Sunday, September 25, 2011

Lessons learned

So far while training Starbuck, I've obviously made a lot of mistakes (and we're just starting out so I know I'll make plenty more!), however my personal philosophy is that making mistakes is a positive thing as long as you learn something from them.  So here are a few things I've learned over the past month and a half:

1.- I think it would have been better to let Starbuck loose in the arena to run around and explore before ever starting training.

2.- Leg protectors or wraps are absolutely necessary-- young horses tend to kick and step on themselves and I think she'd be less resistent to longeing if she hadn't nicked herself a few times.

3.- I should have been more persistent about picking up her hooves right from the start.

4.- At first I erred on the cautious side, ending some exercises without making progress because I was afraid of tiring Starbuck, however I've learned that with patience and persistence and lots of little breaks, I consistently get good results.

5.- I wish I had had some practice longeing an experienced horse before attempting to longe Starbuck for the first time; I would have been a lot less clumsy.

6.- Always always always tie young horses to baling string instead of a normal tying post.  A scared horse that pulls back is hard to calm down and even if you don't plan for them to be tied for more than 30 seconds things can escalate to panic in a lot less than that.

7.- When Starbuck comes in calmly facing me without being asked while longeing, I used to get "mad" and send her back out as if she'd done the wrong thing.  I've now realized that this confused her and she would try to escape me by backing away with her head high.  Since I've started petting her and calmly sending her out again when she does this we have a lot fewer "tug of war" sessions at the end of the line.

8.- I also should have been more persistent about handling her head and teaching her to lower her head on cue from the start.

9.- Lesson plans for Starbuck need to be really varied for her to stay motivated and interested and if we do any one thing for more than about 10 minutes at a time things tend to go south.

10.- Walking around the stable yard seems to work pretty well as a warm up to calm her down at the beginning of our training sessions so she doesn't work too hard and strain her muscles.

11.- It helps (a lot) to plan ahead and think of 3 or 4 different things I want to work on, even if I know that this plan will be altered the second I get to the stable.

12.- I need to keep in mind that no matter how well Starbuck seems to have assimilated the previous lessons, I can't skip steps and need to introduce things one horse-logical step at a time... or as Pat Parelli says, "Take the time it takes so it takes less time".

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