Friday, February 7, 2014

This is my "Thinking Face"

I finally got to ride today, and some good stuff did happen. Not super exciting but some good.  We did work on the collection exercises as instructed in the video I watched the other day, and as expected it took him a long while to finally get with the program.  But he did...sort of.

Since "sort of" wasn't quite what I was looking for, I decided to switch things up a bit.  First I went ahead and gave him his "run in crazy circles" time.  It wasn't all about him, while he was running in crazy circles, I practiced riding with out flapping my arms like some sort of wounded bird.  I kept my elbows at my side, but then managed to stay relaxed too.  It was a good exercise for me.  Mean while he ran crazy circles and went to his happy place.

Once he leveled out and started to breathe we worked on rate. Big circles, fast. Small circles slower.  It wasn't bad. In fact it was very nice.  His head was not straight in the air, but nice and level.  He followed my eye, departed on the correct leads.  I've got no complaints.

Then we went back to our collection.  It was better, but there was still room for improvement.

We worked on our circles some, I did't really push it hard.  I had watched another video that Mr. Pieper had done on this subject and tried to apply some of those principles to our ride.  I never really asked for more that a few steps in the circle. He gave them too me, but they are still awkward and stiff.

Then we just kind of rode around and did stuff.  I can't tell you what we did, we just did.  A little of this, a little of that. Some stopping some backing up, he was.....sticky on those back ups.

He is trying on his stops 90% of the time.  At a walk or a trot he REALLY tries, at a lope, he forgets until I remind him.  So we will have one bad then a couple of good.  I think we just need more practice on that.

Then I had a thought. We were just sitting there and I asked him to collect without actually going forward.  I realize that technically that is not collection, but I have a new theory. Before I really push push push with the forward moving collection I want to instill a thought in his brain.  If he feels ANY contact on his mouth at all, if he drops his head, he will be rewarded.  So we stood there for a long while, probably 15 minutes or so. I would pick up the reins, add some contact, and when he dropped, or even thought about dropping, I released.  Eventually we got some good results.  Then I applied that to "forward".

Better, much better.

I did ride him in the D-ring snaffle today, and I wonder if that is the cause behind his "sticky"?  He is much more responsive (front to back) in the Mylar.  Side to side is a bit different and it has been  mentioned to me that when working on those circles the snaffle might be better.

I can't tell you if it is or not.

Before we rode I worked him on the ground. I did not just lunge him but also did what BEC calls the horsemanship moves. Mostly I just asked him to complete the spins slowly on the ground.  I am starting to notice something.  He can get 2, sometimes 3 steps by crossing over front but then always resorts to crossing behind again. I can't help but wonder if it isn't time to get him a chiro visit.   There are lots of things I have been reading lately that make me want to examine the possibility that some of his performance issues are physical.  Not only what BEC is going through with Moon, but some of what I read in Mike Majors book, and a story I just recently read over at Mugwump Chronicles.  I have to admit that it is kind of odd that all these things came up for me to read within a few days of each other.

One of things that Mike said in his book when talking about "buying your RV prospect".  He talked about short backed, mutton withered horses with thick necks. Not that they are not good horses, but just that sometimes they are not quite as physically capable of doing certain things.  That is Trax.  In fact I tried to put my other saddle on him today...HA!  It wouldn't go down over his big fat withers.

Mugs talked about a horse that could not back up well due to the way he was built.  It was interesting to say the least.

Now this is not me saying that I'm giving up on this horse, because I am not.  There are a lot of things that he needs to learn to do regardless of what his "career" is.   Regardless of trail or arena, he has to stop, he has to side pass, he has to be soft in hand.  Period.

I have some stuff formulating in my head.  I wonder if his asymmetrical front feet are because he has one leg slightly shorter than the other...perhaps that is why he struggles with some of these moves.  I wonder if he is out of place from those major wrecks that he had way back when.  I wonder if he needs a better rider for a bit to give him the clear cues he needs to understand.  Lots of things to wonder about. Some of it I may never know, but it sure couldn't hurt to try the chiro...right?

I also worked on his front feet today until I drew own of course. One of these days I will remember to leave my gloves in the tack room!  I don't know that I did much good, or if I did harm.  I just tried to clean him up a little.  I need some guidance again...and a hoof stand! (I'll be calling you next week Anne LOL)

Trax is a good horse, and dang it he is trying so hard to get it right.  I won't say he never has his bad days, but for the most part he only wants to get along, so I don't find myself trying to decided if he is just being a jerk or just not capable.  Trax is a lot of things but a jerk is not one of them. (not usually anyways)

I still believe we will get there, and my goals have not changed, these are just things that run through my head.


  1. Conformation things can be limiting factors. The big, blue roan horse my daughter used as a reining horse was very pigeon-toed. He could turn around very well up to about medium speed, but any little bit faster and he would start pulling a leg behind and/or hitting himself. She placed 4th at the State level in 4-H on him and the judge told her afterward if her spins would have been just a little faster, she would have won it. Megan told him, 'Thank you, but he is very pigeon-toed and if I make him go faster, he doesn't stay correct.'. The judge looked at her and said, if I would have known that and known that you knew that, you would have won the whole thing because you showed the horse you have and didn't blow correctness for the sake of speed.'. Of course, that was 4-H level...but the point is, all you can do it train the horse to the best of the best of their ability.

    I'll show you a little trick on the turnaround this weekend. A lot of times when a horse starts to cross over and then steps behind, what is actually happening is they forget to pull the off leg back (off leg being the one that is not crossing over). They get a little rocked back and that leg gets stuck, so the leg that is crossing over gets pulled behind. If you know he can cross over 2 good steps, then you ask him to cross over those 2 steps, walk forward a step, cross over 2 steps, walk forward a step, etc. That teaches them that they have to hold their backs up and balance across the topline and not rock their balance back to the hip. Remember, a rollback is when they are coming back through their body, so the weight had to rock back to the hindquarter. But a spin is a forward motion maneuver. They have to keep their center of balance over their topline to maintain that ability to flow through. :-)

    1. Great advice BEC! I was going to say pretty much the same thing about the spin.

  2. Horses are certainly limited in their physical abilities by their overall confirmation. Sporthorses have two divisions, hunter or dressage for that reason. A more uphill built horse with a higher set on neck will have an easier time elevating his front end and performing the more intricate movements. That's not to say that the horse built more level and a lower set on neck can't do the ajar movements or benifit from the training, but it will be more difficult for them and the quality of the same movement just won't be the same. It's a matter of knowing your horse, how they are built and what their physical limitations are. While their muscular structure will change with work, the bone structure obviously will not.

    While there will be things Trax can and cannot do, some days he may just decide he won't. We all have our days and they are entitled to a few bad ones too. We have no way of knowing when the neighbors dog kept them up all night, they 'slept wrong' on this leg or why they are just in a funky mood today. We can only hope it all comes together on the big days- competitions, clinics or even riding with friends.

  3. Sounds to me overall like a very good session, switching things up from time to time but still headed for the same goal can work wonders. You have 2 great coaches close by who are knowledgeable and helpful too . With that, Trax and you determination you will succeed

  4. Getting his body checked out for problems is a very good idea, I bet you will find that he needs adjustment. Calm, consistent cues and repetition, good timing on your release, all will help but what I like is that you are becoming more intuitive about this horse and giving him the little building blocks it takes for him to understand what you want and to improve. Everything takes time and if you start by making sure his body is not hurting, his tack fits and functions correctly, your aids are consistent and you are willing to adapt as you go along, there's no telling how rewarding this journey will be.