see the progress and new lives of the horses YOU HAVE HELPED SAVED! (I can’t believe I didn’t do this years ago, but it is so fun to see the horses, babies and critters that are enjoying and thriving in their new lives.)
Annie Oakley, home in Golconda at last!
IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO KEEP HELPING US SAVE MORE LIVES, YOU CAN GO TO:
You can go to gofundme
You can go to Paypal
if you would like to help these horses.
->You can donate via check at: (PLEASE NOTE NEW PO BOX #)
Chilly Pepper – Miracle Mustang,
PO Box # 233
Golconda, NV 89414
You can also donate via credit card by calling Palomino at 530-339-1458.
NO MATTER HOW BIG OR HOW SMALL – WE SAVE THEM ALL!
SAVING GD’S CRITTERS – FOUR FEET AT A TIME
Chilly Pepper – Miracle Mustang, WIN Project – Rescue & Rehab
We are now part of the WIN Organization
WIN (WILD HORSES IN NEED) is a 501c3 IRS EIN 55-0882407_
If there are ever funds left over from the cost of the rescue itself, the monies are used to feed, vet, care for and provide shelter and proper fencing for the animals once they are saved.
Wrangler has been a happy camper since we acquired Chasity. Before that, he was so rambunctious that there was no one else that could be in turnout with him and I had limited time to work with him. He and Chasity are the same size and the same age, so they do get along very well. I still have to make training judgments when working with them. He helped me to get Chasity moving freely in the Round Pen during her first lessons, but lately, he has been annoying her while lunging which does not allow her to relax in the “Elbow Pull” like she should. And, he doesn’t relax either because he is too busy showing off to her now! So, I had to modify my approach. I still take them out together and just tie one up while I am working the other. I find that this works very well. Wrangler is back to moving in a dignified manner!
I can say that showing off to her did have its benefits. It developed his agility and his eagerness to move more forward and into a canter. When working him alone, I did not have to tie his reins to the saddle to keep his head up as I did when I was working him with her, but I did leave them on the bridle and secured them around his neck in case I did need them. His trot was very nice this time, so I decided to actually give the command to “Canter” and Wrangler willingly complied!
As Wrangler passed Chasity, he did occasional do a little crow-hop to acknowledge her, but mostly he stayed in good balanced posture and exhibited core strength with a lot of agility and flexibility. I used to think I needed to tire my animals to make them behave, but I have since found that when I pay attention to their physical development as well as the tasks I want them to do they are much happier and willing to comply. I PREPARE them for performance and bad behaviors decrease exponentially because I make them FEEL good! Good behavior is ALWAYS rewarded!
Wrangler decided to spook at a small branch that was on the ground, so I picked it up and we played with it! Then we got Chasity after her turn at lunging and made our way to the dressage arena.
Although Wrangler does tend to get a bit distracted when I have Chasity along, he does stay in sync with my steps most of the time. This is important in order to have their full attention.
This is Wrangler’s first lunge line lesson in the open, so I began with the short line as I usually do, but when he circled around me, he got to the point where he was facing Chasity and bolted toward her!
Apparently, Wrangler did not want to jump the fence, so he headed for the opening in the fence and then ran around the dressage arena perimeter. I just let go of the lines and watched him as he ran. I stayed where I was and assessed his movement while he got his “jollies” out!
He got halfway around and decided he wanted to go back toward Chasity. I guess he is not a confident jumper because he slowed down and carefully WALKED over the fence…in good balance and then cantered in balance in her direction!
I blocked him from going to Chasity and he darted to the left and toward the other end of the dressage arena. I called his name and asked him to come back…and he did…at a full gallop!
He thought about running around me, but decided a reward was a much better idea! Chasity was impressed with his performance and so was HE! I was just happy that Wrangler had decided to go back to work!
So, we repeated the process and he did nicely tracking to the left and halted quietly upon command. I did not let the line out very far. We would add that step the next time. I rewarded his success!
We did, however, do the same thing in the opposite direction, and again, I did not press my luck and kept the line shortened and controlled. Next, Wrangler would get his ground driving lesson in the open arena…another first.
I employed my Ranch Manager, Chad, as an assistant to make certain that things did not get out of control. I wanted to set Wrangler up for success. He was just perfect through the Hourglass Pattern and over the ground rails in the middle of the pattern.
After tracking through the pattern in one direction with the halts and rein backs in their designated spots between the cones, then crossing the diagonal and completing it the same pattern in the other direction, Wrangler did a perfect halt and rein back, and was amply rewarded for his success! It was time to quit!
Chasity is in such good condition these days that I felt I could skip a week before engaging in her formal lessons again. She does get manual abdominal flexion exercises daily when she is fed. The beauty of postural core strength exercises is that they stay strong after the initial introductory work. It has been five months of this kind of exercise for Chasity, so if her workouts are only every other week, they are enough to sustain her strong core strength in good equine posture. The muscles, ligaments and tendons are now symmetrically strong around her skeletal frame. I decided to start in the Round Pen to allow her to move out before engaging in the more intense lunging and ground driving in the open arena again. Her posture and movement were impeccable!
The “Elbow Pull” is now staying loose most of the time. This means she is strong and balanced in good postural self-carriage. Her movement is confident and fluid. She executes the turns on the haunches perfectly upon command. The transformation in her whole body and strength has been exciting to witness! Her attitude has improved by leaps and bounds as her overall health improved. We are still treating the infection she has that seems to be systemic and in her glands. Our approach will be to continue a regimen of antibiotics, then when it is done, take her off of them until it appears to be trying to return. Then we will resume antibiotic treatment.
Chasity moves beautifully and stands stock still whenever we are working on her. This is a marked improvement from the “Nervous Nellie” that first arrived at the end of March this year.
After doing a bit of lunging, we are now going to review ground driving in the Round Pen before we go to the open arena for more practice. I want to get her light in the bridle now, so I begin with a rein back. Then we proceed forward at a relaxed pace.
Chasity does a very nice “S” turn through the middle for a change of direction. I try to keep my contact with her bit as light as possible, giving her cues with no more than vibrating little fingers.
Chasity is responding well to the drive lines and is getting lighter in the bridle. She halts and rein backs easily upon command to receive her reward for a job well done!
After lunging Chasity and Wrangler individually in the Round Pen, we are now headed for the dressage arena where they will each get their turn at lunging on the lunge line and ground driving. They both lead easily alone, or together, and walk in sync with me upon request. Sometimes Wrangler gets a bit distracted.
Chasity is always on alert, but does not tend to be silly about things. She remembers her lessons well and is always happy to please. I start her with the lunge line shortened and this time she does not pull at all, but stays on the circle with her intermittent squeeze/release cues from my little finger as her outside front leg comes forward and into suspension.
As she circles, I slowly let out the lunge line. I will not ask her to trot until she offers to so so. I don’t want to force speed and sacrifice precision. She is now stopping consistently in a goos balance.
After re-tying the lunge line to the bit ring on the other side, I reverse Chasity, ask her to go the other way and she complies nicely. Again, I start with a short line and let it out gradually.
At the end of several rotations, I ask her to “Whoa,” stretch down and then stand still while I roll up the lunge line and prepare to put on the drive lines. My Ranch Manager, Chad, is ready to assist with the ground driving this time after her bolting in the previous lesson when I ground drove her by myself.
I do not want Chasity to think she can run off every time we get into the open arena, so I will set her up to be successful right from the beginning with the assistant this time. She can run and play with Wrangler in turnout later. She does not seem to mind at all and is all business about her ground driving. She completed the Hourglass Pattern in one direction, crossed the diagonal and did it in the other direction and then did a very nice halt and rein back to end the lesson.
Chasity stood quietly while I removed the drive lines and rolled them up. Then we went to retrieve Wrangler from his place along the fence. After Chasity’s turn, Wrangler got his turn at lunging on the lunge line and ground driving. Then we all headed to the gate together.
When you are consistent in the way you do things with every animal, it is easy to lead, lunge and negotiate obstacles with multiple animals because they all know what to expect and there are no abrupt changes to the routine to cause adverse behaviors. Training can be fun for EVERYONE!
After having a week off, Chasity returned to her lessons happy, refreshed and ready to go to work. I decided to go back to the Hourglass Pattern and do more leading exercises followed by lunging on the lunge line and ground driving in the open arena. She had two weeks of lessons in the Round Pen and I was curious to see how she would do on the single line, and then the drive lines, with lots of space around her. This can often be a whole new challenge! She seemed very relaxed as she fell into the familiar leading pattern.
As we negotiated the Hourglass Pattern, she easily matched me step for step, even over the ground rails. I asked her for a downward stretch and she was completely cooperative with that as well. The exercises she has been doing for the past four months have really changed her body shape and her strength. The thick crest on her neck is greatly reduced and is no longer hard, but soft and pliable to the touch. It won’t be long before it is completely gone. She is moving symmetrically, is much more agile and is in great athletic condition!
She was in good posture and stepped over the dressage arena fence gracefully without losing her balance at all as we went to retrieve the lunge line. She then stepped over it again as we re-entered the arena to begin lunging on the lunge line.
I started her on a short line to give her clear directions about what Iwanted. I made sure to give a short squeeze/ release on the lunge line each time her outside leg came forward into suspension like I had during Round Pen lessons. This caused her outside front leg to come toward me and keep her on the arc of the circle around me without getting into a pulling match. Pulling this way would not interfere with her balance and cause her to bolt.
As she circled, with each rotation, I let out the line a little bit more. I continued with the squeeze/release cue in sync with the outside front leg coming into suspension. Then before she got bored, I asked her to “Whoa.”
I gave Chasity her oats reward and waited for her to finish chewing before I retied the lunge line so we could go in the opposite direction. I tied the lunge line to the snaffle bit on the side I pull from and then left enough excess to go under her chin and snap to the ring on the other side. This keeps the bit from sliding through her mouth.
Again, I started her on a short line and let it out as she was compliant and stayed on the circle around me, always giving the squeeze/release cues in sync with that outside front leg. The I asked for a “Whoa” and a stretch down for her reward.
Chasity waited patiently as I put on the drive lines, always sporting a relaxed and happy face! We began ground driving at a pretty good clip. She was enjoying the open space! I stayed in sync with her back legs, but I was having to take very big steps to keep up with her!
Then as sometimes happens…she bolted. I knew she wasn’t really scared. She just felt GOOD! So rather than engage in a pulling match, I just let go. She took off, first at a very fast trot, then a lope….
…and finally she went into a full-fledged gallop! She stayed strong in her new-found good equine posture throughout! She galloped to the fence and made a nice 90-degree angle turn into a trot tracking right! She was clearly enjoying herself while I just waited on the sidelines for this moment to pass.
It was clear to me that she needed to just run and have a good time for a little bit. I watched as she traveled around the perimeter of the dressage arena. I was impressed with her improved way of going. She carried her head a bit high and was not as flexed at the poll as I would have liked, but what more could I have expected considering the short time she had been worked in the “Elbow Pull.” Enhanced grace would come later!
I was impressed with her form as she jumped over the dressage arena fence! As she executed THAT move, there was more flexion over her entire top line. This was a great improvement to the sway back she had when she first got here! She evntually slowed down and began to make her way toward me.
Since she had obviously decided to go back to work, I walked toward her and gave her a reward for returning to me!
I gathered the drive lines and instead of walking behind her, I kept them short and walked beside her for more control. I did not want another runaway! She did give a half-hearted pull, but when she discovered that I had more control, she decided to comply as I concurrently led/ground drove her back into the Hourglass Pattern
I proceeded this way over the ground rails and then toward the next corner cone. As I did, I gradually made my way more toward the hind qaurters while making sure I still had her attention. She was a little strong in the bridle, but did as I asked. We did have to circle the cone to keep this control.
As she came around the cone, she got more tractable and straightened out so I could ground drive her from her hip. We were definitely making progress!
We turned around the next cone and headed back toward the ground rails in the center of the Hourglass Pattern. At the point where we would nromally halt and square up when leading, when ground driving, we halt and normally do a rein back instead. This time, however, I would be content with the halt. I made a mental note that next time, I would use an assistant at her head with a lead rope to help her to be totally successful in the ground driving before we went solo again. I would hate to perpetuate any bad habits. One occurence like this is acceptable, but to allow it to continue would be a major mistake! Longears learn EXACTLY what you teach them!
Donkeys love it when you keep things easy, fresh and interesting! Chasity has been doing so well with her lessons with Wrangler lately that I thought we could change things up a bit and add a LITTLE excitement to their routine by adding the mini donkeys, Augie and Spuds! If this is to be a safe endeavor, I will have to break things down into small introductory steps and make frequent evaluations as to what is safe to do and what might not be safe. I want them all to enjoy this time together with me! Seeing the mini donkeys in the Tack barn work station, Chasity is getting already started with a smile on her face!
First, I lunged Chasity by herself to see how she would respond in her “Elbow Pull” and to see whether she would maintain her good postural balance during this lesson. She did lovely at an energized and forward working walk! I was very pleased.
Chasity then bucked up her working trot and although she raised her head just a bit, she kept the “Elbow Pull” loose almost all the time…she is truly improving rapidly!
Next, I ground drove her and again, she did everything just right and maintained her good posture and balance…through the reverses and in both directions!
Chasity’s contact with my hands was steady and light, and she easily did her “S” turns through the middle of the Round Pen gracefully and accurately.
Chasity did a square halt and did the rein back much more easily that she had in prior lessons. She is making marked improvement every week! Yes, we only do these lessons once a week for about 20-30 minutes to get these amazing results!
Chasity and Wrangler always enjoy lunging together, but sometimes he will get a bit slow and cause her to raise her head behind him and put more tension on the “Elbow Pull” than she would do if he was not there. Wrangler spotted Augie and Spuds tied outside and did not want Chasity anywhere near them! That was when I made the decision that now would not be the right time to lunge FOUR donkeys together!
Instead, I tied Wrangler outside and introduced Chasity to Augie and Spuds…they liked each other, so I began lunging them all together! Chasity loved it!
The donkeys, large and small, tracked left and then did a perfect halt…all three of them! As they stood stock still, I rewarded them each one for a job well done!
Chasity surprised me by doing a perfect reverse and then walked behind Augie and Spuds to show them the new direction. Then they too, reversed and followed her obediently! I had to chuckle…who’s in charge here?! Wrangler just hid his face behind the post outside of the Round Pen, hoping no one would notice how left out he felt! Even though Wrangler was a bit miffed, they all had a very good time! At least he was not completely left out! Friends really LIKE to work together!
Wrangler is wondering why Augie and Spuds, the mini donkeys are here. He is usually worked with Chasity… just the two of them! Wrangler is big on being the center of attention and stands quietly while I put on his surcingle instead of his English saddle this time. He is sure something is up, but he doesn’t exactly know what it might be just yet!
Wrangler and Chasity are now getting REALLY GOOD at being led together and stay in sync with my steps. They negotiate the gate easily and obediently. This is how well things can go when you are clear and consistent about the way that you do things. The animals then know what to expect and can comply without anxiety.
I led Augie and Spuds to the Round Pen and tied them up outside so they could watch Wrangler and Chasity while they were lunging. I thought maybe I would be able to lunge all four of them together if things went well. When they have someone to watch, my animals learn to stand still when tied. They know it will soon be their turn.
Wrangler immediately noticed the mini donkeys and wondered why they were there, but when asked, I regained his attention to business. Chasity walked off to practice while I adjusted Wrangler’s “Elbow Pull.”
Wrangler stood quietly while I made some adjustments and asked him to flex at his poll to make sure it was not too restrictive. Then I sent him to thr rail for lunging. He went quietly forward in a nice working walk.
When asked, Wrangler and Chasity moved into a smart working trot. Chasity is getting better with her posture and will soon be able to keep the “Elbow Pull” loose throughout the entire workout like Wrangler does. It takes time to develop that kind of core strength in good balance!
I added the drive lines to Wrangler after successful lunging while Chasity stood by and watched. He was a bit hard to turn in his last lessons, but this time his turns were much improved. He stayed very light in my hands and moved at the touch of a finger. I made sure to use the verbal commands “Gee” (go right) and “Haw” (go left). It makes a huge difference!
Wrangler stayed calm as we walked around the Round Pen doing an occasional “S” turn through the middle to change directions.
Wrangler was much improved from his last lesson! I don’t “drill” them until they get it right. That would just make them tired and cranky…then they do not learn. I spend about 20-30 minutes on their lessons and quit when they have made an honest attempt. Wrangler came into a nice quiet halt and was rewarded.
Wrangler did a much better rein back than he had before and offered many more steps on a very light rein! I was extremely pleased with him! It was time to quit with him. I tied him outside the Round Pen so he could watch the others do their workouts…and learn to stay quietly tied… which he did!
Chasity is eager to go to the Round Pen and continue her lessons. Being polite, considerate, respectful and consistent in one’s approach will create a happy and willing partner. Most resistant behaviors arise from anxiety in the animal as a result of an unpredictable approach. Equines love the company of their own kind during training whenever possible. It gives them confidence, and a more experienced animal can show them how things are done with a compliant attitude. Breaking training down into very small steps assures that your equine will NEVER be over-faced with any tasks. It is paramount that you train your equine how to lunge on a lunge line for the first few times in the Round Pen.
Lunging in the “Elbow Pull” is critical to helping Chasity maintain her good posture and balance throughout her workout. It allows full range of motion, but will prevent any hollowing of the back and neck, and give her something to lean on when she has weak moments and cannot sustain her own good posture and self-carriage for a few strides at a time. Consistent work in the “Elbow Pull” will actually change the equine’s habitual way of moving. Chasity is becoming more and more comfortable in her new and more correct equine posture! This is most evident when she is at rest with equal weight placed over all four feet underneath her body. This is true whether at work or in turnout.
Chasity is now holding her own self-carriage in good posture for more and more strides during each new lesson. It takes a lot of time to stretch and rebuild the elements that support the skeletal frame such that the body becomes strong and movement becomes more flexible and habitual.
At walk and trot, Chasity and Wrangler maintain an erect body carriage and bend through their rib cages to the arc of the Round Pen circle. Wrangler can be a bit lazy and will carry his head too low, so I add the bridle reins to prevent him from becoming a “peanut roller!” Chasity carries her head higher, so she won’t need them.
After being warmed up with her familiar lunging of five rotations in each direction, I add the lunge line. I always keep it loose, dragging on the ground. Then I give an occasional “squeeze-release” as the outside front foot comes forward. This is her cue to stay on the circle later in the open arena and not pull on the lunge line.
My end goal is always to keep Chasity as light in the bridle as possible to get the desired response. Using all this gear in the beginning allows me to do minimal pulling on the lines and later the reins. The animal is in control of the adjustment of the tension. They learn quickly what I am asking with the lightest cue from my fingers.
Chasity is now comfortable and relaxed, knows what my cues mean. With the slightest pressure on the lines, she executes a lovely reverse and continues on in a really nice posture.
Being cognizant of how you do certain moves, like going through gates, will assure that the equine responds at all times with very SLIGHT pressure on the reins or lines, or even on the lead rope…no more BOLTING! You will never need to PULL on a lunge line again in any open areas. Loss of balance is the number one reason for resistance and bad behaviors. Building this precise foundation will carry through to Chasity’s under saddle work. Building core strength that symmetrically supports the skeletal frame makes everything you want to do a lot easier for your equine. When he is strong, balanced and comfortable in his body, he is better ABLE to be a willing and compliant companion!
Chasity continues to improve. We have cut the size of her obese, cresty neck by 70%. Her back is finally elevated. The spinal and abdominal muscles are much better conditioned and support her good posture. She has come a long way. She is submissive to the “Elbow Pull” and ready to begin her combination exercises in Lunging and Ground Driving. Chasity is happy that she gets to do these exercises with her “boyfriend,” Wrangler! He is her inspiration. They are so funny together!
Chasity executes the gate perfectly and then stops to pose for a picture with me. Then we adjust her “Elbow Pull” and make sure she flexes at the poll to submit. This self-correcting restraint will provide resistance if she tries to carry her head too high which would result in hollowing her neck and back, and thus, compromising her good equine posture.
Once everything is adjusted on Chasity and Wrangler, we pose for a picture. Then they both go obediently to the rail and begin work at the walk. I have added the reins to Wrangler’s bridle to keep him from carrying his head too low. That is not an issue with Chasity. It is not usually a problem with with Wrangler either, but it is in the nineties today and very hot. Wrangler gets very lazy in the heat!
They are both stepping out nicely and exhibiting a pretty fair “working walk.” After five rotations at the walk, I ask for the trot. They are both stepping well underneath their centers of gravity and Chasity is submitting to the pressure from the “Elbow Pull.” This means she is in better equine posture with improving self-carriage.
After five rotations at the trot, I ask them for a halt and they are prompt in their response. They are rewarded and then proceed forward and after one rotation, I ask them to reverse. It is the best reverse yet!
I am so proud of Chasity! She is really holding her good posture nicely for prolonged periods of time now, even at the trot!
Chasity is gaining a lot of core strength and power to her gaits. The halts are mostly square on the landing and do not need to be corrected. Chasity is finally learning to use her hindquarters properly and she is no longer getting locked up in the right hip joint. It is now adequately supported symmetrically by the core elements: muscles, tendons, ligaments and soft tissue. Her joints operate correctly and will not wear irregularly.
After five rotations at walk and then trot in the opposite direction, Chasity was finally ready for her first Ground Driving lesson! When asked, she walked off nicely.
I had Ground Driven Wrangler first, so Chasity got to see what this was all about. She submitted softly to the lines and remained “on the bit” as we walked along. She turned easily when asked to do the “S” turn through the middle of the Round Pen.
But suddenly, we had a “Donkey Moment” when she abruptly bolted toward Wrangler! I let the lines slide through my hands, hoping she would slow down…but she didn’t! I dug my heels into the ground to try to stop her, holding the lines with just one hand so I wouldn’t lose my balance. Wrangler just dropped in behind her at the walk.
Chasity was at a fast trot around Wrangler when he decided to help me by leaning his body into the lines. This put more pressure on her bit and helped me to get her slowed down…Thanks, Wrangler!!!
Once she had slowed down, Wrangler moved away and allowed me to turn her into the rail and ask for a reverse to the right. Chasity calmed down immediately and decided to comply with my wishes… thankfully!
Chasity was still full of energy, but submitted to the pressure on the lines as I walked behind her in sync with her hind legs. I slowly crept back up the lines with my hands and got a bit closer to her hindquarters
Then I asked Chasity for the halt and a few steps of the reinback…not too many steps at first. I rewarded her efforts with a handful of crimped oats. Her first time on the drive lines had gone very well indeed… even WITH the “Donkey Moment!” It’s always good to keep your sense of humor when working with donkeys and be ready to be VERY patient! Donkeys need to process things THEIR WAY!
Wrangler is really beginning to enjoy his time working with me and helping with Chasity’s training! I think he is also happy to have someone he can be with in turnout after three years of being by himself… although a gelding, he’s just too rambunctious to be turned out with any of the others! They definitely form groups and it is wise to pay attention to the groups they choose…mid-aged mules together, minis together, older equines together and donkey families together. Wrangler LOVES his new friend, Chasity! They both truly enjoy the workouts we do together!
Chasity follows Wrangler around like a puppy dog! She is also very enamored with HIM! After adjusting his “Elbow Pull,” Wrangler and I watch the bicycles going by on the road. I find that it is beneficial when they see something, if you just stop waht you are doing and look at it, too. Then, there isn’t as much of a fuss.
Chasity watches as I ask Wrangler to flex at the poll with an offer of crimped oats. This reminds him about how to take the pressure off the “Elbow Pull” and keeps him relaxed. Then all three of us pose for a picture before getting to work! All my equines seem to know when it is “picture time” and they always perk their ears! They are all a bunch of “hams!”
“Well, are we going to do a proper reverse?” I ask Wrangler. He promptly turns into the fence and leads Chasity down the rail of the Round Pen at a walk.
Both donkeys are stepping well underneath their center of gravity and do five rotations at walk before I ask them to trot for five more rotations. Chasity is doing much better about submitting to the pressure of the “Elbow Pull” and is able to sustain her balanced posture and self-carriage for longer periods of time now.
Chasity doesn’t “lean” on the “Elbow Pull” nearly as much anymore. Both halt promptly upon command, they get rewarded, then proceed forward again and do a perfect reverse together.
Again, we do five rotations at walk and make sure they are in a regular rhythm, cadence and are submitting nicely to the “Elbow Pull” before I ask them to trot. Wrangler has really good balance and posture and is always happy to lead the way!
Now Wrangler is going to show Chasity what Ground Driving is all about. This will help them both to learn how to stay in good posture while rein cues are being given. The result will be an animal who is exceedingly light in the bridle when you finally ride them. Wrangler executes a very smooth change of direction with the “S” turn through the middle of the Round Pen. Chasity follows obediently behind her “boyfriend!”
We track left for a while in the same form, then do one more reverse and after one more rotation at the walk, we come to a halt. Then I ask Wrangler to execute a proper reinback which he does willingly with no resistence at all. I just make sure to pull and release with the corresponding line as he takes each step backwards. He is then PROMPTLY rewarded with his favorite crimped oats!
When you are consistent, polite, respectful, reward for good behaviors, make sure tack and equipment fits comfortably and always do things exactly the same way, your animal will come to know what to expect and there will be minimal resistant behaviors, if any, because they will know what to expect from you and will act accordingly. Your time together will always be fun for everyone!