Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Wendy Potts Clinic.......Finishing Up My Ride

Part 1- Wendy Potts Clinic

Part 1 - Sizing Things Up - Status on Storm

To take the exercise a step further, Wendy Potts wanted to incorporate asking the Arabian horse to raise up his head. Because Storm's only work had really been about putting his head down, the horse wants to fall into that with any little bit of pressure on the rein. Then the horse immediately falls into what he knows. which is dropping over vertically with no impulsion and that, of course, results in that heavy on the forehand horse so teaching Storm to raise up his head should help alleviate falling into those old patterns.

Wendy Potts very much likes to adjust the head position of her horses to whatever suits her at the time so she puts cues on them to do just that. Right from the start of the clinic she made it clear this was an important part of her training regime. Thus way her horses have the necessary skills to make those changes depending on the tastes of different judges.

I've always been taught to raise the head position on a horse that I should lift up on the rein and that is what I was doing with Storm before we got to the clinic. I've not really been impressed with this as a cue to raise up but I guess I've never really focused too much on just exactly why. Storm was so confused about most everything it was easy to assume I wasn't always getting the desired response because of his confusion.

Wendy Potts thinks that horses want to lower their heads when the rider raises up on the rein,. Thinking back over the shortfalls of noticed with this cue I guess I must agree. I've definitely gotten than kind of response from lifting up on the rein and probably more readily than I ever got the "up" I wanted. I guess I just figured the horse was confused about what I was asking so I kept trying.

To teach a horse to raise its head, Wendy Potts pulls the rein straight back to her hip. She did this throughout the clinic with a number of horses and I don't think I ever saw one of them try to go down with her cue so it was easy to be convinced that pulling straight back towards my hip should be more effective to get a horse to lift it's head.

Since we want Storm to raise up his shoulder and that is tied in pretty tightly with raising up his head, it makes sense that we would work on teaching Storm to raise up his request on cue. That meant incorporating that cue into the exercise pulling the horse around in the tight little circle.

Even though in my head I knew I wanted to be pulling straight back to my hip when I pulled my horse into that tight circle, actually maintaining that position with my hand was not an easy thing to do. Years of riding lifting up on the rein made it difficult to shift gears and go straight back.

I do remember a time when I rode going straight back to my hip but I can't even tell you how long it's been since I rode that way. Maybe I dropped that about the same time I stopped pulling my horse around into the small circle. Whenever it was, getting myself to shift gears and consistently pull straight back was a struggle. Even when I thought I was going straight back, I seemed to be adding some lift into it.

Wendy Potts worked at it to get me to see what I was doing to interfere with my horse. Both my hand position and my late release took a while for it to sink in but once I realized that what I was looking for was the raise of the horse's head, I did much better.

Storm was pretty tolerant of the whole thing and gradually I got to be more consistent. Still I knew it was going to take lots of focus when I ride for a while before it "feels" right.

Once I had a better feel for what I was looking for from turning my horse in the tight circle we were able to move on and work a little at each gait. Still the focus was about getting correct movement and not about doing rail work so I would circle Storm one direction until he raised up. Then I would trot or lope off for a few strides before pulling him down into that little circle again.

Storm wants to go slow whenever he's asked to canter but his movement suffers when he does. Wendy Potts suggested I immediately push him into a faster canter to preserve quality of movement. It may only last for a few strides but at least it's something to build on.

By the time I finished my lesson with Wendy Potts Storm was moving the best he had been since I'd gotten him home. He did some stumbling, even at the end, put it made sense. It's just going to take him some time to figure out where his feet are and where his balance needs to be carrying a rider and moving correctly. I was looking forward to working on all I'd learned at home.

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

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