Sunday, September 26, 2010

Freeshaping the Mounting Block

Continuing with what I'm doing with 2 year old Percy, I am beginning to introduce the mounting block. My expectations for him before I try to "ride" him will be that
  1. I can let go of him in the ring and go to the mounting block
  2. he willingly approaches the mounting block
  3. he lines himself up in the perfect position for me to place my foot in the stirrup
  4. he stands quietly while I get on
  5. he continues to stand quietly until I ask him to move off.
The reasoning behind this method of Alexandra Kurland's is that a horse who will do this is willing and ready to be ridden. A day that a horse trained this way does not go to the mounting block is a day that the horse for some reason is expressing he does not want to be ridden. There are numerous stories of situations when the horse was ill or sore and not approaching the mounting block to be ridden was the sign he gave his rider. Also, a horse who willingly approaches the mounting block is happy with being ridden. If he refuses, he might be telling me that he finds riding confusing, uncomfortable, scary, etc. That is an opportunity for me to look back at recent rides to see what may have gone wrong to make him feel this way. This may sound nutty to the "horse should do what I want him to do crowd" (which used to include me), but when I see how willing these youngsters are, I see that they can enjoy and look forward to rides.

The video shows that Percy has a halter but no lead on. I am freeshaping him at this point- not giving him direction as to where to stand or how but letting him experiment and simply clicking when he takes a step in the right direction. More recently, I used another exercise to practice his responsiveness to a rein cue for stopping and hip gives before I actually get on. I think both methods together provide a good balance.

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