Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Day 41 - Training Tips Anyone?

The barn was really busy tonight, horses in all of the turn out areas, 5 or 6 horses in the arena, and a lot of commotion.  Marley is fine on the ground with all that is going on most of the time, but under saddle he can be a little silly around the other horses.  I've mentioned it before, but for some reason he doesn't want to go anywhere near them.

It was the same thing today, except he was much more apprehensive than usual.  He started whinnying and flipping his head and was very nervous.  I contemplated getting off of him and lunging him, but I decided that I needed to stick with my decision to get on in the first place.  I rode it out basically, continuously asking Marley to keep moving forward when he wanted to stop and start hollering.  I just asked him do simple tasks that he already knows and just kept treating him as I wanted him to behave, not how he was behaving.  I don't like to pet Marley and talk to him too much when he is so worked up, not because I don't want to calm him down, but because I would be inadvertently reinforcing that type of reaction.

When only one horse remained in the arena with us, Marley completely chilled out.  I trotted him out, letting him stretch his nose to the ground and ride on the buckle.  When the other horse left, I took off his saddle and bridle and rode him bareback with the halter (in the rain) which I think he really liked.  It completely refocused his attention on me, as I have never gotten on his back without a saddle, and I was glad to end our not-so-awesome day with that.

So, if anyone has any advice or tips on getting Marley to relax around other horses (and seriously by relax I mean go within 15 feet of them) it would be much appreciated.  On the ground he doesn't seem to have the same hangups, and he is wary of the other horses, but he isn't horrible.  He really gets a lot of confidence from me going first.  So far, anywhere I walk he gladly follows, but that dynamic is totally different when I'm on his back.  He has been really comfortable and relaxed so far in his under saddle training, but this problem seems to be progressing despite my efforts so it's time to try something new.


  1. I think it is just experience. If your barn is like mine a full arena is also full of chaos and the horses recognize that. My TB hates some of the reiners at my barn, every sudden movement, every kicking/yelling session freaks her out. The quieter/smoother reiners with no fighting she is fine with. I'm sure in Marley's world when the herd moved everyone was pretty much going the same place, I would think a ring full of horses just looks chaotic to him. He will adjust.

  2. Allison BernsteinApril 21, 2011 at 5:17 AM

    If it was me.. (remember I have no experience with horses really haha) I would take a step back. Build a strong base behavior (you walking him around large groups of horses with his saddle on but you leading) Reinforce for all calm behavior, him approaching other horses without apprehension ect. Then when you feel he is good and calm in these situations get on him but start slow again this time start by having one horse around reinforce for the same things then slowly increase. You say he is fine with you leading so that step should not take to long but I would really make sure he is not showing any signs of being nervous around large groups with you leading before you get on him and start the second step. You were basically flooding him the other way which can work too so either way you go could work this is just a different idea for ya :) Hope it helps

  3. My suggestion--turn on a different emotion--turn on "seek." The best way to do that is with a clicker.

    I did this with my young horse, and now I can ask him to focus on me whenever he is distracted. My focus command is vibrating a rein. I taught him to lower his head, and clicked it so many times that he does it very readily and I get a very strong refocusing. (I seldom click it, now.)

    I suppose you could train any behavior--just as long as it gets his attention.

    If Cole gets really wound up, I clicker trained a solid halt and reinforced standing quietly so much that once I have him standing, he is glued to the ground regardless of the chaos--and there is a lot of it at our barn!

  4. Lauren, I think the next time will be better. He just needs to have more opportunities to sort the horses and action out.
    I know some of these things are not in your could try to give him a good low time when horses ARE around and then up the ANTE, when they leave (Making him work harder) Maybe that might make him appreciate the presence of other equines....
    I am plateaued also, Coppersmith does object to this and then that, but it means to step back and let things happen...Gabriele