Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Making of a Hunter Horse.......Wendy Potts....Horse Issues....

Part 1

In the category of broke horses at the Wendy Potts clinic there were the usual things you'd expect to see. There were horses down on the forehand. Horses ignoring riders' legs. Horses just not paying attention. Horses not driving off their hind ends. Horses locked up in the shoulders and/or ribcage. Horses heavy in the bridle.

All of these issues, of course, come back to going forward. A horse that is going forward properly wouldn't be doing any of these things. The solution lies in what is preventing that particular horse from going forward like it should.

The answer can be simple but it also may be complicated depending on the individual situations. In many instances riders were using draw reins to deal with issues and, as Wendy Potts explained, draw reins can become a dependency and therefore a part of the problem.

Horses that are consistently ridden off of draw reins learn they can brace against the apparatus at the base of their necks. Such horses can get locked up into the shoulder and even beyond which further complicates their ability to go forward. The degree of locking up is directly proportional to how much pressure is exerted against the horse with this aid. You cannot fix a "needs to go more forward" issue with a draw rein. It will only complicate things.

When Wendy Potts feels the need for something more in an aid, she uses the German martingale. The nature of the martingale prevents a horse from being able to lean on the aid at the base of the neck like can be done with draw reins so the horse cannot become dependant on it. It promotes self carriage so the rider should have the same response from the horse once the aid is removed.

There were lots of horses moved from draw reins into German martingales at this clinic when Wendy Potts rode them. Then Wendy set about the lateral movement both to the inside and to the outside. To her it's important the the horse knows how to move lateral both directions at all gaits.

Once Wendy Potts rode these horses it depended on each's ability to move laterally off her legs what she did with these horses. If they were locked up, she used the same exercise she'd used with the young horses to teach that horse how to open up its stride and move deeper underneath itself. If the horse understood lateral movement, she worked the horse both ways of the ring bending the horse around her leg to the inside and moving towards the wall. Then she'd bend the horse around her leg to the outside moving the horse towards the inside. Picture a horse weaving in and out of traffic to "see" the line of travel that could result.

To accomplish this bending around her leg, Wendy Potts moved the horse's head by lightly pulling on the rein to the point where she could just see the horse's eye. Then she applied the same leg as the rein side and opened up the opposite leg to allow the horse to move through to that side. All the while, Wendy Potts made sure she was giving short releases on the shorter rein to encourage softness in the horse.

Many times throughout this clinic Wendy Potts reminded us a horse will only pull as hard as he is being pulled against. Riders make heavy horses by not giving enough releases.

All I can say to that is "Amen!" Although I must admit that sometimes it is easy to go so focused on a response that the little releases are forgotten while waiting for that point to give a big one. When it dawns on me my horse is leaning on me, I know immediately that it's my fault and I have to focus on those little gives from me as much as looking for the big one from the horse.

It occurred to me as I was watching Wendy Potts riding her horses by moving them in and out in this lateral fashion that a horse that is used to the kind of lateral movement would also be less likely to drop a lead at the hand gallop. Lots of times in the ring riders can be seen cutting across the arena to avoid traffic and the horses swapping leads behind from the sharp turns. This happens because the horses are not used to such maneuvers and don't have the added strength it takes to accomplish them without dropping that lead. The continual use of lateral movement would build the type of strength necessary to hold a lead even in the tightest of situations.

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

More Issues

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  1. thanks for the informative synopsis of this clinic. i see that the german martingale does exert less leverage than draw reins. but i wonder how much less, exactly?

    since hunter is my favorite class, i wish i could have been there with you.

  2. I heard that the clinic was a really good one. Our trainers were so excited to get home and try what they learned on the horses they took and others. Can't wait to hear more.

  3. this sounds like a really cool clinic, and she sure seems to know her stuff, would have been fun to participate in.