Thursday, August 12, 2010

Houston, We Have Consistency! and the Importance of Breaks

Dawn and I had a really amazing work session this morning - today was one of the days where all the work comes to fruition. She was consistently soft from the first trot step in both directions, and I think my consciously relaxing my left leg downwards really helped to the right. Her contact was just right - about a 1 on a scale of 1 to 10 - and her head wasn't too low or too high, and she was soft, soft, soft. We did a lot of figures and changes of direction, and also some trot/walk/trot and trot/halt transitions - we have more work to do on maintaining softness through these transitions, but we'll get there. Her backing was much better today too, very relaxed and soft. She's at the point now where I don't have to exaggerate the releases, but just let her find her own release as she softens - this of course requires that I never pull and also that I keep my hands in a stable position - this is very good work for me. Since we were doing so well at the trot, we did some starting canter work, including several upwards trot/canter transitions. We have a lot more work to do on that and canter in general, but we stopped after a couple of decent transitions in both directions.

It's always amazing to me how things sometimes come together after a break - Dawn and I didn't work yesterday. She was on the verge of consistent softening at the trot in our last work session, and it all just fell into place for her today. I think the time for the horse to mentally process the work is very important, although it cuts against our human tendency to often rush and push through the work. Those mental breaks, and physical ones too when the work requires physical remodeling of muscles as in Dawn's case - she's learning to carry herself differently than she's used to - can be critical to success. I think breaks also contribute to mental and emotional softness - the horse doesn't feel pressured or pushed. This is something I've had to learn - I'm naturally a pretty goal-oriented person but am learning (from my horses) that it's the process and all the intermediate steps that are important and the goal will be along when we get there. It's a very fine line between making sure that you get the horse to a better place, where something positive has been achieved, and pushing past that point, particularly if the horse is tiring, and losing the good in the search for the perfect. I think now, that if I can build on the good, the better will be along very soon.

I've taken Mark Rashid's advice at the clinic to heart - he advocates a 3 days on/1 day off or 5 days on/2 days off schedule, and I'm trying to mostly stick with that - our weather usually results in some unplanned days off anyway. I'm also making sure to take rest breaks as my horses learn new things, to give them time during the work sessions to think about things.

14 comments:

  1. Congratulations on having a wonderful ride where it all came together. That's what makes all the hard work worthwhile.

    We work the same way with our horses. Once they get the point they are rewarded and we always end on a good note. Then they will usually get a few days off to think it over. We've had lots of success with this method.

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  2. Congrats! sounds like a great ride :)

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  3. Giving a break can help us as much as our horses--sometimes we just need to visualize what we're doing and figure out what we're really asking for before we can expect them to give it to us.

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  4. Consistency IS the name of the game! Sometimes what I have found is that I don't have to go to the farm and once I get on Lilly be on her for an hour. or more. Sometimes a mini lesson of 15 minutes does a lot. It keeps it short and swett, you get in and get out, and yet it still keeps up the schedule.

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  5. I had this with Smokey - we worked on backing softly, and stopping with virtually no reins. It really worked well on our third day. I spent a good amount of time on "soaking" when we got something right. Steering is still weird, so I video taped myself so I can see what I'm doing wrong...

    Tomorrow we'll stop with the round pen training and just head out to the trail.

    It's funny, we people learn the same way. We have to let people soak information to really make things happen...

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  6. Kate...you and Dawn are doing well because you are invested and deserve it. I agree with quitting on a positive note and giving the horse a break. In the end it really works in your favor.

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  7. Super duper!! I think too that Dawn is getting the idea that being soft is far more comfortable then being stiff. AS I have noted more than once, when a horse learns how good going well can feel, she usually starts to choose that option on her own.

    I agree too about the day off idea. Often it takes a day of digesting the lesson before it takes hold. That's why it's sometimes a good idea to vary the type of training and exercises from day to day as well.

    Congratulations on a really good ride!!

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  8. Wonderful. I love your observations and work with Dawn.

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  9. Rides like that are truly a gift - yay for you and Dawn!

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  10. Thats amazing! Good work with Dawn!

    We have a rescued foal at our barn who has never been touched since 2 weeks ago. Its amazing how well she is accepting the halter (and human touch) if you just give her time to think about it.

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  11. That is such good advice to give your horse a day or two off. There is a lot to be said for giving them time to think things through. We need to so why shouldn't our horses?

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  12. Yay! Don'tcha just love those A-Team moments? *grin*

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  13. I love it when a plan comes together! My last ride on Poco was so hard for both of us that I'm hoping the time off in between is enough. What you have described is exactly where I want to be with Poco, and that last ride was NOT it.

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