I have been working through the foundation clicker lessons with Dragon since I went to the UNT conference in February, and we are finally starting our under saddle work. The lessons Alexandra Kurland outlines in her dvd series,” the click that teaches”, are simple and elegant. They have provided a lovely progression for us as we move from the ground to the saddle and into single rein riding. Check out her dvd store here: http://theclickercenter.com/2004/store/vids00.php
One of our first ground lessons that directly transfers to saddle (aside from head-lowering) is the “capture the saddle ” lesson or the mounting block lesson. It starts out on the ground with a circle of cones to serve as markers for the human. You walk towards a cone and when you reach one you stop , as if you were a post, while simultaneously pulling up on the clip of your halter, or upward on the corner of the bit to disengage the hip. Once the hips are disengaged and the horse is facing the other direction, and immobile, you ask him to back up. This is to get him to rock his weight back and to reinforce the stop. Once your horse has backed up, you C/T and switch sides while you are dispensing the treat. Then you ask your horse to back up again, just so the act of switching sides does not become a cue to walk off. Then you repeat by walking to another cone. Starting this exercise on the ground makes it less scary for the horse if you need to disengage the hip under saddle AND it prepares him motor-skills wise for “capture the saddle”. Capture the saddle allows you to line up your horse to the mounting block OR any rock, fence or tree branch you might want to use to mount off of out on the trail. Here’s our most recent attempt:
Here’s “capture the saddle”, which you can begin once your horse has mastered the motor skills on the cone circle:
The really beautiful thing about this lesson is it gives you a barometer for how comfortable your horse is with riding. Once they understand the lesson and eagerly line up with the mounting block to offer you the saddle, you’ll know something is wrong if they can’t or won’t line up. It is an important step in “explaining the process” to your horse and keeping everyone safe.