Monday, October 12, 2009

Dawn Masters the Outside Turn, Frisky Seniors and a Request on Lead Changes

Yesterday was one of those days when the 15-minute rule came into application. I hadn't been able to work with the horses for several days due to rain and my schedule on Saturday, and I didn't want to miss another day, even though I was short of time. So Maisie got lunged for exercise at the trot - she's quite the porker these days - and I did put on her hind Sports Medicines, as her hind suspensories look iffy to me - the angle of her pasterns is increasingly flat, and any time I work her she gets some swelling overnight. And then there's the stifle issues. Even though she's only 12, I don't know how many more years of being sound enough to ride she has. Sigh. Memo to self - never, ever get a horse again with serious confirmation defects, no matter how beautiful or sweet.

Dawn and I worked some more on our preparations for ground-driving. We used the fuzzy-nose halter and two lines. I started with making sure she was OK with the ropes on her back, rump and around the butt, starting from her left, which we had done before, and then doing the same from her right. Ho, hum, how boring, she said. Then we refreshed our turns to the left and right using one line with me standing by her neck, doing it from both sides. She remembered everything perfectly. Then I asked again for the outside turn away from me, with her starting and ending in a halt. This time I started from her right so the turn would be to the left, which is her easier direction. Last time I was standing to her left and asking her to turn right - going to the right is harder for her and she was struggling with it. So I stood about 10 feet off her right side, holding the right line in my right hand, and the left line which was looped around her hindquarters, in my left hand. I use the method of letting the lines trail behind me - it makes it easier to adjust the length as I go and there aren't any loops to get tangled in. I asked for the left turn by pulling gently on the left line while playing out the right line. She did it instantly, and well. We repeated this several times in each direction. She was soft, calm and responsive, even though there was a lot going on - people walking by with dogs and Scout and Sugar leaving on a trail ride. I was delighted and told her so! I think we're about ready for some ground-driving with some patterns.

This morning was chilly - not quite freezing. All the horses were excited and delighted to go to pasture, although everyone was very well behaved when I asked. Apparently Fritz and Fred gave their handler some trouble yesterday leading out - boarders do their own turn-out on Sundays - Fritz was pulling and Fred was doing little half-rears (he used to do big ones, but his hind end is too weak for that these days), so I did some special exercises with them. We stopped frequently so momentum didn't start to build up, and I reinforced with Fritz that he was to lead on a loose lead somewhat behind my shoulder, and with Fred that he was to give to pressure (making sure I gave a release as he softened). While we were stopped, we did "head-to-the-ground" to improve their relaxation. They both did great. All the senior horses were in good form - there's nothing more delightful than to watch Joe at 27 and Noble at 29 gallop at top speed to the end of the pasture, doing lead changes on the way!

And, finally, a request. Those of you out there with particular expertise in training lead changes, please respond if you can. (Jean, I'm particularly thinking of you, but I know there are others out there with knowledge that could help.) In yesterday's post, I mentioned that my daughter is having trouble with Miranda's right to left lead change. If there are any specific exercises you could suggest that she could try, we would appreciate it!


  1. Ground driving has been one of the most useful things I've learned. Before I got my round pen, it's how I accomplished longeing, of a sort.

    Sorry, can't help you on the changing leads thing.

  2. Of course it depends on what 'type' of lead change she is looking for. I am assuming a good hunter change where it is ok if they change in front first as long as the hind follows very quickly. I am also assuming Miranda is not at a place in her flat work where she is ready for 'dressage' changes where it is imperative that they change behind first.

    I've never found one particular approach or exercise that seems to work better than any other, I love the horses that just naturally have a change for the hunters, makes it so easy! I like to use poles on the ground, and sometimes I use the 'pile of poles' as one trainer used to call it, 3 or 4 poles stacked together. I use them first for simple changes, and those need to be rock solid with no anticipation or changes in topline. Just trot a few steps before the poles and pick up the other lead first a few strides ahead, then a stride or two before the pole and then right in front of or over the pole. Of course you would be taking the same steps to set up for the simple change as you would for the flying change. Then one day you just have to ask for the full monty, push them over with the inside leg and set them up for the change and ask over the pole(s). Obviously you want to vary pole location and not always ask for either a simple or flying change so Miranda doesn't learn to anticipate anything with the poles.

    Your daughter has probably already done this anyway, she is a good rider. Miranda one day will just get it on the one sticky change, that seems to be how it often happens.

  3. Sonia got me to teach Jazz with the following exercises:

    Take counter canter and go onto a 20 metre circle in counter canter. Change the bend to the inside, and ask for the change of leg after the bend is established.

    Take counter canter and counter canter the short side of the school. On the long side straight, change the bend and then ask for the change of leg.

    Take true canter, half pass to the track, change the bend and then ask for the change.

    Take true canter, cross the diagonal, change the bend and then ask for the change.

    We always warm up the exercise with canter/walk because she says you need the same quality of canter for both exercises.

    I hope those help.


  4. Little late, sorry, but I was not home long enough to reply.

    However, it looks as if Caroline has covered most of the exercises I know. PJ learned with the half pass---without a lot of bend to the rail. Toby learned from doing a figure 8. Tucker? Not sure yet, but it seemed the crossing the short diagonal to the rail was the way to go. (But we are back to square one as I have to get him fit again and work back to the simple changes first.)

    Some horses also master the changes by jumping over a cross rail with the change requested in the air.

    Some horses master the change from one lead to the other and take a while to "get" the other side. Strengthening the canter with counter canter can help that a bit. Then, you can try the change out of the counter canter as Caroline suggests.

    Also, it helps if the rider is very certain about shifting her weght/balance in the saddle to the new lead. Your daughter looks to have a beautiful seat over a fence, so I am guessing she is an excellent rider on the flat. But if she tends to be in a more forward hunter eq seat, she might have more success by riding with her seat more into the saddle as a dressage rider to get the balance shift to a new lead.

  5. Melissa, Jean and Caroline - thank you so much for your suggestions on flying changes - I will pass them on to my daughter!

  6. I had to come over and check out your ground driving episode after you were so kind to comment on mine! Sounds like your girl is doing great! I never thought of doing patterns with ground driving, good idea! Gosh I wish I had an arena to work in!


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