April 11, 2009

Explosive youngster in the traffic - Fame part 2

Fame on pasture as 3 yo

I bought my present horse Fame when she was three years old.
You can read more about it here.
At that point she had been living outdoors 24/7 at her breeder's and had not been much handled.

After I bought her I agreed with her breeder that she should start some initial work with her in familiar surroundings. She was worked in the longe line, eventually also with a saddle and had a couple of loose jumping sessions.
During the summer she was turned out on pasture.
In mid August I sent her to a dressage rider for a month, well known to do a good job with young horses.
She was to start her under rider.
I wanted her to get a good start with someone that had more experience than me, and I felt it was a good investment.
When I got her back they had done a very good job with her.
Now the work had to start for me and my new horse.
To be able to ride her for the first time was a fantastic experience!
I still smile when I think about it now.
She is under the pony limit (still, I hope), but it felt like sitting on a WB. She was quite balanced to be so young.
It felt good up there!
I was very happy with my crazy investment.

In the autumn that year I entered her into the Quality Test for 3 yo, held by the Norwegian Pony Association. She was to be showed in hand and loose jumped over hinder, but not presented under rider.
To get her prepared to the test I had to lead her along a road to practise loose jumping at a neighbour facility that had an indoor arena .
It is a small road, with buses and lorries passing by. She was not used to traffic.
And I had a lively 3 yo just waiting for an excuse to explode. I did not want neither her, nor me, injured.

So how was I to manage it?
This is where the treat thing got started, folks.

I needed her to focus on ME when something passed us, instead of exploding.
So I filled my pockets with treats.
And the plan worked!
She could jump around me and play up (no, she was not very lead trained) and when there were no cars, I could discipline her.
But I couldn't do it when the vehicles came - there simply was not room enough.
So every time a vehicle advanced I put my hand in my pocket, and Fame soon got the picture and hung on that pocket. The cars were not of interest any more.

Yes, I got a pickpocketer for a while.
But I also got a horse with very positive experiences of vehicles!
And traffic has never been a problem since.

Springtime, Fame and Nesprinten on pasture that summer


Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Interesting story. I've been in the habit of waiting until all the work is done before giving the horses any treats, but it could be a lifesaving maneuver to keep a few treats in your pocket as a distraction. I'd probably wrap mine in plastic, so the horses wouldn't smell it and start hassling me.

Irene said...

Smart o positivt sätt att lära den unga hästen att vänja sig med trafik. Om du i stället ryckt i tyglar o själv blivit stressad, hade det förts över på hästen.
Jag lär alltid mina unghästar att gilla bettet genom att alltid ha en sockerbit som den får tillsammans med bettet. Har aldrig haft problem att tränsa!

RuckusButt said...

Thanks for this! I have no doubt that, with the Fjords especially, the rest of the world is much less interesting than a pocket full of treats!

And thanks for the link back to Fame's story, somehow I hadn't read it before. I understand your comments on my blog about Justine even better now :) *sigh*

HorseOfCourse said...

NuzzMuzz - at that point I could live with a searching muzzle.
What I couldn't live with was rodeo in front of the cars, and believe me - that was a very likely to happen. In addition it was in the autumn, with dark and rainy evenings with bad visability even with reflexes. I was really worried about how to solve the problem of how to keep us both safe.

Irene - I've also used treats to make them take the bit.
It started with my daughter's first pony.
My daughter was a small seven yo when she got her first pony. When he was to take the bit he was just not cooperating, just playing around. A treat and the problem was solved after a few days, like you say.
Afterwards I've used it with the youngsters with very good result. I just have to stand in the box opening and they come and put the bit in themselves, even leaving the hay, lol!

And RuckusButt - I really liked the look of Justine, you know. Have you found out anything more about her?

OnceUponAnEquine said...

I like hearing about Fame. Glad the treats worked in the traffic.

What treats do you feed from the saddle? I tried treats with Marley just once from the saddle, trying to distract him from wanting to go back to the barn. I had a few horse cookies with me. He got so intense about it, I nearly lost my fingers and we dropped more than he got into his mouth. Maybe a carrot would work better where he could bite off the tip. But for Marley, hand feeding makes him way to grabby and aggressive. If he gets a treat now, its in his bucket at feeding time. So I'm not using them as a reward at this time. Sounds like it works very well for Fame though.

HorseOfCourse said...

OnceUpon, I use either carrot bits or müsli/pellets. Both because they are easy available to me. I don't believe it matters, really, what you use.
I understand your doubts about Marley though. Fjords can often be pushy according to my experience. At the same time they normally are very food motivated, so if you can teach him manners about treats, you might have a super training aid in his further education.

Horses get eager about treats. I believe it is in a way a confirmation of how powerful a tool it might be if we use it right.
At the same time I believe that it is with this as with most of the other things we do with horses; some things work with one horse and it doesn't work with another. With a grabby or pushy horse it might not be the right method.