Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Rehabilitation of Storm........ Getting to Canter.......



Part 1


Of course with the weather like it was, it was days before I got back to the park with Storm to ride. When I did, I had the same tuned out horse thinking he was in charge that I had had before. It was like the session hadn't even happened, or at least it was that way on the ground.

Once I got into the saddle, I found I still had no brakes. The only difference between this day and the previous schooling session was that his fight got smaller and it only took me about half the time to get the horse stopping when I asked but, hey, progress is progress. I was happy for that.

I was still only working the horse at the walk and trot to get him to understand what I meant when I applied my legs to his sides. Despite the intermittent nature of our work, the horse had been making progress all along. Now that I was finally getting some brakes when I needed them, I figured it should be easier for the horse to really "get" what those legs cues were about.

It was right about this time that I had begun working with Storm on the trails. Even after our first drawn out day working to get "Whoa" I had taken the horse out on the trails to cool out. Each day I could see the horse's confidence improve.

The more comfortable he got, the more I worked him on the ups and downs of the trails. I could see almost immediately small improvements in his stride on the lunge line and it began to carry over into the under saddle work even sooner than I expected.

Just a few strides as a time I began to feel that floating trot that Arabian horses are known. It was at a rip roaring rate but at least it was finally there. As long as the movement was good, I didn't worry about the rate, I knew I would get that it time. For now I was celebrating Storm's movement really was getting to be more natural instead of that mechanical thing that had been created over that two year time frame.

At first I only got that trot on the straight of the wall. When we came to a corner it would disappear and it might take half a lap around the arena to get it back again. When it did I made sure I spoke to Storm letting him know that reach was what I wanted.

At the sound of the word, "Good" I would get a reaction from Storm. If I had him flexed a little, I could see a slight softening in his eye. I couldn't always see his eye but even those times I could feel a release of tension in his body as he responded to my voice. It was clear the horse appreciated hearing he was on the right track.

As we got closer to what I wanted from him, the horse became more comfortable with life in general. He got less anxious in his stall and his overall demeanor got better. Instead of that nervous horse pinging off the wall, the old comfortable Storm began to emerge.

I'm not going to say that all the quirks disappeared because that is yet to be the case. We still had our issues under saddle that were every bit as scary as the horse with no brakes but the horse on the ground was becoming the gentleman he was when he left and we were all glad to see the horse we knew and loved had returned.

Once we got to the point I felt comfortable that Storm understood my leg cues, we moved on to adding work at the canter. The minute I did that, Storm went back to wanting to canter at every squeeze of my legs. When I tried to communicate with him that's not what I wanted he had something of a meltdown shaking his head, striking the ground, leaping and kicking out trying to prove his point.

It seemed to me that Storm really did understand the leg cue but he didn't really get that he could not be the one to decide WHEN we were going to do canter work. He has always been one of those horses that prefers cantering to trotting and so that's what he wanted to do. Why trot, if you can canter? Right maybe for Storm but not so right for me.

I wanted to make it easy for Storm to do what I needed from him without having to fight with him. I figured the best way to do that was to make Storm think that cantering was out of the picture all together. The next few riding days I went back to working only at the walk and trot. Then when I added in the canter, I did it only after all my walk and trot work was done.

We worked both ways of the arena at the walk and the trot. Then I began more walk work moving him off my legs laterally and lots of bending getting his brain really tuned into what we were doing. Then when I was sure the horse wasn't expecting it, I asked him to canter.

By this time Storm was going pretty well in the bridle at the trot but I had no expectations of any kind of frame at the canter. I pretty much just gave him his head and let him have at it. As long as he didn't take off at a dead run, we were good.

Storm has this habit of dropping his lead behind. I consider that behavior to be more stallion behavior. I think it's a control issue where the horse is moving as requested but still doing it HIS way.

The reason I think this IS stallion behavior is every last one of my boys has done it when they were first taught to lunge. They usually give it up before they ever get under saddle. Sometimes it will show up briefly when the saddle work starts, and it certainly did for Storm, but it doesn't last long. Storm had quit that behavior when he left here but of course with him thinking he was in charge for two years, it didn't surprise me to see it back in full blown form.

I knew that asking Storm to "fix" a lead would only frustrate the horse so if he popped that lead behind, instead of stopping him and restarting to fix it, I just pulled him into a small circle and let him canter that way. I knew that sooner or later he would figure out it was more comfortable to carry me in a small circle on the correct lead and he would fix it himself. In the meantime I'd just let him be uncomfortable.

I let the horse canter that direction until I felt the "edge" he had diminish. Then I asked him to "Whoa" which he willingly did. Then I sent him off the other direction at the walk moving off my legs and bending and such just like I had the first direction. Only when he was past anticipating did I ask him to canter and when we did, it was the same fashion as the first direction.

By the time we finished, Storm was an exhausted sweaty mess but at least the sweat was from work and not nerves. Storm was the most relaxed I had seen him since he'd returned home. Even walking on the trails to cool out his head was hung low. I had hoped we'd turned a corner.

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

The Trouble with Cantering.........

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8 comments:

  1. Love horses who respond to verbal praise :)

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  2. Nice work. Again, I really like that you took him to the walk and trot. I don't think cantering has any place with a horse struggling with whoa. I'm one who will stay in walk as long as it takes. There's a lot to learn at that gait. I've never worked with a stallion--I've always gelded my colts at very young ages, but I would assume that rule would apply for all.

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  3. Sure seems like he is inmproving as you work with him. Each post shows your struggles , and success. He sure is a lovely hores in person

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  4. wish i could have been there to watch.

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  5. That running off thing is something I discovered that I just couldn't deal with when I had Page so reading about this whoa problem made me all nervous for you! Sounds like sticking with it will have some great rewards with this horse.

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  6. It's nice to see he's responding to your training work with him. Arabians are so smart they "get it" in no time. Good boy.

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  7. Dom, me too. I think it's one more tool to help teach them and read them too.

    Linda, yes, it's not just the stallions I would do this with if I needed.

    fernvalley, I think the fact he is such a nice horse makes this whole situation all the sadder. None of this is the horse's fault and the issues really reflect his struggles, poor boy.

    lytha, I wish someone was there to watch too. I've felt a little more vulnerable than usual dealing with this situations with no one around.

    Story, the running off was not as intimidating for me as the temper tantrums but both of those things are going to resolve. Storm really wants to be doing the right thing so despite these challenges he is totally worth it.

    GHM, you're so right about the smart part. I really love how quickly they learn. That has certainly made this whole thing less daunting.

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  8. Sounds like you two definately turned a corner. "Rewarding him" by letting him canter at the end is a good idea. and you asked for forward- take what you can get for now is a good idea as well.

    Can't wait to hear how he turns out when it finally ALL comes together for you guys. Too Cool!

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