Friday, April 30, 2010

All I Got On Stops

Loki update: Loki has earned a new name the last few months. “Low-key.” She has taken to being ridden again with a grace and ease that delights me.

We started out with laid back walks around the barn and a little bit of arena time. She has figured out there are no shows happening in the arena and is perfectly happy to tool around in there.

Once she understood I don’t expect her to build her run-downs anymore she kicked back another notch.

We have been working on WTC transitions and general puttering. Sometimes I can’t help but ask for lead changes, they’re sooooo smooth and quiet. She’s fine.

Kidlet, Kathy and I have started sorting with the local riding group. We get together on Tues. and Sat. and ride to the neighborhood arena.

I have to admit it tickles me. Talk about going full circle! I’m back to riding to the club events, just like I did as a kid on Mort.

I’ve been walking Loki everywhere, she’s still a little worried about returning to her drag-racing days with the Kidlet and has regular flash backs. But she has only tensed her muscles and raised her head. A gentle circle or some zig-zagging has immediately calms her and gets her focused again.

She has been good on the trail, crossing bridges and ignoring everything from joggers and dogs to 4-wheelers on the multi-use trail.

I was happy to note all three of our horses willingly and calmly walked down the very busy paved road, waited at the intersection like troopers so we could cross at the cross walk, walked past kids playing baseball, a skateboard park, lots of traffic, baby strollers and bicycles without flicking an ear.

I guess it goes to show, all that arena time was good for something. Loki hangs around at the arena with a hip cocked, walks in to the sort pen, says “Ya want that one? Okey Doke.”

Then she strolls over, cuts her cow and puts it in the holding pen. Never even breaks into a trot.

I’m proud and pleased.

Her future? I don’t know yet. For now, she’ll head back out to pasture at the end of May. She’ll be the horse I use when I give clinics at the rescue. Beyond that, I don’t know. My yellow mare comes back to me in a month, I am really excited.

Leland is going along just fine.

I personally am learning the joys of going for a short, quiet ride, taking my horse creekside to graze and drinking a Mike’s Hard Lemonade while I read a book (sometimes I even skip the ride). Amazing!

Dee Dee asked about stops. I am going to called these next few posts “All I Got on Stops,” ‘cause it pretty much is.

I have covered this stuff before, but I can’t find half of it so I can’t expect you guys to.

The easiest, most sure-fired stop I can share is what I learned as the Monte Foreman stop. It works extremely well for newbies and kids and is great for learning the magic of a horse getting under himself in a stop.

The only drawback is your horse will stop every time you push on his neck. I never had a problem with it, but did have some people complain about it.

In order for this to work the rider has to be able to feel the foot fall pattern of the horse for every gait she rides. So if you only walk, your homework is a lot lighter than if you walk, trot and canter.

I usually teach people to feel which foot is just hitting the ground. This works well with a buddy. I start with the fronts because then the rider can lean over and look if she wants to.

The walk is a 4 beat gait. When one of the horse’s front feet leaves the ground it is followed next by the opposite hind leg. The back foot will hit shortly after the front leaves the ground, giving you the 1,2,3,4 feel of the walk.

Practice calling out each foot as it hits the ground. I simply call out, “Now, now, now….”

Get your partner to say, front left foot, left hind, right hind, left front and call out accordingly until you can feel them all.

The trot is a 2 beat gait. When the horse’s front leg leaves the ground it’s followed by the opposite hind leg with both legs in the air at the same time. This gives you the 1,2,1,2 of the trot.

Have your work-out partner call out all four feet again and feel where each foot is. No looking!

The canter is a 3-beat gait. For the right lead the horse starts the canter with a step underneath and push from the outside (left) hind leg (left hind leg for the right lead, right hind leg for the left). Then the opposite (right)hind and (left) front travel forward together and the leading (right)front leg goes forward last.

This description is giving me a headache. If my horse takes the left lead he will lope off beginning with his right hind. Then his left hind and right front move forward together, then the left front (lead leg) goes last.

1,2,3…So call out the legs at the lope and we’ll get to the stopping part…well almost. The right lead is the opposite.

I don’t want to write anymore, so go practice and I’ll pick this up next week.


  1. "If my horse takes the left lead he will lope off beginning with his left hind. Then his right hind and front move forward together, then the left front (lead leg) goes last."
    Something about that isn't quite right! Left lead starts with right hind, followed by LH and RF, then the left front- leading leg.
    Can't wait for the rest of the series!

  2. Thanks Heather! I'll get in and change it.
    I knew it wasn't reading right.
    That's what happens when your trainer is ADD and dyslexic.
    I used to have to canter (on foot) for my students because I'd get them so turned around.
    See Badges? It wasn't all roses having me be your trainer...

  3. Mugs, thanks for taking my question seriously. And thanks for the homework. I focus on footfalls intermittently. This will focus me to practice til I am really good at it. Should make canter depart requests a snap, too - or atleast snappier.

  4. Yay for updates and yay for homework. I tried this last night and felt like the walk was the hardest. Too many feet going at different times. Good exercise though. I'm going to work on it.
    I took Grace, my little WP mare out to visit the cows. She was curious but not scared when we were driving them in from pasture. We got in the pen to start sorting and immediately my normally sweet tempered dullish horse squared off with one, pinned her ears and tried to get her some cow. The cowboys loved her! I think Miss Grace wants to be a cow horse instead of a pleasure horse. Uh oh! I almost felt bad taking her back to my trainer. Hopefully I didn't break her letting her run around too fast without her head on the ground. Kidding...we both agreed it would be good for her to get a little break and it was wonderful to bond with her.

  5. Fyyah-have fun with this. These are exercises that won't interfere with your trainer.

  6. Oh yeah, the exercises are great for any horse or rider. I was talking about not knowing if the trail ride and chasing cows was going to be bad for my WP horse. Actually I got to ride her today and she was better than ever. Trainer said she was a little heavier at first but she got over it quickly and she seems refreshed. I think it was a good thing.

  7. Fyyah- Call me biased but I think cow work is good for every horse and rider.
    My boss raises paint pleasure horses. Her trainer has all her youngsters started by a roper.
    They all track a cow and go down the trail in all 3 gaits before she starts them.
    Her point is it makes pleasure just another aspect of training for the horses and starts them out in life moving naturally.
    I already like this woman and I have yet to meet her.

  8. I am happy to hear about Loki!

    Thinking about Cupcake.
    You know the story has a touch of Walter Farley in it, and being an avid reader of WF I can't wait to hear the rest.
    I want this mad, angry horse to turn around and become a well behaved normal one.
    But I guess there is a difference between real life and fiction!
    I am very much looking forward to hear what happens. In real life.

  9. Well, last night I worked on this, I think I'm starting to feel the rhythm of the walk.... mare was crabby because I pulled her out at dinner time, so I only walked and jogged.... today, I still got scolded for having to look to get my diagonal during my lesson... "You should feel for it!"

    I promised my trainer that I am trying.

    But, on a good note, not only is my mare cantering in both directions for me now, my trainer actually was able to talk me through getting her to pick up the right lead, which is very hard for her. There was a very rough, half canter half jackhammer trot moment, and then she got it!! I was so prioud of her, and even of myself a bit too. :)