The Neglected Child - Getting Dan Back to Work?

I hesitate to write this, because I'll feel obligated to follow through if I write it down, and I don't know if I have the energy and time for working with two horses. I know from all the blogs I read that many average everyday people are working with two horses, or more, but I seem to get so tired from training one! And there aren't enough hours in the day.
It isn't fair to Dan though to just stand around. He's a healthy, nine year old appaloosa gelding and we're lucky to have him. He hates to work in the ring, and with my obsession for dressage that has discouraged me too.
I showed him at Training Level in dressage last summer because Rogo wasn't ready to show, but since then have only ridden him about five times. Trying to get him to work with me in dressage was painful, but being out on the beach with him the other night reminded me how much fun he can be on a trail ride, and that he enjoys it too.
He has a great capacity to learn, he just doesn't like arena work. One winter when I had he and Savanah home and it was too cold to ride I did clicker training with them to pass the time. He was amazing. He'd learn with only one or two repetitions. The first thing I taught them was to turn their head away and stand still if they wanted a treat. This keeps them from getting pushy for treats. He'd stand frozen like a little soldier :) and still turns his head away to ask for treats although I dropped the training and haven't done it since.
Also, I was reminded in reading a comment from allhorsestuff (address in my sidebar) today that some horses who don't like ring work can be encouraged with cavelleti and jumping. Dan likes cavelleti and while he'll never be a jumper, a friend jumped him over low cross rails a couple of times which was the only time I've ever seen him act happy, forward and excited (in a good way) in the ring. Guess just going round and round bores him. How can he not see the fascination with a perfect 20 m circle??? How is it that he doesn't feel a communion with the universe as he executes a perfectly straight center line? I don't get it, but there you have it.
I feel kind of lost though in trying to come up with a training plan and goals for Dan. I'm thinking that it would be doable to start with riding 1 to 2 times per week, and longe 1 to 2 times per week, with a minimum of 3 sessions a week. But what to do on our rides? I don't want to just get on and flop around. Maybe to start, on the trail, week one and two:
  • sharpen walk, trot, canter, rein back, halt responses
  • review / build leg yield ability
  • turn on the forehand
  • cross a gully / ditch
That should get us started. I'll have to think where to go from there if it looks like I can keep it up.

He looks thrilled to be in the arena

Eating hay at sun rise

What was I thinking with those horizontal stripes?

We're zig zagging around the ground poles instead of going over them

His first show


Jeni said…
Hi Carol, your Dan sounds like my Bonnie. She dislikes arena work but LOVES to jump! I school dressage with her and use her for almost all of my dressage lessons at least the first half. Then I switch to Rosie who my instructor was riding during the first part. But for the most part Bonnie is my trail buddy and my instructors Eventing horse. Bonnie is only 14.3 or so but jumps pretty handily.

You could consider eventing specially since you said he loves to jump!

Carol said…
The trouble is that I don't know how to jump, although my teacher wants me to learn, so I'll be a well rounded rider. This could be a project for Dan and I - I could learn how to do low cross rails this summer, maybe...
He hasn't done much jumping, just when a friend did the cross rails and also our nephew was doing that with him one time too. He really seemed to enjoy it though. His 'ring apathy' disappeared :)
Your Bonnie sounds very versatile. Perfect. Although of your two horses I can't help but be struck by Rosie's presence.
Brittany said…
I always seem to ride horses who are slow and stubborn on the flat but as soon as I start jumping them, they are alert, happy, and going at a great pace. I wonder why jumping gives them so much joy? I have also had horses who hate jumping, I guess, just like people, horses interests differ
Anonymous said…
How about some liberty work, particularly with clicker - Golden the Pony Girl has done some amazing things with her little horse? Or mazes you can navigate in hand or under saddle? Or some trail obstacles? - I'm thinking of building some myself. Or do lots of focussing/changes of direction/pace - make it a game - have someone call out number of steps, pace and destination so you and he will be challenged together.
Carol said…
Kate - I love it! All of these are great ideas. I think I can do this.
Blogging is wonderful. I'd never get energized on my own but now I have so many good ideas. This could go from painful to fun!
I remember reading that Golden the Pony Girl was going to blog about her clicker training and I haven't seen anything. I'll check her site. Thought I was 'connected' but maybe I'm not.
Carol said…
Oops, Brittany - just saw your comment. Yeah, it's kind of amazing how many of them are joyful when jumping. All of this feedback is really making me re-think things. Thanks!
Shannon said…
He is adorable! I just love a Palomino Appy! It's funny, all the Appys I've ever known hated arena work but loved jumping and trails. I think they're just too smart for circles. Anything you can do to engage his mind will probably work well. I'm a big proponent of taking dressage out of the arena, anyway. Dressage started out as cavalry work, it's begging to be taken out on the trail! Although, once Dan gets to where he can do fun stuff in the arena and not just circles you might find that he enjoys it more.
Carol said…
I agree re Aps being smart. Too smart for their own good :) I could fill a big post on his escapades - untieing knots, hooking the longe line around Rogo and leading him around, carrying anything he can pick up, scratching cats, ... He's certainly a constant source of entertainment.
I don't know why I wasn't thinking of dressage on the trail before. It makes such perfect sense.