Now, where were we? Step 6 of breaking the buck out of Calypso. Weeks 6 and 7 were the same, reinforcing the basic of walking respectfully while being led, turning her head when indicated with the reins.
Week 7 or 8 (Don’t recall exactly which week) I had my daughter start really pushing the woah. Calypso had that one command down. It is very important for my horses to stop when I say woah. It doesn’t mean think about stopping, or slow down and eventually stop. It means stop your feet now! So I had asked my daughter to step it up a notch by jogging, as well as the walking, and make her stop dead when told to woah. I showed my daughter how to teach Calypso to side pass from the ground, so learning to side pass became a part of the routine as well.
Weeks 9, 10, 11. We are a solid two months in with the ground work. Calypso is coming along really well. It’s time to put some tack on her. This is where the real trouble is going to begin and I know it. Calypso hasn’t had a saddle on for about 6 months at this point. She didn’t like it then and she won’t like it now. She stood fine for the saddle pad and saddle to be put on, but when it came time for the cinch strap she started dancing around. I don’t know, but I get the feeling like somewhere along the line the cinch was tightened harshly, too quickly or unnecessarily tight, maybe even pinched skin because she was way more upset to have the cinch put on than necessary. But we got it on. My daughter and I stepped out of the arena and took a seat on the panels. My daughter told Calypso, “Walk” and she took 2 steps and it was on!! She threw a bucking fit when she realized there was a saddle on her! She ran around the arena bucking and kicking up dirt. When she started to stop bucking we pushed her to buck some more by clucking for her to trot. When she was worn out my daughter re-entered the arena, put a lead line on her halter and walked her around with the saddle on for a good long time.
The fits with the saddle subsided on the consecutive days. You might say we made it part of the routine. Get Calypso out, walk her all over the property, brush her out, clean her hooves, put the saddle on, let her buck, push her to buck, walk and trot her practicing woah, and side pass. And there it was. We didn’t go any further until my daughter could put on the saddle, tell Calypso, “Walk” and she walked straight away. I’d say it was a week before this could be done because I wasn’t going any further unless Calypso showed NO sign at all of bucking with the saddle. That included no dropping of the head at all. No shaking her head at all. Nothing. No sign that bucking came to mind. It was a week before I felt she wasn’t thinking about it at all.
This puts us into week 12 (3 months) and 13. We started to lounge her at a walk. 10 times to the right, 10 times to the left. Do some backing. Do some side passing.
About week 14 we added the trot. Calypso would drop her head and shake it like she used to do before she’d buck, like she’s shaking her head no, but she didn’t buck now. She dropped her head and shook it but didn’t take it to the next level like she used to. Depending on how much she displayed her irritation by shaking her head it would determine how much trotting she was required to do. If she put her nose down and shook her head more than once when asked to trot, my daughter would ask her to trot 10 more times, or until she went into a trot without the head shake.
My daughter came up with a great suggestion. She thought that instead of using the cluck for a trot like we always have, we should use a different cue all together. What a good idea! So on subsequent lessons instead of clucking, she spoke the word, “Trot”. Believe it or not, Calypso responded in a very positive way. The head shaking stopped almost immediately.
So, we are way into this. I decided to purchase another cinch strap. We are still having trouble when it’s time to cinch her up and the cinch is clean of anything irritating and so is Calypso’s stomach, but she still resists more than necessary. I picked up one of those kind that has a wide band and is made of a gripping material. Calypso doesn’t have any withers to speak of. A problem with the saddle slipping sideways due to no withers made me think this may be why someone over tightened the cinch. It didn’t seem to matter how tight you pulled the cinch, it would still slowly tilt. So the strap I picked up was sorta pricey, at least I think for just a cinch strap, almost $100, but I wanted to relieve any duress Calypso was having about being cinched and my daughter had shown me that she was serious and diligent about training Calypso, so I got it. The material has a gripping property to it, but it isn’t sticky. Since the material is somewhere between foam padding and material it doesn’t slip. You don’t have to snug down the cinch as much because the gripping property of the cinch won’t allow it to slip sideways. Maybe that will relieve some of Calypso’s cinch stress.
Time to go! I’ll be back starting around week 15 or 4 months there about.