Sunday, August 30, 2009

Ready to learn

Yesterday, I went to a weanling clinic sponsored by the New Mexico Arabian Horse Association. I had planned on leaving at 8:00AM so I would have plenty of time to get to the farm by 9:00AM but, as usual, I was running late. I confess, I was surfing the web. ;) Fortunately, I found out that the clinic didn't start until 9:30 so then I decided to leave by 8:30. However, because I turned the horses out into the big field and I have a hundred and one things to do all the time, I didn't leave the house until 8:50. I had a long drive ahead of me so I pushed the pedal to the metal as much as I could. I finally got there just at 9:30 and, fortunately, they were still parking cars. I asked the parking guy if there were any spaces up close for a little car and he said there was, so I scooted in right up front. :) They were still setting up when I walked up to pay my fee. Hooray, I wasn't late after all!!! It cost me $20 for the clinic and lunch and I got a raffle ticket for door prizes too.

I settled down on some blanket covered hay bales, under a tarp, right near the round pen. The clinic started right after I sat down- what great timing! ;)

Jeff Shelton, of Puzzle Quarter Horses & Training, was giving the clinic. He started off by working his 2 year old Quarter horse in the round pen. The horse responded well, even side passing and performing turns on the fore and hind quarters strictly by visual cues. Then, he jumped on and rode him around with a just a neck rope. That was really great, but I wanted to see him work with the babies!

Jeff told us that he had previously worked with a six month old weanling, Seri, the night before for a couple of hours. Kathy haltered and led Seri into the round pen and then Jeff showed us the proper methods for teaching respect, leading, de-sensitizing, and some beginner roundpen work. He laid out a tarp and worked with Seri until she willingly walked and trotted over it and even stopped on it. He showed how you need to be relaxed and calm while working with your horse and use your body language to convey what you want from your horse.

He likes to use treats every so often to reinforce the horse's positive results. However, that's not always possible with weanlings. Seri spit out the cookie.
He suggested that the ideally trained horse is one that has "Whoa- waiting for go", and "Go- waiting for whoa", to steal a phrase from Pat Parelli, I think.

These are some of the highlights I got from the clinic. Much of this can be used on any age horse.
  • When you start something, always end on a good note.
  • farts = relaxation in the horse
  • Rub the jugular area of the neck. It is the most vulnerable part of their body. When they get comfortable with you touching them there they will get more confidence and trust in you.
  • Work behind the shoulder for forward movement.
  • Desensitizing and disengaging go hand in hand. In other words, the more supple and loose the horse is, the less tense and afraid he is.
  • Apply thumb pressure on the poll area only until the head drops. Continue working at this until the horse becomes extremely responsive and drops head quickly and willingly.
  • Always keep the withers "calm" and touch all body flinches until they stop. Make it a "touching" game.
  • Whenever you pick up the horses feet, drop a leg instead of placing it back down. Otherwise, the horse may begin to lean on you.
  • Use circular motions around the face and eyes to desensitize the area.

To prepare for this clinic, Kathy, of Romance Arabians, left her weanling, "Timmy" completely unhandled. Now, at 5 months, Jeff would show us how to train him. I don't think this went over as well as he had hoped. First off, Jeff is a Quarter Horse trainer and Arabians are a whole 'nother breed! And Timmy was extremely stubborn! He and Seri were turned out together and while Seri could be caught, Timmy would have none of it. Jeff and Kathy spent about 20 minutes catching the little devil and finally ended up leading the filly, Seri, back into the round pen with Timmy following. Then Seri was taken out and he began working on the colt. He eventually got close enough to place a neckrope and a butt rope on Timmy and he began working with him. At this point, he was asking for only one step to the side at a time.When the foal refused to move forward, Jeff suggested just waiting it out, all day, if need be. He says to keep a steady pressure on the rope and eventually the horse will give in to the pressure and step forward. I guess it usually works, but not with Timmy!He just closed his eyes and thought about taking a nap.Jeff pulled harder and Timmy braced back, closed his eyes and prepared to spend all day there too, never intending to move. LOL. A clinician's nightmare! Because, this was a clinic, he had to give up and go on to other things. Too bad, Timmy won!

This is one of the mares watching from the field, not Timmy's though. Timmy's mama had just been sold and shipped to Dubai last week.

Jeff suggests working on lateral flexion, bringing the head to each side until the horse drops his head, then immediately releasing the pressure. This is considered low impact training and can go on indefinitely.

By now, poor Timmy was about wore out and it was getting noonish so they had to stop.

I must add, for Timmy's behalf, that he was absolutely terrified of the bleachers, tarps, and people. He never would come to our side of the round pen. Poor baby! Under different conditions, Jeff might have made faster progress with the little colt, like he did Seri, because he worked her the night before.

Also, door prizes were given out, lots of them. And guess what? I was the first number called! I won a set of horse clippers. That is so cool, because I didn't have any before. I also got a great big bag of horse cookies.

Then, there was a question and answer session with a local veterinarian. I asked about the proper time to wean a foal. She suggested at about four months, depending on the mare and foal. If the mare is drying up or losing condition, it's good to wean sooner. It also depends on if the foal is eating hay and grain well. There were several other good questions and answers about worming foals and how much grain to feed, etc. She said Ivermectin, Pyrantel, and fenbendazole are all okay to worm with but never use Quest on a foal. Horses should be checked for sand in their intestines because they can colic. Foals don't have to be fed grain as long as they get good quality hay, and lots of it.

Finally, lunch was served: half a roast chicken, beans, cole slaw, biscuit, and lemonade. Wow! A huge lunch! And a good one too!

All in all, it was a good clinic. It showed the best and worst possible scenarios for working with foals. This wasn't a bad thing, at all. In fact, it made me appreciate Yalla! more for what I can do with her and now I have ideas about what other things I need to work on. I went out yesterday after the clinic to apply some of that training. Yalla! is leading pretty well for the most part although she does balk now and then. I waited her out with some steady pressure like Jeff suggested and she came forward right away! I worked on her bending to side pressure and dropping her head. Even though I've been rubbing her all over since she was born, she still gets "flinchy" in some areas, so I worked on those too. I can understand her thought process a little more now after watching Timmy and Seri.

After I worked with Yalla! I rode Annie, bareback, with a halter and the lead rope looped up and tied for reins. She was awesome. We walked, trotted, and even loped some. She was very responsive for me. It was a thoroughly enjoyable day!

Ready to learn - song: Buddha of Suburbia, artist: David Bowie, album: Buddha of Suburbia


Paint Girl said...

That clinic sounded so wonderful and informative!! I love clinics. Great information that you can use on Yalla!
That is so cool that you won a door prize! Clippers even!! Congrats!

Shirley said...

I love working with weanlings. When I get to the spot where you put pressure on and wait for them to step forward, as Timmy is refusing to do, I wait, like your trainer did, but when they close their eyes and nap like that, I slowly move to the side, keeping the same pressure, and they eventually have to take a step- or fall over!
Those are some great prizes you won. But I think Yalla! is the big winner, 'cause you'll be working more with her now!

manker said...

sounds like a great clinic and thanx for sharing such detail with us... .teach :)


Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Thanks for sharing the information on the clinic and congrats on winning the door prizes. Come on, though... someone has to teach us that farts mean that a horse is relaxing? Every time I groom my horses they cock their hind hooves and have a fart fest.

Andrea said...

What a fun clinic. I have been wondering about training a weanling. I have my two fillies and I am just not sure about how much they can take. I want to show them in yearling lunge line and I don't know when to start them on that. Everyone has different opinions.

We wean our babies at 6 months. My TB mare had her filly weaned at 4 months due to the mare not doing so well with her weight.

That poor clinician!! The weanling was so rotten!! LOL.

And it makes me really appreciate all I can do with my two girls too!! It's amazing what a little time and effort can do for a foal.

Mine lead, stand for brushing, pick out feet, trim hooves, be bathed, sprayed with fly spray, and I have started walking around me in a circle!! It has taken me a while, but a little time each day makes all the difference!!

Fantastyk Voyager said...

Andrea- Sounds like you've got your babies off to a great start!

This trainer thought that it was okay to round pen 6 month olds but 5 months was too young. I'm sure there are lots of opinions on this matter. If you are considering showing them as yearlings, you may want to start working them out lightly in the coming months, gradually increasing the training time. good luck!