Monday, February 27, 2012

Epiphanies. And Why I Hate Them. Part 4

Smokey was not crazy about his stall. Not. at. all.

"If you are constantly fixing it for him, he'll never learn it." Mark was talking a rider through a transition. "Start small."

Here's the man (who liked to be in control) and his dream horse.

I watched with interest as he peeled away the noise the rider was making, the changing of cues in an effort to get the right response. Instead, just stick with the cue and reward when the horse gets it right, even slightly.

Rescue Mare and her Rider, working on transitions

The rider kept her cue and the next canter transition was smoother. "What you're doing is filling in holes in his foundation."

The Tiny Lipanzzer

The rider noted that she had trouble keeping her horse in the canter. I leaned forward. I have this trouble with Smokey too.

Mark started talking about riding at the canter. He explained in great detail the way the energy rolls off a horse at the canter. There are two energy forces at work, one moving like a pulley coming from the hindquarters going forward and the other a spiral from the bottom. If you aren't moving with the horse, you are blocking that energy, forcing the horse to work through it. A young horse get's blocked, older horses learn to power through it - like the horses that stop when we lean back.

Mark noted the times he's seen riders kick out one leg in front of the other during the canter, almost like they are leading with that foot.

I swallowed. Yup. Guilty. It's what I'd been told to do. He told a funny story about a martial art master who said, after trying to get a group of students to do a move correctly, look in the mirror. "If you look ridiculous, technique is wrong."

That's what I like about Mark. He makes you laugh and he's happy to be the brunt of the joke. Lessens the sting.

"The key is to soften your back. Just think of it soft. Kicking the leg out - it's a sign of a tight lower back," said Mark. "You're a rock in the saddle."


The day rolled to a close and I was looking forward to riding in the arena and getting up to a canter on Smokey. Maybe we'd manage an entire circle. What would THAT be like?

We saddled up and I tried lunging Smokey on a line. Fogettabutit. We headed out to the round pen - which was really too slick for a decent session. He expressed his anxiety and I let him run it out a bit. Soon I had a horse I thought I might be able to get on.

We did fine in the arena, after a bit, but we had to keep moving. Soon we were cruising right along. The barn owner was anxious to try the trails around the arena, but Stephanie and I wanted to stay in the arena. At home there are plenty of trails, and no arena with incredible footing, lights and walls to contain the enthusiasm of our horses.

So she hit the trails and we stayed in.


Later there were adventures with steers, but I'll keep it brief (I will be posting a longer version on crib notes later). Suffice it to say I was hoping to have Smokey desensitized to cows, but got way more than I bargained for when they were tieing steers to tables right outside his stall and grinding away their hooves.

And then one broke loose.

Yeah. I'd say Smokey got some desensitization. If he'd been any further back in his stall, he'd have gone through the wall. But like a rubber necker on the freeway, he was also fascinated by this weird animal that was tied down to a table to get shod. I'm sure he thought what I did.

Can't you just learn to lift your hoof, dude?

I ended up on a pile of hay with a guy who had a bad shoulder (I can't afford to get it banged around, he said wryly. I felt the same), watching as they manhandled one particularly onery steer.

Once again I felt a little guilty about the work that goes into making me the meals I set down on the table. Those cows are TOUGH, but not as tough as the kids handling them.

I promised to remember this night when I cooked up our dinner the next day - hamburger meat.

It was the least I could do.


Grey Horse Matters said...

Looks like Smokey got an eyeful of that steer close up. Looks like a interesting clinic and that Lipizzaner did look small to me too.

Allenspark Lodge said...

Love your write-ups. Mark made such improvements in my horses. I would love to ride with him again, now that I can move. Last time was was at a clinic, I could barely SIT on my horse, much less give proper cues. I would hope we could see lots of improvement now. LOL

lytha said...

very interesting.

i have to say when i canter, i notice one leg naturally is slightly in front of the other, and it's always the leg that the horse is leading on. it might not be noticeable from the ground, but i can feel it enough so that i'm sure what lead the horse is on. wrong/right, it's never been mentioned by my trainers. i wonder if i'm a a freak or of this is normal, or if this is exactly what you're describing?

Shirley said...

The more I hear about Mark Rashid, the more I want to take one of his clinics. When I was a kid, I always thought that the epitome of horsemanship was to "be at one with your horse" and then I started taking clinics and reading all kinds of different training methods and got away from that principle. Only now as I get older am I starting to get a glimmer of understanding of what being one with your horse really means.
Those are interesting stalls, I've never seen stalls that are completely see through like that, but it makes sense for good air flow in a hot climate.

Calm, Forward, Straight said...

Really enjoying these clinic posts. Thanks for taking the time. :)

Cheyenne said...

Breathe? Yep, you write good. In a slightly self mocking way, you do make the read easy. I too have enjoyed these posts, and! I have learned something today! No, not saying!

Maery Rose said...

When I canter, I let the inside leg just hang but the outside I put back to keep the hindquarters from straying out. That's the way I was taught. I was also told to imagine my spine as a cooked spaghetti noodle to keep it loose and following. That imagery made an instant difference for me. Now that I'm older, some tensing I do because of back pain but it's the worst thing you can do. Sometimes our instincts lead us astray.