Sunday, January 8, 2012

Make or Break – Part 2: This Gets Real

Continuing on from Part One:  Training Tantrums.

We enter the arena and I think that there might be a botfly bugging Sparrow or something ‘coz he keeps on kicking up with his hind legs but then I’m like – “Mmm, actually, now that I think about it, maybe not.”  *applies spurs*  Miraculously, the kicking stops!  Huh.  How ‘bout that.  *rollseyes*

Note:  To clarify, the spurs I wear are 1inch dummy spurs, blunt and soft.  I use them as training aid as per recommended by my instructor and only when necessary.  Just in case you were wondering.  : )

I start off by pushing him in a trot, we trot up and down the arena, turn to head back up and, just like I expected, horsey *BLOWS UP!!!* 

He starts tossing his head, nose to the sky {seriously, my nickname for this guy is “Giraffe” – his head gets up THAT high; the funny thing is that he looks like an Arab when he does that!!} while running backwards and trying to pull the rein away that I am opening up to circle him.  He is NOT happy.  He felt like he was going to do this:


as soon as he could.   At one point his feet DID leave the ground, although to be fair it was more like this:

He is scrabbling, twisting, shaking, pulling, spinning while I am fighting to get his head down and around in a one rein stop to END this nonsense. 

The one rein stop is very effective to get a horse’s head out of the air, as well as to stop him going backwards, but it’s actually really hard for me to pull his head right in at this point because he KNOWS that if I get his nose, I win. 

I sort of manage it, not fully as I was just not strong enough to get his head all the way around, plus I think my rein was too long; but did I get it enough to stop him.  I move him forwards and decide to try a little trick I’ve read about on some of the Western training blogs I read.  They call it working “patterns” and my understanding is that it’s type of competitive discipline where the rider puts the horse through a series of quick and complicated manoeuvres.  Translated to English riding I call it “Don’t give the horse time to think” so I started thinking manoeuvres out loud and getting Sparrow to do them as fast as possible.   Example:  trot, walk, turn left, turn right, figure of eight, trot, halt, trot, walk, 20 meter circle, figure of eight, across the arena short, go large, walk, halt, turn right, left, right, diagonal, serpentine, etc. 

I didn’t plan these manoeuvres, and I found that saying them out loud helped me to do them faster which is what you want.  I don’t know if it worked in terms of overcoming his resistance, but he didn’t muck up again and I could see his ears flicking back and forth; he was listening to me which is a good sign.  I think he was surprised by my quick and random riding; it made him switch on to me which is definitely a good thing.

However, he was still stiff through his back and neck through all of this.  It was only when he spooked in one corner of the arena and we did that corner a couple of times to work it out, that on the last time we did it, I felt him stop resisting.   I got one moment of softness from him – real, true, ‘I am listening, tell me what to do’ suppleness, so I brought him down to a walk and called it a day.   I don’t know if it was the right time to stop then, he wanted to canter a couple of times through the manoeuvres, but I never asked him to – my gut instinct told me to finish right then, but my horse-sense is telling me that although the battle might be over, the war is not yet won…  The onion metaphor comes to mind, and I’ll discuss that in part three. 

See ya!


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