Lindsay Forkun of LFE Equestrian uses Natural Horsemanship techniques to break this horse's habit of bucking when cantering. The idea is to first get a good solid canter without bucking while doing groundwork, then with a rider start out cantering for just a few strides and giving him a rest when he canters without bucking. Since horses are conditioned reponse animals who learn by repetition, increasing the amount of strides bit by bit but allowing him the reward of resting after doing it well gets the horse to "practice" cantering without bucking, instead of "practicing" endless boring laps at the canter with intermittent bucks thrown in. In other words, making the wrong thing hard and the right thing easy.
Hopefully Starbuck won't turn into a bucking bronc and thus I won't need to school it out of her, but I'm glad to have this elegant new trick in my arsenal anyway. Also, a freebie I really enjoyed finding in this video is the "you can eat grass now" cue which I plan to teach Starbuck at some point... at the moment I've only got the "you CAN'T eat grass now" cue which only works about 70% of the time and I'd much rather she didn't try to graze on her own initiative. But you gotta start somewhere, right?
And now for a something completely different:
This is just a random "training journal" note I wanted to record... While training during lunchtime today on the "scary" side of the arena near where the stable managers obviously keep ravenous yet invisible lions, tigers and bears, Starbuck freaked out, whirled around in her habitual spooky circle and slipped, falling smack down on her hips. We had been doing some leading work up and down the side and when she finally relaxed a little I decided to let her graze along the fence line as a reward. But something off to the side made a little noise and she absolutely panicked. Since this happened when she was doing something she actually wanted to do (grazing) I guess the spooks are 100% real and not played up or a behavioural issue, I only hope that somehow she can come to trust me as her leader and realize that when she's with me she's not in danger.
She limped a little afterward and the first time I asked her to trot after the fall seemed like she was about to collapse on the leg which was under her when she fell, but then we walked around a little more and by the time I could ask stable owner Marina about it she was moving pretty well both at the walk and the trot. So I hosed her down with cold water (it was pretty warm today and she was real sweaty from being so nervous) and gave her a little massage, but I'm going to go see her tonight to see how she's doing and give her some bute if she's stiff or swollen-- hopefully tomorrow she'll be fine but if not I'll call the vet.
I guess it's normal for young horses to be clumsy but I hope she grows out of this slipping and falling stuff or learns that these crazy sudden movements aren't all they cracked up to be, before she breaks something or I have a heart attack.