I have decided to document my journey of training Calli in our blog. First, I will do some review of the history with Calli. Calli is a 2007 TB, but never raced, was bred as a sport horse. She is actually eligible for the Rheinland Pfalz-Saar registry. When she was 3, Calli was sent to the UConn equine program where she stayed for about 18 months. It is a very traditional, large boarding facility where the horses primarily stand in a stall. She then moved back to her owner (breeder’s) house; I don’t know how many of Calli’s bad habits started at UConn and how many she figured out after moving back home. In Feb 2012, I went and met Calli for a test ride because we were in the market to replace Cinder. There were a lot of red flags about Calli: the owner would not let her kids anywhere near Calli, Calli pinned her ears at me on approach, she kicked me while picking her feet up, she was awful under saddle and refused to move forward, and essentially had no trail riding exposure. We quickly decided Calli was not the horse we were looking for.
Fast forward to late June. We had been continuing to look for the right horse, had one on lease that didn’t work out, and kept thinking about Calli. What drew me to Calli was she was so young, that if I could fix the poor behavior, I would have a very athletic, young horse to work with for a long time. So, in early July, we picked up Calli and brought her home for a lease.
I want to stress, that Anna and I both have many years of experience with horses and felt we could handle the training requirements for Calli. We also had very clear conversations with the kids that Calli was NOT kid safe. Calli would be tacked up in a stall whenever kids where in the barn and kids were not allowed in her paddocks.
The next day, I trimmed her hooves. Calli had been barefoot for most of her life (another plus). I believe she had shoes for a while at UConn, but I never saw any nail holes in the hooves, so it is possible she was never shod. After a trim, it was time to get to work riding. Now, right before I walked up to the barn to ride Calli, I got a text from the owner that Calli “was acting up when putting the saddle pad on.” That was kind of curious since horses generally respond the saddle, not the pad. With this tidbit of info, I groomed Calli (who was definitely showing significant attitude) and put a saddle pad on her back. She immediately tried to kick me by kicking forward with her hind hoof. I took the saddle pad off, and started to work on an attitude adjustment. Eventually, we saddled her up and went to the arena for a ride.
Since that first ride, we have made a lot of progress. I quickly figured out, MOST of Calli’s behavior problems were escape mechanisms. Calli is very smart and had figured out that when she misbehaved by pinning ears and trying to bite someone or kicking out, it would scare people and they would leave her alone. As soon as I showed her that I wasn’t scared and established that I was dominant, she gave up on the behaviors. She still goes back and tries again sometimes, so we have to reinforce those lessons.
About a month into our trial of Calli, we bought her. She has been regularly trail ridden (we try to do 60% trails, 40% arena) and even did a hunter pace. I have taken her to a jumping lesson, where it was clear that she has some baseline experience in jumping. Her body condition is very good, and so now, we have to figure out what our training goals are, and how we are going to accomplish them.
Anna and I decided we wanted to try some of the Parelli training methods. So, we got a subscription to Giddyupflixs and ordered some horse training movies (thanks to a recommendation from a friend). While Anna and I don’t watch a lot of tv, we have decided that we will spend more time watching videos about things we care about (horse trimming, training, riding, dog stuff, etc) instead of the “reality tv” shows that plague cable (storage wars and shipping wars are the latest ones we found ourselves wasting time with).
Goals for Calli (in no particular order):
1. Cross any water hazard on trail rides.
2. Back up under saddle.
3. Flying lead changes (this one is a long way off).
4. Stop freaking out and breaking trailer ties, halters, and other things when tied to a trailer.
Maybe tomorrow I will be able to carve out some time to do some riding.