Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Jody Strand Clinic - The Problem

The Adventure Begins

Part 1

Right from the start of my ride at the clinic my Arabian horse was not the smooth round horse he'd been the last time I'd ridden him. Instead of the ride I'd gotten for my class at the US All Arabian Horse National Championships, I had the horse I'd been riding about a month before I'd even left for Tulsa. Most of the progress since then seemed to be lost.

It was clear from this that my horse was indeed fatigued. It took everything I had to get the horse pushed together and then Legs didn't hold it. I was wishing I hadn't elected to ride him spur less. This horse at this time needed all the help he could get. The added reminder of my spurs lifting up his ribs would have been a big help getting the horse up underneath himself.

Jody Strand stood on the ground commenting when the horse looked good. He also let me know when he thought he needed to be just a bit more round. Even at that point where Jody thought he was good, I was still saying the same thing, "He may look right but he doesn't feel right." just like I'd been telling Angie and Richard.

I knew fatigue was definitely affecting this ride or I would have had the horse I'd been riding more recently. Legs is not a horse to digress without a good reason but fatigue didn't change the under lying issue. There was a reason the horse didn't feel right even when he looked good to those on the ground. That's why I was at this figure out what in the heck that reason was.

We worked a bit more until my legs were exhausted. Then I asked Jody if he wanted to get on the horse to see what I meant. He nodded, "Sure, I'd love to ride this horse."

We lengthened the stirrups another three holes which I've never had to do before. I'm used to shortening the things, but lengthening, never. We talked a bit about being tall but short waisted and how that affects the picture of such a rider on a horse. Because our length is from the waist down we can get by with a smaller horse.

The total picture of suitability of horse to rider is affected by someone towering over the top of a horse. Our legs may hang down but from the waist up we look much shorter than we actually are. It's that height over the top of the horse that judges really notice making it easier for people built like us to get away with riding a smaller horse.

Just for the record, that smaller horse must have lots of presence. A small horse with no presence will always look like a small horse. A small horse with a ton of presence most people won't even notice the horse is small unless they stand right next to them. My first show horse was only 14.2 and that's stretching it but he had a big attitude. We looked great together and did our share of winning in the ring despite my near 6 foot frame and his short end of the breed standard size because he carried himself like a big horse.

Once we'd finished our discussion on our tallness and the length of our legs, Jody Strand climbed aboard Legs. It didn't take long for him to have the answer. "He's not using his back."

At the sound of those words, the light bulb went on. It made perfect sense to me. Of course, the horse wasn't using his back. That's why I had found him not to have the correct muscle tone over his back and croup when I'd body clipped him for nationals. I'd forgotten about those findings in all the stress of my trip but now they jumped to the forefront in my mind.

Not using his back explained a lot of things. There were lots of symptoms to support this diagnosis. The horse wanted to raise up out of the bridle before he rolled over each time I asked for more. He needed that light support in the bridle. If I tried to let go of him, the horse just fell apart. All those things scream of a horse not using his back.

The one real question I had was how can a horse pick up it's shoulder without really rounding its back properly. Jody and I both agreed on the answer. The horse has talent, lots of talent..............a less talented horse could never pull it off. That's how the horse could look good from the ground but feel just "not right."

Jody continued working on Legs as my mind raced through all the signs I'd missed. Well, I guess I didn't really miss them. I knew they were a problem and I knew what I needed to fix them. I guess I just hadn't but the name to what was causing the problem. Having that information just made things a whole lot clearer. It gave me the courage of my convictions, if you will.

As Jody rode my horse, he commented with a laugh, "This guy makes you work." I nodded in agreement. It was nice to have someone understand what it's like to ride this horse.

Teaching Legs how to use himself properly has definitely been work. It's been the kind of work that means riding each and every step or else you never make progress. The horse literally needs to be held together with legs wrapped around him holding him, pushing him to get it. Once the horse gets strong enough to maintain he won't require that kind of work. Then he'll carry himself like he should.......but not until then.

By the time Jody was responding with solutions, they were already running around in my head. I knew exactly what to do to fix this problem. I'd put the horse back into the snaffle and work on lots of transitions and roll backs and even a little back now and then just to mix things up so the horse didn't anticipate. That's exactly what Jody said. Oh, and Jody said emphatically, "I'd be riding this horse with spurs!"

Once Jody had finished playing with Legs he handed him back to me. "Nice horse" was his closing comment as I took my horse and walked out of the arena.

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

Getting to the Second Horse

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  1. Thank you, Jody. We know our Legs is nice. Minus spurs, rounded or not, we know.

  2. It's actually good that Legs was being 'off' so that his problem showed up. It's also good that you got Jody to ride Legs. That way, he could feel the real issues. Sounds like you had a productive clinic and know what to do now. That's great!

  3. Sometimes it just takes another set of eyes for us to see what is going on! Sounds like this clinician was very good