Sitting. Who would have thought we’d have six horses sitting at Winsong Farm! Not me!
Eleven years ago I went to Austin, Texas for a weekend one-on-one session with Allen Pogue. He showed me horses sitting on bean bags, horses pushing a big ball, standing up on pedestals, moving around on rotating top pedestals, fetching objects, working at liberty. It was an amazing time.
Within months we had several pedestals at Winsong Farm, including rotating top ones. A few years passed and I ordered some bean bags from Allen Pogue. I’d bitten the bullet and decided I’d try to teach the horses how to sit.
I started with Zelador. Over a period of two or three years I familiarized him with the bean bag, placing it under him, on top on him, behind him and in front of him. I dragged it around so he could hear the sound it made. Allen Pogue uses a huge pile of shavings in a corner of a stall and backs the horses into it. I flirted with that technique. Zelador got to the point where all four feet were close to each other. He was able to bend both hind legs, lowering his rump towards the beanbag. We were missing that one final element: lowering his rump to the beanbag and lifting his hind hooves off the ground.
One day I contacted animal communicator, Lauren Bode, and asked her to join me in teaching Zelador. I also phoned Sue Parker who trains all types of animals for movies, tv, commercials, etc. to help. One coolish winter day the three of us met in the arena with Zelador. Lauren talked to him while Sue and I were on each side of the horse, guiding him backwards to the beanbag. Zelador SAT!
A few months later I started teaching Zeloso how to sit. Lauren joined me along with Bill and Ron. Zelador demonstrated sitting several times. Believe me when I say, “Horses learn through imitation. Having a horse that sits sped up the learning process. Zeloso sat. That same day Lauren said, “Pax wants to sit.” Within a few days Pax was sitting.
A few years passed. Spring Song joined us in 2014. I asked Lauren Bode if Spring Song would like to sit. She said, “Spring’s not ready. She doesn’t think her hind legs are strong enough.
Dora the pony came to learn games at Winsong Farm last winter. She sat almost instantly. She had the three boys demonstrating sitting on a bean bag.
This year I asked Lauren again if Spring Song would like to learn how to sit. This time the answer was, “Yes!” This was good news. I then asked Lauren, “What does Angel think about sitting.” Lauren said Angel would like to learn, too.
As you can see in the video we have two people with the horse:
I did the usual preparatory work of placing the beanbag all around the horse. I also worked on backing up in a straight line and having the hind legs touch the bean bag.
On several occasions Zelador and Dora demonstrated the sit for Spring Song and Angel.
Today we stared with Dora sitting for the two horses. We also ended the session with Dora sitting. Dora DOES loves being the centre of attention.
We used the wall of the stall to help the horse remain straight. Because Dora sits with the wall to her right we started both Spring Song and Angel with the wall to the right. However, we quickly learned that Spring Song and Angel did much better with the wall to the left. When it was on the right side of these horses they bulged the left side of the hind quarters away from the wall and nowhere near the beanbag. This was very easy for them to do. Putting this strong side of the body against the wall helped us keep them straight.
We also learned to lift the tail to the side. Spring Song’s tail is quite long and she’d get it pinned behind her against the beanbag and that pretty much stopped all movement.
We used a single mattress under the beanbag to raise the height so sitting wouldn’t require a big drop downwards.
We have three beanbags and we used the beanbag that has the greatest amount of stuffing. We kept the training sessions short and positive.