Splash is a beautiful 4 year old homebred mare who came to Changing Equine Behaviour for her foundation training and backing education.
Follow her progress below.
Initial Foundation Training
In my initial training I use a snaffle bridle with a loose Cavesson noseband. This avoids any unnecessary pressure elsewhere on the horse's mouth or face, and makes the rein cues of pressure and release very clear on the horse's mouth. The horse is unsaddled.
To start with I test the 'Basic Responses' of; Stop, Go and Step Back. Here I check the lightness of these cues to determine the horse's level of responsiveness. We want the horse to respond to a light cue for each rein aid which demonstrates obedience and an understanding of that particular aid. If a heavy or delayed response occurs this needs to be trained lighter to enable us to move onto the next level of training.
A deficit in the 'Go' aid will transfer to behaviours such as 'laziness' 'spookiness' 'refusing jump obstacles'.
A deficit in the 'Stop' aid will transfer to behaviours such as 'bucking' 'no brakes' 'rushing at jump obstacles'.
26th September 2019
Splash is very light and responsive to the Stop aid, however is heavy to Step Back and very fidgety in Park. Repetitions of Park enable her to learn to stand still, independently of the handler. This will be helpful when saddling up, standing for the farrier, travelling etc. She has a habit of sticking her tongue out and scraping it across the teeth on the left side of her mouth. This will be rectified by lightening up her Step Back response and deepening her Stop response using faster and slower steps within the gaits.
1st October 2019
Splash is very aversive to being wormed so in this session I revisit Park, and teach her Head Down as pre-requisites to wormer training. Using gradual habituation and repetition Splash was able to accept the wormer within this 45 minute training session. Her owner is very happy and can now worm her, in her stable, in a much more relaxed manner, making the experience more pleasant for both. Click here to watch her training video on my Facebook page.
3rd October 2019
I have now introduced Turns to help Splash with her steering for when she is backed. Her left turn is much better than her right turn, so more practice is needed to even her up on both sides. I train her initially with the reins over her head, then in the position of the rider so it is easier for her to transfer these cues when backed.
8th October 2019
Today I train in a different environment; the outdoor arena, in the wind! It is always good to test the training in different areas, using different parts of the arena and then generalising this to other environments. Once the horse has been trained in 6 different environments the behaviour should easily be generalised to most scenarios. Today I revisit previous training of 'Stop' 'Go' 'Step Back' 'Park' and 'Head Down'. It is important when changing environments not to introduce anything new. Change one variable at a time.
9th October 2019
Splash reacts to having the saddle placed on her back by stepping forwards. If this isn't rectified the behaviour will worsen. I correct any forward steps by stepping her back. From this correction she learns to stand still for saddling. Interestingly, in the arena today her Step Back is much heavier than in previous sessions. This is because I have introduced a new variable, the saddle. I revisit Step Back training, and once she is light to respond I know that she is comfortable and has accepted the saddle. I can then move on to the next step. Today I introduce jumping next to her on the ground which simulates the rider dismounting. She is initially reactive to this behaviour and backs away from me, however after repetitions and correcting any backward steps she stands beautifully in Park. I train both sides to further deepen this response in her brain.
10th October 2019
Splash is alot less reactive for saddling today but it is very windy and she is tense and tucked up as we walk to the arena. The wind is catching the saddle flaps which is quite frightening for her but I don't avoid this, I overshadow it so she becomes accustomed to it. By revisiting previous training she understands what is being asked of her which has a calming effect because her training is predictable, even given the distracting environmental stimulus. At the beginning of the session I did not think I would be able to jump next to her today but I do and she Parks beautifully for me.
11th October 2019
I tack her up at the tie up today instead of her usual stable environment. She is eating a haynet and continues to eat with no forward steps at all. She is much more relaxed than yesterday. We continue her training in the outdoor arena as there are more visual distractions for her. I jump next to her and progress this to holding her saddle and adding some weight to it. I finish with some Turn responses. They have very much improved after some time off from them. The beauty of latent learning.
12th October 2019
Today I change another variable for Splash and introduce her owner as another handler in the training. Although she knows her owner very well this still changes the dynamics of the training. I recap the 'Basic Responses' from her previous sessions as this is predictable and helps to relax her. We introduce the mounting block, and her owner begins to apply weight on her back. We gradually increase the pressure until her owner has her full weight across her back. She is bareback for this initial backing process so that she has no conflicting girth pressure to contend with.
13th October 2019
We repeat the same process as yesterday, and progress to sitting upright on her. Fantastic!
Under Saddle Training
15th October 2019
With each new training progression Splash is demonstrating an overreactive tongue. Over the next few sessions I work on this using transitions within the walk gait of faster and slower steps. This is improving and the tongue movement is becoming less. Her owner is noticing the difference between the sessions. Due to her owner's work commitments during the week I revisit the previous training techniques of Stop, Go, Step Back, Park and Head Down but now with her saddle on. The saddle is now an added variable to her training so I work on habituation at this new level.
19th October 2019
It is important to give days off inbetween training. Splash has had a lot of learning recently with new groundwork, backing, and over the last few days she has been wormed and had the farrier to trim her feet. Time off is important to allow the capillaries of the newly formed neural pathways in her brain time to rest. This is called Latent Learning.
Today we revisit the backing process and then we focus on moving her with the rider on her back. She has retained the information from the last backing session and we move her forwards and backwards. Her forwards steps are more hurried so we concentrate on stepping backwards until she gets used to moving with the weight of the rider.
26th October 2019
Today I introduce the leg aids from the ground, she is saddled up and learns to walk forwards from pressure on her girth area with no rider. This will make things clearer when it comes to handing the controls over to her rider.
28th October 2019
Splash is reactive to the stirrups touching her sides by twitching her shoulders and attempting to rush forwards, so today I overshadow this behaviour.
30th October 2019
We start the session bareback with her owner getting straight on today. I then hand the leg controls over to the rider and she is nicely responsive when asked to walk forwards, walking once around the arena. We dismount and put the saddle on, pulling the stirrups down. She is tense to start with but by revisiting previous training she relaxes and lets out a few deep sighs. Today we introduce jumping up and down next to her on the mounting block and putting weight in the stirrup.
She is very good and so we end the session there so as not to overload her.
31st October 2019
Today we saddle her up, revisit adding weight into her stirrup, she is sensitive to having her elbows touched with the rider's toe so rather than avoid that, we overshadow it. Her owner mounts her using the stirrup and sits upright on her. We walk forwards and backwards, she is very calm.
1st November 2019
Her owner mounts her straight away today and she is very good. She is reactive to the rider's right leg movement so we overshadow this behaviour.
3rd November 2019
Today I hand more of the controls over to her rider; leg aids for Go, rein aids for Stop. She is still under my control via a leadrope, just in case but is listening to her rider. She is no longer over-reactive to the rider's right leg.
8th November 2019
Splash has had 4 days off to process more of her training. Today I do an inhand session with her practising longer and shorter steps in walk, and then faster to trot, and downward transitions to walk. Today is quite comical as there are poles on the ground in the arena that I do not move aside before my training (note to self, always move poles!) Whilst walking backwards to keep my eye on her legs, I trip over a pole and fall over! Splash jumps back and stands and looks down at me. I decide that this will be termed as "fall-proofing" which of course, is an essential lesson for any baby horse!
9th November 2019
Her owner gets on her again today. We walk around the arena and practice walk and halt transitions, practising her walk not being too hurried. I unclip the lead rope and they are all by themselves. Her walk and halt transitions are lovely, she is very calm and not rushing off, although her steering does need some practice! I am really pleased with her progression and feel very proud to see them riding solo.
12th November 2019
I do a groundwork session practising her turn aids which will assist the rider with steering.
17th November 2019
We practice steering with the rider. Her right turn is now interestingly much better than her left turn. We need more work to even her up on both sides.
19th November 2019
Today is my first ride on Splash - how exciting! I practice her turns inhand initially, and then mount her with her owner holding her for me. I practice her walk-halt-walk transitions. This again is a new lesson for her as she has a different rider. We only change one variable at a time to allow the horse to accept the next stage of training, so the environment and the training has remained the same, but the rider has changed. She is over-reactive to the rider's legs today which shows that old behaviour will return as a default setting. She demonstrates a fantastic leap in the air off all four legs with a rocky half buck, half rear. She then gives a deep breath in and a big sigh out and stands still. I leave it there after getting some nice walk-halt-walk transitions and calmness to finish.
22nd November 2019
I ride her again today. She is much better with her steering although is still more reactive than I'd like her to be to my legs. I overshadow this behaviour and she becomes much calmer.
1st/3rd December 2019
I introduce Yield. I notice that she has looked tired in these last couple of sessions so I am going to give her some time off. She has had a lot going on very recently and I don't want to flood her brain.
16th December 2019
After 2 weeks off I revisit inhand training and then mount her. This is the first time she is mounted with one person, she is fidgety at the mounting block so I will work on this in a future session, teaching her to Park at the mounting block and stand for the rider to get on. I'm very pleased with her today, her halt-walk-halt transitions are light and responsive. I don't do much with her as I'm pleased she has remembered her previous training after some time off.
21st December 2019
Today I do a mounting session with Splash. Horses are very quick to learn that moving away from the mounting block removes the rider, particularly when mounting alone. Using repetitions and correcting her fidgety behaviour after only one session she stands beautifully, allowing me to mount and dismount many times. Click here to watch her mounting training session on my Facebook page.
3rd March 2020
After 10 weeks off due to lameness I tack Splash up and revisit our previous training. Stop, Go, Step Back, Park, Head Down, stirrups down, jumping next to her and leaning on the stirrups. She makes a couple of errors in Park but other than that is absolutely perfect.
4th March 2020
Today I mount Splash. This is the first time she has been sat on since 23rd December when her owner was just about to get going with riding her and discovered that she was lame. Isn't that always the way?! She is absolutely awesome today! I revisit walk-halt-walk transitions, and encourage her to step longer in her walk strides which is more relaxing for her. Her training is now handed over to her owner, yippee! I am very excited for her future and to watch her progress.