October 14, 2022

Training Disco

Disco continues to be the best baby horse, even as we enter what should be his "teenage" phase. I will knock on wood for that, and fully expect him to push us at some point still, but so far, so good.

As far as training him goes, I feel relatively confident in my ability to train him, but less confident about fixing any problems I accidentally create, so my three rules to live by are "small steps", "set him up for success", and "don't rush it".  For example, crosstying. I want him to crosstie, but there are a lot of skills involved in getting there (and a baseline level of maturity needed too). So far, going back a year ago:

  1. I taught him to give to pressure in a halter and lead, including a "head down" cue.
  2. I simulated standing tied by weaving the lead rope through the bars of his stall.
  3. Once I was confident that his reaction to feeling the crown of the halter was to step forward and release pressure, I taught him to tie in the arena with the help of a blocker tie ring. I introduced this over the winter, then didn't touch it at all for several months.
  4. I taught him to tie in his stall, which has a less secure attachment point than the arena.
  5. Over the course of several months, I let the routine become "every day you get tied to the wall in your stall and I pick your feet out and you have to stand there for it," until this was a boring and normal part of his life.
  6. I cross tied him twice over the summer in the wash rack, first with Mary's help and then alone, both times it was very hot and I knew my water-loving baby would want a bath, but then I left it alone for about three months.


Oh Connor. Haha.

Over the summer, I didn't work with him much at all, partially because when the horses are on night turnout, the time that I have to work with him during the week is when he's antsy to go outside after being in all day. And yes, he does have to learn that he has to work whenever I tell him to, but at 14-18 months old, that's a LOT to ask. See previous statement about not setting him up for failure.

Definitely helpful when the horse trains himself sometimes too, lol

Last week, we went back to day turnout, and I felt like I could adequately set him up for success in introducing crosstying and that he was mature enough for it. I waited until they came in from a day of turnout, and he'd had dinner and was standing around looking bored in his stall. Then I put Connor and Disco in sets of aisle crossties facing each other, so that Disco would have something to look at. 

Once I was confident that he wasn't going anywhere and that he understood the assignment, I picked his feet out just like our usual evening routine in his stall, just in a different place. One thing he's familiar with (the routine of being restrained and getting his feet picked out every night), one new thing (crosstying).

He was perfect. Better than perfect. It was no big deal to him, which made me feel good about the year of prep work and the slow, incremental steps I took to get there. I picked his feet out, gave him really good scratches in his favorite places with my Hands on Grooming Gloves, ran a Tiger's Tongue over him and put him right back in his stall. He was only crosstied for a couple of minutes and never had a chance to get bored.

Finally going through a fugly phase, I thought it might never happen!

I'm not going to take it for granted or push it. I know he's still a tad young to be crosstied, and certainly not for long periods of time. But we'll "plateau" here for a while, continuing to pick his feet out in his stall most nights but doing the crossties as a fun five minute "field trip" once or twice a week, until that too becomes a boring routine and we're both hungry for a new challenge - maybe standing there for 10 minutes instead of 5 a few months from now, that kind of thing.

One small step at a time!


  1. I think the small steps is the hardest for me. They always seem to small to me and somehow end up being incomprehensibly large for pony.

  2. Sounds like a recipe for success! Glad he's being a good student!

  3. Kudos to you for being so patient! It's going to pay back in the future!

  4. A definite baby genius. And he's not even remotely fugly. :) I am also following the 'small steps' to success line. I think in the end it's faster.