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TRAINING
NOTEBOOK 2:

BASIC TRAINING,
K
INDERGARTEN THROUGH EIGHTH GRADE

USE THIS DIRECTORY TO NAVIGATE THE SERIES:

TRAINING ALBUM 1: INTRO AND TRAILER TRAINING
TRAINING ALBUM 2: EARLY TRAINING
TRAINING ALBUM 3: ARETHA'S FIRST SADDLE
TRAINING ALBUM 4: ANGELITA'S FIRST SADDLE
TRAINING ALBUM 5: VILASA'S FIRST SADDLE


TECOLOTE BSN, SHAMBO BSN & ANGELITA BSN

What has to happen before these cute babies can become good, safe, equine citizens under saddle?

In the first training notebook, we discussed our training philosophy and gave a lesson in trailer loading. (The subject of that lesson, Corcovado, wants you to know that he now bounds into the trailer, sometimes before the door is open!) This article presents the vital early training every horse must receive to be a good equine citizen. I.e., one you can lead from here to there safely and pleasantly, much less ride. If you read the first training notebook carefully, you will recall that I didn't get the idea for this training series until our three fillies were almost under saddle. Their early training happened years ago, so I don't have any pictures to illustrate the very early processes. We'll rely on creative imagination and a few mildly relevant photos.

I'm having fun writing this, playing. Our ranch name, Vilasa, is a Sanskrit word meaning "delightful play or sport." That's how we train horses at Rancho Vilasa and that's how we live. Basically, we think that training should be an interesting, engaging process for human and horse. A good experience. So should writing and reading about horse training. I'm writing for a mixed audience here: I'm assuming my reader is interested in horses, but may not know a great deal about Peruvian Paso horses or training. If you know more, there are some good photos down below and in the other articles to keep you interested. And some good information, presented lightly.

KINDERGARTEN:

Basic, basic training. What baby horses must know before they can even think about becoming mature, responsible, saddle horses. The first thing to know about early training is that baby horses are born knowing only one thing: How to be baby horses. They are very good at it. They do not know how to do anything else. That includes almost everything people want them to do with them: Haltering, leading, tying, being nice for the vet or anyone else, being bathed, clipped, sprayed, hugged, snuggled or any of that. Blanketed, saddled, shod or unshod. Longed. Backed. Or-- loaded into a trailer to go to a show or new home. What will a baby horse do if confronted with one of these training landmarks without preparation? Anything it can.

Baby horses are among the most dangerous equines. I do not recommend that beginners buy a baby with the idea of raising and training it for the glorious experience. It might be a glorious, terminal experience. I read somewhere, like Equus Magazine or some such, that horseback riding is something like five times more dangerous than motorcycle riding. I believe it. I've never personally seen someone killed on a horse. I have friends who have witnessed fatal accidents. I did see a guy lose a finger loading a horse. I've heard of people ending up in wheelchairs from accidents at shows where I've been in the next row of stalls-- not to mention poor Christopher Reeve. And I've been in all sorts of wrecks myself. The point of this is not to be negative about horses, but to up the reality quotient. Horse training is dangerous.


THIS ADORABLE BABY MAY BE THE MOST DANGEROUS HORSE ON THE RANCH

So, what about baby horses? I've been clunked on the head by horses twice in my life. Neither time was I riding. The first was our dearest old mare, who spooked while I was wrapping her leg and "kneed" me in the head. The second time involved an adorable, sweet, smart, good tempered, well behaved little stud colt we sold to Colorado as a weanling. Hadn't been handled much, but the shipper was an old hand. No problem getting him into the truck for the journey to his new home! We had him halfway up the ramp. I.e., his front end was halfway up the ramp. The shipper got a rope around golden boy's butt to motivate him. Somehow the colt got his leg on the wrong side of his lead rope. The shipper said to me, "Pick up his foot and lift it over that rope." I didn't even think before I grabbed his leg. I had not read this article at the time and did not know that baby horses know nothing.

Did baby-skookums just lift that cute baby hoof when I took hold of his fetlock? Did he act like a trained horse would? No. He lunged forward, striking out with his forelegs and leaping onto the ramp with his rear limbs. Unfortunately, my head was in the way of his left front. Only a glancing blow to the temple. Which left me seeing stars, hearing birdies, dizzy and thankful that it wasn't a direct hit to my paper-thin temple. Did that sweet baby intend to hurt me? No. Baby horses are inherently dangerous. Early training is important. So is respect.

PRIMARY GRADES:


TONY MANIPULATES ARETHA'S TACK
A young horse must tolerate its saddle being moved and adjusted before anyone can ride.

This young mare is in the early stages of saddle training. To get this far-- Aretha has had to learn to be caught in her stall or pasture, to lead, and stand in crossties (The ropes on each side of her head are called "crossties". These can be dangerous. If the horse panics and rears/lunges and the ties are too low, he/she can get hung up with both front legs over the ties. The horses front legs are likely to be about head height for any nearby humans. A potentially deadly contact. Therefore, the ties should be high-- horses' ear height. These are a bit low. Despite the potential for problems, we have not had any accidents in the cross ties, other than a few broken posts.).

Our filly, Aretha, has already learned to stand for grooming, feet cleaning and trimming. She's learned how to get into our wash rack, have a bath, and then back out safely. (If you start working them, horses sweat. You have to hose them off or the salt in the sweat will make them itch and etch their coat so that it ends up totally dull. Bath training is necessary.) Aretha knows how to behave with a vet and how to longe in both directions.

[About longeing and the longe line. It's pronounced "lunging" and the "lunge line". I spell it "longe" because many, many years ago I was taught to ride by a retired Colonel in the Prussian army. [I am not making this up.] That's how he spelled it. Also, after I stopped taking lessons from Colonel Seison, I took lessons from a succession of English riding teachers.That's how they spelled it, too. I think the spelling is part of the English riders' mystique that they and only they really know anything about horses and riding. English instructors teach an obscure way of spelling something that doesn't look how it sounds and which you, as their students, have as secret esoteric knowledge. Teachers and students bond as a tribe based on a secret language, feeling forever superior to ordinary folk. This is true. Whenever I hear the word "lunge" I always wonder snidely, "Do they know its spelled 'longe'?" This adds an element of neurosis to riding which really isn't necessary. It's hard enough just not being afraid of your horse.

[Oh, what is longeing? It's when you take a long line and attach it to your horse's halter and then make him run around you in a circle. That way , you can exercise him in an extremely unnatural way if you want. (Horses never run in tight circles in nature.) Or you can do it for the vet so any lamenesses show up fast. (Working hard in tight circles causes damage to the horse's legs.) Or you can go it before you get on, so if the horse bucks, he/she does it on the longe line rather than under you. Longeing is very very useful that way. We'll talk about different types of longeing later. Also see lots of pictures.]

Okay, so Aretha had to learn all this is before even thinking about saddles or bosals or cruppers or wet or dry longeing and her show career. And she has-- you can see her happily standing there in the cross ties all saddled in her Peruvian work saddle with her Peruvian bosal on her cute little head. What Tony is doing is "messing with" her tack (saddle, etc.)-- moving it around. Flapping it. Etc. Why? Because Aretha has to be able to tolerate her gear moving, being touched, lifted, squeaking,and having more leather parts put on and off. And eventually, she will have to deal with a rider getting on and off and riding her. One step at a time. And you must do every step! You'll see what happens if you miss one below.

MIDDLE SCHOOL:

Once a young horse has learned to accept tack standing, it needs to learn to do it moving. The round pen is the safe place to start. Vilasa demonstrates some basics.

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PREPARING TO LONGE VILASA BSN
A horse must go through a series of training steps before it can be ridden. First it must learn to longe without a saddle. Then with a saddle. Vilasa is is a very hot, sensitive young mare. We rigged up this surcingle arrangement with a girth and latigo so she could ease into the "longeing with tack" concept.

Longeing is important, as we will see in the following articles which present these horses' first and subsequent saddlings. The horse needs to learn to pay attention to the trainer/rider while experiencing new and perhaps scary things. You build up, step by step. This filly, Vilasa BSN, is probably the best horse we've bred. She's a daughter of six time U.S. and Canadian National Champion of Champions Breeding Stallion, *JOR Norte y Sur and our "living antique", La Soberbia. We call Soberbia an antique because her bloodlines are so old. Her mother was a full sister to the immortal *Mantequilla and her father was a linebred, direct son of Sol de Oro, Viejo, probably the most influential horse in the development of the modern Peruvian Paso.

Vilasa is three years old-- leggy and gawky like at 13 year old girl. Pasos are slow developing horses, needing six or seven years to mature sometimes. Vilasa will fill out and bulk up as the years go by. Right now, she's a block of solid muscle. The photo was taken in very early spring, so she's still got her rough winter coat. Note the saddle and saddle blanket waiting on the ground. Vilasa's a very spirited animal. Most horses don't need this surcingle step. She did. Tony will longe her with the surcingle. If she seems like she can tolerate it, he will put the saddle on.


VILASA READY TO BY LONGED WITH THE SADDLE.
Note that no stirrups, crupper or bosal are attached . This is early in the training process. She's wearing a Western training halter for greater control.

Vilasa did okay with the surcingle, so she's upped to a plain training saddle. Later, a crupper (tailpiece that prevents the saddle from slipping), stirrups, bosal and pellonero (detachable saddle padding) will be added. The last step is to add the full traditional Peruvian tail piece, which dates back to the time of the Conquistadors. This happens after she is under saddle. Notice the strength of this young mare as she stands. Look at the very clean, tight legs.


VILASA BEING LONGED EARLY IN TRAINING
Notice easy, relaxed movement, loose longe line. She's not stressed.

This is what we like to see. She's accepting the lesson. Relaxed, in control.


TONY LEADING ANGELITA
Don't take this for granted. Just because you can lead them unsaddled, doesn't mean you can lead them saddled.

Here's another pre-saddle training photo which shows tons of early work has been done. Once the horse can handle standing tacked up, she/he has to tolerate what happens when she/he walks: The movement of stirrups, squeaks of leather, pull of the crupper on the tail, movement of reins and the rumel. And you walking next to her/him. The horse is a different animal saddled and unsaddled. This filly is farther along in her training than Vilasa in the photos above. Note bosal, reins and stirrups. Angelita de Venganza is a four year old filly out of a Meadow Springs Ranch mare, Venganza MSR, and by the double *Piloto stallion, Resueno. We started her at age four rather than three to allow her a little extra time to mature.

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TONY "SACKS OUT" VILASA
The horse must tolerate being touched on every part of it's body.

"Sacking out" is a process used almost universally in training horses. It means "touching the horse everywhere until it can tolerate and even enjoy being touched." You can use your hand, a dressage whip, a "thingie with a plastic poof on the end" like Harry Whitney, a lariat as shown here, a feed sack, your jacket, anything. The point is: Don't miss a spot. All those triggers have to be desensitized or an amazing reaction may happen if you hit a spot you missed the first time you get on. Harry Whitney is great at this. He was working with one of our horses at a work shop. The gelding was very early into its training. Harry worked him and worked him and got him real smooth. Then he got on him. Harry's boot toe moved forward and poked the horse in the belly. That ol' boy cow kicked faster than lightening and nailed Harry right in the foot. (That's when they kick forward with a back foot-- hard.) Harry said, "Looks like I missed a spot." You gotta get them all.

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EXERCISES TO LIMBER THE NECK AND TEACH TURNING
All exercises must be done in both directions and to both sides.

This exercise prepares the horse to turn. It's important that the horse know what a pull on the reins means when you're up there for that first ride. Some people teach a horse to turn and stop from the ground driving them with long lines. This exercise is a variant of that. Peruvian and other gaited horses are "doubled" in training-- pulled around like this by the rider in the saddle. (Actually, that's not quite right. Doubling is a cue. The rider lightly touches the bosal rein and the horse bends its neck in an extreme fashion. It's taught to respond to a light cue, not hauled around.) Why would you do this? Suppleness is very important to gaited horses. Gaiting is harder on the horse than trotting. If the horse isn't to get stiff and sore, he/she must be kept loose and supple. Hence, doubling and exercises like this.

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VILASA IS LEARNING FAST: SHE'S BEING LONGED
WITH A CRUPPER (TAILPIECE) AND BOSAL

Vilasa's perfectly relaxed being longed in the round pen with all her tack but the stirrups.

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TONY SHOWS VILASA THE STIRRUPS,
LETTING HER "CHECK THEM OUT" BEFORE BEING LONGED WITH THEM

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SHE'S RELAXED AND CALM WITH THE STIRRUPS IN PLACE

Did we forget anything? Miss any steps? We'll see. Tony puts her out on the rail and...

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MISSED A SPOT!

I'll say! Those stirrups hit her sides and off she went. Do not believe it if people tell you Peruvians don't buck. They buck just fine. This is why we use a longe line, a round pen (with lots of sand) and go through all this work before getting on a horse. This was quite a rodeo.

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SHE AIN'T DONE YET!!!

Not by a long shot! This is a horse not relaxed on the longe line. Notice the taut line. The dust. She's still bucking. This taught us to respect this filly and be prepared for her first ride. Which is coming right up...

TRAINING ALBUM 1: INTRO AND TRAILER TRAINING
TRAINING ALBUM 2: EARLY TRAINING
TRAINING ALBUM 3: ARETHA'S FIRST SADDLE
TRAINING ALBUM 4: ANGELITA'S FIRST SADDLE
TRAINING ALBUM 5: VILASA'S FIRST SADDLE

BUY SANDY NATHAN'S BOOKS:

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STEPPING OFF THE EDGE: LEARNING & LIVING SPIRITUAL PRACTICE

 

A MODERN SPIRITUAL COMPANION

 

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NUMENON
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ALE OF MYSTICIAM & MONEY MENON

 

"BILL GATES MEETS DON JUAN."

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TECOLOTE: THE LITTLE HORSE THAT COULD

BORN PREMATURELY ON A FREEZING NIGHT, THE COLT HAD TO FIGHT FOR HIS LIFE.

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THE ANGEL & THE BROWN-EYED BOY

 

A FUTURE WORLD ONLY HEARTBEATS FROM OUR OWN

Click the covers above to go Sandy Nathan's books on the Amazon Kindle store. All Kindle books are 99 cents.
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