Sunday, March 16, 2014

Changes and Results

After riding Rock yesterday, my husband said he noticed a huge difference in Rock's responsiveness since the horse trainer has been working with him, so I rode Rock today to see for myself.

Despite the trainer only riding Rock for maybe 15 minutes on one day and 45 minutes on another day, he made a big difference.  I don't use spurs, but the trainer does, and his philosophy is to buy some spurs, use them as little as possible at first, and then figure out how not to use them ever again.  I guess sometimes all a slow horse needs is to be jabbed a few times to learn to walk faster, and that Rock did.  He was just as fast on the way out as he was on the way in.  He was also easier to steer, as the trainer worked on neck reining.  He still tried to eat, but it was easy to stop him by saying no and wiggling the rein.  He no longer buries himself in a bush and tries to rip it out of the ground, roots and all.  He didn't spook at anything.  He was just a little wary of P.S.'s sweater sitting on the trailer, so I rode him past it.

One thing I'll ask the trainer for help on is keeping Rock off the butt of the horse in front.  His slow down mechanism is broken.  I get a better result pulling his head slightly to the side with one rein than I do pulling back on two reins.  That's something P.S. taught me.  Still, the second I release his head, he's on Gabbrielle's rump again.

Gabbrielle refused to pass a couple of scary objects like the fallen saguaro off to the side of the trail up ahead in this next picture.

She's passed it from both directions before, but these past couple of days she's been on edge.  You can sort of see how Rock always has his ears turned back listening to me in all the photos, but Gabbrielle has her ears pinned toward the cactus.  I discussed the method that Cindy D. raised in a comment yesterday with P.S. again and asked her to try it.

Ever since I had an epiphany when the horse trainer made a comment about training in the horse's comfort zone vs. training outside the zone, I've been more conscious about where we are when I am asking a horse to do something.  In the past, we had been using the method taught to me by last year's horse trainer, which involves circling the horse closer and closer to the scary object.  That method got the horse past it, but didn't stop the horse spooking at the same object the next time it saw it.

Now she tried the technique of walking the horse away from the scary object out into an area where the horse is comfortable, and then riding the horse in circles and figure 8's at a trot, sidepassing, and backing up.  Then she rode Gabbrielle over to the scary object and let her rest near it before asking her to get right up to it or pass it.  Once Gabbrielle showed signs of relaxation, she was able to ride past the scary object on the second attempt.  Worked like a charm.

The other benefit of her trotting around was that I could work on getting my horse to learn to stand still and relax while another horse is moving fast.  That was fairly easy to do with Rock.  He's a gawker.  He gawks at other horses on the trails, but he seems to understand that he is independent of them and doesn't need to run with them if they are running.  The only trouble I had with him was after the time I met Christine on the trails, he thought we were always going out to meet up with other horseback riders, so he always turned toward them on his own, and I would have to steer him back onto the trail.

I'm not sure if I want to wear spurs, so I'm going to ask the horse trainer to carry a riding crop on his next ride on Rock, and see how Rock responds to being popped with it.  I suspect Rock will tuck his butt under and blow up, then instantly settle down.  I just need an alternative tool should he slow way down again once he realizes that the trainer is the only one who wears spurs.

After that, the plan is for me to ride Rock and for him to ride Bombay, so he can see Bombay's confidence and fear issues, and watch me with Rock to see if I'm handling problems that arise correctly.  Then I suppose he'll eventually ride with me while I ride Bombay.  I'm not surprised that he didn't have many problems with Rock, but I really hope Bombay won't suddenly start acting like a seasoned trail horse as soon as the trainer tests him out.  I want him to see these issues and give me some new strategies that will help me help Bombay get his brain back and settle down faster after one of his freak outs.


Cindy D. said...

I'm going to throw my 2 cents worth in on the spurs.

I was totally against spurs for the longest time. I thought they were mean and unnecessary. I refused to wear them.

Then I ended up with a horse who is both reactive and stubborn all at the same time. So at the behest of a trainer, tried some out. This is what I learned.

Spurs are your last resort, but it never hurts to have them handy. it is leg first, then spur if the horse ignores the leg. Just because you have them doesn't mean the word JAB ever has to come into play. The last clinic we were at it was explained very clearly that you can still get the message across with a touch, and if more is needed then gently roll the spur up the horses side.

Another option is equitation spurs. The have a nice ball on the end, which gives you an extra couple of inches to reach your horses side, without have something sharp to accidentally jab them with.

I have one pair with a small rowl, and one pair with the ball end. I like them both. Oddly enough they have been helpfully in teaching me how to properly use my legs to cue. I was always trying to use my heel (without spurs) before using my leg. I was loosing a lot in the translation to my horse. Once I started wearing spurs, and got yelled at several times for going right to the spur before asking with the leg, I became very conscious of what body part I was using to cue with. I can always tell when Trax is protesting the spur. He gives me a nice Dinoso (NCIS) slap to the back of the head with his tail.

Water Girl said...

You could use English spurs as opposed to Western spurs. They generally don't have a rowl and you can get them teeny tiny button spurs, all the way up to 1 1/2". I'm not sure if it is the same concept for Western riding, but I have been taught that spurs are to be used only for lateral movement only. I think we are taught that so we do not abuse them, however.
If you do end up getting a pair of English spurs, there is a great brand called FlexiSpur. They are molded out of flexible plastic, so they are really easy to put on and softer on the horse. (Yes, I tried it on myself.) I do not use them, simply because the pair I had were too long for my pony. He is just fine with tiny 1/4 inch spurs.
This is just my personal opinion. It is of course your choice to use spurs or not.

Sam said...

There are also bumper spurs you can buy - no points, but just a sort of edge that reminds the horse you have heels:^57953822748-sku^266107-adType^PLA-device^c-adid^38782729068

I need to use them on Baron - his muscle is so thick I'm like a fly on his back. I try not to, but in those times when it really counts, you can avoid future problems by having them on. Good luck!