Saturday, October 22, 2011
A few weeks ago I found an interesting website with different forums for horse issues like conformation critiques, training advice and lots of other stuff. So I posted a question about Starbuck spooking into me or dragging me around and got a lot of answers, some more useful than others. But one great thing that came of it is that I got some terrific advice from someone who's trained a lot of young horses and now manages a ranch (Colored Cow Horse Ranch) dedicated to breeding Quarter Horses with distinctive paint patterns.
She has a list of things that any young horse should know how to do before he or she is ridden for the first time and that this list allows the will-be rider to make pretty darn sure that the horse will be ready for just about anything you can throw at it once you're on its back. The idea is to give your horse a grade from -5 (Horse tries to kill you when you ask him to do it) to 5 (Horse does it easily and eagerly), with 0 being that you haven't tried this yet or the horse has no idea what you want him to do. If you do this right, you don't get on its back until you get consistent 4s or 5s on all the items. Now I'm anything but patient and am pretty sure some things like trailering will have to wait until after I've ridden her (not least because I don't have access to a trailer), but I do plan on trying for a good grade on most of the issues before I hop up on Starbuck for the first time.
So here's the original list; I like this idea so much that I've created a page where I can keep track of our "grades" over the months and years, adding some of my own requirements along the way:
1.) Horse steps back from stall or pen door/gate and allows room for person to enter.
2.) Horse accepts person within stall or pen without resistance (no evasion, no aggression...pinned ears, ugly faces, butt turns, tail lashing etc.)
3.) Horse drops head with touch cue to poll or verbal cue
4.) Horse puts nose into halter on his own, stands quietly for buckling or tying of halter
5.) Horse waits for stall door/pen gate to open and does not move toward/through until handler indicates...either follows or goes ahead as indicated by handler....does NOT crowd.
6.) Horse stands for grooming (cross tied, single tied, ground tied) including face, ears, mane pulling, mane/tail braiding if indicated by breed/discipline, clipping, bathing, sprays of water or fly spray incl. pressurized spray cans
7.) Horse picks feet up with verbal or touch cue (all four) and doesn't put them down until told to do so...does NOT pull back or attempt to remove foot from handler/farrier hands....tolerates tapping, nippers, hoof knife etc.
8.) Horse leads with head in location accepted/expected by handler (will vary by breed/discipline) without any pressure on lead, stops when handler stops, turns with handler without lead pressure.
9.) Horse stands without pulling, fussing, fidgeting while tied or being held by handler or ground tied.
10.) Horse moves out on lunge line as asked without hesitation or resistance at gait requested.
11.) Horse works loose in round pen on verbal cues for speed/direction, changes of direction, inside/outside turns, stops on "whoa", stands either parallel to rails or facing handler (depending on how he's trained), comes to handler only when called.
12.) Horse moves shoulders, hindquarters to minimal pressure (from "look" to direct hand pressure to cue from lead rope end or presence of whip) without fear or fussing...from both sides.
13.) Horse sidesteps to pressure to shoulder/hip alternated or to pressure mid barrel or to verbal cue, from both sides and without fear or fussing.
14.) Horse steps back with verbal cue, hand cue, slight halter pressure. Does so with diagonal steps and without resistance and does so in straight line.
15.) Horse stands for desensitizing with tarps, pool noodles, balloons, saddle blankets, horse blankets, umbrellas, noise makers, ropes under/over/around feet/tail/belly/head without fussing or evading.
16.) Horse tolerates ropes around legs/body/under tail, over head/ears, will lead with one front leg rope, will stand hobbled without fighting, fussing.
17.) Horse leads without halter or bridle (bare headed) through trail obstacle course including backing through patterns such as serpentine poles.
18.) Horse goes through narrow spaces on cue from trainer (sends) and returns.
19.) Horse loads into various types of trailers...stock, straight load. slant load, ramp or stepup, stands and waits to be tied, hauls without fussing, waits to unload on cue.
20.) Horse stands for tacking without fussing....cross tied, single tied, ground tied.
21.) Horse drops head and opens mouth on touch or verbal cue to take bit and waits for crownpiece to go over ears.
22.) Horse responds to light contact with bit to move head laterally (single direct rein).
23.) Horse flexes at poll with light contact with bit (both reins)
24.) Horse ground drives straight, circles, figure 8's, through obstacles, backs, sidepasses, stops, goes at all three gaits on cue, without resistance.
25.) Horse stands for stirrups to be moved back/forth and slapped against side
26.) Horse stands for rider to step into stirrup on both sides and "half mount", lean over saddle, brush over rump with arm.
27.) Horse stands tied or ground tied to be untacked without fussing.
28.) Horse opens mouth and drops bit on cue without pulling or throwing head or rubbing on handler/rider.