In the many years of the management and training of equines, I have learned how much the details really count! I learned about how much easier things can be when you are open minded and allow your education to grow. For instance, I learned how to train without the bit and bridle, but then learned that in doing so, I was not able to control postural development in the equine’s body. Thus, I invented my “Elbow Pull” as a response to Richard Shrake’s “Rhythm Collector.” I also found out that my “Elbow Pull” could be used in conjunction with the mild Eggbutt snaffle bit in a multitude of different ways, even for tying an animal. It is practically weightless and easily slips through the bit rings for optimum adjustment while the equine is in motion. It does need to be adjusted differently with horses, but the results are amazing as you can see with Chasity’s physical improvement.
Chasity’s huge cresty neck is practically gone now and the neck sweat has not been needed since she graduated to the Round Pen. This was because I have been repetitious in the way we execute ALL movements, even going through gates, in good equine posture! When we do this, Chasity uses ALL the muscles in her body to do these moves, and in this case, stretches across her spine to pull the Supraspinous ligament back into alignment while reducing the fatty tissues with efficient metabolic circulation. She is a lot more comfortable in her body, so standing quietly is no longer an issue.
Chasity has learned her verbal commands and responds promptly and quietly. Since donkeys do not freely exhibit as much energy as horses and mules, I only ask for five rotations at walk followed by five rotations at trot. As she is better able to keep her balance in good posture, the “Elbow Pull” remains loose, with very little tension throughout her whole workout.
Only now, instead of halting, resting and then changing direction, I do the whole exercise with a reverse in the middle for the change of direction. Her core is becoming more stable in her self-carriage. The muscles across her spine are becoming stronger and better able to support the weight of a rider.
She is relaxed, moves freely forward and most of the time halts four-square. Since she was a bit sticky with the reverse under saddle during her last lesson, I will add a step and ask for the reverse from the ground first.
Chasity understands what I mean and backs easily upon the command to “Back.” I then walk to the other end of the Round Pen and ask her to come to me with a verbal “Come,” also using hand signals. There is nothing more important than communicating clearly.
I politely ask Chasity to “Whoa,” with my hand put up like a “Stop” sign, and then mount her while she stands still. I pay special attention to lowering my seat slowly onto her back.
As I did in the Tack Barn when I first mounted her, I lean over to both sides and offer her reward of crimped oats for standing still, sit quietly in the saddle while she chews and then asked her to first rein back. I keep my contact VERY light, with an alternating squeeze/release from my little fingers on the reins, and a backward motion from my legs and seat.
When ready to go forward, I nudge her with my legs and then WAIT for her response. If she does not move right away, I nudge her again after waiting a few seconds. It will often take donkeys a little longer to THINK about what you are asking. It is far more productive to give them that time. Chasity walks off obediently and keeps her mind on her work as she passes Wrangler, waiting patiently for HIS turn!
I now add small circles randomly as we walk around the Round Pen. We pay special attention to staying erect and bending through the rib cage. I keep things slow, controlled and accurate.
We do “S” turns through the middle of the Round Pen to change direction. Speed can come later as the strength in good posture is developed and the connection to her bit remains light at all times.
I have discovered with this approach, there is hardly ever (if ever) any resistance or bad behaviors. Lessons go smoothly and safely for both of you. This is something I greatly appreciate with age!
Chasity maintains her good balance and cooperative attitude as we ride for about 15 minutes, practicing the circles, halts, “S” turns and reverses. Chasity comes to a “square” halt. I wait quietly for a few seconds.
Then I ask Chasity for a rein back and she compies easily…still light in the bridle. I dismount and tell her how pleased I am with her. I playfully massage her upper gums to illicit a smile! They like having their gums rubbed!
It was a very satifsfying workout for us both! Chasity follows me as we exit the Round Pen and get ready for Wrangler’s turn! Allowing one animal to wait while another is worked, makes it easier to do the training. They seem to get support from their “Friends.” Occasionally working them alone as they gain confidence lets them know that being with you can always be fun and that you will always return them to their friends. This approach allows you to deepen the relationship between you, so you become as good a friend to them as their equine companions. This greatly eliminates the incidence of your equine becoming herdbound.