Friday, April 13, 2012

The good, the not so bad, and the kinda ugly. Let's talk about leverage.

The not so bad: Tuesday:  Even the bad isn't really bad, it just isn't real good.  Mr. Steady was very odd at the begining of the week.  He was CRAZY spooky.  I mean everything made him jump.  A bird, a bush, my hand moving, the cat and even when I slid down his side to dismount he about jumped out of his skin.  So unlike him.  He is a lot of things but excessivly spooky is not one of them.  The winds were crazy at the beginning of the week.  So bad on Monday that I decided not to ride. Tuesday they were bad again but I was not foregoing riding for two days in  a row because of wind.  That was the first "spooky" day and the next day he was close to the same with spookiness but with less wind.  So Mr. Steady got his oats cut back to see if that may help.  Which he was a saint yesterday in our dressage work so I am thinking it did help.

The kinda ugly: Wednesday: Despite his spookiness I was pretty determined we were going to do some galloping practice in the field on Wednesday.  He was being so silly I had to get off and walk him past, well I actually have no idea what I was walking him past because I couldn't figure out what he was afraid of, the air maybe?  But once we got out to the field he was fine so we started our galloping.  He started out OK and then he started to get stronger and stronger and finally opening up and lettin 'er rip.  Really it was FAST!  It was not real pretty and I guess that means it was kinda ugly.  We worked on it and worked on it until I felt like I could end on a somewhat good note.  The good news is he is starting out better than he did last year.  He is way more balanced and not nearly as crooked and easier to straighten out.  But, um, the speed control needs some work.  That is where the leverage talk comes in.  I am thinking I need some help up there out in wide open spaces.  I, from day one, have not wanted to use any quick trick, easy fix or device in our training.  I have only ever ridden this horse with a saddle and a simple eggbut snaffle.  I don't like short cuts.  I don't care if it takes us years longer I would rather it be that way.  So here we are and I feel like I need some reinforcement.  I am only so strong and the one reason he was able to get so fast out there that day was because I was tired and just need to take a second to catch my breath before I started hualing on him to slow him down.  So I guess I am looking at it as I would rather have a little harsher cue that was much quicker than standing up and hauling on his face for 20 minutes with a 'nicer' bit.  In the long run it seems much kinder to do it that way.  So I will be on the look out for a leverage bit or a 'bubble bit' over the next couple weeks so we can prepare for our Peter Atkins clinic.  Our biggest pitfall at Event camp last year was our inability to gallop.  I quickly learned the importance of galloping practice that week.  The last thing I want to do is drive all the way down to KY for a clinic and spend the entire time in galloping practice like I did at event camp.  He got VERY good by the end of the season last year and we were able to go out to HHP and have a beautiful, steady, balanced gallop through the XC course so I know he has it in there but I need to get it to come back out.

Now on to the good!  Everything else except those things are good.  Scratch that they are better than good, they are great!  Our dressage work has been improving with each ride.  That galloping practice did make his canter work yesterday night and day difference.  He has still been struggling to pick up leads and stay collected at the same time and also struggling with breaking or crossfiring.  Yesterday his canter was phenomenal!  They were every bit of 8's and I am stoked for the show next weekend.  Now whether or not he will be able to pull off the kind of work we have been having at home during our first spring outing is a different story but it won't be because we are not prepared or because he can't.  As far as jumping, we don't do much of that at all.  I love to jump and he is great at it but he just gets too rushy and I just don't see a need to attempt to do a bunch of jumping practice that will just get him amped up and too excited.  A. because all of our flat work is the basis for everything we do in a jumping course and I need to get his canter consistent and rythmic first.  B. Because quite honestly jumping is easy for him, he is incredibly brave and   C. The 2' 6" height we will be jumping at the show is nothing for him.  He just doesn't need much practice at jumping those heights.  Only downside is I know I could use some practice.  I just always repeat Peter in my head, Look up, kick up, stand up and we will be just fine.  Legs forward, shoulders back and stand up, collect and repeat.  We do go over a little cross rail doing Dorothy's 'walk, trot, pop' here and there just to embrace the chill factor while jumping.  We walk up two strides out we trot, pop over and two strides after back down to a walk.  Would I love to canter around and jump a 3ft course?  Hells yeah! Could he and would he do it?  Hells yes!  But that is not what my horse needs, so we don't.  I practice a little restraint and constantly enforce basics, basics, basics.  That is what he needs so that is what we do.


  1. Hey -at the clinic you can borrow my french link gag if you want-Peter prefers that over the bubble bit-that is what he had me use on Moose as we worked through OUR speed issues :) And it worked and we are back to a snaffle :)

  2. One thought on the leverage vs. hauling on his face for 20 minutes...

    ...and I'm not trying to be condescending or anything, as you probably already know this, but it kinda stuck out to me, so I thought I'd mention it!...

    But aren't racehorses trained to brace against the bit when you hold them taught on the reins and speed up? Maybe he needs instead of a harsh bit, a lot more pulsating of the bit to slow him, and then doing things like circles or quick changes in direction?

    My boy has some racing breed in him (he's been clocked at 35 mph) and if I pull on the reins, he digs in and surges faster! For me, I have to sit back, pulse the reins and if he's still too strong, circle. He's never barreled through a circle (he'd probably fall on his face if he tried : P ). And he rides in the softest double-jointed egg-butt I could find!

    Just a thought!

  3. Amy- I have a very very bad taste in my mouth about changing ANY tack at a clinic. PTSD over that situation so I would be too afraid to try it out at the clinic BUT if you want to send it to me :) I can bring it back to you at the clinic.

    Sand I can defintely see why you may have gotten that impression from this post. I want to assure you that I 100% understand his race training and tendancies and believe me no amount of pulsing or circling are sure ways to get him to slow down. If you read two posts ago I explained that he is NOT your average race horse. He was a career racehorse and bad habits die hard. I think using the word hauling probably gave the wrong impression. It is what I considered hauling. Like you said if I just laid back and pulled he could go ALL DAY LONG. I know better than that. To explain better during this ride I switched between 'bridging' and releasing and strong half halting and cirlces are a part of EVERY ride on this horse. I don't think I have ever made it through an entire ride without circling him at least a few times so I understand the usefulness of circles. I do appreciate your imput I just wanted to put your mind at ease that I am not a complete turd when it comes to dealing with my racehorse ;)

  4. Sand, racehorses are trained that when the reins get shorter, they go faster. It sounds like you're doing the right thing by getting a bit more bit (no pun intended) Amy instead of pulling on him nonstop. He'd definitely take that as, "Ok! Faster we go!" I think you're on the right track! :)

  5. Do what you need to do, for sure. Cuna's "go to" bigger bit is a rubber pelham with joiners. That said, today I was galloping up a mountain in a happy mouth mullen and having an absolute blast.

    All that to say, you're on the right track, definitely try a bigger bit to aid in the process, and there is hope for these super-racing dudes.


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