Chelsea and Spencer Break in the horses

[July 1, 2012] Day 1: We meet the girls…

Today was a day to take it all in. Spencer and I met the mares. First Africa and her little filly, Centella who are on John and Sarah’s property. Then we carried on to meet Asia over at the neighbours house. There are many factors to be looked at as we begin to think about a plan to work with these horses. Both mares are 4years old, mostly unhandled just halter broke. First thing we’ve decided is to each stick with one horse, but always work together, for safety and support. In this we hope to get the basics down, and then as the mares progress  we will switch us around with each horse. This way the horses learn diversity from rider to rider, and not to worry about it. So, for now Spencer will work Africa and I will work Asia. Together we will get the filly halter broke, and then I will handle her while Spencer works her Mamma.

The other major factors we have to consider right from the start is the facility (or lack there of). Since Sarah, John, and their neighbour are just getting into horses neither places have a very secure corral to work from. This make it difficult to push a horses buttons when they know they can just push over the plastic wire of a fence. But this will have to do. As we go we will see just how much pushing we’ll really be able to do.

The mares are very different from each other. Africa is quite calm and curious about what people do. Asia on the other hand, doesn’t want much to do with people. So we’ll just have to see how it goes.

“Catch me if you can!”

[July 2, 2012] Day 2: The Mares meet us… and we mean business!

Today was our first day to handle each horse. We started with Asia over at the neighbour’s house.

Asia really doesn’t trust people. So after catching her, attaching a longer lead, and taking her to the ‘corral’ we were able to see just how skittish she can be. She is good about her face being touched, but as soon as I move over to her shoulder or neck she reacts by becoming tense and backing up to disable me from touching her. So, I say, “OK, you want to back up, lets back up,” and I take the lead and shake it gently up and down reinforcing her to back up more forcefully. Soon she realizes this is a lot of effort, and when I feel she has had just about enough backing up I stop, release pressure, and reward with a scratch on her face. Then try again to move to her shoulder. Again, if she tries to back away, I take it up a notch and make her realize that backing up is too much effort, but if she wants to we’re going to back up on ‘my terms’.

Lesson number 1; “I can approach you and touch you all over. Trust me, you don’t need to move until I ask, it’s too much effort.”

Soon she figures out what back up aids are, and soon realizes that as I try to approach her side she doesn’t need to make the effort to back up because it is not the back up signal (short jerks on the lead are for back up). Finally, she submits and lets me go to her shoulder. This is a trick that Spencer learned while breaking young and difficult horses at a training facility back in B.C


Back at John and Sarah’s we had Africa to work. At first, Spencer just tried to work with Mamma, and let baby just hang around, but baby just got too excited, which could be interpreted as, “Me too! Me too!”. This actually became dangerous because she would run close to Spencer and kick up her heals for fun. So together we worked to put baby on one side of Momma, and then as she was standing close, from the other side Spencer tossed a lasso over her head and roped her. No longer did she say, “Me too”. She was feisty, and even managed to trip herself over. This was to no harm though, and eventually we were able to bring Mama close and then as Ceanthia stood near her I slipped in between the two and put the halter on her little head. But a halter alone wasn’t gonna hold this lighting bold. So I made sure I had a long enough rope to loop over her rump. This way whenever she pulled I wasn’t gonna be going for a ride. I had much more control of her from rear to front, and this prevents her from rearing over backwards (which babies can end up doing when first learning to lead).

Now, Spencer could begin some work with Africa. Basically he just lunge her a little, and touch her all over. By this point both were upset that we had come and disturbed their peace. In the end, everything was good, and we released them both on good term.

[July 3, 2012] Day 3: We’re forgiven…

Watch and learn Baby!

Filly and Mamma were both great today. They must have forgiven us from yesterdays disturbance. Baby was very easy to catch, and once I had the loop on her bum she hardly put up a fuss. So today Spencer was able to actually get to work with the mare. She can be a bit rude! Quite passive and calm, but you can tell she’s never had anyone ever push her around. A couple times she pinned her years at Spencer and looked like she was threatening to bite. Again with the set up we’re working in, it is hard to really get after them without being dragged off through the back country. So tomorrow we plan on rigging up a chain shank for the lead. We usually use calving chains (ones for helping cows give birth). They are light weight without being too fine of links (if too fine it will chew into their face!). This we just slip through the side pieces of the halter so it sits over the horses nose, and then we connect it at the bottom through the ring of the halter and then to the lead. It work similar to the Spanish Cavison thingy they have here, but much less severe. Also similar to the pressure points created from a rope halter. Once we have this set up we will be more secure to put pressure on these horses without them being able to drag us about. They know its there, it only takes one or two time of them running into the end of that rope and hitting that chain before they realize we may not be stronger then them, but we have some tricks up our sleeve!

Asia, has also improved even from the first day. She let me right up to her sides to touch and brush her all over her back and legs. Today I found out that Asia has been worked two sessions before me. From what I’ve been told he was much rougher and probably did a lot too much, too fast for her. So that is good to know. Also as I began to work on picking up her feet, I was informed that he had also started this the Spanish way which is to tap their shins until they lift their foot. Now there is nothing wrong with teaching it that way, but for this horse at this time I think it might be a bit counter productive to hit her with a stick when she can hardly handle me touching her with my bare hand. But later on I’m positive she will be just fine to learn some diversity in the aids like that.


[July 4, 2012] Day 4: …

Each day we work with these horses we get to see more and more just how different they are. Mamma mare and baby went for a walk today down the road. This was as much for the mothers sake of new scenery and for the baby to learn to lead better. Spencer also brought along a stick with plastic bag on the end to sack out Africa more. But she is a really laid back horse! Gonna be a breeze to get on (we hope!).

Asia on the other hand, is not gonna be such a breeze, but we’re hoping for the best. She has been retaining most of what we’ve worked on, so today I amped it up to sack her out with the plastic bag and then saddle pad.

And the best horse of all……. Ceanthia!!!


[July 5, 2012] Day 5: …

Asia’s turn to go off property and off-roading. We went for a long walk with the blanket and surcingle on her (not really a surcingle, it’s actually the girth to the spanish saddle, but it works). Just a nice easy day out in the forest.

Africa and baby got the day off.

[July 7, 2012] Day 6: …

Today marks the first time Asia is lunged (by me at least). She’s a little frantic to begin with, but what’s worse is when I try to signal stop, first by voice aids and then finally stepping in front of her motion, she panics, spins, and takes off the other way around. So, I break it down for her a different way – Voice first, then jiggling the lung line, up to (when necessary) snapping the line so the line clips her under the chin a little. I find out later that the fellow who worked her before had her hooked up to side reins from the start, and would make her switch directions back and forth while on the lung circle without stopping. Sometimes it feels like two steps forward one step back, but we’re going somewhere!

Another day off for Africa and Centella.

[July 8, 2012] Day 7: … Moving forward!

We’re starting to get a routine going, Asia and I. Every day is starting to move quicker and quicker. This is good because to start I was moving like a snail to keep her from being started by every move! Now she is starting to get it — trust, relax, and work… no big deal!                     Today was a first with the bridle in, and she took it very well. Also we started long-lining.

Africa also is lunging better now and Spencer has begun to long line her to work on her steering with the bridle.

[July 9, 2012] Day 8: First saddle on!

Africa is coming along great. Today Spencer lunged her, long-lined her, and then went straight to throwing the saddle on. She could have cared less!

For Asia, the long-lining today really helped sink in the lesson that I don’t want to her to spin on the lung line. Also the voice commands are coming along nicely. Only problem is the round pen is pretty small, so it is deceiving how much is she actually learning about steering, or just restricted to and has to turn. Soon I hope to get her out long- lining in the larger pen.

[July 10, 2012] Day 9: … 

Africa got the saddle on again today. She’s a pretty ‘Stedie-Eddie’, nothing much phases her, but today we let down the stirrups on the saddle. Now let me just say, we’re not used to this Spanish Tack, and we figure if it’s built this way we can only guess it works. Wrong! the stirrups on this saddle are a death trap. They are large flat iron things you could basically amputate your own leg with! We knew from first sight of them we weren’t going to like them at all, but then after letting them down on the horses sides we realize the  poor horses aren’t going to either! They don’t lay straight on the horses side, and they cut right into their elbow. Pretty nasty invention in my opinion. Unless we shorten them right up they are useless, so we scraped them. Now the saddle is basically a well cushioned bar-back pad! 🙂

Lots of repletion with Asia today to just sink in the basics.

[July 11, 2012] Day 10:  the First Mount …

Today Spencer took Africa over to the neighbour’s just to have a walk, and let them see each other again to see how they will react when we are ready to start working them together. While over there She was so good, Spencer decided to just ‘jump on’. So he did, and once again she could have cared less. Having the other horse there might have been a distraction to her though. So we’ll have to see tomorrow if he can still get on her without the distractions 🙂

Got to have some excitment with Asia as well today! Since I was finding the round pen just a little too tight, I thought why not go outside and put our steering to the test. Well, maybe this was just a little pre-mature. Once we were out of the tiny enclosure she knew it! and took me for a bit of a ski ride. So I think we’ll stay in the round-pen a little longer 😉


[July 13, 2012] Day 11: Saddle up… 


Asia today got the saddle on for the first time. She doesn’t like it much, but after a couple crow-hops on the lunge-line she figured it wasn’t wroth it and things smoothed out. Worked a couple time putting the saddle on, and taking the saddle off and she is really getting good about flopping the saddle pad all over her (over her back, up her neck, under her belly).

With Africa, Spencer can now just hop one and go! She’s amazing, really she is a dream. Of course she can have her own opinion about certain things, but she is so laid back – never dramatic!

they’re working on steering… soon they’ll be out of the bushes 😉

[July 14, 2012] Day 12: …

Just a relaxing easy day for Asia. Put the saddle on right away, lunged briefly, and then headed for the hill. Getting her out into the trails like that has been really good for her mind, it helps her relax and stop thinking about the saddle on her back and just except it.


No more exciting news about Africa… Spencer just rides her around now 🙂 Rode her over to the neighbour’s today, and baby got all the attention from his family petting and scratching her. She’s a little star!


[July 16, 2012] Day 13: …


Our plan to day was to work the horses together. So Spencer rode Africa over to the neighbour’s and from on top of her he lead Asia around, getting her used to the idea of a person being higher than her head.


Ceantia had a great time too. First, she patiently waited and watch Spencer from outside the round pen. Then, she saw the sheep, and straight away went over to find out what they were, and make friends.

At frist she was unsure, but very curious. Soon they were playing together. The ram got her a couple times in the belly, and she would threaten him as well with her hind end, but mostly just run and kick up with them.