Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Canter-less Wonder

When people tell me that horse back riding isn't hard, I'm not sure if I should laugh or slap them. I mean we are working with an animal with it's own brain, feelings, moods, EVERYTHING! If you've schooled beautiful for weeks before a show and the day of the show your horse bucks, well, he just felt like it that day ugh *head shake* I know I've been there! So when a mare I have in training just does NOT want to canter. Then what on earth am I up against?

So this horse is impeccable in the round pen and when lunging. Will walk, trot, canter both ways beautiful on voice commands alone. However, under saddle, it is a whole different story. Now she rides the horse in a treeless saddle and stays on top of getting her regular adjustments, so pain issues? Not even a chance.

OK so the owner has had just about everybody try and get on her horse to make her canter. They've used spurs, crops, kissing, clucking, kicking, voice commands, everything. The only thing that mare will do is trot just about as fast as humanely possible! She trots so fast she could compete in races! LOL! OR she'll buck.

So enter me. I observe, I get on, I kick, squeeze and kiss. Nothing. *sigh* OK, so we take her out on a trail ride with other horses and have them canter ahead of her so she'll canter to keep up. Nope just power trots. OK new plan!!!! Let's take her to a hill. She'll have to canter up a hill. We pick a pretty decent incline and the first time she merely trots up it. The second time we go we get 3 canter steps! Wahoooooo! A small victory, but a victory never the less.

So we're jazzed and ready to try this in the arena! No canter, no nothing. OK, OK now what. So I begin to wonder, MAYBE this mare isn't even broke to canter, maybe she doesn't understand what we're asking. Maybe her previous owners didn't let her canter, or taught her in a distressful or painful way.

Well if ANY horse won't go forward then there is obviously a lack of communication some where. So we MUST for the sake of horse and rider, slow down and go to the beginning as if starting a green horse. So I begin to have the owner do some basic exercises with her horse. We start to work on when the she tightens her leg around her horse, I want to see a forward reaction. So we have begun to work on extension and collection at the walk and trot. As well as impulsion and circle exercises. I even have her ride her horse bareback so she can really FEEL her horses movements beneath her. Or I have her ride in a saddle, but with her eyes closed for a minute or two at a time, so she has to depend on the feel and not what she sees. It's honestly back to basics with this one.

It's almost like retraining both parties. The owner must now learn to recognize a true forward movement as well as using a lot of seat and leg aids. Nothing artificial. No crop, no spurs. Just basic leg on belly communication. And the horse must learn that the aids mean forward.

If there is no medical problems as to why a horse won't do something. Then it is ALWAYS a communication issue. So we work, work away at tuning the horse and rider up to their responsiveness to each other, and someday they'll be cantering off into the sunset together.

But for now, while we've seen major improvements in the horse's willingness and responsiveness to the rider's leg aids to move her forward, we must still stick to what works for them. The horse isn't bucking anymore and it seems that she really is beginning to understand our actions. As we have understood hers. We are now getting a calm nice canter out of her although it's still in little spurts. Baby steps, always baby steps! But a canter step forward is ALWAYS better than any buck backwards!


GoLightly said...

Good work!
Slow and steady, (keeping it clear), always wins the race:)
Kudos to you for taking your time, and letting the horse figure it out!

CATALYST. said...

if your horse is doing this.
your horse is shit.
eat it.

Trainer X said...

Just for good measure I will repeat this here~ Catalayst~ Um Correction Sweetheart You are the one with no fucking life. You know absolutly JACK FUCKING SHIT about horses, you are not funny, insulting, creative or witty in ANY way shape or form. You Equal a Giant Losery FUCKING FAIL! FACE!!!

GoLightly said...

Do ya think she's related to that "other" troll? What's your bet, percentage wise?
Now, we all know what a catalyst is, so tell me, exactly what are you trying to catalyze?
Just curious, or actually not really. Very illuminating, your terse post, gosh you are kinda tense, eh? Maybe stop popping the Ritalin? You're TOO old?
Not to worry, TX, the asshats are truly everywhere.

CataBitch, you've given TX another hit. This is good. Thanks:)

Maybe more people will actually learn something, before they "attempt" to ride.
Or, did that cuttin' harse dump your ass real good, and your face is sore?
Och, let me GUESS the response.
Eloquent, really.

Amanda Nicole said...

Have you try having her on the lounge line with a saddle on. Maybe that would desensitize her to cantering under saddle and then from there you could have your client ride her on the line... I don't know for sure if this would help but it is something to try if she is so willing on the line.

Good work so far though!! And good thinking on the hill- I wouldn't have thought about that.

Havocec said...

Great information.

As far as laughing or slapping. Slap them then laugh.

*sprays my post with enviromentally friendly trollicide*

kestrel said...

Great job of breaking it down. I always go back to square one, then rebuild.
I have found an astonishing number of horses are afraid of transitions. Usually because during training the rider choked up on the reins at the transition or the horse was overbitted, so the horse associates transitions with pain and "being in trouble."
Sadly enough, it's usually a bright and kind horse who is trying to tell me..."Look, transitions are trouble, trust me on this!" It takes lots of very gentle transitions to reassure the horse that things are going to be different now.
I have had to break it down to having someone I trust lunge me in the saddle, and starting with variations of walk, then on to trot to walk, etc. (Looong line, huge circle) It takes a very long time though, and you have to be really carefull with future riders. If they choke, you can wind up back at square one in a hurry.

I hate stupid horse owners said...

Great job with the mare :D is she a standardbred?

Trainer X said...

She's actually a quarter horse. In great shape and nicely built. But where's my canter?!? LOL!!

Golightly~ I'm feeling some foil hats coming on soon!! LOL TOLL ALERT!!

Lachelle said...

out of curiosity, anyone know how old catalyst is?

Trainer X said...

Yeah probably 12

kestrel said...

Oh, I just remembered....I also add an extra cue to signal a transition to the horse. I use leg squeeze, then tap with heel gently just before transition. If a horse falls into the canter from a very fast trot they almost always crowhop to keep their balance. Adding the extra tap at the walk to trot to signal a transition helps go from medium trot to canter.
The horse's confusion sometimes comes from not understanding whether you just want to faster in the gait or go to the next.

Trainer X said...

Hmmmm Clarifying the cues is a very great idea!! Or at least giving them "hint" cues to let them know what's coming up! Thanks Kestrel!!!!

GoLightly said...

Kestrel, as usual, beat me to it. I trained my TB to canter going up a hill as well.. But if they've gotten very clear on "how" to carry you in the very symmetrical trot, the asymmetry of the canter can worry them a bit. They have to feel a little "off balance" in that first canter stride, with you on their back, and that can be very worrying to a greenie. Which is why it's easier going up a hill, they already are trying to work their strong side a little harder, and bingo, there's the lead they will always prefer!
Great work, TX.
Sorry, if my diatribe re: catalyst was confusing, I was aiming it all at "it".
"blows kisses"

Trainer X said...

Thanks Golightly :):):):)