Saturday, April 23, 2011

Day 43 - Back on track... or should I say, back in perspective

GREAT day with Marley.  Jake came out to see how we were doing and to coach us through some of our hangups.  It's always great to have another perspective, someone to see what you've missed, or even reinforce what you're doing.  There are also parts of this competition that I know nothing about... mainly, the entire first day.  It's all reining and cow work, not things I'm really familiar with.

We went back to the western tack today and worked on Marley carrying himself on a loose contact.  Since going to the snaffle, he likes to pop his shoulder to the inside and fall in.  The last couple of rides, I haven't really addressed it because I was dealing with his other horse issues, which was a mistake I think.  It's ok though, because we spent the day regrouping and formulating our under saddle training plan for the next week.  Jake got on Marley and gave me some pointers, as well as showed me some great exercises to do with him.  At first, Marley was a little skeptical when Jake went to mount, but he never acted nervous or silly, just stared at him while Jake got on like "who the heck are you?".

Jake riding Marley
We especially focused on his canter work today (or lope, depending on which discipline you stick to) as I've not spent a lot of time developing that yet.  Jake really let Marley gallop out a bit until he found his own stride, and slowly with very little asking, Marley was moving around the arena using his butt and carrying himself.  It was great to stand on the ground and watch him go, I don't ever really get to see him except for some video here and there.  I was really able to get some perspective and see what it was that I was feeling and what Jake was telling me.

I got on after Jake rode him for a little while and ran through the exercises and maneuvers he had shown me.  For the first time in a few days Marley was really thinking under saddle again, and I think it was just what we needed to get us back in gear.  Now we have specific, small goals to work on, rather than the very big picture which I had gotten kind of lost in.  I finished up my ride with some canter work, again letting him gallop out a bit.  It was really fun, and it was fun to be in the western saddle.  I always feel a little awkward sitting in one, maybe because I've never had one that fits me quite right, but I loved switching it up.

But that wasn't all!  Rebel (the barn manager) pulled his horse trailer out for me and I finally got to do some trailer training with Marley!  Now, there were a few ways I could have approached this, but I went to the clicker as Marley really likes it and gets very involved any time I train a behavior with it.  I started out by just walking him around and letting him sniff it and touch the trailer.  He was mostly interested in the wheels which I thought was funny.  When we first approached the trailer to actually step up into it, I realized I had made a mistake.  The entire floor was covered in hay, and silly me, that's all Marley cares about.  The first behavior I clicked and rewarded him for was to bring his head up to me without me having to pull on him.  You should be able to see this in the video, and even hear the clicker.  The next movement I rewarded him for was picking up his front feet, even though he didn't bring them all the way up to step into the trailer.  He got this quickly and when I stopped rewarding him for that and asked him to come a little further, he stepped up with his front two feet and waited patiently for his reward.  He has this system down... how to get the most carrots possible.  Instead of asking him to come up all the way, I asked him to step back down and rewarded him for staying calm while doing so.  I've had horses that used to fly out of the trailer backwards, and that is NOT something I want to encourage.  After some good pets, I asked him to come back up, and he did.  He stood calmly for his carrots and rub downs, and after a few moments, I asked him to back out and he was great. 

After a few times of stepping up from directly in front of the trailer, I decided to approach it at a walk and see if I could get him to walk up in to the trailer with me.  He hesitated momentarily until he understood what I wanted and then he got right in.  I was really proud of him and ended it there.  Since we aren't in a hurry, I figured we wouldn't push anything and thought the session was really positive and fun for him.  A great ending to the day.


  1. Great progress Lauren. I really enjoy reading and seeing how far Marley has come in such a short period. Continued success.

  2. I've been watching your blog since day.1 but have never really got around to leaving any comments.
    I think you are doing SO well with him! That's great that you were able to have Jake come out and give some pointers...I think EVERYONE gets caught up in the "big picture" at one point or another - I've caught myself doing the same thing many times...
    I really loved that trailer loading clip.. and responds well to all your positive reinforcement. :)