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  • Writer's pictureKathy Troxler

The rest of Jamaica's first session of 2014

After negotiating the route in from her turn out pen (see post from August 5), we needed to evaluate whether or not Jamaica knew how to tie. Some people are surprised that this is an actual lesson that needs to be taught, and I prefer to teach mine when they are a couple of months old. A foal that has been properly handled to yied to pressure will have no trouble with this concept. But if it's been skipped as a young horse, it will still need to be taught, it still needs to be covered before you can get to anything else!

The safest course of action is to first make sure the horse knows how to come forward from pressure, a skill that is not intuitive for them. By instinct, if they feel something pulling on them, their first instinct is to pull back. But they can be taught to do the opposite.

Like a lot of horse training techniques, it's all about the release point.

In the case of Jamaica, we thought that she MIGHT have some idea of how to tie, but we weren't sure. We proceeded to handle her as if she DID NOT know.

You'll see in this video (apologies for quality, once again, this is cell phone footage) that she correctly "answers" the question of "how are you supposed to respond to pressure of the lead rope to a fixed point"?

For the first step, you don't tie! You "pretend" to tie. You need a long rope (I like a lunge line) and a ring fixed to a wall or safe post. The rope needs to slide very smoothly through this ring.

You will also see that Mike deliverately puts some very consistent pressure on the this point we're studying her to see if she's going to explode backwards, jump forward or somewhere in the middle....and she's very nicely...somewhere in the middle. She feels the pressure, is leaning a little backward, but not panicking and not increasing her movement backward. At this point, Mike isn't giving her any clues, like "clucking" to move her forward because we wanted to see if she would come up with it on her own and she did. The important point is that the very split second that she thinks about moving forward that pressure must release! We practiced a couple of more times and he gave her a little more help by "hinting" that if she moved her feet forward, the pressure would go away. If this were a horse that could not figure out to come forward on their own, then the handler moves to a point behind the hip and can tap them forward with the stick...again, the pressure on the rope must release instantly, or they won't get the concept.

As a final little "test", Mike deliberately flings his glove stick, checking to see if she's going to be overly reactive (and if so, is she going to pull backwards). And Jamaica, has a total lack of reaction, which is why I love her at this point!

When we do finally "hook her up" we still use a very non threatening method by fastening her to a "bungee" tie. In our case, we make our own...quick release snaps and bicycle inner tubes do a great job. These stretch just enough so that the inexperienced horses don't feel too trapped, but if one does "panic and blow" the inner tube will break...which is what you want! You don't want a inexperienced horse to panic and do themselves a serious injury because you can't get them loose quick enough!

All in all, Jamaica gets another A+!

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