Foal Training - "Athen's" training sessions
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Elizabeth & Athens first session
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Athens is a two month old colt,  read and see his ongoing training with the CM Lead and Drive Early Foal Training System, provided by his foster mom, Elizabeth Beverly, from McDade, Texas.   Mc Dade is just outside of Austin).  Elizabeth is a "Foster Mom" for a few horses from the Lone Star Equine Rescue (LSER).  She has had Athens since birth (on her ranch) and was introduced to the CM Lead & Drive Training System July 18, 2004.  She has been kind enough to relay her on going training of the foal to us in order to aid others with early foal training and training with our system
Athens first session with Marge
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Meet Ari, Regional Manager for LSER
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click here to meet ARI and find out about LSER

Athen's Training Begins Here!
From: Elizabeth Beverly
Sent: Sunday, July 18, 2004 5:29 PM
Subject: Athens
Here are some pics of Athens working with Margie Spencer, the inventor of the 'CM Lead & Drive Training System.'  I can't tell you how impressed I was with the system and how quickly Athens learned so much.  He has been making slow progress with leading and giving to pressure, etc., before today.  But in one 1/2 hour session, Athens learned more from Margie than he has learned from me in his 2 months of life!  I guess I can sum it up by saying that I will never start a foal without one again!
I can't wait to get out some obstacles for Athens and eventually start ground driving him.  And I've got to get busy with it before he outgrows the system!!!  I will be happy to visit any other LSER foals within an hour or so of Austin.   I will be glad to come out to deliver the harness & show the next foster home how to use it on their new foals.   I will get as much use of it as I can before passing it on - but I can't tell you how much sense it makes and how important it is to get the little ones started right.  (I have been involved with horses for 21 years and worked with my own foals, and it is only now that I know what "started right" really means...).  It works on older foals, but ideally it would be introduced in the first 14 days of life.  It is so simple, and stress-free for the baby. (Way better than forcing them to do anything - they do things because they want to.) Thanks again to Ari for setting this up and for Margie and Michael for donating and showing us how to use this little miracle worker! :)
Sincerely,
Elizabeth Beverly
Second E-mail reads:
Thanks for inventing such an awesome tool!  
Do you have a brief synopsis of instructions for ground driving?  I know we didn't get quite that far, but I'd like Athens to learn as much as possible. I know you mentioned you would have videos on later sessions - when will they be available?
Thanks again,
Elizabeth
PS - Athens got his first bath this morning after his second session while wearing the harness!  I couldn't imagine how difficult it could have been without it, and instead, it was stress-free for Athens.  He did move a little here and there, but once he figured out that there was no pressure if he stood still, he stood there almost perfectly for the rest of his bath.  The best part of it was when I first put his halter on (before the harness) and I had to run and get something, I dropped the lead rope and he basically ground tied, cocked one leg and waited for me!!! I was not expecting that!
Thanks so much!
Elizabeth
7-20-04 report from Elizabeth:
This morning we used the harness again - worked a lot on going forward.  What he is learning hasn't completely transferred to just a halter/lead yet (as evidenced by leading him over to my "tacking up" area).. and he still is a little hesitant about moving forward with just a lead rope.  I put it around his butt, but sometimes I feel like I'm dragging him around more than he's moving on his own.  So, we practiced going forward a lot.  He really has the turn part down - I feel hardly any tension in the lines, if any. And by the end of the session, he was walking at MY speed, with very little tension.   I felt really good about it.  We also introduced him to fly spray this morning - he basically stood there (maybe just one step) while I applied it. It's amazing...he just stands there with one leg cocked when I'm not asking him to do something.  And Ari- the mouthing problem has almost completely resolved itself when he's in the harness.  Only once today did he do anything - we were walking and I stopped and he came behind me and grabbed my shirt - and with a quick snap of the lead, he knew he'd been bad and it didn't happen again.  It's amazing how relaxed he is in the harness - like he feels safe or something.  We even walked around on my cement porch, between chairs, etc.  It's just awsome how much he is learning - and how relaxed and willing he is!
Elizabeth.
7-21-04 report from Elizabeth:  Walking on Blankets?
This morning I decided to spice things up with an obstacle - I pulled an old turnout blanket out of the garage and laid it on the ground - for if things were going well. Athens played more of a catch me if you can game this morning, but finally just stood there and let me put my arms around him to put his halter on. He will take a few steps on the lead, but then stops and waits. It took less pressure on the butt rope than yesterday to get him to move forward to the tack up area, so I'll take that. :) After putting the harness on, we immediately started walking a lot - and right from the beginning he was following me around at my pace - with hardly any pressure on the lead. Not completely perfect, but a definite improvement from yesterday. We stopped and backed a few times, and started again - he's still super about the turns. I asked him to do a few 360 turns by wrapping the leads around him - easy, he said. And then I stood at his shoulder and asked him to turn with me at his shoulder. It took a nudge from me for him to turn away from me, and although he moved well for the first half turn or so, he wasn't sure about me staying at his shoulder yet. He started going backwards as he turned, so I released the pressure and thought we would try more again tomorrow. I like how well he is going forwards, so we'll practice that more later. Then, on to the blanket. We walked right up to it and I did let him sniff it first, we walked around it and then I showed him how I would walk across it and he slammed on the brakes before he got too close. So I turned and looked at him, asking him to come to me, with repetetive tugs. Over and over tug-release until he moved one foot forward and then praised him and we started again. I did my best to set limits with the leads so he couldn't go backwards once he had made forward progress. We finally got one foot on the blanket and I immediately relaxed the leads and praised him. He was happy to stand there with one foot on - hard to tell if he even knew it was there. But when we started again, he absolutely refused to move further forward. He walked his back feet up to his front feet and wasn't willing to budge from there. And then I remembered how Marge had mentioned that we just have to be more persistent than they are. Okay - I wasn't going to give up. We had several times with one front foot on, and then even both front feet, but the back feet didn't seem to be willing - and finally, he ended up rocking back and Jumping over the blanket! I'm thinking - well, that was forward, but not what I was trying for. So we went around and tried again - I'd say he jumped it 3 or 4 times. I tried to be as normal as I could and just walked forward over it - and we finally got all 4 feet on the blanket at the same time and I again immediately released the pressure on the leads and praised him TONS. The next time he walked over it picking up his feet to his chin almost, and then it progressed until we walked over it without slowing down at all. I walked away from the blanket and came back and walked over it and it was practically as though it wasn't there at all. How Exciting! So we stopped with that. We went back to the 'tack up' area and I sprayed him with fly spray before taking the harness off - he only stepped one time. I took off the harness and gave him a good rub down - curry and brush. And then I wanted to see if I could fly spray without the harness - and he didn't move a muscle!!! How cool is that! None of my grown horses are THAT good about fly spray. What a fun day. Even in a relatively stressful situation, Athens was very controllable. He was stubborn, but didn't act afraid when we started with the blanket exercise. He knew what his limits were in the harness, and tried to evade within the limits, and eventually figured out that it was just easier to comply. Success! Thanks again, Elizabeth
July 22, 2004
Finally some pics!  I really love what Michael said to me the other day - the limit of the harness is your imagination.  So I made a little obstacle aourse and hope to add to it and change it around - gotta keep things interesting for both of us!
Today was so much fun - we started off leading and I think the little light bulb has finally gone on.  If we're just walking around I almost never feel any pressure on the lines any more.  He is walking at my speed and anticipating my turns - it's awesome!  We reviewed walking on the blanket - no big deal.  I laid out a wide wooden board for him to walk on.  He wasn't worried about it at all.  "Oh, you want me to stand on it, no problem!"  I got 3 feet on it at once, not quite four.  We walked over another blanket in another location - picked up his feed high, but no issue.  And then through a chute I made from a few panels.  He was a little hesitant, but no major deal.  After a few times through, it was easy.  Finally, I threw a blanket across the top of the panels so we would have to go under it.  It was a challenge, but not anything like yesterday when we first walked on a blanket.  He spooked when I was laying it across, but he was controllable - he felt the harness and stood (somewhat anxiously).  With a moderate amount of coaxing, he was under it!  We wend through it several times, and he started to trot under it (to exit quickly).  With hindsight, I'll make sure I stop him under it more (rather than continuing walking through) when we practice it next time.
Overall, when not going over an obstacle, Athens really understands what it means to go forward.  And everything I ask him to do on the ground is taking less and less pressure - it was very evident today, especially stopping and asking him to walk with me - I barely had to touch the lines and he walked forward.  And after I took the harness off, he stood perfectly while I groomed him and sprayed him.  Amazing!  He even followed me forward when I went to pick up a brush.  So the transfer to the halter only is beginning - he did lead easier before tacking him up this morning - he would take a few steps (following) and then stop...and it took almost no pressure on the butt rope to get him to move forward.  Now, what can I come up with for tomorrow???  Thanks again, Marge!
Elizabeth

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July 24, 2004
Friday update:  Athens is finally leading without the buttrope!  It is slower than I can go with the harness, but with continued gentle pressure on the lead rope, he followed me away from his mom to the tacking area.  I was so proud!  He then proceeded to stand perfectly for me while I groomed everywhere - all over his body and up and down the legs - and he was perfect.  Once, the dogs ran right next to him barking at something and he jumped, but didn't get out of hand at all.
Once I had the harness on, we practiced going forward and he has that part down.  Forward and turns are easy.  Oh, and when we stopped to back, that was easy, too.  So I introduced some plastic grocery bags.  I pulled th em out of my pocket ans swished them around - he took a few steps back and then was leaning away from them for a second before he calmed down.  So I tied one on each side of the surcingle.  His skin was twitching, but his feet didn't move.  How awesome.  So we walked around with them attached.  He trotted a few steps at the beginning and walked right next to me - never in front, and then he got used to them.  Later in the session I grabbed onto the bags and made them noisly and again his skin twitched, but he stook while I did it.
We also walked on the board again - we even got all four feet on!  I was beaming.  I also led him around the house - away from his mom - and he had no problem with it.  She did, though, and came cantering around to catch up as soon as he was out of sight.  We then walked across the cement porch back to the front yard and worked on turning with me at his shoulder.  I asked him to do a few 360 turns first, and then started asking him to turn with one arm on either side of his neck.  He backed again - he wasn't sure what I wanted.  Then I just passed the reins together to my right and he got it!  i also turned left with both reins on the same side and he got that too!  I guess it was pilot error - had to learn how to finesse the reins.  And then we turned to the right and I was at his hip for almost a whole turn.  I had no idea how easy that would be.  We'll be ground driving in no time at this rate!
We finished this wonderful session with a great grooming with him ground tied the entire time - he didn't ned me to hand on to the lead, and he stood very, very well.  I groomed him all over and then sprayed him, and took off the lead and walked away.  I'm so proud of him.  Somebody better adopt him soon or it's going to be very difficult to let him go!!!
 

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SECOND E-MAIL ON JULY 24, 2004
Thanks, Marge!
I gotta tell you - it is just sooo much more fun to work with Athens now!  I used to think of teaching him to lead as work - what needed to be done for him to become a productive member of equine society.  Has has always been smart, but he'd rather outsmart me and make it difficult to catch him, or be stubborn about leading.  Now, I look forward to each training session, and keep imagining what I can do next with him!
Thanks again,
Elizabeth

July 28,2004

Ahtens enjoyed relaxing this weekend while I tended to an injury on another horse.  But he certainly didn't refrain from investigating everything I was doing with complete confidence. He really likes to get his mouth on everything.  He's not biting at me, at least.

Maybe it is my imagination, but it seems like he has more confidence lately. He's always been curious, but now he insists on checking everything out immediately. He's been up on my porch quite a few times, and I know if I leave ANYTHING out that it will end up in his mouth sooner than later.

 Monday night, I left the baggies on the harness when I went to put it on, and he was very aware of them, but didn't jump or anything.  We continued our forward progress, practiced turning more, and I decided it would be fun to see if I could get him to stand on the

board if I raised it off the ground a few inches.  I did eventually get him to leave one foot on there, but he would rather walk over it - so I will have to find something wider to work with.  Before I raised it, we practiced crossing it on the ground and I had to back him up in order to put his feet on it.  He was very willing to go back or wherever I asked, just didnt understand that I really wanted him to put his feet on

it.  He wasn't afraid at all, just thought he should walk over it.   Towards the end of the session, I asked him to trot - I started to jog slowly in front of him and slowly increasing tugging pressure on the

leads and it was only a few seconds before he started to trot!  He would take a few steps and then stop - he was trying to figure out what I was asking him to do.  After a few tries, we trotted about half a big circle and we stopped with that - I was very proud of his progress! I decided to take his halter off - I had been leaving it on because he had been a little difficult to catch recently, but he had been coming up to me so much this weekend while I was working on my other horse that I thought I would try it.  It was as though he was jealous and kept asking, "What about ME? When do I get the attention?  Is it my turn YET?"

Last night he was very easy to catch, and the leading with just the halter/lead is continuing to be easier every time.  I use the same gentle constant pressure/tugging that I would with the harness, and he understands that the gentle pressure will go away if he moves forward!  We practiced more turning than usual, and eventually I asked him to turn while standing behind him - and he did great!  He will turn with me standing behind him, but we don't have forward movement - yet!  I just need to get longer leads now.  :) I was filling the trough while we worked, and took him with me to turn off the water, and then draped the hose over him a few times - and although you could see it was a little scary for him at first, he stood there very well for me!  At the end of the session, we reviewed trotting and I couldn't believe how much easier it was already!  We did a whole circle in each direction - and he totally understood what I was asking him to do.  He trotted off almost immediately when I asked, and never got silly or in front of me. I think my favorite part is grooming him.  I suddenly realized - wait, this is a TWO MONTH old horse, ground tying - well away from his mom - while I groom him everywhere from head to toe, fly spray him, etc., and he is so well behaved!  He wasn't this way just over a week ago - what progress!  I have totally changed my paradigm of what a young horse is capable of.  I had no idea before, and now I am already taking it for granted.  I just love being able to love on him, and see how much he loves it too.  There's no fear in his eyes anymore of "what is going to happen next?"  He may think the same thing, but he's looking forward to it instead of being anxious about it.  He's just so relaxed  as he stands while I groom him with one leg cocked, enjoying the

attention.Thanks again,

Elizabeth

July 30, 2004
Over the last few days I have really noticed how much more relaxed Athens is about me walking around him in the field - he doesn't hesitate when I walk towards him at all anymore, and he even let me catch him in the main field without any trouble after he jumped the fence AGAIN...  He's still a little mouthy when he's not in the harness - as my butt will attest to after bending over to pick up a bucket last night ...lol... He's very interested in everything I do, and gets right up close even when I'm bandaging another horse.  If I'm not careful, my wraps are likely to be picked up and gone while I'm not looking. Today I got the harness out and then went in to grab my brushes, and when I came back out there was Athens with the harness in his mouth waving it around!  "Hurry up! I'm ready!" he said.  Once we were tacked up, we reviewed what we have been doing, walking, turning, backing, etc., and then we worked on ground driving.  I stood behind him with one lead in each hand and asked him to turn as obviously as I could by stretching my whole arm out in the direction I was asking him to go.  As he turned, I stayed behind him... and then he started to turn and take one or two steps forward.  Yay!  I praised him and then asked again.... he was a little better at going to the right at first, but he eventually got left turns also.  I confess to pointing in the direction of his mom to help him learn to go forward, and that helped a lot!  We had a few really good forward moves... once towards his mom, and another time away from her.  In fact, he got going once and I had to stop him... I gently asked him to whoa and stopped walking and he got frustrated - wasn't sure what I was asking... I'll have to work on that more by asking him to whoa on a turn, I guess, for a while.  He doesn't understand the pressure on the halter meaning whoa - he's used to me walking in front of him and then just stopping (no pressure) and then he stops.  So tomorrow I'm going to focus more on using my voice commands "walk on" and "whoa" when we're walking forward normally.  That way I hope that
they will pass on to the ground driving more.  I also wrapped the hose over him a few times - attached is a pic.  The hoses are pretty heavy, and he just stood there!  And then as I was taking a picture of him, he walked a step forward to see what I was doing - totally not worried about the hose! As you can see, I have also left the baggies attached to the harness.  He doesn't even think about them anymore - not even when they rattle a lot in the wind, or even his mom comes over and sniffs them and they make more noise.  During our grooming session, I have also started picking out his feet as part of the routine.  He will catch his balance, but other than that stands still
(with just a halter, ground tied) for me to do them!  I am just so excited about all of his progress!!
Elizabeth
 

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