Sunday, July 16, 2017

Discouraging discouragement

By the title of this post, I'm not trying to say that discouragement can be even more discourging. Don't get me wrong, it can. But what I'm trying to convey by the title of the post is to discourage yourself from getting into a funk of being discouraged when things seem to wobble or even fall apart a little.

There will be good days and not so good days when working your horse or pony. Things won't go anywhere near according to plan. At least not Your plans of what you were hoping to accomplish that day.

Since the pic's in the last post were taken, the woman at the barn has been on the filly a few times and while eveything was going really well, she mentioned to me after the last ride that there were some serious holes in the filly's training. Major holes. As in the size of holes you could drive a truck thru.

The filly is 3 y/o and hadn't hardly been touched. She is what trainers call a Clean Slate. Nothing to go back and undo, because they haven't been taught anything wrong or developed bad behavior because of it. This is good. She has been working the filly in long lines and getting on her afterwards to walk around a little and cool her out, work on leg yielding, softness and bending and somewhat reinforce some of what was worked on in the lines.

The first time getting on this filly, she stood there and didn't move. Bumping with legs, tugging the reins one way then the other, kissing, chirping and clucking to her all had no effect. She wasn't budging. I went in and led them around, but as soon as I let go and the filly realized it, she stopped. The next few rides she did start walking off on her own, then walked a little more freely, would turn beautifully and stop often of her own accord, but walked off again with little pressure. The last two rides, with a bit of stronger forward encouragement they did manage to get some trotting going on but it was short lived. That's when the holes were discovered.

While the flly is working on a rather loose rein with little or light contact and she is responding to light cues and quiet signals, she is not relaxing enough to drop her head or engaging her hind end to push up into the bridle. Since this filly is just starting out, her owner decided to go back to long line work only and fix everything to keep her working correctly. It would need to be done at some point so why wait and let things get worse before addressing it?

Is it discouraging that thngs were going so well and everything was progressing rapidly and all of a sudden they have to back up? Not really. Not if you let it be discouraging. By looking at it that way, that hiccups and bumps are to be expected, when they show up, then they can be addressed before things get worse. That's where the title comes in. Discouraging ourself from getting discouraged because things aren't still progressing at mach speed and have slowed to a snails pace at times. It happens. There will be days when we can't get it right in how we ask them to do something and if we do't ask them right, how are they supposed to know what we want to respond correctly? There will be days that they don't feel like it. They're cranky, stiff, maybe even sore ad irritable as a result. We all have our days. It's up to us to find something acceptable and good in their work and call it a day. There's plenty of time to work it out.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Things to look for

The photos in this post are of a 3 y/o pinto filly at the barn that is just getting started in life. Her owner has agreed to allow me to post the photos. Hopes for this pony are for her to be a little 'All Around' pony. Dressage, hunter over fences, driving, western and trails. Since this is a driving blog for the most part, after we establish the ground driving and long line work, posts will be about harness parts, fit and the purpose to each piece.

These photos are from her second time in the lines and while she isn't working perfectly yet, she is progressing very quickly. Her head is still a little high and as a result her back is a bit hollow at the trot. At the walk, we're Gucci.

Notice her head is down, she is comfortable and relaxed, working like she should. Her withers are lifted and she looks uphill, reaching under herself with the back legs with plenty of overstep. Her rear hooves typically land one and a half to two hoofprints ahead of where her front hoof was.

Change of direction and you can see she is starting to reach and coss over with her legs in the turn.

Reaching out with the front legs and up under herself with the back legs.

Again- plenty of overstep in the walk.

Moving into the trot you can see her head has come up, back hollowed and she's not reaching under herself.

She is still a bit hollow, head a little high but she is really reachng up under herself and with her front end nice and light, her length of stride is increased.

Head starting to come down a little, and still reaching forward.

Head coming down, she's starting to relax, nice and balanced and showing progress.

Her head came up a little more and someting has her attention outside of the round pen, but she's still trucking along. Rather than correct her right away, she was allowed to keep moving, waited for her to relax and come back to where she is supposed to be.

A bit out of balance and that's ok. Remember this was only her 2nd time in the lines. She's still figuring it all out.

And figure it out, she does. Head still a touch high, not in the bridle or on the bit, but moving well and improving. Since these photos were taken she has been in the lines a total of 5 times now. She has also been mounted from both sides, sat on, learning to walk off on her own and making a lot of progress. She is a nice filly and going to make an awesome pony when she's finished.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Trot work Part 2

Now that your horse trusts you and you have pushed them forward into the trot, how do you get them balanced? Let's be honest here, you will have to get them balanced because they won't just pick up a trot and do it on their own. This is where it comes to You stepping up and doing some work. Your inside rein is going to be for support, the outside rein is going to be your brakes and your voice and body is going to be your gas pedal. In the saddle, add in your legs as part of the gas pedal.

I like to use split reins when riding and when doing long line work I hold my lines much the same, bridged and running thu both hands so that I can easily slide my hands up or down the lines as needed. Working in the lines, I like to use the rings that are a bit lower and wider for the horse. When riding, I also try to keep my hands a little wider since a friend of mine pointed it out to me. Somewhere over the years, I developed the habit of riding with my hands practically ON the horses withers. On the withers and close together they did not move much away from that position for whatever reason. Her comment (praphrasing here) was to use my hands a little wider as if they were the sides of a channel in which the horses energy was flowing. Well that was when I was riding my WB mare Aruba. She was a BIG mare and needed a Wider channel for all of her energy. That made sense to me and when I widened my hands it made a big difference in her way of going. Same with the work in the lines, the reins are the sides of a channel to guide the horses energy. They need somewhere to move.

Once you have pushed the horse up into the trot, you will want to make contact using your inside rein. You want the horse to accept it that you are there for support with that rein and hold them slightly bent to the inside. When you want to slow them down or make adjustments, you will simply close your hand on the outside rein and if needed, make small tugs on that rein, letting them know that you're asking something of them. As they are moving, watch the ground for overstep and if there isn't any going on, you may need to push them up into the bridle using your voice and body positioning. Your hands will take a hold of the lines and stiffen slighty, giving the horse a 'barrier' of sorts and letting them know that this is where they need to soften and submit, breaking over at the poll and driving up into the bridle.

When they do this, You need to let them know that THIS is what you wanted them to do. Praise them loudly and make a big deal out of it. Use a happy voice since they can hear it in the tone of your words. When you get a few strides, let them relax little and then ask for a few more. Now that they heard you get excited and know what your asking of them, getting a few more strides will be a bit easier. Help them hold it as long as they can and praise them for it. Call it good on that side and change directions. Same exercise. Ask for forward movement and push them up into the bridle. When you get a few strides, praise them heavily, let them rest a little, do it again and call it a day.

There are a few other things to consider here and I will cover them in my next post, with pitures to illustrate for us 'visual' people.