Wednesday, March 22, 2017

A Subtle Prompt, Not a Full Leg Whomp

People have a lot of problems riding slower horses.

PROBLEM #1: HOW MUCH LEG?

The biggest problem is that they are USING TOO MUCH LEG! Unlike riding the feisty thoroughbreds where you need to have all leg, all the time to give them a squeeze of reassurance, these more deliberate, unhurried athletes require a lot more leg CONTROL!

That's right, control not strength!

You can't kick a leisurely horse forward - and often they will actually slow down at the audacity. They want specific cues, at specific times; a subtle prompt instead of a full leg whomp. They don't want to be nagged, they don't want to be over cued, they want a timely and purposeful communication.

What this means is that they need you to be able to hold your leg to them with a gentle contact. This means you need to have stabilize your leg holding it in AND out at the same time. You can't just death grip onto these slower horses and call it good!

You also need to be able to manipulate different parts of your legs to cue different things, understanding how to get support from your upper thigh, yields from your calf, and momentum from your heel - AND USE THEM INDEPENDENTLY! Keep in mind that often:

  • heels mean go,
  • kicks mean sass, or a mental shut down!
  • calves mean leg yields, but not go!

You'll also find that people who "toe out" in their riding tend to be better at riding slower horses. This is because their heels are the point of contact and they don't have the full leg contact that can feel nagging to horses.

 Am I saying to ride with your knees out like a frog and your toes pointed out like a ballerina? NO! I'm saying that you need more control of your leg so you know if you're putting pressure on the calf (leg yield, support) or on your heels (go button!).

It is no surprise that often these steady horses are more fond of being ridden with spurs - and I mean properly with spurs not prodding them with them! Leg flexibility of riders is just one of the reasons these horses tend to do better being ridden with spurs (even just bumper spurs) because they are heel extenders for when you just can't get your leg to bend quite around that way. But more specifically, spurs can localize cues more specifically than an entire blunt foot.

PROBLEM #2: MISREPRESENTATION OF SLOWER HORSES The main obstacle to get over with slower moving horses is changing vocabulary.

Descriptive but not accurate vocabulary: Slow, Lazy, Plodding, Sluggish these words are more appropriate for describing day to day changes in a horse's behavior, not the overall speed of a horse.

More accurate vocabulary for non-forward horses: unhurried, deliberate, leisurely, unrushed, steady, measured, relaxed, cool-headed

Once you change your vocabulary you realize that you can more easily appreciate the horse's personality and understand how to work with them! I mean, who doesn't want to work with a relaxed and deliberate companion?!

PROBLEM #3: CHECK YOUR SEAT

Often these more deliberate companions are also more in tune with a rider's balance and seat. They make the best bridle-less companions as a result because they will respond to the slightest adjustment of your weight.

Thinking that speed comes only from legs is a huge problem for many of these horses. If you're kicking with all your might but your seat is dead and heavy, they will more likely listen to the breaks in your bottom than the momentum in your heels!

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Horse Blaming and Shaming

Time to review the horse blaming and shaming lesson! The best horse in the world is the horse between our legs.
Riders always tend to put shift blame towards horses. Please do not blame horses but instead remark on the failure to communicate - a two way channel. None of us would ever blame our peers, our co-workers, our teammates in sports, our spouses and boyfriends the way I hear people casually blaming horses.
Horses do not fail. Humans fail horse. 

Failure from a horse is almost always the riders fault for not setting the horse up for success. With chunked goals and good communication any horse is a winner. But with selfish expectations or badly timed cues, lack of finesse or brazenness a frustrated horse can become a scapegoat. Horses need to tell when riders are doing it wrong, their honesty is a teaching tool.
Even when it is not the rider's fault it is still human error for not preparing the horse previously through schooling and conditioning, therefore causing the horse stress and frustration. Through less blame and more focus on physical and mental development (even within one session) a horse will relax and be a better teammate.
We need to take ownership of our horses that we ride on. Syntax, sentence structure and spin can make or break a horse's reputation FOREVER.
If anyone in our community has repeated problems with a particular horse please post it in our private group for discussion or alert me or Jennifer Marosek VanDusen. We look forward to remedying the relationships through lessons (or therapy!) and schooling.

Spooking: Is it the horse's fault?

Did the horse spook, or were you already making the horse nervous placing it on edge and making it susceptible to surprises?

Something important to think about is the cause and root of a horse's behavior. Often it seems that people put the blame on the horse by defining it as the horse's weaknesses instead of realizing that it is in fact their own weaknesses causing the problem. 
A team is only as good as its weakest link. Be careful how you think of horse's behavior. 

I've even seen the most beginner-level and consistent horses spook when someone is overly neurotic, passive, continually wavering, indecisive, meek or otherwise not very good at human-ing.