It’s 3 o’clock, time to play with the horses

When it’s not deer season, the horses have access to one of three rotated pastures and come and go out of the sacrifice area (sacrifice means an area that is a confinement, so the grass is sacrificed).
Especially in spring, they will eat through the night if they have access, horses have very minimal sleep needs.
They tend to play, or maybe they’re practicing running for their lives, a couple times daily. Once in the morning. This is Cola, he’s a Morgan and that purple-gray ball is a Jolly ball.
Sham, an Arab, running during the late afternoon play or prey practice session. He is actually a gray (aka white with black skin), but he likes to roll and lay in stuff. He gets depressed if I don’t play with him, he’s not really a horses horse-it may be color discrimination, really. Northern horses tend to avoid white horses, too easily seen, but desert horses are benefited by gray coats. Maybe there’s a method in his laying in stuff.
When I’ve confined them in their winter, save the pasture grass or keep the deer hunters from making a mistake, area there isn’t much space to do a good hoopla run. Although I’ve seen some pretty good acrobatics on occasion.

Well, I’m back inside after the horse play session. Today we did ‘touch’ and then ‘pick up’ the jolly ball (it’s a 10″ diameter horse proof ball, that can be squashed or bitten and it still returns to round). Lie down, Sham is getting this one. Cola just kept dropping his head and picking up one foot, he’s pretty sure that should be what  I want. We’ll just keep shaping it.

And then free (in other words no tack at all) lunging in different gaits-walk, trot and canter, with self carriage (this is circles around me in  that pleasing, round, good reach with feet, neck arched and head down and vertical movement). And then some lateral movements, which basically mean having the horse move sideways or diagonally, to strengthen, balance and stretch muscles.

The games are played with senior feed (they love it and get about a Tbs for each success) and a clicker, a sound to mark the successes. They like these games so much more than the traditional negative reinforcement horse training plan=when they do something right the pressure is removed, i.e. bit pressure, leg pressure, whip pressure, spur…well you get the idea. But I do use traditional methods too because when I’m on their back they need to know what I would like them to do. I just think the balance needs to be toward the positive so they can respond and need little or no pressure to do so. The one thing that has been a downside of this approach, they are a bit enthusiastic and an enthusiastic horse, well it is something. I can live with it.

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