Friday, August 20, 2010

Training the Trot


Cole is a very complex horse, and although he is doing terrific walking out on the trail—the arena has been tougher. I’m not sure if the clicker is making him try harder or if that’s just the kind of horse that he is, but he simply surprises me, all the time.

In the beginning, I couldn’t get him to walk consistently. The trail work really helped with that. On the trail, we do work a little with turning, but basically, he has figured out he is supposed to just go forward and not try to nibble on the trees.

Those early rides in the arena, once he started to walk for me, were spent teaching him to keep walking and to turn with a leading rein. I had clicker to help me to tell him when he got things right, and it really seemed to help. Soon, were walking all about the arena.

The next element to add was the trot. We haven’t’ been trotting on the trail, since I spend much of my time correcting him when he volunteers the trot. I want him to know that “walk” is the default gait.

At first, when I asked him to trot when I squeezed my legs, he didn’t know what I wanted. After all, it is the same cue as walking. He needed to learn that leg squeezes don’t necessarily mean to walk, but to go faster than he is currently traveling. To encourage him, I tickled him with the whip, and he trotted on. It was a slow and very smooth trot. I was thrilled. We did it 3 times the first day, and I clicked him as a reward. He stopped for his treat and all was good in the world.

The next arena ride was a little different. He remembered the trotting, and decided to volunteer it. I spent a lot of time explaining to him that he had to walk until I told him otherwise. Finally, he settled down. When I asked him to trot, and he exploded forward—as if the starting gait was opened! I immediately halted him. He did this 3 times in a row, and it was starting to get me nervous. I calmed him down (as I calmed down) and then asked one more time. He was slow and proper. I clicked, and we quit for the day.

My next arena ride went a little better. I got about 4 good transitions right off the bat and clicked him for it. Things were looking up.

It was a few more days before I tried it again. (The trail called.) This was the most interesting day. I think that he figured out what I wanted, so he tried to trot right away. I rode a good 10 minutes until I could get him to just walk. This must have made an impression on him. When I asked him to trot, he did—in place. Yes, my horse was doing piaffes. He didn’t do this once, but time after time. I’m so glad my sister and my niece were there to witness it, or no one would have believed me. Although he was on the forehand, he had a lot of action in his hindquarters, and they told me he looked quite elegant.

I clicked him whenever he started to give me forward movement, and slowly, he started to improve. We took a break, I tried it again and he trotted forward. I clicked and quit for the day.

The next day, I was there to try again. I wasn’t going to give up, though I confess, he did make me nervous. This time, I figured out that I could get him to settle down and walk for me if I clicked him for walking. The answer to that problem was literally in the palm of my hand. Cole needed to know that he would get a reward if he walked well. He quieted down much quicker.

This time, when I asked him to trot, he went forward, but fast. I clicked for the upward transitions, but I didn’t want to click him if he was out of control. One time, he really did seem out of control, so instead of clicking to get him to stop, I tried to stop him with the reins. He was very resistant, but when he did stop, I clicked him for it. This ride was better, but still, he scared me enough that I didn’t want to trot really far. The power in his hindquarters is amazing—yet he is still very smooth. We quit the trotting when I needed a break and spent the rest of the session working on walking and turning.

I still wasn’t going to give up. It was never this difficult with any of the other horses I’ve trained. Oh, how I wish I had that old round pen, again…

One more time…

I had a plan. First of all, I would click for a quiet walk in the beginning as before. It worked. Once we warmed up, I asked him to trot, but rather than clicking for an upward transition, I asked him to come back down to a walk and clicked him for that. Each time, I trotted a little further, and each time, he became more relaxed. Suddenly, he was listening to me ask him to turn at a trot instead of barging forward in a straight line. I was less nervous, and he was doing so much better.

I decided that I would trot him a full circle. It was wonderful! He gave me a very powerful trot, but listened to my requests. We made it all the way around. I asked him to walk, clicked, reached into my treat pouch—only to find it empty. All the carrot pieces bounced out as we went around the circle. I rubbed his neck (which he loves) and told him how wonderful he was. We were done trotting for the day, but we did some easy walk exercises and went for a stroll on the driveway as a special reward.

I believe we reached a turning point with out ring work.

1 comment:

achieve1dream said...

He is such a quick learner. As soon as you clicked for a trot he was eager to trot lol. I'm glad you figured out you needed to click the walk. I don't know how long it would have taken me to figure that one out lol. Glad I can watch and learn before I have to do the real thing. Although two years is starting to feel like such a loooooooong time. :)

I was going to suggest as I was reading this post maybe putting him on a lunge line for a security net, but you got it figured out in the end without using a crutch so kudos to you. :) I have a feeling I'll have Chrome on a lunge line for our first rides because I'm a coward like that lol. And he'll know the one rein stop before I ever get on. :)

Keep up the fabulous work!