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Australian Brumby Challenge ©

Steve and Fergus - Week 14

We had another 43mm of rain yesterday. It rained all night as well. We have a fast flowing creek where there’s never been one before. Oh, for an indoor!

Fergus’s ridden walk and trot are progressing well. I’ve taught him how to do these gaits from his hind, with his back lifted and neck straight, so that’s the only way he knows. The key is not to push him to do more than he physically can. If his flank muscles tire and I push him on, he will revert to pulling himself forward by his shoulders. Then his back will hollow, his head will come up, his lower neck will tense and his gait will fall forward and get faster, which is not what we want. That posture would cause him to perceive his surroundings to be threatening and he would not be able to respond to the bit or my legs. As a consequence, the development of his topline, (which gives him the strength to carry the burden of the rider without pain or injury), would be undone.

I’ve started work in the Spanish cavesson as this gives me more control over his nose for the transitions. We have started canter (from the ground) and it’s important that he canters correctly, which means when he’s on the ‘right’ lead, his ribs are to the left and his nose is to the right.
Vice versa for the other rein. I don’t want Fergus to jump from trot to canter, raise or lower his head, tuck his nose or have his nose to the outside of the circle. If any of these things happen, especially on the right lead, he would be cantering from the front and his hind would canter second. On the right rein, this means he will probably be dis-united, (meaning his shoulders would be on a right lead, while his hind would be on a left lead).My goal is for Fergus to only know the correct way to transition into canter when carrying a rider.

To help Fergus transition from walk to trot with a rider, I use the long reins, (see the attached photo), to keep his front feet stepping softly, while maintaining his head level and preventing his nose from tucking. This way I teach him how to have contact and still be able to go forward, resulting in smooth transitions from his hind. With this exercise, I am simulating what I will do in the saddle. [Note: It’s very easy for things to go wrong when using long reins with young horses. Please use caution]

This week we’ll continue working on float training as I’m yet to shut the doors. Fergus will be ready for the doors to be shut once he ‘wants’ to be in the float, rather than me telling him to go in. Once he chooses to be in, he will feel safe to be in there by himself. I’ve taught him how to load and unload and have been opening and closing the tail-gate with him next to me.
To teach him to ‘want’ to be in the float, I have to make the float what I call the ‘Safe-Spot’. The way I will achieve this, is to work Fergus outside of the float and as soon as he thinks about the float, I stop the work. As soon as he mentally leaves the float, we start working again. For Fergus to choose the float as the Safe-Spot I must NOT direct him in. He must choose to be in there himself. Once he understands this, it will prevent problems like rushing off, leaning on the bum bar and generally stressing while in the float.

For a short video of Fergus learning to load and unload:


Go to Steve's week 13  ... week 15

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