Sunday, March 11, 2012

Yay Spring!

Spent most of the morning inside at the Horse Fair. Really enjoyed watching the dressage demo. The clinician, Reese somebody or other, knows her stuff. There is a very solid foundation to the very best horsemanship, and regardless of the gear on the horse, it all stems from the same type of philosophy. It's what I had discovered when I first went to audit a day clinic with Missy Fladland, butterflies in my stomach, sure that the "cowgirl" would be massively out of place amongst the dressage queens.

What I discovered was that the good horsemanship I had been studying over the years from the Dorrances on down, all translated. I had a lot of work to do in the new discipline, of course, but I could speak the language.

Yesterday, my friend, Colleen Hamer, rode her 6 year old very green gelding in the demo. Ringo is by her now gelded foundation bred AQHA buckskin horse, Smore. Just breeding alone would put him close to a person’s heart, but he stands there on his own merit. Things being what they are, he has not had a ton of riding (prolly less than 60 days over the past couple of years!) and we all giggled in the stands when the clinician made note as Ringo picked up leg yield very prettily, what a well trained horse he must be. Just goes to show, when the work is done right, you don’t need to drill and grind them to death to get the job done. Too bad more “trainers” out there do not know this or how to get it accomplished.

The demo reminded me how very important those basics are, rhythm, relaxation and straightness. I talk a lot about straightness and I work for that, but I am not always as dedicated to the other two steps which makes it almost impossible to achieve the third one. Just keeping it real, folks!

I have some adult ADD and I ride a horse that certainly does. Between the two of us, it is little wonder that Royal and I struggle for all three! Lately, as my excitement with his wonderfulness grows, we have developed some pretty interesting “gaits.” Quotes because, well, they are not. Royal, as all sensitive responsive horses will do, reads my body language, and picks up immediately on my lack of commitment to doing one thing or another. So, he creates his own . . .  One is a mixture of “I don’t want to extend my trot, how about I lope, look how pretty . . . no? Can’t lope? How about I gait then? No, that’s hard, trot again!” All in about five steps, we can go through this repertoire, and then I am not excited but exasperated and so is Royal.

Focus starts with me.  I’ll get there.  Reese gave me a really good tip. I had asked her how to work on the problem of straightness with skitzy loopnut “look! A butterfly!” Royal. She said not too much work on the wall. Well, we work in a field. Oh! Then find a wall or essentially something he can rely on a little to help him get the idea. That makes sense to me. I have been trying to get it all done in the field, figuring not giving him a rail to rely on would make it even better, but might be premature. We will ride in the pasture next time and use the fence. I don’t really miss having an arena but sometimes they are handy!

Watched Ken McNabb yesterday work a horse that had not been saddled in five years. I didn’t get the back story, no idea if the horse was really broke before that, evergreen or what. Ken also reminded me of the good basics. The very best one, for me, that I took away was that there is nothing so important to rush a horse for . . . not saddling because you have Derby miles to grab, not anything.  I needed to hear that.

The other piece I got from him was a little twist on something I have been talking about for a few years now. We all got real excited over “suppling” our horses. From the ground, in the saddle, taking the head around, side to side, thinking we were getting them super soft and responsive to the bit. Actually what we were doing was disconnecting the head from the feet, bending the neck without a purpose. Ken took the horse’s head around to help the horse understand what that pressure on the bit meant.  BUT instead of just letting the horse have his head back, he had him straighten his body by moving the hindquarter over. NICE!

Ken talked too, about how that thing we think is suppling has taught a lot of horses to flop their head over to the side, run straight through their shoulder and just keep on trucking in time of trouble. I know about a young girl, got herself killed taking her horse’s head away, he went through the shoulder, rolled over on her. Bad bad business.

We want soft and supple, you bet. He says that, I say that, don’t know anyone who does not want that. When Missy, not a ton of years ago, pointed out to me what I was doing when I was warming up for a lesson, the light bulb totally went on for me. Ken said “I NEVER bend my horse’s neck without moving a major muscle mass.”

I like it.

Picked up the Dakota saddle from Jim at Bronco Billy’s (it flunked for Royal but fit Riata beautifully and she needs one, too . . .) and headed for the barn to play with horses.

GORGEOUS Spring day, one of the top ten days we continue to hang out in this part of the country in hopes of experiencing.

I took my time saddling Riata. I prepared her for the experience as best I could. She is so goosey and jumpy. It just kills me that this change has been made. I have ideas but I really don’t know why my gentle friendly girl now has so much distrust and unhappiness in her eyes and her tense, stiff body.

Rubbing her neck, static electricity sends a trail of sparks between my hand and her neck. You would have thought I just sunk my teeth into her throat.

She no longer wants her ears touched. If I didn’t know better, I would swear to God that someone has grabbed those ears and try to manhandle her down. I have owned her a year now and she didn’t come with this. Dunno.

I will say she did not buck.  There would be some people all jumping up and down, thinking they really got something done. I don’t think that. We are FAR from out of the woods, but at least, she didn’t buck yesterday. First time in awhile, for that.  I am in this for the long haul and we will get there. Shaking my head that we are in this place at all and I don’t know how we got here.

Riata in her new Dakota saddle

Rode the Quarter Pony mare, Junebug.  This is her year to get her education. I promised my old partner when I moved the horses over there that I would ride her for him, and ride her I will. We worked for almost an hour and the poor fat thing was puffing her guts out. She’s a classy little unit and is going to be a super nice little horse when all is said and done.

Junebug in her Bronco Billy roper

Royal? He wore his new, nicely fitted Longhorn Cutter and slept against a post. No derby miles for him, yesterday, but that’s okay. I needed some reminders of what I need to be doing, and it feels good to be back on track.

Baby Thoroughbreds are beginning to hatch and the yearlings need my attention. Shady Lanes Ranch is also coming back to life, after the winter and there will soon be all kinds of activity going on, over there.

I’ll say one thing about this life I lead, I am NEVER bored! Smile


ann said...

Terri, you truly are a wonderful author! Could you please explain in more detail for a person who really has to learn in an elementary style, what exactly are the movements you mentioned when flexing the head around and moving large muscle mass(s)? Appreciate it!! Ann

Good Hands said...

Sure, Ann! I am happy to break that down.

Whether it's a rope halter (nylon ones give too dull a feeling for me, is why I prefer the more sensitive rope) or a snaffle bit (no shanks, the angle is wrong for lateral work), I will stand by my horse's shoulder, pick up the line and ask them to bring their head around. Not hard tension, not pulling, just run my hand down the line, take up the slack and then hold when my hand gets back to my body. Sometimes the horse will move around, trying to find release that way. I move with them, not increasing the tension but not releasing it either.

When the feet stop moving and the head is perpendicular, line nicely slack, with the head not laying over at an angle (that shows resistance, not give), you can ask the hindquarter on your side to step over. This straighten's the horse's body and provides complete release.

That's what Ken was doing yesterday. There are variations and other ways to get this done. That was really smooth and I liked it a lot. It will translate to the saddle, when you want to ask the horse to disengage it's hindquarter, it will be a simple matter of picking up that rein in the same way, as the feet will then be attached to the rein and the horse will understand what that pressure means.

Hope that helps!