CLOUD 9 WALKERS
Barefoot 6-yr-old dappled grey with black points 15.3H Tennessee Walking Horse Gelding
Click on embedded arrow ABOVE to see our morning workout on 8/13/12.
Out on a camping/trail trip on 4/4/09.
Click on arrow ABOVE to see Sweet Tater's first time at the beach, with the waves rolling in. He was alternating between running walk/racking.
On the trail at the running walk.
Click on arrow ABOVE to see Sweet Tater lead the ride through a deep swimming hole.
He has been raised with dogs.
LEFT: Tied for lunch break on 4/4/09; RIGHT: Leading the ride toward the Angelina Forest trails.
Leading the ride while Cheri follows on Zeb.
Such a sweet baby with a super willing personality.
We love this guy! He has been handled with love and top quality care his entire life -- we found him at Ercie Hill's in Wichita Falls, Texas.
Sweet Tater was allowed grow and not started under saddle too young, and has been started the right way, with natural horsemanship training methods. He started his 'career' in the round pen:
First three days, he learned to go, go at three different speeds, and turn to the inside to show respect. They are worked on a "tree of knowledge" (cedar pole in the middle of the round pen), with a concept of driving with one rein.
Next few days, he learned to drive with the long reins, learning to get up, whoa, turn, flex and back. He learned to tolerate the girth with the bitting rig and to pace himself at speeds that he is commanded to perform. He was taught to stay focused on his trainer.
Next few weeks, he learned to accept the saddle and be driven with the driving lines through the stirrups, as well as accept someone mounting him from both sides of the saddle, with lots of 'accidental' brushes across his rump as we mount and dismount.
The fourth week is all about settling down, walking relaxed on command, running walk relaxed on command, relaxed canter and smooth, obedient transitions. The goal is to get him to stay in the requested gait until he is given a cue to change gait. When he is asked to reverse, he is trained to reverse always at a walk.
The fifth week, a "dummy" rider is introduced -- the first night, a rider is asked to be dead weight in the saddle, with the trainer giving instructions from the center of the ring. This dummy rider is asked not to touch the reins, not to move, not to talk, not to be involved other than just simple weight in the saddle. The second night, the rider is asked to give cues in a very subtle way AFTER the trainer gives the cue. The third night, the rider is asked to relax, is allowed to hold conversation while riding, and gives cues at the same time that the trainer is giving them from the center ring. Circles and go's are introduced, stopping and backing two steps is asked. This is all using only a halter and lead rope for reins.
The fourth night, the rider gives the cues and the trainer is simply there to reinforce the cues if needed. By the fifth day, the trainer is pretty much just there to observe, and then for the next week, the trainer takes over and rides with just the halter working on turning in a circle with nose to the inside with no pressure, ride squares, continue backing training, yield front, yield hindquarters. Before Sweet Tater ever left the round pen, he understood all these commands, and by asking to yield both front and hind, he easily learned to side pass on cue.
After a couple of weeks of intensive handling, the bit is introduced (with tasty molasses!), and now double reins are introduced (one to a leather noseband and one to the snaffle). Another week or two in the round pen on the bit, after the horse is taught that he is being allowed to stop (instead of commanded), he knows the one-rein stop, and understands transitions, he is taken to the trails to be ridden alone -- no other horses with him.
This teaches him to think for himself, as opposed to just learning to react. He learns that he can trust his rider, that he can be courageous in the face of his perceived danger, that he can cross creeks, step over logs, encounter deer, squirrel, rabbits, motors, bicycles, etc. He learns to pace himself and not use up all his energy at the beginning of the day, and he learns to hydrate along the trail. He learns to gait perfectly without the distraction of the stress of other horses, feeling like he needs to be where they are. When his gait is fast enough to keep up with his peers, he is then taken on group rides and taught to ride at the back, in the middle, and at the front, all on a loose rein. He is taught that he should not panic when he is ridden a lot further back from the group, leaving the group and then rejoining. He is being trained to canter on both leads along the way, but that if asked, he should not increase his gait even though the other horses are getting ahead on the trail.
Next comes Highway 101, where he learns to tolerate busy traffic, dogs, 4-wheelers, garbage cans, whatever scary obstacles he can be exposed to.
All along the way, the goal is to get him to round his back, break at the poll and tuck his nose, drive his hindquarters forward and have a perfect four-beat gait with loose reins, light touch and all while BAREFOOT!
Now, this pleasure prospect is hauled to camping trips across the nation, on a never-ending education! Sweet Tater has already made several trips to the Angelina Forest and many more ahead. So far, this sweetheart grey Tennessee Walking Horse gelding is right on schedule for a diploma . . . stay tuned!
Practicing his reining patterns in the back pasture on 3/23/09 on the noseband/snaffle -- no shank yet.
Still has a lot of filling out and maturing to do.
Ground driving on 1/12/09 before the saddle training starts.
No, these are not the same pictures! Yes, he held the same exact stance and expression when being mounted for the first time. We teach them to be mounted from either side.
Long yearling picture -- starting to lose the red and turn grey with dapples.
Incredible, huh? Yep . . . he was born chestnut!!! At right, he is a weanling and starting to show signs of turning grey.
Cloud 9 Walkers
P. O. Box 878
Hardin, Texas 77561-0878
(55 minutes east of Houston)
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