Monday, March 14, 2011

Lyric's Progress Report

Lyric's official training began a week ago last Sunday with some basic sacking out (desensitization) exercises and some hang time on the 'thinking tree...which is a big live oak tree out back.  We call it the 'thinking tree' because we use it to tie horses when we're saddling or unsaddling or when they need a lesson in patience.  They're not tied directly to the tree.  We have lengths of chain draped over two stout branches on opposite sides of the tree.  At the end of each loop of chain is a tie ring.  When we 'tie' a horse to the tree, they are really not tied at all.  The end of the lead rope is pushed through the tie ring and a tongue in the loop provides resistance if the horse pulls back or moves away from the tree.  How much resistance depends on how the rope is fed through the ring, but this is an excellent training tool for a horse to learn to stay where you put them.

Each evening's lesson began with Lyric on one side of the tree and her mama, Lacy, on the other.  Lacy is there just so Lyric won't be anxious about being separated from her herd and can concentrate on whatever we're trying to teach her.  The first day, we just worked on patience.  A little grooming, a little petting, but a whole lot of standing and waiting for something new to happen.  The object was just to establish a routine.  I also took the opportunity to adjust the bridle Lyric would be wearing so that it fit her properly.  The technical term is really headstall, not bridle.  Bridle would be the whole assemby, headstall and bit.  But I wanted to make sure the headstall fit before I attached a bit so that it would be as comfortable as possible the first time Lyric wore it.

The bit we are starting out with is a full cheek snaffle with a copper mouthpiece.  A snaffle is a broken bit which means the metal part that goes in the horse's mouth is hinged in the middle which allows the two sides to move independently, which gives a rider the ability to send more clear direction to the horse.  The 'full cheek' refers to metal bars that extend above and below the bit on the outside of the horse's mouth ...preventing the bit from being pulled through the mouth and aiding in directing the horse's face.

Once the headstall was adjusted to fit, the bit was attached and Yeoldfurt put it on her.  She was unsure at first.  But with patience and persistence, she figured it out.  As soon as the bit was in her mouth, she instinctively mouthed it and played with it, trying to figure out what it was and why it was there.  She was probably also trying to spit it out.  We just let her wear it and play with it for a few minutes until she relaxed.  Then he gave her a honey bun so she would figure out that she could still eat with a bit in her mouth.  He expected her to bite off a chunk, but she sucked the honey bun in whole. I had to laugh because you could almost see her eyebrows furrowing up as she concentrated on not dropping any while she worked around the bit.  When she'd finished the honey bun and was again settled down and standing patiently, Yeoldfurt removed the bridle and told her what a good girl she was.  Then he put it back on her for a few minutes.   He took it off and put it back on a couple of times that evening.  She learned several things that first day to accept a bit, how to carry a bit, how to eat around a bit and that it was okay to let us put it on because it wouldn't hurt her and we would eventually take it back off.

Her next official lesson was on Thursday and Yeoldfurt was at work so it was just me that day.  I bridled her up with no problem.  I proceeded with our usual grooming session but with me standing on the mounting block next to her instead of on the ground.  The purpose of standing on the mounting block is to teach her that it's okay for me to be moving around above her.  Young horses that have never been ridden are often spooky about sudden movements from above.  It's a new experience for them.  So by standing on the mounting block, I am making myself considerably taller than she is used to seeing me and am able to reach even the far side of her with the brush.  That's another important lesson for a young horse ...that we can stand on one side of them and touch them on the other side. I'm preparing her for the day I stand on her left side and throw a leg over her to get on.  If I don't teach her I can be on two sides at once, she's liable to go rodeo on me. 

Last Saturday was her third official lesson and we progressed to letting her wear a saddle.  We followed the same routine we had established the other days, bringing her and Lacy to the tree and then grooming and putting her bridle on.  On Saturday, we added the saddle.  She did really well for her first time.  We let her sniff the saddle and pad before we placed them on her back and we were careful not to let the stirrups or straps flap around too much and startle her.  Once she is completely comfortable with the idea of wearing a saddle, we'll make a point to wiggle the saddle and jostle the stirrups so she gets accustomed to those sounds and sudden movements.  But the first few times, the goal is just to let her understand the process and that the saddle is not going to hurt her.

I saddled her again tonight right before Yeoldfurt got home from work.  I was careful about the stirrups and cinch strap but moved a little faster than I did on Saturday.  She did real well and was all tacked up and  standing patiently when Yeoldfurt pulled in the driveway.  She's really has a good attitude so far and is soaking up the attention.   I'll work keep working with her at the tree for the rest of this week.  Then next weekend, we'll take her out to the round pen to saddle her up and turn her loose.  If she has any inclination to buck with the saddle, that's when she'll do it.  If she does, she does ...she'll only teach herself that she can't buck it off.  But I'm hoping she maintains the same quiet attitude she's had so far and just waits for us to show her what's next.


  1. She's pretty and sounds like she's well on her way.
    The full cheek snaffle is probably my favorite bit.

  2. She is gorgeous, I love her name. Thanks HB, for your informative posts. I copy and save them for reference, just in case we are ever someplace where we can think about getting a horse. :)

    Hugs & Love to you and Furt

  3. Aw, you're sweet, Fel! All my female friends like her name, but guys (including YOF) just smile and roll their eyes. LOL

    : )

  4. Thanks for your visit, and what you said is true. Love your horse and the name, it takes a long while to tenderly train a horse doesn't it, but so worth it! ;D

  5. You're so right, Julie. It takes a lifetime really. A horse learns SOMETHING every single time you interact with it. It's up to us to make sure they only learn GOOD THINGS.

    Hope all your grandchildren are well again and ready for spring weather!

    : )

  6. Hello~ I hopped over from Julie @ The Harwards.
    Lyric is BEAUTIFUL! And very fortunate you are patiently training her so tenderly.
    You Are so TEXAN!
    I spend my summers growing up in Texas. "Earning" my keep, with chores, including taking care of the horses. Reading your post brought me back. My Grandparents were so good @ helping me to understand the process of training and the reasons behind the equipment. Once I learned, much like a horse, that it did not hurt the horse, I was good to go. I also learned the importance of respecting the Horse.
    Love your BLog & look forward to reading more.

  7. Thank you, Janis. I guess you're not in our neck of the woods. If you were, you'd sure be welcome to come play with the horses. I was actually born in Colorado but grew up in Texas from the time I was 8 years old. As an adult, jobs forced me to live in Virginia, Colorado and New Mexico but I finally got back to Texas permanently about 12 years ago. It is what feels most like 'home' to me. It's hard to describe but Texas is more than a place, it's a state of mind. LOL