Monday, February 20, 2012

Backing up

These two words semed to be the epitome and theme of my weekend. I went to watch my mare being ridden and the woman asked me how I asked a horse to back? Ummm, she is not at the point where backing is a big concern for me, right now it is all about going forward...  She does have a nice reverse and when I explained how I do it, she did it and the mare backed softly and she felt a huge difference. I am going this Sunday to ride her myself. 

Another thing I have been avoiding with Kat is backing up and doing some ground driving...   It needs to be done and after our dressage scores, well, there is no going forward without taking a step back once in a while and readjusting things.  So last night we did just that.

I drug out the old beater harness and found it has no bit on it. I grabbed the half cheek that was too big to fit right on the good harness and as luck would be on my side- everything fit perfect for a change. I also changed where we would be working. Up front in the smaller turnout, instead of out back in the large one. Part of this was a change in scenery and work area, the other part sheer laziness that I didn't want to move horses around so we could work out back.

Since a lot of the notes on our dressage score was 'gaping at the mouth' I was glad this bridle does not have a noseband. Instead it has an overcheck, which I don't like, is not allowed and about the only good it does is keep him from grabbing a snack of weeds while we work. Once he settled in and really started working, I unhooked the overcheck and snapped it to the throatlatch. Boy did he work!

We started with bending exercises. Another thing we had a few helpful notes on. Very little bend, not enough bend, bend, bend, bend, bend, bend....  Kat was not exactly sure what I wanted when I asked him to bend to the left. The left had been the good side and when I focused on the right to bring him along, then the left seemed to fall apart. It also didn't help that when I was asking for a left turn, I hardly released the left rein and vis-versa... All things considered- I had lost the bend to the left and contributed to it's slow deterioration and demise.

It was an easy enough fix, we walked along the fenceline doing a haunches in manuver.  I could turn his head into the fence and ask him to keep moving forward. I would slowly ask for more bend, move the hips further in towards the center and BAM! Next thing we know he was two tracking with his left hind moving towards his right front. Later we worked on shoulders in too, again along the fenceline.  Once we came off the fence, he was more willing and able to bend to one side or the other and still keep moving forward. He also bent into his turns without dropping a hip or shoulder.  If he dropped either one, I could either tap the shoulder with the whip or drop my rein around his hip and move things over that way. He would return to upright and we kept going.

Then I let him trot. I moved him out to the ends of my lines and did a few "Ups & Downs" or up and down transitions. Trot, halt, trot, strong trot, slow trot, walk, and I also started using the phrase for strong trot that works on the obstacle courses- "Rock -N-Roll little man, Rock-N-Roll!  Telling him to R-N-R means move out. I am letting him let go and we need to get to the next one, he responds and he flies. Hits a nice stride and cruises. 

It might be a bit unconventional, but then who has ever known Me to be super PC and play by the book? Who wrote the book anyways and did they forget that not everything works for every horse? LOL! He was hitting that sweet stride of his, not quite like in the one pic, but close. He was also soft, bent to the inside (both directions) and moving out.  A car coming down the street even pulled up, stopping to watch us as we worked.  A few more Ups & Downs and we called it good. 

He was soft, bending and did everything well-  so we quit there.  It will be at least next weekend before I can put him to the cart again, but the differences were big and we made a lot of progress. We moved forwards by backing up, if that makes any sense...   My cart is undergoing round 2 of more changes and hopefully this time it will be better balanced for him, he will have more room in between the shafts to work with and it will no longer remind me of something you might see on The Munsters.

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