January 22, 2011

Stretching through the back

Wednesday night was a good exercise in longeing. Rose has developed a bit of a "play time" attitude on the longe as of late, due to being out of work for two months. I've been cracking down on the behavior, as I don't feel it is appropriate for her to buck and kick out and screw around every single time she's longed. I know a lot of people see nothing wrong with this behavior on the longe, and quite frankly I don't necessarily either, as it is good for them to get the bucks and kicks out of their system. However, I view the arena environment as a place where we behave and work. The paddock is for playing and kicking up heels. So, I'm bringing this whole screw around on the longeline thing to an end.

I got her to focus when she started bucking up by giving a light yank on the longeline to get her attention and then sending her on. It worked very well. She got focused and was listening well and I felt comfortable that she had given up trying her antics within about 10 minutes. At that point I attached the side reins. It's been a few months since I've used them, and given her recent attitude on the longe I've been a bit weary of using them. Images of horses flipping over backward always run through my head. However, as soon as they were on she dropped her head and got to business. We ended up having a very productive session on the longe, and it has left me looking forward to next Wednesday.

The following night, Thursday, I wanted to address an issue we had under saddle this past Sunday. Rose really hates cantering to the right, and especially if she has to bend to the inside at the same time. Earlier last week she tried to avoid this by stopping and not moving. Well, I've been there done that before on other babies and I wasn't going to let that door open. I turned her head to the side with my reins, made her move in tiny little circles just to keep her feet moving and gave her a couple meaningful smacks with my crop and she gave up her little plan. We then cantered to the right some more and worked on transitions and going forward for the rest of that session. Then last Sunday rolled around, and of course I had some friends out to the barn to see her go and my friend BA wanted to hop on her. I warmed her up for BA first though, during which then she decided to try a new plan. As I asked her for the right lead canter transition, she threw her head up, started crow hopping, so I got after her, and then she tried to sort of half buck/kick out. It was kind of cute, and I'm quite happy she doesn't know how to really buck. Images of Pia suddenly ran through my mind. I swore up and down to my friends that she'd never done that before. Isn't that always the case? When you really want them to be good they decide to put on a show for guests. At any rate, her plan didn't work, so she tried the stopping thing again, that didn't work and she gave up. I got her through it and again worked on transitions and forward. My friend who rode her though, wisely decided to not re-open the cantering battle once it was her turn to ride the mare.


I've pondered this a lot, as it is a sudden development. She's never liked cantering to the right, but she's never really gotten stubborn about it before. My theory is that I've never really made her balance herself before, or bend to the right. I would get conned into hanging on my outside rein and putting my weight on the outside to counter balance her, allowing her to badly fall into the inside and throw her shoulder out. Not a very attractive picture. Recently my trainer has had me start riding her correctly on the right lead canter, and really asking her to balance herself and bend. In addition, I've been working on my dressage position and she has me sitting deeper and leaning back farther. Ding Ding! I realized that I'm trying to sit deep in the canter right of the bat, when her back is not warmed up. She's only acted up on the days that I haven't longed her first.

On Thursday night I decided that, dressage be damned, I would warm her up at the canter in my two point. My theory was that this would give her the opportunity to stretch through her back and warm up the muscles. Then later in our ride we would work on the canter in our dressage position.


I love my mare and I've learned that, hormones and all, she is actually predictable. When she suddenly does something out of character that it means she's trying to tell me something. So the human has learned that if I don't longe her before a ride she needs to warm up her back at the canter with me in two-point before she has to do the hard work in the canter. Simple, obvious, and easy to do.

Happy trails and swooshing tails!

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  1. I love horses who are honest like that. McKinna is the same way...if she starts really acting up about something, either she's hurting or I'm doing it wrong.

  2. Amen!!! I so agree with you about rules re: lunging. A horse should behave on the lunge as well as it should on the ground or under saddle. It's work and should be treated as such. They get to be horses 23 hours out of the day. They can pay attention for the one remaining hour or so. Haha.

  3. When we lunge horses at work, we make them behave. Most do, some will buck a few times. There are a few that really like to play, and some are allowed to if they have their owner out for a lesson, to get the bucks out. But for the most part, lunging is work and they need to act like it is work. We do turn them loose in the arena or paddocks for their play time.
    My Arab likes to buck on the lunge line. I do let her do that. But she can't run around crazy. My Paint hardly moves out on the lunge line, she's so lazy and I am teaching my filly to behave on the lunge. I will turn her loose in the arena first to get her bucks out, then put her on the lunge and start the real work. She is really good about it.

  4. My mare did the same thing when she was a baby. While she was 4 she really started to have little fits and try to even kick out and me when she decided she felt like she had worked enough. Other times she'd stop and stomp and have a hissy fit when she felt like she'd worked enough. Soon she learned though, that acting like that wasn't going to get her anything but more work :)



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