Friday, May 23, 2008

A little ground work

It's still windy here. The temps have dropped 30 degrees from a week ago and it's raining right now.

Last night we did the leading beside exercise. It was more of an excuse to just be out there more than anything else. She picked it up pretty quickly. She does take it a little too personal when I have to whack her on the butt. I did a little of the sending exercise and she kept looking away so I insisted on getting two eyes. That was the most challenging and it took about ten minutes before she consistently kept her eyes on me.

This was pretty nice:

I had listened to Rick Lamb's show in a podcast or his TV show or both and there was a trainer named Matt Sheridan. I happened by his website and he had an "Ask Matt" tab. It was a day or two after loping Jessie in that right circle and having her lean to the right. I didn't think I'd actually get a response, but Matt took the time to write me a very thoughtful, instructive email. Here it is:

Q: When loping a circle to the right my 8 yr Foundation/Quarter Horse mare really leans to the center of the circle. She doesn’t do it on a left circle. If I apply a little inside leg to lift the rib cage she just speeds up. If I lift the right rein to pick up her shoulder she shuts down. Any suggestions?

A: Hi John,
First of all, you may have figured out that what you have is a suppleness problem. I would recommend going back to the ground for a little while to retrain your horse to yield to pressure laterally while moving forward. You may only need to do this a few times and for only a few minutes prior to riding. What you are wanting to see if the horse is tracking to the right, is the right hind foot tracking up into the right front foot while remaining round from neck to tail. The basic way to accomplish this is to bump the lead rope twice, then when the hind quarters fall away, drive them up with the tail of the rope. You continue this until the horse steps forward maintaining roundness and tracking correctly. It can be a little frustrating to do this if you have not received actual instruction but if you have a little patience and are willing to try, it will help. I like to get a horse round and forward on the ground when they are really sticky because it is safer. Next, you would work a cirlce under saddle at a walk, trot and then lope. Use your inside leg to bend the body and your hand to pull the nose through smoothly. What you don't want to do is hang on the horses face. Smooth pulls in succession will accomplish more than hanging on your horses face. So, as a quick recap, send the horse forward in a circle, use the leg to round the body, pull through smoothly and repeatedly with the inside hand.

I wish I could show you in person my steps to getting this to work for you. It would be much easier that way. Basically you have a direct and drive problem. It sounds like you have attempted direct and drag to solve your problem. Remember that when you drive with the leg you don't direct with the hand and when you use the hand you don't drive with the leg. Once the horse can move smoothly then you can use both together.

As you told me, your horse will speed up when using the leg and stops when using the lift on the rein. This is why you need to achieve roundness first then work to shape the horse. If the horse speeds up a little maintain a slightly elevated hold on the rein and shrink circle size. Don't worry if the horse goes from trot to a lope, concern yourself with the overall shape and feel created. As your horse begins to understand more of what you want she will slow down more. She probably has more experience with the leg meaning go or go fast than with is meaning get round.

Keep me posted on your progress, let me know if this helps or if I need to try another approach with you.

Regards, Matt

You can check out Matt's website at
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