Starting Your Young or Untrained Horse Clinic Taught by Stephanie Lockhart

26 May

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.

Sandy and WIlly

Susanna and Hunter

Augustine needed to roll a couple of times while we were walking around the arena.

Augustine rolling

Augustine getting up

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.

Asking the horse to move away from pressure and give us some space

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.

Moving the horses in a figure 8 pattern

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.

Asking the horse to bend

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.

Practicing getting the horse used to the mounting block

After we tightened the cinches we walked the horses around the arena, getting them used to the feel of the saddle and the cinch, and then played with them using the circling game.  Augustine did the squeeze game, passing through two barrels set close to each other, before moving on to jumping over the barrels.

Saddling the horses

While we were playing around with the saddled horses the skies became somewhat dark and thunder cracked not too far away.  We decided to walk down to the new, unfinished indoor arena to wait out the storm.

Walking to the arena to get out of the storm

Inside the arena we again allowed our horses to get used to the new space before moving on to picking up their front feet, by applying pressure on the chestnut, and their back feet, by using the rope.  As I applied pressure to Augustine’s chestnut I noticed that he would not pick up his foot no matter how hard I squeezed.  I called Stephanie over and asked her what was going on.  She pointed out that Augustine was standing out of balance; that if he lifted his front foot for me, he would fall over.  That was a hit your forehead with your hand moment for me.

Little Creek greeting us

Once the rain passed we walked over to another outdoor arena, locate near the indoor arena, and worked with our horses using the large tractor tire.  Each of us asked our horses to step up with their front feet, placing their feet on the tractor tire.  The action of asking them up on the tire was similar to loading them in a horse trailer. 
On facebook, I saw a photo of Stephanie with Morado standing with his entire body on the tire, and since then have had that as a goal for myself–to ask my horse to fully stand on the tire.  Part of my goal/mini dream came true when Augustine placed his front feet on the tire.  I was so happy and tears came to my eyes.  I felt such an appreciation for Augustine for trusting me enough to step up with such little pressure.

Hey there!

Brie and Thea

Asking Augustine to come to the tire

Augustine stepping up

Good boy!

Very happy human!

We called it a day after that and everyone walked their horses back to the top of the hill.
End of a good day
The main thing I learned from this clinic was that 1) We don’t “make” our horses do anything.  Instead we play with them and make suggestions, but we never force them to do anything; and 2) It’s all about “feel” when we interact with our horses.  Being able to read the horse and understand what they are presenting is more important than following a step by step procedure.  The relationship with the horse must come first.
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Posted by on May 26, 2011 in Uncategorized


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