Friday, January 22, 2010

Jody Strand Clinic - The Red Horse Meets the Long Lines and Jody

Part 1

Up until this rearing horse at the Jody Strand clinic the issues with the horses and riders were the usual things you'd expect when amateurs and junior riders are training their own horses. The horses were not engaged properly mostly because the riders weren't asking enough from the horse.

Most of these horses when asked to give more readily complied. At first with some there was the brief resistance that comes when the horse hits a barrier that wasn't there before. As the horse realized the barrier was firm and the request to move into it was as well, the horses began to roll over and round up.

It seemed to be the routine to start off with some form of long uncollected horse that looked just like any other horse only to see that horse transformed as it began to round up and use itself properly. As the horses began to look more like show horses we'd hear Jody Strand's comments about the improved look. "He's got a cute look." "That's a nice picture" and sometimes it sounded like he was even admitted his surprise to see the horse and rider come together into such a nice look as they learned to work as a team.

A couple of the horses were young with few miles under saddle. Those horses were being asked to give as well, just on a much smaller scale. The emphasis was on them going forward when asked, which is a give in itself.

Once the horse had that request figured out, a little pressure on the inside rein was added to encourage a slight "give" to the bit. The only goal was getting the horse to understand that the pressure is about softening. Releases were encouraged if the the horse even considered a response to help the horse understand the slight pressure was indeed a request and not some unrelated thing getting in the way. Riders who understood this concept soon had horses responding to the pressure with a baby give. It was awesome to watch.

Besides being an outstanding trainer in an assortment of disciplines, Jody Strand is also a judge on the Arabian circuit. Once the horse and rider pairs began this transformation, Jody added not just training tips but tips of how to make the horses and riders look better in the ring. Throughout the clinic it was clear he wasn't just using his trainer eyes to teach, he was using those judge's eyes as well giving the riders a perspective they don't often get.

It was clear throughout this process which horses were the top quality horses and which were not. The differences weren't clear in the way Jody worked with each horse and rider, however. He greeted, schooled and spoke with everyone as if they were his friends and equals in his eyes. It was more in the form of those comments as they came together. If he didn't ask about the level at which some of the kids showed, Jody interjected what he thought their goals could be and the same with the adult amateurs as well.

It was done in such a way I doubt that most really noticed that he was doing it. I guess I tuned into it because one of the reasons I was there was I wanted to know what he thought of my horses. It was nice to see a trainer that stuck his neck out on each and every horse instead of just gushing all over the favorite as some clinicians have done. While others have been totally non committal and stuck strictly to training issues with no other lending of their expertise. The farther we got into this clinic, the more I appreciated Jody Strand who definitely shared himself with us.

With most of the horses we'd seen so far being the usual clinic scenarios, I was really looking forward to seeing Jody work with this rearing chestnut horse in the long lines. I know from experience you never know how the horse is going to respond when the doors are closed that allow him/her to escape. It would be interesting to see what tactics this horse used and what Jody's responses would be.

The horse stood quietly as the saddle was removed and the surcingle applied. From his quiet demeanor you wouldn't think this horse had it in him to do something so dangerous as rearing. It was no time at all and Jody was ready to send the horse out to the end of the lines.

Right from the start Jody put pressure on the horse to step it up a notch and get underneath himself. The horse responded by trying to flip his head up as he threw his shoulder to the outside. Jody countered so quickly snapping the outside line pushing the horse forward as he pulled the inside rein to correct the shoulder, the horse didn't have a chance.

One of the things I've noticed about rearing horses that throw themselves over backwards is they don't mind falling over if they are the one in charge of that fall. They hate, however, if they are caused to fall by a handler pulling them over. I was pretty sure that was one of the things Jody Strand was relying on. If he could make this horse rear and pull him down, he could teach the horse the behavior was too scary to attempt because it could be used against him. He could get this horse to avoid the behavior.

The more and more pressure Jody put on this horse, the less and less the horse resisted. He did attempt the same behavior he'd tried in the beginning to varying degrees but Jody was always right there blocking him.

Some horses might have fought in this situation but not this horse. He figured out quickly he did not want to take on Jody. This horse was smart and knew he'd been outclassed. Before long that horse was doing exactly as he was asked like he'd been doing it forever.

Jody took advantage of the situation to really put this horse through his paces. The horse rounded up beautifully going forward like he'd never thought about doing it differently. By the end of the session the horse was trotting and cantering both ways like a horse ready to go to nationals. It was a beautiful picture.

When Jody was finished with the horse, he rolled up the lines and brought the horse back to his owner. As he approached Jody confirmed my suspicion that he'd intended to pull the horse over given the opportunity. He said the horse was too smart to get himself into the situation and gave up trying before it ever reached that point. Jody chuckled as he said, "He's one smart horse."

I might add here this type of correction is not for the inexperienced handler. A horse could be seriously injured in an uncontrolled fall. Only someone who really understands how to safely do such a maneuver should ever attempt it. It's not something I would ever want to do.........but I was hoping to get the opportunity to see it done correctly. Guess that will have to wait for another day.

This experience with the horse in the long lines gave the owner the opportunity to see how she'd contributed to the horse's behavior. It also gave her the chance to see the horse really could be what she'd hoped. (I heard just this week the horse was sent to a competent trainer and is doing just fine.)

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

The Pretty Bay Horse

Note: this picture is not the horse from the clinic. It is Louie in a pic from my archives.

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  1. Sounds like an excellent clinician. Glad the red horse was able to be worked out of the abit .Its so sad when they learn such a dangerous behavior andd there isn't someone to step in

  2. Wow, sounds like a very productive clinic, especially for the rearing horse. I'm glad he solved that problem.

  3. Well written, fascinating post! I felt like I was watching at the rail! Hope this horse gets the chance it deserves, and that the owner follows through.