Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Second Lesson

I gave my friend her second lesson in learning how to tell if she is on the right leg when rising to the trot. This time spurs came off, halter only, in the round yard and Sam on the lunge. I put elastoplast down Sams shoulders so it would be easier for her to see them move. I tried to keep the session short and sweet for Sam so after a warm up we went straight into it.

First I got her to look at his shoulders moving and finally she got the feel of it at the trot. We did a lot of walk trot transitions so she could see, feel which leg she was on. She got it right 8 out of 10 times so I left it at that.

Then it was canter. I asked Sam to canter and I got her to really concentrate of what was happening. I only let Sam canter 3 times around the round yard on each rein. I ended the session there. I didn't want to put Sam off any more and he isn't used to a heavier rider that is unbalanced.

I will try and get her to ride other horses and practice on them. No more for Sam - I don't mind short sessions for him but I won't be letting people ride him out in the big paddock that aren't balanced and soft with their hands.

I think I will also try and get the video camera out and tape my friend so she can see just how much she moves around in the saddle - especially with her lower leg. Hopefully that will help convince her that she is not ready to wear spurs. Not that I think she needs them at all with any of the horses she rides.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Ground Work Pays Off

Yesterday was overcast and a little windy - you know those days when monsters lurk behind sheds and in trees! For Sam these monsters were everywhere!!!!! The problems started with mounting. He would just take 1 or 2 steps forward. After 3 corrections he stood like a rock again and we continued on. We made it to the gate of the large riding paddock and we turned right. We only got about 20m along the fence line when he stopped, stood on his tippey toes, snorted and promptly informed me that he couldn't possibly go any further. Instead of arguing with him I decided to dismount and lead him through the scary section. Once we reached our destination I did some ground work before re mounting. He was still tense so I just asked him to move his hindquarters, shoulders, backup, come forward. Nothing difficult but it really seemed to bring his attention back to me.

I mounted and we did a lot of halt - walk transitions. Up into a trot and changed the rein in and out of a circle, really asking for that hind leg to step under himself. Up into a canter which I was expecting to be forward and strong but no he had really relaxed and was happy to canter around on a loose rein. I was really amazed.

I set up a few trot poles around the place. Once we had trotted over them I decided to have a go at cantering over them. This is something I have tried in the past with no success. Sam used to trip over them, dodge them or get a bit excited. This time he cantered at a steady pace and adjusted his stride length as he needed too. I was very impressed! He always surprises me with his improvements. In the photos below I had the trot poles set up -
#one inbetween the jump wings on the left
# one on the ground on the right hand side on the arena
# one small one in the middle of the arena facing A - C

Once he was doing it all at trot and canter we decided to have a go at jumping! We trotted up to the jump at a steady pace and straight. First time he crashed through it. He didn't seem too upset or anxious so I dismounted fixed the jump and round we went again.
2nd time he picked his hooves up and we made it over in one piece. We trotted around and came over it for a
3rd time and this time on landing he cantered off. I asked him to come back to a trot and we had another go.
4th jump was perfect I thought.
That was it I asked him walk and cool off. He didn't get upset, tense, race. If anything I think he will be a horse that you will need to keep your leg on going into a jump. I am useless at jumping. Never done a lot of it and I really do not want to overface Sam or myself. I made a real concious effort not to touch his mouth going into the jump, over it or after. I don't recall bumping him in the mouth at any stage. Below was the jump we were jumping!!!!!!
We were at a stand still when this photo was taken!

So I think the groundwork helped calm him down and bring his focus back to me. Over time his balance has really improved for him to be able to trot and canter over the single trot poles so well. They have always been difficult for us so I guess with my position that is improving is helping him as well! GOOOOOO SAM!!!!!!!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Our lesson goes badly

Trying to teach someone the correct rising trot diagonal is not easy.

Let me go back to the beginning. My friend asked me to teach her this so today was the day. She rode a friends horse down to our riding paddock that needed some work and then she was going to ride Sam and learn off him. The mare she was riding bucked her off twice while she was riding. Her confidence I guess was already rattled but she is a confidant rider so when she said she was ready for Sam I didn't question it.

We started on the ground explaining that you rise when the outside shoulder is forward and sit when it goes back. We went over the importance of rising on the correct leg, balance, helping the horse etc. I then demonstrated on Sam. She said she could see and understood. I helped her up on Sam, told her that Sam was feeling a little naughty but she shouldn't have any difficulty, he generally settles quickly. We went through the basics of how to ask Sam to move forward and how to ask him too stop. She then went up to the trot and we worked on her rising. She couldn't see the shoulder moving forward she said. I asked her to continue trotting around and to keep watching, it will come in time. She did a lot of walk, trot transitions to see if that would help her see. I got her on the right rise trot diagonal and then asked her to just trot around the arena and really concentrate on what she was feeling, that didn't help either. While she was trotting around a rider that was working around us cantered his horse away. Sam figured that he could follow so tried to canter after him. My friend in a paniced, haunched over which caused her lower leg to come up onto his tummy, her head went down and she pulled back hard on the reins - poor Sam had no idea what was happening so went up in the air in leaps and bounds. She managed to pull him up but it rattled her. She was brave and tried again, trotting around. All was going well until she accidentally lost her balance and banged him a little too hard in his ribs, Sam went to canter again, she thought he was going to go silly again but this time she sat back instead of pulling him in the mouth and he came back to a walk nice and quietly. By this time the poor thing was in tears and decided to call it a day.

Thinking back there were quite a few things I did wrong,

# I should not have let her ride Sam with spurs - she did tell me that she knew how to use them - ride with them active and not active, but now I know different
# I need to use a softer tone when helping people. When I project my voice out doors it comes out like an order.
# I think I am too blunt, I think I need to sugar coat things a little.
# If I think Sam is feeling a little naughty only let professionals or people with very soft hands ride him
# Do not presume anything, take the time to really watch people and listen to your gut

I jumped back on Sam to walk up with her and he was very tense. Jig jogged but listened to my seat to come back to a walk. I took Sam to another paddock to work him. It took me longer to calm him down than usual but he did give me some really nice work by the end and we had a relaxed canter on both reins so we ended on a good note.

My friend would like to try again on Monday but I am reluctant for her to ride Sam again. If she does I think we will do it in the round yard with no spurs and in his halter. That way I will have a little more control of him as well and less likely for her to kick him or pull him when it is not necessary.

Any ideas to help my friend figure out if she is on the correct diagonal when trotting? She can rise trot but is having trouble feeling or seeing the shoulder move. I wondered if I coloured a shoulder or put a bright mark down the front on the shoulder so she would see that move back and forth. I was also going to get her to go back to a walk and tell me when each shoulder moves, get to close her eyes and really feel it.

Friday, April 2, 2010


4 day weekend!!!!!! I love Easter, a great excuse to eat as much chocolate as you want and you get a 4 day weekend! Today is the first day of that long weekend. My husband and I went on a lovely motorbike ride this morning up around the Snowy Mountains. I love it up there and so wish we could live up there, unfortunately there is a thing called work that we need to do.

I had a lovely siesta before heading out to see Sam when we got home. Katrina, one of the girls out at the paddock has lost some confidence and I offered a while ago that she could have a ride on Sam to help gain a bit of that confidence back. She was out there this afternoon so she got to ride Sam. She was pretty nervous so I rode Sam first in the round yard with just his halter on to show that he was really that quiet. Then it was Katrina's turn. She came in walked straight up to the side of Sam, stood on the crate and put her foot in the stirrup. I asked her take her foot out of the stirrup, step down from the crate and introduce herself to Sam. Katrina looked at me strange so I explained to her that there is no need for rudeness with our horses and that they too appreciate some kindness and respect. She gave him a scratch, chatted to him and then stood on the crate again. I explained that she had to slightly move the saddle from side to side and that way Sam knows that you are about to mount and it is a way to ask him if it is ok to mount. Good ol' Sam turned around to look at her when she did it then looked back to the front licking his lips. He really is a good boy. She mounted up, Sam stood rock solid. I went through how to ask him to walk on and how to stop. All with her seat. Once she had that figured out we went through how to turn using your body. Sam was great through all of it. He stayed extremely quiet and preferred to halt than actually move. She wasn't ready to trot so we stayed at walk and of course Sam was happy with that. Maybe next time she will be ready to trot. The smile on her face was huge and that is Thank you enough.

I hoped on and we went down a lane way that we have never been down and rode in a largish paddock. He was once again great, walked, trotted and cantered on a loose rein. He even cantered up through the gate and back up to the round yard on a loose rein. I got home and told my husband if I ever talk about selling Sam to bring me back to earth and tell me that we already have the greatest horse ever!!!!!

Tomorrow I will stock up again on Easter Eggs and Sam is being used in a lesson I am giving. I am teaching my friend Kate her canter leads and which leg to rise trot to!!!!!!!!!