Saturday, May 18, 2013

Working It Out

P.S. and I spent some time today trying to work out a new system for training Gabbrielle from the ground to move forward.  It had to translate well to the saddle.  Obviously, we already have several methods that work in getting the horse to move forward from the ground, but you can't do them from her back.  We still don't know the cause of Gabbrielle's sudden regression, but considering how emotional she gets when she is confused, I wanted to make sure that the communication is as clear as possible.

After much back and forth with ideas, we settled on standing at her side where the saddle sits, saying the word "forward" and waiting for her to step forward.  If we get no response, then we say forward again while tapping her on the tail with a dressage whip.  If you tap her on the hip, she just moves her hindquarters over.  When she moves forward, we walk with her, pet her, and praise her.

It was hard to stay on task because I discovered that I could just say "forward" and point, and she'd walk off.  Then I remembered that she won't see me pointing from the saddle, so that's cheating.  I can only use my voice and the whip.  Gabbrielle did really well.  We didn't get to the point where we could test the new cue in the saddle, because we had already spent three hours with her doing groundwork and taking a long walk out in the desert without any of her buddies along.  I wanted her to get some water before we rode her, but she wouldn't drink.  So, we cut her loose to relax and do her own thing, knowing she'd eventually succumb to the draw of the water trough.

Oh yeah, and I lunged her on the long rope for the first time in a long time to see if she would be as out of control as she usually gets.  The horse trainer had me only do groundwork on a lead rope.  I wanted to see if all that training translated to the long rope for me, since all the under saddle training the horse trainer did with Gabbrielle did not transfer under saddle to me.  Gabbrielle definitely got fired up, but stayed in control.  She kept a consistent trot, despite throwing her tail over her back and doing this Lipizzaner strut.

P.S. and I were mesmerized with this leg action.  I'd seen Gabbrielle do it before, but never for such a long stretch of time.  I don't even know how to describe it.  It was a completely different gait, faster than a trot and slower than a gallop.  Her legs moved mechanically with one front and one hind leg hitting the ground and propelling her into the air.  She seemed to glide through the air and then opposite two legs came down and punched the ground sending her flying again.  She spent more time with all four legs off the ground than with any legs on the ground, and there was no rocking movement.  Her body stayed solid.  Her legs were jerky like robotic arms.

P.S. showed me some things she does differently from me when using the long line.  For instance, I was trained to keep my shoulders aimed at the horse's shoulder and turn with her, kind of pushing her forward.  P.S. wants the horse to take responsibility for staying at the same speed, so as soon as the horse does what she asks, she stands still and doesn't stare at the horse.  She just looks off in the distance and enjoys the view.  The horse then learns to keep doing what it is doing and wait for her to cue it into a different gait or to halt.  It works.

She also reminded me to look off in the direction I want the horse to move in, because if I look directly at the horse, point with the rope, and wave my whip, the horse will just sidepass on the end of the rope while facing me.  I also have to keep the whip quiet when she's doing what I ask, because I was dragging it on the ground, which made noise and that kind of propelled her along.

P.S. also rode Bombay and got to experience a few spooks.  He teleported sideways pretty violently and she kept her seat.  I'd been warning her about his spooking and I don't think she got the full taste of it until today.  Now that I see that she has good balance and isn't intimidated by it, I won't worry about her so much.

She's been concerned because Bombay is in the habit of nervously chomping at the bit whenever she rides him, and she asked if I would entertain the idea of riding him in a halter with no bit.  That's the way she learned.  Riding my horses is the first time she has ridden with a bit.  I had to show her how to slip the bit in the mouth and the bridle over the ears.  It feels unnatural to her.  I told her to go for it.  See if he's equally responsive in the arena without a bit, and then we'll see how he does on the trail.  He's the perfect horse to experiment on with something like that.  If it's successful, we'll try it with the mares and hopefully eventually wean them all off bits.

Quite frankly, I've already learned that pulling back on both reins won't stop a horse that's scared or anxious anyway.  You have to pull the head around to the side and do circles.  You can do that just as easily without a bit.  I was interested in going bitless years ago, but I just never had a long enough stretch of time to commit myself to the training.  Now that I've got help, I can finally put that plan into action.


fernvalley01 said...

Gabrielle sounds lovely to watch I hope you are able to grab a video of her some time

achieve1dream said...

When she's doing the weird trot are the legs on the same side moving forward together? Like left fore and left hind move together and the right fore and right hind move together? That's pacing.... like the harness racers do.... I've never heard of an Arab doing it. Maybe I'm misunderstanding though. Weird.

I'm glad she's doing well with the forward training on the ground. You did good to catch yourself pointing! I don't even notice stuff like that until I get on and still can't get it to work LOL!

I'm interested to see how the bitless goes for you! As you know I've never put a bit in Chrome's mouth, so you know I'm all for trying it out. :D