Tag Archives: walking

Learning to Stand

The weather on Sunday was far too icky to go out to the Funny Farm, so I did not get my Rosey and Klondike fix this week.  This makes me sad. 

On the other hand, though, Ring-Work 101 continued with Afton, which was highly entertaining.  One would think that spending forty minutes mostly walking and stopping would be the most boring thing in the world, but it’s not so easy for our new friend, and I spent much of that time giggling.

On the positive side, he tries really, really hard to stand still.  But he seems convinced that it’s just not right- in other words… “ok, I’ll try… but shouldn’t we be moving? Why are we doing this?  You’re on my back, therefore I must… move….”

This is where you could potentially get in trouble with a horse, I think.  The line between asking him to stand still and getting in a fight over it is a fine one.  I compromise by dropping all pressure and letting him walk forward as soon as all feet are still for even a millisecond.  His tendency is to pick one foot up at a time, and sort of sidle sideways, and inch forward.  I focused on a big reward for doing the right thing, and of course never actually increasing the pressure I put on him- I think if I’d demanded more (by pulling more or setting my hands when he doesn’t stand) it could easily turn into a problem (read: if you give a horse nowhere to go, they often go up).

Fortunately, by the end of the session everything worked out really well and we had several VERY successful stands where he stood quietly on a loose rein for over five-ten seconds.

I wouldn’t want anybody to get the wrong idea- he’s not goofy, or difficult, or any of those things.  He just doesn’t understand his new job yet.  Once he’s been mounted, he thinks his job is to go, and he has good reason, as that’s what all his prior training is.  Once he’s been trotted or cantered, he thinks that’s what he’s supposed to do until he’s done and I’m off his back. 

In other news, we did work a little more on getting his body all lined up properly, especially around turns.  This is challenging enough without the added problem of me being totally crooked as a rider.  Either way, though, we managed some good work in the corners at both the walk and a little at the trot.  He’s learning he can go deep into the corners, and is responding a little more to my leg trying to keep him on the proper bend, rather than bulging a shoulder or leaning in (he does both in pretty equal measure).

My legs hurt a little from these endeavors- I think I got too used to Rosey, who seemed pretty natural with that stuff and non-wiggly.

OK, OK, so he’s not perfect (yet)

Yesterday I was forced to accept the fact that Afton is not perfect.  Yes, he’s quiet, fun, trail rides, crosses water and ditches, and jumps super easily, but the reality is that we have not been paying that much attention to a thing called “ring work.”

So yesterday I made a point of focusing on it, and I learned the following:

  • Afton has a giraffe head to rival Rosey, which is an accomplishment
  • Afton doesn’t quite have the ability to keep his body aligned on a curve, and likes to “motorcycle” his turns
  • He really, really, likes to chew and jaw on the bit
  • Once you have warmed up, he doesn’t quite get the point of walking
  • If you lean forward to pet him, that’s a signal to go back to work (my own horse, by the way, has the opposite view. Pats on the neck mean STOP, darnit!)

I knew a lot of these things before, but we’ve not really concentrated on working on any of them yet, so today was an adventure.  There was lots of this:

oy.  Just... Oy.

oy. Just... Oy.

I was on a horse bulletin board the other day where people were complaining about a movie poster for “Australia” because it showed abusive riding, because the horse was gaping in the mouth.  So now I feel like an evil horse abuser, though I was pretty much just letting him do his own thing (note the incorrect lead).  And do excuse my head, someone outside the ring was talking to me.  On a more positive note, we also got a little of this:

Happy trotting

Happy trotting

So he’s not real round or anything there, but I like how engaged he is behind, and how much he reaches in front.  He’s got to learn to sort of put things together, but he at least is a nice forward going guy.

After working around a little, and realizing that he gets a little anticipatory, AND he likes to do weird things on turns (in both directions, at different times, he’ll lean in, or bulge out, with different parts of his body), we went back to working mostly at the walk.  I know, boring, but I think the walk gets neglected a lot, even though there’s lots you can do. 

So I stopped, asked him to give his head in both directions (which he’s not real good at yet, either- this is not a flexible horse at this point in time).  Then we practiced an elementary turn on the forehand, to get him thinking about shifting the hindquarters in response to leg.  He’s actually pretty good at that, which surprised me a little.  After that, I began asking the same questions on a small circle- shift the hindquarters away from my leg, and turn from the outside rein.  He was jawing the bit like mad, and I’m starting to think this is just a habit, something he does when he’s thinking hard (kind of how like, when I’m concentrating like crazy, I bite/chew on my lips, which is more than anyone really wanted to know about me).

Eventually we went back to the trot, and just kept turning- figure eights, serpentines, etc… when he wanted to lean in and drift in on a turn, I just turned that into a little circle, working to get closer to a real bend.  It only halfway worked.  We did eventually get some really nice trot, where he tried to stretch down a little bit.  Of course, stretching down for Afton doesn’t mean very far… he doesn’t have that flexibility yet, but he tried, and we also found a nice, more comfortable and rhythmic trot. 

Afterwards we walked down the driveway and hopped one of the logs to end on a good note.