Tuesday, April 11, 2017

3/31/2017 - Cowboy Dressage Groundwork Lesson

I tried getting Penn to pose nicely since he was nice and clean. This was the best shot, lol.

Two Fridays ago, LM made a trip to our barn to work with quite a few people. If you remember, she hosted the obstacle desensitization clinic I went to recently. She's a USDF Silver medalist who turned to natural type horsemanship when she didn't like the life most dressage horses lead (stalled or limited turnout, ring work only, etc), and the spooky nature it created.

She has broken horses to ride the USDF/USEF way (how you have to do it to get instruction certifications I think?), and this natural horsemanship way. The way this pertains to Penn is this: He is unsteady on his feet. We're trying to fix that AFTER he already has fitness and muscle strength. She would have addressed it before even saddling him up, making him more steady to sit on from the start, instead of trying to fix it now. The goal is to make him step more on his outside legs and get off his inside shoulder.

Waiting for our lesson. There's something about the rope halter that makes him chill the F out.
I find myself using it a lot more than I thought I would.

I started by telling her I was having trouble replicating the work she did with Penn at the obstacle clinic- He wasn't giving me any lick and chew as we worked, and if anything, his jaw was getting tighter.

She showed me again (and this is kind of rusty remembering because I didn't write it down soon enough):

  • Begin by making sure Penn will drop his head when you pull down on the lead rope, or when you pull back and forth if he resists. (Penn drops his head easily)
  • Hold him by the side knot on the noseband. Walk into his shoulder (keeping his neck fairly straight- this is where I went wrong), so he yields on a circle. If he doesn't move out of your way, tap with the whip. Work this from both sides.
  • As this gets better, when the inside front leg steps down, pull down on knot to soften his neck. (I think that was the reasoning, but the end results should be he lowers his neck as he walks)
  • Slowly send him away from you, and out to trot.
  • Do a ton of changes of direction- if he gets quick in the change, stop him mid change and make him back up and come forward.
  • In the trot, give him big "half halts" by bringing up your leading hand up to half halt him and raise his inside shoulder and set him onto his outside shoulder, but you have to flick with the whip too because he'll want to stop right away.

The final bullet point led us to use a tarp to help. Penn is very good with tarps, which is what let us do this so quickly to him (aka, if you try to replicate this at home, use common sense please!)

Begin by rubbing the tarp over him on both sides in a pleasant way- a way he would like to be pet or rubbed. 
Put the tarp over his back and walk on, then stop and pull it over his head.
Once the tarp is on the horse, NEVER let go of it. You need to be in control of it.
The end result: the tarp is on the lead rope. (you can let go of it now)

The idea with the tarp is that it is something slightly spooky to lift him off the inside shoulder without much effort on your part. You can still lift the line to half halt, but it should require less effort.

LM did some back up, come forward, then sent him out around her in walk, trot, AND canter, with a bunch of changes of direction. She said she doesn't usually have trouble getting canter once she puts the tarp on, but Penn was having none of that. He would rather face the tarp than canter on a small circle. She said a horse as far along as him should have no trouble cantering on the line around you- it ends up being a 12-15m circle because you move along with him. When she's done working with the tarp, she pulls it off the line and onto the ground in front of the horse, then has him walk over it to reinforce the idea that it won't hurt him.

This was the least blurry picture, sorry!

Then it was my turn to try. Uhh, I'm quite clumsy. Like, very clumsy. There's a reason I ride and don't walk/run, haha. I needed a smaller tarp because I just couldn't handle the folds of the big blue one. That made it harder for me to get him to stay out away from me, but that's ok. I need to keep my own feet moving and move into him to make him move away from me.

Overall, I got a much better understanding of what needs to happen on the ground, and I'm excited to try it on my own. It has been over a week since this lesson, and I haven't gotten a chance to! The weather suddenly cleared up and the nice days between our travels I spent trail riding instead of working in the ring...

Trail rides instead of work make for a happier pony!

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