Thursday, November 18, 2010

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

Part 1

There were a few riders at this clinic who Wendy Potts said were working harder than their horses to get forward movement. In some cases even as hard as the riders worked the horses were not delivering. Despite the intense riding, the horses still weren't going forward. The riders were exhausted and the horses hadn't even broken a sweat.

Some of these riders were really pumping their horses. Pushing for all they were worth upon the horses' backs, the riders' upper body were swinging back and forth like a pendulum. Wendy Potts said this kind of movement was only interfering with the horse's movement and the riders needed to work on sitting quietly, keeping the shoulders lined up over the hips instead of moving back and forth and pumping with their hips.

Wendy Potts had all of these that were riders struggling to keep their horses moving apply more cue by using a crop. She cautioned them to not grab the horse in the face even if it surged forward from the added pressure. Grabbing the horse would stop the forward movement before it ever got started.

For now what she wanted was the horse to respond with forward movement no matter how big that movement might be. There would be plenty of time later, once the horse had learned to respond appropriately to the aids to work on rating the horse.
Wendy Potts encouraged those riders to do lots of transitions focusing on getting that surge from the horse. By applying leg pressure at the same time the crop was used, the horse would learn the leg means you must go forward. Also she said lots of galloping would help get their horses moving forward too.

I have to say these situations really reminded me of sometimes riding Legs. I use a lot of leg just to keep the horse moving. While I'm getting the horse up underneath himself where he belong, Legs just isn't holding it. The minute I release the pressure, the horse falls out of frame and I'm thinking this probably needs to be addressed the same way as these hunter horses that are not moving up underneath themselves when asked.

There were quite a number of riders at this clinic that Wendy Potts said were "pumping" their horses. It wasn't just the ones whose horses seemed to be stalling underneath them. There were other riders who just seemed to ride that way. Wendy Potts said that style of riding makes the horse look like it's hard to ride instead of like a pleasure as well as interfering with the horse. Me, I think horses ridden in that manner tend to look rough even when they aren't. Either way, it doesn't present a pretty picture for the judges and can affect how they place in the show ring.

I might also add that I know at least one barn in our area where the kids are taught to ride in this manner. Wendy Potts made is clear that riding a horse in this fashion isn't really effective for the horse or the rider. It is not something she believes a responsible instructor would encourage.

Wendy Potts says that such riding also interferes with the horse's ability to use themselves efficiently. Riders falling forward and riders doing what Wendy called "chasing" the horse are either throwing the horse off balance or out of rhythm respectively. Either one makes it more difficult for the horse to go forward.

There were some hunt saddles that didn't fit the riders properly that Wendy Potts also notice. Most of the time these poorly fitting saddles affected the rider's leg position, balance and over all ability to cue one's horse. By making some adjustments in the length of the irons these riders were able to get into a better position and work more effectively. The end result was a better moving horse.

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

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  1. I like the way you put it "some riders working harder that the horses" I find that cna be a common issue with many riders , instead of simple quiet direction and pressure they are literally flogging the horse with thier body. In Leggs case didn't you say he had an injury or misalignment at some point? is his reluctance to stay "in frame" a result of guarding,or compensating? for pain that he is "anticipating?Kind of a "muscle memory" thing

  2. my dressage trainer calls it "pedaling" when you are constantly push push pushing...

    what we do is throw away the reins (keep them in your hands for safety sake, but loose loose loose) and kick the snot out of them. Once they go forward, pet and coo and reward.

    Arabians are smart. Just like you can desensitize, you can sensitize. This teaches the horse that YES, LEG MEANS FORWARD.

    Many MANY people on the hunter circuit are so focused on a head set that they block the horse with their hands when they ask for forward.

    I LOVE that this trainer is utilizing basic GOOD techniques, and not the quick fixes.

    My problem is that I need to "ask" and when I get it, then "let him be." Sometimes we get in the habit of "ask ask ask ask" or "push push push" and end up desensitizing the horse. Right now, that's the Hardest part for me - being still and staying out of his way till he needs the reminder "That hind leg, forward and under..."

    I love reading your stuff. Its so nice to learn that there are some really brilliant Main Ring riders who aren't always looking for short cuts and magic head setting cures.

    It also makes me think that when I'm looking for my next dressage Arab, you may be one of the places I shop. GRanted, that won't be for some time, but still. You do good things here on this blog. Keep it up!

  3. Ive seen riders do that and it does look like lots of work, good to know ways to fix things like this, it makes me feel like Im at the clinic s well, thanks.

  4. wow, it sounds like a great clinic. i know that deb got us forward thru lots of transitions. but i know that really letting a horse go helps too.

    i was taught that posting should be very minimal, barely noticeable, forward and back with the hip of the horse, no up and down, nothing more, that your posting is initiated by the hip of the horse, and nothing added. i do exaggerate this when i try to prevent a canter transition though. i was thrilled, years later, to hear someone say that my posting is very subtle. i hate to toot my own horn but i was pretty happy to hear that from an arabian breeder!

    i understand the rider working harder than the horse, totally. my entire back was soaked (thru my tshirt) on my last lesson. not just under the arm sweat marks, also back and under-boob area. agh.


  5. fern, yes, Legs does have a "legitimate" issue. His pelvis was rotated making the right hip 3 inches lower than the left. That happened when he was just weeks old and was not discovered until he was three. Trying to teach a horse to go forward correctly who never has is a trial for both horse and rider.

    BaxtersMum, there are definitely lots of things to remember so that we aren't guilty of desensitizing the horse. Sometimes, as in Legs case, that constant cue cue cue with lots of support was necessary to even get him forward but now we're going to have to go back and lighten up that cue. That's the way it was with Dandy too after his EPM although the issue with Legs was much more difficult to fix because at least Dandy had correct movement for 5 years of his life to remember once he got right. Legs just has that constant worry that its going to hurt.

    Hopefully I will still be breeding horses when the day comes you're shopping. It's so hard to be sure they go the right places where good training techniques are utilized. It would be nice not to have to worry about one of my "kids" after they're gone.

    Crystal, I was really wishing I had taken some video at this clinic. That would have been helpful to go along with my discriptions but I'm glad that you're getting the idea from my posts.

    lytha, I was taught the same thing about posting. I can always tell when the horse I'm riding is getting to be work because I tend to want to post bigger then.

    That last lesson doesn't sound like fun. Was there no instruction to deal with that??