Joey and i enjoyed a trail ride after some arena work this past Sunday. On the trail, he stumbled once, and then his rhythm sounded different. I couldn't place it. I was probably just too relaxed. But coming back to the barn, I realized he had caught a shoe and flipped it off. Just like that. Amazing how easily they can lose a shoe. That got him a 2 day reprieve from riding. Thank goodness, the farrier was coming out for routine shoeing anyway.
But yesterday, it was back to work for Joey. What follows are some follow up remarks from our first reining lesson last week with Todd Martin.
Problem: How to get a better stop on Joey. It seems I used to have a better stop on this horse than I do now.
Answer: A big run makes for a big stop.
Solution: Huh? What the heck are you talking about? This answer really had me stumped. Sure sure, I can understand that running hard will mean a better sliding stop because you'll carry more momentum, but I don't really care about that. I just want a better stop.
And then I rode Joey the way Todd suggested, cantering him harder and harder, faster and faster, really driving him, and then abruptly stopping the ride with my body WITHOUT pulling on him, and he sat down and gave me a good stop. Ah ha! The thing is, now Joey WANTS to stop because he knows he's working hard and I don't care how fast he runs, and he's looking for a release, and when I stop riding, he gets the release by stopping. A big run makes for a big stop. Now, I get it.
Before, with me in his mouth trying to control the speed of his canter and letting him brace against the bit, he was insensitive to changes in my energy or my seat. Now, running free on a loose rein, he isn't braced on anything, and he is clued in to my energy. Amazing.
I am also making him back up with every stop, as Todd suggested. But I think the difference has been freeing up the horse to let him FIND THE ANSWER, rather than controlling everything he does to avoid trouble. That was just frustrating to us both.
Problem: I'm not really progressing with getting a getter "handle" on this horse. I expected he'd be neck reining better and responding better to my cues.
Answer: When you are cantering him in your hard circles, use the outside rein to guide him. Rely less on your inside rein pulling him into position. SUGGEST and GUIDE where you want him to go and let him find his way there.
Solution: So I did this. And it works. And now his reining is much better. This has been one of the best tips I have picked up so far. I was using direct reining far too often and too much. I wasn't trusting Joey. More specifically, I wasn't letting him make mistakes and THEN correcting him. I was an over protective parent trying to keep him out of every trouble.
In addition, I am reining Joey in front of the horn, not pulling down and away. I also used a leverage bit for the first time with him yesterday. He chewed on it a while. He was very sensitive to the bit, but not SOFT. This may take some time. He hasn't really been soft with anything I've thrown at him. Not as soft as I'd like anyway, not as soft as say Woody or Lola, much older and experienced horses. But I need Joey to come along. Much is going to be expected of this horse. The easy ride is over. So far, he's been a champ. I'm not going to rush him, but he isn't going to sit in the back of the class and avoid the assignment any longer either.