Day 16. More Riding, a lot more, and Hindquarter Control  

Posted by Enlightened Horsemanship

Max has been with me for 2 weeks now and we are really putting a lot more pressure on him. His workouts have a lot of exercise in them and now there is also a great deal of expectation placed on him. I now have him wearing a bridle and bit. I am also expecting immediate response to the rein if I pull on one rein. I never want to pull hard on a horse's mouth. This will only result in a big fight which I am destined to lose. Instead, I ask with the rein, and if he does not respond to the rein, then I immediately require him to yield the hind quarters.


In this first video below, you can see that I am asking for him to give to one rein from the ground. And when he does not give readily, I simply ask him to yield his hindquarters. Later when I ask for this from his back, if he is inclined to fight and buck, he is discouraged from doing so by the fact that he has disengaged his hindquarters. He is further discouraged from fighting from the fact that I am asking for extremely easy movements, my signals are very clear, and the releases are timely. This is not because I am a great rider, it is because I have selected a series of movements that are designed to produce these results almost automatically.

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In this next video, you can see me perform the same technique of asking him to give to one rein and if he does not, then I will apply pressure on his hindquarters.


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Day 15, Max gets a day off.  

Posted by Enlightened Horsemanship

Today is Day 15, the two week mark and Max gets a day off. Simple turn out and he gets to laze around and eat. Back to work tomorrow.

Day 14. More Pressure on Max. Flex, Turn, Yield  

Posted by Enlightened Horsemanship

Today, Max was subjected to a lot more pressure than usual. Since tomorrow he is getting a day off, I decided to give him a pretty tough workout, both physically and mentally. Physically, I warm him up and then canter and trot him for about 10 minutes. 10 minutes may not sound like much, but it is pretty strenous to keep up a good clip for that amount of time. Next we worked on having him work with a rider on the Lunge. The last time I saw him buck was on the lunge and I wanted to make sure that we worked on that area.


In this video below you see me and Emma working the horse on the lunge:

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With a rider and a lunge, he was fairly chargey and does not have stop on him. This should not be a surprise since we have not worked on that yet. Stopping can be traumatic and applies a great deal of pressur on a horse. Horses are built and bred to go and so stopping is a movement that is harder to teach than going. Today we began to introduce the stop. The first form of stopping is the one rein stop. Every rider who has ever had a lesson is taught the one rein stop. The trouble is that riders seem to know it better than the horses. In fact, I have encountered a number of horses that have never heard of it, and thus do not respond to it.

In order to teach the one rein stop, we have to make sure that Max has Lateral Flexion of the neck. This we have been working on for quite some time but we still are struggling with it. In the following video, you can see Max being fairly resistant to the pull of the rein. Along with lateral flexion of the head, you will see me then ask for the Hindquarter to yield to the leg. So the sequence goes as follows:

1. Raise the rein, the horse should ready himself for a command.

2. Slide my left hand down the rein three times. Hopefully, the horse should bend his neck the first time I slide my hand down.

3. When the horse resists the sliding of my hand, I will grip the rein and ask for his head to turn to the left.

4. When I grip the rein, at the same time I lower my right hand and grab the horse's mane. So if the horse comes unglued, I will have a safety handle.

5. When the horse moves his head, even slightly, I drop the rein in my left hand. If I want more bend, I can pick it up quickly and ask for more.

6. When the horse's head is fully bent, and in a position where it is very difficult for him to buck or use his strength to take the rein from my hand, I place my left leg against his side and apply a bit of pressure.

7. I hold the rein, and the pressure of the leg until the horse moves his hips to the right and crosses over the outside back leg with the inside back leg.

8. When the horse moves over, I immediately release the pressure of the leg, and the rein.

9. Repeat for 5 minutes.

10. I do not always ask for Hindquarter yield. Sometimes I just ask for the head. I make the requests random so that he does not anticipate giving the hindquarters just because I asked for the head.

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This time you see my student Emma performing the same movement. You will see that she has to wait for a bit for the horse to move his hindquarters. Do NOT escalate the aids, the position of the horse is sufficient motivation for him to move his hindquarters EVENTUALLY. And after the first couple of times, he will move it immediately. Do NOT kick, he doesn't need it. Do NOT gore him with a spur, he doesn't need it. Do NOT press harder and harder with your heel, he doesn't need it.

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In this next video, you will see Emma working Max so that he performs a one Rein Stop from Trotting. Bear in mind that we made sure he knew had the previous lesson that you saw in the last video :

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Day 13, Max Starts Hind Quarter Control  

Posted by Enlightened Horsemanship

Today I have continued to work on Max's lateral flexion. He is definitely improving and I believe that in the next couple of days, we may be able to work him into a bit. In the meantime, I have started work on Hindquarter control. This will teach Max to be sensitive to the leg as well as be able to engage and disengage his Hindquarters.


Control over the Hindquarters gives the rider emergency steering and emergency brakes. It is also the principle manner in which the rider can discourage bucking. To discourage bucking, the rider should bend the horse's neck to one side, and move the horse's hindquarters in the opposite direction. For example, if the horse gives an indication that he is going to buck, the rider can discourage it by bending the horse's head to the Left, and moving the horse's hindquarters to the Right. With his head turned to one side, it is harder for the horse to throw his head down in a serious act of bucking. Furthermore, with his hindquarters moving sideways he loses a lot of his upward thrusting power and thus it becomes very difficult to buck. But make no mistake, it is not impossible.

There is also another reason this action discourages bucking. Usually bucking is the result of some fear, anger, or frustration. And when the rider asks for a couple of very simple movements and provides the timely release of aids when the horse delivers, he demonstrates his reasonable and predictable manners. And so the horse becomes less inclined to buck because he no longer sees the rider as the root of his problems.

In this first video, I am again assessing Max's compliance to the rein. It is imperative that he become very compliant to the rein so that if he was ever inclined to buck, I could use the rein to turn his head. If he was not compliant, he would just keep his head straight, and he would be able to throw it down in a massive buck.

You will notice that I raise the rein, then slide my hand down the rein 3 times before gripping the rein. I will not consider him compliant until he turns his head the first time I slide my hand down the rein. I should not have to grip and pull just to get him to turn his head. I also do not want to use a bit as that can mask non compliance. When he turns his head on the first slide of my hand consistently, (2 out of 3 times) then I will be willing to use a bit.

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In this next video, I tackle the second essential part of being able to discourage bucking. Controlling the hindquarters. In this video, I first bend Max's head in case he decides to take off or buck. This way, it is already harder for him to do so. Furthermore, with his head bent to the side to begin with, I will have more leverage to keep it that way in case things do not go well. Since he has been brought along nicely up to this point, all goes well. I place my leg on his side and wait for him to move his hindquarters. When he does, I immediately release the rein on that side and remove my leg from his side.

The timing of the release is very important. It must be as close as possible to the moment he moves thus assuring him of the correctness of his choice of movement. You can see that in the beginning, he is not very compliant. Therefore, if he were agitated, or inclined to buck, I would not have been able to move his hindquarters. But today is the first day. He will become very compliant about this by tomorrow in which case, it will be time to start working on controlling the forehand. And that is by far more difficult.

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Day 12, Max gets an assessment.  

Posted by Enlightened Horsemanship

Today, Max got to show off what he learned. Unfortunately, I do not have any videos but it was basically a test. He has been with me for 12 days, and he has learned voice commands, he has learned to take a rider bareback, he has spent time getting in shape, he has lost excess weight, and he will come to the fence to pick up a rider. He has been introduced to lateral flexion and is coming along in that area but is not entirely compliant yet. Thus, I do not believe that he is ready for the bit. Other than that, he is doing well. Tune in tomorrow for more videos and more work being done with this magnificent animal.

Day 11 Max Walking, Troting, and Turning, Bare Back and Bridless,.... sort of ...  

Posted by Enlightened Horsemanship

Today Max was given a standard workout with lateral flexion in the morning, this is a good workout and excellent training and Max is slowly improving in this area. However, I have a problem. Max's Lateral Flexion is really not good enough yet to be reliable for any serious riding. If I were to ride him and ask for a flex of the neck he might obey, or he might not. If he does NOT obey, he learns that disobedience is an option and it might become a habit. On the other hand, Max was brought to me because of a bucking problem. Thus it is incumbent upon me to spend a lot of time on his back so that he learns to tolerate people riding him. So the bottom line is that I need to ride him but not ask for a flex until he is good with flexing. The solution is of course to start teaching him to respond to the shift of the riders weight. And of course in this process, reins are really not needed so I dispensed with them.


In the video below, you see me riding Max without a bridle or halter on his face. He needs to really start listening to the subtle shift of my weight. If he ignores it, I start to make things unpleasant by really leaning and making him off balance. For the most part, Max is pretty smart and learns quickly. I did not have someone available to take the videos, so I had to take them myself. You will occasionally see my shadow in the video with holding the stupid hand held camera to my face. I hope it makes sense.

This first video shows me just starting with him, and not asking a lot except to walk. Max is very good and compliant.

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In this next video, I am basicly making sure that I can still get the trot out of Max. I give him the voice commands, and kiss at him, but his response is extremely sluggish. I am not happy about it at all, but, I remind myself that gait changes are not really the focus of today's lesson.

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In this third Video, Max has made some pretty decent progress. He is now responding to the shifting of my weight. He starts out walking to the left which I encourage. Then after awhile I ask for a turn to the right, and then eventually a turn back to the left. This he gives sluggishly but he does it. I will expect a great deal more response from him in the near future.

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Day 10, More on Lateral Flexion  

Posted by Enlightened Horsemanship

Today's work is a bit boring. Since he did not do as well yesterday with the Lateral Flexing of his neck, Max got worked considerably today on this particular issue. I also started working on getting him sensitive to the riding aids. I started getting him working to the voice commands for his changes of gait. Now I am introducing the leg aids to him. I do this initially on the ground so that I can easily and safely teach him what the leg pressure expects of him.


In this video, you will see me use my hand in place of the leg to get Max to move his Hindquarters to the side. The process is fairly simple, I place my hand on his side where my leg would be if I were riding him, and then I apply pressure. If he does not comply, then I DO NOT increase the pressure with my hand. Instead, I pull on the lead rope and wait for him to move his hindquarters. I DO NOT increase the pressure with my hand because I do not want him to become numb to the pressure. Instead, I want him to get used to moving to the lightest of touches and so I am only giving him a light touch. If he moves, then I remove the pressure. If he does NOT move, then I apply pressure from the LEAD ROPE.

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Day 9. Max Working Lateral Flexion  

Posted by Enlightened Horsemanship

Today I had planned on tacking up Max. However before I move onto any stage of training, I do a few tests to make sure that the previous stage has been complete. Before putting on tack, I wanted to make sure that Max was compliant without it. This is in keeping with the basic approach that until the horse is obediant to the reins WITHOUT a bit, I will not put one in his mouth. For me, the bit is a tool for fine communication. It is NOT to be used to force obedience. Unfortunately, if the horse is not compliant to the halter and lead rope, then the bit will become, an instrument that forces obedience by default.


It is my opinion that using the bit to force compliance is not only unfair, it is also unreliable. As soon as the horse encounters something that illicites an emotional reaction greater than the force that the bit can exert, the bit will fail, and the rider will lose command of the horse. It is never advisable to rely on equipment to control a horse. It is much better to give a horse the chance to develop self control, and then rely on that. Although the horse's self control may not be as reliable as one could hope, if and when it fails, the bit will ALWAYS fail immediately after. Thus, developing the horse's self control before inserting a bit is paramount.

In this series of videos, I have instructed the rider to ask the horse to bend his neck using the lead rope and halter. Max does not bend his neck until the rider puts direct pressure on the lead rope. This is not acceptable. I do not consider Max compliant until he will turn as soon as the rider lifts the rein. If the rider needs to pull on the rein, then it is too much pressure. Thus, I have determined that Max is NOT ready for a bit or tack.

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Day 8. Max takes a day off.  

Posted by Enlightened Horsemanship




Today is Max's eighth day in training. It is Sunday and he will be taking the day off. So all that he will do is be turned out a couple of times and allowed to graze, and doze.


It is also a time for me to reflect on his progress.

1. Max came to me because he has a bucking problem

2. I began working with Max as if he had never been ridden

3. Beginning with working on the ground, I have worked on getting him to obey voice commands to change gaits.

4. Although it looks good on video, he is really not responding to the voice as much as I would like. But after only 7 days, it's not bad. The main thing is that I want him to obey a command to transition into any gait from any gait by voice so that I do not have to goose him with my leg since that might get him bucking.

5. I have worked on getting him to flex at the neck when I ask with the lead rope. I can get him to do it at the halt, the walk, and a little at the trot. But he is not compliant enough to try it at the canter yet. Next week, I will be working very hard on the flexion. It will be vital. I want him to comply because he is disciplined, and well trained, not because the bit is compelling him.

6. Next week, I will also be introducing Max to saddles and bridles. In the past, these things were presented to him in a way that might have contributed to him bucking. I will reintroduce them to him as if he had never seen them before. He will be fine, but subconsciously, there will hopefully be a difference. (hopefully) But the tack will be an introduction. Mostly, he will need to be trained to comply with the aids without the tack so that the tack can be reserved for communication instead of being used to compel obedience.

Day 7. Max and Lateral Flexion  

Posted by Enlightened Horsemanship

Today I really wanted to work a lot more on Max's lateral flexion. He is not coming along as much as I would have liked. I will have to really devote more time to this skill. Without it, I really do not want to go to the canter, nor do I want to go to the bit.


In this video, you can see him move his head, but only reluctantly and only after I put tension in the rope. This is not the way I want it. I would like him to start moving his head as soon as I slide my hand down the rope. In this particular video, you can see that I raise the rein with one hand, then slide my hand down with the other three times before I actually put tension in the rope. Unfortunately, for all but one time, Max would not move his head until after I put tension in the rope. Ideally, I want him to move his head on the first slide of my hand.

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In this second video, I am riding Max. I am now riding him fairly easily at the walk and trot. Unfortunately, there is very little control as far as direction is concerned. He is not responding to the rein very well at all. This is a major concern because if he is not compliant with the halter and lead rope then I know that he will not be compliant with the bit and reins under duress. Under ideal conditions, the bit and rein can exert enough pressure to mask problems with compliance. But the halter and lead rope cannot exert enough pressure to cover up disobedience. Ultimately, the objective here is to get Max to be compliant to the bit and reins because he is well trained, not because the bit and reins exert more pressure than he is willing to resist under ideal conditions. When he is compliant to the halter and lead rope, then the bit and reins can be liberated to be vehicles for communication rather than instruments for compliance.
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Day 6. Max Walk Trot, Good and Bad, Mounted Trot  

Posted by Enlightened Horsemanship

Today Max took the opportunity to sow some wild oats and be very disobedient. When put on the rail and given voice commands, he was reluctant to obey and would pick up the Canter without waiting to be told. Today I also worked him on the short lunge and he was not very obedient there either. It took awhile to convince him to be compliant and eventually he became good and I was able to go ahead and get on him and make some mounted progress.


In this first video, you will see Max picking up the canter prematurely and being very difficult.

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In this next video, he becomes much more compliant and I feel comfortable taking to the next stage.

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In the following video, you can see Max trying his best but the change to the lunge is confusing to him.


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In this next video, I have mounted up on Max and I am directing him to walk a figure 8 pattern. He is very quiet, but his response to the lead rope is very poor at this stage. I am required to place far too much tension on the lead rope and so if he were at a higher speed like the canter, he would be completely out of control.

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In this last video of the day, I have got some compliance with his head so I have taken him up to the trot. However, at the trot he becomes very stiff in the neck and will not give very much. However, he is very good about starting and stopping. Because I have worked on getting him to change gaits by voice, I do not have to use my legs to squeeze too hard to get him to transition up to the trot. This is important as I do not want to just hop on and squeeze or kick a horse that might easily buck. Furthermore, the voice allows me to ask for the stop without needing as much compliance from his head.

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Day 5. Max being Ridden and Lateral Flexion  

Posted by Enlightened Horsemanship

Today, Max continued his training with regard to voice commands. His compliance is poor at liberty but fairly good on the short lunge. In this series of videos, he is shown learning and practicing lateral flexion of the neck.


It is important that Max be responsive to the lead rope while he is being ridden. While wearing the halter, the rider cannot exert as much pressure on the horse as he can when the horse is wearing a bridle and bit. Therefore, using only the halter and lead rope while bare back is a much more honest test of compliance. It will be important that this horse is compliant at this stage before going further. Full compliance will require the horse to perform lateral flexion with a loose rope. In the videos below, it is evident that the horse is NOT sufficiently compliant.

This first video shows Emma mounting Max from the fence. As you can see Max is very compliant about being mounted on his left side.

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This second and third video showcase the lateral flexion that I want to instill in Max. As can be seen in the video, Max is no where near compliant enough. Although he seems ok here, that is only because we are not pushing him. But close scrutiny shows that Emma has to play with the rope too much for me to consider him compliant.

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Day 4. Mounting Max and Riding Bare Back  

Posted by Enlightened Horsemanship in , , , , , , , ,

The first time I saw Max, the exercise rider got on him bareback and he immediately bucked her off. It was a fairly violent episode and the rider was injured. Thus, it is important to me that Max be trained to accept a rider bareback. We spent most of the first day introducing voice commands to Max. He is still learning them, and is not completely reliable. Although the videos of the past few days make him look like a star pupil, I would still not trust him in a larger arena or on the open trail. However, reliability to voice commands will come with time. And while we are working on that, it is important to start getting a rider on his back.


We have spent the second and third day preparing him for the rider and if we did our job right, he should accept the rider calmly and without reservation. To make sure that all will be safe and uneventful, I draped my body across his back and had my assistant lead him around the round pen before sliding off. I repeated this exercise five times in a row without incident and that convinced me that he was ready to move on. The day culminated with him being fully mounted by a rider bareback and then ridden quietly at the walk around the arena using nothing more than the lead rope and halter.

Caution, the videos make it look like a simple process but please be reminded that I am showing the final product of each phase of the training and not the training itself.

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Day 3 Mounting  

Posted by Enlightened Horsemanship in , ,

In the mounting process, I really want a mechanism whereby I can ask a horse to present himself for mounting. When the horse fully understands the implications of this command, then I can be reasonably assured that if he obeys, he probably has no objections to being mounted. To this end, I teach the horse to bring his hindquarters over to a fence so that I can be very comfortably above the horse before I attempt to mount. This also give the horse a safe way to become accustomed to a human above him.


Under normal circumstances, mounting a green horse for the first time can be an awkward undertaking. Either the rider is trying to hop onto the horse from the ground with one foot in the stirrup, or the rider is being boosted by an assistant. During that process, there are many precarious moments when the horse may fidget, move, dance, or even kick and buck. At that moment, the rider is usually in the most perilous position with one foot in the stirrup and half a leg over the horse. The obvious tensions associated with these positions tend to exacerbate the situation.

By teaching the horse to come to the fence and to move closer on command, I can sit comfortably on the fence and carefully and easily mount the horse. If the horse startles or moves, I can hang on to the fence instead of the horse, and I can also call the horse back into position. Furthermore, when the horse is ridden regularly, it will be a convenient method of mounting as the horse will be trained to swing by the fence, or the mounting block to pick up the rider.

In this series of videos, I show that Max is willing to present himself for mounting for both myself and an assistant. I also show what it looks like from the rider's perspective.







Max Day 3 Trot, Canter, Whoa to the Right  

Posted by Enlightened Horsemanship in , , , ,

This video shows the same lessons of trotting, cantering, and then stopping with Max moving to the Left. His stop is pretty good and shows a great deal of Impulsion. However, I am still concerned about his straightness. Although this may be something that I can overlook in a green horse, it is something that can become a habit if not addressed early.



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Day 3 Max Learns to Whoa from the Canter  

Posted by Enlightened Horsemanship in , , , , ,

This is Max's third day at School. He has learned to give the walk, the trot, the canter, and the stop from voice commands. However, he has not learned to skip gaits. In other words, we have only performed one transition up or down. From the walk, to the trot, or the trot to the canter. And downward transitions have only been from the canter to the trot, the trot to the walk, or the walk to the stop. We have not skipped gaits such as going directly from the walk to the canter, or the canter directly to the stop.


Obviously these are more difficult. So far, all we can be sure the horse knows is that when we open our mouths and say something, that we want him to perform one transition up or down. Thus, we cannot be really sure that he truly knows the difference between the command to trot or the command to canter. In fact, from experience, I can be pretty sure that he does not know. The way I will teach the distinctions of these commands to Max is that I will start with the stop. If the horse is cantering, it is easier to completely shut the horse down to a stop than to ask him to subtly change gait to the walk.

In this video, we warm up by asking for the trot and the canter and then the stop. I am pretty forceful about the stop as stopping is a safety concern and when I say stop, I want the horse to pretty much come to a sliding stop with his hindquarters engaged. Max has learned this new lesson on his third day and performs beautifully. As usual, with a green horse, straightness is a problem.

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Max Day 2, Mounting Maneuver  

Posted by Enlightened Horsemanship

In this exercise, it is my intention to teach the horse to present himself for mounting. A rider should be able to walk him up to a fence, climb the fence, and then ask the horse to present himself for the rider to mount. Nothing is more irritating than the mounting block dance and if a horse does that, then, it is a clear indication that his education is deficient.


Another important reason to teach a mounting presentation is so that the horse will be very sure in no uncertain terms that when he presents himself, that the rider will mount. In a sense, it is the horse's last chance to voice any objections that he might have to being mounted. If he has a sore back, if he is afraid of the rider, if his tack is uncomfortable, he can show it by refusing to present himself.

In this video, the horse has learned to present himself. His lesson is tested by the rider. She leads the horse with his right side to the fence. As she climbs the fence in preparation to mount, the horse moves his hind quarters laterally and presents his left side alongside the fence for the convenience of the rider. When he is not quite close enough, the rider exercises her option to ask for greater proximity and the horse responds nicely with another side step into the fence. Bear in mind that this is not a natural movement for the horse as his natural tendency is to move away from the fence. Max learned this lesson very well and is performing it perfectly on his second day at school.

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Max Day 2. Walk, Trot, Canter, Mount.  

Posted by Enlightened Horsemanship

Today Max had to learn to trot with greater impulsion, as well as stop more reliably. He is learning his movements nicely according to voice commands but still has a long way to go. This video has him moving from the walk to the trot, and then the canter, and then back down to the halt. He is also an affectionate boy and when he stops, he has a tendency to turn in to the middle and come to the trainer. This will be another habit that must be stopped in spite of how cute it is. I am very pleased with his progress today although I would prefer that he be a bit more confident in his movements.


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Day 1. Max Walking and Stopping on Command  

Posted by Enlightened Horsemanship

In this video, Max can be seen walking and stopping on command. His response time is very good. However to be perfect, his stops should be straighter. But, considering the fact that he is learning this stuff for the first time free lunging in the round pen, I am very happy with his progress.


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