Friday, March 26, 2010

Patti's horse friends

Today was my firat day working with a new client's horses, Spencer and Teddy. Patti called and requested lessons for several reasons, the main reason was that she wanted to be certain that she was headed in the right direction with her horses. She wanted specific goals to work on that would improve both her and her horses.
She has had Spencer longer. Teddy is a chestnut that Patti has only has a very short time. We started with Spencer. He is a lovely bay with a large, kind eye. He has been shown on the "A" circuit, probably in hunter classes.Today was very cold and windy. Spencer was remarkably calm in Patti's indoor ring. This was really the first time threy were in her lovely box stalls. The pasture (which had a great run-in shed) was being torn up, so she had them in her indoor ring for a few days.
We brushed Spencer and put splint boots on his front legs. Patti is going to buy hind splint boots for him; I believe in protecting a horse's legs when lungeing.I watched Patti starting to lunge, but therre were a few things I wanted her to do differently, so I took over. I explained that she wanted him to stand for her as she moved to the center of the circle, and not have him just start moving-that it was a safety consideration as well as a calming move to have him wait for her. Patti used the halter, which was fine. I do not believe in lungeing from the bit.
Patti did not have a lunge whip. I had brought one with me. I explained that it was just an extension of your arm, not meant to be snapped or to frighten or hit the horse, and that most of the time it weas carried behind your back.I then worked Spencer for quite a while at the walk. He acted as if he thought he was supposed to trot right away, so I demonstrated to Patti how to ask him to stay in the walk by the use of your body and voice, also slightly bringing him closer to me very gently. I exlained the use of the ground person's "soft eye" and use of low energy with this horse.
Spencer is a very generous horse on the ground, but it was eveident that he was tense and a bit "high", with the cold weather and wind and being in his stall. He very quickly learned my voice commands and tone, and started to lower his head because of relaxation of his body, and to chew and "mellow". We worked on down transitions, and I demonstrated to Patti the use of "an..d....walk" using "a..nn..dd" on down transitions as a type of half halt. Spencer soon picked up on this.
I lunged him both ways; he was stiffer going to the right. He was not too supple laterally (very common, something to work on), and had a tendency to travel with a hollow back and his head up. Patti and I talked about using our energy correctly to keep him calm and listening. I talked abut the importance of deciding what was a correct response from the horse....that with Spencer, little mistakes were "no big deal", that a horse does not learn if he is tense or frightened.

..more on this lesson will follow.....

1 comment:

  1. Patti's hoses continued....after lungeing Soencer at walk and trot and making sure that Patti was comfortable working him in the "new way", I then cantered him. I explained that when I canter a hors is the only time I say their name- right before I canter them. It works as a half halt,and only takes a few times and they relaize that they are going to canter. Soon they just canter from their name.
    It was evident, however, that Spencer was not very comfortable (balanced) in cantering on the lunge, and would transiton to a very fast, tense trot.I explained that she should canter him going into or out of a corner and only about once around at a time, then to use her voice and body language to bring him down to a more relaxed gait.
    After this successful work, I checked the fit of the saddle. I noticed that the safety stirrup bars were up. This is not that uncommon to find. The saddle actually fit the horse fairly well, but is a bit small for Patti. Most adult women, even when fit and thin, need a larger size than a 17" . The bit, however, was another matter. It was a large (in circumference) rubber snaffle. Spencer has a very small mouth...a very dropped palate and not much room in his mouth.His mouth gaped open with this bit. Patti had a regular snaffle which fit him better, and she is going to purchase a smaller french link, but we are also going to probably ride him with the Dr. Cook Bitless Bridle, at least for a time as Patti works on her contact.
    Patti has done wonderful work with Spencer as he came to her quite head shy and afraid to have his ears touched. he is MUCH better now, and I showed Patti some massage techniques to do on his head and poll to help him relax and trust her more.
    (more later)