Zephyr Update

Still some weight to lose.

Zypher has had a couple round pen sessions with Raina since my last update for him.

During the first one he showed are real reluctance to allow Raina the upper hand and it took about 45 minutes before he was willing to acquiesce to her authority.  Once he had agreed that she was in charge, at least for the moment, he was quite willing to stand quietly and allow her to touch anywhere she wanted, pick up his feet, etc. He stood perfectly still through the whole thing, only moving to follow her if she walked away.  However, when we took him out of the round pen to hose him off he started testing, just a little, right away.

These tests took the form of moving up as he was lead until he was shoulder to shoulder with Raina and trying to move off and get some grass in the wheel barrow as they passed. Both of these were subtle tests he was making to see if he could regain the position above her in the heard.  She spotted this for what it was and gently put him back in his place.

Today was his second session and things went smoother. He came around much faster this time.   He seemed much more willing to accept that he was not going to be able to push Raina around, though he still made small tests to see if she was paying attention.

Another thing I noticed is that Z started out each session VERY heavy on the forehand and by the end, while still on the forehand, he had started to get his hind end under him and pick himself up a bit more.  He still needs some stretching work done with him before I start working him on the short line, but I feel that we can begin those in his next session.

Within a couple more weeks I feel his weight will be down, his flexibility/conditioning up and his willingness to accept a lower position in the herd should allow us to increase the pace of his tune up and we should be able to being him on gaming elements by the end of September.

Oh, I forgot to mention. Zephyr’s owner is talking now about looking for a care lease situation for him, so if anyone reading these blog postings is interested, feel free to contact me.

Bella is Left Handed

So today was a very good day for Bella.

She was asked to walk, trot and canter in both directions which she did we great composure.  She is perfectly happy and balanced at both the walk and trot, even a wonderful extended trot, not at all bad for only having been ridden only a handful of times. She is far from completely balanced at the canter, but did not get upset or panic at any point.  Even without a flexing, her canter is soft and easy to sit. I don’t think she will ever have the “loft” that Orion has in his canter, but I think hers will be wonderfully soft and a pleasure to ride.

She was picking up her left lead every time it was asked for and about half the time the right lead was requested. Normal for a left handed horse just starting out, so to be expected. What was unexpected is her willingness to just step into the canter from the walk.  This bodes very well for her future training as a warhorse.

Equally impressive in her performance today was the willingness to stand quietly while other horses where being worked in the main arena area.  She stood without moving a foot while her rider watched the others and while conversation was going on.  She is already showing a mature work ethic and I could not be more pleased by it.

Now we must just work on her bending and softening her slightly rigid center line. This will will do with short line lunging, stretching and of course flexing while being ridden.

I am really impressed with how fast this mare is coming along. I was certain when I started her under saddle a few months ago that I would not be able to do much real in saddle training this year, but so far she has taking everything we have tried with her in stride naturally.

Zephyr Doesn’t Respect Women

Something I noticed about Z, when he was still at his owner’s place, was that he seemed to be a bit of a punk. He seemed to push his owner around a little and appeared to have no respect for her personal space.

Then he came to our place for a tune up on his training.  From the very first time I started handling him he was the perfect gentleman, so I thought “Maybe it is just the change of locations and that he remembers me from when I worked with him before.”  I mean most horses seem to pretty quickly realize that I am not really someone they can push. ;>

But after watching his owner, my wife and my assistant all handle and ride him before and after I had, I notice that he was fine when I am working him but quite different with each of the ladies. For me he came off my leg quickly and easily, neck reined from a light touch, pick up any gate I asked for, etc.  When any of them rode him, he would ignore the leg, cut off the arena, blow off the aids, on and on.  Basically he was a passive aggressive little pain.

Now each of these ladies rides differently. One with more leg strength, one with better hands on the aids, one with perfect balance, and so on, but his reaction to each was almost identical.  So what I feel we have here is a respect issue. He has it for me. For them, not so much. ;>

So what do with do about this.  Many trainers would tell them to get after him in the saddle. Just “force” him to listen and obey.  I approach this a little differently.

We are going to take him back to ground training.  Start over from the basics with each of these ladies working with him.  Beginning with making him stand still while being handled and touched. Then contact movement, followed by no contact movement, then on to short line spiral lunging .  In short, all the work I did with him way back when I first had him in training. The goal here is to get the same respect for each of them that he already has for me.  Once he is the habit of automatically following direction from humans of both genders, then we can go back to saddle training.

Just goes to show, each horse presents you with unique issues.

Bellatrix, a History

Bella Day 1
Bellatrix on her first day.

I had the pleasure of working with Bella’s mother some time ago. She seems to throw offspring with shorter legs and powerfully thick bodies.  They tend to be less willing to flex laterally than many horses, but bend at the poll very willingly. They start out as bold babies with little interest in humans, but as they get a little older their curiosity, which is considerable, causes them to interact more and more with the people in their lives. Eventually this makes them very willing work and eager to please.

Bella was a fine example of all these traits, as I discovered early. As she was born a month early, in our pasture, with no help from anyone, we have had the pleasure of her company from day one. I handled her from a young age and was able to begin using my “Hands-On” methods well before she was weaned. I began her round pen work at just 3 weeks of age as she had by then developed and interesting problem with attempting to kick people as she ran by them. Fortunately even at this age she had little problem being separated from mom, at least as long as mom was outside the round pen.

Balla under saddle
Bellatrix now under saddle

Before she was 6 months old she was halter trained, would stand tied, pick up her feet for trimming, vet quietly and load into a trailer happily. She did seem to have a deathly fear of fly spray for some reason and it took some time to get her over that. ;> She was also moving off of pressure but would stand and let you touch her all over. We were able to free lunge her, changing her direction and telling her which gait we wanted with verbal commands and hand signals. Basically, everything I ask of a young horse before I can put a saddle on them.

So off she went to the pasture to continue to grow with only periodic tune up sessions to help her hold on to what she had already learned.

Fast forward to late this spring when I started working the now 3 year old Bella on the short line with bit and saddle in place.  She took to it so quickly that she was had her first rider by early summer and is currently learning to walk, trot and canter with rider.

That’s brings us up to date with Bellatrix.

Zephyr Introductory Session

Mp>ZephyrI had the pleasure of working with Zephyr’s mother some time ago. She was the mare we leased to breed to the Friesian stallion to get Bellatrix.  She seems to throw offspring with shorter legs and powerfully thick bodies.  They tend to be less willing to flex laterally than many horses, but bend at the poll very willingly. They start out as bold babies with little interest in humans, but as they get a little older their curiosity, which is considerable, causes them to interact more and more with the people in their lives. Eventually this makes them very willing work and eager to please.

Both Zephyr and Bella I handled from a young age and was able to begin using my “Hands-On” methods right away, but Zephyr’s owner took him to California early on, where his training continued with other trainers.  I only this last weekend got to work with him again. He had been standing in a pasture unused for 8 months prior and was a little… shall we say, flabby. ;>

It was interesting that while in the pasture on his owner’s property he was pushy and a little disrespectful, especially in space issues. However, once he was again under my care his attitude changed markedly and very quickly.  In one session he was again the very sweet and respectful guy I remembered. He seemed to fall back into the training very readily which tells me that other trainers probably used similar methods when they worked with him.

When ridden, I found his reaction to the ported snaffle bit relaxed and automatic.  This means he bent at the poll the moment I lifted the reins and I was able to ride with a loose, western style and he neck reined easily.  He also moved off my leg readily, something he was doing a little less willingly when his owner or my wife Nancy rode him. I suspect the somewhat firmer leg I can employ helped him realize that yes, indeed I do expect him to move away from pressure. He did not flex well at first, but as the ride progressed, he did begin to bend laterally for me.

All in all, it was a very good introductory ride.  I will be focusing my future training on getting his weight down and strength up and helping him to flex to improve his balance. His walk and trot are soft and collected, but his canter is not as well balanced as it should be.  Then we will see how he takes to Warhorse activities.  Should be fun!

Orion’s History To Date

Orion at 8months

Orion came to us at the age of 7 months.

The first thing we noticed, after the fact that he looked for all the world like a llama, what with all the curly hair and silly long neck, was a near total lack of fear in the little guy.  Not just no fear of the usual things like strangers, the trailer, the new home, etc. but also the  lead line, lunge whip, me jumping up and down in a vain attempt at making him move away. In short, the colt was just about fearless.

This posed a interesting problem when it came to beginning his training. For many “Natural” trainers, round pen is often the first step in training a young horse, but is pretty much dependent on driving the horse away until the animal begins to show signs of deference to the trainer, who then allows the young horse to “join up”. In Orion’s case, this was not possible. Not only was it very hard to make him move away and drive him around the pen, but once I did manage to get him to move off, he showed no real sign of having any real desire to come back.

Just before his 6th birthday

Independent and self-possessed, he was just unlike any animal I had worked with before. I was therefore obliged to develop a completely new training form and so the Hands-On Method was born.

It was working with this horse that gave me the opportunity, nay, the necessity of trying training method I had never had reason to try before. I soon discovered that while my previous training methods worked well for most horses, there are some that it just wasn’t quite right for.  I was very pleased to discover that the methods that were successful with Orion worked much better with all horses than what I had been doing.

Orion began competing at three years of age and at six is the best horse I have ever had the pleasure of riding. He was born to be a jousting horse but is equally adept at mounted combat and mounted archery as he is as a trail and lesson horse.

As I continue his training, I will try to keep a running record here on this blog.

If you are a Facebook user, you can find Orion’s page here.

Hello Horse Lovers

Welcome to the Hands-On Horse Training Blog of Troy Griffith

With this blog I hope to document and track the training of horses in my care. Below you will see updates posted each day after training is completed. By clicking on the Categories to the right, all the entries I have posted for that horse will appear. This way you can follow the progress of each horse.

With any luck, some of you might also find some of  my “observations” useful.

Thanks for taking the time to have a look.