Tuesday, June 26, 2012

He’s no angel…


But at least he’s not trying to kill me any more! 

I have been surprised and impressed with how well Joey’s been doing lately - perhaps it’s just that young horses take that much more time to really settle into a new place, or maybe that he’s finally decided that I’m not such a bad egg after all.

Either way, I’m seeing an improvement in Joey that I am very much liking at the moment.  He’s a lot calmer, and far more relaxed about things.

We’re seeing less of the bad attitude, and more habitual silliness now – like jogging when he’s fresh, spooking at the barrels for no good reason, or if he gets bored he’ll spook at nothing.  Plus, he’s a bit on the lazy side, so if you push him too hard he’ll buck and be jig around and be generally stupid.


I find that he really does need to be ridden at every moment your on his back, because if his mind is not engaged he’ll get into mischief and if you loose focus for one second, he looses his focus too!  I am discovering that this is the hard slog of riding a young horse; not that they are necessarily worse to ride then an older horse, but rather that they require that much more work under saddle.  You can’t ever switch off and leave it to the horse because they don’t understand that kind of partnership yet.  You must always be leading them – directing them and making the choices.

It’s exhausting mentally and physically, but it’s worth it when you realise that you’re making progress.  And we are! 


Currently we are working on forwards, (ie, legs, legs, legs), lowering his frame to bring him on the bit and prepare for the first stages of collection, and canter. 

I have cantered him a couple of times now and he’s been really good – no antics, just a nice medium canter, if a little unbalanced.  Joey really can be quite sensible at times which is nice!  Anyway, I must be off to ride my horse. 

See ya!


Monday, June 4, 2012

Getting the job done

So last Friday I had a lesson on Joey which turned out to be… interesting, to say the least!  He was very fresh (totally my fault), very spooky (totally his fault) and generally an all-around silly boy.

It started as I was longing him before the lesson, a couple mopeds came up the driveway, and he had a good whirl’n’spin to goggle at them in giraffe mode.  I knew it was going to be an iffy ride when he stood like a rock for five minutes staring after them even after they had long disappeared!  He wouldn’t even twitch an ear in my direction, so my first order of business was to ask for his attention when I hopped on his back.

I soon found out that that wasn’t going to be easy so my instructor got us trotting on and I do mean trotting!  I was asking him for forward – the shapes of the exercises we were doing weren’t important at this stage.  What we were looking for was forward movement from Joey, which would calm him down and get rid of the fizziness. 

I think we were trotting for a least 20-30 minutes straight, we did an hour glass figure (20m circles at A and C; changing diagonals across the arena), we did the 3 20m circle loop up and down the arena – basically we went around and around until I was dizzy and my legs were about to fall off!

It took quite some time before he started listening – we had arguments about which direction we were going to go in, and whether or not our circles where going to be 20ms rather than 18 or 15ms, and where or not we go past the “scary” side of the arena (which is TOTALLY not scary at all, it’s just the corner closest to all his paddock mates as well as being the corner he can see them from – ie, he was just being a moron.); these disagreements where met with one-rein stops, growling, and some rib thumping on my part.

No.  It was not pretty.  In fact, I felt like a right idiot snapping “Trot!! Get on!!!” rather loudly while thumping his sides repeatedly, but the fact of the matter is it got the job done.   No, I do not advocate that manner of riding if you do it without asking nicely first, but I follow Mugwump’s principles:

1. I ask with a whisper (actually, it's a touch, I'm not much on whispering). Once.
2. I say what's required with a firm explanation (using legs and hands). Once.
3. I make it happen. No matter what it takes, I make it happen.
Then I take a breath and go back to step one.

She developed this whisper, ask, TELL method from her own years of training experience and what she’s learned from other trainers, like Ray Hunt.

If anybody ever went to a Ray Hunt clinic they probably saw what would happen to one of his well broke horses if they quit listening. Ray got their attention, fast and hard. Whip, spur, bit, whatever it took to clarify his position, he was using it. His misbehaving horse would go scurrying back to soft obedience as fast as it could. Because Ray made the wrong thing very, very difficult if his horse knew better.

I think that the crucial principal is this:

Horses don't become soft if they don't understand there's a consequence for not being that way.  They need to understand the gentle touch of the rein or leg will be followed with a much firmer reminder of what's needed.

So even though I know my riding Joey in such a git-after-him manner wasn’t the best equitation, it was what he needed at that point in time.  Because when we stopped trotting, I took a deep breath, relaxed and softened my aids back to a whisper, and then he produced some soft, obedient walk work practising our 10m circles up and down the centre line.  By the end of the ride, he was listening to me. 

Like my trainer said; I had his number.  And if thumping his sides and growling at him was what it took, then so be it!

See ya,


P.S.  ~ All of Mugwump’s wise words sourced from here.

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