Barbara Harshner: Trainer of Mike and Debbie Teate’s Tennessee Walker Weanlings and Yearlings
The first thing I do is analyze the foal’s personality and issues. If it feels claustrophobic in the round pen, I have the session in a corral. If it is okay with being in a round pen, I prefer to have the session there. I begin by gaining trust, using John Lyons’ round pen methods outlined in his book Bringing Up Baby (for those who are difficult to catch). Once the foal accepts me as well as being haltered, I move on to Pat Parelli’s 7 games in his level One Partnership Program.
Horse training starts at $300 per month, but pricing is flexible and determined by each horse’s specific situation.
The process below describes general goals of training sessions:
There are multiple topics within the first lesson, but what I really want the colt to do is STAND STILL. I ask him to move around the pen, change directions, stop, turn and face me. Each time I speak to him, I ask for more of a turn and direct face so he’s looking at me with both ears and both eyes.
Accepting My Leadership
My next step is to approach and pet him or ask him to come to me. It varies with each colt, so I have to read the colt’s body language to determine whether I’m going to ask him to come to me or I’ll approach. In this case, I approached Chance, petted, retreated, and then asked him to come to me.
Desensitize to Touch
I start desensitizing him by rubbing him all over with my hands, focusing specifically on the head, ears, belly, and legs. Stroking, as opposed to patting, is preferred, as it is very calming to the horse. Horses also like to be scratched. So I try to find that “itchy spot”, I do whatever feels good to the colt, so he learns that I am not going to hurt him, force him to do anything, and he has a choice to either stand there, or leave.
Of course, if he leaves, I ask for the turn and face, and coming to me again. He learns it is in his best interest to CHOOSE to stand there. After I can pet him all over with my hands, I do the same with the halter, lead rope, and long whip so he gets desensitized to tack. I do the same with grooming tools. Often, I teach the colt to STAND STILL for grooming before being haltered, depending upon the colt.
Next, I halter him. Not for control, because I should already have that to some degree.
Here in the photo, Chance is accepting being haltered by having a relaxed look on his face, and his ears are forward. There have been many opportunities when I could have gotten the halter on him, but I feel for softness in the horse before I proceed.
As soon as I can halter and un-halter the colt easily, and more quickly, I start teaching him to give to pressure, by asking him to turn his head both directions, lower his head, then to turn his while body. I use phases to teach this, so he learns to be light and respond to the slightest pressure.
Then I build on each lesson, teaching him to read my body language and cues to move over, back up, come to me, and circle. This is what the 7 games in Parelli’s Partnership Program teach the colt. These are communication skills for on-line ground work, and give the basics for everything else he will need for future training.