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March 14, 2019: Chunking Things Down

Chunking things down (as far as horse education goes) means breaking tasks down into smaller increments so that the animals in question have a more realistic chance of succeeding when attempting to do the required task.

I used to think that it was just one aspect of horse training, and in fact an incidental. I’m now thinking of it as the most important aspect of horse education and non-incidental. I also now consider it to be the most effective way of building new neural pathways because it is stress free. Less cortisol, a high stress hormone, and more dopamine, a low stress chemical are then secreted. Furthermore, the parasympathetic nervous system (the rest and digest system) is activated and the sympathetic nervous system is

Signy with pack saddle
Signy with pack saddle

deactivated. Both are also part of the autonomic nervous system, which is voluntary.

A case in point: Next week there is going to be a working equitation horse clinic in Anchorage. This will benefit the horses that have been worked with all winter, presumably in an arena. It won’t benefit those that have been standing around for the same length of time, just eating hay off a round bale.

We are now preparing for our upcoming trip, keeping in mind that education involves chunking down as many tasks as is humanly possible. Today’s activities are reflective of this. Pete put the pack saddle on Hrimmi this afternoon. There are numerous straps and buckles, and considerable futzing to be done. Hrimmi didn’t care at all that this strange piece of equipment was on her back and that loose leather ends were dangling off both sides. This is because she previously carried burlap sacks, lawn chairs, flagging, and the like – at first for short periods of time. I’ve also taken my raincoat off and tied it to back of my saddle. It is not that she’s a horse who is non-reactive; but rather, than she’s a horse who has had a lot of exposure to various things.

We then went for a ride to the Murphy Road turnaround. I rode Tyra and Pete rode Raudi and ponied Hrimmi. The ride was uneventful because the horses are now used to this arrangement. So on the ride home we mixed it up a bit. Pete ponied Tyra and I rode Hrimmi. This meant making some tack changes. I rode Hrimmi home with minimal tack. I put a bareback pad on her before we left, and hooked Tyra’s reins to her halter. I’m pleased to say that she tolted nicely. Raudi was not pleased about having to deal with Tyra – there was, in fact, a lot of tail swishing on her part. The beauty of this part of our outing was that it was a short ride so Raudi was not at all stressed or frustrated in having to deal with the (as of yet) lesser trained pack horse.

All the little things we do take time. Sure, it would be fun to right now do a 10 mile round trip up and down Buffalo Mine Road. However, Pete and I agree that the time we’re now spending chunking things down is time well spent. For sure, the A Team is going to have a better trek this summer than it would have otherwise.

Next: 73. 3/15/19: Bluster, Buster

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