I always attend the Arabian horse show in Scottsdale in February. I see the most beautiful Arabian horses from all around the United States. While the stunning Arabian horses are cantering in the huge arena to marvelous music, the horse trainers are sitting in chairs at the sidelines, yelling at the riders things like: ‘More nose’….’lower leg’….’by the rail’…’rein tighter’…’inside hand.’ Since I have been training Zum, I can really appreciate how challenging it is to train exuberant Arabian horses!
I make sure Zum is standing calm and relaxed before I proceed to the next lesson. Once Zum is comfortable with the saddle, I fasten the cinch slowly. I fasten the cinch just enough so the saddle won’t slip or shift position if Zum jumps. I never jerk a cinch tight all at once. If Zum flinches at the cinch being tightened, his girth is sensitive. I massage Zum’s girth area in a circular motion to get him used to feeling pressure.
Thinking of my last horseback ride with my friend here in Scottsdale, I remember listening to her brag for hours about how much her boyfriend loves her and spoils her. So on this day of love, I ask myself ‘What is love?’ And I have to remember: ‘Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not rejoice in evils but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.’ I have a beautiful image of my two Chihuahuas in love. My little dogs are my role models and a source of my own hope for human love.
If I approach Zum with the saddle and he begins to move, I take the saddle to the middle of the round pen and set it down. Then I take Zum on a lunge line to the round pen and I make him work hard with many changes of directions until he is glad for a chance to relax and to stand still. I approach him with the saddle again. If he moves, then I make him go in circles on the lunge line. I repeat this sequence until Zum is solid in standing calmly while I set the saddle on his back and then take the saddle off several times in a row. These saddling lessons take time but eventually Zum wants to stand quietly as I swing the saddle on and off.
I have learned never to tie Zum when I am bridling him. He will feel trapped and be more apt to resist and pull back. And I have also learned to only remove the bridle when Zum’s head is lowered and he is relaxed. I don’t ever want to pull the bit out of his mouth. I rub on his forehead to teach him to lower his head. Then I wait for Zum to release the bit by opening his mouth. I can also hold a treat below his nose so he has to reach down for the treat.
All last summer, Zum stood perfectly still while I put on his hackamore. I did a lot of groundwork with a focus on stopping and standing still. He learned that whenever I say ‘Ho’ he must stop moving and he must not move until I tell him to. When he stops and stands still, he is rewarded with lots of praise.