6.01.2012

Starting Django: The Approach part 2

In the last post I talked about how I helped Django understand and allow himself to be lead by using his keen interest in food to get him to focus on my requests.

When he first arrived, he did not know how to focus on his person's requests. He also didn't understand tack and being lead with a halter and lead. When on lead, he dragged you around and if he was spooked, he would go directly into you. He was also prone to bolting ahead on the lead. If you asked him to move over, his dominant side would often kick in and he would say "no you move over". I knew he was playful and smart and did not know better so I did not take any of his behavior personally. He did do some quite rude things but again I could tell he didn't know he was not supposed to. I have two categories for respect "issues". The first one is for horses who don't know any better and if you simply show them how you would like them to behave around you they quickly adapt to that and have no issue with the request.

The second category is for horses who I have asked nicely to respect my requests and they understand them but choose to test the "rules" I make repeatedly. These horses are usually dominant and can have a playful, mischievous side. In the second case, I will be firmer in my requests and I will take the time it takes to help the horse understand what I would like. The behavior I am referring to is usually around horses that push over you, bite/nip playfully or otherwise. They may also offer to kick or push their hind end toward you. These behaviors gone unchecked, can develop into dangerous habits to work around.

In Django's case he was mostly the first case scenario and a little of the second. I was able to get him to understand most of my requests happily and he seemed pleased with himself as he got much praise for being so smart and quick to learn. However, he was attached to a nipping habit and was still a bit to quick into my space and not so easy to get to move away at times. I felt he was being dominant/playful in both cases, but nonetheless wanted him to be clear that this behavior was undesirable.

The food work is very good at teaching horses not to lean on you or pressure you in anyway by simply not feeding them until they make you feel comfortable. I not only want to feel the horse is out of my space but also is not "leaning" into me with there chest or nose. This is very helpful in the future for horses at liberty coming at you at speed and also for safety in general.

Once Django understood how to focus on me around the food, I started working on having him come with me away from the food. I knew with this particular horse, this was the in road to his desire to follow my lead. As I rewarded his self-control and focus around food with food, he became increasingly focused on where I was and where I might be going. Once he was watching me intently for how he could get more food, I started asking him to just take a step or two away from the food. Then I would reward him for that. If he would not leave with me, I would herd him away from the food for a distance and then ask him to halt. If he did that well, we would walk back to the food together, halt before the food, and then he would get his reward. If he rushed past me to the food, I would claim the food and send him away from it again. Pretty soon he realized the quickest way to get the food, was to go where I went and and then he would get to come back and get a reward.

That is the beginning of how he started to learn to let me "Lead" him places in the paddock. Once we had that firm, The Companion movement became very strong. Django would walk with me, stop with me, and trot with me. He was also learning to look out for where I was in his space at which point I knew he was ready to try his halter and lead again. There was no surprise that he was infinitely better on the lead and was already understanding to watch for me and not run ahead and push into me. Also to stop when I stopped. I continued building this Liberty-Line progression in the paddock and then out in the arena. I gradually keep adding more challenges when he is ready as he is easily over stimulated. I don't to make it too hard for him in each session. We are quite deep into the Line phase of the Liberty-Line-Mounted at this point. Django is learning how to Natural Lunge and feel boundaries through the line and follow the feel of the rope. He wearing a saddle and getting used to weight in the stirrups and me swinging and laying over him. He is doing great!

If you'd like to follow along with Django's education, You can subscribe here on my site to my Classroom http://www.fdhorsemanship.com/#!classroom

Checkout my picture log of Django below: