Friday, May 20, 2011

Day two of wet blankets and long miles

It's been a straight week of rain here... far too wet to hit the trails (at least without causing some major damage!).  Instead we're working on some key foundation skills undersaddle, some obstacle work, and trotting to build up some wind. 

  1. lateral flexion-  This is a basic skill we've already taught from the ground and undersaddle.  I like to go back to it frequently, check in and make sure everything is still soft and light.  

  1. Move the hips- This is a skill we've worked at length from the ground, but not so much from the horse's back.  It is something I've been a bit neglectful of, and need to remedy this.  It's a simple task, but will lead to much more advanced movements once fine tuned.  This movement is much easier to teach if the feet are already in motion.  
To get the hips moving:
    1. Start by putting the horse in a forward walk on a circle.  It should be a relatively small circle, with the horse correctly bent and soft.  You don't want to proceed if the horse is dropping a shoulder or falling out with the hips.  Correct these problems first.   
    2. Tip the nose to the inside of the circle, turn and look at the hip, sliding your inside leg back as you do so.  Your leg should be back by the rear cinch.  
    3. As soon as the horse steps the hind leg underneath herself (in FRONT of the other leg), release.  
    •  Key points
      • You need to cue the hind leg WHILE it is on the ground and RELEASE as the horse is doing the movement.  Time your leg and rein cues simultaneously with the leg movement.  
      • Ask for only one step to start off with, then return to your circle.  Have your horse hustle a bit through the circle so that the turn on the forehand becomes a reward in itself!
      • GRADUALLY build to a quarter circle, half circle, full circle and so on.  This movement will require the horse to engage muscles that she may not have worked before with the added weight of a rider.  She will also have to focus on her balance.
      • As your horse gets better, use less rein.. eventually the head and neck should remain straight.  
Tip the nose

Tip the nose, look back, and press the hips over

Hind leg crossing OVER

 Spend some time trotting.  Trotting helps develop wind, muscle and overall conditioning.  Make it your horse's responsibility to maintain gait; don't constantly nag him with your leg.  Ask for a trot, get that trot, then leave him alone.  If he tries to break gait, let him, and THEN correct him.  Spend time making lots of turns, circles, figure eights...

 Work over some obstacles.  Today, we focused on raised caveletti.  This was not one of Stevie's strong suits.  For all her knee action, the lower leg tends to hang, and she has no worries about contacting a pole with her leg.  Caveletti are a nice tool; they can be used to simulate hill work, and cause the horse to really engage it's hindquarters. 

The plan for next time is going to be weather permitting.  If the rain has let up and the trails are dry, I prefer to get Stevie out of the arena.  If not (and it's looking like this will be the case...) We'll try to refine moving the hips, and introduce the bend-and-go drill.  


Please use caution and common sense.  Horses are large animals, with an exceptional amount of power and strength.  They are also concerned above all with their own personal safety, and will do whatever they feel it takes to keep themselves from harm.  Being individuals that act and react differently, the only certainty you have when working a horse is uncertainty.  I am a professional trainer with twenty plus years experience, yet even with the knowledge I possess, I still get hurt from time to time.  This blog and the accompanying media are for entertainment purposes only.  No responsibility will be assumed for injuries or damages incurred while trying to use these methods at home.  Please ride responsibly; protective gear can save your life!

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