Sunday, June 13, 2010

What on earth to write about--oh, training of course!

Since I'm not riding at the moment--yes, I'm trying to be good--it is a little hard to know what to write about.

We'll resume groundwork in the next day or so, and try something interesting with Bar--a suggestion from Karen--if he cooperates. Then he gets a week off or so because Steve and I are off on an adventure up north to Oregon and Washington. That should keep me off the horses just long enough.

Teaching Bar to round up and drive with his hind end has been the goal for a long time. He could probably have used a better rider to help him with this, but he got me, so we're experimenting. Racehorses really don't learn how to do that much. Whether they should or not is, of course, subject for much debate.

But I'm really only concerned about teaching Bar to use his body the best way possible. Changing the centuries-old racing industry might be a little beyond the scope of this blog.

Now, I could (and have) used mechanical aids--tie-downs, martingales, different bits, no bit, and of course see-sawing on his mouth. (Sorry, buddy.) It's not that those things didn't work. He would eventually give to pressure and put his body in the right place--albeit for moments at a time while his unskilled rider tried to catch up--but does that mean he got it? That he made the connection that having his body in this position made him more powerful? Or was he just trying to do what I wanted without me communicating clearly why it is important?

I don't think any of it really set off the light bulb for him, and watching him heal from his latest injury has cemented for me that he is very in tune with his body. Not necessarily how to use it perfectly all the time, but he is paying attention to it.

Karen's suggestion is to figure-eight two lengths of something (no special equipment required, always a bonus) around his neck and his hind end, crossing and tying behind the withers, then work him. When she showed me how to do this with two lead ropes, he tucked his hind quarters underneath himself in the cross-ties. Her experience has been that it makes the horse pay better attention to their body and its position. My experience with Bar and performance boots says it may work well with him. "Those are my feet! They're attached to me! Wow!"

And it gives us something new to play with on the ground while I continue my convalescence. The other thing about Bar is while he likes routine, he doesn't like to be bored, so games are good. Yeah, yeah. Just like his mom.


Buckskins Rule said...

I'm interested to hear how it works. Collection has always been a bit of a challenge to me.

What brings you and Steve to the wild and woolly North?

Jessica said...

Hi, BR!

We are headed up for a much-needed vacation, actually. Some camping and sightseeing up amongst the Cascades.

We did make sure to buy chains, though.. just in case!

Buckskins Rule said...

Our bad weather appears to have broke, so hopefully you won't need the chains. Better safe than sorry, however, considering the unpredictability of our recent weather.

Hope you and Steve have a good trip amongst our mountains.

Kathy Sierra said...

Hey Jessica!
I just started working with something kind of similar on Vafi, only I've tried different things and my favorite is ace bandage (or even the non-adhesive vet wrap). Instead of the figure 8, though, we're tying it to a surcingle so that it's the hind-end *only*.

And wow does it ever get him to trot under himself... the other things we've been doing to improve the round/hind-end engaged thing is to greatly improve the quality of his leg-yielding, as well as a wide range of other circle + more lateral with inside-hind movements. Plus, hills.

One of our four has figured out that this is a MUCH better way to move and suddenly made leaps forward in his shape and movement, but it wasn't anything different I did other than to notice it and reward him big time when he started carrying himself to show off. The lightbulb switched on for him and now it's all he wants to do is prance around like a Grand Prix horse, even just in the paddock. I'm trying to figure out how to make that happen for the other three ;)

Glad to see you're healing!
- Kathy

Jessica said...


I have been wondering about you!

Yeah, I like the ace bandage or polo wrap idea better than lead ropes, but I was using what I had on hand to start with and gauge the crazy TB reaction. I was sadly disappointed when there was no fireworks! Ha!

smazourek said...

That sounds a lot like a Linda Tellington-Jones TTOUCH exercise. Are you familiar with her?