I am a researcher. my mother has always been bugged to death by me, because if I’m stumped on something related to a topic I like (ex: history, literature, HORSES, something running related or ya know, HORSES.) I will research the heck out of that problem until I get it fixed. I will buy books. I will spend hours upon hours on my computer. I will get people out to help me. I will ask everyone and their mother for ideas and opinions. Why does it bug her? Because if I don’t like the topic..I’m lazy. And I just won’t do things. (ex: math. math. math. Also some math.) So, when I ended yesterday’s ride, I had a lot on my mind. Even though my mom commented and said, “wow Red looked really comfy and his trot looked really springy and nice” which is a huge compliment because my mom doesn’t like Red’s ride and is very quick to tell me what she finds wrong with it (which I love because I always know what I need to improve next)but I just felt like..hey, we’ve been working on this for a few months. I say a few months because the other 2 years of owning him and riding was, sure, spent working on his trot, but I couldn’t ride properly. I didn’t know what I was doing, not enough to help Red, so these last few months have been our great months of me riding like someone who isn’t a pure beginner, and riding my horse best I can. And I’ve seen improvement. I’ve seen some moments of a beautiful and talented pony, but I felt like we were behind and there was something I wasn’t doing.
So, I planted my butt in my computer chair this morning and did my research and found this fabulous article by John Lyons.
I realized that I was doing nothing for Red, collection wise, on the ground, and we weren’t going to get further unless I got on the ground and worked with him. And I love groundwork, so I was like, woah, why haven’t I been doing this?
“You can begin to lay the foundation for collection the minute you start working with (or retraining) a horse. The process starts on the ground, but remember-everything you work on from the ground transfers directly to your work in the saddle. The rein cues you teach from the ground will be the same when you’re on your horse’s back. The training whip that helps develop the go-forward cue is a stand-in for the leg cue you’ll use when you ride him.”
And oh my gosh, I have laid zero foundation for his collection on the ground. Yeah, I’ve done groundwork and he’s really good on the ground, but I’ve done no real work for collection unless I’m on him.
“The starting point will be teaching your horse to give to the bit by bringing his nose toward you when you apply rein pressure. Position yourself on the left side of your horse near his shoulder, facing his side. Pick up the left rein about six to 12 inches from the bit with your left hand. Take the slack out of the rein so that you’re putting a small amount of pressure on the bit (maybe a pound of pressure). Remember that you always want to start with the lightest cue possible. When you see your horse thinking about moving his nose in the direction of the rein you’re holding, or if he actually moves his nose toward you, immediately release the pressure.”
I went to the barn today, fed him and started groundwork. I put him in his bridle, and started working. He flexes nicely, but I’ve only worked on it for mounting purposes (get his mind on something else but moving, he flexes, I release and then get on, but I haven’t waited for him to give before releasing.)
“Your challenge is to try to maintain that consistent, mild pressure that lets him know he hasn’t offered the right answer. If he moves away, try to stay with him without increasing the rein pressure or throwing it away. The instant you feel even a fractional give, release the rein.”
I started off with flexing him to the sides. At first, he thought I was asking him to move his feet and turn, so it took a few minutes for me to get him to give so I could release. But then, he did it once, and he had his own lightbulb moment. And I realized what a willing horse I have. He did it, gave to the “bit” and I released. Switched sides, he gave, I released, switched sides, he gave, I released, and so on.
Then, I asked him to lower his head to a proper position in the middle, like I would when asking him to back, and he was a bit stiff in the neck, but he finally gave, I released. We did this a few times, and within about 10 minutes, he was flexing and giving immediately, lowering his head and giving, and turning on his haunches and backing up with hardly any pressure.
I had him backing on hardly any pressure from me and going pretty far, turning well, giving to me, by the end of about a 25 minute groundwork session.
So, here’s the first session with this on the ground. I’m going to continue this, and hopefully after a few more sessions we’ll be able to take this from the ground to the saddle.
Also…first lesson tomororw. Eek!