Since arriving the day before the USDF Region 3 Championships, Hagrid has settled in rather nicely. He has become quite the novelty at Gallifrey, many visitors comment on his size, his dashing good looks or his rather feminine whinny. What I love about him (and ultimately was a big deciding factor in getting him) was how personable he is. He loves people, is sweet and gentle and overall a well mannered horse. I can work with this, I told myself.
His first days of work was like any other horse I've started. Take time in the stall to get to know him by long grooming sessions, then slowly introduce him to the concept of staying at my shoulder and moving him around his stall. This eventually leads to us walking outside to the arena and working the basics of Heeding.
The length of this process really depends on the horse. Hagrid is very young, though he might be mighty in stature he is young in maturity. It's so easy to forget that inside that 17.3 hand pony is a freshly turned 4 year old. He needed a lot longer to get comfortable with me on his right side, and it took a few times for him to get used to our farriers electric tools. But he still got it, checked it off our list and moved on to the next step.
Eventually Heeding turns in to lunging simply by Heeding at a distance. Nothing changes but how far away he is from me. His attention span dictates when and how far I can get him from me. As we just started out he needed to be really close to me to still want to pay attention (HEED, get it?) to me. Hagrid is a pretty smart beastie and a lot of what I'm showing him to do, he picks up rather quickly and it has made for rather enjoyable training. Once I can heed him from a distance (see also lunging), then I start to do more silly things to him like climb all over him, throw myself at him, run around, put a saddle or surcingle on him, etc. If he gets nervous, or anxious I simply move back down the ladder to a solid rung, something he understands and knows what I'm asking to relax him.
I suppose when I think about it, my process might be a lot slower than others but I don't care. I want a happy and willing partner at the end of all this. I start every horse (even those in training whom I know will leave soon after) with a long term goal in mind. I take my time and build a relationship so that if they do stay with me long term the end goals are better from a solid foundation. Slow and methodical, thats my game!
When I introduced the saddle, I started with Heeding again to give him something secure to focus on rather than "what is this new thing on me?!". Then out to lunging, then back to the mounting work, and eventually Heeding with me on him. Thats how it works. Introduce something new? Start at the bottom again!
So, what do I have to show for two months of work? A pretty solid citizen who lets me scramble all over him, put on a bridle and saddle with no fuss or moving around in his stall. A horse that stops when I breathe out, trot on when I jog a few steps and (usually) canters when I make a skip step. He also allows me to lay on him while he's walking, slide off his butt without a care and is now learning to start and stop from seat and leg pressure with the help of a ground person. Now that I'm being lunged on him, the ground person takes over my heeding job from the ground so that Hagrid can start to piece together the heeding aids to the seat and leg aids. When those two become one, then we go free and there should be a solid understanding of basic go and whoa and a bit of steering from the seat and leg by that time.
Remember, good training should be as exciting to watch as grass growing. If it keeps you in anticipation for theatrics, you're doing it wrong!