I bought a book recently about training cobs, by someone who has trained them to a high level and, although I haven't finished it yet and there's loads of useful information in there and I'm sure I'll learn a lot, I'm slightly disappointed that it's not quite the book that I thought it was going to be.
This is all very good though as it's spurring me on to write the book that I wanted it to be! Mine won't be specifically about training cobs but about bringing out the very best in the ordinary, family type horse or pony.
This has been a bit of a theme with me for the whole of my working life. I could only ever afford ponies that no-one else wanted and they ended up being ponies that everyone wanted!
The first, when I was about 20, was a 14 hand very round cob called Ben. He had a reputation as being uncatchable in the field and a runaway when ridden (one potential buyer had said he should be put down before he killed someone) but he'd been through a few dealers hands and had just become very scared of people. Once I'd spent enough time with him and he'd realised I was a friend he was the sweetest, gentlest, kindest, most genuine pony ever born. People used to say that he always looked happy.
I used to take him hunting and have people on big, flashy horses looking down their noses slightly at us at the meet, then they'd be queuing up behind him for a lead after a few fences as he'd have a go at jumping just about anything! He also did a very respectable dressage test and qualified for The South of England Family Pony Championships, and was 7th at the final in a huge class (and some of the spectators became his fan club, saying he was the only true family pony there!). I bought him when he was 8 and kept him for the rest of his life and he's buried here.
Ben. If you click on the photo to enlarge it you can see what a lovely, kind face he had.
Then I was given a 14.2 very cobby grey called Jonesy. He had been much too strong and lively for his owners and when he got excited he would literally try to jump anything, even if you didn't want him to! After some very hairy moments we began to understand each other and he calmed right down, to the extent that I used to ride him out around the lanes and fields leading Ben and my Golden Retriever, BJ, both of them on lead reins with BJ trotting along in front of Ben. Not very safe, I know, but I was young and even more foolish, and my animals luckily had more sense than me so we never came to any harm!
I was invited to go Team Chasing with a team of TBs. There was no way we could keep up with them but we'd catch them up at every fence with a ditch because they'd have to wait for Jonesy to give them a lead, then they'd disappear over the horizon until the next ditch fence! I had Jonesy from the age of 12 until he died at 30 and he's buried next to his great friend Ben.
There was also Robert, 15.3 with attitude! Robert had decided that he didn't like work and went in for passive resistance! I was asked to ride him because he'd plant himself and refuse to go anywhere he didn't fancy, which was just about everywhere! I long-reined him to get him going then discovered that he too loved jumping and we were away. I managed to get him over refusing to load by riding him into the horsebox (not to be recommended really but nothing else had worked and we were desperate!), as he was by then so good at going wherever he was asked when I was on his back. We could then go to shows and won loads together, including local opens up to 4ft, which would look absolutely massive to me now! I rode him for a couple of years and he then went to a lovely home to do Pony Club Show Jumping with a teenager.
I've always concentrated on making friends of my horses and tried to base training them on reward as much as possible. The clicker has just speeded everything up so much, made communication so much more clear and precise, and eliminated all those elements of misunderstanding, and the inevitable frustration that goes with it, for me and for my horses. It opens up so many more ways of discovering what horses are good at and enjoy, and so many more possibilities for bringing out the best in them and training them to have a good attitude towards their work and towards their trainers/riders.
I had part one of an article published online recently, here,
and was then asked by the sister magazine, Your Horse, to answer a reader's training question which I think is going to be in the magazine. I was embarrassed at being described as "clicker training expert" but the editor of Horse Deals has a Dales pony she was having trouble with and has had so much success after following my suggestions that she is now my number one fan!
I love writing and think the book will be my next project!!!
- ► 2012 (27)
- ▼ September (4)