Monday, July 26, 2010

Dawn and Maisie Update

The weather here is beautiful - low 80s with sun - so Dawn and I went back to work yesterday. My clinic posts are likely to be interspersed with posts about my work with Dawn, mainly so I can have a good record of what we've done and how it's going. When I come back from the clinic, it's exciting to apply the things I learned or had reinforced. And in many respects, to do this, it's about me and not about the horse. So I approached our session with two main thoughts in mind - getting to work right away, and riding Dawn like the horse I want her to be. If some of this is unclear, there'll be more about this in the clinic posts - these are things I already know but I benefited from the reminders.

So Dawn and I went to work in a businesslike manner from the start - I saddled, bridled and mounted up - if she had been showing signs of being high we would have done some ground work but that wasn't needed so we didn't need it. We reviewed our walk softening work for a few minutes - she was right on it without curling up. My objective was to lead her with my thought so her attention wouldn't stray - if I kept paying attention she could too. And despite many distractions - people going by, toddlers wandering around and pushing their strollers, people pounding stakes in the vegetable garden and popping up and down as they worked - she was right on it and completely with me even when we relaxed between work sessions on a loose rein.

Then we did a lot of trot work, in intense short sets. I want her to accept a soft contact, and soften at the trot, without curling up - I need a connection in order to have a conversation. Her curling up behavior isn't physical - she's had good dental and chiropractic care and had both done recently, and it isn't a bitting issue - she likes this bit much better than any other we've tried (it's a simple Mylar single-jointed full-cheek snaffle). So it's a learned behavior - she's been taught to do this and thinks it's correct. So in order to change the pattern of her behavior, I had to change/adjust what I was doing - a principle that pervaded the work at the clinic. I tried a few things, and had the benefit of Jill from Buckskin and Bay stopping by - I drafted her to be eyes on the ground for a few laps at the end to confirm what I was feeling. In order to get Dawn to understand what I want her to do, I had to raise my hands several inches - bingo! Soft trot without head behind the vertical, with a nice steady contact. Jill said that her eye showed that she was focussed and thinking hard about what we were doing, but wasn't worried. We got up to 5 soft steps in each direction after a bunch of work for her to figure it out. Once she completely understands what I want, my hand position probably won't matter as much. And when I got off, her eye was soft, and she looked like a happy horse. I hope today we can reinforce what we accomplished!

Maisie's leg is looking better - the swelling is smaller and more sharply defined, and she's moving better in the pasture. I'm hoping we're on the road to recovery!

12 comments:

  1. Sounds like great progress!!!

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  2. Cool progress. Love the new picture in your header. Dawn has that metallic shine just like my plain bay mare Panache!

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  3. I like the concept of riding her the way you want her to be. Sounds like you've made some good progress with her in this lesson. So many people think they have to drill and drill to get what they want, it's nice to see that after her 5 soft steps she was rewarded. I think small steps is the best way to go, good for you and Dawn. I always find it helpful to have eyes on the ground too. Can't wait to hear more about the clinic.

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  4. Sounds like it was a very positive experience for you both. Nice job.

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  5. Doing good work, and glad Maisie is improving

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  6. Was Dawn ever on the track...I forget. If so, her curl could be what I used to call the "race track curl." It's also something people who focus only on the horse's head create and it can be really hard to correct. I had a Saddlebred taught to go that way.

    Sounds to me as if you are doing all the right things to correct the problem. Progress usually starts off slowly, but once the horse finally figures out how good it feels to work through the back, she will probably offer it more and more easily. Well done, either way.

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  7. Jean - Dawn was on the track, but she came to us with "inverted neck" - big muscle underneath, no top line and very on the forehand and braced. I think her curl up is more related to her being an over-achiever - she thinks if a little bit of softening is good, then going behind the bit is better, since she's doing more! It's aggravated by my daughter riding her fast on the trails - then it really is a bit of race-horse curl up!

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  8. "...riding Dawn like the horse I want her to be..." I love that. I think that is going to be my new mantra before I ride Gem.

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  9. Glad to hear Maisie leg is getting better.

    When I am serious and command Kylie's attention and performance, she is very good. She is very well trained at this point in her career and completely understands exactly what I am asking BUT if I am just hacking around not expecting much, she doesn't give me much. She doesn't pay too much attention to me and is easily distracted. So I completely understand with riding her the way you want her to be.

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  10. It has cooled off here finally.

    Had to spend the day in the truck making a hay and feed run, but tomorrow we will ride.

    I will give Val the benefit of all of my attention, and I will ride him like the horse I want him to be. :)

    Thanks for the inspiration Kate!

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  11. Glad to hear about Maisie and thank you for writing up the clinic - love reading the posts and letting some of this information sink in!

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