Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Carole Grant Clinic July 29 - July 30, 2013

I decided to ride in a Carole Grant clinic even though I had never met her before as she has a great reputation.  But of course I was a little nervous as my advanced horse is very sensitive and can get overwhelmed at times. Thank you Michelle Markquart and River Bluff for hosting this clinic!

On the first day it became apparent to me that I had compromised the relative straightness of my horse in the base of her neck.  I had done this in favor of having a good frame.  While this works somewhat - it does cause problems with upper level collection.  The other piece that became very clear on the first day was that pushing the horse on beat 2 of the canter really helps the horse put their croup lower. 

On the second day of the clinic we reviewed relative straightness but also looked at the individual movements a little more.  We worked on the rein back and how to eliminate any bracing in the horse.  Carole had me ask for the rein back and if bracing occurred, I was supposed to ask for a turn on the forhand.  This really did work to relax her and helped the rein back. 

We also worked on a pattern for individual flying changes to make them straighter.  (Straight flying changes are not always easy on a really flexible horse.)  The pattern was shoulder-for to Half Pass to shoulder for to flying change.  It became obvious very quickly that the changes were straight and easy for her this way.

We also took a look at the four tempis and the problem I have with them.  The problem is that Bacara likes doing changes so much that she gets excited in between the changes.  So oddly we would do a change and then a 10 meter circle and then back on the diagonal and then another change and then another circle and then another change etc. . .  It seems that the tempi changes are not the issue it is the canter in between them that needs to be really rideable.   The message was ride the possibilities.  In other words anything should be possible for your horse the next stride, when that happens, the canter is really easy to ride.

The other significant change I saw in my horse was the quality of her medium trot.  The pattern chosen to improve the medium trot was half pass to medium trot.  The half helps with better engagement and then the medium trot benefited from it.  The reach in the front end of the horse was significantly improved.

The other piece that really helped was an adjustment to the curb bit on the double bridle.  I was very concerned about having the snaffle bit and the curb cross and I guess I over compensated.  With the curb two holes higher, Bacara was very steady in the bridle and less bracey.

Wow, I would do this again!  There was so much information packed into two days, I had to write it down so I did not forget anything!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Warm-up Practices that work are not the same for every horse.

It has become quite clear to me that a different warm-up approach is needed based on the body type of the horse you are riding.  Yes they all have a psychological need to feel safe and appreciated but I am talking about the physical differences today.

My advanced horse Bacara, is very flexible and has quite a lot of movement.  I call her more flexible than strong.  As a flexible horse she needs to warm up is a slightly longer frame and let her strides swing.  This seems to help her back loosen up and be ready for more uphill work.  Other horses on the farm like this are Yatze, and Cest La Vie.  Both of these mares need to swing in their backs at least at the start of the ride to make things work properly.

Another technique that seems to work well with really flexible horses is counter bending on a circle, in both the trot and canter.  It seems these flexible horses easily place their shoulders out or swing their haunches in or out.  The counter bending really does help obtain alignment and help with longitudinal balance.  The flexible horse has an easier time with an uphill balance after this type of warm-up.

Then there are horses that are muscular and strong but are not as flexible as you would like.  These horses frequently have a better longitudinal balance to begin with but may have rhythm problems associated with not having enough flexibility.  Horses here that are like that are Ami, Saleena, Joey and Hazel.  These horses should not be pushed for more longitudinal movement under saddle as they will not be able to give it to you right away.  Instead these horses need lateral movement in their warm-ups to loosen their muscles.

Leg yeilding, Shoulder In. Haunches In and Half Pass are all helpful.  I have found Haunches In on a circle to be one of the most beneficial things I can do for these horses.  The haunches in on a circle really loosens the horse and allows it to bend enough to align its body parts to have better balance and rhythm.

When you ride enough horses per day, you start to see patterns of what is needed based on their body types.

The horses then trust you more as you warm them up with success because they think that they can do the job and their rider will not ask them to do more than they are able.