Sunday, March 28, 2010

Shoulder to the Left, Shoulder to the Right, Run For the Fence and Fight Fight Fight!

For those of you who can't find Fuglyhorseoftheday here she is
I fixed it on my blog list too. I don't know what's up, but she has had some hacker issues.

Does anybody know how to open up a discussion forum off of this blog? I think that is the answer to the training discussions I was looking for. Somebody brought it up, do you know how I should set it up?

necowgrl78 said - I have a 9 yr old gelding that has trouble circling to the left. His head will be turned and body arched but he'll run through his right shoulder until he hits a fence.

There are some things I wish I had done differently on Sonita.

As a matter of fact, there are a lot. The biggest concept I never quite grasped on her was letting her head go. I was still instinctively reacting to the concept of Head Control = Foot control.

It took me a few more horses to get the reality. Foot control = Head Control.

I kinda got it, but not really.

I had a tendency to babysit her every move.She was a horse who made the thought of “let go, relax” a terrifying prospect, but it would have helped her and me immensely if I could have taken the final step and let her have her head.

And if I had known to do this when she was started instead of when she was about finished.

Sonita would run her circles with her head to the outside. She would keep her feet on track, but her stinking head would be looking outside the circle.

Which meant her rib was bowed to the inside and her shoulders were out of place for her lead change.

It also meant she had plenty of time to look around at a show. She’d whinny to her friends, check out the trucks or trailers passing by that might plan on jumping the fence and look to see if the cows were to her liking.

It drove me crazy.The problem was I didn’t understand how to get her to focus on the job ahead. She could place her feet exactly where they were supposed to go and sling her head all over.

What I was missing was the fact that she wasn’t following her head with her body. I hadn’t developed enough feel to understand where she was ducking me. It was kind of a reverse problem.

I see now I was thinking about bringing the nose to the body and not about the nose dropping as the back lifted and the nose being in line if she was framed up correctly. So Sonita learned to duck me while technically staying correct.

The only time she wanted to follow her nose with her feet was when she was cutting or headed down the fence.

In retrospect if I had gotten Sonita to train farther into my career I would have thought she needed to be a cutter. But I didn’t, I just fought with her head and dealt with the repercussions of her being consistently out of frame.

The up side of all this is I finally learned what I needed control over in order to have my horse. The shoulders.

When it comes to shoulder control I usually find its really about total control of the horse. If I turn my horse to the left and her shoulder goes right it’s an ugly mess.

Sonita used to put her head out and her shoulder in on a circle. When I focused on reeling her head in she would flip her nose, open her mouth and snap her tail. If I used my legs to straighten her up and drove her forward she would get into the bridle like she should. Then she would snap her tail. So she was still letting me know I didn't quite have her. That tail spoke volumes.

I know how to handle this now. Most of the time anyway. I don’t know if I could have completely fixed Sonita. Like I said, she should have been a cutter. But I could have made our life much better.

Anyway, Necowgrl has a horse who takes his shoulder and runs off with her.

This is a version of the problem I had with Sonita.

This is also why I don't teach a colt to bend his head right and left without moving. I want my youngsters to follow their nose with their feet. Period.

I want them to be active on their own and get them to allow me to steer the action.

I 100% agree that there are other trainers ( trainers who make more $$ in a year than I did my whole career) who will think I'm full of it, but this is what works for me.

I'm going to try to go through my "whys" and will cover Necowgrl's issue as well.

When I first get on my colts they know a cluck means trot and a kiss means lope.

If I have a colt who moves off I let him. I stay balanced and quiet in the middle, moving and petting his neck just enough to remind him I'm there. I haveonly one lesson in mind for today. Riding=moving.

If he just stands there I sit quiet in the middle, again, rubbling his neck just enough to remind him I'm there.

I wait until he decides to move on his own. No clucking, dragging on the rope, nothing. Sometimes I sit for a long time. I don't want to create any resistance to me.

If my colt that started moving right away continues to go around relaxed and interested
I'll steer him around some. I ride with either a rope halter and lead rope or side pull. I make sure I only steer one rein at a time. Left hand guides left and right hand guides right.

He'll steer because I've taught him to follow his nose with his feet. He already has it, he just has to translate it from his back. I steer with soft tugs and release, I don't ask for more than a step and I don't worry to much about my success.

The colt that stood in one spot and didn't move? When he finally gets going on his own I might steer a little, but probably not. I don't want to muddle the mix. I want the colt to understand I want him to go forward. So once he does I just relax. When he quits moving I exhale, take my legs off and get down. I haven't said a word. Riding = Movement.

Back to my moving colt. If he steers and is still going I'll ask for a trot with a cluck. They almost always trot off. Then I wait for him to slow to a walk (even a few steps will do) exhale, take my legs off and see if he stops. If he doesn't we'll trot again, then wait for a walk, exhale, take off my legs and hope for the stop.

Eventually he'll quit moving.

Then I exhale, take off my legs and get down.

Both of my colts have learned I will release them from me if they move forward. I have laid the groundwork for stopping. I have never drug them, held them tightly or used leg pressure. So they don't snap their tails in resistance or freeze up against my hand or leg.

See my thinking here?
I inch forward on their progress this way.
They find themselves stopping, turning and going without me having kicked them or dragging their head around.

I bring in my legs, hands and Whos as cues, not muscle.

This way the colts learn to follow my hand with their feet. Control of the head is secondary. It makes my life so much easier.

So now I'll head back to Necowgrl- She has to forget the head and gain control of the shoulders. For this problem I would be riding two-handed in a ring snaffle.

I would begin to think of my life on my horse as a series of straight lines. My circles would become Stop signs.

I would never change direction until I had feet, rib, shoulder and head in a straight line.

So here's my sequence.

I turn left by a. taking off my inside leg pressure
b. take my leading rein (inside) and steer left like with a big open arm.
c. block his outside shoulder and balance the bend in his neck by bringing my outside rein in a direct pull to my outside hipbone.
d. add leg pressure which will buil in a 1,2,3 sequence. 1. squeeze softly, 2. 1 single kick with meaning (some of my students called this a warning kick)3. Kick the crap out of him until he gets his body lined up.

The key here is you can't let go of anything. Your guiding rein, the outside rein or your kicking leg. It may get ugly before he lines out. The second he does then release all pressure. Even if you're 100 yards from your original line. then start again.

It's important to work on straightness before anything else.

This can be a big job, but you can get it done.


DeeDee ( said...

Okay Mugs. If you keep us going with stuff like this we can live a little longer without a Tally/Cupcake hit. As a senior who came to riding late, I may never get to start a youngster. Your comments help me think about how I can ride my 14 year old better, straighter, more thoughtfully. Thanks!

Bif said...

I had mentioned my similar thoughts a while back to a specific reader (Half Dozen Farms.. how is your mare's dressage coming?), but this is the post it belongs in:

"From the beginning, a super greenie, I like to ride in a large area, preferably several acres before you'd hit a fence. If the horse is craning to the right, I put him in a circle to the right, so his body is correctly following his nose. Don't worry about where you're going, but make corrections/ change your request so that whatever he is offering can be a picture of him doing something with a correct body. They learn carrying themselves, and strangely, that resistance is futile, because they are still working in the field, only it's easier than at first and you're not pulling on them :) Think from the true horse's perspective, not our version of it.

For example, shoulder fore, should always be taught by asking for a few steps (only over time asking for more steps, or more angling for true shoulder in), and the reward in addition to voice or touch is continuing off the rail into the circle the body formed in the shoulder fore, NOT straightening back out to the rail. This makes more sense to the horse, keeps the inside hind engaged throughout, and enhances forward as the solution, since the release is forward, not another lateral move that makes no sense anyway to them."

I REFUSE to bend a horse in a direction I am not asking him to go. It is asking for trouble in my mind. I also never get anywhere close to presenting a horse to a possible jump and not follow through, even if it is just a curb on the ground. Those people that canter their horse to a fence and stop right in front of it are the same ones who have horses that are willing to stop on them... not something you want at 500meters a minute over fixed obstacles.

Joy said...

Fascinating post! Your inside rein comment made me think of an old trainer I knew, he said he was "opening the door" when he opened that rein. The colt was ALWAYS go through the door.

I wish I could watch you work a colt. I really do.

Joy said...

would, not was, would always go... doh.

mugwump said...

Joy - My open door was always the inside leg, but the same thought behind it. First you open the door and close the others (outside shoulder and hip) then invite them in, if that doesn't work then shove them on through!

badges blues N jazz said...

Newcowgirl, I had the SAME problem with a mare of mine. What worked for me was keeping her head STRAIGHT and using LOTS Of leg to steer or also to counterbend her when she would stick her shoulder out. Kinda along the lines of what Mugs is saying, but shes better at expressing it.

And Mugs Your comment quoated below:
"He'll steer because I've taught him to follow his nose with his feet. He already has it, he just has to translate it from his back"

Is this something you work on from the ground first? what suggestions for groundwork would you give to prepare a horse for mounted work? Much appreciated!

amy said...

Thank you Mugs for addressing my problem! We worked last night on shoulder control. Hopefully with consistancy we'll be loping circles in no time!

mugwump said...

badges- It's in the way I handle them from the start. I'm very aware how they guide in the halter.
I'm not into pulling and dragging there either.
When I turn the nose left I want the left front foot to move too.
Same to the right. I release when the foot travels.
I'm very consistant.

Becky said...

Regarding tipping the nose and only releasing when the feet move... how does this tie in with your whole sensitize/desensitize theory? Do you think this is important on both sides of the fence? It seems like teaching a colt to move its feet in response to bit pressure would be really helpful if you were looking to do something that required quick responses, but might be kind of a drawback when the training goal is to create a horse for Mrs. Weekend Rider.

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