Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Work Out Continues - - Day Two......Tag

The next horse to ride in that horse trailer load was Tag, the horse I had taken to the Jody Strand Clinic. At that clinic the horse had been much faster than usual. I figured it was more about the strange surroundings instead of the fact he'd not been worked in at least a couple of months. The horse had just been bitted up and lunged the day before. This day was my first day to ride.

Before I rode on this second day I bitted the horse up and lunged him just like I had the previous day. This horse is just learning about moving into a barrier. I believe that bitting a horse up helps him understand the concept of getting a release from rounding into the bit .

When the horse rounds up into the pressure of the bit, the release is instantaneous because pressure on the rein is alleviated by the shortening of the horse's frame. When teaching this concept in the long lines, the release is delayed by the reaction time of the handler. That delay comes time it takes for the handler to see the horse has rounded before he/she can give the release to the horse.

That delay can add seconds to the release. It is a proven fact the sooner the release, the easier it is for the horse to understand what is asked. While I do appreciate being able to teach many things in the long lines, I believe adding the step of bitting the horse up first makes it easier for the horse to understand the release for is about rounding into the pressure.

It's like John Lyon's said those many years ago, the more steps you can use to teach a horse, the easier the horse will learn. It's certainly been true for me when teaching my young horses to round up as the move into the barrier provided by the bit.

Tag did pretty well with this exercise the first day. I started with the rein just short enough he could bump into it without really having to be in the full frame I was seeking. As the horse became comfortable with hitting the pressure of the bit and giving to it, I gradually shortened the length of the rein. Before we were finished the horse was rolling over pretty darn close to a true hunter frame. More importantly the horse showed little signs of stress even though he was learning a brand new skill.

On this second day the horse settled into the process very quickly. It took half the amount of time to get the horse rounding up his frame and rolling over into the bridle when I pushed him with a cue to go forward. Granted the horse was not always square when accomplishing this but that would come later. For now all I really wanted was the horse to go forward, round up and give.

Asking for these three things might sound like a lot and it would be if this was the first time the horse was being asked to do all of these things. However, this horse has a solid foundation in going forward, rounding and lifting his shoulder when asked to go forward. The new part of this task was the give to the bit.

I worked the horse just enough in this manner to get him warmed up and to reinforce the lesson of the day before. Then I moved on to riding the horse. I was interested to see if this new stage of training would reflect immediately on his time under saddle or if it would take a while for it to carry over.I remember Mike Whelihan telling my friend once that what he gets in the long lines it takes at least two weeks to see under saddle.

Once I was aboard the horse, I began my usual flexing and bending type warm-up. Tag is used to me moving him off my legs and he is actually very good at lateral movements for such a green horse. I would imagine this use of the aids has also helped in the horse's easy grasp of giving to the pressure of the bit when he's asked to go forward.

It was when I asked the horse to move down the rail at the trot that I saw how much Tag had retained of the exercise of being bitted up. The horse rounded up and rolled over fairly easily. Of course, the horse didn't hold that position but he clearly grasped the idea he was to move into the bit and roll over. By the time we made our third trip around the arena at the trot the horse was holding the position unless distracted by something going on around him.

I knew the canter would be more difficult. Yet even at that gait the horse was moving up into the pressure and rolling over. He didn't stay there nearly as long, nor did he work up to that point on this first ride but he consistently attempted to do what was asked. It would take time building muscle for the horse to accomplish this.

The other thing that was really cool about this ride was the horse wasn't bothered by his surroundings like he had been at the clinic. Right from the start his trot was smooth and engaged and not the strong pushy trot he'd started off with at the clinic.

The same thing was true at the canter. The horse departed into the canter without speeding up at the trot and cantered off at a reasonable rate of speed. He didn't try to compensate for the difficulty of rolling over by increasing his speed either.

All in all it was a nice training session for a horse that has gotten some pretty intermittent training over the last few months. That's one of the things I really like about these horses, they have such great minds. They retain their lessons even without consistency and are willing to give you everything they've got.

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

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  1. Your horses do sound wonderful! I would love to see more pics.

  2. Wonderful. Those very positive sessions are worth a million dollars and keep us coming back. How old is Tag? He seems very mature.

  3. Tag certainly seems to be grasping things quite well!