CLICK ON THE IMAGE! This morning, when I heard that we would be getting a lot of snow, I decided that after my long day in class, I would come home and teach Blu how to pull me in the toboggan. My family owns an old wooden toboggan with a nice red, vinyl cushion. There are four holes in the front that used to have the pull rope attached to it, but the rope has since broken due to drying out and becoming weak at those points.
I hemmed and hawed about whether to use a saddle or a surcingle, but I decided the surcingle might slide back. I chose Ellie's western saddle because it was light, I could find the cinch to it (blush) and I knew Maggie would not appreciate her nice saddle being experimented with.
I had a halter on with one feather line attached to the halter and one attached to the saddle horn. I will do a numbered sequence to explain how we arrived at the product seen in the video:
- On the way out, I dragged the toboggan on a featherline. I let him follow it, walk beside it, walk in front of it, and trot with it behind him. He never remotely shied. He smelled it curiously and was fine with it. Not even a skeptical ear twitch. His entire demeanor told me he was completely accepting of the toboggan.
- I taught Blu to keep walking as I pulled on the saddle horn. If Blu stopped from that pressure, then we would not be able to go anywhere. Blu learned that very quickly.
- I put the toboggan on the feather line attached to his saddle in such a way that if I let it go, the line would slip off the toboggan. This was in case Blu became worried. Instead of escalating into crashing, splintering toboggan, the toboggan would be released from Blu. It was never an issue, though. So, this step was me leading him as he took the weight of the toboggan.
- I moved to zone 5 as he took the toboggan at the walk and trot.
- Added a 50 pound bucket of concrete mix (mix that got damp and turned into a rock-in-a-bag). I made it a point-to-point exercise, now, with food at the end point so he would have a focus to go toward. Otherwise, he would probably go wiggly-kaniggly all over the place trying to find a release from the pressure. This way, he accepted the pressure. We did this step in two parts: first from a distance of about 12', then from a distance of about 35'.
- I added my kid sister to the toboggan at a distance of 30'. (He acted like it was nothing).
- I would step on the toboggan as he pulled it.
- He pulled me for a distance of 5'. It was trial and error episode to find out how close I needed us to be to the food for him to accept my weight.
- I fed the feather line through the toboggan and back to the saddle horn so it was pulling equally on the saddle. All this time, I had been holding it so I could set him free if he panicked. Well, Blu had been trotting, making turns, getting tangled and still had yet to panic. I realized it was safe for him to have the feather line fed through and back to the saddle again.
- Now Blu could pull me from 30' away. Once we got it twice, I asked Ellie to video us. Here, I will also say that Blu understood the process and began to help me get him set up with the toboggan. His concerned faces also went away while I was positioning--all because he now understood the purpose to all the fussing. I had done everything patiently, but he still was unsure of all the hindquarter yielding.
- Mom pulled in with grain. I showed her our new skill and then Blu dragged the grain in on the toboggan. To get to the car, he had to squeeze between the car and the trailer--no problem. Then Mom dropped the grain on from however high she was carrying it. His head bobbed up, but he did not panic. The second plop did not bother him at all. Blu hauled it all the way into the barn.
I would like to use my flip video camcorder to document each stop, however, it should be known that this is a "how-I," not necessarily "how-to." Blu and I have been studying together for a long time and he is very developed on line. So many "prerequisites" would not be shown in such a video. I guess that is my little "disclaimer."
Right after I put Blu away and was cleaning up, Meggie Allen (my instructor) called. I had wanted to talk to her about what was bothering me, but I found myself arranging lessons with her after our chat. I have only 3 or 4 lessons from her back in summer '10. I stopped taking them because I went on a beautiful adventure to the Colorado Parelli Center for the Performance Summit and could not afford anymore lessons. I have decided that I would really like to invest in them, again, though. I enjoy having someone to share with and an outside-of-self perspective. My first lesson is next Thursday.
So, that's all for today. Now I am off to go feed the horses!
Natural Horsewoman Out.