As we mentioned last week, all three of our recent arrivals are now in full retraining mode. Koda and Toby completed their quarantine at the end of June, and so we have spent the past month getting to know these two boys. As with all of our horses, we began gradually from the ground up. As we typically have no prior history on horses from auction, we always want to take our time so as not to skip over any steps.
Nearly every horse will have ‘gaps’ in their training, and it is our job to find those holes in a horse’s education and to fill them in correctly. Because our ultimate goal is to place every horse in a permanent home, it does them no good to be presented as anything different from who they truly are. For these reasons, we take all of the extra time we need to learn everything we can about these horses while they are in our care.
Most of our horses have had previous handling and riding experience, but that doesn’t always translate over smoothly. Often it feels as if we are speaking a whole new language to these horses, and so we have to be understanding, yet also very clear and consistent. This is a big part of the reason that we begin with groundwork, roundpen work, and obstacles in hand: these activities enable us to learn all about these horses before we even ride.
The groundwork allows us to begin a conversation and to develop new means of communication, and it is a wonderful way to teach new concepts which we will need for work under saddle. Often we are asking new horses to use their bodies in ways they may have never done before, and so they will naturally be resistant at first. With groundwork exercises, we can help explain to them how to move their bodies in new ways without the added stress of a rider.
We also spend these initial weeks checking out all other aspects of these horses, and learning about any other gaps which will need to be filled in. It is crucial to us that our horses be good citizens, who are polite and easy to work around. We check to see how they lead, whether they cross-tie, straight tie, bathe, clip, stand for flyspray, for the farrier, for oral dewormer and shots. We see how they do with loading in a trailer, whether they lunge, and what they think of our array of obstacles. There are many ‘boxes’ to check as we get into the retraining process, and when we encounter issues we keep in mind that it often gets tough just before it gets better. It is exciting to learn about each new horse, and we always enjoy the ride.
Next up, specific updates on Koda and Toby!