Even though Timber isn’t anywhere near ready to start under saddle and is still very skittish about being touched, we can still work on a lot of ground-based exercises. These exercises will improve communications and will build confidence in Timber. They will also increase his trust in me as we experience new things together and he realizes that I’m safe to be around and to follow.
Speed, to a horse, is normally an emotional response. If a horse is trotting or running it is due to basically 3 things:
- Fear – the horse is running from a predator (perceived or real)
- Herd dynamics – the horse is chasing or being chased as part of the dominance activities involved in sorting out the herd hierarchy
- Play – the horse is running simply because he can; it’s fun to do!
All of these motivations are emotional for the horse.
Speed control is the ability to move from one speed (gait) to another without the emotions getting involved. Going from a walk to a trot to a canter and back down thru these gaits without the emotions being involved (i.e. without the horse getting upset) is a vital skill required for riding.
Leading from the Side
Timber leads (follows me) very willingly. This is a natural and safe thing for horses to do. Physically, their nose is at the front of their body and it is behind the one they are following. However when I get to the point of riding Timber, I will be on his back and his nose will be in front of me. It is not natural for a horse to “follow” someone who is not physically in front of them. In fact, their natural reaction is to run from someone is “behind them” (which is what they are thinking when a person is on their back). We need to get to the point where Timber will “follow” me when I am not physically in front of him. We do this to begin with by leading from the side. This involves both forward and backward “following”. It begins to look like a dance. I am the lead partner in the dance and I want my horse to follow my cues and stay in sync with me as we go forward, backward and stand still.