ground training

Those of you who are still bothering to read my blog probably thought this would never happen, but it has!

Are you ready?


I got on Jasper for the first time!

I can’t tell you how AMAZING it felt to finally get on my horse! Although, I am sure some of you are familiar with that feeling. Of course, it was one of those impromptu moments when I had not planned or prepared for it! Thus no helmet (my bad!).
I had actually planned to get on him a couple of weeks ago when the photo below was taken, but Jasper was a little tense so we put it off.
Yesterday I was just going to lie over his back as I’ve done before…but the moment just felt right and I slowly swung my leg over as Michelle was holding the lead rope. Jasper was really calm about the whole thing and stood quietly the entire time. He actually swung his head around and nibbled my shoe! All in all, this first experience went better than I ever could have expected and before I got off I threw my arms around Jasper and told him how much I loved him!


For the last couple of weeks, in between my lessons with Michelle, I have been working on long lining with Jasper with two lines and the bit. Short sessions have been the key, as well as being consistent and soft. I am amazed at the transformation. Jasper has gone from resistant and pushy to willing and calm. I am learning a lot in the process, too. How to keep my hands soft and positioning my body correctly when asking for things such as a turn or transition.
In my lesson last week, Jasper was doing so well, Michelle decided to try some transitions with him. Here he goes from a walk to a trot:

And a nice trot to stop

Even some nice slow to fast trot transitions

And wow, trot with a turn!

I am amazed at his progress. I am this close to getting him under saddle!!

Originally uploaded by cdnmich


Things are progressing really well with Jasper and long lining. This video was shot a couple of weeks ago and one week after the previous video (I’ve been a little lax in posting video promptly!) as we advanced to 2 lines on with a bridle and snaffle bit. Notice his spiffy new surcingle and sheepskin pad 🙂

He is picking up turns when we ask with less resistance and has picked up really quickly what we are asking him to do. He is still slightly hesitant and stiff in this video but being patient and soft with Jasper has been the key.

Progress is going slowly but well with Jasper and long lining. This video clip is from 2 weeks ago. We moved up to long lining him in the bridle with a bit and one line attached. In this clip we’re giving him the time to figure out what we want (to turn). Eventually, he figured it out!



turn Jasper, turn!

good boy!

“And I’m spent!”

Seriously Jasper, it was 45 minutes,! Mentally, it’s a lot for him, though and that’s why we’re taking it slow.

I should have probably just stayed in bed yesterday. I get to the ranch for my lesson and head for the port-a-potty for a quick bathroom break. Unzip my drawers and hear ‘ker-plunk’. Wha? Something fell out of my pocket.
I look down and there is MY PHONE. There WAS my phone to be precise because all that was left were a few bubbles as it quickly sank – I DROPPED MY CELL PHONE IN THE PORT-A-POTTY! GAH!
(Apologies for this if you are close to dinnertime)

No cell phone is worth that much!

To top it off Jasper was in a strange mood and would not listen to direction. He was pulling on the lunge line and dragging me all over with the ground driving. The complete opposite of our perfect day on Monday. Perhaps he was feeling my discombobulated state!

Ah well, here is a nice clip of Jasper from last week cantering nicely on the longe.


A while ago, I posted about starting to ground drive Jasper. It did not go well. He kept wanting to turn around and face me. Apparently this is a common problem from what I am reading on other blogs.
For awhile we went back to longeing. Jasper needed to learn forward command better, thus the tough love remedy for awhile there.
Since then, it’s been like a lightbulb has gone off in his head. His attitude is better, he doesn’t get so defensive about moving forward and he tests me much less than he used to.
On the longe he now knows:

  • Walk, trot and just added canter into the mix.
  • Turning both directions at walk.
  • Whoa – he stops on a dime at walk, trot and even canter.

With this positive progress we started back on ground driving and it is going much better the second time around. We started with only one line attached to him looped through the surcingle – no bridle yet, just a nylon halter.


For now this seemed to be less threatening for him. Jasper, being a dominant personality, has had a real hard time with having his head moved around – when it’s not his idea – lol.
So for the last month or so, I’ve worked on lateral flexions from the ground. I remember when I could not even get him to turn his head an inch towards me, well, I used cookies held at the girth area and it worked wonders! Gradually I reduced the cookies. I can now easily guide his head around to both sides.



The biggest thing I noticed with starting up the ground driving again, is that he is much less scared than he was previously. We worked up to moving behind him. I would start at his hip and walk around with him, eventually dropping back behind him. There were stops and starts, I would cluck him on or twirl the rope and rather than getting in defensive mode, he would move forward.
Things were going well, so we moved up to 2 lines. He now stops without turning to face us.

I think it had a lot to do with his confidence. He was a little fearful about not seeing something going on behind him. Boosting his confidence by taking a step back, adding in some steps, has worked wonders. It’s a great feeling to see your horse really try! 


We started working on turning around with one line, which took him a minute to understand what we wanted but he eventually got it!




Eventually moving to turning across the arena on both lines:


Jasper and I seem to have gotten over that hump that had me so frustrated. He is paying attention to me more and longeing is not an ordeal. It still takes a bit for him to muster up a trot for me – but I am working on it. He is a draft, after all!

Eyes on me – yeah!

To make things interesting for  Jasper instead of endless longeing, I tried some games yesterday with Jasper that came with this months Parelli dvd.

1. Push a ball
On a longe line, the goal is to get the horse to solve a puzzle, the puzzle being to push the ball. I longed Jasper in the round pen with the ball against the wall. I got him to stop as close to the ball as possible, if he went past it, turn him around and try again. At first he wanted to smell manure, and not pay any attention to the ball. Then he sniffed it. And I eventually got him to kick it for several steps. Sometimes he would push it with his nose.

Is it edible?

He was pretty good! Unfortunately Parellis do not take ~erm~ draft horses into account or the fact that they would rather crush through something like godzilla, than actually play with it. Jasper stepped on the ball, tripped  – and just kept on going. I was expecting the ball to go <POOF> but amazingly, it didn’t!

2. Games With a Gate
Longeing a horse in a circle, past an open gate. This was a good test for me AND for Jasper because it helped with my timing for keeping him going and for Jasper to keep him focused on me and what I am asking him to do. I tried this in the round pen to start and left the door open.  At a walk, I started from the other end and had him head in a circle towards the door and supposedly past it. At first he headed straight for the door and was planning to keep on going to that nice grass! He did knock me a little off balance but I brought him back in and asked for the circle again. He would walk a bit, then try to turn around and head for the door again! Uh uh, buddy. This got a lot of rope swinging to stop him from turning around and continue going. Well, he was going in the right direction now, but now he tried to cut across the middle as a shortcut to the door! More stick waving to get him OUT of my space and back on the circle. I stopped him near the open door and just had him stand there, until he focused back on me.

Me want grass

It took some trial and error but I eventually got him to calmly walk past the door on the longe line without pulling. Good boy!

3. The Pinky Test
Lead your horse around with only your pinky on his halter. It’s not about the pinky – it’s about how light your horse can be.

I would not have done with Jasper if I was worried I was going to lose my finger!  We have worked a lot on leading, backing up, turning both directions. Turning into him into a clockwise circle used to make him very defensive and he would throw his head up. Now he anticipates me, and turns accordingly and lightly. It’s a great feeling! He can still be a bit sluggish so I could not work up to a trot. I am going to work on that on a 12 foot lead.

All in all he did great and PAID ATTENTION! Since he was doing so well, I thought I would throw the bridle on him with the bit and reins attached and work on some turning with the reins from the ground. This was only the second time I had worked with him with the reins attached to the bridle.

I lightly pulled one rein while standing at the side of Jasper to get him to do some lateral flexion on each side. I had been working on this with Jasper at liberty and he had picked it up in a snap. I was worried he would be resistant with the reins and bit in his mouth – but he was amazingly light! With a slight bit of pressure on his mouth, he would turn his head all the way in to his belly on either side.

It was a little hard to take pictures while doing this!

I only did this for about 5 or 6 minutes, then took the bridle off, and he got a big hug and a cookie and happily got to graze on some grass!

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