Wednesday, August 19, 2009

It Isn't Really the Bit, Floating Laterally and Clinic Videos

Well, Maisie didn't come to greet me today when I went to get her in the pasture. Perhaps yesterday was an aberration, we'll see in days to come. I brought her out and groomed her in the arena. As usual, she stood still like a star. Here she is, groomed and ready to be tacked up:

I woke her up sufficiently to take a picture of her sweet face:

Note the drooping lower lip! She went back to sleep and her she is tacked up and ready to go:

Due to her somewhat hefty (ahem!) weight, the saddle had been tending to tip forward, since the girth was wanting to shift forward - pushed there by her rotundity. This saddle actually has 4 billets, which is very unusual in a close contact saddle, so I used the 2nd and 4th billets this time for the girth and that helped quite a bit. The saddle is a Pessoa Rodrigo, purchased second-hand, and is the only one of many, many saddles we tried that actually fit her - as blessed by our chiropractor. I like the 4 billets, and wish more close contact saddles had them.

Our objective today was to try out the Mylar ported snaffle that I talked about in Saturday's post, and also to try some "floating" lateral work - more about that later. Her hind feet are still a bit sensitive - see in the pictures how she's weighting her front end and putting her hind feet a little bit underneath her body - and my back's still recovering, so we planned to work in the soft arena footing mostly or entirely at the walk.

Well, it isn't really about the bit, but then I suspected that. Bits rarely solve problems. She carried it pretty well, but wasn't very interested in using her hind end and as a result tended to lean on my hands. I expect this tendency was exacerbated by her sore hind feet. We did manage to get some decent backing, but the walk wasn't all that great. I think I'll go back to the KK double-jointed snaffle with the lozenge, and use the Rockin' S snaffle as well from time to time. She didn't "curl up" with the Mylar, but did tend to want to go too low with her head and neck. I think we just need to go back to the basics of our softening and transition work and just keep on plugging - we'll get there and there aren't any quick fixes.

We did manage to refresh all of our basic lateral work - turn on the forehand, turn on the haunches and sidepass, in both directions. She did very well at all of this and maintained her softness. Then we tried two lateral work exercises that are new to her.

First, we tried Mark Rashid's exercise of "floating" laterally. You start out walking on a straight line, say south to north down the center line of your arena. You then "float" the horse into a sidepass - still travelling south to north, but with the horse's head facing east and tail facing west. Then you "float" into backing, with the horse's head facing south and tail facing north (you're still traveling north). And finally, you "float" into a sidepass facing the other way (head west and tail east), finishing up walking south to north again. The objective is flow, precision - to keep the movement in a straight line - and ease. It's harder than it sounds - if you aren't very soft with your cues, you lose the regularity of the movement and the straightness of the line. "Floating" is the goal. I think the exercise is most elegant if the horse makes a 360 degree rotation in the same direction as you move through it, but if you break it down into pieces you can pretty much do anything you want with it. You can also mix it up with turn on the forehand and turn on the haunches, but the basic exercise is the most challenging and interesting to my mind. Maisie did pretty well at this for a first effort - I was over-cuing and so things could be softer. We'll keep working on this exercise - it's a fine one.

Then, we tried sidepassing down a pole - with front legs on one side and back legs on the other. She was able to fairly easily do it to the left, but couldn't quite get the hang of it to the right - she didn't like her legs on opposite sides of the pole. Her sidepass to the right isn't as precise, so this pole exercise exposed the weakness. I didn't force the issue, but went back to some more of the "floating" exercise to end with.

We finished up with a little bit of trotting to test her feet and my back out - so far, so good!

* * * * * *

And finally, as a special treat, visit this recent post by jmk of Buckskin and Bay - she's uploaded a couple of nice short videos, with audio, from the Mark Rashid clinic we attended recently - she rode her horse Scout - the videos give a nice flavor for how Mark works - it's all very low key and there was over 24 hours of this sort of work at the clinic. Notice in the first video how no one's too fussed about whether Scout gets the correct lead at this point - they're focussing on the change of rhythm and the precision of her timing only. Jmk and Scout were working on the precision of her cues, combined with making them more soft, and they were the subject of my post on Horse #5 - there are more clinic posts on the sidebar. Enjoy!


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  2. Kate, I was trying the floating thing too. Mark makes it look so easy! I have sequential pics of him doing the pattern from the clinic. I'll try and find them and post them for you so folks can get a visual of the excercise.

  3. Kate, Panama doesn't usually greet me when I show up either -- the most I get is him standing and staring at me. Unless I haven't been there in a while, in which case he does greet me. But in any case, once I've messed with him for a little while, he's more than happy to follow me around!

    My point is that just because she doesn't greet you doesn't mean she isn't "into" you. :o)

    Now I'm going to head over and check out that video!

  4. Maisie is so beautiful! Sounds like a good exercise to focus on flowing from one thing to another - which of course is ideal in all our schooling.
    Looking forward to watching vids when I have a bit more time. Scout is just stunning! I love buckskins (or duns as we call them in the UK)

  5. Maisie looks lovely...a bit round, like my my kind of horse. One keeps hoping the exercise will trim things up a bit.

    The Ansur treeless saddles are super for horses like Maisie. With a back and body like hers, fit would never be a problem.

    The floating sounds a bit like zig zags at the leg yeild or half pass. To do them well there should be a soft "flow" as well.

    Going to check the videos out in a bit.

  6. Maisie is adorable even if a little pudgy. We have a few of them on the farm too.
    The floating sounds like a good exercise.
    I'm heading over to check out the video.

  7. As always Maisie is beautiful - you just can't beat a bay with four white socks IMO. I was trying to visualize the lateral floating as I read your description and I was coming up with the same things as Jean, like zig zags via leg yielding or maybe half passes . . . funny how the different disciplines can use different terminology for similar things.

  8. sounds like a great exercise. I will have to give it a try!
    I think that saddle looks quite nice on Maise, I like that it has 4 billets, I have not seen close contact saddles with a choice of 4.

  9. Lovely pictures - what a sweet face!

    I'm with Stephanie, I'll have to give that lateral floating thing a try.

  10. maisie is really lovely. and they're all a little round this time of year ;-)

    i've tried the myler bits too with high expectations, but i was disappointed. my horses just never took to them... they seem happiest in good old-fashioned mild snaffles and such.

    i hear so many great things about mark rashid, but i don't know his work very well. the floating exercise sounds interesting, and i'll have to check out the videos - i think my mother's got some of his books around, so i may have to borrow them. i'm interested to hear more :-)

  11. Maisie's a cutie, though perhaps on the well-fed side. ;-) At least horses don't have body image issues.

    You made a comment a few weeks ago about not really being interested in desensitization, and yet you do seem to lean towards the natural horsemanship side of things. Would you please explain that more? I've never done NH officially, and I don't do desensitization, but I was curious as to your reasons.


  12. SprinklerBandit - to me, "natural horsemanship" is a marketing name - what a particular horse trainer does or doesn't do is the important thing to me and the name doesn't really mean anything. That said, there are different "schools" of thought as to how to work with horses in a humane way. There are also "natural horsemanship" trainers out there who use what I consider to be coercive methods.

    I've worked a lot with Mark Rashid, who I believe to be one of the finest horsemen out there in the Harry Whitney/Ray Hunt line, and who doesn't use the natural horsemanship label, although some of what he does overlaps with some of what some of the natural horsemanship people do, and some of it is very different. I also use things I learn from other people.

    Desensitizing is a whole topic in itself - I may try to post more - thanks for the question!


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