Tuesday, December 8, 2009

to leg or not to leg

I have been thinking about trying Lucy in a different bit, and many people whom I spoke with suggested a Waterford. I went to Dover after work yesterday and picked one up. I had great plans to go to the barn, let L zoom around the indoor for a bit, then ride. I got there and there no one else was around, and I have a rule not to ride alone, especially on a horse as green as Lucy. It worked out well, though, because I let her run around the indoor a bit and play, and then I spent half an hour telling her about my day and hugging her and stroking her neck. I had a frustrating day at work, and she stood calmly and snuffed my hair and let me get everything off my chest. I noticed that she kept looking around the ring, almost like the herd leader checks the horizon every few minutes, to protect the members from any danger and alert them to predators. It was comforting to think (even if this is not the case) that I am one of her "herd".

Tonight I am going to ride and I have a few plans brewing. Lately Lucy has been getting fast and strong, now that she's feeling like a new woman. The circle circle circle method worked to slow her down before but it's not as effective lately.

As far as I can tell there are two different theories on retraining OTTB's. Well I'm sure there are lots more than two, but these are the two trains of thought I most often hear and read about:

1. When retraining the OTTB, stay off their face and let them learn balance and straightness through the shoulder/hip by riding them on circles, zig-zags, and various other shapes that are curvy. If they get fast, CIRCLE. If they start leaning, CIRCLE. If they bulge, CIRCLE (and pick up that inside rein!).


2. When retraining the OTTB, start off by teaching contact. So far, the horse has learned to lean against the contact, as if it's a wall that needs to be pushed until it gives way. He now needs to learn that contact is supposed to be a method of communication and support, not a challenge. Teach him to give to the pressure, and from there teach him how to bend.

Since Lucy had several body mechanics issues that needed to be worked on by the chiropractor and massage therapist, I adopted thought process #1, not wanting to start demanding things out of her that were physically painful for her to attempt. For instance, with a lateral displacement of her spine that measured almost 20 degrees, it would have been really difficult for her to give to pressure going to the left. She could barely even go in a circle to the left, and that was moving like a piece of cardboard. Both therapists who came out warned me against putting her in side reins, because she is still so sore through her SI joint that cranking her head down would cause more damage through her back and hips. They said they'd rather see her travel straight and level than adopt a false roundness.

Now that she is feeling much better, she is moving totally different than how she did before her various therapies. She is also getting stronger and with that, comes speed. I have tried doing the circle circle circle and circle some more! thing, but I am not sure that is the right choice for us right now.

Instead, I need to mush the two theories together. As someone said to me, "She needs to learn to accept your leg!". So far I've been riding her with zero leg, which makes fixing the leaning around the circle thing difficult. When a normal horse leans around the circle, you're supposed to support with your outside rein and inside leg. The instant I put any kind of leg on Lucy, she is ready to go run the Preakness, and then we have to do ten more circles to get her attention again. Then we come back to the "give to pressure" thing, because if she knew how to give to pressure from the bit, she might better understand what I am asking her to do when I support with my outside rein and inside leg.

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