Thursday, February 26, 2009

Day Eight

Today was pretty chilly so I left the cameras indoors with the dogs.

In yesterday's session, Kasper (having not been away from his buddies for ten days) was skittery again, worried about what might be down the road, or what might come roaring up the road. Every time I led him down the road a litte way--and I mean a little way, like ten feet--when we'd turn around he'd try to dash home as if demons were nipping at his heels.

So today I focussed on getting him comfortable with turning in a calm manner and not dashing off. I led him down the road, made him do lots of turns on the hind quarters, and then stood him and flapped the flag around him, which seems to relax him. I stood him facing down the road, and made him stand facing home (which makes him more nervous). We did the turns both ways, backing up facing both ways, and lots of flapping. He didn't dash off once today. Yay!

I've added a new link that has a brief description of training a young horse to harness. Their method took about two years. That's the kind of timeline I'm prepared for, since Kasper has big confidence issues, and since I'm willing to take as long as he needs to be comfortable with every stage.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Day Six - The Movie

Here it is! The movie I couldn't load...I'm learning so much about computers...

Day Seven

I found out I passed Stage One of the natural horsemanship courses I'm taking. Yay!

Today, Kasper and I took a step back, since I haven't worked with him for ten days, and we just did some ground work. I had him walk parallel to me down the road, making him stay at the other side of the road, and had him stop whenever I stopped.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Day Six - The Truth

Okay, back from the tropics...Now for the truth (which you could have seen if that movie I made would load!): Kasper and I weren't amazing on Day Six. I had bought some new reins that morning, because the other ones were stiff like cardboard, and the new smoother reins helped a lot. But Kasper wanted to keep turning towards me and I wasn't quick enough to correct him. He'd end up facing me and then we'd have to get reorganized and start over. By the end, I just kept him on a circle and that worked pretty well. I've since had some tips from my natural horsemanship friends and I have a new way to work on keeping Kasper from turning into me. Hopefully I can get that on video next time.
Yesterday was a blustery day so I just took pictures instead of training:

My plan for the next few days (when I get out and brave the North Wind) is to ground drive Peter (below) who I've ground driven before and is happy to have me behind him. I'll get some more practice at it, and get a better feel for the reins and the contact with his mouth, and then I'll go back to Kasper.

Here's my two wheeled cart for the summer:
And here's the sleigh waiting patiently indoors:
This is apparently a Quebec type sleigh. It is very compact; just wide enough for two people on each seat.
Today is brilliantly sunny, but it's also -21 C! We'll see if it warms up...

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Day Six

Kasper and I were amazing today! Too bad the movie I made, complete with soundtrack, refused to load onto the blog. Oh well, no time to mess with it, we're off to the tropics for a week!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Day Five

Today, well, we got a little tangled. After a warm-up of ground work in the halter, I hooked the long reins to his bridle and we tried ground driving, but he wasn't so sure about being out there ahead of me and kept wanting to turn back. We worked back and forth along the road, doing several unintentional circles along the way. At the end we were kind of getting the hang of it, and I got a beautiful back-up from him at the gate. Of course, the video camera didn't catch any of it this time...somehow...

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Day Four

Okay, the video loaded. Wahoo! This is called: Standing at Attention for the Flag

It appears, in the video, that I magically cued Kasper to stand up straight and hold absolutely still for the flag routine, which is pretty cute. But in reality, he's staring at my car which is parked on the road ahead of him in a place where there usually aren't any cars. The flag is nothing new, but that car sure is!

After the flag routine, I did ground work with him for a while and then we headed over to check out the car. He wasn't sure about it at first, but after several minutes of walking all around it and nuzzling it, he became quite friendly with it. I now have green tinged lipsmear marks all over the hood and down the fenders!

Today was much better than yesterday. Kasper was calmer and only had one little crowhop. I might just attach the reins and try ground driving tomorrow. We'll see!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Day Three

Ziggy wanted nothing to do with going out into that biting wind this morning. But by the afternoon it had calmed down and out we went. Sorry, no cameraman today. I had the video camera all set up on the back of the car (I found the remote!) but Kasper and I didn't make it that far.

I harnessed him up and did some ground work in the usual spot near the barn where he can still see his buddies, and then I started moving him further down the road toward the house (where the car was parked with the videocamera all ready). As soon as he was out of sight of the barn, he started to get worried. The dogs spooked him. Noises out on the road spooked him. He got prancy and bouncy. I worked him for a while in this not-so-comfy zone, doing ground work like backing, yielding the front and hind quarters, circling, and rubbing his withers. Then we moved back to his comfy area near the barn and did some more.

I worked Kasper for about an hour. Tomorrow I'll do more of the same. What he's dealing with at the moment is separation anxiety. I don't think he even notices the harness now!

The dogs and I finished up at the barn and came back to the house for a nap in front of the wood stove...

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Day Two

Here we are, day two. I oiled up the crupper and Kasper doesn't seem to mind it at all. Here he's eyeing up the pile of moldy hay, hoping that's where we're headed. His mind is run by his belly most of the time!

I start by leading him around, asking for halts and back-ups. He's more interested in the surroundings at this point than in doing what I ask. He's away from his buddies now and a little on edge.

Asking for a halt. This is a good view of the harness. Does it look like it's sitting right? I used some odd names for parts of the harness in my last post. I've come across different terminology depending on whether the driver is British or North American, but I think the names I was giving things yesterday didn't belong to either group! My favourite book is "Breaking a Horse to Harness" by Sallie Walrond. It has fabulously detailed photos of the harness. She calls the strap that goes behind the butt the breeching, and the straps that adjust the height of the breeching, she calls the breeching tugs. The straps that I have attached from the breeching to the shaft loops, she calls the breeching straps. It's all very confusing.

The important thing is the fit. It looks like I could lower the breeching and perhaps shorten the strap that runs along his topline (hell if I know what that's called!) so that the breeching isn't sagging.

He's starting to relax.

Time to sort out the lunge line so I don't get strangled.
Here we are lunging. I work him at a walk and trot. I don't have enough room here to ask him for a canter, but apparently it's quite important to make sure the horse is happy with the crupper at the canter. I'll have to dig out that trailer and take him to the arena...
I kept him on the lunge today and didn't progress to the reins because he wasn't totally relaxed. He had two little crow-hopping bouts. I'll work him on the lunge line for as many sessions as it takes for him to be happy. At this point, I think he's reacting more to being removed from his buddies than from wearing the harness.
Next session, I'll be cameramanless, so I'll see if I can set up the videocamera on a fence post. Now if I could just figure out where I stashed that remote control...

Saturday, February 7, 2009

How Day One Went (which was yesterday)

Even the dogs, Katie and Ziggy, thought today was the perfect day to start training Kasper to harness, but first they had to clear the area of coyotes.

The horses, Kasper, CJ and Peter, are snoozing. They're recovering from a particularly blustery day yesterday.

Kasper's not sure he wants to wake up.

Here he comes...

Now, it would be better if I had a camera person along. Since I'm doing the horse work and taking the pictures, you don't get to see any action. I'll see what I can do about a cameraman. At this point, I take Kasper out to my training area (a strip of snow along the barn that is only knee deep, not thigh deep) where I can tie him by the tack room door:I start with some desensitization, flapping a flag around him. I've been doing the flag thing for months and he's quite happy with it. I can flap it wildly above his head and under his belly. Between flappings, I sweep it across his body so he's continually reminded that it's a friendly object that isn't going to hurt him. It actually seems to relax him so I usually begin a session with that.

From the flag, we move to the tarp, which I've also been flapping over him for months. I lead him around and lift the tarp up and down, fling it on and off him, and let him stomp on it. He likes to get his nose under a fold of it and flip it up.

Here he is in harness! An anticlimax after the tarp, it seems. This harness is a Pfiff from Germany. It's a breast collar style single driving harness suitable for light buggies or sleighs. The breast collar attaches to the traces, which I'll leave off for ground driving until I put the traces on and have Kasper start to pull something. I have the brake straps tied into the shaft loops just to keep them out of the way, and to put some tension on the back strap so he gets used to the feel on his butt.

Check out that mane! I spent an hour getting the winter knots out of it!

The last photo of the day is a close-up of the backstrap and crupper assembly. I don't have the crupper on him here. The next day, I'll oil it up and (gently) position it. I've spent the last year lifting his tail and putting my arm across his butt under his tail to get him used to that, so he should be fine with it. But we'll see...
At this point, I lead him around, stop, start, back, circle (in knee deep snow). And it all goes fine.

Plan for next training day: add crupper, add open bridle (without blinders), add reins, and ground drive. Maybe I'll have a cameraman, too!

Part of the reason I'm blogging this training process is to get feedback. My horse trailer is pretty much snowed in which means I'm stuck out here in the boonies with no chance for feedback. So if anyone sees something I could be doing in a better way, feel free to comment!

Day One: Harnessing up

This blog will chronicle our efforts, mine and Kasper's, as we fumble with the names of the pieces of leather, scare ourselves silly with tarps and flags and flapping buckles, and get hopelessly wound up together in 40 feet of reins...should be fun! But don't expect quick results; this will take a while. Kasper is prone to bolting at the sight--or sound--of cars, speeding cats and barking Chihuahuas, so I'll be giving him time to get comfortable with the greater world outside of his quiet, cozy pasture where his buddies are so wise and reassuring. (Meanwhile, I'm learning how to blog, and that seems to take time, too!)