Thursday, October 8, 2009

Random, Idle Thoughts

I have been enjoying sliding out of the office and riding my horse during my lunch hour. I have also been horrified on how out of shape Pete and I are after a year of fun in the mountains.

I can't find my marker on my circles. Pete is absolutely no help.

You have to understand, I always find my markers. I haven't had to look after my first set of circles for years.

Now I find myself wandering all over the arena.

So it's back to school for Pete and I. We'll be doing spirals up and down while hitting our mark with every circle.

We'll be transitioning through trot, lope walk, run and finding our mark.

And so on.

I'm not in a panic, I know it will kick in, but I have sure rolled up my sleeves and am digging in.

Which leads me to my next train of thought.

My colt Leland and my only teaching him things once.

It's obvious to me that Pete and I need to school and build our muscle memory again. Which takes repetition.

But, even though I haltered Leland once and decided he now knew how to be haltered doesn't mean I never halter him again.

It simply means I approach him from now on with the assumption he understands what I want from him.

It has been working just fine.

So when we start our reined work when he's four, he will have been treated this way every time, he will (hopefully) be tuned to the learning process I'm using and will actively seek finding the new thing we're working on that day.

So the first day on a circle would be to let me guide him in a circle.

The next ride would begin with the circle, then I would start to ask him to carry himself through on a loose rein. That would be the new task.

Each lesson would involve something new, but he would still be getting the repetition he needs and I would quit for the day when he was successful with the new task.

I'm starting to realize this is a change in my expectations, of myself and Leland, but not so much my training.

This process of one step at a time has also helped me.

I have talked before about my horses having a built in hesitation that I would like to get rid of.

When I ask for something, be it a lead, a spin or a hip, all my horses hesitate for a brief second.

It's like they're saying, "Are you sure?"

When I saddled Leland and sent him out in the pen the other day he went out fine. He was a little humpy, but it was no big thing.

I made him walk and trot until he relaxed.

He showed no inclination to lope around, but I didn't really think about it.

Until I started thinking about my next step that is.

I realize now he didn't lope because he was unsure of the saddle.

I rewarded his hesitation by quitting for the day, even though we have covered walk, trot, lope in previous sessions.

I should have made him lope too.

So now, our next session will be about moving forward when I say, something I have already covered.

So I've created a back track. Dang it.

I also have found where the hesitation I hate so much begins.Right there at the first saddling.

So this is a real good exercise for me, even if it is a little nutso.

I am truly working on the Sonita story. I'm not holding out, I just want it to be right.


badges blues N jazz said...

please elaborate on the "hesitation at the first saddling" as I will be putting a saddle on my colt for th first time in January or february! thanks!

mugwump said...

Badges-When I saddled Leland I accepted a walk and trot around me. He was hesitant and a little slow. I was caught up in him accepting the saddle. So when he relaxed I let it go. But he was lugging a little and didn't want to lope.
I didn't make him.
In my mind he had done what I wanted, which was accept the saddle.
In his mind I rewarded the hesitation.
So I have begun the habit of Leland slowing down and tuning out my cues.
If I had been more thorough and expected what he has been taught, WTC, I would have truly had him comfortable in the saddle.
I have to expect a solid, immediate response to me whenever I ask for it.
I have just muddied the waters.
But I'm glad I caught it.

badges blues N jazz said...

Thanks!!! Cant wait until I can start Edward

kel said...

I have been getting the "feeling" of doing those perfect circles lately. I love it. The perfect arch in the body the floaty way they round under you and move effortlessly. Trainer lady says it feels like you are flying or soaring like a bird.

mlks said...

Could this built in 'hesitation' also be a sign that your horses are thinking rather than just reacting to cues?

My trainer stresses the idea that when you ask a horse for a task that they should know, you should get the response NOW, even if the motion itself isn't perfect.

But now I'm wondering if the more schooled / experienced horses give us that occasional pause b/c they've gotten to the point of thinking through the ride with you.

I don't know...I'm really just thinking out loud.

And that is interesting with Leland and the slight lope-resistance.

mugwump said...

mlks-there's a fine line here. When my horse flicks an ear back to me and hesitates waiting to see what's next, I'm good with it. But when she hesitates after a specific direction, that tells me she doesn't trust what I say.
Like a dog who only sits after he hears his owner say, sit...sit...sit....sit...sit,sit,
sit,sit....SIT DAMMIT!
Turns out the dog thinks the sequence is the cue.
Clarity and simplicity are what works best for me. A hesitation or drag shows me I've muddlied the waters.

HorsesAndTurbos said...

Live QH Congress Feed:

Doing Cutting Right Now!


Anonymous said...

I apologize if this is too basic a question, but my ears went up when you wrote of finding your markers for your circles. I struggle to find and ride a circle, am horrible at it. I haven't been taught a systematic approach. So what's a marker? How do you keep a round nice circle? Thanks

mlks said...

mugwump: Thanks. Yes, that helps to make the distinction clear for me.

Helen said...

When I ask for something, be it a lead, a spin or a hip, all my horses hesitate for a brief second.

It's like they're saying, "Are you sure?"

Maybe they're Microsoft horses?

mugwump said...

anon- nothing's too basic around here, ever. As a matter of a fact, I think it gets a little too deep too often.
Anyway, when you see a reining pattern, there are three markers along the fence, sometimes orange cones and sometimes a piece of duct tape.
The middle one is the marker used to mark your center of the pattern.
When I practice my circles I always find the center of the arena and line up with a post or something that can help me hit that same point every time I come through on my circle.
I begin and end my circle work at that point every time.
To learn to make a perfect circle I need to know my horse will go exactly where I point her. So I practice straight lines. I find a point, it can be a tree, a fence post, an orange cone, then I practice pointing my horse at it and going.
Then I'll start my circles.
I start in the center, walk straight a few steps, ask for my lead and don't begin my circle until my horse is loping on the correct lead. I look ahead and run imaginary bases, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, home. By rounding off my base runs I'll make a circle. Or you can run 9:00, 12:00, 3:00, 6:00, 9:00 again, on an imaginary clock.
I'll put out cones at those points if I need help.
I always try to look ahead to my next point and always come through the middle in the exact same spot.
It takes hours and hundreds of circles, so be patient.
You have to work your horse up to the circles too.
I start with 3 consecutive circles each way.
When my horse can do 3 without stopping or getting too winded I go to 5,then 7, then 10. That's each way.Depending on the horse I do more, but rarely less, I want my horse to be willing to circle forever if I ask for it.
I do circle work on every horse before I start on my other maneuvers.

mugwump said...

Helen - Huh?

Helen said...

I was thinking of those little boxes that pop up on some applications which you need to OK before you can continue!

(I'm sure the microchip programmed horse is a few years away yet)

Anon #2 said...

Hey Mugs, i got a fair bit out of that stopping suppling and snaffle bit post.
When you are doing spirals, whats your cues? Do you drive them across with your weight to the outside or neck rein them or am i complicating things?

Jayke said...

Haha Helen you made me snort my coffee. Vista drives me crazy that way, if only it behaved more like our well trained horses - just went where you pointed it.

Mugs - thanks for explaining the circles, where my horse is right now, I don't have an arena, so doing good, consistent circles is harder than ever. I must gather up some 'markers' and place them before my next ride.

Also, question, my horse has had two years off while I've been away at school, and I'm planning on loping him for the first time this weekend.
I'm sure he's going to try and death-trot into it, and I'm equally sure that my instinctive response will be to grab onto his face for security, and I don't want to punish him to trying to do what I ask.
Do you have any thoughts on how I could avoid that situation?

Analise said...


Right now, my boy is still fairly green and I have to be extra careful, when asking him to go faster, that I don't catch him in the mouth.

The way I've been ensuring it is to grab some mane. :)

OneDandyHorse said...

Good post! and thanks for elaborating on the hesitation bit! I will keep that in mind when we saddle our colt, probably in 2 years from now.

Jayke said...

Analise - thanks for the reassurance. I think it stems from my english background, when I'm under pressure I revert back to having a lot of contact to comfort myself, at my horse's detriment.

Last weekend when I was riding (second ride on my horse in two years, we were both sore the next day!), I combatted that instinct by riding with my reins between my thumb and index finger, I was just jogging though, a bit different at the lope, but the difference in my horse was totally worth it.

mugwump said...

Anon, when I do spirals I am sitting deep and bumping with my calves to get my forward. I make sure I'm looking ahead, my shoulders are level and I have about 5 pounds more of my weight in my outside hip.
My inside leg is at the cinch, my outside about 4 inches behind.
I push with my outside leg to encourage the outside hind to step in towards the inside front.
My hands guide with outside rein pressure for balance and the inside rein guides my horse.
For a horse who neck reins I guide completely with my legs and expect my horse to balance evenly between my reins.

Jayke-I just got on a horse of mine who had been off for three years.
I just rode around doing nothing but what she felt like doing for the first ride.
The second ride we walked around, then we did some trot work and a tiny bit of limbering.
The third ride she very happily loped off. I kept it light and fun. I didn't ride long enough to make her sore.
I was very conscious of my hands.
I stayed out of her mouth completely (as much as I could anyway)and rode her with a ring snaffle, even though she is a finished bridle horse.
My thought is to bring her up by acting like she's a 3-year-old.
Of course she's progressing faster because she already knows all this stuff, but it's keeping her happy while I bring up her condition.
I have no problem hanging onto a hunk of mane or the horn to keep my hands where they belong.
I wouldn’t worry about a death trot for awhile, your horse is out of practice too.

Cowgirl Rae said...


I have a just turned 2 filly I have had for a year, I havent done much with her I havent felt the need, she is very sweet, calm and extremely wanting to please.

I have round penned her some, she works well off a flag, yields shoulders/hips.

She is very very easy.

I have been pondering your concept of introducing the new skill once and after cooperation moving on.

Last week for the first time I put the bareback pad and saddle blanket on the filly, and much like your leyland she looked and sniffed some but nothing negative.

We went for a long walk on the lead around the neighborhood I did some ground work and suppling came home a put her away.

One thought, how much is nature (the personality of the horse and thier internal processing ability, or not) and the nurture aspect, in teaching the skill, introducing the skill, offering the release at the right time and not overstressing the task or confusing the horse.....?

I currently have 2 horses that are mello, laidback and extremely easy to train I have another that is hot, over sensitive, bracing and rigid. 2 paints 4yo and 2yo, and a mustang 3yo with the 4 yearold paint the most challenging, the only common denominator is I have owned them all for the last year, I have handled them similarly and consistantly and approached them all the same.
But feel the need to easily spend 4X the time riding/handling with the bracing mare and she is no where as soft as the other 2.


mocharocks said...

"Like a dog who only sits after he hears his owner say, sit...sit...sit....sit...sit,sit,
sit,sit....SIT DAMMIT!"

LOL, I have a dog who I know thinks his name is Quincy...Quincy...QUUIINNCYYY!!!!!!

He ignores me and won't give me his attention until the last Quincy. He is perfectly obedient in all other aspects :)

mugwump said...

Cowgirl Rae - I've talked about this, I'm not sure where....of course nature has a lot to do with it. I picked this colt for my experiment because he's laid back and easy. I would be an idiot to try out an entirely new (for me) training method on a difficult horse.
My thoughts are the hotter the horse,the smaller the steps. So I would accept an ear flicked towards me as our first interaction. Then an eye rolled in my direction and so on.
One interaction for each session.

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