Friday, November 20, 2009

Back To Basics

Due to a lack of cooperation on the part of Fall in the Northeast, I have not gotten much work done with my horse. I did manage to get one ride in on Wednesday, as I had the day off. Since we really haven't done anything in longer than I care to remember, I decided that this would be a good opportunity to get back to the basics. I suppose everyone has a different idea of what "the basics" are, but to me they are Obedience and Forward(!). I like to put an exclamation point behind forward(!), I think it gives it the emphasis it needs. Feel free to add a "Jazz Hands" type gesture, as well. Then you'll really get the emphasis I'm looking for.

Forward! *Jazz Hands*

Obediance and forward(!) go hand in hand, as you can't have a truly forward horse unless you have an obediant one. I see lots of people being drug around rings by horses that are flying through their aids who say "But at least he's forward". I usually hear this after they've nearly run someone over because their horse is plowing around on his forehand and they can't steer him. Newsflash: If you can't control it, it isn't forward(!). But lets move on, lest this turn into a rant.

So I decided to work on the basics on Wednesday. Spider is usually very obediant and forward(!), but I think it's always good to have a bit of a refresher, especially if the horse (and the rider) have been sitting for awhile. After all, I frequently run through the beginner exercises for rider postition, shouldn't my horse be running through the beginner exercises periodically, too?

So we began at the beginning. I expect all horses to move off of my seat and leg and stay there until I say otherwise. A reminder or two is acceptable, especially when they're green, but I do not want to develop a need to "nag" my horse with my aids. So I asked Spider to walk, then put my aids in neutral, so to speak. I relaxed my pelvis, allowed my legs to hang quietly at his sides and followed his head with my hands. As soon as he began to slow, I gave him a bit of a bump with my leg to say "Hey, I didn't ask you to slow down.". If he didn't respond as electrically as I like, he got a more vigorous bump to say "Listen!". By a "bump", I mean that I tap my lower leg against the horses belly quickly. I use one or both legs, depending on what I'm trying to accomplish. If I want the horse on the bit, I bump the inside leg, if I want him to wake up and move forward, I use both legs. If a horse is really blowing me off, I'll use several rapid-fire bumps to wake him up and say "Hey, I'm serious about this!" I find that horses often learn to ignore constant, nagging pressure from the leg, just as they learn to ignore the pressure of the girth and saddle. A bump gets their attention much better. Of course, if you constantly bump, the horse will soon learn to ignore that, too. So you must be ready and able to back your bump up.

I use the "ask, tell, make" philosophy when riding. First I "ask" with my seat (and other aids when applicable). If that does not get the desired response, then I "tell" with a bump from my leg. If I still don't get the right response, then I make it very uncomfortable for the horse to not comply. In other words, I "make". "Making" can be tricky, and must be done with a great deal of sensitivity. There is a fine line between making a horse uncomfortable and abuse. Before I get to the "make" stage, I always check and re-check my aids and position to be certain that it is an obediance issue and nothing is being lost in translation. I use enough "make" to get the reaction I want, then immediately stop when the horse complies. I rarely need to get to the "make" stage, though. Most horses get it at "tell".

I've gone off on a tangent again, back to Wednesday's ride. It only took a few reminders for Spider to stay forward(!) at the walk. So then we progressed to trot. Same story: ask for trot with my seat, put the aids in neutral and bump if he lags. Again, a few reminders and he had it down. Then we moved to canter and repeated the lesson. And finally we could move on to fun stuff, because that's really the point of forward(!) and obediant. If you constantly need to use your aids to drive your horse forward(!), how can you apply your aids to do lateral work or begin collection? You can't, they're already being used to keep the horse going. So now that I had Spider moving freely forward, I threw in some leg yields. The concept remained the same, though. If he lags, he gets a bump. And Spider loves to lag in leg yields. He often finds it difficult to step underneath himself with the inside hind leg, so he tries to pop his outside shoulder out and cheat. Easily fixed with half halt and a few bumps. We did leg yields at walk and trot in both directions, and even one zig-zag across the ring. Once I was satified with them I brought him back down to walk to play around. Since he was going so nicely, I decided to do some walk pirouettes.

I discovered Spider's walk pirouette quite by accident one day. I was riding with a friend, she was on a third level horse attempting to school walk pirouettes and having trouble. At the time, Spider was doing first level, but I knew I could collect his walk (just none of the other gaits). I was feeling a bit cheeky, so I said to her "I don't know why you're having so much trouble, I bet even Spider could do a walk pirouette". I was only teasing, but I tried one on the spot anyway. He did it! I only asked for a half of one, and then burst out laughing. My friend was not amused. Ever since then, I play around with them when Spider's having an especially good day and we get done early. He seems to enjoy them, I think mostly because he can tell that I get a kick out of doing them. They're fun for us, although now that we're doing more of the third level work it's not as impressive. Still fun though.....kind of like Forward! *Jazz Hands*

1 comment:

  1. This sounds like what I am finally learning! After 20 years of lessons I have finally found someone who explains things in a way a I understand!!!! Well Done with going back to the basics


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