Thursday, July 2, 2009

Eq Lesson in the Big Arena

Today Bombay and I had our first equitation lesson in the big arena at the Fairgrounds. The past couple of times I have trailered Bombay, I have had to use the lunge whip to get Bombay into the trailer. I guess he sees me being patient with Gabbrielle, letting her just put her front feet in and back out over and over, so he's regressing to the level that she is at. I'm not as patient with him since he's been trailering for years. He needs to go right in with no excuses.

I lunged him around the barrels at the arena and then rode. Everything was going well until we approached a Parks Department employee crouched down below a tree working on the drip system. Bombay was so sure that the man was a wild tiger laying in wait to pounce on him. He snorted and started running backwards and sideways at the same time. I yelled out hello to the man and he walked up to the fence to ask if he was spooking my horse. I told him he was, but if he kept talking, my horse would figure out that he's a human. He said something else and then Bombay dropped his head and relaxed. I said, "There! He just figured it out."

Then the man said, "Is he an Arab?"

I said yes, and he said, "That explains it."

Ummmmmm. He's lucky it's the right time of the month for me, because normally I would have had a field day with that stereotypical comment. For the last time, all horses spook. It's just more obvious in Arabs because they arch their necks, throw their tails up over their backs and snort. At least they look beautiful while doing it.

My equitation instructor showed up just then, and the Parks employee drove off in a little cart. Bombay was jumping this way and that, feeling like he was getting it from all directions. There was also a very loud model airplane flying over our heads, bicyclists, and dog walkers to add to the mix.

My instructor had us walk in each direction, then jog, then trot. Surprisingly, he didn't correct me much. He usually tells me to put my legs back further, heels down and toes in. He usually tells me to tighten the reins more. Instead I was hearing a lot of praise. That means that what he has been teaching me must be sticking.

We spent a lot of time working at getting Bombay set up to take off on the correct lead at the lope. I have to come off the rail, turn in toward the rail so that his head is pointed at the rail while his hip is pointed at my instructor, then I pull slightly up in the inside rein, squeeze with both calves and kiss. The problem I was having was that Bombay wouldn't respond immediately. He'd take a dozen strides until he was out of position, and then pick up the wrong lead.

We practiced this over and over until I could get him to immediately transition into a controlled lope. He kept trying to buck, so my instructor told me to do the extended trot until Bombay was tired. It worked wonders. I could feel him tiring out, so when I cued for the lope, he responded immediately and in a more relaxed manner. We did have one big buck and I yelled, "HEY!" and gave him a crack with the riding crop. I don't like using the crop for punishment for spooks or for not understanding cues, but I will not tolerate bucking. That needs immediate correction. He didn't try anything funny after that, so the ride was much safer.

The other big thing I need to practice besides getting set up for the lope is keeping my hands low and close together. My instructor says I'm holding them high and out in front, which is causing me to get off balance in my seat. At one point I was loping and my instructor yelled at me to stop. He said, "Look at your saddle! It's up over your horse's neck! Get off and fix it."

I looked down and was shocked. I had no idea that the saddle had slipped that far forward. When I dismounted, we saw that the cinch had loosened so much that a person could fit their head between it and Bombay's belly! It turned out that the latigo on the right side had come undone and was barely hanging on. We figured it must have been like that for a while. My instructor congratulated me and said, "That was some good riding for you to stay balanced all the time without your saddle attached."

I even managed to dismount without causing the saddle to slide down his side. The trick is to keep your center of gravity over the seat and not in the stirrup. That means taking your weight on your arms while leaning across the saddle and gently pulling your boot out from the stirrup before pushing off to land on the ground. We fixed the problem and he told me to mount again. I said, "Hasn't it been an hour yet?"

He laughed and said I had another 15 minutes. I was exhausted. We spent some time on the downward transitions from lope to posting trot to jog to walk. I was getting frustrated because I really wanted to immediately pick up the correct diagonal when shifting down to the trot, but had to keep correcting myself. I think my instructor was quieter, because he's realizing that if he gives me a few seconds to think about it, I will correct myself.

After the lesson I showed him how Bombay tries to evade walking past the trash can by the gate and runs into me. He got upset when he saw that and said, "He doesn't respect you, and you are going to get hurt if we don't fix that. Let me work with him."

He worked on getting Bombay to approach the gate and stay between him and the trash can, then halt and look at the trash can. At first, Bombay wouldn't listen when he said "Whoa." He worked on getting the feet moving at the cluck and getting them to stop 100% at the whoa. At first, Bombay was jigging and dancing in place by the trash can. My instructor banged the can with the whip repeatedly while Bombay danced from side to side. Only when he came closer to the can or stopped moving his feet did my instructor stop beating the can and pet my horse.

He had attached the lead rope to the bit, which I didn't like, but I chose not to enter this battle. When you hire someone to teach you, you have to give them a chance to show you their techniques even if they differ from how you would choose to do something. If their technique turns out to be a problem, then you can express your feelings and opinions on the matter.

Sure enough, the bridle broke right at the seams and we lost the clip that holds the bit somewhere in the dirt. Bombay must have buried it with his hooves, because we couldn't find it anywhere. He finished the lesson by looping the lead rope over Bombay's nose while it was attached to the bridle. Hopefully, the work that he did with him between the gate and the trash can will carry over to those narrow posts at that new local equestrian trail. Since he put in an extra 20 minutes training my horse beyond our hour lesson, I gave him a little more cash, despite him breaking my bridle. I appreciate any extra help I can get. I can always replace broken tack, but can't replace broken bones caused by a horse that is willing to run me over when frightened.


fernvalley01 said...

Sounds like a good lesson , too bad about the bridle , ot sure why your instructor chose to do it that way . Otherwise good that he took Bombay on about charging into you that is a dangerous habit and needs to be fixed for your safety and his.

fernvalley01 said...

Oh and if you see the parks guy again tell him he ain't seen nuthin till he sees The allstar Appy spook and levitate trick!

Reddunappy said...

Emma is one of those horses that will run over you if you let them, she isnt the alpha mare, but she is a bully.

Sounds like a great lesson!

Shirley said...

That was a pretty good lesson, wasn't it? I'd say the reason he attached the lead rope to the bit is because Bombay was showing absolutely no respect and his behavior was potentiaslly dangerous: the lead rope attached to the bit commands more respect from a horse that isn't listening; it gets his attention, allowing you to teach him. John Lyons uses that technique on hard to handle horses, and anyone who uses a breeding bridle for stallions knows that it can help insure your safety. Perhaps you could try a different method of attaching the I bit to the bridle; something that won't break or come apart. I won't use Chicago Screws or clips. all my bridles have buckles or leather ties.

Katharine Swan said...

I like your trainer's approach, giving you time to think about it and correct yourself. What I dislike is a stream of instructions, because I get lost and can't follow it all, and then I get frustrated and overwhelmed and it all goes downhill from there.

Scary about the saddle, but nice work keeping balanced! I wonder if that's why Bombay bucked, though?

That sounds just like how my trainer taught me to cue a lead in the canter, except that she also has me move my outside heel just slightly back and nudge with that rather than squeezing with my calves. My problem is that I tend to exaggerate that movement, which rocks me forward in the saddle and slightly off-balance. Still working on the subtleties of that cue.

Paint Girl said...

Sounds like a great lesson! I am glad to hear that your trainer isn't yelling the whole time. I also agree that Bombay needs to get over the trash can by the gate. He will, in time!

Laura said...

Sounds like you had a good lesson. I'm glad this instructor has worked out for you this time around.

Congrats on your first lesson at the fairgrounds!

Kate said...

Ah, the crouching-down-might-really-be-a-lion person! There's something about the position that's alarming to horses - and you're right, just having them talk usually solves the problem!

Breathe said...

Great lesson and sounds like you are doing really well.

I hope you can have some success with the trashcan. Despooking is sooo much fun.

I like a DVD I got from Marv Walker on despooking. Helped me change my approach - I think it was the one thing I did accomplish with Canyon.

TCavanaugh said...

Sounds like a very productive lesson. Do you have a trash can at home? Might be good to keep "sacking" him out with it at home to keep it fresh in his mind.

Sydney said...

Sounds like progress.
I am lucky Indigo trusts my judgment if I get off and theres a terrifying object. Last night she was snorting (she never snorts!) at the old bathtub from the renovation in the driveway. I got off, patted it then banged on it real loud, she licked her lips and went "Oh one of those things!" and carried on.
Stupid chicago screws! I hate them. I got my farrier/tack sewer to make all my bridles so they do up with leather instead of a chicago screw. I've been in far too many "could have been bad" with chicago screws.

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Just a few comments on comments...

Katharine - I do the same thing with the one heel back further, but was in too much of a hurry writing my post to go into that much detail.

Sydney and Shirley - The bridle that broke a few weeks ago had Chicago screws. The one that my instructor broke had training clips attached through permanent stitches in the leather. What is fascinating is that he yanked so hard on the lead rope that the brass clip must have broken in half, because had it just ripped out of stitching, it would have still been attached to the bit, but we couldn't find it anywhere.

I was talking to a lady about which is the best connection for reins. I know someone told me not to buy reins with training clips, because they interfere with your communication with the horses mouth by rattling. I don't like buckles on reins (bridle is okay), because my martingale rings get caught on them. She said she likes Chicago screws, because she has arthritis in her fingers and can't get those leather ties undone. I have one set of reins that connects with hooks through a hole like a buckle, and have had to spend hours using all kinds of tools to get them on and off. I recently saw a new attachment on an Arabian bridle that you twist and slide to remove. I hope it works and that they expand it to reins too, because I don't really care for any of the options we have today.

Leah Fry said...

Yeah, that could have ended badly! Good for you — great balance.