Marker Training Journal #2

What a difference a day makes. If I had written this journal yesterday, I’d be raving about what a perfect day it was with Marker. He was cooperative, trying, and I even got a few strands of bridle path trimmed.

And then there was today. He was being pushy and challenging when we were working with Clipper Acceptance, to the point where I pulled out Ms. Dressage Whip because I was tired of him pushing his shoulder into me as an evasion when I was holding the clippers up to his neck. It’s a safety problem, and we’re now at the point with each other where he’ll accept that correction. Nothing major, just popping the whip against the shoulder when he tries to shove it into me. He accepted the correction as fair, but he still was mad about it. Plus, after such a good day like yesterday, I knew it was about time for a reaction.

Oh, he wasn’t being completely difficult. I looked back at Mocha’s training journals (which really didn’t start up until I’d been blogging for writing, about three years after I got her) and she was being a right royal pain in schooling even after several years together. In a lot of ways, he’s doing better in some aspects than she was, mostly because his current objections have more to do with not understanding what I’m asking/not being fit enough to do what I’m asking very well rather than her “I know better that you do” attitude that she had from the beginning. He’s now at the point where he will stand ground-tied while I pick things up for grooming and tacking–it took her a lot longer to get to this point. My focus right now is to get him to realize that His Pickup Truck is where a lot of stuff happens, and hope to get him to consider it a place to go. Always useful if something weird happens.

The foot-stomping temper tantrums aren’t happening as frequently, and not under saddle, at least not with me up. But he still had a bit of tension left over from the clipper discussion. That piece was a major reversion from the previous day, even before Ms. Dressage Whip came into play to keep his shoulder from pushing into me. I figured that this might mean he would be a little sparky under saddle, and yep, he exploded into the biggest bucking I’ve seen him do so far when I started him out lungeing. Then he tried to drag me–um, no, buddy, that doesn’t work well with a lunging cavasson. That made him even more mad and frustrated, so he took off in a gallop. Not pulling against the lunge line anymore, but running hard because he had that frustration to burn off.

So I let him do it. Then, when he slowed and wanted to trot, I pushed him back into the canter. Dude, I’m the one who determines the pace. Then we did a bit of schooling with the reverse command, at a walk, until sulky boy complied. After taking off the cavasson, I rubbed his forehead and told him he was a good boy and I still liked him, but There Are Boundaries. We went through our regular undersaddle schooling after that. He felt a bit stiffer than usual to the right, but I lowered my hand to about my knee when working on our circle of pearls exercise, and that seemed to help him bend when doing the small circles. And he was trying his best to bend.

He’s pretty responsive to seat and legs, almost equivalent to Mocha and has the potential to become even better. He accepts contact except for some head-tossing toward the end of schooling, which tells me it’s more of a fatigue thing than anything else. He stands quietly for grooming without being tied, and we have gone three days where he willingly gives me his hooves for cleaning and checking. He can be tacked and untacked without being tied or held. He has no issues with wearing a fly mask.

Most of all, Marker’s overall good nature means that he tends toward being cooperative and wanting to be cooperative with humans. But he’s also very affectionate and thinks that means he has to be right in the middle of whatever the human is doing. Which…can be problematic if you’re wrestling with a wire gate. A lot of what he needs to learn on the ground has to do with respecting human space. I suspect he has to learn that with other horses as well since Mocha has been pretty assertive with him about staying out of her space. Old mare can be pretty opinionated on that subject.

In any case, he’s a very “touchy” horse. He wants to put his nostril on a human to touch base. It helps soothe him when he gets nervous.

We started riding out of the field this week. Short rides, after schooling, which right now is lungeing, then several large circles to settle in, followed by circle of pearls (small, connected circles in a larger circle, in each direction) and serpentines, then a couple of circuits in each direction at the trot. After that, we went down the road.

Marker shows promise of being a decent road horse. Years ago, Gregg had told me that I needed to treat road rides as a post-schooling treat for Mocha. They were schooling exercises as well, because she needed to learn how to move outside of an arena. Marker moved off in relaxed mode, on a long rein. He likes looking at things, including cows. We had a group of them come running up to the fence yesterday. I turned him toward them, and they went running off. He got into the notion and now looks for cows. But what is nice is that he isn’t as reactive to the same stuff as Mocha is. We’ll have to see what does set him off, but so far he seems to be pretty chill, at most raising his head before checking in. And he’s as curious as Mocha about stuff.

A very promising start, overall. Even if today started with a temper tantrum, that’s to be expected in training. I’d be worried if I didn’t see the occasional pushback from a smart, sensitive horse because that might mean I’m being too heavy-handed with him.

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