About Me

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USDF Region 1, United States
Rigitta is a 2005 Lipizzan mare,(Pluto II Dixana x Rheia), that I finally found Dec 2010 after a 2 year search for a Lipizzan. Many adventures and new found friends later, Rigitta and I begin our partnership and eventual dressage competitive career. Rigitta has not been started yet so this will all be from scratch just like my 2007 Dutch Warmblood, Cedar(Theo), has been. I am an over 50 Adult Amateur Dressage competitor. I am a supporter of the Nokota Horse and have owned several. ... www.nokotahorse.org ... Amy Dragoo is helping me with my Blog photos. Majority are from her. ... AK Dragoo Photography, LLC ... www.akdragoophoto.com ... You can follow her Blog here: http://akdragoophoto.squarespace.com/view-all-posts/ ... Also a shout out to Sarah Casey and Waltzing Horse Farm Berlin, New York where I got Rigitta ... http://www.waltzinghorsefarm.com/ ... Make sure you click on "older posts" at the bottom of the page to see everything that has been happening since the beginning of the adventure!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Connection routine for stress situations

Photo Credit to Amy Dragoo

My farm sitter/stall cleaner is staff photographer at the Daily Local newspaper in West Chester.  My horses get in the paper a lot.  Here are Gitta and Theo from today's paper.

I am on vacation until Jan 5th so I am taking advantage of the extra time to do as much with Gitta as I can in spite of the snow on the ground.  Gitta's 6 year old incisers are coming in and so I have stopped with putting on the bridle since her gums are sore.  Snow on the ground so can't lunge, so working with her in the cross ties rubbng her with plastic bags and all the desensitizing things I can think of including clippers.

My main emphasis though is in having her connected to me when she is not with the other horses.  Her main stress times in the day are coming in and out from turn out.  I cannot do much about her anxious behaviour in the stall waiting to go out or on the other side of the fence waiting to come in.  But I can influence her behaviour once I am in the stall or in the pasture.  And it is about waiting and not rushing in or out.

I have already taught her the connection routine in the barn surrounded by all her friends and now I am asking her to do it when she is in a stress situation.  This has always been so important to teach all my young horses so that as we go out in the world and something stressful happens,  we can run through the connection routine until they feel safe, calm down and relax. It is a familiar routine they know, are very comfortable with and never fails to put me back in control.   The connection routine I use is very simple and it can be done in any sequence of moves.

Move shoulders away from me crossing over in front, I can control the number of steps but it is usually one step, and a pause before asking for another.   Basically a turn on the haunches is what you want.

Move the hind qtrs away from me...turn on the forehand. a step at a time.

You have to start out tapping them on the hip or shoulder but once they understand you can get very light and just wiggle your fingers at their hip or shoulder to get them to move.  To control their steps, you need to half halt them with your body, they absolutely will see you do this and feel it on the rope.   This is why I call it the connection routine, they must start watching you and feeling you and not what is bothering them so that they know what the next instruction is.

When I wiggle the rope, back up.  when I give a light tug on the rope come forward... control each step.  Again I halfhalt through my body like I would on their back to control things.

Walk next to my shoulder when I stop she needs to stop, if she doesnot I send her back a couple of steps.  She will now stop when I squeeze my hand on the rope and drop my shoulders.  do this walking on both sides.

It is a very simple routine that lends it self to a lot of repetition and changing up the sequence of everything.  If you are going to show your horse in hand, all these things will be very useful doing the triangle pattern.

Now back to her turn out stress triggers and how I am dealing with them.  She is the last one to go out and the last one to come in.  When I open her stall door, I shake the halter gently at her chest until she backs up, I half halt my body so she will stand still.  I put on the halter, give her a treat and then we do a few repetitions of the routine in the stall. When she is quiet and attentive Then it is time to leave the stall. I will stop her at the entrance, ask for a step back and we do this all the way to the gate.  She has to work for her turn out.  It went beautifully this morning.  When we finally worked back and forth trhough the gate a few times, I took off her halter and she just stood there for a few minutes so I could scratch her.  She absolutley will, with more time, stop the turn out anxiety, because she has to do her work first, and I never allow her to bully me out of her stall.

Coming in tonight I decided to spend a lot of time with  her in the pasture around the gate area doing the routine, including walking past the open gate and walking with me away from the gate.  That was hard for her, but with a few treats and my asking her firmly to move her shoulders away from the gate and walk away, she was fine.  Since she already knew the routine I was not asking her to do something she didn't know how to do, I was asking her to do it when she would have preferred doing something else.  A sharp "Gitta" with my voice when she wanted to refuse got her attention and that I meant it.  It really took very little time before she was running through the repetitions at the open gate.  When all was calm then it was time to go into the barn...work for it baby!
I just felt so good about things tonight.  When we got into the barn, I was able to get her to stop and stand half way in her stall, back up 2 steps, come to me 2 steps and stop.  totally connected and listening and being very patient.

She is not a dominant horse so this process works well for her and I.  She wants to be good and she wants a leader.  If she was a very alpha mare, that needs to lead it would be a lot harder, but since I know I do not get on well with alpha horses, I never knowingly buy one.

There is another good "game" to do with them that will also help with the inhand showing.  Draw a line in the ground or put a dressage whip on the ground in front of them.  They are not allowed to step over it until you invite them and they must go back over it when you say they must move back to the other side.

You do not need to be a Natural Horsemanship person or know Parelli to do this.  It is all common sense and patience.

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