Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Hills, Again

Will my trouble with hills ever go away? I am glad to say that Cole and I conquered the first hill leading down to the river—both up and down. If only that was the only hill on the trail.

Not far from the barn, there are 2 short and very steep hills. Last fall, I did try riding down them, and, of course, he went too fast and out of control. My last attempt ended with us nearly trotting right out into the road at the bottom of the hill. Well, that was the last time I tried it. Now, I lead him down those hills. Good thing he is short and easy to mount.

There is another hill that is a more serious problem, and that is the one that leads up to the show ring. It is very, very steep, long and has a sheer drop on one side with deep ruts down the center. I definitely lead down this one.

Ellen and I recently started riding up to the show ring, again. We love that ride, and plan to do it every week, weather permitting. The first time we went there with Cole a few weeks ago, he was horrible when I tried to lead him down. He kept going too fast, cutting me off and his legs were all over the place. We ended up putting Ranger in the lead, had him walk slowly and that helped control Cole.

I really think this isn’t a behavior problem, but an inability to control his short legs on the steep slope.

I needed to teach him to slow down. What better way than to use clicker? On his next trip down the hill, I asked him to put his head down and walk slowly down the hill. (His command to put his head down is me pointing to the ground.) When he took a couple slow steps, I clicked and treated. Of course, he stops for the treat, and then we get to start again. That alone helps him control his momentum—making it easier for him to take more slow steps.

We continued this for about 5 rounds of clicks when he decided he would improve on it. He shortened his steps and lifted his feet higher. I clicked. He kept “improving” his way of going down the hill. I ended up laughing at him. I turned my horse into a circus horse—he arched his neck, lifted his hoof very high and set it right in front of the other one. It was so cute. I just kept clicking away.

Simply asking him to put his head down made him do this as long as the hill was very steep. At the bottom, where the slope was more reasonable, he picked up the speed, again, and tried to cut me off. Overall, it was an improvement, though.

The next day, I decided to try it on one of the shorter hills that is close to the barn. I rode him to the top of the hill, got off and started to lead him down.

He remembered what I taught him the day before, but since this hill isn’t as steep, he didn’t have as much reason to take his time. At first, he would only take a step or two, get too fast and cut me off. That is when I would just turn him around and walk up the hill.

With practice, (and dandelion leaves instead of carrot pieces,) he improved and only had trouble at the very bottom where it isn’t as steep, and he would get excited because he was going towards home. This is where he tried to run into the street last year. I did a “whoa” and clicked him for stopping there.

Overall, we did 4 full trips up and down the hill with I don’t know how many partial trips. Believe me, I didn’t have much fun in the summer heat. I would have preferred one of our regular rides. My feeling was a little time spent practicing the hill would pay off in the long run. I don’t know if that is true, yet, so stay tuned…


achieve1dream said...

I think it sounds great. You're being smart about it and tackling it before it becomes a really bad habit. I wish I could have been there to see him on the steep hill. I bet he was gorgeous playing circus horse lol. :) Keep up the great work.

achieve1dream said...

I fixed my blog so you can comment again. It's because I had it embedded. I miss getting your comments. Are you able to watch the videos while you are at work?