Morning feeding: Phil was polite. I tacked Phil up this morning and we headed out on the trail for a warm up. I am still working on the ground and will not step foot in the stirrup until I am assured I can direct Phil’s feet and have earned his respect. By securing a solid foundation on the ground you will avoid many in the saddle “accidents” or “frustrating moments” with your horse.
I invited the dogs along and they, of course, made quite a commotion on the trail. Phil is still weary about the dogs. I give him tasks to do instead of letting him react to the dogs wrestling or jumping in and out of the bushes. The tasks are not corrections; they are merely to keep Phil from switching into instinct mode.
When we return we went to the round pen. I asked Phil for transitions to see if there are any worries about the heavy roping saddle on his back. He was very attentive in the pen. He schooled nicely, turned in and away from me, and he actually had his nose tipped towards me. This is a wonderful sign of comfort, trust, and respect. I asked him to circle in. I walked around the pen and he kept “two eyes” on me the entire time. Even though we were in the round pen for only 10 minutes Phil’s lesson for the day was complete. If I had kept a time schedule for “schooling” him I would have ruined the entire lesson and probably created some new issues. Remember time is a human concept. Your horse will tell you when it is time to stop. You must know the difference between your horse accepting your cues and your horse outwardly refusing to accept your cues. Stop and reward for acceptance. Keep the lesson going if your horse is ignoring you. Take your watch off your wrist! Do not get this stage of Phil’s training confused with conditioning.When Phil moves to the under saddle phase we will start conditioning and spend longer periods of time together. If I have done my homework correctly, Phil will want to school and look forward to our time together under saddle.
I end the lesson by tying a soft lead around Phil’s front right pastern and lift his leg. I hold the lead until Phil stops trying to free his leg. I have been working on this with Phil for some time now, so Phil only mildly resists. I repeat on all 4 legs while he is ground tied. I am preparing Phil to hobble.