Sunday, June 25, 2017

Moving into the trot

Now that we have developed the walk, it is time to move on to the trot. Same principals apply, we want the horse moving forward with freedom of movement in a balanced and relaxed way of going. We will still be looking for the overstep in their stride and something else we will be looking for is that the legs on the diagonal are moving in hamony with each other. What does that mean?

When looking at pictures of horses moving at the trot, not only will there be overstep and sometime overreaching, (see photo below) but if you were to draw a line thru the cannon bone of the front leg and hind leg in the air- they should be parallel. If the front leg is in front of the parallel and going to be on the ground before the hind leg, the horse is heavy on the forehand. This is often paired with the horse having No overstep. This is typical as the horse hasn't learned how to move properly yet and if you look at them, most of their weight is in their front end anyways.



Developing the walk, we taught the horse to reach up under them with their hind legs and use their rear end more, engaging it and pushing themselves forward. With their hind legs coming up under them, it allows their front end to become lighter. Think of it like a teeter totter. If you're sitting in the middle and you want the board behind you to go down (rear end coming up under you) the board in front of you (the horses front end) will obviously go up making the horse lighter and more forward. In the photo of Kat, although he is built slightly downhill, he is moving in such a way that his withers are actully a touch higher than his rear end.

It is important to remember to be fair to the horse here. Their muscles are in development and they won't be able to hold this frame and way of moving for long. At first you may get a couple of strides at best in either direction. One reason is because 1) the horse is trying to figure out what you're asking them to do and 2) because they aren't used to actually doing it. We are trying to develop *New* muscle memory in their way of going. It takes time. Compare it to your own riding. Think about where you were at when you fist started and how far you've come to where you're at today. Think about the different muscles you use and how they remind us we weren't using them when we took a week or two off from riding.

Part of long line work is being able to take up contact and to remain soft and following when needed. Long line work is similar to riding. Same cues with your hands and reins, you're just on the ground, not in the saddle. If you have done ground work and lunging with your horse, they will be familiar with you asking for different gaits. As you ask them to move forward into the trot you will also take up contact. You're asking them to move up into the bridle and giving them a reference point of where they need to be.

This part is a balancing act for both of you. The horse finding that *sweet spot* where they are balanced in their movement and for you, where you know when to use a little more rein to bring them back, voice and body language to push them forward or when to praise them for doing it right and leave them alone otherwise. Too much of one, not enough of the other and some days it will feel like you're never going to get there. It won't happen overnight and some days it takes more to get it than others. It's not a race and keep in mind, you're just setting up the base of things to come later on.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Sweet perfection

Last night I put my pony in long lines. I haven't driven him much or really worked him either in a long time. I think we've driven a whopping total of twice since the end of last summer. I pulled his old harness out and wrapped his legs since I couldn't find his boots right off, grabbed my lines and out to the round pen we went.

He wanted to start out by tearing around like a little maniac, but I wasn't having it. Since Aruba spoiled me with a horse that walks out a few laps to loosen up and then picked up the trot, I've switched over to that way of thinking for getting my horses going. It's so much nicer, seriously.

After he walked a bit in both directions and loosened up, I asked him to pick up a trot. He was right there and responded nicely, going into a beautifully balanced working trot. I let him go for a bit before asking him to really pick it up and give me an extended trot. Kat obliged and just rolled into it.

After a few times around, I signaled him for a regular working trot, then to slow down a little more in a collected trot. Again, he did what I asked without a fuss. I asked for a stop, walk forward, a few serpentines and changing direction. Picked up the trot, did a bit of collection, extension, then collection and called it good. My little man was a.w.e.s.o.m.e. in his work. For not having done anything in a while, its good to know he remembers everything. Any wonder why I love him?