Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Breaking Through the Rock

My back was feeling better today, but I had a couple of other health issues that were discouraging me from riding a horse.  It's seems like everything is a Catch 22.  My doctor informed me that I have more lumps growing in my body and need another biopsy.  I go through this every fall and spring.  I have tumors, cysts and polyps in four different organs now.  It's all a part of aging, but because of my family history I have to have everything looked at closely.  The doctor said I'd be doing myself a favor to lose some weight since being overweight increases one's chance of getting cancer.  I think being overweight increase one's chance of getting any disease, and I also think that just about everything increases our chances of getting cancer now-a-days, but this was just one more motivator for me to get into better shape.

So, of course, I started a daily exercise regimen of weight training, floor exercises and walking several miles in addition to improving my diet, and right away I pulled a muscle in my foot.  Then I threw out my back.  Then I developed another problem, researched it, and read that it can be caused by too much exercise.  You just can't win.

Anyway, I said, "To hell with it" today.

I saddled up Rock and worked on his steering in the round pen some more.  I can't feel comfortable riding him out on the trails until he gets more responsive to either the rein or leg cues.  I'm not asking for both.  Just one.  He is so resistant to direct rein.  I've never ridden a horse with such a hard mouth.  You can pull and pull and pull, and he just doesn't care.  So, I started laying the outside rein across his neck and that had a better outcome.  I began wondering if some people train horses to neck rein right away when they start them, and that is all they know.

I was taught to train a horse to respond to the direct rein first, riding with two reins, one in each hand.  Then you work on indirect rein cues, still riding with two reins and two hands, and eventually progress to neck reining only with both reins in one hand.  Do you think it is possible that a horse was taught with so little direct rein that he doesn't remember it, but does remember to turn when the outside rein is laid across his neck?

Next time I ride him, I will have to remember to start with neck reining.  I also discovered that his steering loosens up a lot if I trot him around a while.  It's almost as if he gets jammed up at the walk.  Kind of reminds me of my days of unclogging paper jams in office printers.

Other than that, he's a really easygoing horse.  I realized that when I tie him to groom him and tack him up, he never moves a muscle unless I ask him to.  He was also very tolerant of my dumb mistakes.  My mobile phone flew off my belt clip when I mounted and I instinctively leaned way out to the side to snatch it in mid-air before it hit the ground and got sand in it.  I caught it and stuck it back on my waistband, and realized that Rock wasn't in the last bit put off by that maneuver.  I'm sure any one of my other horses would have been scooting sideways or something.

I also lost a stirrup and, with it being a new saddle, had to struggle for quite some time leaning all the way over to get it twisted around and back onto my foot.  He graciously stood and waited.  I don't think he has ever walked off on me until I cued him with my legs and voice.  That's awesome.

I didn't tighten the cinch enough and had to keep rocking the saddle back up, and he didn't even switch his tail in irritation.  My neighbor came driving up the street honking her horn the whole way, and Rock didn't startle nor care.  If I can work out a reliable routine with his steering, he'll be a really nice ride.


Cut-N-Jump said...

Try backing up a few steps and ground driving him. Work it out on the ground before you get on his back. You'd be surprised the difference it can make. Just my .02

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

CNJ - Those are definitely two things I haven't tried with him yet. I do lunge him before riding, but haven't ground driven him with the surcingle and reins, and I'm usually pushing so hard for forward movement from the saddle that I'm not thinking about backing. Thanks.

Cut-N-Jump said...

I didn't mean backing up in the literal sense of making him move backwards, I meant back up in the progression of training.

Ground driving is usually done before we start riding. Get the cues for stop and turn ingrained in the brain before you get on them.

achieve1dream said...

Weird I've never heard of a horse that was taught to neck rein and not direct rein! That's so odd, but he sounds like such a sensible guy that I guess it isn't a big deal. I hope he's gotten more responsive for you so you can trail ride him. It sounds like he will be really nice when you get that far. :)