First Lesson!

Last weekend I trailered down to Marietta for a lesson with my new trainer. This was the first time I had tried to trailer Baron and I was told that he was a “point and shoot loader.” At my barn he got in the trailer with no problem, hopped right on. After the lesson, we tried to load him up again and he wasn’t having any of it. It took us over an hour to get him in the trailer, and we used methods I would prefer not to have used. It was a small two horse trailer with no ramp, probably much smaller than he’s used to. Anyway, he refused to load. We tried the Parelli and Clinton Anderson methods, taking it slow, alternately lunging and resting at the trailer but he refused. At that point I had been away from my 5 month old for 5 hours and my husband was at home with the screaming baby. Also, the sun was setting behind the trees and most horses are harder, if not nearly impossible, to load after dark. We upped the ante and got him in using the carrot stick training whip and whacking him HARD. I felt horrible about it. The last thing I want is to scar my horse forever when it comes to trailer loading. It was the typical situation of people being in a hurry and the horse being pressured to do too much too fast.
On the positive side, our first lesson went fantastic! We were at a new barn and the arena was in sight of a pasture full of strange horses. Baron is the horse equivalent of a people person; he loves making friends and thinks every mare is his girlfriend. We gave him a few minutes to calm down after the trailer ride, and when we asked him to go to work, he settled down and focused. We worked on really basic things, more on my skills than his- keeping my hands quiet, using my legs and seat before using the reins, etc… We worked on halting also, because Baron isn’t used to being asked to slow down. My trainer, Mary, gave me some great technical advice also. She said my bridle was too big and I wasn’t able to get the right contact with the bit. The bit was hitting Baron in the teeth, which is why he chomps it all the time. She also showed me how to correct him if he refuses to go where I ask him. She had me turn him in tight circles four or five times and then ask again for my original command. This worked really well. He hates being asked to spin.
I rode again on Thursday and had a much better ride. I switched to a smaller bridle with the same bit, a fat loose ring snaffle. (I’m not a fan of using harsh bits for control.) This bridle fit much better and I had much better control, even with such a wimpy bit. We got to the part of the fence where Baron always stalls and of course he tried it again. This time I made him spin every time he refused to go forward and we got down the road with much less trouble. He was so willing to do what I asked that I hopped off and let him graze for a while. We had a relaxing walk home. I think it’s really important to spend time with him just hanging out and doing something that’s fun for him. In my experience, this is what helps develop a better relationship.
Last summer while I was pregnant, I leased a mare and continued to lease her even though I couldn’t ride. I groomed her, gave her a bath, and let her graze and that horse loved me to pieces. She would follow me around with no lead rope, trot when I jogged and go over cross rails if I went first. When I started riding again, she was so willing to work for me. It took time to develop that relationship, but it was so worth it!


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