Friday, July 27, 2007

The Tactics

And a No Horse Day, Sort Of

I took the day off from riding. It was kind of hot and I was kind of worn out from yesterday's "festivties." I mowed the lawn instead.

It was almost horseless in more ways than one as just before I went out to feed in the afternoon, I saw Toby on the side lawn. I have fencing on each side of the house and bump gates in the driveway which, fortunately seem to keep the horses from adventuring off the property as they have done in the past. (Horses on the road and my Aunt's lawn are not a good thing.) Anyhow, apparently, I had just looped the chain in the gate when I brought Tucker home and had failed fasten the clip. Prior to Chance, this would have kept the herd in, but the new kid is a whiz at opening things, so everyone was out, grazing and frolicking on the lawn.

No big deal as long as they respect those gates, and I hadn't mowed the lawn yet. AND they were pretty darn quick to come back into the paddock at the sound of the feed buckets.

Once they were safely penned and fed, I hopped on the riding mower and spent about an hour and a half mowing. I still need to trim and weed whack but the prediction is for rain and more rain for the next three days, so it just may have to wait. After mowing, I went for a swim, did my laps, rode the lazy river and came back home for supper.

So, to answer questions about the lesson. I never mind if my horse is bad because a good trainer will help me a heck of a lot more dealing with it than I can ever do at home. Tucker was not upset at being at this barn as he has been there many times before. He has also stayed overnight before. It was staying overnight and getting no turnout while being able to see outside that probably ticked him off. He was just wound up and not happy about it.

As I said, the good thing was that he never offered to buck. That was always his biggest problem and despite his tension, that was not part of the agenda.

He was forward, up both plusses at first, but he was not particularly steerable and definitely not focusing on what I wanted. Gabriel's first tactic was to keep him busy. Constant changes of rein, circles, serpentines--trying to get him to realize he would need to listen because he just didn't know what he would have to do next.

That worked pretty well until a couple other horses came into the ring to school. Then, he decided he'd much rather be with them then where I wanted him to be. So, he pulled the balk, napping to a halt, refusing to go forward in the direction I wanted to go.

The obvious solution should be a good kick forward, but, as I told Gabriel, Tucker's response to that is to rear. As it turned out, Gabriel has been schooling a strong willed stallion with a similar evasion. He explained that it's very difficult for a horse to rear if his hind leg is crossing over the other, so one of the best solutions is to get the horse moving sideways, primarily with a leg yield movement.

Well, Tucker was pretty well planted so the first thing I had to do was get some kind of movement. When I tried to turn left, he wouldn't--does this sound like Caroline's Jazz? I turned him right instead and got those feet moving. Gabriel says that's fine. It diffuses the fight about the left turn, and gets the action I want even if it's not exactly where I wanted to go.

Then we began working on downward transitions, with the goal of keeping him forward. What happens there, again, is that if I am just a little too strong with my downward aid, he overreacts, shuts down, stops, and pulls the threat to rear if I try to leg him on.

So, to make the downward work, I need to make a leg yield both in the downward and back to the upward, always, FOR NOW, displacing his hind end to the outside to keep the inside hind leg engaged and also to keep him from planting it so he can stop. Essentially, when the horse is bending and flexing in his body, he cannot brace against the rider and refuse to move or turn.

Another training tactic with Tucker is to get him in the arena, go right to work and not stop until the training session is done. He is not particularly good if he has breaks in between as many horses will. He needs to have his mind and body engaged from the start and work through to the end. It was interesting that Gabriel suggested this as it is exactly what I have found works best. If I work for a bit, and take a break, Tucker is never as good after the break as he was before. This might mean it will be only a 20 minute ride if all goes well and we accomplish some really good work. But, because he is a Thoroughbred, it is not difficult to keep his muscles fit with shorter sessions.

Since Tucker is quick and athletic, I have to be pretty quick myself to get it right every time.

I have been riding just Thoroughbreds for some 35 or more years, so I am pretty much tuned into the program. All my horses have been sharp, and I've spent a good many hours learning how to outwit them as well as ride them.

Tucker seems to be a combination of all of my past horses. He is very smart, very quick, very temperamental, and yet full of the Thoroughbred work ethic. The downside of that is that he just doesn't get tired.

I've noticed with Chance that I can either lunge him or ride him to settle him down if he is "high," but Tucker just gets more wound up the more he works. Lunging does nothing to settle him, so having riding strategies that make him focus or get him to work correctly despite his emotions is really important.

He has improved immensely over the last year or so. This problem will get worked out, too, I'm sure. As I said before, if I can get around it to get through it, instead of confronting it to get through it, so much the better.

Where there's a will, there's a way.


  1. that's interesting.....will try and remember that!

  2. Super post ! very interesting. Linda will settle well after lungeing or long-reining. If not she would have 5-10 minutes od ridden work being a bit of a pain ... then she will work fine. For her, no breaks, as she does not want to work after them or she is just not "as good".

    For Morgan it is the reverse, if I lunge him before, he gets wounded up. He likes his breaks during work. He helps him to re-charge, he is more willing and forward ;-)

    Every horses are differents. I am fascinated by the TB, they really seem to be a breed apart regarding training.