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.


fernvalley01 said...

Ah, so that was the illustrious Johnie mare? good looking pony! I like the way you presented that , if it doesn't work the first time RELEASE and try again.Some people just work on the push/pull harder theory. Check, release,works better for me too .

Jenn said...

JR - this exactly matches the advice a friend passed along as we were working with our young horses on Sunday. Nice to get consistent info.

Also, you differ with a couple other "trainers" (of their own horses) on headstall length/bit placement. Not by much, however. I know two who do not want a wrinkle (length just shy of causing one), and two who recommend as you do. Interesting to hear differing viewpoints.

Whoopy spooked and I had an UPD (unplanned dismount) when I became off balance and the saddle slipped. *#?!** Arabians with no withers! Really, it was all ok, but keeping an upright saddle on him has proven a challenge if I become off-center. Any thoughts? He's cinched tight, but if I end up leaning much, around we go. Adventures in new breeds - how boring it would be without them!

JohnieRotten said...


usually when we place the bit in a horses mouth, there is no wrinkle until the horse picks the bit up. Once he picks up the bit we see a wrinkle. Any lower and a lot of times we have a problem with the horse getting his tongue over the bit. If he has to pick the bit up it is a lot more difficult for him to get his tongue over it.

As far as your saddle goes, you may want to check the fit. I had found in the past that most Arabs needed required a wide tree because they had no withers. You can also try using a breast collar to avoid rolling all of the way. But if you keep tightening the cinch with no luck. More than likely it is the saddle fit.

I am glad to hear that you are alright.


I like to give a lot of release to my horses. It drives me mutts when they start to pull on me because there is not enough release.

Dena said...

I want the horse. But will take the saddle.
Very nice.
And thank you for being the person who finally put this in plain and understandable language.
Bless your big ole heart...

GoLightly said...

Wow, so similar, huh?

And I want that mare, too.
Wise old face.
dibs, Dena!
You called the saddle.

Whoopy spooked.
Glad you're okay, I'm sorry Jenn, Whoopy spooked. (SNORK)
(smacks fingers)

Cut-N-Jump said...

For those of you claiming dibs on the mare, I ask you this. Did you miss that she is his namesake and his screen name is Johnie Rotten??? I know we are all a bit slow at times and some things go over our heads. I too have been guilty of this.

Although she is a wonderful horse on a number of levels, she can be volitile when working. She gives everything 1000% and gets frustrated that I'm an idiot and didn't ask for all or nothing. But then put a beginner on her and she doesn't offer to do any more than what is asked. Or rather demanded. "Are you sure? You really want me to move? Ok but I'm not going any faster than a walk. And even still you have to keep me moving. I promise."

And for everyone who has met her, each of them has a Johnie Story about something she did or a way that she looked at them or reacted to something that happened. She has not been bred yet, but we have seriously considered it. But then could the world take another horse like her? I guess we are sorta soon to find out, since she is the purest form of equine reflection of her owner. And we have twins.

fernvalley01 said...

I like that mare better already after your comment cnj.Even though I talk about my old Catana mare like she was a saint , she had a streak of mischief. But with kids and beginners,or my 86 year old Aunt Charlotte.. a bloddy princess! everything on a 2 sec delay ,"are you sure ?" with a look on her face like "if I drop this person ,I will be in sooo much trouble!"

fernvalley01 said...

one day I will learn to use spell check! "Bloody Princess"

Dena said...

Fern I am with you. That description did not turn me off in any way shape or form.
CnJ you keep the man we get the horse.
Seems fair yes?

Cut-N-Jump said...

FV- so you know of what I speak... and they know who to test and who not to.

She's the one we took to a show for a young clients first time in the ring- showmanship class. And later as a fluke we entered her in an English class. Her and I were awarded a 2nd place out of 9 entries. I was told Not to get Any ideas...

Cut-N-Jump said...

Dena, didn't you have one named Johnie?

JohnieRotten said...

Please help me. I can hear Johnies voice in my head. The bitch is relentless. Nag nag nag. All freaking day long.

"bring me a butterscotch treat, feed me"

I am wondering when a house is going to fall on my mare.

Beware the mare!

fernvalley01 said...

Well JR, you best just get your tush out there and give her what she wants , there is a small (but growing) lineup of her fans, trying to steal her

JohnieRotten said...

I do absolutely love that mare. She is as exactly as cnj described. And when you put her on a cow, she is a very dynamic mare. We want to breed her one of these days.

Cut-N-Jump said...

Dena, you would wish to part a man and his horse? Nothing good could come from that. You know this. Her and the blond broad Chica are his keepers beyond all else.

FV- we gave her butterscotch treats once when she was in the back yard. Did you know a horse could literally wrap themselves around a person? She did that day, and was making sure he was going nowhere until the bag was empty and all treats were hers. Even then the only thing that distracted her so he could get away...

The sound of another bag being opened by the back door. She covered the ground in nothin flat and was going to come inside to get them if need be. I stopped her at the door with a finger to her forehead and said "Oh I don't think so!" and she relented to devouring them on the porch.

She truly has the attitude that "My Daddy owns the place!"

rosesr4evr said...

Awesome post JR! I had written a post, but it seems like blogger ate it.

I already knew some of this and it's great to get it all down in print and pics.

I know it's work, but it helps soooo many! Thank you!