Friday, August 27, 2010

Headsets and "Dangerous" Ravines

Smokey and I have been working on backing, turning, and steering, all without the chambon, or neck stretcher. You can read about them on wikipedia.

I've been following Kate's posts on gadgets and softness closely. My own concerns rotate around an axis of what my trainer uses (and she's a very gentle trainer, actually), my own lack of knowledge, and my goals for working with my horse. The trainer recommends this gadget, I am not sure how to keep my horses head down consistently without being in his mouth constantly, and I want to work softly with him.

What to do.

At this point I've decided on a sort of middle ground - I'm using the device, but only sporadically and only for 5 minutes at the start of a ride. I am finding that on the trail (in the round pen he doesn't put his head up much) I can get Smokey's head back down when it goes up, but it's much harder and takes more focus. And the challenge remains in keeping it there consistently. I can see how these gadgets can make you lazy and soon you stop communicating, relying on the device to do it for you.

Discipline certainly needs to be there for both of us.

Today we tackled the SCARY ravine, a long ditch about two feet wide, with a drop of about 6 inches to a foot. ooooo!

Smokey was convinced he had to leap across it. Which was progress from the inital balk we worked through. For the last three days we've walked, lead, and just ridden across different sections of it. Finally today he figured it out and stepped down into it.

I've heard horses can't really understand how deep things are. That it takes trust for them to just step down.

If that's the case, I guess we made another step on our journey together.


Paint Girl said...

I have also had my horses balk at deep ditches, they would not go through one on a trail ride at all. I definitely think it's a depth perception thing. It must look really scary to them. Good for you, for sticking with it!

I also read Kate's post on devices, and I occasionally use draw reins or a training fork, but only sometimes as a reminder. The barn I work for uses draws and martingales all the time, but in the Arab industry, everyone does it. Now when I do use these devices it is only done in the arena, never on the trail. First, using these devices on the trail can be dangerous, and second, I take my horses trail riding for something fun and to get away from regular training. I do not make my horses set their heads on the trail, they can do whatever they want with their head. I find it is very rewarding to just go out on the trails, and have it be a fun, relaxing experience for them. Now I do train on the trails, but only when it comes to spooking, shying, obstacles, jigging etc. Those are definite trail training moments!!

Sounds like you are doing really well with Smokey, keep it up!!

Anonymous said...

Sometimes with a young horse, head position just isn't all that important. It's sort of like the work I'm doing now with Dawn at the canter - I really don't care about where her head is right now - it's more important to have relaxation, and forward and rhythm. Until she has those, I'm not worried about her head - that'll be easy to work with later.

Good work on the ditch - those can be difficult - maybe it's because of the darkness and shadows.

One Red Horse said...

When I watched the free Chris Irwin training video at Stateline Tack I was just stunned to recognize all the things I do to cause Red to raise his head. I think Irwin's awareness of headset and how we trigger an adrenalin response which equals high head in our horses is unique. He has FORTY free videos on "Riding Collected - teaching a horse to be calm and truely collected under saddle". I am working my way through them.

The one and only device I will use (not really a device) is my mylar bit that is tilted at a 45 degree angle so it provides automatic relief when Red holds his head down and vertical. It has helped SO much with my high-headed horse. As has what I'm learning from Irwin.

jill said...

So I was talking to Kate about you yesterday. I'm happy that you found Smokey, but I'm a little worried that you want to do too much right now. Smokey is 4. His head is big, his body is still growing, he's still learning to balance with a rider. I don't think you should be concerned about what his head is doing. If he tosses his head, you keep your hands steady, don't pull against him, just gently direct him one way and rider thru it. I went thru this with Scout. A young horse needs to learn to go forward, straight and balanced, and on top of that, with a rider! Give him trail time, lots of trail time. When he is older and more developed, the headset will come more naturally and eaisly. This is all stuff Mark Rashid told. People kept telling me to get Scout's headset. Mark said "Why? He's 4, it'll come. Don't make him unhappy to learn something he can't physically do right now."
Smokey's teeth may be bothering him. There's a lot going in in his mouth right now. Just ride him and develop is stamina and muscles and balance. What's the hurry? He's only 4. Enjoy his "4ness".
You'll know when he's ready for more, one day. Relax and enjoy him for what he is right now.
Whew, hope this is taken with the goodwill in which it was written. I want you to be happy for a long time on a horse that is happy to be with you too. Good luck!

Jeni said...

Evil Ditches!!!! Rosie will cross any wide body of water, but has really bad issues with ditches and I believe it is a sight thing. Good training!

I don't ride with type of gadget, I use my seat, legs, hands and balance to get impulsion from the hind, which naturally brings the horse round and through. Head goes down into carriage naturally. It's taken a long time for me to learn this but, I'm at a point that when I'm correct, Bonnie's head is in my lower peripheral, and I have to lower camera to about my belly area to capture her ears in the frame. That is riding either western or english.

BrownEyed Cowgirls said...

I think it depends on a person's level of experience as to whether a 'headsetting' device is used properly or not.

Most people put them on and expect them to work miracles with very little effort on their part. They don't work that way. Not properly.

Properly used, the chambon or the running martingale's purpose is to alleviate the need to constantly pick on the horse's face and can let the rider focus on using their legs to drive the horse from behind.

That of course takes work (a lot of work if a horse is not naturally inclined to engage from behind) and a person has to really learn to feel what the hindquarter is doing.

A headsetting device used by itself and no leg only does one kills a horse's impulsion. We see a lot of that and I believe that is why so many people these days believe they are 'bad'.

When used properly, as an aid to keep a horse from running out in the front-end, they are tremendously useful to developing a horse that is engaging from the hindquarter, light in the shoulders and totally relaxed in the neck and head.