Question 2: My horse has been recovering from an injury. I would like to go back and improve his groundwork but I’m not sure if lunging is the best thing right now while he is still recovering. Are there other things I can do that don’t involve lunging?
[00:00:03] Podcasting from a little cabin on a hill. This is the Stacy Westfall podcast. Stacy’s goal is simple to teach you to understand why horses do what they do, as well as the action steps for creating clear, confident communication with your horses.
[00:00:22] Hi, I’m Stacy Westfall, and I’m here to teach you how to understand, enjoy and successfully train your own horses. Today, I’m answering two questions.
[00:00:33] The first one on how to lunge, a horse that wants to take off and run instead of walk. And the second one on how not to lunge, a horse that’s coming off from rehab and probably can’t handle physically being lunged. Now, I do talk quite a bit about lunging back in Episode 72, and you’re going to hear that referenced in one of these questions. But as a little recap, I do find lunging to be useful. That does not mean that I always lunge my horses. There is a period, especially in the elementary school years, where I do lunge them every single day that I ride as part of the training. But just like a lot of the other things that I talk about, I believe in things being layers, layers upon layers. So lunging is one of the base layers, but I don’t do it forever. So, for example, a more advanced layer of of this would be when you start working on liberty work. So you’re going from lunging to end the communication that’s there to something more and more subtle to where you can send in call and move and turn and do different things and change different gears. And so to me, that’s a version of lunging, even though it’s not typically put in the same category. So, yes, I do find it useful. No, I don’t always lunge all horses forever. And I do think that it serves a great purpose in that it is one of the base layers that I do teach my horses.
[00:02:06] Let’s go ahead and listen to the first question.
[00:02:09] Hello, Stacy. This is Laurie from Ontario. My question relates to your latest podcast about managing. I have a nine-year-old quarter horse mare who is quite green and I would say a three on the hot side of the teeter-totter. My question is, when I started lunging her, she just wants to go right into a fast trot, then a fast lope. Do I let her do this to get her energy out? Or would you recommend working on more control, both physically and mentally, and get her to do her two walk circles, her five to 10 trot circles and her five to 10 lopes circles? It takes ages to get her to do her to walk circles without breaking gate. But I have been working on it. I love your podcasts. Thank you. And stay safe.
[00:02:58] Thanks for the question, Laurie. Let’s look at this through the Foursquare model for a lot of riders when they get started with a horse like this. The first thing the rider’s mind is going to do is going to jump to which comes first. Do I let them run around and get the energy out? Or do I try to control it? But wait a minute. They have all this energy and they really want to run around, but I don’t know that that’s a good idea. So do I control it? So the riders mind a lot of riders get into this situation with a horse that asks this question and they become unsure. So this is the first layer. The first quadrant of the Foursquare model in the second quadrant. If we look at the rider’s body, a lot of times when a horse throws this kind of question out there. So they go out, you go to lunge and they kind of blast off into a bigger trot and they go around and then they’re going even faster and maybe they trot, maybe they lope, run, trot. So the thing is, when it’s all happening that fast for the rider on the ground who is lunging the horse right now, that can feel really complicated. So riders tend to almost just kind of stand there and act a little bit like a post in the ground or kind of try to just hold on because it feels a little bit like flying a kite.
[00:04:19] The horse is just kind of zinging around there. And intuitively, the riders like if I do much, this is gonna get even more complicated because do I really want to ask for a really big turn right now? Do I really want to ask for. And so there is a complication to handling a horse that goes really fast, that comes up. For some people. Then when we look at the next quadrant, we look at the horses mind. A lot of horses that are in the habit of lunging like this and that can be like it can be something that they learned or it could be that they had a little bit more of a naturally forward temperament to go with. But once they get to the point where they’re kind of like run for fun and that could be like day three of lunging, then, you know, they could they do have that. A lot of them have that adrenaline rush that like excitement. And they’re kind of getting that high energy and they’re running around there now. The thing that I think changes the longer it’s gone on is that there are a different set of questions that happen with a hot horse on day three when you’re teaching it to lunge vs. a hot horse on year seven. You’re lunging it and it already knows how to lunge. It has different questions because just the passage of time in experience. So if this is a nine year old that’s never been halter broke, you could consider at the elementary level.
[00:05:48] But basically what I’m saying is those early times the horse is learning some things and those are different questions than when the horse is like this is playtime. This has been playtime for the last X number of, you know, months or years. And that’s a little bit different than a horse that’s just running for fun in the beginning. And I think one of the reasons that changes in the ride in the horses mind here is because somewhere in the beginning, the horse that’s innocently running because it’s really fresh doesn’t realize as much that this is a leadership kind of a question where a lot of times the horses that have been doing it for a long time do understand more of a who’s controlling my feet kind of question. They understand more that they’ve got a little bit of the upper hand here. So I think there is some stuff that changes in the horses mind and then the horses mind and horses body because we do read the horses mind through their body language. So when we’re looking at this question, I’m picturing like an innocently, fairly fresh horse, like he’s like two horses just taken off running fresh. And again, like I said, if the horse has been doing this for a while, I do think there are hidden questions in there that we’re about to address. So let’s talk just a minute about habits.
[00:07:10] So with the horses that have been doing something like this for a while, let’s just pretend that this horse was started, you know, lunging maybe around year two or three. So this let’s just say this has been going on for, you know, five years for fun. We’ll just use five years. If over the period of five years, if the horses even just been lunged on and off, it’s amazing how quickly the horses will kind of establish habits, especially if lunging is used as playtime. And some people do that. So they go out. They’re like, OK, this is playtime as long as you don’t actually kick me and don’t drag me away. Otherwise, there’s a lot of leeway in between. And those horses, especially if they naturally are on the fresher side or so let’s say, like you said, this horse is like a plus three. So a naturally hotter horse is more likely to, you know, catch on to that game, Playtime! But also a horse that’s just fresh meaning like the other day I took Gabby out and I was gonna do some basic liberty work with her. And I started moving around and I realized she felt pretty fresh. Now she’s been turned out every day. She’s been ridden five days a week. She’s being ridden harder now than she has in the last few months. And yet she still wanted to blow off some steam. So I sent her out there and kind of kick some dirt and gave her permission to run.
[00:08:35] And she was running like crazy. So she was, quote-unquote, fresh because she hadn’t had a chance to kind of blow off steam in that way. She just wanted to hunker down and really, really run. And it’s still a little bit muddy out in the paddock. So she doesn’t blast as fast as she can and the really good footing in the indoor. So it is kind of interesting that, you know, there’s all these different layers that you can put on it. But whatever the habit has been is going to somehow criss cross with that horse’s natural tendencies. Gabby actually tends to be a lazier horse, but not this day, because she just really had that urge to blow off steam where if it was a hotter horse, that steam that I’m saying might be there every day. So then this comes back to that question, how do we start? And I would add to the question, how do you end? So every time you go out to work your horse. I’d like you to start thinking in the idea of cycles. So instead of it just being like we start the ride. So there’s catching, brushing, saddling, riding, and then we end and let’s say that’s unsaddling, brushing, turning loose instead of viewing it like one large cycle, start to try to see how many different cycles you can see inside of your work session with your horse. For me, I would call, you know, catching a horse in the stall, bringing the horse out, ground tie, brush, clean the feet, and saddle the horse, and…
[00:10:09] I’m correcting any ground tying issues that are happening during that. And then when I lead the horse away from that area, that’s kind of the end of a cycle. And then I’m going to go and let’s say I’m going to go lunge that horse. So then I go out and I’m transitioning to the beginning of another cycle. And that’s going to be getting my lunge line and my lunge whip and taking the horse out and sending the horse around me. And this is the beginning of another cycle. And so start paying attention to the different cycles that are happening, because I want you to look for some themes where and when and how do you see that hot horse? For example, when you lead them out of the stall, is that horse kind of pushing into your space? Does the horse’s head go past you, passed your shoulder. Or if you’re leading the horse. Does the eye, the horses eye stay near your shoulder. Are you picking whatever that point is that’s besides your shoulder or is the horse kind of like asking another question there? And we’re going to talk more about the idea of the details versus the big picture. When I answer the second question today, but I want to get you started with thinking about these different cycles, because sometimes I think when people look at lunging, they think of it as a big picture.
[00:11:26] So I’ve probably even presented a bit like that, meaning, you know, walk two, trot 10, loped 10. So that is I know it’s a big picture because it’s very unclear. It’s not there’s not a lot of detail. So the opposite of that big picture would be a lot of detail. Now, I’m not saying that it should be detail versus big picture, but I will say that it might sound like that sometime if I’m not really intentional when I’m talking to you, because sometimes I want to tell you about the big picture, but it’s always for me. It’s always the big picture and the detail. And I understand that’s a lot. So just keep your ears open for that when you’re listening. So let’s go down through and let’s use the Foursquare model, get an answer some of your questions. So. The next time you go out to lunge your horse, you’re pretty sure the blasting around is is what’s going to be asked. So what I’d like you to think the riders mind, I would like you to be curious. I’d like to think what would happen if I went out and I lunged at my horse and then tied my horse up for a 10 or 15 minute break and then went back out and lunged at my horse again and then came back and tied my horse up for another 10 or 15 minute break and then lunged my horse again.
[00:12:57] I’m curious what would happen there.
[00:12:59] And then I’m curious, what if I did that routine three days in a row? I wonder if the last time I lunge the horse on the third day, if I could have 10 laps of walk each way. Start to almost give yourself this little, like, curiosity assignment, like what’s gonna happen if I repeat this over and over again? What’s going to happen if I do this multiple times a day, multiple days in a row and. Be aware that if you choose to go down this road, that this is not about exhausting your horse. And we’re gonna talk about that in just a minute. When we’re talking about the horses mind. But it’s a curiosity of what would happen if you break the habits. Because I don’t know exactly what your habits are, but that is not a typical habit that people have. So something that will kind of shake them up, meaning the horse is going to go out and the first time maybe the horse is going to blast around. We’re going to talk a little bit more about that in just a minute. But when the when if the horse goes out there the first time and blasts around and if you do nothing different than just what you’ve been doing because you said you are you know, you said it takes forever to get to where I get the walk steps. I’m saying, well, what if you did that as your first normal and changed nothing except for that you went out after you tied the horse up and you did it again and then you went out and did it again.
[00:14:29] So even without changing your routine right now, it would be interesting to find out what would happen if you did it multiple times. Because if the horse isn’t blasting around, what? What other questions are is your mind going to come up with now on the riders body? First of all, one thing to notice, when your horse starts really speeding around you, it most of the time, the majority of the time causes pressure on the lunge line. So most of the horses that are running around you. I said it feels a little bit like flying a kite. And that’s because there is that pull and that that horse is just barely being held on there, maybe not barely. But there’s pressure on the line because of the speed and that centrifugal force. So you could ask yourself what would happen if while that horse is running around there and let’s say that’s the first time we go out to lunge. And you haven’t really thought about changing a lot of other things. Horse takes off and is going around their fast trot or fast Canter. What if you give and take like with your elbow, your hand, like you would riding? And what if you give and take because a horse is already creating the pressure of pulling on you because they’re choosing to run? What could you do to help shape that horseback into the proper bend? Because a lot of times these horses that are running, if you watch them, a lot of times they’re kind of braced, almost arced out.
[00:15:53] So if anything, if you could have like an aerial overhead view instead of their body matching the circle instead of their having an arc in their spine that matches the same shape of the circle that they’re running on. Instead of that happening, a lot of times they’ve got their head a little bit cocked to the outside. And so if you were having an aerial up above view looking down, you would actually the outside I would be turned out and it’s almost a little bit of an inverted to matching the circle. That’s very common. This is also the position that horses get in before they learn how to do the pony drag. You know, the one where, like, they just put their head and drag you away. And ponies are really famous for it because they practice with little kids. And so pay attention and start being curious about like if you start changing the use of your body that given take and try to create the proper bend, even if you don’t try to change anything else, you could challenge yourself to find out what happens.
[00:16:51] Now let’s jump to the horses mind for a minute. So you go out to lunge the horse and the horses first thought is, “Run!” Have fun and is kind of blasting around there. But I’m going to say, for the sake of this conversation, that this older horse is also subtly asking who’s the leader? And one of the things I want you to watch for is somehow the running is ending. So I don’t know if the running is ending because the horse goes out there and let’s just put some numbers to it so everybody can visualize it. So let’s say that, you know, you’re dreaming about being able to go out there and do what I’ve said on the podcast, which is walk two, trot 10, loped 10. But you go out there and the horse maybe walks out away from you a little bit and then breaks into a fast trot or a Canter and just starts winding up like a top, like running around and is just kind of blasting around there. Well, if I were just to watch that, let’s just I’m going to make this up because I didn’t get this much detail. But if I were watching that happen and that horse is going and going and going and going in there a little bit arc to the outside and maybe they’re bucking and they’re just having a lot of fun. And the riders start and they’re like, OK, I’ve got the horse under control. I don’t feel like I’m to lose it or anything, but I’m not quite sure when the horse slows down.
[00:18:14] Let’s say the horse goes out there and runs 30 laps around trot low running. How is this ending? How is this switching directions? Is this ending in switching directions? Because the horse looks in at you and asks a question and then you say yes to the stopping idea that came from the horse or are you, you know, winding in the string? Are you reeling in the string of your kite until the horse is not running anymore? Start paying a lot of attention to the communication that’s happening there. Pay attention to are you taking a step back? Are you taking a step to the left, to the right, a step forward? Are you using your hand different? Are you moving the lunge whip somewhere else? Because what I’m asking you to do is to turn up your awareness, because in the horse’s mind, if the horse goes out there, a lot of times horses that do this go out there and riders have let them blow off steam and the habit has become go out there and run. So the horse makes the decision to take off the horse makes the decision to run the horse, makes the decision how long to run. The horse stays loosely within the bounds of like it hasn’t dragged you away and it hasn’t run you over. So there’s there are some boundaries. And so I’m making this up from other things I’ve seen. And then and then what happens is the horse kind of runs itself out that direction.
[00:19:43] Maybe it’s slowing down to catch his breath. It kind of looks at you. I particularly think it’s funny when they look it with that sparkle in their eye like that, huh? What are you going to like? Are you going to have me changed directions now? Because I’ll just blast the other direction or, you know, you. Have you ever seen that sparkle in their eye when they’re in that state? And so how is that ending? Because this is going to tell you more about the horses mind. Now, what’s really interesting if you do this, is that if you take the horse out and you do this three times in a row, three days in a row, that I’m suggesting the horse’s body and mind the first time out might be really fresh and might want to do the old habit of running around, because that’s what humans have let them do, run around a blow off steam and then you can behave after that. And so maybe that goes out there and happens the first time. But what’s going to be really interesting is like on the second time. To be curious about like, oh, what does the horse think now? So does the horse go out there and does the horse start with blasting offer? Does the horse start with a whole different look on their face? And if not the second time, like, pay attention, because I’ve seen this happen inside of one, you know, inside of one hour here at a clinic.
[00:21:04] I’ve seen horses like this change very dramatically because a lot of times they are one half of the habit and the handler is the other half of the habit. So as soon as I start having the handler change the habits, the horse is like, whoa, what’s going on here? And it brings up a whole bunch of different questions.
[00:21:26] So I think that you’re going to find that the horse’s body and mind, when that horse isn’t let’s just call it physically fresh, you know, first graders that need to go out to recess, a blow off some physical steam so they could focus when the horse isn’t so physically fresh, then the horse is going to ask a whole different set of questions. And so that is that’s something to think about. Now, I’m going to answer in the next question. I’m going to talk more about detail, but I want to leave you with the thought that you can basically, when you go out there to lunge, the horse I see the horses fall into two categories. I see the horses run around there. And then it’s almost like the horse looks at the rider and their handler. In this case, it’s almost like the horse is going around and then the horse looks and then the rider handler responds. And so that is not a bad starting place, really. I mean, if I take a horse and it’s not even halter broke and it’s an older horse, so I’m flashing back to like Road to the Horse and Popcorns running around in the round pen and not halter broke. When the horse turns and looks at me, I’m going to then respond by moving my body in a certain way in that moment. I’m actually trying to build that wild horses confidence in asking questions to come to me and come and interact with me with these horses that are more trained than that, that dance, that awareness of the questions that they’re asking.
[00:23:06] The way that they’re flicking their ears, the way that they’re looking is still there. Sometimes I think when riders are handling the horse, this lunging like this and the horse is really going around. I mentioned before they get a little bit concerned about, like, OK, they’re the horse is already running really fast. How am I going to slow this down, start to get curious about how many different ways you could slow it down? Obviously be super cool if you had, like, a cue that had the horse slow down. But we’re going to assume that the horse is not that advanced. So, again, you could just start reeling the horse in a little bit. You could shorten the line. So let’s say the horses lunging on a 25 foot or 20 foot lunge line, simply shortening that line and down to 19, down to 18. And you can keep bringing that in slower and slower now. Don’t come into where the horse could be in a kicking range from you. But, you know, it makes it a little bit more difficult for the horse like that. I’ve had horses that were naturally really hot like this and they were just kind of zippy. And I wanted to help break the habits. I’ve put out safe obstacles like a little jump or a ground pole or a tarp.
[00:24:18] This obviously depends on the level of training the horse has. But those different things, what they do, like a ground pole or a jump. Obviously, you can see what that’s going to do to the horse’s body. But even the tarp and the different things like that, what I think they do when you start adding little things like that is first of all, the whole experience gets way more interesting because they’re like a habit change. This is weird. And then they also let’s say it’s just one single ground pole. They also get like they go like, oh, I’ve got to figure out how to rate my body. I’ve got to figure out how to navigate over this. And then a lot of times the handler starts getting a lot more specific because there’s some kind of a target like, hey, I’d like it to go over the pole. OK, not around it. No, not over me. Not. And then this opens up a dialog that changes things a little bit more. Now, I think I know I mentioned at one point, but I’ll mention it again here. So I did a fair amount of lunging with Presto when I was building him up through because he just he’s very long and lanky. And there was times that I was watching him and, you know, he was uncoordinated and tripping and falling in the passion. I’m like, you know, I don’t feel like riding that. So I was doing a lot of groundwork.
[00:25:31] I got him to the point where I was lunging him over four poles that were say about eight feet apart. And he could do his walk two, Trot 10, loped 10. Over those four poles. And that was a piece of me doing that for him so that he wasn’t so bored when we were doing that much. There was a lot of mental stimulation from that. And we did a play day here earlier in back in January. And a bunch of people that had come to clinics and lessons came. And we just put a whole bunch of obstacles around the whole arena and just people went out and they were lunging their horses. And the horses are like, this is weird. There’s a lot of horses doing a lot of things and a lot of obstacles. So just switching up the mind, because sometimes the horses are, you know, asking questions. And so the handler needs to change and make things a little bit more interesting to take some of that leadership. So even if you had the total cue system down to be able just to interfere or redirect the horse’s energy, start getting curious about how there are many ways you can redirect that. It doesn’t all have to just be with the lunge line, just with the lunge whip. It can be with all kinds of different things. Thanks again for the question. And let’s listen to the next question.
[00:26:49] Hi, Stacy, this is Sophia. I’m a big fan of your podcast videos and training style. You’ve opened me up to a whole different side of horses. Thank you so much. I have a twelve-year-old show horse who’s just coming on eight months of rehab from a ligament injury. We are starting back to riding rehab soon. He’s very pushy and bold, even though he’s fairly small. I want to go back to basics, but I don’t know if I can lunge in due to the ligament injury. Should I tried to go back and get a good foundation or find a way to gain his respect without lunging? I want to fill as many holes in his training as I can. Should I go back to ground work after we’re released to full work? If so, do you know of any good everyday exercises that I can use with him that don’t include a lot of lunging? Thank you for your help.
[00:27:41] Thanks for the question, Sophia, and for the wonderful feedback. I really appreciate hearing that. I am picturing a 12 year old show horse that I can remember in my mind. Now, I have had the experience. I was going to say the pleasure, but it’s not a pleasure. I’ve had the experience of rehabbing horses similarly to what you’re talking about. And it is really kind of an interesting thing because a lot of times it’s a lot of stall rest, a lot of hand walking really slowly building up because you’re trying not to reinjure. And yet at the same time you’ve got a horse that’s like, hello, this is getting fairly boring. So I do love your question, how to go back to the basics without lunging, because I want this question to play off from the first question that I just answered. And the way that I want you to look at that is I want you to look at it like detail.
[00:28:42] I mentioned when I was answering the first question that I see a play between detail and big picture and for sure, the lunging. A lot of times fits into a big picture. I remember back in one of the Stacy’s video diary Jack episodes that was talking about, I believe it was titled Training Cycles, and I was talking about emotional versus physical training cycles. And so when I see this look, big picture, it’s almost this physical training cycle versus the mental training cycle. So if we look at it like that, if we look at it like the lunging around, one of the reasons I want to lunge Presto and do walk 2, trot 10, loped 10, as I want to physically be able to influence him to go into this physical rhythmic zone. But the other way to look at this is that there is detail, which is why I started talking about are we paying attention to the shape of the horse as it lunges around there as it’s going fast. Are we trying to shape that horse? Are we trying to figure out how there is more detail and there can be a great amount of detail when you’re lunging a horse. So for your question, first of all, follow your vet’s instructions. As I said, though, what’s interesting, don’t be afraid to ask creative questions from your vet, because I remember the first horse that I taught to bow, sit and lay down was a horse that had been on rehab for suspense or injury. And the horse had been I’d been doing all kinds of hand walking and during that hand walking, I was being kind of creative.
[00:30:21] So I’m getting that horse to basically just think about walking and working on, like, almost like Liberty Horse, stay here at my shoulder, you know. And, you know, they say you can walk, but you can walk in different patterns and you can walk in round if you don’t have to just go in, like, just perfectly around the. Arena. And so at least for this horse, that was what was true. So it was funny when I asked the vet when we got to the point a little bit further down the road and I said, you know, could I teach this horse to bow or lay down? You know, I’m not going to use ropes. I won’t be forcing him. There won’t be any fighting or anything like that. And they were like, it’s fine. The horse stand like lays down and stands up in the stall. So as long as you’re not forcing this to happen, you can totally work on that. And to me, that was a lifesaver for both of us, because it gets really kind of boring when you’ve got this horse that you’re rehabbing like that because it’s very, very monotonous and they don’t have a lot of outlet. So a lot of times when I picture a 12-year-old show horse and this is a very broad category, so I’m just going to picture one that I knew a lot of times by the time you have a twelve-year-old show horse.
[00:31:31] They’ve got a pretty good handle on what’s going on. If they’ve been a show horse for, let’s say, the majority of their career, then I think sometimes those horses can be pretty experienced in like, let’s just say, showmanship and horsemanship and trail and undoing all these different things. But they’re kind of almost like they’re expert level and bored at the same time. So what’s always interesting was show horses with or without the injury. For me, a lot of times is adding a little bit more creativity to it. Obviously, you don’t want to do anything that’s gonna spook your horse and you’re going to know this horse better. But it is funny how they will really kind of light up if you start doing creative thinks. There’s a lot of times they might see, like, really sterile trail obstacles, but they don’t see really creative things. You know, there’s certain. Like, I’m just picturing horses that have been shown in, like AQHA trail where you can open up the AQHA handbook and you can read exactly what the obstacles would be. And so it’s it’s just thinking outside the box a little bit to where the horse can start to have something new to be learning. It’s kind of like that’s the fun about reading a book or watching a movie or learning there is an enjoyment to that.
[00:32:46] And I think we forget that the horses enjoy learning. This is why I think it’s always important to continue advancing the horse. And this is why the idea of layers fits so well in my mind, because it’s like you can have a horse that’s really good at showmanship, which is very precise and detailed, and you can even potentially like take my older horse that’s at home. I say home in Maine, my older horse that’s over 20 years old. He’s back in Maine and he can do showmanship perfectly like Congress level showmanship with no lead rope on. And he’s but there’s kind of a boredom to it because it’s so well known. But you take a horse like that and you start teaching at some of the liberty stuff or you start teaching it to buy or you start teaching it, you know, I don’t know, make up a line dancing move that you saw on YouTube somewhere. But all of a sudden the horse is like, what? Well, this is new. A lot of times this pushy, bold horses, they have a lot of confidence from everything they’ve learned, but they’re also wanting to still be engaged. A lot of times, pushy, bold horses are asking. A lot of questions are like begging to be engaged with.
[00:33:57] So I would encourage you to instead of thinking about it like corrections. Think about it like playing games or messing around with your horse like this. So, for example, maybe when you go to get him in the stall, maybe you teach him some kind of a cure or you’re standing at the doorway and he stands in a particular spot along the back wall and be particular, you know, and then say like, oh, well, that’s interesting. Now can I get him to do a 180 degree pivot and be facing the other wall? And maybe you even get so specific. You’re like he’s gonna keep this back foot like he would in a showmanship turn. Start thinking outside the box. You know, I don’t know if you feed treats or not, but like if I were doing some of that, I will give them treats. If not treats, then I will scratch them. But some of these older horses that have been doing a lot of these jobs for a long time have you know, it’s kind of nice to have some little rewards like that example. Presto does not get any treats yet because he does not know his boundaries without treats being added yet. But Willow does get treats because she’s really good with the boundaries. So she’s not going to maul me or be more distracted by the treat than what she gets for a reward.
[00:35:16] So even when you go out to do rehab again, ask the vet, like, would I be allowed to ask the horse to side-pass over a pole from the ground? Would I be allowed to ask the horse to, you know, side pass to and from me along the walls? Do you start work on some liberty kind of stuff? Can I ask the horse to… And so just start trying to get creative. I think a lot of times these horses, the detail work can be the detail. Work is so important because you start to get a lot more specific and be generous with your praise when they get it right. I find it funny because like, for example, back to the showmanship idea, you know, these horses might be really good with somebody handling them, standing beside them. If you haven’t seen showmanship. I’m sure you can go on YouTube. But, you know, the handler is leading them. They’re being very precise. They’re they can trot from cone one to cone two and stop in and do a 360 degree pivot with the horse leaving the inside hind foot perfectly planted. And they can stop, have the horse perfectly square, back, four steps trot off immediately, do a 90 degree turn. So these horses are really precise like that. But what they’re not used to is like, you know, trotting forward like that, stopping standing square and then having you jump up a down, scratch and give him a hug.
[00:36:40] And I know it sounds a little bit strange, but sometimes, like, I totally do it all the time, like I let my inner child come out, like I do these crazy things around my horses. And then what’s funny is that when I’m out in public and weird things happen, my horses like I think this is all just a setup. She’s always just randomly weird. So add a little bit of curiosity in there. You could you could teach the horse some totally random trick that doesn’t even involve there. You know, it doesn’t even involve the trotting or doing anything. Hardly physically you could teach him. Have you ever seen one when they turn around and like, well, you could teach him to pick up something off the ground and hand it to you. You could teach him to you know, you’ve seen the ones when somebody put the saddle pad and then they pull it off. You have to think about whether you want that one. You could teach them all kinds of different interesting things that make their life a little bit more interesting in a relatively boring time period of being rehabbed and does not involve lunging.
[00:37:45] One more thing before I close. The beauty of a horse that has learned the basics and had that solid. Let’s just say for this example, a solid lunging foundation. The beauty of a horse that was given the gift of training early on in their life is really cool because often you’d never have to go back to that same level. It’s a little bit like when you see young kids or teenagers that just have a ton of energy in their body.
[00:38:15] And if someone takes and trains and uses that and shows them how to harness that energy and how to behave and not, you know, become unruly when you have that much energy, you can learn that in one stage of your life and carry that lesson for the rest of your life. And never have to have that same physical experience. And they don’t say that to make a physical experience sound like a negative thing. But I say that because a lot of times when I have these young horses, let’s just say I get a lot of to meet a lot of two-year-olds, two and three-year-olds get a lot of young horses to train. I always feel like it’s a gift. They’ve got the energy, they’ve got the questions, if I can put that foundation on them in. It doesn’t matter to me if it’s a 30 day period. Let’s just say it’s a 30 or 90 day period. 30, 60, 90 day period. If I can put a foundation on them, then when they are young and sound and full of sass and pep and all this stuff, or however they show up, but they’re healthy and they can handle a lot of this.
[00:39:17] The cool thing is when you teach them and you use this, they always have that to look back to. And that has been the coolest thing with training horses for this many years and then being able to track them, because we I just remember the first horse that really ever came to us. When my husband I were first married, my husband did all the training and I was pregnant. And then I had my first son and then I was pregnant again. And my husband was training and I was videotaping and cleaning stalls and I was doing some different things. But he did all this training. But this horse had this crazy good foundation so that when it was an older horse in its 20s, it was the best horse. It was the number one horse in a therapeutic, you know, situation for people that needed to come in and have therapy. And it was this older horse that had a crazy, solid foundation that also at that point was dealing with a lot of soundness type issues that could be managed in a setting like that.
[00:40:18] But that horse didn’t have these emotional questions because those had all been answered back in the youth when she had the questions and the body to be able to answer it, because that is a challenge when you start having some physical restrictions. So thanks again for calling in and leaving your questions, and I’ll talk to you again in the next episode.
[00:40:44] If you enjoy listening to Stacy’s podcast, please visit Stacy Westfall.com for articles, videos and tips to help you and your horse succeed.