Friday, September 27, 2013

Raising the Sticks

In order to give Courage the best shot at becoming an excellent riding horse, I try to make intelligent choices about his education. I can't just ride him 6 or 7 days a week right now, so I work on a new concept, then give him time off to think it over, then pick it up again a few days later. It works for his mind and body--he is progressing faster that I'd hoped for and I haven't had any problems (yet) with physical soreness or mental resistance.

When I took him to grid night last week, I got the same feedback from the instructor that Redheadlins was giving me anyways--I need to get up out of the saddle and let him learn to use his hind end. To this point, I'd been staying in the tack more than is good because I was steering to the jump. Now that he's got that idea down, it's time for me to step it up.

I rode one day last week and trotted over a few wee things to let us both get a feel for it. In keeping with our training plan, he then got a couple of days off.

Getting out of the tack
This week, I set the jumps up a little so I could ask him some new questions and let him figure out how to respond. There was nothing inherently hard about the jumps--a bigger crossrail, a vertical with flowers, the beginnings of a baby grid... hm. I wanted Courage to have a good experience, and the best way to do that was to put someone in the irons who would give him a solid ride.

Redheadlins stepped on and off they went. As they trotted to the bigger crossrail the first time, you could see the wheels start turning in his head. "wait... this is tall... what do I do?" He slowed in front of it, then launched himself over the wee crossrail in the biggest effort he's given yet. Wish I had a picture of that.

They've got this
She stayed on and kicked forward after the jump. They went on to the next obstacle, the little vertical. Again, he slowed down. You could see him looking for the low spot that he was supposed to jump, but there wasn't one.

Hmm. He hopped over it, then cantered away. The lightbulb was coming on. Next they were able to string together the cross rail to the vertical. It wasn't a related distance per se, but it was the closest together that he's had to do two jumps and he looked great.

Check out that back end!
The more jumps he did, the better he looked. Instead of trotting over, he started using his hind end and landing in balance, then cantering off on a loopy rein.

By the time they did the baby grid (of poles on the ground), he had figured out what she wanted and was just perfect. We set up one crossrail in the grid. He trotted in, took a canter stride, and jumped out, then cantered away softly.

My jaw probably hit the floor. We called it a day and gave him lots of neck scratches. 

As much as I begrudge my insane work schedule right now, it seems to be an advantage to Courage. How many days a week do normal people ride anyways?


  1. So happy for you with your new boy! He seems like the best kind of baby, and it doesn't hurt that hes adorable :-)

    I try to ride Libby at least 5-6 days a week, but I'm trying to recondition her back to what she once was. Normally I can get away with 3-4 with her.

  2. I'm in the same boat as Shelley: my horse needs conditioning, so I ride 5 times a week, one jumping lesson and the rest hacks with ground poles.

    I'm love your schedule though; I mean, it's working so fabulously for Courage, why fix it if it ain't broke? He's such a critical thinker!!

  3. How cute! We set up a grid for my friend's RRTP horse last night and it was really awesome seeing her figure it out. Giving them something to do immediately after a jump is so educational. I don't know how many people subscribe to this theory, but I like the days a week = years of age theory for work with young horses.

  4. Awww! I know that feeling precisely, I felt it when we first put 2'6 in front of Connor. Look at that hind end indeed, he's not gonna hit that thing!

    I can only get to the barn 3-4 times a week, since the barn is nearly an hour away. Maybe we progress a little slower than we otherwise could, but it's the best I can do.

  5. much improvement at every time you post! I always love the look on his face, so expressive!!

  6. That is so awesome. You picked a good one!

    I usually ride 3-4 days per week.

  7. So cool! It is interesting to see how you are teaching him to jump, since I'm currently starting her over fences. She is a natural jumper, so we didn't have any "What do with legs?" moments, just green-ness. I usually ride 5-6 days per week, but now that I'm at school, it is more like 4-5.

  8. Four years ago I was riding 3 days a week. Then three years ago it was 4 days a week. Last winter for two months I dropped to 2 days a week (just a cold cold winter) and this spring I started riding 5-6 days a week which I'm still doing. I'll probably drop back down to 4-5 days this winter. Totally makes a difference if I have a specific friend to ride with or not.

  9. Looking good! Depending on what's going on, I ride 3-5 days a week and my trainer rides Simon 1 day a week. Usually he gets 4-5 rides in.

  10. When I can I try to ride five days a week. But I usually only ride for about 20-30 minutes most of those days instead of longer riders for less days.

  11. If I make it to the barn 3 days a week, I call it a success. Its not just the number of rides that matters - the quality of the rides matters, too, and you're doing great with that!!!

  12. Yay for jumping success! I ride 2-3 days/ wk right now but on a made horse, I would expect at least 3-5 days/wk on a greener one.

  13. With my new job I am lucky to get 4. 3 is more realistic with 2 being Saturday and Sunday :/

    Congrats on the success. He is really figuring it out!

  14. You guys are doing so well :) I ride each horse 3-4 times a week and sometimes 5-6 depending on my work schedule.


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