Monday, October 31, 2011

The Twenty Minute Lope


I think it was in one of the NWC Journal articles about cantering where Clinton said they loped for twenty minutes at their clinics...or at least tried to because many times the participants started to complain around minute 7 or 8. I wondered how hard it was to lope for twenty minutes. I wondered how hard it would be for Jessie. I thought we would give it a try.

Saturday afternoon's ride was a gentle little trot/walk ride to stretch the muscles out. We worked on a few little things but kept it light. Sunday, we didn't get to ride until the afternoon. The temperatures were in the low 70's and there was a nice breeze blowing. I picked the nine acre lot near the airpark as our main destination. We rode out to the alfalfa field where we did some warm-up exercises as well as some trotting and loping. After about ten minutes we headed over to the airpark. The field has some areas where there are a lot of gopher and/or squirrel holes, so we picked a path around the perimeter where the holes didn't seem too bad. Then reset the Garmin stopwatch and we were on our way.

The lot is big and my plan was to do a big square and then either try to cut through the middle to change directions and leads. I thought Jessie was going a little too fast and everytime I felt that, we loped a small circle. Unfortunately, many times the circles were in areas of questionable footing. She stumbled a number of times, but we kept going. She rarely tried to break down to a trot. There were a couple of instances when something along the other side of the fence got her attention, but other than that and perhaps wanting to be close to her buddy, she stayed on task. Around minute 16 or so she tried to really speed up to see if that would get us to stop. Then, she really kept pulling me back to Dusty who was exercising in the middle of the field. We kept pushing and shortly after the twentieth minute we found a good place to stop.

The Garmin read 3.16 miles which would give us an average speed of 9.48 mph. Only for a few short times did she give the smooth, slow canter I was looking for and most of those were at the beginning of the session. I wish I could have done the passenger lesson (in other words not steer her at all), but I didn't feel the footing was safe enough. She was much easier to steer through the whole session, which was a plus.

I let her air up for a minute or two and we went on the rest or our ride. We trotted much of the way back around our usual loop. I think that girl can trot all day long.

Next time I may try to break it up into a couple of five minute sections and see if that changes anything. And, this morning neither of us were too much the worse for wear by the whole thing (although SHE gets the whole day off)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Four Stages of Loping

Sounds like a Larry Miller comedy bit, if you can remember back that far. The four stages of loping:

Stage one: Lope your horse
Stage two: Lope them some more
Stage three: And, lope them some more
Stage four: When you think they have had enough loping, lope them some more.

Now, I thought we were most of the way through stage three and getting to stage four, but now I think we've just barely scratched the surface of stage two. Saturday we went out alone because Ranae was riding in the mountains (lucky girl, I had a class on Saturday). After warming up in the alfalfa field we headed for our nice field by the Airpark and worked on rollbacks into the fence. She's still fighting me on this one. We spent much of the time working on our circle and actually did a little follow-the-fence. She really anticipates when we do the rollback (Of course she does. She doesn't want to bump into the fence with her nose.) It is improving...slowly.

We worked on it for about 15 minutes and she had a good sweat going. We took a short break and did some sidepassing, backing, and flexing. And then we did a little more rollback work. Then we just loped around the 9 acre field, changing leads, doing small circles when she got fast, and going the opposite direction she wanted to go.

We trotted off and made the loop down the canal and around back home. The GPS said we had been riding for about an hour, 45 and we had an average speed of 4.4 mph. As we were going along the canal, her trot was a bit fast and we did a LOT of transitions from walk to canter, canter to trot. She never really slowed down. And, it's not because we are pointed home (I don't think) because going down the canal we ride past our house for a mile to hit the street that we need to cross the canal. My conclusion: Lope them some more.

Monday, October 10, 2011

A Message From Jessie

Saturday afternoon we went to our newest favorite spot. An exercise that has dogged us for a time is the rollbacks in the fence. I gave Ranae notice we were going to be working on this until we got some good ones and it might take awhile. We found one good spot near the fence and first had to do a little desensitizing. It was a chain link fence with privacy slats and on the other side were some trees with birds. It spooked Jessie a little, but once we did the follow-the-fence exercise a couple of times, the birds were gone and the fence was all ours.

One of the mistakes I had made in the past was not riding close enough to the fence on the circles we did NOT rollback on. That gave Jessie a cue I didn't intend. We had to go back to doing circles that got us near fence on every revolution. Once that was established I could then try rolling back. She quickly started anticipating and would try to jet past the rollback point whether we were doing one or not, especially circling to the left. Sometimes she would break down into a trot and I let her because I considered this a new "concept" lesson.

About ten minutes in she was done with me. She wanted to stop and we hadn't really gotten much of a rollback. She was flying around the circle so quick it was difficult for me to do my job (sit, say whoa, tip her nose, and apply the outside leg). I suggested we keep working on and she kicked up a bit. Right after the kick up she really got fast and I skipped the rollback portion for a bit as we loped circle after circle. When she realized she wasn't going to escape, she slowed down and we got back to work. My goal was to get her to listen to me instead of trying to fly past the rollback point. Finally we got an excellent rollback. One. Not exactly sure how long we worked on this, maybe 30 minutes, but when I stopped to give her a breather she was soaking wet. I can't remember the last time I had gotten her this lathered up. I let her get some air and then we did some loping through some cones and then continued on our ride.

Sunday, we found a different fence and started in again. It still took about twenty minutes before we were able to get a good rollback in each direction. She was shiny. We did a few other exercises we had been working on such as side-passing with no fence and two tracking. We're still working on bending at the walk. That one is just not as good as I think it should be. The weather was in the low 80's and perfect for riding. It was nice to get some good work under our belts.

Jessie is a bit confused about why the sudden increase in work load. When I explained the advice about "asking more" I had been getting she had a little something to say.

I transcibed this short message from Jessie (Yes, of course she talks. She has a voice reminescent of Archie Bunker and when she is mimicing other voices, it's a bit like Edith). I toned down the language just a bit. She can swear like a drunken sailor sometimes.

Dear People (you know who you are),

We appreciate getting horse advice from you...sometimes. Let's limit it to types of treats, feed blends, and things that will make me beautiful...stuff I like. Let's shut the #$%^ up about this "not working hard enough" bull$*;!%. I have worked hard. Hard at building a relationship with John that worked for both of us. Then you a$$holes come along and encourage him to work me harder. WTF! I don't come by your house and tell your husband/wife you're really not putting in the effort. Why don't you mind your own beeswax. I swear, if I meet up with any of you, you're going to get a hoof up side the head. The "wet" look does NOT become me! Go "ask more" of your own @%$#%*ing horses.

Yours truly,


Don't worry. She'll get over it!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Starting to Ask for a Little More

This was posted on one of our youtube videos about 4 months ago:

Hey John, I have watched many of your videos and I think you have done okay with Clinton's methods, MUCH better than most people I've seen on Youtube. Some things that you could consider is asking Jessie to put forth more effort!!! Some exercises she does she looks as though she is only half trying. Remember your horses will put forth as much effort as you expect them to.


I didn't mind the "you have done okay" comment because it was followed by the "much" in all caps. What struck me was how this person could tell I wasn't asking Jessie to "put forth more effort". How did they see that? Is it that obvious? Why don't I see it?

So that message has been bouncing around my brain for awhile now. We've slowly started to bring our expectations up and I've been trying to ask more and more of her on every ride. It's not just about riding farther or loping longer, we're trying to get better. I think it was in one of the NWC journals that Clinton says basically the same thing: "Your horse is only going to be as good as you ask her to be. They are not going to be practicing the exercises in their stalls in between rides so they can show you how much they have improved since the last ride."

We worked on side-passing without the fence on Sunday. We worked on it a lot longer than we usually do, but by the end of the session she was stepping sideways with energy. One thing I need to keep working on is to use a lighter touch. When she chumps me and I roll the spur up, she'll move, but when I go back to lighter pressure, she slows down again, so I have to roll the spur again.

After loping Jessie for about ten minutes in one field we moved to another, did the side-passing session, and then Ranae and I switched horses. I loped Dusty around for about ten minutes and he was dripping wet. He is older, 16 I think, but he had quite the sheen on him. His steering is so much better than Jessie's. We'll be working on that. I worked Dusty on backing up a step after the "whoa". It was so much easier to ask a lot from him than it is from Jessie. I'm going to just have to change that mindset somehow.

Both Saturday's and Sunday's ride were really nice. The weather is cooling down, we got to work on a number of things, and the things we worked on improved noticeably.