Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Trail Training Newsletter #118 - Trotting for Two

Trotting for Two

I have been taking Cole out on the trail and doing a fair amount of trotting, but it is always when we are riding by ourselves. There are times that he is very hyper and doesn’t want to settle into a steady trot or tries to canter. By doing walk/trot transitions he will eventually even out. Other times, he gets a little reluctant to go, and I just use gentle urging with my legs—releasing when he listens. It has to be gentle. He has a very sensitive gas pedal.

It was now time to trot with other horses. The horse of choice was Ranger, since Ellen is the greatest person to ride with. The problem that we had to face, though, now had two faces—the face of Cole; an energetic, green horse and the face of Ranger; the leader of the herd who doesn’t want some whippersnapper little horse to be in the lead.

Oh, how I miss my Mingo. He was the perfect horse for times like this. Most of the time, he was uncompetitive. He was happy to let his companion horses go on ahead of him. He would just travel along at a comfortable speed for himself. He knew we would always wait for him. Mingo was the perfect anchor horse. Ranger doesn’t believe in being an anchor horse.

The first day we went out on a ride planning to trot together, we started in an area where Ranger typically goes slower and gladly lets Cruiser take the lead. The first attempt went well. The second was so-so. The third—Ranger got mad and Ellen had a tough time keeping him from blasting past Cole. That was enough for the day. We walked the rest of the ride.

It was another week before we could try it again. This time, Ranger was upset the first time. The second time, he threw in a few of his kitten bucks. It was time to change our plan. This just wasn’t working.

In the spring, when Cruiser and Ranger are really hyper, we go back to practicing transitions. I suggested we try this with Ranger and Cole. I figured if I worked with the clicker on the downward transitions, it would encourage him to stop instead of race. We put Cole in the lead, trotted about 20 steps and stopped. I clicked and treated Cole. Ranger happily stopped to Ellen’s command since Cole stopped first.

We did it a few more time, and each time they behaved a little better. Ranger remembered the game, and when I would tell Ellen that I was going to walk, that was enough for Ranger to walk on his own. They both slowed down and trotted steadily.

Each time, we went a little further before stopping. We put Cole behind Ranger, and he was so focused on me—waiting for a whoa—that he didn’t try to pass. Ranger was perfectly happy. Finally, we were going about 30 seconds at a time when we reached the next river crossing.

We decided to turn home, there. We went about a quarter mile home, turned around and did it again. This time, we only did a few transitions. It was great. It never, ever worked this well with Cruiser!

We couldn’t resist the temptation—we did it again. The last time, we trotted the whole way without stopping. Cole was a bit reluctant to go again, but Range was fine with it. It all went so beautiful.

Then next opportunity we had, we were on a trail that Cole is less familiar with, and it didn’t go quite as good, but it still wasn’t bad. It was the trail that added the excitement. We only did it 3 or 4 times and then stuck to walking.

We now had a way to get Cole accustomed to trotting with another horse in a mannerly way. I wonder if it will work at a canter?

1 comment:

achieve1dream said...

Great idea! I like it. Put silly Ranger in his place lol. Don't you just love positive reinforcement? :)