I have been told that American Curly Horses are very intelligent as breeds go. This is not to discount the intelligence of other breeds, and truly I have little experience with them due to my allergies; however, I can say that most of the ones in my herd seem to catch-on quite quickly to the offered training. There could be many reasons why those of us with Curly Horses find them so, and I’m not really here to discuss that particular topic. What I do wish to reflect on is the at-liberty training I enjoy with my Curlies.
I have had many iterations of my style of training since I’ve owned Curlies, but my favorite way to work with them is some combination of Clicker, Tellington-Jones, Rashid, and a bit of Parelli thrown in for good measure. I’m also a firm believer in introducing a concept, working on it a few times and then letting it “sleep” for a while. With almost a 100 percent return, the horse not only remembers what was offered, but may have made improvements on it by themselves.
We start with liberty training within hours of the foal hitting the ground. The first lesson that we teach is to back-up. I have had people tell me that a horse should learn to go forward for you first, but I have found that all horses know how to go forward, and often quite quickly! If I happened to be standing in front of them, or even to the side (with one of their feet on mine), I want them to back up quickly and without question.
I like to use Parelli’s first three games as a foundation for the foals, because that is what their mother does and I can easily build upon it. Eventually, this will lead to me working on lifting their feet. My ultimate goal being that they will stand and give their foot gently and allow me to hold it for a bit of time.
With little *Andi (*GMC Andrea’s Ankti), I have been doing this and she’s getting very good at it. The surprise for me though, was the day that I positioned myself next to her front leg, and she offered it to me without a single touch, or even a move toward the touch, from me. It’s only happened twice, and I don’t expect it, but this is a prime example of the horse taking the training another step.
May your Curlies offer you continued pleasant surprises!