Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Wendy Potts Clinic........What Did I See??

Part 1- Wendy Potts Clinic

Part 1 - Sizing Things Up - Status on Storm

I climbed back onto my Arabian horse anxious to test what I perceived as Wendy Potts' method of dealing with my horse. Pulling the horse's head to my knee and getting that tight turn is something that I used to do when riding just started horses. I have to admit I'd dropped it from my arsenal of tools some time ago. Now I couldn't wait to see what or how this could work for me with Storm.

I realized as I watched Wendy Potts ride throughout this clinic that I had stopped utilizing this tool because of an instruction I had been given to not flex Legs' head more than to the point of seeing his eye. The more I watched Wendy Potts the more I realized that direction had not meant for me to never flex a horse past that point. It had meant for me not to flex a horse as trained as Legs past that point. I had dropped this technique totally when I really should have just stopped utilizing it with a horse as trained as Legs.

The more I watched the more it became clear the usefulness of pulling a horse's head clear to the rider's knee is directly related to how much the horse knows. A horse that is free in the shoulder and knows how to move laterally, as well as move all its "parts" independently as directed, wouldn't benefit from this exercise but a young horse certainly would. Just as a one rein stop will not work with a horse that has been taught to move its shoulder through that kind of flexing, the effectiveness of this tool is dependant upon a horse not understanding how to move laterally in the first place.

The whole point is to increase the depth of the drive from underneath the horse beginning at the back end. With a horse that doesn't understand how to move so closed off in the front end, the only way that horse can move at this point is by stepping deeply underneath itself while moving its hips to the outside. As it turns around in these compressed circles, even the shoulders must do some movement laterally for the horse to maintain balance so it is a beginning step in loosening up those shoulders as well as laying the cornerstone for lateral movement throughout the horse's body.

With this understanding well entrenched I climbed aboard my horse thinking I understood exactly what Wendy Potts wanted me to do. She instructed me to pretty much forget about working around the arena in the usual circle routine, instead I was to focus on turning my horse in this tight fashion, alternating directions and integrating work at all the gaits.Working at the trot she told me I should sit the trot since Storm's trot was so smooth I'd be able to tolerate it just fine and it would be helpful to the horse to have that added push.

So we were off and working and, of course, I was struggling with dizziness. That's always been my problem with those tight turns like that. I tried to set the horse up so that I could give him a release about the time I knew I needed to change directions so I didn't fall off.

I could feel right from the start the improvement that had happened in my horse just with the brief time Wendy Potts had ridden him so I was determined I would understand exactly how and what Wendy Potts wanted to accomplish as I worked on this. I wanted to be sure I really did have what I needed clearly understood.

What I found out was that I only got part of the picture. There was, a desired result Wendy Potts was looking for that I had totally missed watching her from the ground. She was not just working towards movement in the hip, ribcage and shoulders. Wendy Potts was looking for the horse to raise up his front end.

As I was riding Storm I mistakenly perceived this raising up as the horse bracing against the bit. I was holding him through that instead of releasing at that point. The end result was I was pushing the horse through to dropping down on the forehand and then rewarding the horse for that movement which was the exact opposite of what I wanted to be doing.

I must admit it was a bit confusing. The understanding of the process was based on understanding how little the horse knew and with Storm things can be a bit unclear. What was good for Storm in this situation would not be good for Legs but again, I'd say we're back to what works and what doesn't sometimes is directly related to what the horse knows in the first place. I needed to be thinking about Storm like he was that baby horse I'd ridden two years before.

Since Storm understands nothing about collection, expecting him to collect when asked is ludicrous. Doing so is what caused this horse's problems in the first place. Breaking the steps down as basically as possible will be the simplest way to teach the horse to move correctly again. That means one step at a time is very important.

In this instance it means, since the horse is so heavy on his forehand, any kind of movement that raises up the horse's front end is acceptable and needs a release to tell the horse the move is correct. At this stage for Storm that means his head is going to raise up and out of the bridle too, which makes sense. The horse is not capable of raising up his forehand AND rolling over at the same time.

I need to remember when I first started this horse he was moving very correctly and squarely forward. His hind end was engaged, his back was lifting and his shoulders and base of his neck were coming up with each stride AND his head was up in the air. That's all he knew how to do.

Then the horse was sold and from that point Storm was immediately asked to roll over and go slow any old way he could and to do it now. The desired result was frame not function. His forward momentum had been stopped and his engagement had stopped as well. Storm had run into a brick wall and his body locked up and quit working, only his oddly swinging legs provided momentum. Not a pretty sight.

Now as the exercise caused the horse to raise up his front end, his head came up as well. It was understandable the horse would want to raise his head back up as he regained correct movement in his forehand because the horse was going back to what he knew. Up until this point the only time he'd had that correct movement was with his head in the air. Releasing at the point would reinforce that the movement was the desired result. There would be plenty of time to teach the horse to roll over once correct movement was restored.

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

Finishing Up My Ride

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  1. Isn't it amazing what a good instructor can see about our horses that we can't. This is going to be a break through for Storm. I just know it.

  2. Wow that makes total sense when you describe it, I can see it happening. Im sure this will help him greatly. How fun when it all starts to come together.

  3. One the horse is moving correctly, asking for a little bend and lateral movement will put his head back where it belongs, where it is comfortable for him and NOT sacrifice the movement in the least.

    I just hope someone is around, armed with a camera and able to capture it on film for you. That will be a picture you will want framed.

  4. These are exactly the same things Sue Smith had people working on at the clinic this weekend. Amazing how many 'professionals' are out there that cannot seem to master these basic maneuvers and end up messing horses up. (shakes head in disgust)

    Just because a young horse is a natural doesn't mean that steps can be skipped (if the trainer even realizes they are skipping steps). It's too bad Storm went through what he went through, but since he is naturally talented and now has you showing him the right way, he'll be fine.