Friday, October 12, 2007

Rachel and Grandma and Arabian Horses - The Lessons

The first post of the Rachel and Grandma and an Arabian Horse series was posted several months ago and documents Rachel's journey on her way to her dream of competing one day at the Arabian and Half Arabian US National Championship Show.

We left off with Rachel and Grandma and the Arabian horse, Dandy at the fund raising ride that the Daffodil Arabian Horse Assc sponsored for St. Jude's Children's Hospital. It was nice to give the horse a break from arena work and take him out on the trails for a while but after his adventure, I think it's back to the arena for him. My heart can't take anymore excitement with him.

So it's back to then arena for more collected work. Rachel and the Arabian horse have finally made it out of the corner where I had them confined doing the exercises explained here. Once Rachel had mastered that tight figure eight in the corner it was time to move on to something more complicated.

I started her off by setting up three rows of cones coming down the arena fifteen feet apart. (this measurement was based on dimension requirements for a jog maneuver in trail class) The middle row of cones ran right down the center line of the arena. Then the other two rows were fifteen feet to the right and left of the center cone. With this configuration, there were lots of different ways to work patterns.

Again, I was trying to make it easy for the horse to do the right thing while teaching Rachel how to be effective with her aids. By focusing on maneuvers, I was giving Rachel a goal she could see and feel. If the horse didn't respond to the aid or Rachel didn't apply it correctly, Rachel would know immediately because they wouldn't be completing the maneuver.

To not throw her too big a loop, I started her off with the figure eights like they had been performing in the corner. While in the corner the horse had the physical boundary provided by the wall to "force" him up under himself or he'd crash into the wall. Now, I had Rachel execute the first circle of the figure eight between the first and second center cone and the second circle between the second and third center cone.

This gave Rachel and the horse a visual barrier but the physical barrier of the wall was gone. Rachel and Dandy had become quite effective with the maneuver in the corner with the wall, however, the transition to the center of the arena between the cones was difficult. Without the barrier the wall provided Rachel needed to be more accurate with her timing and stronger with her legs.

Removing the help of the wall also exposed Rachel's dependency on her rein instead of her leg for steering. Of course, Rachel wasn't open to being told she was steering with her rein. She insisted she was using only her leg. I had to catch her with her inside hand clear back to her hip to convince her my observation was correct. The problem she was having with the horse falling in on the circle was being caused by her use of her aids.

To keep the horse paying close attention instead of going on auto pilot, I had Rachel work her way down the cones doing the same figure eights. Sometimes she would double up on a circle as well. It took several passes up and down the length of the arena within the confines of the cones for Rachel and the Arabian horse to finally get their stride.

Rachel is a perfectionist and she expects it yesterday. So taking an entire session to get the hang of a new exercise seems to come with some tears. She gets frustrated and wants to quit but there's little chance of that with Grandma.

I push her through the meltdown. Somehow she finds that extra bit she needs to get it together. I don't know if the tears wash out the cobwebs or what, but the next thing you know she's finally following directions and riding as instructed.........and doing really pretty figure eights.

To be continued................

Part 2

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  1. Great entry! I love this "Rachel and Grandma" series. It's very educational and quite inspiring! Glad you push her through the tears and are able to accomplish what you're trying to teach in the lessons. Not getting something right on the first try causing frustration isn't fun for a perfectionist...LOL! Believe me...I know!! ;) Can't wait to read more!

  2. wow that sounds great but also kinda confusing.. i mean i understand whatyour sayin.. and i think i get the point but it still seems confusing, neat as all get out though;)

  3. It's amazing how some circle exercises can make such a big difference. We are now schooling a new one that is really helping with Kaswyn's balance, suppleness, and throughness during changes of direction. It's tough but after two sessions I can already feel a difference!