Tuesday, January 8, 2013

last night's ride

I believe there about 100 ways to ask for the exact same result when working with horses. At this point in my relationship with Lucy, I have tried quite a few methods. Some have worked better than others. The most recent method I tried was "ignore it all and put my leg on" and while this moves her past that one instance of acting out, she continues to try and pull the same stunts multiple times during the course of the ride. Talk about annoying!

Last night we worked on her becoming more responsible for herself. I joked with Maddy that I must have to adjust her at least 15 times each trip around the ring. 75% of those adjustments are "slow down" and the remaining 25% are "stop being a complete and utter jerk". Wouldn't it be nice if she could hold her own a bit, and travel around at a constant pace on a loose rein without taking advantage of it and also without me having to give her a half halt (that she mostly ignores) every other stride?

Maddy taught me how to "reset" her if she gets too fast, acts naughty, or refuses to go forward. What I was instructed to do is:

-let go of any inside contact I have
-sit deep in the saddle
-push my outside hand down toward her face, hold the rein, and pull her head toward the wall of the indoor
-at the same time, use my inside/outside leg to push her body around and then straighten her back out when she is pointed in the opposite direction
Your reins only control from the base of the neck forward, and your legs control from the front of the shoulder backward. Coordination is key!

This is a pretty cool tool because unlike a one-rein stop, it does not halt the motion entirely; it instead encourages the horse to move out at the end of the intervention. Doing a one-rein stop with Lucy really pisses her off and on the flip side, I have a horse that is even more unmanageable than she was before I felt the need to stop her.

So I have dubbed this the reset button, though I am sure there is some fancier term for it. We first worked on it on Sunday night, Lucy's first ride after two days off. She was feeling mighty fresh so it was a good time to introduce this concept. Sometimes we didn't go more than two steps after resetting before she needed to do it again because she threw a tantrum or kicked out at my leg.

The kicking out business really annoys me. "No" is not an acceptable answer, ever, and that is a direct refusal to go forward/accept my leg, along with a giant middle finger (the kicking out part). She obviously thinks she is some hot sh*t. This method seemed to work a lot better than standing there, both of us dueling it out with each other, feet flying.

The toughest part is setting your threshold, mostly in terms of speed. If you have a horse that likes to get quick, what is the point where you say, ok, time to reset? I need to work on that myself and be very cut and clear with her for the concept to really click.

Last night she was a lot better but still had her moments. The best feeling was trotting around the ring and her just maintaining her own pace, not getting quick down the long side, thinking of acting out but then deciding not to, etc.

You will see in the first part of the video that I am working with her a bit on the ground, doing the exercises that the chiro prescribed for her after her appointment on Sunday.

Pretty cool!


  1. My cowboy does this with every horse he works, regardless of where they are in training. He does it on the ground in the round pen, too. He calls it "working the wall" -- but yes, it's just a redirection of energy and controlling their legs usually means you can control the rest. I've seen him go the length of an arena and turn, then go the length again and turn again -- or, like you said, sometimes it's a few steps and you turn again.

    But, when they realize they have to work harder when they're stupid, they tend to take the easy route and just behave -- at least that's the goal! Glad it's working for Lucy!

  2. We do this sometimes, we just call them rollbacks on the wall. She's young still, you'll get there!

  3. That is good you have found something that works for you both! It sounds like maybe she is just not confirmed on the half halt. If you need to half halt all around the arena, then the half halt is not doing it's job.

    An alternate exercise is to half halt - does she respond? If not then halt immediately. Proceed back to trot. Half halt again...did it work? If so then big praises, if not then halt. Repeat x1000.

    Circles can also help, leg yeilding on the circle. A lot of Thoroughbreds find it too stressful to carry themsevles straight down the long side. You can carry on, then if you feel her speed up or get tense put her on a circle until she relaxes. If she is tense on the circle do a little leg yield in - leg yield out. Then carry back onto the wall. That was an exercise Sinead Halpin gave me for Archie and it has really helped.

    Just some other ideas for you!

  4. Oh Lucy... Glad you found an exercise that is helping!

  5. A trainer I recently worked with also suggested rollbacks on the wall when a horse is misbehaving. He does them rapidly and quite a few of them in a row so that it tends to piss the horse off, but hey, it works! Whatever you need to do!

  6. The part you have bolded is SUCH a key concept, and one that so many people seem to miss. The one rein stop is great for greenies or in an absolute emergency, but it doesn't help you if your problems happen during forward motion, and it pisses SO many horses off. You can't just one-rein in a dressage test or jumping round, and the 'reset' you described above is a great solution! Very cool you found it.

  7. I like it. I've always thought the one rein stop was hokey, but I've never spent any time of it. Like... the whole point is to disengage the hindquarters? But I just spent 20 minutes engaging them!


    Here's to a new and improved Lu!

  8. She doesn't look like she is tracking up at the trot? If anything, one trick I've learnt, especially with TB's, when they are avoiding you, and avoiding work, is ask for more!! They want to go fast to avoid you? By all means, trot faster, but still respecting my hands, legs, etc.....work harder....eventually they get the idea that faster doesn't get them out of work...it just means work harder! just a thought!


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