March 06, 2013

Backing and the Brakes

This weekend was very nice, and warm, not exactly what you would think of as a Colorado winter day...totally not complaining here!  Colorado is a "0 to 60 in less than 24 hours" kind of state.  The bad side is it goes right back to being cold again shortly after a nice autumn feeling day.  Daenerys was shedding again as I groomed her, I did the best I could to get her coat smooth enough for being saddled, I don't want a lot of excess fur under the saddle because I'm sure that can get itchy.

I had a slight issue with bridling today but that was mainly because I poked my finger in her mouth and she really doesn't need that, I just need to hold the bit to her lips and she opens up easily.  I'll make sure to stay consistent with how I bridle her.  The arena was busy with a lesson of three girls on ponies going over jumps throughout the ring.  Lots of cantering and jumping makes me nervous because I feel like I'm always getting in the way.  It's hard to work on spirals, circles, figure eights or serpentines because I'm always on a intercept course.  A couple times I thought I'd figured out which jumps the riders were concentrating on so I was walking Dani past this other one and swoop....the little white pony changed direction and made a bee line towards us.  Oh my goodness!  I cannot wait until the outdoor ring is suitable to ride in again because the jumpers will tend to stay out there in that arena since the jumps are set up 100% of the time.  In the indoor arena jumps are accessible to set up but they have to be taken down after each use...thank goodness for that!  In the summer it seems like the indoor in the flat work ring and the outdoor is the jumper ring...we'll see if that assumption is correct.

Once the ring calmed down there was just one lesson going on with a newer rider and a dressage rider was working her gelding who always seems irritated to me in and out of the arena.  He pins his ears while people work around him; it makes me wonder.  Anyways, all the jumps were away so I was able to work on circling, spirals and figure eights without much interruption from the threat of being trampled.  Such is the life in a large barn, we all have to share the spaces! 

I worked on halts with her; both one rein and regular stops.  We are having issues with the brakes and I'm having trouble figuring out what I'm doing with my cues that could be causing that.  I read an article in Horse and Rider about "Whoas".  It states to ride on, then stop riding the horse (use your seat) then I think you can say Whoa and use the outside rein to stop.  It works best if it's on the rail so that the horse has something that stops them and reinforces the cue.  So I started doing this but I think I could use more practice with my seat, I'm not quite doing the motion for stop like I need to.

Sometimes I rode in my own circle and other times I rode around the arena on the rail.  I think Dani will get the concept of leg yielding pretty easily; that will come later as we progress together but I have a feeling she's already grasping it slightly.  At times it seems Dani gets that I want her to move over towards the rail and I don't have to use the outer rein to guide her there I can just "glide" her over there with my inside leg.  She'll get the concept but we haven't really worked on it too much yet.  I really want to get a quick, responsive stop right now. 

Towards the end of the ride I decided to do some backing.  I don't think I've ever backed Dani and my guess was that she's rusty if she knows how to do it at all.  I don't recall if Laurie worked with her on that during the evaluation but again, that was 5 months ago!  So I "taught" backing to her, Julie Goodnight style.  Now this isn't Julie's style alone but in a recent episode it just seemed to work really nicely so I figured lets show Dani these cues.  It starts off with a sit back, lean back, whatever you want to call it.  Then you close the reins and with your legs in front of the girth you rhythmically "flutter" them, not so much a squeeze but a flutter.  Dani's head went up and she swished her tail but then I eventually got one step backwards.  Perfect, good girl.  Let's try again, one more step, then another, and so it went, step by step literally.  Dani started to do really well when she realized what I wanted.  I was so proud of her and proud of me; learning when to release during any training maneuver is the biggest part of training and I feel I'm getting there, slowly but surely.  I'm getting better at communicating with horses and with her in particular.  There's much less tail swishing than the first few times I rode her. She's getting me and I'm getting her and we are starting to really communicate!  I love it!  We are still only walking and doing minor things but you have to start somewhere; every journey begins with the first few steps.

So, on another mare, I claim she has CMS.  This is what I call Chestnut Mare Syndrome.  It means she's a  gorgeous redhead and she knows it (in a very cute way most of the time) but on the one hand she can be a prima donna towards other horses in the arena.  When a horse passes her those ears pin back and I'm worried she'll kick, try to bite or chase them.  I understand this is what all horses do in the paddock but what do I do while I'm riding her and she gets this little "don't get near me or I'll KILL YOU" attitude towards other horses in the arena?  LOL.  I have to laugh, she's her own person that's for sure!  She's genuinely a nice horse to be around and she loves her humans, she just gets an attitude with other horses (not all).  Suggestions?


Marissa Rose said...

This works with every horse I've ever worked with for stops.

Take a breath, sit deep, press your legs down long into the stirrups, say whoa, close your fingers over the reins and if they are slowing down then that's adequate contact...but don't release the rein until they have stopped and backed up. I actually just wrote a blog post about this yesterday. It's gentle, tells them to stop and also how to stop. Eventually she won't need any rein to stop, but it shows her that her release is actually behind her, aka, getting her booty under herself and using it to help herself stop.

Martine said...

I think you need to let her know that threatening other horses when you are riding her is not acceptable or she could end up with a reputation as a kicker. Try to pre-empt the behaviour by asking her to do something different before the other horse passes, this should switch her focus off the other horse and onto you; or change your direction so you don't pass very close. It comes from insecurity, so by being a positive strong leader she will soon learn that she is "safe" when she is with you

Kalin said...

My QH Gelding has a *slight* problem with stopping when I tell him to. Try sitting back in your seat, pulling back on the reins and saying "WOAH!" or "STOP!" (Whichever you prefer, really.) firmly. I have to stand in the stirrups sometimes to get him to come to a complete stop. Don't be afraid to be firm, the horse is much stronger and bigger than us-You aren't going to hurt her. :) Also, you need to post some pictures of you riding your pretty little mare! :) I've been following your blog since the start. :)
Kalin from (Which is my horse blog. :)

Emmi said...

Haha, CMS, I love it!