In which "training" isn't something that you pay somebody to do once

A library patron recently came in seeking referrals for a dog trainer, and we fell into conversation.  

As it happens, her dog (a 2-year-old lab mix) has some bad habits like jumping up on people and barking madly at the sprinkler.  The lady wants to hire somebody to fix the dog.

Longtime readers will immediately know where I'm gonna go with this.

It is my notveryhumble opinion that
1.  Dogs are easy to train, people not-so-much.
2.  The best person to train a dog is the human s/he lives with
3.  If the dog's owner lacks dog-training skills, it's most effective to hire a trainer to teach the owner how to work with the dog
4.  Even when a dog is "professionally trained," the training won't stick if the people with whom the dog normally hangs out don't enforce the training regimen.

So what's all this doing on a mostly-horse blog?

Train the rider, train the horse

I'm so pleased you asked!

The Dragon has always been snarky about her personal space.

When I got her, she was a confirmed biter and kicker and if you were within a quarter acre, you were in her self-perceived "body bubble" and subject to draconic reprimand.

I've described elsewhere how we have trained (and re-trained) Fiddle to quit biting and kicking at people.
The Dragon is actually very sensitive to reprimand, and it's not
necessary to use a big stick or cuss words with her.  However,
it's vitally important to correct her bad behavior--fast--every
single time it occurs.

We got most of the worst behavior towards people fixed in her first year, but it is not an instant-gratification gig.  It's ongoing.  After working with the Dragon for more than 7 years on this issue, I consider her mostly pretty well reliable in regards to her politeness towards people on the ground.

Her manners towards other horses have been slower to change, but gradually (aided in part by a diminishing of pain and female hormones following her spay operation) her bubble is shrinking and she allows more creatures into it without incident.

She will never be allowed in public without her red tail ribbon to indicate that she is a kicker, but we am now able to practice things like the "Pass me/Pass you" game.   We've played this game for years with Hana, who was Fiddle's pasture-mate.

But passing other horses safely on a narrow two-track road is something relatively recent.

Yesterday, we wanted to show the world how cool Fiddle looks when she extends from a regular trot to the Big Thang, so we got video footage of her passing by the trotting horses and then accelerating into Escape Velocity.

Only later did we talk about how impossible it would have been to film this a year or two ago--we would have needed all hands on all the steering wheels to keep Fee from kicking and keep the other horses from dodging off the cliff.

But (as you can see on the second video above), when passing horses on the trail now, the Dragon's mind is not on her body bubble.  Instead, it's on the road ahead, and the fast-moving horse far in front of her that she wants to catch.

The Dragon isn't what I'd called "trained."  She is a work in progress.  It takes a blog like this to remind me how far she's come.

And the horse I have now: she's Very Good.  Mostly.

Mostly pretty good most of the time...thanks to a lot of help from my friends!


  1. Every time you post about her Big Thang, I contemplate having a Standardbred as my next horse. Between you and Dom...

    But then I realize that they're not known for being small horses, and that could be problematic. I need a tiny-Standardbred to fit my new preference for 14hh horses.

    1. Not all standies are ginormous! Sky Evans' mare Cricket is 14.2, and her nickname in camp is "Speedy"!

      Pix and ride deets -- and a photo of SIX standies of varying sizes!-- from a Cricket/Fiddle ride here:

  2. Classic mare face/correction photo!

  3. You're lucky to have those friends! :-) Great trot!


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