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Remedial leading lessons

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  • Remedial leading lessons

    Picking some brains here.

    I have taken in for the winter a big, BIIIIG WB filly who belongs to a friend of mine. She was actually foaled here, and left at 3 weeks of age. Now she's about 5 months and she is LARGE--close to 14 hands and more bone than my grownup Irish mare!

    She's a friendly, nice filly, and she . . . sort of leads. She stands tied if there is nothing going on and is a pretty good citizen otherwise: not bossy or nasty in any way.

    But she is not what I'd call "at her age level" in terms of leading. She POKES along, she DRAGS along, and the other day when the gate hit her in the butt on the way in for the night (my bad) she BOLTED and nearly got away--that rattled her. Yesterday she didn't even want to go through the gate at all, and her general balkiness pretty quickly became feet-planted, I-ain't-moving.

    Now she is WAY too big for me to tug her to me and make her remember how to give to the rope. In fact, I'm pretty sure this lesson was not installed completely. It also appears she needs some desensitizing about gates and things, and I'm happy to get on that.

    But all the babies I've had were taught to tie and lead VERY young--as soon as they were strong enough and yet still small enough where I could bodily "influence" them if they got stuck by giving a little shove, using a butt rope, whatever it took. I always stay with them when they're inevitably discovering the "end of the rope" and the momentous discovery that the rope is to be obeyed.

    This filly GETS it for the most part--she doesn't fight or fling herself when I tie her, but she will stand there sometimes for 30-45 seconds just LEANING on it before she remembers to give, and then she's praised and patted. I think she's got part of the lesson, just not all of it.

    The problem is that, at her size, I can't very readily physically "influence" her very much, if at all. She could fling me across the paddock without trying. So I need to finish teaching her to lead and tie without the physical advantage of size and strength (and constant handling so they "learn" that "I am bigger than they") that I could use with a tiny suckling.

    Sorry this is a novel--I think what she needs is time and mileage, but am wondering what tricks and techniques you experts use with BIG babies, as opposed to small ones? Do butt ropes work on these young monsters?

    Thanks for shared wisdom.
    Click here before you buy.

  • #2
    Ooh! ooh! BTDT, sort of.

    I bought a 2-y-o Anglo Arab two summers ago who'd been handled minimally. Kindly, but minimally, by people who I assume liked their horses to walk slowly. The "go" button was barely installed, which meant the "give to pressure" button was barely, barely installed.

    First, for leading I carried a dressage whip and taught him that tap on the croup means go forward, whip placed across his chest means stop. He's a quick study, however, this did not guarantee the go button was installed. We spent his first summer walking up, over, around, near, and through everything I could find. We also used one of the older horses as his good example to follow.

    That summer I also worked on tying him while I fed him. I would park him next to his pal, with two fence feeders, both boys tied to the upright fence post 8 feet or so apart. I would do something nearby - groom one of them, pick the pen, whatever - and over time I stared leaving them tied after the food was gone. Worked nicely. Introduced crossties sometime during his 3-year-old year, in the aisle parked between two buddies also in crossties. In my mind, at least, tying relates to leading because both require the concept of giving to pressure, albiet under different circumstances.

    Longeing has been a good thing for The Boy Who Prefers Not To Go Forward. He "gets" the longe whip. I would think you could use the same principle = "my long arm sends you forward" even if you weren't longeing the baby by using a dressage whip or straight driving whip, maybe even with a bag tied on the end (haven't done that myself, maybe it's bad advice). I just know that in times of balkiness, he gives to the longe whip's suggestion of forward before he gives to anything else. And he can still be very balky.

    It was suggested to me to teach him a voice command for "walk FASTER!" and teach, reward, and reinforce that. It works as long as I have a driving aid for backup. So I am by no means an expert on any of this, but he's definitely improved since I got him.


    • #3
      One of my first babies was a bratty baby, and learned to bolt from me. Once he learned to do it, he got really good at it, and thought it was lots of fun. He would squirt forward and get his butt ahead of me and there was nothing I could do but let go!

      I posted about the problem here, and someone suggested a "Be Nice" halter. They are wonderful. They are difficult to find, and you may have to order it off the Internet. I train all my youngsters with them, and pull it out for loading issues too.

      Alternative to that, use a rope halter. The Be Nice has small ferrules behind the poll, but the thinner rope of a rope halter gives you some extra control. Works both for "come on" and "behave yourself".

      Be sure to give when she does though, and don't use for tying.
      Rest in peace Claudius, we will miss you.


      • #4
        The whip.

        The chain.


        There isn't too much more to it, unless you go carrot stick on us
        "Kindness is free" ~ Eurofoal
        The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances.


        • #5
          Originally posted by ToTheNines View Post
          I posted about the problem here, and someone suggested a "Be Nice" halter. They are wonderful. They are difficult to find, and you may have to order it off the Internet. I train all my youngsters with them, and pull it out for loading issues too.

          Alternative to that, use a rope halter. The Be Nice has small ferrules behind the poll, but the thinner rope of a rope halter gives you some extra control. Works both for "come on" and "behave yourself".

          Be sure to give when she does though, and don't use for tying.
          A "Be Nice" halter and a dressage whip were what worked for me too, when I was installing some manners on a yearling that had been left feral for most of his life and then broke to lead in a cowboy-rough fashion. We started with the basics in the arena and then we just went for walks together around the property, with the halter and the whip. The bolting and the balking stopped pretty quick.

          I see you are in Saugatuck. I am in Dorr, not far from you. I am done with my "Be Nice" so if you want to buy it from me for cheap, you are welcome to have it. We could meet somewhere or I could mail it. I got the "Be Nice" at Millbrook Tack, so they might still carry them, but that was years ago, before they closed and reopened. You could always call them.


          • Original Poster

            Whips and chains! I've normally no objection to either, but short of going all carrot stick I do think it would be better to start sort of at the beginning--she's more ignorant than naughty.

            Lo and behold, I actually do have a "be nice" halter that I picked up someplace . . . One of the benefits of being as old as I with one's own tack room: one pretty much has one of everything!

            I did try it on the filly tonight and she did well. Lots of kindergarten-type stuff still to go, but this was very helpful, thanks.
            Click here before you buy.


            • #7
              Originally posted by deltawave View Post
              Picking some brains here.

              Do butt ropes work on these young monsters?

              Thanks for shared wisdom.

              Nope....probably too big for butt ropes. I start teaching leading by teaching them to move their butt away from pressure from both sides. I want that butt moving away at a pointed finger or even just a strong look. I also ask for shoulders to move over from both directions. THEN I start asking for forward by tapping lightly on the top of the croup with an immediate stop of the tapping as soon as I get even a lean forward. Next I take up my position at their neck and ask for forward by using a driving whip (long handle/short lash) with the tip held behind me in my left hand and "pushing" forward on the halter just enough to give him a "go forward" cue...followed immediately by lightly tapping on the top of his hip with the whip....which he's already learned means to go forward. If he lags behind he gets taps, if he charges ahead I step to the side and pull his head around toward me while getting his butt around to the side....side wards movement being harder for them to do than straight ahead (and it takes the power out of the motor too)....that way he can't drag me (he can drag if he pulls straight ahead and lays the lead against his neck!). I've begun using the Blocker Tie Rings for teaching to tie....they really do work well to teach not to pull back without running a risk of a broken neck... and there are several levels of resistance you can use by how you run the lead through them. I've used "be nice" halters a time or two and while they work I didn't really like them. A good quality rope halter with a couple of properly placed knots on the nose band works every bit as well I think and is easier to find and less expensive.
              Colored Cowhorse Ranch
              Northern NV