How To Teach Your Horse To Stand On A Pedestal

Elisha Harvey on her young horse Finn. He was a quick learner and loved the pedestal! This photo was taken only a few days after his first time standing on the pedestal.

Elisha Harvey on her young horse Finn. He was a quick learner and loved the pedestal! This photo was taken only a few days after his first time standing on the pedestal.

I taught a trick training clinic at Elysium Sport Ponies in Atkinson, ME and one of the popular exercises we did with each horse was to begin working with the pedestal. The pedestal can be a lot of fun and is a great exercise to work on throughout the winter months when it is too cold to ride. I learned how to work with the pedestal with help from the following trainers: Heidi Herriott, Cohn Livingston, and Allen Pogue (by video). As with all training methods there are slightly different ways to approach the process. If one approach isn't working for your horse try to think creatively, the best training happens when you listen to your horse and try out a variety of techniques.

What are the benefits of working with a pedestal?

  • Helps your horse learn to "step-up" which can greatly increase confidence for trailer loading.
  • Gives your horse more self-awareness and better sense of balance.
  • Gives the horse a target and a place to go where he feels more secure.
  • It can help you develop a better relationship with your horse, playing with the pedestal and using it as a reward in liberty work.
  • Helps desensitize the horse for agility, trail classes, and working equitation where they will need to cross a bridge and work with other obstacles.
  • It's fun!!! For both you and the horse!

What type of pedestal should you use?

I bought an aluminum pedestal with a round shape for performing. Douwe learned on this type of pedestal and it was easier to roll around and lighter to carry to shows. The wooden pedestals are much heavier but are more preferable to use at the beginning. A large, square pedestal (around 36" x 36") or a rectangular shape (around 24"x 42") works really well for a beginner horse. If you are interested in purchasing a pedestal please scroll to the bottom of this post for more information. You can also purchase instructions on how to make a pedestal at Allen Pogue's website. Click here: http://www.imagineahorse.com/store-shop-pay/pedestals/

How do you begin?

  • Safe Space: Make sure that you are in a safe training area, an indoor arena, a roundpen, or a paddock that has good fencing. If you have a horse that gets scared easily you will want to be in a safe, relaxing space. However, do not put the pedestal in a stall...you need to have enough space for the horse to move around and for you to move out of the way quickly if the horse spooks or loses his balance.
  • Exercise First: Work with your horse first so that he is calm (riding, lunging, free lunging).  It will be difficult to teach your horse to stand on the pedestal if they have been in a stall all day with no exercise!
  • De-Sensitize: Lead your horse near the pedestal and see how they react, if your horse is really spooky it may take a few days for them to adjust to this new object in their space. If you can leave the pedestal in the ring while you ride that is also helpful for them to adjust. If your horse is really confident and walks right up to it let them sniff it and touch it with their nose. Sometimes I will throw a treat onto the pedestal for the first time so the horse is encouraged to sniff it.
  • First Steps: When your horse is relaxed and interested in the pedestal you can attempt the first "step-up". Some horses will step onto it with no issues, just stay to the side as if you were leading the horse onto a trailer. Do Not Stand In Front of Them! The first time a horse stands on the pedestal they might lose their balance and fall towards you. Make sure to keep your space! When the horse steps onto the pedestal you will ask them to "whoa", using whatever cue you would normally use. If your horse is hesitant you can ask a helper to hold the lead line while you pick up one front foot and "place" it on the pedestal. Oftentimes just setting the toe onto the pedestal is enough to give them confidence. Once their toe is on the pedestal ask the horse to step forward using the lead line. Usually they will transfer weight into that foot on the pedestal and bring up the second foot. 
  • Straightness Using the Wall: If your horse tends to wiggle from side to side around the pedestal you can try placing it against the wall. This will help the horse stay straight, blocking the right shoulder from moving away. Just be careful that the horse doesn't push into you on the left side, make sure that you have determined boundaries with your horse so that they don't crowd into your space. I usually have a dressage whip to lightly touch the shoulder if they want to fall in. You will need the whip to help teach the hind legs to step up as the horse gets more advanced.
  • Always Back Off: You can allow your horse to walk off the pedestal by going forward but this can make it more difficult to get the horse up with all four feet. Every time I ask my horse to get off the pedestal I say "Back" and have him step off the pedestal going backwards. If you imagine that there is a wall in front of the pedestal this will help. However, be careful not to restrict your horse by holding tightly with the lead line, keep it loose and let him find his balance as much as you can. Practice getting off the pedestal multiple times so that the horse starts to anticipate backing off instead of going forwards. Having a verbal "back" cue is helpful when you are riding as well, especially if you are bridleless.
  • All Four Feet: Once your horse is relaxed and confident with the front feet you can start encouraging him/her to step closer to the pedestal with the hind feet using the whip. Lightly tickle the hind end and when they step closer to the pedestal reward them with your voice or a treat. It is important that they get their hind feet really close to the pedestal before they step onto it. This is where a larger pedestal comes in handy. If you have a large pedestal it will be easier for the horse to step onto it with all four feet. You will have the space to walk them up onto the pedestal and tell them to "whoa" once all four feet are up. Continue to back them off using your verbal "back" cue. When that is fairly easy you can decrease the size of the pedestal and the horse will have an easier time figuring it out. If you only have a smaller pedestal to work with it will take more timing and co-ordination on your part. You will be managing the forward energy of the hind end with your whip/voice while keeping the front legs in place with your body/voice/lead line. I would recommend that you seek professional help if your horse finds this part difficult.
Working with Thor, a Haflinger cross at Elysium Sport Ponies in Atkinson, ME. He was proud of himself!

Working with Thor, a Haflinger cross at Elysium Sport Ponies in Atkinson, ME. He was proud of himself!

Good boy! Elisha Harvey (owner/instructor/trainer at Elysium Sport Ponies in Atkinson, ME) having a successful training session with Finn.

Good boy! Elisha Harvey (owner/instructor/trainer at Elysium Sport Ponies in Atkinson, ME) having a successful training session with Finn.

Yay! First day learning how to stand on the pedestal. Finn is very smart and well balanced so he was able to do all four feet on the first day!

Yay! First day learning how to stand on the pedestal. Finn is very smart and well balanced so he was able to do all four feet on the first day!

Working with the younger girls and their school horses. Quigley found it easy to stand with his front feet but he has arthritis in the hind end so that was as far as he went for the day. 

Working with the younger girls and their school horses. Quigley found it easy to stand with his front feet but he has arthritis in the hind end so that was as far as he went for the day. 

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Sandra Beaulieu Performs Demos at the 2014 Equine Affaire

I am so pleased to report that both Douwe and Rovandio did AWESOME in their demos this year! I also had my own booth and was so thankful to have the BEST helpers during the event that not only made everything go smoothly but we had a BLAST, lots of laughs and memories! So here is a daily run through of what we did at the Equine Affaire 2014!

Thursday: Demo at the Youth Pavilion
I schooled both horses in the morning and was really happy that Rovandio had settled in okay and was eating and drinking a lot. This was his first time to the Equine Affaire and only his second time being away from home overnight. Both horses were energetic when I exercised them. Later in the day, Douwe was the featured horse in the Friesian breed spotlight in the Youth Pavilion. He performed many of his tricks including smile, Spanish walk, rear, and standing on the pedestal. He was wonderful! What a ham! Both horses were in the Breed Pavilion to represent the IALHA Booth (International Andalusian Lusitano Horse Assoc.) and the IFSHA (International Friesian Show Horse Assoc.) Booth. Rovy was very tired and mostly just chilled out in the stall but Douwe was a big HAM and smiled for the passing crowds for over two hours! He loved it! Click on a photo for a slideshow and hover over the image for a description.

Friday: the Andalusian Demo
Today was the big day for Rovandio! We had a four-minute time spot in the Andalusian Breed Demo all to ourselves. Originally we were supposed to perform with my friend Lydia who usually dances with us. I thought that would give Rovy more confidence in front of the audience and be more exciting with the veils and dancer. Unfortunately Lydia found out she couldn't make it only days before we left! So I changed songs and made up a simple routine to the song "Sway" from the movie Shall We Dance. I have always loved that song and it matched the Spanish-themed costume I had for Rovy. I tried really hard to get into the Mallory building in the off-hours to let Rovy look at the arena but the schedule was tight and it didn't work out. But, he went into that unfamiliar ring with the big crowd all by himself and was excellent! I was so happy with him and we had a lot of fun performing. We had so many wonderful comments from people about how we were really dancing together and how awesome it was to see a dressage horse being ridden bitless. We were riding in the Beta Bridle by Dr. Cook Bitless Bridle, who generously helped sponsor me at the Equine Affaire. Click on a photo for a slideshow and hover over the image for a description.

Saturday: the Friesian Demo
Douwe's big day! The Friesian Demo! I decided to use our pedestal as a way to help keep him focused if the audience made him nervous. It worked really well because when we first trotted around the arena he was tense and strong. After I had him step onto the pedestal he seemed to be more focused on me and his tricks rather than on spooking at the audience. He was expressive in his Spanish walk, reared a few times, and then I hopped off so that I could ask for the lay down. I am SO happy with him and how he performed throughout the event. Thank you Elisha Harvey for taking a video clip of the demo for me! Click on a photo below for a slideshow and hover over the image for a description.

Thank you to my sponsors!
Dr. Cook Bitless Bridle
They have supported me ever since I started riding Douwe and Rovandio in their bitless bridles. I have used their Beta bridles and the Padded English Leather bridles on both horses and like them both for different reasons. The Beta is easy to clean and is soft right out of the box. The leather bridle is awesome once the high-quality leather breaks in and has a lovely shine. I sell these bridles on my website in the TRAINING section. Click here to see the bridles.

El Sueno Espanol
Lisa Oberman has made two gorgeous bridle & breastcollar sets for me that I have used in two films that my horse has been in, one called Essential Realism and the other Falcyyr. You can read about these films in the Film & TV category on my blog. She is able to make custom bridles for me so I can keep riding them bitless in films and performances. She posts some gorgeous spanish saddles and tack on her Facebook page, click here to follow her.

Aanstadt-Das Deerskin Breeches
I have worn Sonya's deerskin breeches for many years and she recently made a custom pair for the film I am acting in called Falcyyr. To see photos of those breeches click here. I also wore a black pair of full seat deerskin leather breeches in my demos at the Equine Affaire. You can't really see them in most of the photos because I have big skirts on but the breeches kept me comfortable in the saddle. Click here to check out their website.

Thank you to my friends & family at the Equine Affaire!
Without the help of my friends/grooms Elisha Harvey, Sue French and Hannah French I think I would have gone crazy! There was so much to do with a booth and two horses at the event. Elisha does an excellent job trailering my horses to special events and she is also a dressage trainer and does cowboy mounted shooting at her stable Elysium Sport Ponies. Sue French operates Lincoln Pony Pals, lesson barn in Lincoln, ME and her daughter Hannah is an excellent rider and trainer. Having experienced help is so important! I am also very lucky that my mother Peggy and my mother-in-law Bethanne were able to come for the weekend. They helped sell products in my booth and Bethanne had a great time watching her horse Rovandio be in his first big demo at the Equine Affaire! And a big THANK YOU to Danielle Barrasso for letting me stable Douwe and Rovy in her aisle in the C-Barn. She also organized the Friesian Demo and helps me a lot at the event. Thank you to Brenda Hammer for organizing the IALHA booth and I had a great time chatting with her when Rovy was in the breed pavilion. Overall the event was a huge success and I had a great time!
 

Behind the Scenes of Falcyyr: The Ride of the Valkyries!

The costumes turned out beautifully and Ahura and his film crew handmade the amazing armor pieces for the head, arms and legs:

left to right: Myself, Kaylee Clark, Lydia Spencer, and Elisha Harvey wearing our costumes for the first time. Photo taken by Unicovia Pictures.

left to right: Myself, Kaylee Clark, Lydia Spencer, and Elisha Harvey wearing our costumes for the first time. Photo taken by Unicovia Pictures.

I love this photo of Rovandio getting tacked up for filming. His tack was made by Lisa Oberman of El Sueno Espanol. Photo taken by Unicovia Pictures.

I love this photo of Rovandio getting tacked up for filming. His tack was made by Lisa Oberman of El Sueno Espanol. Photo taken by Unicovia Pictures.

Filming a scene like this takes hours of preparation. The film crew arrived at my house around 10:30 AM and we were ready to head over to the barn around 1:00 PM. I had bathed Rovandio in the morning while Lydia Rose Spencer and Kaylee Clarke schooled their horses. Elisha Harvey trailered her horse, Thor, over to Isaac Royal Farm around 10:00 AM.

We were each playing stunt doubles for the other actresses so most of the shots would avoid close-ups of our faces. Lydia had wigs from the Isaac Royal Equestrian Theater for her and Kaylee's characters that have black hair.

I was playing Sinari Diliiza's character as Brunhilda, head of the Valkyrie. She is the main character in the movie. I chose to ride Rovandio because he is more reliable and manageable than Douwe in open fields, galloping with other horses.

Lydia Rose on Zeppelin, leading the way up the pine trail. Photo taken by Unicovia Pictures.

Lydia Rose on Zeppelin, leading the way up the pine trail. Photo taken by Unicovia Pictures.

It was damp and chilly when we took the horses out to the woods and Elisha's horse Thor was quite hyper! He is normally a very lazy horse, but today he was ready to go and not fond of the repetitive walking scenes. We started by walking down the trail past the cameras many, many times so they could film the horses from multiple angles. It was great for the other horses to start out slowly and work our way up to the galloping scene. We did some trotting shots and also cantering our favorite trail we call "the Pines". This field is on my property and is picturesque with planted pine trees all around the slightly uphill trail. The leaves were covering the ground so it was still beautiful even though the trees were a little sparse from all the rain and wind we had last week.

The director, Ahura, had us stay side by side, starting from a halt, then a few steps walk, trot and away we went! The horses were well-behaved, though Lydia's Friesian mount, Zeppelin, through in a buck.

It is hard to see us but this shot shows us galloping by Ahura as he films the close-ups. Photo credit: Unicovia Pictures.

It is hard to see us but this shot shows us galloping by Ahura as he films the close-ups. Photo credit: Unicovia Pictures.

After the horses were done with the galloping scene he needed to get close-ups of the real actresses on the horses for their lines. It was interesting to watch the horses' reactions...when Ahura would say, "Action" they would stand perfectly still and almost hold their breath! It only took a few tries to get the scene the way he wanted it.

Awesome photo of Sinari Diliiza on Rovandio. She was the actress that I played stunt rider for in the galloping scene. Photo credit: Unicovia Pictures.

Awesome photo of Sinari Diliiza on Rovandio. She was the actress that I played stunt rider for in the galloping scene. Photo credit: Unicovia Pictures.

The horses were very patient and seemed content to much on grass in between takes. It was a lot of fun and I think everyone enjoyed it!

Filming the close-ups. Left to right: Ahura Diliiza filming, Kaylee Clark on Gambit, Lydia Spencer on Zeppelin, Sinari Diliiza on Rovandio, Taus on Thor and Elisha Harvey hiding while holding the horse! Photo credit: Unicovia Pictures

Filming the close-ups. Left to right: Ahura Diliiza filming, Kaylee Clark on Gambit, Lydia Spencer on Zeppelin, Sinari Diliiza on Rovandio, Taus on Thor and Elisha Harvey hiding while holding the horse! Photo credit: Unicovia Pictures


Awesome Website for Costume Corsets

Would you like to dress up with your horse? Need a corset for your costume? I found this website last fall and have ordered at least 3 corsets from them already. Their steel boned corsets are really high quality and I love the way they look. The only downside to a steel-boned corset is they are impossible to get into by yourself! You need someone to help lace you in and it can be quite an ordeal! They also have corsets for every budget and sell different styles like steampunk (my favorite!) and burlesque. Check them out, I highly recommend this website!! Here are a few photos of the corsets I have purchased from them and incorporated into recent costumes. Elisha Harvey is also wearing a corset from their website (in the first photo).

Check out their website: http://www.corset-story.com/

Rovandio's First Time off the Farm!

Rovandio (aka Rovy) is owned by my mother-in-law, Bethanne Ragaglia. She has owned him since he was young and never needed to trailer him anywhere. This year (2014) I wanted to start taking him to shows with my Friesian gelding, Douwe, and using him for exhibitions. I wanted to make sure that he wouldn't be overwhelmed by the trailer or develop anxiety over the trailering process. My good friend, Elisha Harvey, trailered Douwe and Rovy to her barn, Elysium Sport Ponies, a few miles down the road from where Douwe and Rovy live, for me to see how Rovy would react to being off the property. With grass in his hay net and Douwe by his side we made the short trek to Elysium.

Rovy was a little excited when he unloaded but settled in like he had lived there forever! I was amazed at how well-behaved he was. I wasn't planning to do much with the horses, other than to let them free in the ring and take the time to relax, but within 5 minutes they were ready to do something. We practiced our routine where I ride Rovy and Douwe is at liberty. Elisha and Bethanne took some photos for me; her indoor ring has a lot of light so we were able to get some good shots. It was such a wonderful experience!