Enjoying an awesome day of horse training

Wednesday was an awesome day with Cheyenne.  Now that I am in a new location, there are lots of things for the horses to get used to.  I worked Cheyenne in the small indoor arena, where they get particularly nervous.  To start out with, she did great and didn’t get nervous.  As time went on, she did get more nervous but then she did get better before I took her out to work her in the larger outdoor arena.

My fun mare Cheyenne.

My fun mare Cheyenne.

Cheyenne loved to bow a lot.  She would go down into a deep bow and stay there for quite a while … well, as long as I was giving her treats.  Another thing she loved to do was lay down, which she did quite a bit as well.  However, there was the one point where she stayed down on the ground for quite a long time.  I would give her treats, and I found new places to scratch her on her body.  I once scratched her on her neck close to her ears, and she moved her head up just a little into my scratching as if she enjoyed it, then she nickered at me a couple of times.

I then worked with her at liberty and she stuck with me the whole time except when I asked her to do figure eights around the barrels.  I don’t think she understands what I wanted because she doesn’t do well on it at liberty.  But she does well on-line.  As far as following me at a walk and a trot, she did all that as well as change direction with me.   I then got a lot of her toys out — pedestal, basketball hoop, jolly ball, etc.  I did a lot of the tricks at liberty.  I used to play with her at liberty long ago before playing in a pasture.  She was free to leave if she didn’t like the tricks at all.  But Cheyenne loved it.  I think she would have played with me all day.

But I had two other horses that I had to work with, including sweet little Gypsy.  I rode her around bareback and with a halter.  I couldn’t trot or canter her because she has an arthritic pastern in her hind hoof.  It is frustrating not to have the funds for her shot in the pastern.  It has to be put on hold again while I hopefully find new ways to get more money.  I worked with her on her seven games in natural horsemanship.  She craves attention, love, and games.  She is an awesome little horse.  I took her to the pedestal and asked her to approach it and eventually how close she could get to getting on it.  She tried with one hoof to put it on.  But she didn’t go any farther because I thought it would take time to get her more used to it.  Don’t rush, take it at their pace.

The last horse I worked with was sweet Bella.  I did all seven games with her and then, out of the blue, decided to hop on her back without a saddle or a bridle, a daring moment for me.  I hopped on and then let her just stand there.  She was relaxed and she did lower her beautiful head and do some licking and chewing.  I eventually asked her to move forward, which she did.  She was not used to the idea of me asking her to turn with a halter rope but the more I rode her the more she understood.  I even asked her to turn the way I turned and used my feet.  It was amazing to ride Bella bareback.  I didn’t ride her too long, but I did get on her a second time to help solidify my training.

Reaching goals with Poochie, the smarty mini

I have been talking a lot about the mini Shmigley, but I have not talked much about Poochie.  Poochie is the opposite of Shmigley and not spooky at all.  He is more of a bold mini, loves to get into everyone’s personal space.  So I have to do things opposite of his brother and try to teach Poochie how to stay out of my personal space.

I need to teach him how to respect my space and not be so obnoxious with his overbearing attitude about people.  The thing about him is that he is genuinely, superbly ingenious among the miniature horses.  He definitely keeps everyone who comes around him well informed about his brilliance between his ears.

Poochie shows how handsome he is sitting up.

Poochie shows how handsome he is sitting up.

When I go to train Poochie, he comes up to me and shoves his little nose up against my abdominal region begging for treats, even if I don’t have any with me at the time.  I usually just thrust his nose away and continue to do just that the more intrusive he insists on being.

Since I have started working Pat Parelli’s natural horsemanship on the minis, I love what the training procedures do to help me build a healthy, solid relationship without me thrusting my way of doing things onto these little horses.  It is better for me to learn how to more correctly speak a language that they understand, that helps us co-exist where we become partners instead of someone is the boss and the other is the servant.  Instead, we become a benevolent leader and the horse or mini decides on their own to yield to my leadership and it is a remarkable thing to see.  I have seen it in Cheyenne.  Here is this magnificent, spirited, proud alpha mare standing in front of me, yielding leadership to me.  She is starting to do some horsin’ around with me free at liberty.  This is the kind of relationship that I want to have starting with Poochie.  I have to succeed at conquering his trust gradually to my side and see him absolutely trust me as his alpha.

As for now, in the moment, I need to continue to work towards what I want to achieve with this little smarty mini and slowly become and build an amazing friendship with him.  It would be an awesome time to be able to eventually get all the horses to a higher level, perhaps a level four in the Parelli method.  Horses are very connected at that level, and that is my goal.

All for the love of Shmigley, and other horses out there like him

I keep working with my mini friend Shmigley so that he will not be so spooky anymore.  As time has gone on, I’ve continued to work this little pony only to feel at times like I was back to square one again the next time I worked with him.  What could be the reason why this little guy was not getting things?

The little guys, Poochie (Wyatt) and Shmigley (Danny). (Photo courtesy Tina Crawford)

The little guys, Poochie (Wyatt) and Shmigley (Danny). (Photo courtesy Tina Crawford)

I have been taking him to my lessons on natural horsemanship and sometimes he’s made progress but then slipped back into his old habits quite often as soon as I started working him back at his barn.  I would find myself sitting on the ground in front of him, just stroking his little chest, and eventually I was stroking him all over.  However, my natural horseman instructor told me he might need some magnesium.  There are some horses who are unnaturally frightened of new things, so that was why we researched and bought a magnesium powder called Focus,  making it easier for little Shmigley to get what he needed and end anybody’s perspective on him being overly spooky.

Not only did I have to give him the Focus magnesium powder every day but I had to put in the time with him that he needed to progress.  I was told that the time needed was about five straight hours with him in one day.  After that he would need one hour a day for the next seven days.  There was a day in May that I did put in that solid five hours with him.  At the end of that period he was yawning, head down, with a lot of licking and chewing.  These were good signs that he was getting more and more relaxed.  After that I put in my hour for the next seven days.  Was there improvement?  Yes, there was, but the real change didn’t start to show until three to four months after the “Focus” powder had kicked in.

Now, Shmigley is getting more and more curious about things, mouthing things, and getting more interested in me, his handler.  It is so exciting to see this side of him emerge even after playing many different games meant for catching him.  I usually have no problem in catching horses.  It might take time but it can be done.

I do lots of gentling games with this little guy that are starting to really pay off.  He is getting excited about it when I come to work with him and Poochie.  I work him on a grass lawn since it is soft and the grass is cool.  But he enjoys being worked with so much that he doesn’t even try to snitch a grass blade or two.  He is into picking up bandanas, pushing balls around with a little “horsie aggression,” and he is starting to pick up cheap straw cowboy hats too.

Here is proof that if a horse or, in this case, a small mini who is extra spooky can benefit from getting extra magnesium supplement for his lifetime.  There are these types of horses who don’t naturally produce this kind of mineral in their brain and need to have the supplement for life, such as Shmigley.  I wonder how many other horses there are out there who have this same problem where their owners get frustrated with them.  It is frustrating when these horses seem as if there is not improvement in their temperament no matter how much you work with them.

At least there are answers to help these individuals with their horses with these kinds of problems.  They could possibly get them evaluated by a horse behavior expert and get them on the supplement they need.  I hope my experience with Shmigley helps someone else with their horses.

In training a horse, good relationships come first

I went to a riding/ground training lesson a couple weeks ago, and I love my lessons.  I get a lot out of them that I apply to my training.  Today, I was working on having my horse lay down in a more natural way.  The only problem — I am not in level 4 of the Pat Parelli method in the relationship aspect of it.  My goal is to get a relationship first to be able to get her to perform for me without the treats as rewards.  I want Cheyenne to perform because of the relationship.

Working with Cheyenne on laying down on command.  There's still work to do on this.  Getting that trust is important.  (Photo by John G. Miller)

Working with Cheyenne on laying down on command. There’s still work to do on this. Getting that trust is important. (Photo by John G. Miller)

When learning horsemanship and horse psychology together, it just proves to me that there is so much to learn.  The exploration with Cheyenne is exciting.  However, she is my experimental horse.  What I learn with her, I can practice on the other horses that I work with.  It makes it slower to learn when I have five horses all together to teach.

It takes a long time to truly learn how to be a great natural horsewoman/horse psychologist.  The more I learn, the more I can see that I feel just like a baby in the horse world of knowledge.  But the more experienced I become is the time I feel more inferior to lack of knowledge.  There is so much to learn and we should never stop learning, ever!  There is too much that we do not know about the horse, we need to keep pursuing that knowledge.

I am learning to build the relationship first, then it will become easier to train.  The more trust there is between you and your horse, the easier it will be to communicate.  That is becoming more and more applicable in my case with the horses.  There has always been the question of why do the students of Pat Parelli have an incredible relationship with their horses?  This is why: the relationship is more important than anything else we do.  I am finding that to be more true all the time with Cheyenne and then the four other horses I work with every day.  They all have their own unique needs to be dealt with and there is a solution to those different needs, but it does take time.  I will give an example of one horse I had to give an incredible amount of time to another time.

As far as teaching Cheyenne to lay down for me willingly, I am getting very close but I need to get her to say yes and feel comfortable in putting herself in that position for me.  I am almost there, but there’s no rush, I want her to do it willingly for me and not feel forced.  That trust needs to be built.  My instructor, Jolene, told me that it might take 30 days for them to do it, however, that relationship needs to be there first.  I want this feeling with my horses, this trust and understanding that we could just have a silent language between different species.

As humans we are so much into direct-line thinking.  We need to acknowledge that in the horse world that does not always work.  We need to be flexible with our goals and willing to walk down a different path to get to our goal if the need arises with our horses.  Here is a quote for you to ponder over in your relationship with horses.

“Take care of your horse’s feelings whenever they emerge, no matter what.  They are more important than your own goal and they are more important than someone else’s opinion.  If you take care of your horse’s mind, emotions, and body, he’ll give you everything you want willingly.”  Pat Parelli