Wednesday, December 17, 2014

TOA: Making of the Horse


Making of the Horse

Last week, we talked about our babies.  This week, let's talk about our greenies.  Who trained your horse?  Is your ponykins still in the process of figuring out this whole monkey-on-my-back thing, did you send off for thirty or sixty or ninety days, or did you buy a horse with all the bells and whistles?  Who has helped your horse become what he or she is today?
As much as I wanted to do the first blog hop in this series, I know nothing about Q or Griffin's parents. Neither of them have papers. So now you know (if you didn't already). 
As far as their training? To that I can speak more eloquently. 


Judging based on her teeth (hurrah for the 7 and 11 year hook), Q was 6 years old the year she came into my life. Originally, the cowboy trainer had told me she was 9, and her Coggins represented that, but my vet said it just wasn't possible. So her past doesn't have as large a gaping hole as I'd once imagined.

Rumor has it that the cowboy trainer was the one to spend a good bit of time working with her and starting her. Presuming she didn't end up in his care until she was at least 3 years old, most of her training past is likely with him. 

His training methods are modeled after Ray Hunt's, though from my observations, he has a heavier hand and mindset than Ray Hunt. He also over-used his flags with this little mare - something that attributed greatly to how her behaviors are today around anything flapping that is near her. If you've been reading for any length of time, you'll have gathered how reactive this little girl is! Thwopping flags in the manner I saw him do to her merely set her on edge and on high alert; full on flight mode. I'm not bashing flags as a training tool entirely, but as with any tool, it can be abused. As reactive as Q is, a flag tool for training would be best used as a visual cue only -and only if used with care in such a manner that was only enough to illicit a response, no over-gesticulating necessary! The auditory cues from a flag only cause a panicked flight response in this little girl.
Additionally, I observed that cowboy trainer wore long shank spurs. Q has a spur scar complete with white hair right where that cowboy's long legs would likely have met her barrel with a spur. I cannot know if the scar is from his training or not, but it is certainly plausible. It's on her right side, and she moves better to the left now, so presumably she was worked harder in that direction originally? Perhaps it was originally a sticky side for her so she was worked in excess to overcome that? She's a left-handed horse now, whether she was originally or not!

That formerly super-reactive little horse following firetrucks in a parade
According to cowboy trainer, she couldn't back before he worked with her. My first weekend with her she demonstrated exceptional skill at backing - and backing FAST. Her lateral work was pretty fair, too! It is reported that he worked cattle with her during her training, which comes at no surprise to me because that was a passion of his. 

Apparently, Q was so hot in his care that he'd have to take her on a hard, fast trail ride up the mountain before he could work with her on other skills. I'll never forget when his daughters saw me riding the little mare around my first night knowing her and remarked to me, "That's the *crazy* horse! She's riding the *crazy* horse bareback!" She's a reactive little Arabian, girls, not one of your daddy's Quarter horses! Even the line bred QH he had that were much hotter than your run of the mill QH paled in comparison to my little girl. Tis the nature of an Arabian, I suppose, especially an Arabian kept in company of so many mellow horses and trained by someone who doesn't appreciate the breed's unique* qualities. 

*Where "unique" is a euphemism for those qualities that only an Arabian-lover can appreciate/deal with ;-) Examples: teleportation, being hot, being spooky about Strange and Mysterious Nothings, etc.

And that about covers Q's training before me. 

Her journey with me is chronicled in full on this blog. But in a nutshell, I thrust her into many situations and she excelled in an exceptional manner. Her athleticism is paramount to any horse I've worked with before. While she often exhibits a Fear of Unusual (and Usual) Things, she's got a lot of heart and has really put forth a lot of effort and try for me over the past 2.5 years. Her personality has been hard to define as she is so easily influenced by her herd mates and their personalities - an added factor to training difficulties over the years, but we're marching onward, one step forward, two steps back at times. As things stand now, despite my difficulties with this horse, I still wouldn't trade her for another!


All of Griffin's training has been done exclusively by moi and is chronicled fully on this blog. He came to me as a 1.5 year old who knew nothing more than how give to lead with a halter and get on a trailer.

Our first photo together. I miss that dark coat </3
I taught him to stand politely, have patience when tied, give to pressure on the halter in a situation more advanced than "walk with the human", lift his feet for hoof picking and later trimming, we learned together how to work in a round pen and move based on body language cues from one another, how to wear tack, how to lunge, how to tolerate a rider, and everything after. Every skill this horse possesses, I taught him - for better or worse.

Griffin was given to me "as a project" and he has been just that and so much more! While I dreamed of starting a horse from scratch, I never dreamed I would do that before I turned 25, nor that Griffin would be the horse. I'm so very fortunate that he *was* the horse though. Even in his youth he has been the most forgiving and understanding of teachers as I fuddled through this thing called Horse Training. He's taught me uncountable lessons and because of him I will be able to be a better trainer in the future for other horses I start. Starting a horse from scratch is not only the greatest feeling in the world, it is also resulting in an animal that I enjoy more than just about any other I've ever been around. 

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