I have always enjoyed training young horses. Currently, I have 3 of my own either started under saddle or about to be. I always begin my horses in the spring of their 3-yr old year. I begin with teaching them basic lunging with a halter. How I go about doing this depends on the horse's personality.
Tilly is a pistol. With her, I find it's best to just let her find her own rhythm around me on the line. As long as she maintains the circle, I let her choose the gait (for now). If I try to choose whether she's in walk, trot or canter, she does exactly what I don't want...so I compromise. If you circle, not kick at me or launch 27 feet in the air and spin around, you can choose how you want to proceed. Slowly, but surely, she's beginning to understand there's more to life than just running around like an idiot and is beginning to follow some of my suggestions. I certainly don't consider myself a "softy", but Tilly is a special case and a partnership needs to be developed. I firmly believe that if I try to dominate her, things will go very bad. Instead, I treat her with respect and expect the same from her. She's terribly smart, so I think we'll come to an understanding sooner rather than later.
The other day, I brought her in to work. She was very good on the cross-ties and during our lunging session. That, in and of itself is a bit odd. After we were done working, I returned her to the barn to groom, reblanket and put back outside. All hell broke loose! Why?? Who knows. Regardless, I found myself losing patience and becoming very angry. She, too, was angry at me, despite the fact I was simply trying to finish the session. I had no idea why she was so upset and it appeared she wanted to dominate me rather than be my partner. I didn't want to "train with emotion" and so I thought I'd try something rather drastic. (For those of you who know Tilly and her history, this has been close to a three year battle, so I didn't feel I was out of line.)
Here's what I chose to do. Reiner Klimke's book "Training the Young Horse" spoke of tying yearlings to a wall and letting them struggle until they figured out they needed to stand still. His daughter, Ingrid, wrote the new version and talked about this point. She stated they no longer practice this method and no horse should have this done due to risking injury to the neck. I agree! However, drastic measures are sometimes needed and both Tilly and I were trying to train each other through emotions. I decided to be the bigger person.
She thought it was a good idea to violently cow kick at me when I tried to brush her legs. I tried reprimanding the kicking, but we began to fight. She'd kick, I'd slap, she'd kick at the slap and on and on. Instead, I removed the break away ties from the cross ties and fixed them to her nylon halter. I shortened the ties so that she couldn't move left or right and only a couple of feet forward or backward. I walked out of the barn and closed the doors, leaving only a peek hole to watch her through.
Oh my goodness, was she maaaaaaaaddddddd!!!!! She proceeded to paw, strike, stomp, whinny and poop like there was no tomorrow. I watched her throw a temper tantrum for close to 2 hours before she stood quietly wondering where everyone had disappeared. Once she was quiet, I walked in the barn, brushed her legs, gave her a carrot and put her out. Why did it have to come to this extreme?? However, it was a good exercise in patience for both me and Tilly and I believe we came to an understanding.
I have 2 more young horses...Spider is the same age as Tilly and as different from her as you can imagine. Flagg, Liz's 4 -yr old, was started last year and then turned out for the winter. He's about to go into full training. I will talk about them in the next couple of days.