Ducati and I were getting on well. He was much calmer. I needed to go slowly with this next step – for both of us.
I first led him to the mounting block – and reinforced him. Then we walked away. I continued like this for a few rounds – then I stepped on the first step. He stopped and I reinforced him. We repeated several times – and then that was enough for the session.
I continued this way – the hardest part was teaching him that I wanted to click for his back lined up at the mounting block – not his head. Alexandra Kurland has a DVD – Capture the Saddle which is worth watching. I wasn’t capturing a saddle – I was capturing Ducati’s back. At that stage I had no equipment on him. Cindy Martin – my coach – had suggested I ‘dress’ him for these sessions – to get him used to wearing gear for riding. I didn’t – and the reason I didn’t was that it seemed like too much trouble to carry the saddle backwards and forwards from the house to the shed. I keep my saddle in the house so it doesn’t get chewed by rats.
In hindsight – I should have heeded her advice!
I continued practising this – with the mounting block near the wall of the arena – then I moved it to the cone circle. I thought this would be a better way of getting Ducati properly lined up – and help him understand what I wanted.
We repeated many rounds of this – and the moment he ‘got it’ was wonderful. As we came closer to the mounting block he nickered, started trotting and stopped near it. I caught it on video – here it is – with music added!
During this process, I noticed my anxiety had decreased as well. Before that I was feeling anxious as I moved to the second step. But now I had stopped pairing the mounting block with my thought of ‘this is a one way path to getting on the horse and you may fall off’. It was just another game in the circle.
I eventually moved the mounting block back near the corner and we played with it there as well. I noticed some anxiety with it there. I spent lots of time just stroking his back – then I would move away – we would do something else then head back to it. Over time he got used to it there.
Here are photos of various exercises. I would sometimes get him to follow the target stick, trot, practise a more collected walk – and the mat exercises
We went through a phase where he didn’t want to trot – that was fine – we did something else. Then one day he offered a trot again when he saw the mounting block in the circle – he was delighted! I just worked on things he was happy about – and left the others while I went off to think about why he didn’t like something.
Sometimes we just had a break from the arena. I would go a few days and then take him back in. I was also working with Magnum throughout this time…
So before I continue with Ducati’s training story, I will tell you about Magnum.
COMING UP – MAGNUM – THE TEACHER’S PET!
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