January 23, 2010

Left, right, whoa, back

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I was ambitious this weekend. After being sick last weekend and part of the week, I rode Isis and worked Kasane with the surcingle and long lines. Pretty ambitious after a month of being out of the saddle. 🙂

Isis was awesome under saddle in the dressage saddle. We only rode about 20 minutes, most of that at a walk to get both of us warmed up. She is such a joy to ride. She drops her shoulder in around corners, which makes it feel like she is leaning to the inside. If my posture isn’t straight — if I have dropped my inside shoulder — then she will will lean to the inside. We did a little trotting and focused on keeping my posture upright so she didn’t lean in. When we went around one time both directions in the ring, we stopped for the evening. I am not sure how much more posting my legs could take.

Kasane was worked in the round pen. We did a little free lunging and then I put the surcingle on her. The surcingle is like a girth that goes behind her withers. There are rings on the surcingle for putting reins through the side or attaching side reins. I use the surcingle for ground driving by using two long lines through the surcingle and attaching them to the halter, one on either side. The long lines become reins and the surcingle holds the reins in the proper location, no matter where I might be behind Kasane.

I’ve used a lead rope tied to Kasane’s halter like reins before to encourage her to understand the signals for left, right, whoa, and back. She has usually understood what I meant and has done well with it. Having the long lines on and me behind Kasane is a whole new game: I’m in a different location so she can’t read body language or visual cues.

To teach Kasane to move left or right, I pulled gently on the rein until she moved her head in that direction and then I released pressure immediately. Once she would move her head both left and right, I asked her to walk on while doing that. She figured out ground driving in about 10 minutes (very fast — other Arabs I’ve worked with took an hour). Normally, someone helps me at this phase by leading the horse in the direction I’m steering. It helps the horse understand what I’m asking for. Kasane got left and right quickly on her own.

Whoa was another matter. When I asked her to whoa, she tried to turn and face me. This is okay when we’re lunging, however when I’m ground driving and ask for a whoa, she should stop where she is without turning. (Especially important if the horse is actually hooked up to a cart. The cart shafts would prevent her from turning sideways.) Kasane didn’t seem to understand what I was asking for. She knew I wanted her to stop but not stop and stay where she was. We did a refresher course on walk and whoa in hand, and then I stood at her withers and used the long lines like short reins (with my hands just behind the surcingle). When she had stopped several times properly, I moved again behind her and used the long lines. We stopped at that point.

I was so proud of her. She’s making great progress–and fast. One more major step towards getting on her.

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