Thursday, October 18, 2007

Rachel and Grandma and Arabian Horses - Lessons Part 4

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.

Lessons Part 1

Before I go on with the lessons I have been teaching Rachel, I want people to understand that these exercises are not for a green or very young horse. Initial work with a horse should always be bigger not smaller movements. A horse has to build up the strength particularly in its legs before this type of small, compact work is tried. To do so prematurely can be harmful to the horse's legs. Training a horse to this point is a gradual process.

Once Rachel and the Arabian horse had the figure eights and serpentines under control, I moved them on to yet another lateral exercise. Lateral work is very important in teaching a horse true collection. To be able to move off to the side the horse must make a deeper driving step from behind and a bigger lift to its back and ribcage to accomplish the lateral move.

Re-enforcing those deeper commitments with repetitions teaches the horse that is the type of response the rider is asking for when applying leg to the horse. The end result is a much more balanced and collected horse.

At this point I still have the cones set 15 feet apart and in the same pattern as mentioned in the first post. I put Rachel on the Arabian horse at the far corner of the arena with the first cone on her left. Then I instructed her to half pass the horse to the left up the channel that is formed by the cones.

That means they travel laterally between the first and second cone on the first row, the second and third cone on the middle row and the third and fourth cone on the last row.

Once they have reached outside all three rows, they change direction and continue to half pass the horse this time to the right up the new channel formed between cones four and five on the near row, five and six on the middle row and six and seven on the last row. Upon reaching the end of this pattern, Rachel and Dandy reverse and go through the channels again perfecting their half pass.

The difficult part of this maneuver is keeping the horse square between the rider's legs and still make it between the appropriate cones. At any time the horse drops a shoulder or trails a hip, speeds up etc, it is evading the degree of collection that is being asked. If a shoulder drops to the right, the rider must apply the right leg and the left rein to straighten the horse back out. If the horse drops out to the left, then the left leg is applied along with the right rein. It is a delicate balance to keep the aids appropriately applied and the horse square.

Along the way through any of these exercises, I have watch closely for Rachel to get the Arabian horse nice and round. Of course, the farther she gets into the exercises the rounder and softer the horse gets. Once they have reached that point of maintaining the collection desirable in the Arabian western pleasure horse, I ask her to lope the horse.

Usually when I ask for the lope, I make up a pattern at the time again utilizing the cones. Sometimes I might ask her to change directions in her figure eight, push the horse laterally off to the outside, release him and ask him to lope. Then lope inside the first cone and outside the second cone (that is approximately a thirty foot circle)

Sometimes I might ask her to start her lope in the center on maybe the fourth cone. I'd have her jog around the fourth cone, again move the horse in a lateral move off her leg to the outside. Release the horse and then ask for the lope. Then I might have Rachel lope around the fourth cone and down to within the second cone but gradually increasing the circle size by moving the horse laterally at the lope until the circle has grown to include the second and fifth cones within its parameters.

I want to be sure when we are doing exercises using the cones that we keep changing up how we accomplish the moves we are asking from the horse. If we just keep repeating the same pattern over and over again, the horse will get bored and will no longer be giving the rider his full attention. That is the last thing we want to have happen. That is one of the reasons I set up so many cones. It gives me lots of options in direction changes and repetitions in a circle etc to change things up to keep the horse's mind fresh and attentive.

Lateral moves at any gait require a deeper movement from behind and more lift in the back. Doing so before before the lope makes the horse push up well underneath himself and results in a smooth collected lope departure.This exercise moving the horse off laterally before the lope departure when it is repeated over and over teaches the horse to round deeply when the inside leg is applied and readies the horse for the transition.

Later when the horse is going down the rail in the show ring, applying that inside leg before the lope departure will cue the horse for the same response. The wall will block the horse from the lateral movement but the horse will still round deeply and be compact for what should be a great lope departure.

Once Rachel and the Arabian horse had become fluid with all of the different variations I could throw at them, I moved them on into the bridle. Because Rachel tends to cheat with her hands and steering, moving to the bridle once again brought the focus back to her working on her leg cues so we went back to the beginning of these exercises and worked our way up as her skill with the bridle improved. By the time the pair had the exercises in the bridle down, it was time for a horse show!

to be continued............

NOTE: We are experiencing wind storms with many areas already without power. So I am posting early. If I'm not back for a while, I'm probably without power.

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  1. And yet another GREAT post! Good idea giving a bit of a "warning" about young/green horses trying these exercises! Hope you don't end up without power and if you won't be for long! Looking forward to your next post! :D

  2. Very fascinating. I'm anxious to read about the show.
    Here's hoping the power stayed on and the winds died down.

  3. I want people to understand that these exercises are not for a green or very young horse. Initial work with a horse should always be bigger not smaller movements. A horse has to build up the strength particularly in its legs before this type of small, compact work is tried. To do so prematurely can be harmful to the horse's legs.

    right on!

    When I was training, I often had owners comment on the fact that I was still riding/working their horses in such large circles after the horse appeared warmed up.

    Young and/or unconditioned horses have no business being put thru exercises that can injure them. Once they have built up their stamina or finished growing, then it is fine.

    Sometimes explaining this to people who think horses should run like machines drove me crazy....

  4. Comment on [ Softening 2 ] & Jumping

    - I wish I did =(. But the barn is private, owned by a friend of ours. She is into reining and so is Tim the trainer that bases his work there. I'm not sure what to do. My parents cannot afford board right now at a facility more geared towards what I enjoy.

    I've been looking for a place to take lessons again though, but my mom just got Errika's bill and money is tight right now. Not to mention we have to build those shelters. Everything just came all at once..

  5. equinespirit, ya, I thought I better put that warning up there in case people didn't realize that Dandy is broke to death and been doing this a while. The exercises were definitely designed with him and RAchel in mind.

    molly, the winds stuck around for a couple of days but we only lost power in blinks! We were very fortunate. Some of my friends were not so fortunate though. They lost power and parts of their roof, fences down, trees etc. We were very lucky.

    barngoddess, I didn't realize that you used to train other people's horses. I could never do that just for the reasons you state.

    Some owners don't really care what's best for the horses, they just want it done and done fast. That's just not my style. Slow and slower at the horse's pace is the only way to go.

    Keri, I know Erikka's bill must be enormous. You are lucky they let you pay it later. Here it is cash at the time or service of forget it.

    I hope you find a good place for lessons soon. That will really help you with Ink.