Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Lots of time on your hands? Work on Enhancing that Relationship!

By Mary Gallagher
Creative grooming.
With all the extra time we are spending at home during this month of quarantine, I thought it would be a perfect time to really focus on enhancing my relationship with my horses. Young Einstein, one of my trainees from Wensleydale Farms, offers a perfect example of the benefits of enriching and enhancing our relationship through fun and seemingly random
When I begin with any horse, I spend time observing them before we start. I try not to have a set-in-stone plan of what I want to do, but just a general idea of where I want to go. I start from who the horse is, and where their natural skills will take them.

Sure, there is the usual pan of oats and grooming, but even that should not be the same every time. I make sure to groom him untied, most of the time. And with all the hair the horses are shedding this time of year, it’s nice to groom in an area where we don’t have to sweep it up, like out on the grass. (Birds love using it for nests)
Einstein is almost three, a growing part-draft horse whose strengths, I feel, will lie in being an all-round ranch horse. So along with his general training, I have been taking him for outings around the farm. These are not necessarily riding excursions, but I do put a saddle on him in case I come across something that I would like to do while riding. 
Einstein is very calm, but also loves to play, so this works out great for exploring. He is up for anything I come up with. 
We go for some kind of outing every day. Mostly I begin with a walk—he will follow me just about anywhere. We begin with
Curious cow and Einstein...
places he has seen, and then I add in a little ground work, connecting to the feet over and around obstacles. 

We then explore something new, a safe walk through a paddock or field where other horses are, that I protect him from. Being around a herd unfamiliar to Einstein requires me to be the alpha, so as to keep him safe. This is great, because he is super curious about the other horses but doesn’t have to worry about being bit kicked or chased. This kind of outing will come in handy when we travel to new places and he will need to be sure of my leadership in more unfamiliar environment.
On our outings he learns about manners:
    • How to go in and out of gates, in all different ways
    • Not grabbing grass
    • Walk next to me 
    • Walk behind me 
    • Walk on the right side
    • Walk on the left side
    • Walk at my pace—fast, slow, or back up
    • Don’t walk ahead of me
    • Jog off with no dragging on the lead line
    • Pick up his feet easily and hold them up for me
    • Rope his feet and have him give to pressure 
    • Trail walks over logs and 
    • Hill climbing, up and down
    • Fun things, too, like checking out what the cows eat, what they smell like and even touch noses.
I also have been moving him to lots of different places around the farm for short periods of time, to just hang out. Sometimes I put him in an unfamiliar corral, or tie him in a strange place, while I pick up poop or do some kind of nearby chore. Other times he can help me do some chore, like raking around the many feeders around our property. Of course he is curious about the chores, but he has to learn to stay back so I can do my work. 
Other fun activities include things like dragging a tarp or barrel, putting a rope around a foot and leading him a step or two—just a matter of a little imagination. Just getting out of his pen for a while every day adds up. 
Reviewing the barrel drag...
So, what seems like lots of down time from our usual equestrian schedule is actually a real resource for a wise horseman. For Einstein, it’s a time to grow in self-confidence—while learning about the world. For us, it’s a chance to grow and improve the relationship. And that’s a great way for a young horse to spend his days.

[see more photos below, and even more on the Freedom Farm Facebook page! - MG]
Next month’s post: Quiet Confidence
A little exercise with a buddy...

Easy on from the fence.

A nice day for a ride.

Dragging the barrel is good practice for chores to come.

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