Tuesday, December 23, 2008

More on Riding

Part 1

The picture above is of Scandalous Dare. She is bitted up (tied a little to one side with one rein) to teach her to "give. " The expression on her face, in her eye, shows that thought. She is thinking.... trying to figure out where she can find relief from the pressure.

When I am working with a young horse on the ground teaching them to give to pressure, I am watching for that look. I will give the horse a release just for having that soft look. That teaches my horse that softening is the answer.

The softer the horse gets, the bigger the give from the horse. It's all about building blocks......starting out small and working towards that bigger and bigger release. I find that the horse that gets those first releases for "trying" usually learns much faster than the horse that must find the release with a big give.

Also during the course of the discussion in the comments on jme's blog, Glenshee Equestrian Centre , lots of questions have been asked and some problems relayed. One of those by Laughing Orca Ranch about a barn sour horse.

I believe the solution to that horse that doesn't want to leave the barn lies in having a truly soft and responsive horse. A horse that is refusing is doing his/her own thinking instead of listening to what the rider wants. In other words, the horse is being resistant to the rider's requests. For me the solution is based in getting the horse to change it's focus and turn it back over to the rider. .

For me everything goes back to the basics, flexing and bending, moving off my legs always works getting the mind of a horse engaged. If the horse's mind is on me, it can't be on other things like it's own fear or expectations. Flexing and bending and lateral work are difficult tasks for a horse and require his/her whole attention. The horse cannot be concentrating on resisting and doing this kind of work at the same time. The result is a horse that softens and listens.

I actually use those tools before I ever get on a horse for the first time. Making sure they know how to give to pressure from the rein and move off my legs before I ever get on, not only gives me steering (which is really important to me at my age), but tools to use if I need them.
Then I can use those tools right from my very first ride. Then when I have a young horse that is worried when I climb aboard, he/she quickly forgets about worrying when they recognize the exercise I am asking them to do. He/she can settle into paying attention and working on what I'm asking him/her to do.

Engaging the mind of the horse is half the battle in fixing most problems, I think. I've found by using these tools to do that anytime I have resistance I end up with a horse that comes around easily and can cope with about anything.

Thinking of how I would fix this particular problem of the barn sour horse reminded me of a couple of incidents I haven't posted as yet. I'm going to share these stories with you so you can see the dramatic changes that occured pretty easily in the horse.

I've had a couple of real horror stories over the year where my horse was frightened right out of his head. Then I was called to do a public exposition before a crowd of several hundred people.

Getting on the horse under these circumstances wasn't easy. Once I'd accomplished that and asked my horse to begin to move off my legs, he came around easily to give me what I wanted. We went on to give an awesome performance.

Thinking about it, I really should post in detail about those situations so the extent of the trauma can be seen. Riders don't realize how much they can overcome with a few little basics in their bag of tricks. It's really not all about pulling on the horse's face in an emergency that get results. It's getting into the horse's head and getting his/her mind on the rider's requests.

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

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  1. Good post, it's always better to have a thinking horse, who knows what you want when you ask for it, especially a young horse. I'll be looking forward to more posts on how you work with them to 'give to pressure'.
    Merry Christmas to you and your family.

  2. Great post!

    I too agree with a soft suble horse. I love ours that at the slightest pressure they give to you.


  3. Merry Christmas Mikael. Enjoy the snow if you can!

  4. Your comments on the horses mind rings very true with my training philosophies and how I approach training. Harry Whitney who is a clinician I have followed for years really focuses on this. It has made all the difference in the world for me in working with horses that are a little more "high strung". If I have the brain , I have their feet, if I have their feet, the opportunities are endless...

  5. Arlene, I agree and since Arabians are always thinking about something it's better to have them thinking about what you want or they can find trouble for themselves.

    kwdhorses, that would be my goal, horses just like that!

    kathy c, wouldn't you know it, it's raining today. I don't think they expected this. Me, I was still hoping to get more pictures. I hadn't taken any yet of the creek. It just figures! LOL

    Joana, I learned this approach from Harvey Jacobs, an old cowboy. Sounds like he and Harry Whitney are on the same page.

    I went to Harvey seeking help with my stallions. He opened up a whole new world for me.

  6. Good post. Whenever I'm nervous or if my horse is nervous, I always go back to simple exercises to get the horse paying attention to me and to get ME paying attention to the horse. Shoulder-in, leg-yield, etc. Always remembering to keep the rein soft and giving, not always the easiest when I'm scared to death up there. But, it does work to keep me focused instead of paniced.

  7. I love "tying" around. That is what I call it. I too am a firm believer in flexing and bending. I was taught, "When all else fails, break it down and bend or counter bend." Basics are a definate. Great post!!

    I hope your trainer is feeling better after that fall. And I hope you had a wonderful Christmas!!

  8. MiKael your last paragraphs ring true for me when I had my fall a few months ago, I panicked and hauled her head around too hard and on a slope which had he outcome of me under the horse, so I can't blame her for the fall, it was my fault, not staying calm and riding through the problem in a sensible manner. I over-reacted and so did she which resulted ina wreck.