Friday, January 15, 2010

Rode Again Yesterday

I got to ride Arabee yesterday - the temperatures were abnormally high - got into the 50's! Nothing special, just saddled up (no breastcollar or crupper) and rode in the dr. cooks for 10 minutes. All walking, except just at the end we did about 100 ft. of trotting - would've been 75 if she'd have transitioned to walking when I first asked ;-)

I also called the barn owner and asked to ride in the arena. (A huge THANK YOU to you, if you're reading this!) I plan to head down there tonight, and am very much looking forward to doing this! I want to be done riding by 5:30pm, so I can be done walking home by dark. That won't leave much riding time since Matt rarely gets home before 4:30, but that fits well with my plan to take it easy! I am sore enough after just 10 minutes of riding yesterday that really I only want to ride for 15 minutes today anyway! (I'm really not much of a believer in "no pain, no gain" - more of a "slow and steady wins the race" kind of girl, haha)

I recently had a comment by Caitlyn I think, but I cannot find which post it was on. She'd asked for pointers on how I plan to get Arabee to rate and steer and stop on a loose rein. I wish I had a more concrete answer for that! Truly, I am not sure I know how to accomplish this, but I have a rough plan. I think it's mostly going to be a problem of retraining MYSELF to let go and quit pestering her with the reins. And that's where using the arena will really help, because I will feel safer doing that - she can't really go anywhere.

For stopping, it's a progressive thing - first I THINK stop, then shift my weight down, then stop my body motion with her movement, then if she still hasn't stopped, I add a verbal cue. Easy, Easy, Arabee - Whoa. My horse knows whoa - it means stop feet NOW! To me that's a critical safety net, and it has saved me from being spilled off more than once. So if she doesn't stop as fast as she can when I say whoa, I then do what I can to MAKE her stop. So, using this method of gradually increasing how I ask, hopefully she'll learn to stop at the first, most subtle cue. I'm guessing/hoping this type of practice will also work with steering. My old gelding Jack used to go in whatever direction I looked, exactly.

So tonight in the arena I plan on riding on a completely loose rein, and using the above procedure for stopping/slowing. For turning, first I will look where I want to go, then point my body in that direction, then use my leg, then use my leg harder until I eventually boot her over. If she still won't turn, then I suppose I'll resort to rein pressure....but I think I really need to reserve that for last ditch efforts to get her used to turning without the rein. So, that's my rough plan.

It's not like she doesn't have a clue, but she's not as precise as I'd like. I'll keep practicing turning and circles and serpentines and patterns until she follows the exact path I want on a loose rein. This will probably take a long time and many sessions, but I think the results will be worth it.


Danielle said...

I participated in a Centered Riding clinic and we spent a fair amount of time working at a walk on a loose rein to establish baselines for all further work we did at advanced gaits.

One thing that we really focused on was the importance of using our pelvis to control motion, energy, and weight. Are you familiar with the Baoding balls -- those metal Chinese exercise balls? In our classroom section of the clinic we held these balls and observed their movement - how they swayed but stay centered over their point of gravity. We sat still, stood, moved around the room, watching these balls constantly to observe their motion - or, overall, their lack of motion no matter how we moved the balls.

With the picture of the balls in our mind, we were to imagine that one of the exercise balls were contained inside our pelvis and use it as a guide to control the movement of our pelvis. This transfered to our undersaddle time in how we used our pelvis. To stop our horses we imagined the ball rocking towards our spine, deepening our seat while staying relaxed. Once stopped, we pushed the ball forward in our pelvis towards our belly button and the horse stepped off easily.

During this time of Huck's rehab, where we are only allowed to walk undersaddle I find myself playing with this "tool" quite a bit. I'm amazed by how effective it is, and how well Huck responds. Maybe this will help you with Arabee's loose rein stops?

Caitlin said...

Thank you so much for responding to my comment. Truth be told, I have trouble finding it again too. I like the ideas presented here... and as soon as I'm off bed rest and can get back up on my girl I'll be working us around the arena in practice and slowly going through each command like you listed above.

On a secondary note, I love reading about you and Arabee's adventures! Gives me stuff to think about when I go out to work my own girl, Rose.