A Note about Sugarbush Draft Horses

I see it over and over again, and no matter how many times it's said, it's still wrong. "Sugarbush Drafts are just an Appaloosa Draft Cross". Uh.... no. The Sugarbush Draft Horse was a breed created many years ago in Ohio. While the initial cross was made using Percherons to Appaloosas, in the many generations following, the breed has been solidified into a consistent type. Saying these horses are "just" a draft cross makes as much sense as saying that AQHA horses are "just" a Thoroughbred cross, American Cream Drafts are "just" a dilute Belgian, or that Morgans are "just" a grade.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Hanna wears big horse clothes

This is Hanna.  Hanna is almost 3 years old, and she's been in training with me for a couple of weeks now.  Hanna needs to learn how to carry a rider.

I'm sure her owner has been waiting for her girl to show up on the blog, and I've just been so crazy I haven't had a chance, so let me catch you up on where Hanna is at.

She began training December 1st.  At that time, she knew how to go in a circle (lunging or round penning), but didn't get the whole idea of verbal commands.  I need those verbal commands on her to start saddle training.  Walk, trot, canter, and especially WHOA are kinda important buttons to have on a horse.Hanna did already have a very nice foundation of training to start with though.  So now, Hanna now knows how to walk, trot, canter (usually, although she likes the left lead a LOT more then the right) whoa, stand, reverse (change direction) and back.  Not bad!

What she doesn't care for at ALL is being caught in the pasture.  Interestingly, I get the feeling it's the lead rope and not the halter.  Every time I've caught her easy, it's been with out a lead.  Every time she gets all flinchy on me, it's when I do something with the end of the lead (even little things like it slipping off my arm when looped, and not touching a horse).  It's not cut and dry enough for me to say it's definitely the lead.  So every day we're working through that.  At first, it took me... about 20 minutes or so to catch her.  Now, less then 5 minutes.  It's all no stress, no fuss type handling.

Here's what I do.  Hanna is in a paddock with her "little siblings" (same owner's 2 weanlings) and 2 of my kids.  I walk in the paddock with the halter and lead easy to see, and head to a horse.  Sometimes it's Dots, as I've been halter training her, sometimes it's someone else, but mostly it's Hanna.  If Hanna runs from me, I simply add pressure as she heads away (lift an arm, etc, very small nuances).  When she comes to me I release the pressure, and act welcoming.  When she walks right up to me, I don't always catch her.  Even if I'm after another horse, I do this with Hanna. 

Now, the kids in there are usually very helpful.  They all head into the run in, and give me a place that Hanna wants to be (in the herd, with every one else).  I can simply stand at the entrance, and wait for her (it's not a large paddock).  If she runs away, I add pressure, if she heads to me, I release it, and if she tries to run PAST me, I prevent it by simply stepping in her way.  Ok, sometimes it's kinda like cutting cattle, except I'm the cutting horse, and she's the cow (and I look like a total moron doing it) but Hanna gets this idea, and it's very low drama 90% of the time.

Once I catch her, I do nice things with her.  A few treats, or a nice brushing, or maybe just hand walking and grazing the yard.  Something that's calm and praise.

After that, we head to work.  Last week Hanna worked her way into a bridle.  As you can see, I have the bridle on over her halter.  I know there's a lot of various ideas about this, but I've always found that the halter under the bridle lets the horse get the feel for the movement on the bit.  If I pull the halter, it will pull the bridle out some, and thus put light pressure on her.  Now, if you look, you can see that she's wearing a rubber D ring bit.  Hanna has a very nice and soft mouth, and she prefers a larger diameter bit.  This one works great for both things.

So, we've slowly worked Hanna up to doing all of her ground work off the bit.  While I don't have a picture of it, I use a bit connector - a strap that clips on the D ring, goes under the chin with a ring on it, and clips to the opposite side.  I can then attach the lunge line to the bit in a way that allows me to react to a bad change of direction, or other things that often result in a horse getting wrapped up with the line is run across the poll.  Attaching the lunge line to the bit gives Hanna the first step of ideas in being controlled by her mouth.  Granted, at this point the only real signal we're using is for slowing (a slight pressure) and reversing (movement of the line, which moves the bit)

Well, today was another big step for the baby girl.  She got to wear "big girl" clothes!
The saddle pads started off on the fence, but of course, she had to pull them off, paw them, step on them, chew on them, and just get a feel for what they are.  There's a black wool pad there, and a lighter tan-ish colored one.  I really believe in allowing the horses to think things through, and Hanna is always much calmer when allowed to investigate.  So she spent about 20 minutes playing with the blankets.  Have no fear, the camera is zoomed all the way out, and I was really within "release" distance of that line in case her pulling the pads off the fence scared her.  But nope, Hanna's idea of "fear" is to get a pathetic look on her face, and look at me to make it better.
And there's the big girl half way dressed up.  Sadly, my pictures of her with the saddle on didn't come out (sun glare) but yep, she was totally tacked up and ready to go.  We had a bit of a fuss when I asked her to move out, but nothing more then "what's that on my back, it's moving funny" kind of looks at it.  We then lunged, all 3 gears, both directions.  The first time she got into a canter the restriction of the girth startled her into a scooting canter for about 3 paces, but that was all the fuss she gave me.  Cinching up, bitting up, and the "normal" problem points she didn't care about at all.

Once Hanna was feeling good about how the saddle feels, I began teaching her about the basics of mounting.  We checked out the mounting block (she bonked her nose on it a few times) I showed her how I can move it around, toss it down next to her, and other things that might be scary.  Yeah, scary...sure!  Hanna didn't care at all about them.  I then began putting those verbal commands into use. Step, stand, over... all those words allow me to position her on the mounting block so that I can easily step up.  I slapped the saddle I made noises with the stirrups, I yanked and pulled and did all those things that are known to set off some horses.  Hanna of course was not "some" horse!  She's a good girl!

Don't get me wrong, she's not a total angel.  Hanna has her fair share of stubborn, but today it didn't make an appearance.

In the end, I leaned over the saddle while standing on the mounting block and putting pressure (arm strength only) on the saddle.  Hanna was fine with that, but did let me know that she was going to need another cookie!

I'm not ready to climb on her yet, but I am ready for ground driving.  That's tomorrow's lesson, but the idea of a human stepping up and leaning over will be repeated for a while in our sessions.  Ground driving allows me to teach the horse the bit controls without confusing them by adding too much at one time.  I figure Hanna will totally have ground driving down pat in a few days, and THEN I will be riding her.  So close now! 

Right now, we're running a bit behind my ideal schedule, but like I said, I train at the horse's pace.  Hanna needed extra time to learn her verbal commands (many horses get those in a session or 2, Hanna took a week) and she delayed some of her training with her catching issues, resulting in a few lessons the first 2 weeks on just getting handled with out fear of... what ever it is she's worried about.  But we're at the point where everything is coming together nicely!

And I admit, I'm so proud of myself for remembering to get pictures!

Sadly, the weather is not willing to work with me this week.  Chance of rain on Thursday, and of course, Friday and Saturday are holidays (Christmas Eve and Christmas Day).  So I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the rain will hold off until after I work Hanna on Thursday.

6 comments:

  1. Nice work! She seems pretty blase about the whole thing - which is good. Like your slow, steady approach - no concerns, no upsets. Good stuff! I like Hanna she seems a sensible mare.

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  2. Interesting that you have her tied. I've never tied when introducing to the big girl/boy clothes. just easier for me I guess. But by the time I ready to cinch I've done all the flipping, flapping, dragging of stuff over, under, across, off, on that it's not a thing.

    Hanna is a great mare.. I love her "no big whoop" attitude she has with everything. What will her ultimate "job" be?

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  3. I actually do it different with every horse. Hanna got tied because that worked for her. Others I would never think of tieing. For Hanna though, being tied at the rail is a "safe" are where we do things she doesn't always like, but she never gets hurt.

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  4. Not very many folks add the step of ground driving, but I really like to teach them all the bit cues before I get on them. That way the only thing new is me being up there. It's a nice way to get them out in the neighborhood, too, so you can see how they'll react to stuff like cars and dogs and horse-eating mailboxes!

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  5. Not very many folks add the step of ground driving, but I really like to teach them all the bit cues before I get on them. That way the only thing new is me being up there. It's a nice way to get them out in the neighborhood, too, so you can see how they'll react to stuff like cars and dogs and horse-eating mailboxes!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Nice work! She seems pretty blase about the whole thing - which is good. Like your slow, steady approach - no concerns, no upsets. Good stuff! I like Hanna she seems a sensible mare.

    ReplyDelete