At SVG Horse School we have six horses, where three of them (Jack, Darling and Elena) are used to carry a rider. They are not really trained riding horses but they willingly accept a rider on small walks around the garden. Magic and Spirit have for various reasons not been started under saddle and time had come this year to get started.
Anna is a student here at Richmond Vale, and she is learning together with the horses how we go about helping the horses get used to blanket, saddle and rider. It is always interesting to read how students perceive the lessons the horses learn and I have to say that Anna is a really quick learner!
Here is what Anna writes about the lessons this week:
Spirit joins the game
Our last meeting was a very successful one. We’ve been playing the “bench game”, where Magic would come to stand between two benches, with Stina and I standing on the benches. Since horses are generally bigger than humans, they usually tower over us. The purpose of this exercise was to make Magic comfortable with the idea of someone being above her.
When we started, Magic was still wary about just standing between the benches on her own. I was surprised how quick her progress was, though. Soon, with only the use of gentle words of encouragement and some handfuls of treats, she’s started to relax.
Eventually, first Stina, and then both of us, stood on the benches, even walked around a bit, making noises… Magic was a little bit weary in the beginning, but, as always, she’d relaxed quickly. Finally, she was able to stand between the benches without any problem. For the break, we encouraged skittish Spirit to try and get between the benches, with yummy treats being her reward. Soon, the horses were trying to squeeze in the place together, making standing in that particular place their own idea, instead of ours. Since that has been the goal in the first place, we were very happy with both Magic and Spirit’s progress and rewarded them with yet more treats. I’m sure they’re actually waiting for our next meeting, wondering what else they can learn, how we’re going to challenge their comfort zones and what the rewards will be.
Yesterday was more of a learning experience for me than the horses…
It’s started with the horses having another plan than doing the bench game in the small training area. Instead they ran away to another part of the field. Since it would be counterproductive to force them to do anything, we’ve just followed them. I couldn’t blame them anyway, the raining season is starting in St. Vincent and I didn’t really want to do anything myself.
When I came, I greeted first Spirit and then Magic. After that, Stina showed me how to lead the horses from behind. Then, she’s asked me to try. What had looked pretty simple from the sidelines proved to be a very complex task in reality. Verbally telling Magic to walk and making tiny gestures with a whip wasn’t everything, most of the commands she actually got from my body language. It made me unusually aware of my movements, even the tiniest ones.
On top of that you have to also sound convincing when you say the commands, otherwise they’ll know that you don’t really mean it. It may not sound like much, but after 10 minutes of this exercise I was really tired. I’ve made some mistakes, like telling Magic to stop while continuing to walk myself, but she’s been very forgiving.
In the end, I’ve had a very satisfying experience when it turned out that I actually can direct the horses and they are likely to listen to me (me!). I will, however, have to work on that body language some more.
Thank you for sharing your experience Anna. The sessions are part of a new video series called “The Making of a Dressage Horse”. I have started to study dressage with Robin Gates a couple of months ago. We are documenting the whole process from adding tack, play, pause and challenges and whatever comes up. We are on chapter 5 of 100. I think it will take about 5 years to really learn how to ride and train a horse for dressage. I always wanted to learn how to train a dressage horse from the very beginning in a beautiful partnership. After a few years of studying liberty training, this is an exciting new chapter in my own education as a horsewoman.
Enjoy your weekend and your horses!
Kind regards Stina
* More updates The Independent Liberty Trainers Network Blog on the 100 chapters of Making a Dressage Horse.
** Clinic with Stina and Tina in DreamValley Norway 4th and 5th of September.
*** Are you looking for Online Coaching? Contact Ruella Yates at Spirit Horse Ranch.