11 February 2013

The Five Stages of Equine Training

Rehydrating after a training session.
It's been almost a month since I've been able to work Dancer.  Fortunately, horses have a great memory so when I get a chance to hop on her back again, I'm sure she'll pull all the same tricks.  I remember them well too, which is to my advantage when training a young horse.  There are five distinct phases they go through:

1.  Feet Planting
This phase is exactly what it sounds like--her feet practically shoot roots into the ground once I get on her back.  With lots of coaxing and a stern squeeze of the leg, she's off.

2.  Try-to-knock-off-your-rider-by-bolting-out-from-under-them
This phase too is pretty self-explanatory.  She figures if not budging is useless, then surely the complete opposite of darting away in every direction possible will work.  I'll admit, it is one of her more effective strategies.

3.  Call In Reinforcements
Dancer spends a good portion of each ride calling for Stoney to come help.  It's futile since he's stalled and can't come.  I imagine if he even had the chance to help he wouldn't since he's usually too absorbed in whatever he's eating.  Doesn't stop her from asking repeatedly though.

4.  (Almost) Tearful Pleading
If horses could cry, Dancer would have on several occasions.  When all her other tricks fail to rid me from her back, she turns to gently nuzzle my feet and look up at me, as if begging me to end the torment.

I don't fall for it.

5.  Acceptance
There comes a point when she realizes all her other options are fruitless.  That's when she gives in and accepts her training.  Sometimes it's early in the ride, sometimes it's the very last minute.  But as I've said before, we're both stubborn so I'm up for the challenge.

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