Sunday, June 8, 2014

Mo Parga Clinic

Mo Parga has, for a number of years, conducted clinics and trainings for police horses in the San Diego area and perhaps beyond. She's an interesting lady and clearly she has been successful in performing sensory training on horses.

This clinic was at Oakzanita Ranch, located just outside the Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. Daniela and Eclipse were able at the last minute to get in, so I loaded Hoss up early on Sunday morning and we drove first to Imperial Beach to pick them up.

Overall it was a great day. The first part of the clinic involved doing some weird stuff which allegedly caused endorphin release. The idea is to calm the horse through various methods of touch. I'm not convinced it really works, but whatever. The first was the rub the horse's gums, then the hollows above the eyes, the tips of the ears, squeeze the withers in front of the saddle, and rub the hollow along the spine in front of the pelvis. Hoss liked some of these techniques, and I expect the ones he appreciated probably induced an endorphin release, but I'd argue any touch the horse likes would accomplish that.

Once we were done with the hocus pocus stuff, we headed out to the obstacles. There were quite a few set up.

The first thing I decided to try was the Gauntlet, a set up of a framework of PVC with flappy bits attached. Hoss walked right through it, no trouble. And that's pretty much where the "OK" ended.

Hoss has always been resistant to opening gates. The "gates" at this even were ropes strung between poles. This seemed to be a set up he might be willing to let me try. No go. There was no getting him alongside the rope for me to unhook the end. When Mo handed me the end, he promptly backed up until it was out of my grasp. Oh yeah. He's gonna be working on that one.

Another obstacle was a mattress to walk over. Hoss has habitually approached such obstacles with aplomb and gone right over. Not this day! It took a lot of circling, and following Mo's horse, before he finally capitulated and walked over it.

When we approached the obstacle with the pool noodles set up horizontally so the horse would be touched on both sides by them, Hoss definitely didn't want to go through. When he saw Eclipse on the far side, he went, but wouldn't do it again.

The trash pit I figured would be no challenge. We ride in the Tijuana River Valley, after all, and it's just this side of a landfill. Instead, I asked him to cross, and he gave me a whole lot of trouble. Daniela and Eclipse walked right through it without a moment's hesitation. Hoss just acted like he'd never seen any such thing.

Why would I walk through that???
Another obstacle Hoss had particular trouble with was the backing up between cones. He would back up anywhere except between the cones. He doesn't like to back between any sort of objects, so this will be another one we need to fix.

The pole held by the rider at one end and resting on a barrel at the other we were able to work out. The idea is to hold the pole and ride a circle without allowing the pole to fall off the barrel. We started out by simply riding a circle around the barrel. Next, the assistant held the pole next to us as we rode around. Then, I took hold of the pole and rode around. It went very well, and I was quite proud of my boy in spite of the silly behavior he had been engaging.

We all lined up, and a girl came up the line on crutches. Hoss was more interested in whether or not she had carrots than the crutches.

After the line up, several flags were brought out. I was pretty confident in Hoss's ability to deal with this one, and took one pretty quickly. I was able to unfurl it without so much as a flinch, and even passed it over Hoss's back without trouble.

Overall, Hoss did okay. There were a few things I would have liked to have go better, and I really did expect better of him than I got. Still, it revealed some things we really need to work on, and showed I do have a pretty good horse, even if he has a few "holes."

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