Working with Dante


Each time I go out to the barn, if Ellen isn’t there, I spend a little time with Dante doing spring tuning.  We are just reviewing the things what he knows to prepare him for trail riding.  For the first week, we played bus stop.  He remembered the game quite well.  It is where I take him to the end of the driveway and we wait for cars to pass.  If he stands still, it click and treat him.


Dante remembered the game very well, and just loves it.  Once I knew he would be 100 percent playing the game, I decided it was time to work on something else.  He doesn’t agree.  When I take him out of his stall, he wants to head right down the driveway.  Instead, I have been taking him the other direction to review the loop.  It is a small track in the back of the property.


The first day, I just walked him back and forth down the fence line leading to the loop.  He did well with that.  Next step—leading on the loop.  He started out pretty good, but when we got to a section that was muddy, he started acting out by jumping, pulling back, rushing forward, cutting me off and once he gave a small buck.  I would stop him or circle him; whichever seemed more appropriate.  When we got to the last section of the loop where we were facing home, he started rushing.


That was just the first lap.  On the second lap, he protested that he had to do it again.  On the muddy section, he did everything he did before, but worse and he did it more times.  I felt like I would never get out of there—we were circling so much.  When we did, and we were facing the barn, he started rushing, again.  Whenever he would walk calmly for a dozen steps or so, I would click him. 


On the third lap, he started to figure it out.  We still had trouble, but only a fraction of what we had previously.  At the halfway point, a change came over him, and we were able to walk the rest of the way and back to the barn with no problem at all.


I remembered we went through all this last spring, too, and that made me feel better about his dismal performance.  In fact, just a few weeks previous, I had similar problems with Cole when he hadn’t gotten out of the barn in a few weeks.  Still, Dante is usually such a laid back fellow (Cole is not), it is discouraging when he gets this way.


My memory said that Dante improved last spring after his first awful lesson, so I was hopeful.  A few days later, I took him out, again.


On the first lap—he was nearly perfect.  On the second lap, he had one little temper tantrum when he realized he was going to do another lap.  After a quick circle, he was able to walk like a gentleman the rest of the way.  Two laps were enough since he was so good. 


I need more daylight in the evening to be able to take him for a walk on the hill after I ride Cole on the trail, so we will continue on the driveway and loop until then.

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Comment by Jackie Cochran on March 26, 2015 at 3:01pm

Yes, Spring, the flowers, the new leaves, the warmer breezes, and the horses either react or CELEBRATE!  My quietest horses went crazy in the early spring, not really calming down until the new grass got some age on it.  I cut grain at this time of year except for the cold snaps.

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