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All big things start in small steps

This weekend was again one of those days :)
First of all we had fog in the morning – with just a glimpse of sun. Later in the afternoon the fog was gone and all we had was sun, loads of sun and it was so warm! The weather prediction was rain for today, we had forgotten about that at all :) 18 degrees and “Sonne pur” – many people started their BBQ, Jr had a great day with friends, having a picnic in the park!
On Sunday it all started with loads of rain, but then it turned completely nice and warm as well!

And then the second thing for me and the horses:
I took my little Jr next to me and Sam on the streets. I rode on Sam and took Muratah as a “handheld horse” with us. He has not got any experience with it, but is a very good student.
Altough Muratah is becoming more and more stallion, and trying to impress the girlies and all that is around him, he listens well to what his “moms” have got to say.

Ian Benson, Muratah, Sam and me
Muratah first time online on a halter, with Ian Benson.

The most important bits Muratah and I had practiced before, “on the ground”:

1) walk next to me, not in front of me, do not stay behind me.
You want your horse to be where you are, not that your horse takes you for a run around the fields. You might recognize those people which are taken for a walk by their dogs? Na, you dont want that, do you? Much cooler to control an animal 20x the weight of those dogs by just an eyebrow :)

2) if I stop, you stop, if I go, you walk.

Both of these can be practiced on the ground with a normal halter and a long(er) line, approx. 4,5 meters. This is almost double as long as the normal leads for the stable.
Leave a slack in the line and try to walk with your horse following you in a normal speed while the slack stays in the line. Do not pull your horse, as the horse wins that game, no question.

Standing still: rise yourself up, slide your feet together and freeze. Sometimes you will need to start with holding the hand with the line up. If your horse walks over you as if you were not there, you might need to start studying a bit more horsebehaviour, especially he part “respect” and “dominance” :)

Going forward: While you both stand still: focus with your eyes on something about 20m in front of you and try to think if you were about to fly to it. Now make your going forward step as vivid as possible – the “wave” of energy will make your horse react.

With all of the above excercises, keep minimal 1 meter, maximal 2 meters distance from your horse. That is further away than your arm is long. He needs his ground to move, you need your safety distance. If your horse can turn his bum towards you and his chead completely away from you, the line is too long.

This is actually basic education, which you can read lots about in the books from Klaus Ferdinand Hempfling (german “horsedancer”- my favorite), Pat Parelli (American, very strict, but with clear rules) Emiel Voest (dutch, based on Monty Roberts) or Monty Roberts (american, basing trust on a start with fear – not sure if that is the right approach :)

Or, if you want to experience more, look if Ian Benson is coming to your place. He educates both the people and the horses – the horse gives and takes, and so does the human. They will need to understand and respect eachother.


My transport having a lazy moment


Also very important if you are going to ride with 2 horses: they should know each other.

This is rather easy with mother and foal, as the foal will instinctively do what mom says.
If the horse you are riding on happens to be the lower ranked one, and the horse on a lead the leading horse, you could imagine that you are going to have an interesting problem.
The only way around this is to ensure the leading horse sees you as a dominant horse as well, although some horses do not recognize you while you are on top of a minor horse.
If you are able in a paddock, while riding on your horse, to steer the leading horse without having him on a halter, make him stop, turn around and go back, then you might have a good chance to work it out with him. If not, practice with him on a lead on the ground first until he sees you, recognizes you and knows what you want from him with your movements.

A few other things which come in handy as well:
* The horses should be able to keep up with each other, preferably in the same gait.
* Preferably the horse you are riding on should be rather bomb proof, it should not spook from everything you might see on your trip. The horse you have with you will follow this behaviour and make it worse (probably because he had not seen what was going on and spooks even more).
* Preferably the riding horse should be steerable with 1 hand, you need your other hand for the lead.

* Practice in the paddock. The horses might follow each other well, but you are in the middle if one decides to stop. You will practice your one hand stops, turns, letting go of the lead rope until the almost-end and bless your stable saddle in the end.
* Practice the most difficult part ver well: mounting and umounting:
Make sure all the lines are secure, not around a leg or arm and both horses stand still, preferably with the noses in the same direction. Nothing more annoying as mounting one and the other one walks away in opposite direction. It also helps if there is a bit of space between both horses, so you do not swing your leg around number two or kick him.
* Do not roll the leading line around your hand. If around 400-600kg of horse decides to stand still, it might be chopped off.
* Both horses should be used to lines around them. It is not very practical when one horse shoots of because the other one just pulled the leadline around one by walking around it. Muratah has got no problems with a line all around his body or getting stuck in it, but with Sam it is different as she got caught once in a line and had to be cut free. It took a long time for us to get her used to it again.


This is how it looks like when it goes well (we just came back on sunday) :)

Lots of preparations, lots of experiences I made in the past, time to practice it for real.
We practiced twice this weekend, on Saturday and Sunday, both going the exact same route, so both knew what would be going on the second time. For whatever reason, first time always goes bad, second time goes splendid. And so did it this time.

For these two first days I had brought my 1.20m whip with me for as an arm-extension. Muratah is lazy and prefers to stay behind for everything (he looks like my Jr in that perspective). I can use it to wave it next to his bum to make him either go faster forward or next to his nose to give him a visual “border”- not only physical by the halter – to not go faster.

Our “testground” would be the known place around the stable, with a bit through a village to get to know the things going on over there. We would be mainly walking over concrete as I wanted to do the hoofs as well from both, and needed to see their walking patern freshly carved in. Also the solid ground is good for young horses, they get to learn that there is more than sand and grass to walk over. It will harden their hoofs a bit better, which is useful for later.

The mounting bit was rather easy: both horses with their noses in some green grass and they happily stood still. Quickly on top, sorting lines, lenght of reins, adjust position of horses, praise them and off we went.

First thing I/we told Muratah was to stay in the “quiet triangle”: the place he should be while walking/trotting next to us.
As a “back limit”, his head should not be behind my foot (so the lead line has a max 90 degree angle on the riding direction).


Too much to the front

The “front limit” is nose to nose with the horse I ride on. Preferably just a bit shorter, as
sometimes Sam lifts up her head and Muratah just cuts through in front of her chest.


Left sidelimit is clear: it is my stirrup. That does not feel that nice, so that will sort itself out.

The right limit, how far away next to us he could be is actually the length of the line defined by the “nose to nose” limit. In the startup preferably close, but I have already experimented with Sam as the horse that is lead with almost the whole length of the line, and that went well (after prior proper practice and preparation ofcourse!)


perfect position :)

Main bit is that it should be long enough to have enough distance from each other that we both can move freely but the horse can not turn away from us or go in front.

When Muratah hat worked that out – he takes the usual 2 tries for that – we went for step 2 already; trotting. It does keep him distracted from most of the new things around him, and will tire him out a bit as well.

Once he got familiair with the “trot” and “hold” commands while riding (he is a very, very fast learner) we were forced to go on the streets, even on the main streets on this busy Saturday. As his mom has got no fear at all from cars, trucks nor motorbikes, he also did not react to those that drove by.

The thing that made him react though was a reflection of himself, and he stopped, stared at it and shouted at it. There are not many horses that react on that – but he did. I hope I get another chance to let him “find out” about himself when we are not on the main street of a village, with cars driving by.

On Sunday we took a D-tour, as there were too many Sunday drivers on the road I did not consider this was a safe try. This meant we could trot almost all the way.

Lucky me, I caught Muratah annoying Sam on camera – and what I wrote above about “being visible” – look at Muratahs ear when I correct him the second time (as Sam did not do it the first time :)

We came back at the stable with 2 sleepy, tired but happy horses :)


Both of em yawning :)

All together I can say that this weekend was great – both “mom” Sam being a great guide (also learned her place again as “chef”) – and Jr Muratah being a great student! I can not wait until I will be able to be out with all 4 of us :)

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