As some of you may know from our website, our 3 year old gelding sold last year to a wonderful family in Maine. *Sage is still here with us through, until springtime allows us to easily transport him home.
In the meanwhile, I am continuing to work with him. On Wednesday I had the help of my friend and trainer, Stephanie, to teach *Sage to lunge.
We used the TTEAM technique called "Homing Pigeon" but modified it so that Stephanie had a the lunge lead and I a regular one. For those unfamiliar with Homing Pigeon, it is a process whereby two people lead a horse at once. The purposes behind this are many, but primarily it is very supportive of the horse.
*Sage began with going to the right. Stephanie in the inside, giving the directions to *Sage; me on the outside to lend support to Stephanie's directions. At first, *Sage was slightly mystified. But then he learned that the wand raised meant "Walk"; a "Walk on" from Stephanie meant "go faster"; and "Easy Walk" meant to slow down. He already knows "whoa", but his thought was to turn and face Stephanie when she asked for it. That is really where my presence was important; helping him to 'whoa' and stay on the circle.
Once he seemed to get the whole concept, it was time to change his direction. We allowed him some time between though, because "dwell time" is important in any education (horse OR human).
Wow! What a different horse! Going to the left was not easy for him at all. He was highly irritated that she would occasionally tap his left hip to ask him to walk. He flipped his head and swished his tail mightily. Stephanie toned down her ask when I also noted that his nose was wrinkled and his right eye held a baleful look, lol. This helped some, but it really was hard for him to get the whole concept on this side of his body.
What a demonstration in how separate a horse's brain is. Eventually, he did walk forward easily, the whoa was never as easy as it had been in the other direction, though. When he had gotten a decent 'whoa', we stopped (always end on a good note!) and stood there talking to allow him quiet dwell time. All in all, a really good session for *Sage.
Some of you may still ask, though, "Why teach a horse to lunge at all?" Lunging, when used correctly, is a good way to teach a horse to be responsible for carrying their own body. A young horse is still learning to balance on their four legs. Youthful play in large areas with like minded companions is the first step in helping them gain expertise over their rapidly growing bodies. Then, as it comes closer to the time to teach them their job, just like P.E. in elementary school, it is time to set them tasks to help them gain further expertise. Lungeing teaches them how to accelerate and decelerate smoothly; it helps them learn balance; and it also lets them learn how to connect to a human and their voice and body suggestions. It is also a first step for ground-driving, which will allow further enhancement of that body-expertise.
Check back for a blog on teaching *Sage to ground-drive!
p.s. I learned how to be lunged very well and will not need further lessons!!