Friday, January 16, 2009
A western horse is expected to carry himself in an effective manner which gets the job done. The job definition describes the level of collection and how we get it. I'm starting to see a light go on regarding some differences, don't you?
My horse's job is to do a decent reining pattern and work a cow. He can't be a completely fabulous reiner, because reining horses make every move according to the riders commands. Cowhorses are expected to be independent thinkers. A good cowhorse reads a cow much better and quicker than it's rider. So I have to trust my horse to make a split second decision and not wait for my thoughts on the matter. This gives the horse an opinion. Which hurts the dry work (reining) portion of our run. Because my horse is usually thinking ahead to the cow work and feels not a lot of obligation to think about me.
Which takes me to my version of self carriage and collection.
Remember. I am not saying I'm right, just what we work towards.
From the first day I want my youngster to be able to balance himself with me on his back. So I just sit there. I'm just a sack of potatoes. The first communication is forward. Walk, trot, canter without my involvement other than trying to stay out of his way. I ride with a halter or side pull, depending on the temperament of the colt and how brave I'm feeling on any given day.
This is also why I'm not a huge round pen or one rein stop fan. I feel like the round pen encourages my horse from the get go to fall into the center of his circles. A one rein stop teaches my colt to flop his head to my knee, dump his front end into the ground and hang on my hands. These two things create problems I have to train out of my horse before I can train the right things in. Which is confusing to me and goes against my basic premise. Self carriage.
When my colt can comfortably motor around with me I introduce my hands. Once we have right and left I'll begin to add my legs.
During this time I have been encouraging him to stop off my seat and an exhale, so I come in with hands on the Whoa to create a sharper stop and begin the back.
Here is where things will begin to go different directions.
Now is when a rope horse starts tracking cattle and a cutter starts single cow work.
Because the job of a western horse dictates the level of collection and how they use it.
To my mind, my responsibility to my horse is to teach them how to carry themselves in a way to keep us both safe and healthy.
Because we are working outside of our relationship (on cows) my goal isn't necessarily to reach great heights of communication, except in our work. We just need to get the job done and my horse will be judged on how much he does by himself.
So back to my colt. I need to take him further before he starts to work because of the reining aspect.
My goal is to have a horse who drives from the rear. I need intense bursts of speed and the ability to stop, turn and continue with fluidity and the same speed. He needs to carry me through this and to position me where I need to be at all times.
So my horse will travel with his back rounded, his hind legs driving forward, his neck level and his face soft, supple and carried on the vertical. His shoulders need to stay loose and upright. He needs to carry this with little to no contact on the reins. It's as if he is travelling along pushing an invisible elephant in front of him with his forehead.
If I rock back and push him with my right calf he should stop and roll back to the left. I should be able to remind him to collect by simply raising my hand so my reins make slight contact and by maintaining contact with my right calf through the turn and keeping my left leg open he should take his left lead.
My weight stays back with my ears, shoulders, hips and heels aligned.
We should start slow and have one to this level by the time they are six.
So let's chew on this awhile and I'll try to find some good youtube stuff.
Here's Shawn Flarida, I consider him the best at what he does. (reining)
Here's a friend and former peer of mine, Blue Allen, winning reserve champion at the 2008 NRCHA worlds. I have to admit, I struggle with this, there was a time I ran neck and neck with this guy, and now he's winning in the big time. While I sit here, fat and out of shape, spouting my theories. Sigh. Pity party at 6:00.
Check out the differences in the horses. Notice the formal wear of a cowhorse exhibitor (snort, we're all like that). I think you will see what I mean about independent thought.