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Wizard: Session #10

November 18, 2008

Wizard- my Equine Therapist

I’ll call it a “session” since I did all groundwork with Wizard tonight. Rides 1-9 involved me actually climbing aboard ;^)

Since Wizard’s feet, teeth, and general alignment have all been adjusted recently, I decided to back up a few steps and start at the verrrry beginning with him. I want to work with his “buttons” and see how much training he has.

I applied Seashore Acres Sole Paint to Wizard’s soles in hopes of keeping him barefoot this winter. He has no trouble with the footing in the indoor arena but I see him get a little tenderfooted when we walk on the driveway to the arena.

When I groomed Wizard, he was sensitive at his poll and at his flank and the top of his lumbosacral joint. He was also goosey about having his belly touched. I happen to be a naturally brisk and firm groomer, so I have done my best to be gentle with Wizard’s Thoroughbred sensibilities. Hopefully this tenderness is at least partially related to my grooming habits. I also have only used my jelly scrubber and softest finishing brush in hopes of not tickling him too much. I noticed that Wizard is far less ticklish after he is worked.

Our goal was to determine the level at which Wizard can yield to pressure. Training green horses involves sensitization to certain cues and desensitization to others. You want a horse who is light to the leg and hand aids but who will not react to a flapping rein or a dangling stirrup.

Once he was tacked up, we went to the indoor arena and began our groundwork. We walked a few brisk laps around the arena (good exercise for me as well!), down the long sides as well as across the diagonals. Twice down each diagonal, I halted Wizard and asked him to move his shoulder away from me. I cued him with a dressage whip, gently tap-tap-tapping his shoulder while I verbally cued him with a cluck. No fear of whips in this horse! He just stood his ground and eyed me. I resorted to a poke with the butt end of the whip before he complied and moved each foot away from the pressure. I immediately stopped and praised him and walked forward. We did this a few times in each direction. He was far more responsive on his left side than on his right. This translates to his longeing abilities since he is fantastic to the left but stops and practically stands in my lap to the right. I need to have him reliably moving away from the whip in order to improve our longeing.

We also transitioned from a walk to a jog several times. I noticed Wizard lifting his head a few times in the upward transition- it appeared that he was using his neck as a balancing rod. He was quite happy to jog alongside of me. He leads beautifully. I wish I had a good pony horse to ride because I am sure that Wizard would also benefit from ponying work. And since he was a racehorse in his former life, he probably can pony quite nicely.

I asked Wizard to walk two rotations on the longe in each direction and guess what… he did not turn in on me! Good enough, end on a good note. Back to the barn, untacked, groomed, and fed him a few apples and carrots. I learned that he is not terribly responsive to pressure but he improved in just one session.

His winter coat is getting thick, which is great for him but more grooming for me. I decided to leave him unblanketed since we will not be doing anything too demanding this winter. If we had a more athletic work plan for the winter, I would have considered blanketing him.

So it was a good return to work for him. I hope to get back out to the barn this Thursday for our next adventure.

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