I am working with an 18 year-old Morgan gelding on Thursday nights for the next month or so. Misko needs a refresher on the concept of “whoa”. There are a few elements that will make working with him a bit more difficult. Misko is a therapy horse and as such he is handled by countless different people each time he is used in a therapy class. So beyond me working with him to remind him of the basics this winter before classes start with clients, he won’t have the consistency he would really need to improve long-term. Also, it is fairly well-known from those that run the barn that Misko isn’t exactly the brightest bulb on the tree. He can be scatter brained and is definitely a follower. These hurdles in mind, I still intend to improve his response to commands while working with him this winter.
I am reading up on the subject and learning as I go. I don’t have any experience training horses so I am pretty much going in blind. Thankfully, he is really already trained, he just needs a reminder that good ground manners are not optional. I don’t often work with him in class but have spent some time with him while working as barn aid for the last class session. He is mild-mannered and friendly but can get a bit panicky and can occasionally be bullish and pushy. Understanding these personality traits are important because I am hoping to better understand how he learns before I teach him. I worked with him last Thursday for the first time and got a taste of how he processes information.
From my observations:
- He never has trouble with the command “walk on”
- He rarely crowds
- I can give him sufficient slack without worry
- He understands “easy”, “walk-up”, and “trot” and can move from one to the other.
- He often anticipates instead of listening and ignores deviation from the routine
- He performed much better on cues while leading than under saddle
- He’ll “back” nicely
- He doesn’t throw his head until really pushed to work at something/until he gets frustrated
- I swear to God he would actually run into the wall if I pointed him at it and didn’t turn or “whoa”
I pushed him a little hard last time, making him whoa over and over. He took it in stride for the most part but I realize I hammered my point a little hard. It shouldn’t become so mentally exhausting he doesn’t want to do ANY of it anymore. whoops. This week I will approach it differently. I will continue to cue and then praise and release pressure for good responses but I won’t harp. I do like asking for a step backwards after a whoa just to make it clear that “whoa” means stop with your butt, don’t tumble out on your forehand. We’ll see how it goes.