Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Work Out Continues - - Day Two......Legs the Ride

With the shenanigans over, I did my usual warm-up of flexing and bending the horse off my legs. These exercises have always been a source of comfort for Legs. Even on some occasions when the horse had experienced something that would make most horses quit, Legs would relax and go back to work easily by beginning with this routine.

In addition to flexing and bening, I decided I'd add some stretches. I taught the horse how to walk out with his head stretched down to the ground several years ago as a way to relax at the end of a work out. Lately I've been incorporating into the beginning of his workout as well. I figured that downward reach would help stretch the muscles out over the horse's back and topline.

Legs is always willing to accommodate the request to drop his head because it gives him the opportunity to smell poop. You just never know what strange horse might have left a deposit while he was gone. Of course, I remind him he's dropping his head in the manner I request and smelling poo is a big no no on my time..........but still, a horse has to try. Doesn't he?

Once the basic warm-up stuff was done, I moved onto more lateral work. Legs does very well with his half passes at a slow trot to the left but those to the right are a bit lopsided. The horse wants to either drop his shoulder out or trail with his hip instead of engaging deep underneath himself. The line he wants to carry his body is not really true.

It takes a lot of support from me to keep the horse in the correct line. Each day brings a little improvement. I know when the half pass is correct this direction, the horse's lope will probably be right too. As the half pass improves so does the lope, that's just the way it is.

After we've worked on the half passes both directions, we moved onto working on the rail. We worked some lots of transitions from the jog to the lope and back. Then from the walk to the lope and back with just enough roll backs and backs thrown in to keep the horse listening instead of anticipating.

Legs is such a smart willing horse, always looking to please, doing what I ask before I ask can be it's own problem. As much as repetions are important to learning for any horse, they can be overdone with a horse that works this hard to please.

Part of the reason for that is the horse may think he knows what the request is.......but he really only has part of it. For example instead of getting a nice rounded tranistion, I may just get a horse putting on the brakes without being underneath himself. That's the last thing I want to reinforce so staying one step ahead of this horse and his thinking are an important part of his training.

I also worked Legs at the lope in little circles moving him off my leg laterally to the outside. Once the circle would get to the width of the arena, I'd go back into the small circle I'd started with and do it all over again. Those lateral moves help get the horse lifting his back like I want.

At the Jody Strand clinic there had been a discussion about what it felt like when the horse lifts its back. Jody had described it as feeling like you're sitting on a big beach ball with a rounded feeling between your legs. To me it feels like the lift is coming right from underneath my seat instead of moving forward from back to front like a wave.

As I worked on these exercises with Legs I searched for that feel. That thing I had been missing before when my horse didn't feel just right, I didn't want to be missing again.

It started off subtly in these early lessons. Sometimes it was hard to tell if it was really there but I had to keep pushing through the exercises convinced if I did them correctly my horse couldn't help but get it right. I was going to have to trust myself until there was physical proof these things were working.

I finished off our session with the stretching exercise again. Then I took my horse to unsaddle him. As I brushed the horse off, I saw those first signs that my horse was working differently than he had before.

Right there at the point of the horse's hips there were rub marks from the saddle. Obviously rub marks are not something I want to have happen. The last thing I need is a horse sore from hair being pulled BUT those marks would not be there if the horse wasn't shortening up his frame much more than he had been. While it might be too early to see muscles building, these marks clearly told the story. We were on the right track.

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

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