On Saturday I participated in a clinic at The Center for America’s First Horse taught by Stephanie Lockhart. There were four of us–Susanna and her horse, Hunter, a thoroughbred, paint, draft cross, 4 years old; Morgan and her horse, Willy, a morgan, quarter horse cross that was a rescue horse, 2 years old; Brie with her horse Thea, a registered mustang; and me with Augustine, a 4 year old colonial spanish horse owned by The Center.
We started out in the arena getting our horses used to the area, to us, and to sharing the space with each other. First we introduced ourselves and told each other why we were participating in the clinic. We were playing the friendly game, allowing our horses to get used to us and trust what we were doing, and to help them build confidence.
Augustine needed to roll a couple of times while we were walking around the arena.
After we got settled in I played with Augustine, asking him to get out of my space (he was too close to me) by applying a little pressure and releasing it once he moved away. We also tried to get him to move a little faster. He is a left brain introvert, which means that he is somewhat low energy, calm, tolerant, and dominant. As Pat Parelli would say, he had more “whoa than go!” To get him to step up, I would walk with more energy and would keep the rope soft while using my carrot stick with one arm and flicking it behind me. Applying this small amount of pressure near the back end of the horse helps him to move a bit faster. As soon as he increased his speed I would take the pressure off.
We moved on to using barrels as obstacles that we asked our horses to move around. We would ask them to walk in one direction halfway around the barrel and then have them stop, then they would walk around the barrel in a figure 8 pattern and do the same thing on the other side. I used my carrot stick and moved my horse around the barrels by applying pressure with the carrot stick. Most of the time I didn’t even need to touch him with stick, I just wiggled it toward him in a rhythmic manner and he would move away from it. I was applying the pressure to his bubble, his personal space.
We also worked on bending the horse from the ground. Asking the horse to bend not only is a way to get the horse to stop while you are in the saddle, but it allows us to see if the horse is with us or not. We can see what their expression is during the bend and determine if they are engaged or not.
We stopped for a lunch break and after lunch we started getting the horses prepared to be saddled. We walked the horses up to a bench that acted as a mounting block and positioned them beside us. Then we patted them all over, getting them used to the sound and feel of the pat, which mimicked a falling stirrup or any type of sudden motion. Then we leaned over the horses’ backs and got them used to the feel of our bodies and the weight. After the mounting block we played the friendly game with our saddle blankets before setting the saddle on the horses back and taking it off and setting it on a few times. Eventually, we played the friendly game with the cinch before tightening it around the horse’s girth.