Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Day Two: Sacking out

Stevie is just a really nice, level headed filly.  She takes things in stride, and doesn't get overly upset.  Given this, she has done really well with this lesson.

With every horse on the property, I always do some sacking out every time I handle them.  In general, it is  just something as simple as tossing my lead rope over their back a few times while I'm leading them, or hanging over their backs while they're eating dinner.  I feel it goes a long way towards creating a positive attitude down the road, and it seems to have done the trick with Stevie!

Once Stevie was comfortable with me swinging the rope around and touching her everywhere with it, we simply advanced to bigger, louder objects.  So long as you can read your horse's body language, and act accordingly, there is no reason you should ever get into trouble.  You need to know where your horse's comfort zone begins.  If you can stand just outside that zone and let your horse see that the flag (my general term for the object I'm using to sack the horse out with) isn't going to hurt them, the horse will start to relax.  When they relax, that comfort zone changes; you can advance closer and closer to your horse.  Here, I'm using an empty grain sack.  You can see the filly is standing in a very relaxed posture and my lead rope is slack.

Within a few minutes of introducing it, I was able to advance to draping a tarp over Stevie, from poll to tail.  It didn't take too much longer until I could walk her around while wearing it, and pretty soon, do some ground work too.  I figure, if she can put up with a crinkly plastic tarp on her back, a saddle and rider is a cake walk!

You can accomplish some pretty amazing feats if you are patient and consistent in your method.  This is my six year old gelding.  He came to me from the same farm that bred Stevie, when he was also six months old.  By using all the same methods, he can now stand patiently while I inflict all sorts of crazy things on him (like swinging a barrel, for example!)

Please use caution and common sense.  Horses are large animals, with an exceptional amount of power and strength.  They are also concerned above all with their own personal safety, and will do whatever they feel it takes to keep themselves from harm.  Being individuals that act and react differently, the only certainty you have when working a horse is uncertainty.  I am a professional trainer with twenty plus years experience, yet even with the knowledge I possess, I still get hurt from time to time.  This blog and the accompanying media are for entertainment purposes only.  No responsibility will be assumed for injuries or damages incurred while trying to use these methods at home.  Please ride responsibly; protective gear can save your life!

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