When I saw John Lyons at Equine Affaire in 2003, one of the presentations he did was a demo with a young horse, about six months old. As he talked conversationally with the audience, he worked quietly with the foal in a calm and methodical way, going over some of the early lessons every young horse needs. During the course of the presentation, John talked about taking "baby steps," breaking each lesson into small, easy-to-answer questions for the horse, and gradually building the horse's confidence and the relationship between horse and handler.
John's book Bringing Up Baby, edited by Jennifer Dennison, is written with these same principles in mind.
The book contains twenty progressive ground-training lessons, that take the young horse from the very first encounter to saddling and bridling for the first time.
The lessons include:
- Turn and Face
- Sacking Out
- Hind-leg handling
- Spot Control
- WESN lessons
- Come On Cue
- No-Contact control
- Crossing Obstacles
- Trailer Loading
The Yearling Year
- Hassle-Free Hoof Handling
- Head Games
- Battle-Free Bitting and Bridling
- Give From the Ground
- Rein-Hip Response
- First Saddling
Each lesson is broken down into steps, with clues you can watch for that tell you when your young horse is ready for the next step. It's all aimed at keeping it simple for the horse to understand what is wanted of him, to make it easy for him to say "yes," but also with steps for you to take when he says "no."
Safety is paramount, and even before the first lesson begins, you'll find two pages of safety guidelines, which include suggestions to work your young horse in a safely confined area, such as a round pen, and to let him blow off steam a little before expecting him to concentrate on his lesson for the day.
Even though the book is aimed at people involved in the training of young horses, these principles apply to the training any horse. I've even been using the sacking-out procedures on my fully-adult, 17-hand Percheron mare for the past couple of weekends, in preparation for saddling her with the Western draft-horse sized saddle I was finally able to find for her. Now if I could just train her to drop to her knees, to allow me to get on easily, I'll be set!
Bringing Up Baby is available at www.EquineNetworkStore.com.