Thursday, January 21, 2010

Sensitize or Desensitize Part 2

OK, now you have the bare bones of what I'm thinking about. If not, get on it! I can tell everybody right now, if you don't read the comments you won't be able to follow along.

Here's my knotty problem of the week. I'm thinking about communication.

So let's talk about how we first get to know a horse. Maybe describe the first few days we are with one. Let's say this horse is owned by us. There are no time constraints.

It doesn't matter if the horse is broke or not. Just a horse we have chosen to be ours and this is the first period of time we have to get to know the horse.

I'm hoping we can start with descriptions and then get into the why's. Everything we do says something to our horse. What are we trying to say during those first few days?

I have no intention of telling anybody they are wrong and I hope everybody feels the same. I want to get into asking questions about why we do what we do later.

So our first question is: How do you initially communicate with your horse?

Think on this, because I want to be able to ask each other why and what we hope to accomplish.

I'll start off.

Remember! There's no wrong here. If you're just like me, great! Still write it out because there will be differences we can pick at.

If you're at the opposite end of the planet, great! Now the learning will begin.

When I first get to know a horse I turn him loose in a round pen or arena. If it's a round pen I want it to be pretty big because I want the horse to be able to be able to stay away if he chooses.

I like to be outside (let's make it 75 degrees, no wind and I've got a beer, ya wanna?) with lots of distractions and noise.

I'll sit on the fence and watch my horse as he moves around, looking at the interesting stuff. If he comes over and tries to crawl in my lap I'll push him away. If he sticks to me anyway I'll go get a longe whip.

If he'll pause a second while he explores, whinnies, runs, whatever and sniffs my boot I'll be pleased.

I won't get in the pen with him until he relaxes and begins walking and sniffing the ground a little. If he is really agitated I'll wait until the next day if I need to.

Once my new horse is calm in the arena I'll hop in there with him. I'll get in the middle and start finding out how much he'll work off me in the pen.

I'll teach him to move forward with some gas when I move towards his hip. I'll teach him to turn when I step to his head and stop when I release pressure. I'll spend a lot of time admiring him.

I'll teach him to stop, let me approach and halter him.

I'll check to see if he moves his shoulders the way I want on the halter and if he is safe to be on the ground with.

I'll rub on his neck, lean into him and tell him how glad I am to know him.

When I'm happy there we'll go to saddling. I'll put a saddle pad on and off. I'll loop my good cotton rope around his girth and pull it tight.

I'll saddle him up.

We'll start to ride. I'll continue to admire him.


  1. Long time lurker, first time commenter. This is such a timely post for me! I'm in my last semester in an Equine Studies program, and although I intend to sit behind a desk and do websites and marketing for horse owners for a career, I'm taking a class in which we break a two year old to saddle for an outside client. This is something I've never done before despite being a decent rider, and I wanted the chance to try it under the supervision of a very experienced trainer, but I'm still unsure of myself.

    In the first part of the class, (right now) we're exploring our own training theories and ideas, as well as practicing techniques on school horses, and this and your last post about the formulation of your own training theories are exactly what I needed to read, and I feel like my own thoughts on training are slowly coming out of the fog.

    Thank you for these posts!

  2. I've been working a few lately, horses that were range raised and halter broken late (2/3/4/6 years old) but still saw humans every day.

    It depends on my amenities (pastured or stabled). If stabled, I make sure I am the one leading horse in and out every time for the first few weeks. They have so few memories in the storage banks of proper leading behavior that I want all the input for awhile to be as correct as I can make it. I always slip the lead over the neck before I halter, so they never learn they can get away from the halter going on.

    I will go and visit them a few times a day in the field, say hi, scratch good scratchy parts. I always end the encounter first, walking away.

    If I throw hay or grain, I watch for any pissiness. If he pins his ears at me, I'll drive him off the food. These guys are still skittish enough about people that they will not stand their ground over mere food. Be the alpha early, while they still are processing you. It's about doing what the dominant mare would do to them, not "bossing" them around.

    I will halter and tie them with a home fashioned blocker tie while they get brushed off, legs firmly felt all the way down. I teach a horse to always stand on his feet before asking him to learn to give his feet. Reduces kicking (at lest in my mind).

    If it his first day and he is straight off the trailer, I won't ask for any gasket blowers like asking him to pick his feet up, things touching him other than me and the grooming equipment. These horses have long memories. Better to not ask for things they can't give, than end up with a fight or a phobia.

    They are already stressed, like us randomly dropped into a work gang in Thailand; don't know the language, everything smells funny, what am I supposed to do to survive this... Oh, and you taste like chicken, and everyone may want to eat you, and there are less of your friends to watch out for chicken eaters.

    They will practice leading, just a few minutes at a time. Pull to the side to get a foot moving when they stall out. Encourage the good. Walk them around the property. Teach them to graze when tugged downward and told "eat", and head up when told "head up". Ohh, leading has a point, I get to go eat the good grass.

    They will meet a bareback pad with girth first, easier for me. It will be put on their neck, butt, backs, belly. If they tense but stand, on it goes. If it is too scary for them, I put it on myself, on the fence, until they are at a point that they will stand to let you put it on them. There is never any cooing. There is "good boy" if they accept it quietly and don't seem tense. If tense, just do all the motions, don't reward. In a few repetitions (seldom that same session, personal preference), they will remain calm and THAT you reward. Later, if they dance in crossties and you ignore it, they shut right up, instead of fussing because you'll fuss back. I don't reward tense on purpose ever.

    I stand over them and lean on them a lot. They learn to stand quietly next to an item (mounting block like item)... they learn to have someone over them in their field of vision. I am also a wimp, and getting older. And my horse chiro likes quiet, mannerly horses.

    Other than scratchies, and haltering, leading, I never do anything with them unless they are tied. No picking foot in stall, brushing loose or hand held in stall, because I need to be able to have some control and tieing affords that. I ask them to move over when prompted, but display good sense if working in the stall with them. They don't understand water buckets and your suddenly altered gait carrying it. I ask them to move if necessary, but softly and prepared for whatever reaction they offer.

    That's the first few days.

  3. If it's a domesticated;-), broke animal, I'd get it into the "barn routine" the first day, always making sure he respects my space and leadership and ignore anything negative that isn't a respect issue, i.e. fear based. I provide calm leadership, and expect they'll follow along soon enough.

    If they are broke to lunge, I may lunge him the second day before riding, or just ride if I know how he typically goes. If there is something unusual or spooky about the day, I may just lunge or free lunge rather than ride and get things off on the wrong foot. I'm an old wimp.

  4. Equine Cham- Me too. This thought process has been crawling up on me for quite a while. I don't know if it's even a process yet.

  5. This is timely. I got a filly a few weeks ago. She'll be 3 in the spring.

    She came to me real gentle, even though she's a mustang. This is my 3rd mustang and one thing I'm learning about them is they are masters at learning to adapt and "get by." What has worked for her is to be real friendly, but it sort of bothered me that she she got in my space. On the surface it seems she would be easy, but from experience I know I need to "peel the layers" and see her real character.

    So, for now she's learning she's not all that cute muggy puppy she thinks she is. She's learning to move out of my space right now. I drive her off until she faces up in the pasture. No walking into my space.

    I find these pushy horses go through a period of fear when they learn they can't push you around. And that's fine becuase I also know they come out of it once the rules are clear and consistant. She's in the watchful eye phase, and I'd rather have that then the muggy pushy stuff.

    So, we are doing work on the line, and just basic yeilding stuff. Haven't tied her yet as I feel it's going to be an issue...just a hunch. She's immature both physicaly and mentaly so in no hurry but I imagine will ride her late spring.

  6. Refwering back to the previuos entry - you suggested that I was talking about a horse not a method - I think it was actually a combo of method and horse - we were known for having light mouthed, light sided horses that that had "on and off buttons - I may not have explained it well. I don't know if we lucked out with 5-6 horses, or if it was a combo of horse "brain type" and training or what.

    I think one of the big things we tried to teach was when the horses were on a loose rein with the leg "off" (rather than normal "working or jumping contact") nothing much was going to happen so they can relax and go where your nose has been pointed until it's pointed in another direction!

    I really wish I could work out how to put it into words better.

  7. Argg - sorry about the typo's - sprained my hand cleaning out the mother in laws garage... typing sucks!!

  8. I think when a new horse arrives I would expect to put them out in a pen or paddock for a while to let them get a little used to their surroundings and once they had settled to be able to rest off any immediate stress or tiredness from their journey. That presents a good opportunity to get a first idea of what kind of horse they are, based on what they do or don't do, and how they move.

    When it came to working with them - probably the next day - I would work on a lead. Most horses in this country that are old enough to work with ( which is probably old compared with when they would be started in the US, particularly western ) are accustomed to the basics of being caught and handled. So I would bring them into the arena and start just exploring what they know and how they relate to me. Do they know how to follow a feel? Do they understand about my personal space? Do they push onto pressure or run away from it and by how much? Which eye/side do they find it easier to work on? Are there areas where they are shy about being touched, do they tend to be relaxed or twitchy about that? Where are the thresholds in terms of their responses - what is the least I can do to create a change in them?

    At the same time I'm giving them a chance to see how I'm going to work with them and that I'm going to stay calm and be clear and treat them as fairly as I know how to but that I will be the one in charge of their feet.

    I would do this on a lead rather than in a round pen partly because I find that connection means I have an immediate and clear communication and partly because round-pens are unusual in this country and most arenas don't have particularly high fences so with an unknown horse I would prefer to have that direct connection and reduce the risk of them jumping out and causing havoc...

  9. I like to start my first encounter in the round pen too. I keep it simple and work on just getting the horses attention on me. Depends on where the horse is in their training of course I just pick something that I know the horse can say yes to. I want the first encounter to be easy and simple. I usually let a whole week go by like this as I have never been in any hurry before. I just like spending time being near the horse not asking; just making sure I have my space and they have theirs if they want. Building mutual respect.

  10. These posts are making me wish I was thinking this way years ago.

    Having only had broken and backed ponies to train, the riding part featured a lot more.

    I'd definitely make use of loose schooling to see how the horse reacted to the surroundings he'd soon be ridden in, and also start off finding out what I could about his sensitivities/issues such as with being touched or asked to do a simple task like pick up feet or to move over whilst tied in the stable. I think that would give a good basis as to where to start with the next steps.

    But i'm keen to read more from people who've started unbroken animals.

  11. Somehow a lot of the colts I get in to start are hardly halter broke. So, they usually get ran into the round pen (not lead in). My round pen is outside (which I prefer). There are other horses around. My dogs are doing their doggie things. Normal daily stuff. After they've had a chance to investigate the pen and I watch their reactions, I start their round pen 101 which is ditto to Mugwump's.

    The facing up, haltering, and leading is established. I then do what John Sharp termed as "the rope treatment." It's just a long 1/2 inch cotton rope that is use to sack the horse out with. He gets used to the rope touching him everywhere (legs, tummy, rump, near side and off side). Which ever side the horse is most nervous on, I do more work on that side. The horse gets used to my hands and arms moving all around. The horse learns which of my body movements actually mean something (such as go forward) and which body movements have no meaning and they are to stand still. This could take 1-3 days, depending on the horse.

    Then I hang an eggbutt snaffle on their head without reins over the halter. They are learning how to hold the bit in their mouth without any contact to the bit. I then teach them to lunge on a line both directions with the line attached to the halter.

    Then I continue to introduce the saddle pad, the saddle, and then driving. And of course the ride.

    Basically for the first few days I'm establishing trust and respect with the horse. I let him know that I'm the important part of his training and that he needs to regard me as his leader.

  12. I have had my first horse for a year now. He is a dead broke TB. 15 years old, been there done that. With excellent brakes.

    When I got him, the first few days I would catch him, bring him in and groom him. Noticing how he reacted to going through gates, being haltered, being touched everywhere, giving me his feet.

    I would ask him to move away from me. I did some nice relaxing body work on him. I found the bits he looooves to have scratched.

    After a few days I tacked him up, watching again for reactions, and went for a ride.

    We were fine and he was wonderful. And I'm sure he would have been anway, but I can't help but think that those few days of getting to know and trust each other made the rest of it easier.

    I know it did on my part- my entire riding experience has been in supervised lessons. Riding alone on trails or in the larger paddocks is all a bit new and scary. I would have been nervous getting up on him immediately without some kind of knowledge of how he reacts to the world.

  13. Hmm - interesting because I'm not sure I've thought about it in a way I could write it out?

    When I brought home my mare and my gelding (different times) I put them in the smaller of my 2 drylot pens - by themselves and I just watched them for a week. I'm never in any hurry and I'm a huge slow poke.

    We feed 2x a day and I may walk up to say hello, scritches - that sort of thing.

    I don't do any work on them either unless haltered and on a lead rope or tied. They both came from the track so they supposedly stood tied, led etc. but you just never know what they know.

    I'd tie them - see how they are tied. Both had issues at first flinging themselves back and forth all over the place. They stay tied til they are being polite.

    Once they are standing quietly, I will touch them all over - brush them, pick up their feet, put the saddle pad and saddle on gradually... if they began to fling around again - I went away and let them fling away til they were quiet.

    And I'd begin again.

    Once they submitted to my touching, picking up feet, tacking up etc. I'm done. I turn them loose in their pen again.

    I don't have a round pen. I have a rectangular arena outlined with RR ties filled with sand.

    I took each out there and would lead them - began to teach them about the lunge line. Just moving them away from me hopefully at a walk and or trot... on smaller figures so it's easier to stay at a walk/trot vs. careening around.

    If they shied or began galloping around, I just quietly reeled them in to a small enough figure that they had to break to trot and walk and we begin again.

    Once they began to understand the lunge, I begin working on keeping them out on the line in larger and larger circles, using voice along with longe whip position (on the ground is walk - strait out from my hip is trot, vertical in the air is canter) to transition between gaits... lots of transitions between all the gaits to help with balance, strength and to make sure they are listening to me vs. on their own happy little field trip at the end of the line.

    ? Hope that sounds o.k....

  14. When we got the little Appie a few months ago, he was put in the square pen for a few days, where he could have the other two horses on the other side of the tall, solid fence. He could touch noses and see everybody.
    The first day, we hunkered on one side of the pen and just watched. If he came up to us, he was patted and urged to move on.
    Second day we haltered him and brushed him and prolly picked up his feet. Generally messed with him on the ground. I rememember thinking - this horse doesn't know our movements or routine yet, as in, get that hip over when I move toward it/stare hard at it. I recall also that I kept him away from his feed until he softened that ugly glare he had. (Flash forward: horse now moves hip easily and no meanie face at feeding.)
    Third day, led him into the pasture (without other horses) and took a short ride.
    We put him with the other two horses in their 2-acre sacrifice lot about the third day. Maybe shoulda took quite awhile before the new and old gelding figured out who was married to the mare.

  15. I'm a long time lurker and first time commenter... I think first time?

    Anyway, i've never gotten a chance to take my time with a horse at first. My first horse related job was working for a horse trader and that's also where both of my mares came from. So my method is completely different. Even after I quit that job I stayed with this method. Every horse I ride needs to know, no matter what someone acts like, stay calm.

    The first day was all about how the horse would act under the worst circumstances I could come up with. They got enough time to eat drink and for me to have breakfast before I caught one. I didn't waste my time, I wanted to see how spooky they could be and i'd go back and work on things later. I brushed then tacked up quickly, loudly and dropped brushes and such around them to see their reactions, then headed to the roundpen for their first ride. If they acted like a complete idiot i'd teach them to round pen and flex then hop on, otherwise I climbed on up. The first few minutes I rode around at a walk and trot then I got enough confidence to lope. After that I tried to find out their buttons then I acted as insane as possible. I flopped around, yelled, waved my hat around etc. If this horse was going to break in two I wanted it to be with me, not a customer.

    After the initial test ride i'd hop on them again a day or two later and work out any problems with them over the course of however many days I was allowed to work with them before they were put up for sale.

    When I bought my first mare, Izzy, I handled it much the same way. The first week she was ridden every day. I wanted her to know to accept a long day and afterwards I'd reward her with something she liked. She didn't get to goof off before our ride. I've had her for 5years and that week stayed with her. She has the best work ethic of any horse i've had ( I tested this out with several other horses I owned as well). I can leave her out in the pasture for months hop on and it's the same mare. Now i'll let her out in the arean afterward and she'll run around like crazy, little arab tail straight out. My point is, she knows that work comes first.

    When I bought my mare Friska I took it slow, she was 30 days from being 3 and I broke her completely different that i've done with any other horse. I've found that when take longer I end up doing more desensitizing, which I shouldn't have done with her. Even when she was green as grass she didn't care about anything going on around her, she was dull to the world. I can leave her be for months and she won't act up but she's a clown at first. I never made that work then play impression with her that I did with Izzy.

  16. I'm a slow poke in my approach-partly because I'm feeling my way along(the only horses I've had care of were previously were kid-broke already) and-like everyone else-there's only so much time in a day. Clicker training suits me and works well for my time. So I'm giving a couple of weeks example.

    Both my ponies have been adopted from long time(several years) foster homes so I had a lot of knowledge of what they could do. I start by just hanging around them as much as possible for the first couple of days, both to get them used to the newness of being here(I suddenly pet cats or trip over them alot, and I have screaming, bouncing goats) and to let them start to adjust to a different situation.

    Cisco could be handled, but didn't like having a halter put on so you had to toss his leadrope over his neck and then he'd give up and stand for the halter. I knew that was just going to have me make him more headshy after I hit him in the head with the leadrope, so I immediately started teaching him to touch whatever I held in front of him. Within the first two weeks I could halter without worrying about whacking him with the leadrope. And, no, he's not perfect. ;)

    Duchess is basically feral-her fosterer could pet her head while she gobbled feed but being worked in a round pen, she ran and ran and ran. I adopted her really to be a companion for Cisco. So, the first few days if she looked at me I'd click and put her food down. Then I upped it to taking a step for click/treat. Around week two she would let me touch her head so I moved on to how to eat from a hand/touch my hand. My starting rule with her run-run response to pressure is that she has to take the initiative. I'm starting to add pressure now(3 months in).

    So that's my newbie approach.

  17. I've only bought (theoretically) broke horses, so my method is to assume that they know how to act and immediately correct them if they don't. I'm a little slower and "quieter" when I go to catch a new horse out of a paddock, but otherwise, I just expect them to behave. I don't spend any time worrying about quirks, like "oh no is she headshy?", I just calmly tie the horse and calmly start brushing the mud off of her face. I think a lot of times with a new horse it's watching you super close to see how it should react, and if you hesitate and fumble, the horse will decide it's a trap.

  18. I'm fourteen and have just gotten my first horse after seven years of lessons. When I got Summer, my 4-yo TB, I was armed to the teeth with research and training theories. I knew the things I would teach and the ways I would teach them. This horse would be amazingly respectful. She would be a great jumper.
    That's how it went the first day. We let her out in a pasture to gallop around for a while, then took her into our fenced arena (no round pen) and lunged her. She didn't know how to lunge, but learned quickly.
    For the next few days, it rained. I went out to the barn anyway and just groomed her. I wanted her to trust and like me as well as respect me, and I like grooming. So that's what I did. She likes being groomed but I learned that she was nervous around swinging leadropes or waving arms. I didn't want to freak her out. So I would just jiggle the leadrope, or slowly lift my arm. I didn't need to desensitize her all at once.
    When I started riding, it was the same way. She was very willing, but nervous about me making sudden movements or noises. At this point, I knew she trusted me a little more. So I swung my arms around and held on while she had small spaz attacks. And I made weird noises. And I danced while sitting in the saddle. All to get her used to me being crazy.
    I want this horse to be a great jumper. She has the talent, and just needs the training.
    Reading your sensitization posts has made me realize why I'm doing the things I'm doing with Summer.
    Because a great jumper, like a great cowhorse, needs to be totally sensitive. That's why jumpers often seem nuts. They are. They need to have around ten explosions of energy in every jumping round, and you just can't get that from a bombproof horse.
    So then I thought, why am I doing all this crazy stuff on Summer? Shouldn't I just avoid things that scare her, let her stay as sensitive as possible?
    But then I realized that I'm fourteen. I don't want a crazy wired-up fantastically skilled grand prix horse.
    I want a horsey.
    I want to be able to run around our pastures bareback with my friends, shouting and waving around and generally being nuts. I want a horse who can stand my nuttiness, because I don't just want to be an amazing rider, I want to be a kid.
    Summer is now totally fine with me waving my arms any which way, all the strange noises I can come up with, and jumping bareback. She doesn't mind me riding six inches away from another horse. She doesn't spook at anything anymore because she's realized that, well, I don't want her to.
    What I'm saying is that I'm trying to make her into a compromise between the two horses that I want: the lovable bombproof kid's pony and the fabulous, high-strung competition horse.
    On the ground, I taught her to move away from my hand pressing into her hip or her ribcage.
    But I'm not teaching her to move away from my inch of air between my hand and her body, because I don't want her to be in tune to my every single movement. I don't want her to do a turn on the haunches if I decide to run up to her shoulder and give her a hug.

  19. --ellie,

    Cow horses are a whole 'nother ball of wax, and Mugs has done a great job describing how they kept them at their sharpest, and why they want them there.

    A jumper doesn't have to deal with a living, (sort of)thinking animal, aka the cow. It has to jump inanimate items. A well behaved, good tempered horse will do better and be more consistent IMO than a high strung jumper. Because it is easier for a calm animal to learn, to think for itself, then an animal "living on the edge."

    They are TAUGHT to use their power to get over big fences. They are taught to gather and turn to save time in jump offs. They are taught first and foremost how to do all the types of jumps and striding at lower heights so they understand the technical side without the complication of height. They learn to do it by carrying themselves with impulsion, not using speed to get over. Bruce Davidson was known for doing "walking fences" in clinics, horses walking up and expected to jump an obstacle even as high as 4 foot without increasing from the walk! And they CAN do it.

    They learn (if you start with super solid fences, like panels in deep cups after the crossrail stage, and that should be crossrails made of heavy wood poles, not PVC), that hitting the fences is unpleasant. That desire to go clean is what makes a great jumper, not a flighty sensitive horse prone to mental meltdown when competition pressure is added.

    I think you'll have a great time with your mare, and she can still reach the heights of athleticism her body allows, and you'll both have a lot of fun!!

    Besides, I know I am a way imperfect rider at times, and don't want a horse that moves off the "lightest touch" when I'm jumping, but off my cue, yes. You (yes, you, or anyone who knew how to jump) could trot my guy over 4 foot fences. I once ended up trotting over a prelim ramp so I could school the ditch on the other side without pushing his current mental ability level with pace (by cantering the ramp, a much more appropriate pace for that style obstacle)... And he was a quiet ride. I like quiet, personally! Ready to go when asked, but not a headache, if you know what I mean.

    Unsolicited tips to have an honest jumper: ALWAYS follow through if you present the horse with an obstacle, even if only in hand. That means a ground pole, a car forestop curb, a jump in the ring you clearly set for. Never let them learn they can refuse or run out, so don't overface. If you don't know how to teach a horse to jump, don't teach him without a good advisor! If they do run out or refuse, let them know quickly, kindly, but firmly they were wrong, even if it was YOUR fault, then get them over the fence. If they refuse because overfaced, make that obstacle smaller/simpler, but never let them not take the fence.

    Good luck with your girl and the Adventure of Horse. =)

  20. When I first got my gelding, he had just gotten off the trailer from a 1800 mile road trip. I left him in his stall for a few hours to let him settle in and eat and drink and relax. Then I saddled him up and rode him around in the arena. I didn't work him hard, just enough to get him "Out". In my mind, I would want to get out and walk around after a LONG trip to help loosen up some. While I rode him around I just felt him out more and learned what his reactions were in a new place. Then a friend came out on her horse and we took him on a short trail ride in the pasture. When I got back in the barn, I brushed him down and kind of watched him to see how he reacted again in the unsaddling proceedures.
    The second day that I rode my new horse, I took him to the big arena and did a little "Ray Hunt". I just clucked to him to get him moving, then just put my hand down on his neck like I was cutting and just let him go where he wanted to go. He wandered all around the arena kind of confused on where to go and you could tell that he was totally "LOST" because he was zig zagging everywhere...then he finally ended up going to the gate and stopping. Then I started working on some stuff that he needed working on, like following his nose. after a few minutes of that, I would drop my hand and let him go again...this time he walked around the perimeter of the arena and that told me that he was finding himself again.

  21. Wow. Just Wow. There is so much good stuf here.

  22. Deered - you actually are making great sense.
    I'm just trying to get all of us to break it down, not just how, but why we do things.
    I for one know I'm not doing my horses great favors in many of the ways I train.
    So I'm hoping we can all "mind meld" here and pick and choose from each other's approaches.
    It just seems easier to me if we start each step with the how, then go to why.

  23. Thank you so much Bif! I can't tell you how much it means to me to be receiving quality advice - I appreciate input from anyone I come into contact with, from my instructor to an eventer in VA I've worked with to someone online I haven't met before.
    I really like your technique of walking and trotting small fences. I got extremely lucky with Summer - she has a very strong natural desire to jump. I'm not an amazing rider but I try to be very relaxed and consistent, which is working so far with her - she hasn't stopped at or run out from a fence yet.
    I've been doing a lot of pvc-pole crossrails, verticals, and small oxers, but I think I'll switch to more solid objects and wooden poles. I'm going to trailer her to a good xc schooling place asap.
    Since she's just four, I'm keeping every jump under 3' - partially so I won't overface her, and partially so that there is a lower likelihood of her injuring herself due to a fence.

    Again, thank you so much for the advice.

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