Tuesday, January 26, 2010

What happens then?

We have all seen the atrocities in the show ring lately. The blocked tails, over bridled horses, four beating, spur stops, reiners scotching in their rundowns, head sets, non-collection, soreness, defeated looks, the single footed walk and the list goes on.

And on, and on, and on.

We all know too well about all the Bad things happening to Good horses, to get them there. (Sounds like a great title to a tell all book, doesn't it?) The injecting, the whipping, starting them too soon, jerking on the reins, constant jabbing with spurs, gimmicky equipment to push the horses into a false frame, dumping the horse onto their leads and this list goes on just as long as the first one. Maybe this list is longer since there are usually three or four crappy ways to get each result listed above.

But what would happen if the judging took a sudden curve and actually pinned the horses who show natural movement? The horses with balance and collection, free flowing strides, self carriage, willingness and get this, a perky "I LOVE MY JOB!" expression.

Chances are, there may be fewer people in the ring showing their horses! This would likely be because of a huge WTH? moment in barns across the country. We know how to beat them down, but how do you bring them back up? And what is all this talk about collection and impulsion? A few more foreign terms to the crowd may be contact, lightness and forward.

I can hear it now. "Forget suppleness we just got them rigid, abrasive and resistant! I just got my horse to give in and he completely gave up. Why and how do we undo all of that? And what does it feel like to ride them then?"

Just like the way things are going now though, what is seen in the upper levels is mimicked all the way down the line. And this will be no different. People will come up with new ways of trying to do things, cheating their way through instead of learning how to train their horse. There will still be those rushing their way through and expecting immediate results. Instant gratification instead of waiting for the correct responses.

It would be nice to see the change though. I may doubt it will happen, but at least one can always hope.

Friday, January 15, 2010

I was just kidding!

On the last post about softening, it was mentioned that my wife CnJ took my mare Johnie into the ring under hunter tack. They placed 2nd out of 9that day. I told her not to get anymore hairbrained ideas.

Fast forward a few years...

We took a client horse to another local show, just to give him something else to do. He was a reiner who was working towards being a cutter. Nice horse, great owners and we all thought, "Why not?" He placed 3rd of 12 entries and also 4th of 15. He placed behind 'finished' horses whose riders were dressed to the hilt for the schooling show.

So now's your chance to spill it.

What did you do?

Where did you go?

When did you take a horse to an event, enter them in something they weren't bred for, built for, trained to do or whatever- entered as a joke and placed?

Or maybe you didn't place at all but had a great time anyways. We know that happens too. As long as everyone had fun, who does it hurt?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Softness, suppleness and giving

Starting with the bit, I like to use a simple offset snaffle with copper inlays on a sweet iron mouth. This combination of metals helps promote salivation and wetness in the mouth. I don't use snaps to attach my reins and the bit hobble goes 'under' the reins where it will not interfere with rein pressure.

The bit should be adjusted to where it rests comfortably in the horses mouth. Not too high producing a number of wrinkles, not too low where it bangs into the incisors or the horse spits it out. A wrinkle is just right, just snug enough. Also the buckles should all line up.

The beginning of every ride at our place starts with softening work. From the first few rides to warming up the seasoned horse, after a few minutes on the lunge line we get on and soften the horse at a walk. Changing directions, asking for bending. Gentle tugs on the reins and release to let the horse finish the turn on their own.

Stop, wait, take a step back and walk off, go forward, turn left, bigger circles, smaller circles- changing it up a bit as we go along. Circles to the left with the nose tipped out, tipped in, all at a walk on a semi loose rein. Contact comes in a gentle tug on the rein. If the horse doesn't respond, tug a little bit harder. Tug and release, tug and release. If there's nothing to pull against the horse can't pull on you.

When asking for the bend in the neck and their shoulders to move, bring your hand back to your hip. Light tug and release letting your horse find their 'sweet spot'. If the horses head comes up a bit and they resist, stop and ask again. Give them a chance to figure out what you're asking them to do. They aren't going to learn it all in one day. They learn it faster when they figure it out with less interference from the rider.

Sit up straight, moving their shoulders and hips with your legs. If needed, turn your toe out and use your calf to push them over. Ask them to reach under themselves and stretch a little. Crossing over a little more with each step as they become more flexible. The horses poll should remain for the most part, level with their withers. A little above, a little below, no big deal either way. Relax, keep breathing and enjoy the ride.

If it feels like the horse is beginning to lean on your leg, your using too much. Bump, release, bump, release... get a step or two and be happy with that. Praise them for doing what you asked, then ask for it again. as they figure out just what you want and begin to soften, you will start to feel how you get a bit more each time.

This message has been Johnie tested

and Kimba approved.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Rollbacks for Roses

As the title implies this thread is going to discuss rollbacks per request of Rosesr4evr. I will actually be discussing it over a few threads so it can be easier to understand. This weekend when my assistant trainer/photographer is home we will do some instructional photos and put a link to the gallery in the sidebar. I do realize that I am a little slow on getting threads out, but I hope to change that.

So here we go.

I am sure there are a lot of you that in your past have seen the reiners at a horse show do a pattern. The patterns may always be different depending on the judge as to which pattern he wants to use, but the elements are the same. The patterns always include rundowns, sliding stops, spins, figure 8s, lead changes, backing and rollbacks. Not necessarily in that order.

How well that horse preforms these individual feats really depends on one fundamental thing, and that is balance. He hind end has to be engaged and the shoulders have to be light and soft.

Knowing that we have to have a horse that is soft and supple, that is where I like to start. One thing that I feel is very important, is that when I am softening a horses face, shoulders both vertically and laterally, I never like to pull on them at all. I never pull them into a stop, rather I use my seat. When I ask the horse to give me his face, I just gently tug on him and ask for little bits at a time. If I ask the horse to turn into a circle I gently tug on him and lightly bump him with my calf just to get him started and then I like to let him finish on his own. The more that I pull on him, the more likely he will become rubber necked. By using little gentle tugs you accomplish a lot more in a very short time.

It is my personal preference not to bit horses up using side reins, nor do I long line my horses very often. Though there are instances in which I have long lined them if I felt the need to.

As to how this all applies to my method for teaching my horses to do roll backs, It is really quite simple.

Once I have my horse stopping on his hind end and standing quietly, and they have become nice and soft in the face and shoulders, I will start to work them on the rail and use the fence to teach them how to rock back onto their hind end and do a rollback. I like my horses to wrap themselves around my leg if they need to.

First I start on the rail at a strong trot, I do a few laps and let my horse start to rate some at the trot. When I feel that he is ready, I will ask for the stop by sitting down and rolling back on my pockets. As I sit down I exhale and say whoa softly. Remember, my horses is comfortable and relaxed and working so I do not want to startle him by yelling whoa at him. I also want to make sure that I do not lean back in the stop because leaning back will cause him to stop on the front end. I always stay perpendicular to the ground so the horse is able to move freely underneath me.

Now that the horse is stopped on the rail, I ask him to stand for a minute as I do not want him to anticipate the turn. While he his standing next to the rail I will ask him to to tip his nose towards the rail, by giving him a little tug, then I apply a little outside leg (the leg closest to the rail) so that when I ask him to turn towards the rail, he can not drop his shoulder. I will now ask him to turn towards the rail by tugging on the outside rein releasing my outside leg, and bumping with the inside leg (the leg that is closest to the center of the ring) until he starts to turn towards the rail and go the other way. Once he starts the turn I let him finish it on his own. I will do this a few times going both directions and then I go on to something else for a while. Before I finish for the day, however, I will ask for a few more turns on and towards the rail. Sometimes, I will ask him to stand after each turn, sometimes I will ask him to move off immediately. Remember, we do not want the horse to anticipate what is going to happen next.

At this point, I do not apply any neck rein, just direct rein. I want the horse to learn to stay upright and not drop his shoulders in the turns. I also want him to learn to rock back on his hind end so he is able to push off and go the other direction.

What is also important to remember, is that I want my shoulders to stay square with my horses shoulders. If I turn my shoulders in the direction that we are turning, that will cause me to inadvertently move my leg back causing to horse to turn on the forehand.