Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Marla's Weight Loss: The Shape of Things to Come

Marla: The shape of things to come.

After giving Marla time to acclimate to her new life, it was time to start making some demands of her focus and intellect. I knew that Marla had previous training as her knowledge of leading, most likely of showmanship, was apparent when walking her in the arena. She stops when her handler stops, and turns with/off of her handler well. Despite this, I always train my horses on the assumption that they know nothing. That way, when they have previous knowledge, it simply advances to training process. By doing this I can ensure that I am not missing any key steps in preparing Marla for her future as a lesson horse.

      Training a horse gives them a passport to the future; it ensures a future of usefulness and of good care. While I intend to keep Marla for my lesson program, the fact remains that horses often live varied lives of their own with multiple owners throughout their lifetime. Training ensures them a value on the market, meaning that they will stay with homes that value them for their usefulness and good nature. Taking my time with Marla's training will allow her for future success. I chose to start my training with her doing basic natural horsemanship.
Progress: measurable weight

      Natural Horsemanship gives me and Marla a baseline expectation of responsiveness to each other. It lays a ground work for our future interactions. When we do set out to conquer the scary trails, natural horsemanship will be the tool we fall back on to stay safe and keep learning. Among the tools Marla and I practice is backing. She has a tendency to invade my personal space. Backing not only removes her from my space, but it also explains to her that it that I did not appreciate that closeness. In short, it asserts my dominance.

          Backing lead to yielding, and yielding led to lunging. After losing an estimated 75 lbs, Marla was ready to work on the lunge line. Due to her lessened but ongoing lameness in her RF, she is more comfortable working to the left rather than her right.  I am careful not to overwork her tracking right, but not to ignore the necessity to build strength and flexibility tracking in that direction.
Dapples, a sure sign of good health!

            Marla and I do many physical therapy exercises. We work over poles at the walk, trot, and canter as she is able to. This is specifically good for her core and her stifles, as she has to engage her core to lift her feet over the poles. Another exercise for stifles is "drifting", a precursor to the leg-yield that asks the horse to move laterally by stepping out rather than crossing over. We still have a ways to go, but her strength is building. All of this work has helped Marla shed fat and build her muscle tone. Her coat shines brightly, her dapples have even returned!

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