Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Leading By the Legs and Trot Work

Dawn and I made progress in our "leading by the legs" exercise. If you remember, I'm doing this in preparation for ground driving, to be sure she knows how to give to the pressure of a rope around a leg, in the event we get tangled up, which is almost certain to happen at some point, if my past experience ground driving Maisie and Lily is any indication. (If you want an overview of what I'm up to with Dawn and her training, read my earlier post "The Horse is Thinking About Leaving . . .")

We stood in the parking lot, I looped a cotton lead around a front leg, let it slide down to the pastern, and kept a steady pressure until something happened. The flies helped us out - if she lifted the leg to stomp, I kept the pressure on and tried to get her to move the leg forward. After a few tries, she was beginning to get the idea - we got at least three steps in a row. I did have to persuade her that I really didn't want her to "lunge by the leg" - she wanted to keep going and walk off in a circle after she got started! We'll keep refining it, but that was very good for now.

Then we tried the other front leg - her right - that was somewhat more awkward, as I'm right-handed and was having to pull with my left hand and hold the lead, from the right, with my right hand. She was slower to get this, probably because of my fumbling, but we did it after a few tries, and stopped for the day.

I groomed and tacked up Maisie and put her back in her stall for her dinner before we rode. My objective was to get in some solid trot work to help her conditioning, so her stifles can be well-supported by muscle, which should help with the locking/buckling we sometimes get. When I took her out of the stall to bridle her, she allowed me to lead her with a hand under her jaw, without a halter or lead, all the way down the barn aisle. I've never done this before with her, and she was delightfully responsive to what I asked. We rode in the arena, which was about perfect - not too dry and not wet and freshly dragged. I love laying down the first tracks in a fresh arena - you can even check the straightness of your lines and the roundness of your circles.

After some warm-up work at the walk, including some changes in stride length, some halts and some backing, and some figures including serpentines, we did quite a bit of trotting, mostly with me doing rising trot. I wanted her to stretch and relax, and so kept my contact light and hands inactive except to ask for inside leg to outside hand on the corners and in circles. She was doing a lovely, forward, medium trot, with lots of animation, and with her head and neck in a "hunterish" position. I asked for speed regulation with my seat and posting, not my hands. She didn't get fast, and she didn't push on the bit at all.

After doing that for a while, with lots of changes of direction and figures thrown in, we did some more collected trot work with me sitting. I asked her to use her hindquarters and soften to the bit through her whole body. We did gait regulation, and transitions, using my seat as the aid. She did very well with this, too.

I think she needs a substantial long-and-low warm up before we should move to more collected work. She does get even more animated in the work where I ask her to fully use herself, but I didn't detect excessive excitement - she's one of those horses that works herself up instead of working herself down. She was also very sound on both reins, which was good, and we had no stifle episodes.

After our ring work, we went on a little trail ride around the pastures - the sun was shining, the grasses were blowing in the wind and it was beautiful. She was alert and composed, and responsive to half-halts with my seat.

A lovely day with horses!


  1. What a great session with both horses! Glad Dawn is responding so well.

    Cibolo says to tell Maisie he's up for that ride. :)

    (verification word: dogintel Is that some sort of canine spy thing?)

  2. I did a fair amount of ground driving with Drifter and it was so useful. I love to hear about others who value this "lost art" too.

  3. Sounds excellent work with Maisie. My lot are completely relaxed about having ropes round their necks, legs, bodies, etc. But not because of my careful preparation ..... simply because I'm so good at getting in a tangle LOL!

  4. You should have your own horse magazine! because I learn more from your posts than I do from the horse publications I get!!!


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