Friday, August 8, 2008

Halter Training

Today was the big day. After work I went home and ate a bowl of granola with blueberries and then hopped on the motorcycle and rode out to the barn to meet Shane for our halter training lesson. I was nervous - felt like a kid going back to school again. The weather was HOT, and I was so glad to take off the motorcycle helmet.

Sinwaan was just standing around in the sun and came over to me eagerly, almost shoving his head into the halter. I noticed the flies were bad again today. I took him into the shade of the barn and brushed him and put on fly spray. That helped a lot. Then I took him out between the barns and let him nibble on what growth he could find. Mostly weeds. I noticed how he seemed to enjoy pulling them out by the roots and then crunched down on them, almost as though he was eating little carrots. It was so hot standing there in the sun, I could not believe it. I was wiping the sweat out of my eyebrows when I saw Shane pull into the drive. I walked Sinwaan down there and halted early when I saw he was on the phone. Sinwaan whoah'ed when I asked and stood quietly. Surely that is a good sign.

We walked back to the barn and Shane brought along his own halter and whip. I showed him what I had, and he made some comments. He pointed out that the lead on my black halter is patent leather and that is notorious for sliding out of one's hand. He advised wearing gloves. I asked him for all shows, or just when using a patent leather lead. He said pretty much all shows. He pointed out that he wears a suit to the class A Arab shows, and a nice shirt and vest to the MacMurdo show. This talk reminds me of showing AKC. Dress up and try not to get dirty. He also showed me how he connects the chain to the lead so there is no part of the chain in constant contact with the horse's head.

We put Shane's halter on Sinwaan and went out to work in the round pen. Shane walked and trotted him around in hand to get an idea of where he was at with his training and how quickly he would stop when he said WOAH! Sinwaan didn't do too bad at this part. Then Shane showed me how to set him up. You want the horses' hind end set up first. The rear left leg is set at a normal angle and the right leg is slightly to the inside (forward). You walk the horse up until that right rear is about to come forward then you WOAH and they should stop just as it lands ahead of the left. To get the front end where you want it the handler steps to the left or the right and asks the horse to move a front foot that direction. This is where Sinwaan had a lot of trouble. He would just about move a front foot and then his rear would move with it. When he did this Shane would back him up and get his attention and then walk him forward and try again. This is when we discovered that Sinwaan really doesn't like to back up - or at least he hardly tracks straight in reverse. He was scooting all around trying to go any direction but back. He was crowding Shane and not paying attention and looking to me.

Shane was all business and made it look easy even with the challenges presented to him. He handed me the lead and whip and told me to try. This is always my least favorite part when learning something new. Well Sinwaan knows his momma and took advantage of that right away, crowding me and hanging over me so Shane made me get after him and back him up. Pop with the lead and hit the whip down towards the ground at his front feet when needed. I was paying more attention to where that back foot was then the fact he was breathing down my neck. When I would bend down, Sinwaan's head would come down so I would have to stand up straight and pop the lead to get his head back up and then move over and ask him to move a front foot and then he did. I think ONE time I got him to do it well. At least he caught on pretty quickly what we were asking him to do.

Shane took him back after I tried a couple times without a whole lot of success. He wanted to get him to stand up well and end on a good note since we had been out there for awhile. And boy did he ever. The last time he had him standing up perfectly and his head was up and starting to stretch out for the whip end and he was a completely different horse. I wished I had brought a camera. Oh well, next time maybe. He looked amazing. Maybe there is hope for us after all. Shane said he thought for sure Sinwaan must have had some halter training at some point in his life, because usually horses' won't finish up that well. He said that was a large part of the battle won right there.

We heard rumbling thunder in the distance so decided to call it a day. Shane said he would come back out and work with us on Sunday if I wanted. Heck yes!

We went back in the barn and talked more about show specifics, where to clip the bridle-path to (the top of the poll), and how to get a thick mane to lay flat (clip some of the underside of the mane). He said he would come back out and help with all that too. He said when clipping the inside of the ears, to leave a small 'teardrop' section at the tip. We also talked a little bit about some of the horrendous tactics used by some barns to get a horses' tail up, etc. It was an incredibly informative session, and I am so grateful to Shane for his kindness.

He looked at my black halter again and determined for sure that it was too small. I guess I didn't measure his head right. Shane said we could put a tag on the halter and try to sell it at a booth at the Pegasus show next month. Sounds great to me since returning it isn't really an option.

The rust colored halter looks like it could work if I could find a gold chain for it. A dog choker will work if I can find one the right length. Then most people remove the end rings and put on heavy key chains instead. I had heard of this about a month before so it didn't surprise me when Shane mentioned it. For now I can also use Shane's halter.

Lesson one, a success.

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