Sunday, November 24, 2013

Why America Is Producing Such Mediocre Instructors

This is a subject which I believe is not only resonating within the US but also within other countries. I see it happen on my own home ground in Australia.

You can find the full story here on The Riding Instructor. 

This is a subject which I see represent itself at every competition, local, national and international. We live in a world now where the ribbon, the prize is the the epitome of many riders careers. There are many riders who prefer the easy option. The push-button ride they know will come out on top. What is worse is that these riders most likely get into the teaching profession and this ties into number 1 below. You can only teach what you know. Our riders are not diversified with different styles of horse and a vast majority could not start a young horse or take a troubled off the tracker to stardom. Therein lies the problem.

George Morris once said "If riding were only blue ribbons and bright lights, I would have quit a long time ago." Sadly, that is what people strive for. More time is spent practicing movements or jumps than spent schooling horse and in turn schooling the rider. Riders should not be single disciplined, there should be a cross over. Cross training for horses and riders should be as common as cross training for other athletes. Versatility is important. It is vital to creating a great horse. Jumping goes hand in hand with dressage. Dressage can take pages from jumping. Why is there a lack of people taking the effort to train their horses, not just buy the best their bank balance can afford. Without the knowledge of other disciplines and riding styles how can you expect the quality of instructors to continue as it once did in decades past.

The following is an excerpt from the article: 

"1.  Too many Instructors are not learning and teaching foundations and basics
Instructors can only teach what they have learned, whether it be from their instructors, clinics, books or experience. If a system of basics isn’t taught to the first generation , the second generation will be weaker and so on down the line. This is a reason that so many of our current instructors lack depth.  They may have miles and miles of show ring experience, but they lack the fundamental foundation and do not understand how one principal depends on another to form a strong base of knowledge.
Students are not usually encouraged to read the classics and when they are, the classics are out of print and unavailable. A horseman can’t go into a tack or book store and purchase books by authors such as, Harry Chamberlin, Gordon Wright, Vladimir Littauer, Piero Santini, or Margaret Cabell Self.  In the January 11, 2002 Chronicle of the Horse article “Observations I’ve Made While Teaching”  George Morris wrote “Unless teachers review the classics of riding and jumping literature on a regular basis, they will become stale and fall prey to fashions and fads.”
Instructors can only teach what they know or what they see. We have a generation of copy cat instructors who see something but have no idea about the principles behind what they see.  They teach it to students, some who become instructors themselves, and their knowledge is more shallow than their predecessors. This has created a spiraling down cycle and a dilution of the quality of instruction in the U.S.
2.  Too many riding instructors in America are in the wrong profession.
A person is not automatically a teacher because he knows how to do something himself. There are many extremely talented, even Olympic level, riders who are naturally gifted. They ride like they really know riding, but as spectacular as they and their horses are, they can’t explain why they do what they do. The most important quality of a good instructor is that he or she is able to get you, the student, to understand the principle of what he or she is teaching.
A trainer of horses does not automatically have the tools to be a good teacher, either. A trainer communicates without words.  Many who are patient with their horses have no patience for human students and they lack good communication skills. She or he may be the best trainer, able to get their horses to do amazing things, but it is no indication that they will be a good teacher.
A coach is a motivator who is also a teacher in many ways, but a coach is concerned with competition. Frequently, equestrian coaches deal more with the psychology of winning than they do the art of horsemanship.  In a the July 7, 2006 Chronicle of the Horse article “Where Did We Come from? Where are We Going?” George Morris quotes former USET  3 day Coach, Jack LeGoff. Morris says, “When talking to Jack the other day about his new book, I asked him what was wrong. He hit the nail on the head, as usual: The young trainers are teaching their students to compete. They are not, necessarily, teaching them to ride.”
The ability to teach is a gift and a talent. Instructors who lack the gift of teaching also lack the passion and ability to understand their subject and are unable to give their students a thorough riding foundation. They are usurpers masquerading as instructors.
3. Too Many Riding Instructors Teach for the Wrong Reasons
In an October 10, 1997 Chronicle of the Horse article “Values- And Boys- Are Hard To Find On Our Horse Show Scene” George Morris wrote “Money and greed are the worst problems that have crept in to what I used to think of as my sport.  I’m afraid unless our society has a big shock, that money will be the eventual ruination of this sport as we once knew it.”
It takes lots of money to run a good barn and keep up the right appearance. Money is a driving force in today’s horse industry, even more than it was in 1997. A trainer’s lifestyle depends on clients and commissions. Many instructors and trainers strive to keep their students dependent on them so they can keep clients, and they teach “over their heads” in order not to lose their client to another barn.
The goal is wrong. Horse Shows used to be a “progress test” for riders, a way to see how you compared to other riders in order to improve yourself as a horseman. More often than not, today horse shows ARE the goal for riding.  The horse professional, be it trainer, instructor or coach, makes much of his money at and because of, horse shows. This causes trainers to find the fast track, the easy way, the short cut for their students, in order to get their student on the show circuit faster.  Students don’t learn how to work through problems.  They learn how to replace problems with a better horse. They don’t develop an eye for distances.  They count strides.  They don’t develop a base of support. They lay on their horses over fences.
Judges reward bad training techniques and short cuts because they are obligated to place classes.  And competitors do what it takes to win. If a slow canter placed this week, next week the horses will be cantering even slower.  If the winner’s horse had its face on the vertical this week, next week the horses will be slightly behind the vertical.  Trainers copy to win without knowing what they copied and they teach these short cuts to their students. Instead of giving students the tools that are required to train a horse and to ride well, our riders are becoming gimmick professionals. The crutches become the way to ride and copy cat riders and trainers turn them into fads. Fads, crutches, gimmicks, and short cuts lead to cruel training practices, over use of artificial training aids, quick fixes and disposable horses.
The Results
The result of not educating our future riders in classical principals,  of turning our sport into an industry that is motivated by money, and providing quick fixes and fast tracks, is that we have diluted U.S. Horsemanship.  U.S. Horsemanship is no longer the envy of other countries.  And our equestrian venues have become increasingly dangerous to the point that we are killing horses and their riders. Teachers and instructors are the people who have the most powerful influence over the upcoming generation of horsemen and women.  Unless instructors choose to develop depth in their own education and unless instructors are willing to slow down and teach the foundation to their students, U.S. Horsemanship will continue on it’s downward spiral."
This is the first article I've come upon that reflects how I feel on the current generation of riders and instructors. 

Stay tuned for more posts, one year without blogging is a bit ridiculous! 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Liberty, Free Jumping and Bareback

I have been without a voice the past few days and finally felt up to doing something other than being a sloth. Initially I was only doing some playful lunging with Boss, starting out with the short line then progressing to liberty work. Sadly, I don't have a round yard so I made a template with my jumps across the arena.

Bareback with the Boss
I haven't concentrated enough of my time to doing my natural horsemanship bonding with Boss as I had with Rion. He is a quick learner though and has taken to his education well and enjoys his jumping. So much so that he jumped out of my makeshift round yard whilst doing liberty.

I didn't even expect to ride yesterday but ended up having a bareback jump out. Here is the best photo I got and a video.



Monday, October 22, 2012

Back Atcha!

As my last post date will reveal I have been rather slack on tending to my blog. Since last I wrote much has changed at Conran park. Journey’s have ended and others continued full steam ahead.

Rion's last ride with me
After seven years Rion has returned  to his owner’s to semi-retirement. Although it is sad to lose his presence and a horse I had such a strong bond with I have my other boys to distract me.
Boss Jumping at Home

Boss has improved in leaps and bounds and has impressed me from the start. The largest difference has been in his mentality, for an ex-racer it is expected that there behaviour is going to be a little, if not outright mental. It is all about the ride, if you will. He has progressed in his jumping from doing his first courses with me to jumping 1.05m and looking at going to 1.10m courses in the next few jump days. 

Dressage wise I am brushing up on my skill as well as schooling him in new movements which he is gradually picking up on. My biggest challenge with him to date has been balance. As all racers have an overwhelming tendency to obtain a shoulder loading way of going. In my upcoming posts I’ll talk more about this in detail.

The baby of the herd, Dartanion, or baby as he is more commonly referred as, is well recovered from his injury. It has been over 6 months now since he sustained his injury and he is better than ever. Besides his rather unappealing scar he has been cleared to resume training by the end of November. Much sooner than we could have hoped. I am ending my semester at uni  in the next month so the plan is to continue Dart’s work with Mark after my exams. Instead of receiving his training in semi-sporadic bursts it will be working daily with Mark at his place. A much stronger option in terms of his mental and emotional development. 

Reebok is the same old nanny of the pack but will soon be a schoolmaster for me to teach with. Better hope he behaves and does the Arabs of the world proud. Stranger things have happened..

That's all for now, I plan to be back soon with more posts! 


Monday, June 11, 2012

The Tales of an OTTB's Training

Hello one and all,

The new boy, Boss has been settling in well and is getting much more comfortable jumping. I am happy with his progress so far. I love a good project horse!

In terms of his jumping work I have taken him out to jump club twice now and each time has been better than the last. Last Weekend I took him in the 85cm as his first full course of jumping. There were a few confused spots during the course so I just trained him around over some of the fences. Happy with his efforts I thought I should give him a go in the 95cm and he was even better than in the 85cm. Nothing to complain about with this guy so far!

I need to get onto some cavaletti exercises with him as he has a tendency to just run through the hand in the canter and set his head and neck - as is common in the ex-racers. I don't see it as a problem for him, he will learn in die time. He is taking the half halts better in his trot but the canter is really where I have to put in the hard yards. I have started on his lateral work, both on the ground and under saddle. Moving him off the leg and from the shoulder most importantly, where he would rather load up his weight and push through me. Colleen has been helping me when I come to her with problems in our flatwork. Her solution - amongst many others - TRANSITIONS. A myriad of transitions, walk - trot- canter - trot; up and down the arena, making the horse balance himself and desist him from running through the hand as a result of his lacking balance. The flatwork exercises I am using on him and Rion are those that I learnt from George Morris. Spiralling circles,  shoulder in, quarters in, straight around the arena. Never underestimate the power of simplicity in your exercises.

As yet I haven't been using my lunging to aid his schooling for him. Alas, the amount of university work I have has kept me from doing all that I can with him until I am on holidays next weekend. I have plans with him to take him cross-country schooling in Camden after my exams and possibly his first horse trials mid July. I don't know how he will go there but we shall see after the cross-country training day we do.

This weekend I was at Camden with both of the boys, jumping in the freezing cold. Here is a video of Boss in his first competition:


Saturday, May 26, 2012

Roll Up Roll Up - Things are on track

Now I can proudly say that I am the new owner of Boss. I am rather eager to get him home and start working with him, something to bring up the ranks. My plan for him at this stage is to bring up his lateral movements in his flatwork and get him out jumping. Colleen (my trainer) advised from the videos she saw of him that he is a little high in the neck when he is jumping and to change this I need to do some bounces with him. Along with bounces, pole exercises that teach him to be forward rather than collecting too much are also on the agenda. Young horses need to be forward in their jumping rather than almost backward going. This comes from the rider, giving the horse the forward 'going' keeping the leg pressure there to the jump gives the horse more confidence in their job. Alternatively, continually riding the shorter, slow going keeps them backward and gives them the job to do all on their own. As is usual in many youngsters this will only last so long.

Our first jump at home together. 
It has taken me almost a month to get onto this post but in Mid April, I took Rion to our Pony Club Zone Showjumping event - though it is a little small I have to continue Pony Club to maintain my position as a sport scholar at university.  The jumps were only set between 1.05-1.10m. Into the first round, table c, and we came out with a first, second round didn't go so well in the 2-phase; just having one down to finish 4th. Last class of the day was the six-bar and we ended with another first. It was our first six bar and was definitely a good warm up for the next show that was on our radar. Nevertheless, Rion was a star all day, not putting a foot wrong, no rearing, bucking or misbehavior at all which is a breath of fresh air.

Dart is on the slow and steady at the moment, having incurred an injury he is on a hiatus for the time being, which is not favorable but it does give me time to concentrate on Boss and bringing him up the ranks.

Fast forwarding to recent rides, I have taken Boss to Colleen's for lessons twice, each time he gave me two different rides. There is a pattern forming, each time I take him to a new place he gets the ex-racehorse freak out on - takes everything for a moment then reacts. The second time I take him back to the same place he acts like it is home; definitely a positive reaction.

This past wednesday I took him down to Jump Club for a bit of a go around some jumps in a quiet setting. He warmed up well and we were jumping about 90cm pretty well so I was happy with that and took him home after a few nice rounds. He is progressing nicely for me and now I just need to keep him on track with the jumping and practice my dressage with him. I have entered him in his first show which will be in two weeks today. Its only 75cm but its a start.

Here is a video of Rion Jumping and of Boss in his month with me to date - Enjoy! 


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

News, News, News..

Well it is about time that I found the effort to write another blog post. In my defense I have had little to write about - university has also occupied much of my thought..

Rion at home recently. 
Our summer here is AUS was miserable to say the least, plagued by consistent heavy rain and flooding; keeping me from even getting home of a night for a few days at a time. When I could ride Rion either lost a shoe or was lame from soft hooves from all the wet. Frustration after frustration.

After Dart's successful initiation over Christmas and into the New Year he has had a good spell up until a week ago. I have been putting him back on the lunge line again, playing with him on arena again but this time incorporating poles and cavaletti - creating regularity in his gaits. Being the dude that he is he has been taking everything in his stride and is so far taking everything I throw at him. He has had everything done to him except be mouthed as yet. I have had saddles on him, boots, chaff bags, brooms, everything and anything and he just stares at me waiting for the next foreign object to approach.

When Rion loses a shoe the pony is always around for some fun.
I am thinking of setting up the arena one of these days and get him free jumping -- see what he's got to give out of his current 17hh. He still has a little filling out to do and another inch or so the vets say. Gentle giant. Every day that passes I find myself saying that I just want to ride him. Mark has been out of town during my university holidays so we have been unable to get him mouthed - the sooner the better s hopefully we can organize a plan of action. 

Dart man -- chilled as.
Sadly, after the 6.5 years that I have had Rion, training, competing, growing with him it is time for him to go home. When I got him back in 2006 I didn't think I would have him around for this long. He and I have come far together and we have taught each other a lot but as his owner has requested he be returned it is time to move on. Though he is jumping well at home, particularly in his grids we have hit a plateau. I will miss him, without a doubt, we have a great relationship despite his rearing. I plan on taking him to the beach before he goes home and doing a nice shoot with him one last time.

I had the opportunity to try a new horse today, a young 7yr old TB that has had a few races but is showing serious eventing potential. My ride on him today was very different. He has great natural paces and is accepting of the contact which I am not used to from Rion -- having to constantly fight with him to get anywhere; thus my lack of ability in being able to ride an actual nice horse. A few lessons with Mark and I will be right on track again. I haven't had a 'nice' dressage ride since I had Acta in 2008-09 who was a 2* eventer. Boss, the horse I rode today had paces much the same of Acta's and his jump was reminiscent of Acta's as well. I am very excited about the prospect of Boss but no decisions have been made yet. Hopefully there will be positive news soon..

Meet BOSS.

That's all for now folks, hopefully have some more to write about soon.


Monday, January 16, 2012

Finally, A Positive Reaction..

A thoroughbred is a different breed of horse, one that plays tricks on their riders and feigns their vivacious emotions to get out of work. The trick to getting around these reactions is to ride a thoroughbred as you would a warmblood and vice versa.

Rion, being the thoroughbred he is, has created a plethora of emotional tools to escape having to listen and actually work. I have been told a million times when he rears, or just refuses to go forward to 'use my leg'. I agree, of course, but as Mark said to me it is not as easily said as can be done. To receive forward from Rion and any horse that is so inclined to behave like him needs to be pliable to the leg and pliable from the hands. Rather than be braced by the hand. He must stay in front of the leg, long and low - at this stage - working from behind through to his shoulder, relaxing over the back. He must remain on the bend of the circle, only when he drops the head and he takes the hand forward do we give the reins and allow him to walk on a long lead. This is the reward for taking the contact rather than bracing against it.

Today, I warmed him up on the lunge, a little sluggish to the aids at first but ending much more responsive to me he was showing himself as a much calmer horse. Mark jumped aboard first. Moving him forward into a marching walk, keeping him forward. Mark made the importance clear to me in not throwing my reins away while I was riding, keeping the contact in the direct line to his mouth but giving my hands towards the bit. I noticed as I took Rion for a spin after Mark schooled him that he was much softer and more responsive to the leg and accepting the contact. He has always moved off my leg but just as everything else he has done it was bracing and heavy. When I put my leg on to move him out onto the circle it was instantaneous and light, a smile lit up my face as in that moment he took my hands forward and I gave him the rein and a little pat.

Mark taught me that there are three parts to the horse:
A: The head to shoulder.
B: The shoulder to flank.
C: The hindquarter.

Each of these parts has their designated controller and need. In order to make a pliable horse the parts need to be able to move in isolation and in conjunction.

The moving turn on the forehand is my best tool in softening Rion. The first point of business is to 'puppeteer' the hands, not pull the horse's mouth and move the leg backward to control part C by applying the leg on and off, squeezing the side as he moves. The aim is for the horse to step through with the inside hind leg, with the forelegs walking forward on a small circle. When the cross over is well received the horse can walk forward again onto the circle. The product should be a softer, more rounder horse. If this is not achieved the exercise should be repeated. The same applies at the trot and the walk. The results are great, to have a horse that is soft and moves from my leg without question is a good feeling for a change. 

After a rewarding and successful lesson we finished with a long walk through the property as a nice cool off.

Hopefully the winning streak can continue. 


Friday, January 6, 2012

Finding the Pattern

My lesson with Mark and Rion today was enlightening. We spent the first half of the lesson working on the lunge and the second with me riding on the circle.When I first took Rion to Mark  three years ago he was a a classic, unbalanced throughbred. After the work that we did with him then he was a much better, much happier in himself. Since that time there have been ups and downs and large interruptions to our training together. 

Today our lesson was based around the the correlation in training between the Pat Parelli system and the training scale. As I have mentioned before, everything when riding and similarly, on the ground, relates to the training scale. For Rion at the start of the lesson, due to the bad habits he has picked up by my lack of leadership he wasn't ticking any of the boxes on either scale

Is the horse maintaining the gait?
Is he acting like a prey animal?                       &
Is he looking where he is going?
Is he maintaining direction?

Together both scales create a horse that is in-tune with its rider on the ground and under saddle. In my opinion if you don't establish and maintain movements and behaviours on the ground you can only expect a finite relation between the ground and saddle behaviours. I admit that my mistake with Rion was not maintaining his groundwork - to the right degree. I still worked to the bone on his lunging but I had not been using the lighter, more common, light lunge line rather than the heavier rope line I have been using. Mark informs me that in order to find the 'finesse' in my horse I need to be using the light line.

Mark stepped in on the lunging early on, picking the cause of Rion's problems, as demonstrated by his behaviours on the ground, were due to his 'running the show'. If the horse is not maintaining the gait he is not listening to the leader, when we asked him to yield to the contact, the pressure of the line, his failure to listen earned him a flick with the whip. He runs, he stops, he bucks, just as a young horse tries his best to create distractions for himself he questions the leader. Rion as a horse in general has been described as 'storm in a teacup'. Everything is a big deal. On the five year long road I have travelled with this horse I have seen him come from a horse that was scared of his own skin to a horse that is temperamental and aggressive of sorts. His question of leadership is constant and as I became complacent in my training of him I never noticed how this had occurred.

Midway through my journey with Rion I had a horse, after working with Mark that could accept the contact and met the regulations - if you will - of the training and Parelli scales. The lesson was all about the foundations again. Asking at first then telling him to maintain the speed we directed not the speed or direction he wished to follow. As the cogs turned, the tongue licks as the usual signs of acceptance and 'mulling over' occur he loosens over the back and his hips start to swing, maintaining the direction. In that moment, another box ticked on the scales. Each step on the scales directly correlates whereby there is a direct line between the two scales and the behaviour of the horse.

When I hopped into the saddle, I had to learn to give my reins, using my core as a means of control rather than the hand. I had grown a reaction to his behaviour - as he tensed I would follow in suite - a natural yet detrimental action on my behalf. In my riding I have to teach Rion to have confidence in the hand and come in-front of the leg by following through the contact, following his nose. The lick of the lips and the lengthening of the neck and the smile crosses my face as I get my horse moving through his body, loosening across the back. We have done it before and we can do it again.

I have lost much of my core strength from my time spent studying at a desk and neglecting the gym and riding itself. It is time for a change. I'm considering this week the start of my new year's resolution. Better late than never as they say.

All in all it was a very enlightening and constructive lesson learnt during the lesson.

This week we will be doing more work with Mark in the quest to make my beast tamed. 
Until my next lesson - adios :)


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Lions and Tigers and Bears..

It seems a young horse will find any excuse in their search for leadership. This is my latest lesson that I have learnt from my surprise visit from Mark yesterday and today.

Yesterday the young fellow was rather fresh, after being spelled for a week over Christmas. Mark took the keys yesterday and said my aim for him was to have him moving from the leg/whip onto the contact. For Mark being the experienced and stronger between us the 'discussion' that occurs when the horse learns to step across with his hind-quarter on the circle. The 'discussion' is the giving and taking of the rein through the contact of the line - somewhat encountering some resistance until said contact is accepted. Being on the other end of the line there is an amazing difference in his 'going' - for want of a better word. When the hind-quarter steps across and under the horse there can be a give in the rein and there is a rise in their back as they carry themselves.

I found that there was a fight with me, which depended greatly on my ability to walk a small and direct circle whilst lunging. At the moment we are working on travelling up and down the arena. Our aim for the past two days was improving Dart's ground work. Moving the circle slowly, encountering props and stops along the way. As I stated, a young horse will look for any excuse to stop, to question their leader. Young horses need a clear direction, reiterated by the contact of the line, and they must always be in-front of their leader; in-front of the leg. Horses don't know what you are asking, they have to be given the opportunity to work it out for themselves - accept and understand what is being asked of them. Lick and a chew later and you see that the horse has understood, is mulling it over as they continue on.

Today, as I was lunging under Mark's watchful eye I felt Dart pulling, particularly on the right rein as a result of my allowing him to lose the rhythm and let him fall behind the leg. Just as when you are riding and the horse gets behind your leg you are no longer the leader. They prop, they rear, they stop, whatever their method of payment it serves as a challenge to the rider. Mark advised that he is a clever horse and as a young fellow he is not abnormal in his displays of youthful disagreement. In saying this the horse must then again yield from the rider and accept once more their place in the herd, if you will. When he stopped and I got behind his shoulder, the literal relationship of my body and the aid of my whip caused him to be in-front of the leg, moving once more into the contact.

The legendary, George Morris said to me last year: 'your greatest aid is your brain'. People believe it is either the seat or the leg, even the hand but without the brain they would be pointless. You have to become a thinking rider, a thinking leader for your horse. To know when you need that extra leg, extra give on the rein, the movement of the hind to get your horse in the frame you want. To react and get the right reaction in turn. That is a thinking rider. The same applies when you are lunging.

A horse, such as Dart, is pliable but also disagrees, playing and questioning. In order to keep him from learning bad habits we have decided to give him a spell, without me playing with him on the lunge. I will still be de-sensitising him to his surrounds, training him to accept the rug and a fly mask and so forth, each making the starting process that little bit easier when the time comes in a couple of months.

As of Friday I will have some news on Rion as I am having a lesson with Mark on the trouble maker.


Monday, January 2, 2012

New Year - New Goals

The New year brings a rejuvenation for the soul, for the things we didn't do in the past year and what we want to do in the new year.

For myself this will be, undoubtedly a huge year. This is the year that I start university, continue at my new job, break Dart in, turn 18 and live large. Balancing the necessary components will be a hard task that will test my time management skills.

In terms of riding my goals are clear - I won't let anything keep me from riding as I did for the past two years for my HSC. It isn't worth it and I wasn't happy. For Rion I want to work with him regularly again and get him working on the flat and bring his dressage scores up. I hope I can, most likely in the second half of the year get him going 1* eventing. Its always been the dressage that has kept me from going up the grade. Mark will be on my speed dial this year, breaking Dart in and helping me get Rion back to top form again.

There was a time when my hot Thouroughbred could carry himself, be balanced and not get tense; not rear. I have to take him back to foundations again with his lunging. Following the ever present yet almost neglected, at times, training scale. If we have done it before we can do it again and that is my goal for the main man.

After our jump at Colleen's on the weekend.

Here is a video of Rion and I from the weekend - forgive the poor quality, my camera is still in repairs. 

In terms of Dart this will be one of the most exciting things that happens to me this year - breaking in my own horse. I have helped others in the process before but, almost as if he were my own child, everything is much more connected and important to me. For the time being he is on a hiatus until mid February to March where Mark and I will begin his breaking. I can't help but feel the butterflies of excitement whirl up within at the thought of it. After seeing his speedy progress in the five lessons on the lunge his breaking seems like a large but easy step for the young man. My goals for him are quite simple - break him in and follow Mark's steps as time goes on, introducing him to new things. Eventually take him to events with Rion. Maybe he could learn a few tricks - the good ones only I hope..

And for now, those are my headlines for 2012.

Happy New Year! 


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Its Christmas!

As you would all know, Christmas time hampers much time for relaxation. The constant tire of cleaning, preparation for the day - late night shopping, cooking and so forth. It is tiresome but definitely worth it all. It also doesn't leave much time for maintaining a blog..

As of yesterday the sun shone for the first time in about 2 weeks; a sight to bask in the Vitamin D of.
The days preceding that were slow and wet, hampered by the inglorious summer rain.

Mark hasn't been out in the past few days as he has been busy but we are planning a lesson together today. I managed to get one lunge and one gallop in on Rion in the past four days before he was attacked by paper wasps. It scared me half to death, I had no idea what could have brought so many hives out from his nose to his tail, simply covered. I called the vet out to find that it was paper wasps that had gotten to him and caused a severe reaction - which would only be worse if they bit him again. Understandably Rion gave himself a small stress colic where he was sweating and wanting to roll but I kept him walking until the vet got there.I couldn't for the life of me think why it had happened.  An injection of cortisone, a stress reliever and antihistamine of sorts later and he was much happier.

I have been working Dart by myself when Mark is caught up and can't make it and he never ceases to amaze me. I have such an inquisitive young man on my hands - almost to my detriment. While he was being agisted the 300 acres he was in had one or more dams, the only dam we have the horses don't have access to. Meanwhile Dart believes it is perfectly fine to put his hoof in the various troughs and pull them off their stands. Watching the hundreds of litres just rush down the hill. Perhaps a kiddy pool would do the trick..

Being the inquisitive young man that he is he is easily bored. In order to amuse for an afternoon mum and I thought it would be nice to give him some respite and forfeit our exercise ball for his amusement. It was a hit. Kicking, nuzzling, biting; we began to fear for the life of the ball if this kind of maltreatment went on. I have a 'Jolly Ball' - intended for horses - on his Christmas list. Last night we put him in the big paddock with Rion. He has a new found interest in life again, allowed to be a silly young man with his silly older brother - Rion.

Dart is now on hiatus until late February/early March when Mark and I will start breaking him. An entirely painful experience having to wait but in the meantime I can still play with him a little bit on the lunge. In our last session we made real progress. He is now able to stay on the circle, carrying himself in balance, tracking up well in the walk and trot. At the trot it is clear to see; as in traditional warmblood form, needs a constant reminder to keep moving, keep in-front of the whip - in-front of the leg. Within a week and a half we have gone from fresh out fo the paddock to cantering on the circle. At the canter he still needs more work - as expected, but slowly and surely he is learning to hold himself. Watching Mark work his magic I can see that the balance at the canter and holding the impulsion without making him run is the cause of his disuniting and breaking to the trot. Less and less so as the lesson wore on however.

Since his run in with the wasps I have lunged Rion twice and taken him out for a run on the track again. There is no doubt in where Rion's heart lays - his legs. As they pound the ground, snorting out each breath -- It puts him in a good frame of mind to finish with some flat work in the arena. Its good fitness for the both of us. Hopefully after Christmas Day I can get back into action with him. I have a craving to do some jumping!

Here is a  quick video of Dart with Mark on the lunge:

Merry Christmas all! 


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Its All About Pressure

It goes without saying that horses must yield from pressure from the leg, the hand, the stick and so forth. Without there is no respect from the horse, if they fall in or push down that respect is not maintained from their abuse or lack of respect for the pressure.

Today's lesson with my young man was all about pressure. We started the day off with me walking on the circle backwards, going staight down the centre, stopping, walking forward again and swapping reins. Dart is carrying himself well and finds it amusing to play with the rope while we are walking around. If anything, I now believe in the wonders of karmic re-incarnation. I had a pony, Tiger, who Dart is the perfect duplicate of. Not only in countenance but personality and act - what's left is to see if they are parallels under saddle as well - if so then I shall be a very happy camper! I digress..

After I continued my circle work backwards I started moving forward, with the stick behind me, touching his side to keep him marching at the walk. This exercise was much harder to maintain with him than walking backwards. When you are looking at the horse there is more control.

Mark took the keys from me after that and began lunging on a small lead with him, making him yield to the pressure, move from it. Trotting on the circle, if he stopped there was a follow up tap on the belly or flank to move forward, resistance to the pressure in turn made the pressure increase - tap behind the shoulder, tap with a small whip crack. It is interesting to watch the reaction of a young horse as they come to understand, what and why and how things are happening. The cogs turn slowly, the tongue licks the lips and an understanding is come to. Sigh. It begins again. Changing of the rein, moving the horse away from the pressure, lifting the weight off the shoulder and the head. The horse must carry itself. As I sat watching Mark move him around, encountering bouts of resistance and complete distraction from Dart I couldn't help but notice how all the exercises we were doing tied into the training scale.

Once moving from the pressure, he established a rhythm that consequently led to his relaxation and acceptance of the pressure/rein. I can go on but I think the point is made - everything correlates.

The man who will never walk away.. 
In the afternoon I got Rion out and played with him on the lunge - getting some energy out as he bounded into the sky when I asked for the canter; nothing out of the ordinary for him really. He settled later though and we had a good session playing with a square made out of poles to walk, trot and canter through. As usual he was a good boy once he came back to earth and relaxed, stretching out on the lunge. I had to get something from inside the house but it is a good feeling to be able to stop my horse, say 'stand' come back 5 minutes later and know he hasn't moved a muscle.

All in all today was a successful day; hopefully I can wake up early enough to take Rion for a gallop, after expending that energy on the lunge again before Mark comes for Dart.

Until then, cheerio :)