Thursday, October 13, 2011

Scout and I went to a nice little group lesson today. My sister took Lakota, and a lady I know took her absolutely gorgeous mustang, and another lady with an older gaited horse. A great group. The instructor is the wife of the guy I tried apprenticing with a couple years back.

I think the idea behind the lessons is "western dressage" which I take to simply mean riding well - with consciousness - moving toward a goal of making ourselves into better riders to make it easier for the horse to learn to move correctly and comfortably.

Today though, we just did some ground work and some walk/trot and backing.

I'm going to take notes every week and probably post them here. I'm not going to go into detail because I think that'd be boring, but if you want me to clarify a point you can ask me in the comments. And this isn't meant to be advice to you, this is specific to the unique needs of my horse and myself. But maybe it'll be interesting or thought provoking.

I'll start with Interesting Tidbits:
  • "What I want to see are polite responses to polite requests."
  • Most horses are left handed, therefore have a harder time on the right.
  • We all learn conflicting things from different instructors, trainers, riding buddies. We need to constantly ask, "Why?"
On the Ground:
  • When sending, step forward, not back or to the side.
  • Get my energy UP. Have intent.
  • Phase up quickly when needed. (This is specific to Scout, who is a bit lazy and over-desensitized.)
  • Expect more (Again, the laziness and my tendency to let things slide.)
In the Saddle:
  • Back with his face vertical, not behind the bit.
  • When backing, having one rein slightly higher can help.
  • She does not have us alternate reins, but we do ask, release, ask, release, if the horse is doing right. Just a simple curling and loosening of the fingers.
  • Ask with rein and seat at same time. Keith had told me to ask for softness before asking for the back. So we needed to adjust.
  • She doesn't think legs should be used when backing.
  • Release only when the horse has it right.
  • Once he's getting it consistently, then start adding longer duration (more steps back).
  • At the trot - keep reins loose and ask only for 3-5 strides, then go back to walk. Do this a lot. It will help him relax into a nicer trot.
  • While walking in circles around the pen, to pick up a soft feel, ask softly with the inside rein and leg rather than both reins. This is hard for us because Keith did so much lateral work with Scout, he thinks he's supposed to get right up against the fence and stop, as you would when opening a gate. So I need to tone down my ask and keep him moving forward, and use my outside leg to keep him off the fence. That'll take some work.
Proud Moments:
  • Scout did SO well standing still while we all listened, discussed, and watched. He didn't paw or fidget hardly at all. He seemed to enjoy watching the show. :)
  • While we were backing, after she saw that he was behind the vertical, I worked on releasing at the right moment to encourage him to be vertical, and she complimented me on my soft hands and good timing. :)
One last interesting note - Scout is a slow processor, which I knew but... There's always a but... I sometimes need to give him more time in between things to process what just happened.

Speaking of big "buts" - It kinda sucks to pay someone to tell me something I already knew. A lot of it I knew I did wrong BUT was too lazy to fix. So it's good to have someone making me toe the mark, since obviously I'm not getting there by myself. And it's really great to have a really detail oriented pair of eyes watching and helping me along.


froglander said...

Why does she think legs shouldn't used when backing?

Andrea -Mustang Saga said...

She thinks that legs, especially both calves at the same time, mean go forward, so you're confusing the horse. I didn't ask what she thought of alternating legs, which is what I tend to do. I'm going to play with it and see which I like better. She didn't tell anyone not to, though. It seemed to be a "to each his own" kind of thing.

froglander said...

I'm curious if you find anything out about that. I tend to lighten my seat and then alternate legs until I want him to stop and then I sit and my legs are still. /Usually/ (but not always, lol) he will back with very little rein.

Cool to take lessons with Scout :)

How is Tonka doing?

Kara said...

I use my legs when backing too, but I tend to use a different leg cue than the go forward cue...I tend to bumps my legs when backing, but squeeze when I mean go forward. I'm not sure if it is "correct", it's just what I've taught my horses and it works for us. Your lessons sound like fun. I often wish I had a place (and time) to do lessons. I took a couple lessons with Katie Whetzel in WA (near Pullman) and I really enjoyed them.

Andrea -Mustang Saga said...

Sounds like you do about what I do. I was thinking about it after I posted the last comment and really my alternating legs are just slightly exaggerating what they would do anyway as they lay on his sides while he backs, since his barrel goes back and forth.

Yesterday I would have said Tonka was doing great. I had even thought about riding him briefly. Today he wasn't feeling good. He was stiff all over and cranky. I hate this EPSM stuff. On the upside, his tendon seems fine.

Andrea -Mustang Saga said...

I think what works, works. And I think that's why the instructor today didn't say we had to do it a certain way. But she did say a steady squeeze might be confusing, since it's a forward cue, and this was with a horse that was having some trouble.

It's interesting all the different ways there are of doing things.

Linda said...

I don't use my legs when backing, but I never thought about why. I think I've always had horses that jump forward with leg, so I just learned to quiet them up when backing. I LOVE the idea that you're taking lessons with him. I want to do the same thing with Cia and Beautiful. I wish someone would come to my house.