Deciding to write blog posts about training Hero was easy. Deciding exactly how to go about it was more difficult. Many people think they understand how much time is invested into a really well trained horse, but very few actually do.
For this post, I initially thought I would feature one photo from each year (2012-2018) that would be the most significant photo from that particular year. I quickly found that wasn't possible. There is no single session or lesson or moment that can stand alone and have the title "most significant".Each exciting break-through in training was built on previous layers of really boring little bits of consistent discipline.
Why feature Hero? Because, aside from some of the Empyrean horses we trained in the 1990's, Hero is the only horse we have photos of to help to illustrate the entire story. Gathering up 6 years of digital images and sorting them chronologically-without getting distracted was a challenge. My sister Sharon will get a chuckle out of that.
Since the "one photo for each year" theme didn't pan out, I decided to use a couple of the first pictures of Hero and one of the latest!
Mike and Hero in one of THE most important moments in a foals training. Learning that being confined is OKAY! At this age, (even though it's not shown in this photo) Hero is already wearing a halter every time he's brought from the barn to be turned out. But at this age, we would never actually use halter pressure to manage him! His earliest lessons about pressure and humans needs to be firm AND comfortable. If done properly, a foal will learn that being confined by humans is nice. Lots of scratches!! He won't ever be released until he relaxes. But, he won't be punished when he's struggling either! Future blog posts will have lots of photos showing more of the shenanigans that occur at this phase.
Another very important phase of foal handling is learning to lead, and doing it right involves a "butt rope". Many people just let the foals follow their mothers, and while that is certainly easier, you miss really valuable training time. It's never too early to pretend to be one of the big guys.The proper use of the butt rope insures that there's never too much pressure put on the foals head and has the added benefit of teaching a horse how to respond to pressure. Additionally, the mares actually feel more comfortable having the foal in front where they can see them. Further more, while you'd like to think that a young foal wouldn't get too far from mom, some of the brave and adventurous types can go bounding about and get themselves in trouble, even on a short walk from a barn to a pasture.
And now for that final picture for this post!
Hero and Sharon's first show, Elmira New York, May 2017! Believe me, there's an entire universe of training between that cute foal and this suave looking western pleasure junior horse and there's worlds to come as he begins his career as a "bridle" horse! Stay tuned!