The feature photo of Magnum was taken when Andrew-Glyn Smail and Vicki Van Rossem visited in late 2015. He had come so far from the last time they had seen him!
Once I was home from my US trip and recovered, I was fired up! I was keen to get to cone circle work after spending time at Monty Gwynne’s. I wanted to practise with the halter and lead rope so I decided to work with Ducati and also Magnum. Ducati was my most experienced horse – and Magnum was becoming more confident each day.
I had already introduced Magnum to a halter – and I had been touching him with the lead rope. The way I did this was once again in very small steps – using the halter first as a target – reinforcing him with a treat for touching it once or twice, then putting it away until the next session. We gradually worked on nose in halter, then strap over the head. There were many times I could have done it up – but I didn’t. Magnum had been very head shy and I wanted him to be truly comfortable with the halter.
Here are some photos from October 2015.
Finally it was on! I repeated the same process with the lead rope and finally clicked and treated when I attached the rope to the halter. Then I was ready for the next challenge. Could I lead him? And could I lead him in the way I had learnt on my trip away and watched in Alexandra Kurland’s DVDs? I was particularly focussed on two DVDs – Lesson 6 – Shaping on a Point of Contact and Lesson 7 – Ta’i Chi Rope Handling Exercises. You can read about them here.
First, I spent time with Ducati. What a wonderful horse he is. He was so enthusiastic and caught on very quickly. He was very forgiving and I was able to practise my rope handling. It’s something that takes time to develop – there is quite an art to it…. but the horse is able to use the movement of the rope as a cue. The rope isn’t pulled – it’s a matter of learning how to slide your hand up the rope, to the snap, and there is a rotation and ‘lift’ of the snap to show the horse in which direction you would like them to move.
Of course – there was much handler error! I would pull instead of just holding my position – and I didn’t let go the rope when the horse was moving – my slide was often clumsy…… but all of this is part of learning!
In the early days of the cone circle and rope work, Magnum was very higgledy-piggledy. He constantly ran into me, he backed up in an awkward way and he wanted to keep going – forever ‘falling forwards’. I had to regularly back him up when we stopped at a cone. But he loved the cone circle – it was almost hypnotic for him and he never wanted to leave the arena. I would play Alexandra Kurland’s Lesson 5 – “Why Would You Leave Me” game – at each cone we stop and he gets a treat – this game evolves into more graceful moves.
Just for contrast, I have included these two photos – the first taken in 2015 at the start of the cone circle work – the second photo in 2017. His walk had evolved into a very graceful, slow walk. I’m using my hands as a target for him.
I will finish this post with a video from those early days! One thing you will notice – his hooves – they had never been touched….. that was my next challenge!!!
COMING UP – THE SUMMER OF HOOVES!
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