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July 11, 2014: Horse Training: Hrimfara and Lessons Learned

A friend recently asked me if Pete and I had begun doing ground training. My response was “little horses do what big horses do!” She gave me an odd look, and so I left it at that and did not elaborate. In part, this was because Hrimfara is now a big horse. She is taller than Tinni and Raudi, and still growing.

I suspect that many, when thinking about equine ground training, see this in more formal terms than we do. They teach one thing per session, things that at the time don’t have a connection to other things.

Doctor Wellington checking Hrimmi

For example, they may one day desensitize the young horse by flapping a sack on its top and undersides, then put the sack on the horse’s back. Or they might, on that given day, put the horse in a round pen, and in using pressure/release, coerce the horse into joining up. Or they might work on getting the horse to disengage its forequarters and hindquarters.

Our approach with Hrimmi has followed along the lines of what noted education specialist John Dewey advocated, which is more experiential and connected. So yes, in this respect, we’ve trained Hrimmi by having her do what the other horses do. The events in a typical training day are as follows:

I begin preparing for the day’s ride by first taking Raudi and Tinni out of the pen and tying them to the hitching post. I then go and get Hrimmi, who if she isn’t eating, is waiting by the gate. She knows now that she must follow me out of the front gate and walk nicely over to her hitching post spot. I sometimes vary things by taking her out the far gate, and tying her to the trailer. This way, she’s not surprised by a break in routine.

While tied, she must (and does) stand quietly while being groomed and having her feet cleaned. We then tack up the other horses. Hrimmi then walks down with Pete and Tinni to the driveway’s edge, where he mounts up and waits for me to get on Raudi. We all then go out as a group. Hrimmi is now
adept at being ponied. She used to balk because she wanted to get at the grass, but no longer does this.

We often take her on our own trails and let her run loose. And too, we pony her when we go places. This has worked for us – she will now cross puddles and creeks, go through mud, and walk over logs. She’s not at all bothered by traffic, and in fact she recently dealt very well with the water truck, which at the time was filling up at nearby creek. This (of course) is because Tinni is her steady eddy buddy, both in the pen and at home. I should add here that every so often I take her for walks solo – and she has no problem with this. The good thing about all this training is that she’s getting considerable experience in being out in the world.

We took a more piecemeal approach in training Raudi and Mr. Siggi. So, if I were to make a comparison, I’d say that I prefer doing the type of training that we are now doing with Hrimmi. We took both of them for walks, but I went more by the book in training them. In retrospect, Hrimmi at age two is light years ahead of where they both were at age six.

Next spring we’ll put a lightweight saddle on Hrimmi and begin ponying her with it on her back. And late next summer we’ll add saddle bags with just a few pounds of weight. We will not back her until she is four – and even then we won’t ride her much. This is because she won’t be physically mature until she’s five or six.

I call Hrimmi Signy’s gift to us. And what a wonderful gift she is. Pete and I have repeatedly told one another that we got really lucky. I hope that she feels the same.

Next: 190. 7/12/14: Lessons Learned: Ego Overboard