Friday, May 27, 2016

Operation Figure It Out

when your legwear game is unimpeachable
You're going to have to pardon the dressage nerd-ery so late in the week, but it's going to happen somewhere. That place is here.

In our last lesson, my trainer commented that Courage has gotten very good at stretching his neck down now. Our current problem is that he does it in lieu of engaging his hind end sometimes.
neck down is good progress
I'm not the queen of doing things right, but I generally do know how to engage the hind end of a horse, so we've done a couple of rides (at the walk) to get Courage really thinking about moving dat ass.
also gorgeous
See the trick with him (because complicated, sensitive and OTTB) is pushing MORE FORWARD will always only ever backfire when he's learning something new. Instead, I break it down, ride under the rhythm, and show him step by step what I want so he thoroughly understands the concept.

Thus, we've been walking. Slowly. In order to engage his hind end, I need to be able to control where he places his hindquarters so I can straighten them and move them where I want them, which I'll also need for renvers/travers and literally everything else we do from here on out (I LOVE HOW THIS ALL WORKS TOGETHER).

not sure if he loves how it all works together
 It's fascinating (not sarcasm. I am so much of a dork that I really enjoy this).

What's been really working for Courage is to ask for shoulder-in up the quarter line, and when I get 2-4 good steps, then immediately go forward into a free walk across the diagonal. The shoulder-in gets him stepping under, the freewalk confirms his stretch down and straightness so the exercise doesn't make him crooked and tense and the quarterline keeps me honest about where all the parts are going.

When that seems to be going well, we add in some walk/halt/walk transitions, which is another fantastic engaging exercise.
way better than he is with the ladies
I'll be honest: Courage is getting REALLY GOOD at this stuff.

So naturally, after a few good walk rides, I was like OK GR8 HORZ LETSSSS TROT.

That was not great--we sorta sped around on the forehand. I used my core (omg!) to slow his rhythm and for like 7 strides, it was seriously the BEST TROT EVAR. Strides long. Float on. Slow and perfect and power from behind and OMG YOU GUYS THIS HORSE IS THE BEST IN THE WORLD.
all the shit. all of it.
And then he lost. his. shit.

Yes after 7 strides. He was ostensibly spooking at birds, despite not being spooky in general or caring about birds in particular. I know enough about him to know that getting after him makes things worse, so I dropped the reins and walked up to look at birds.

He stood on the buckle, licking and chewing for a long time.

Sigh. Not scared. Try again.
silly hooman trying again
This time, even the walk was crappy and he was threatening to blow. Greaaaat. I got the walk to be less crappy, got off, pulled his tack off, and expected to see him explode.

Nope. Just hung out and took selfies.

I finally figured it out while I put all my stuff away.

Courage is smart and he figured out what I want. He's a pretty good boy, so he even offered it in the trot.


It's also very hard, mentally and physically, and he's not ready to do more than a few steps right now. I need to reward him for offering and only ask for what he can give.

If he can go from this:

to this:

It's worth taking a few weeks or months longer to help him learn the next steps.

We'll get there.


  1. Love this thought process! A few things: 1) WHERE DID YOU GET TEAL SPARKLE POCKET BREECHES I NEED THOSE 2) Stealing that S/I to free walk exercise 3) LOLz at inspector horse lookin for brains

    1. Ha! They are beautiful. They're hkm brand and I snagged them at a cool local place for $45. Beat that.

    2. off to stalk the interwebz! they are gorgeous. And would look great with my grey "99 Problems" tshirt. :)

  2. Yes, inquiring minds must know about the breeches! :)

  3. On a side note...I concur, those breeches are awesome!

  4. This is an awesome post! I love how Courage-friendly you have been of late (long time reader, first time commenter). I have been taking the same approach with the horse I do some catch riding on. He tends to get bracy, quick and not engaged behind. Lots of people told me to push him more forward, but I only ever got relaxation, lightness and awesomeness when I slowed waaaay down and did pretty much exactly the same things as you. Keep up the good work!

  5. I've seen a lot of progress in him lately from your photos! Keep up the great work.

  6. I love how you listen to him and figure out how to break it down so he can learn how to carry himself correctly!

  7. AAH yes. That lesson. I still need to remember that lesson. Teach me your ways, zen master. ;)

  8. it is so hard to just stop and reward those incremental steps. i get greedy, i want more. that trot is so delicious let's just keeeep going!!! but... no. that's not how it works. frustrating tho.

  9. It's also hard to keep your own core engaged correctly for more than a few steps at a time. There's a learning curve for both of you! But wow he looks like a different horse.

  10. That's a really great exercise, and he has come a long way precisely because you are so mindful and methodical.

  11. Anna Blake insists that the best thing to do when you get what you ask for is to stop and get off. It is the best kind of release for a horse that is learning.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...