Thursday, October 31, 2013

Rethinking the Secondary Cue

Dawn had her usual Thursday off.  Since it was raining hard this afternoon, and Halloween to boot, there was almost no one at the barn this afternoon - which meant my boys and I had the indoor to ourselves.

Red and I had a good work session, with lots of trot and canter.  I got a nice "big walk" (without a secondary cue for forward, just using my energy) before asking for trot, and had a very nice first trot transition.  But then he was pretty sluggish at the trot initially, and was resenting my use of a tap with the dressage whip as a secondary cue - he did move forward, but I was having to nag him, and he was not happy about the whole thing - this means the secondary cue isn't working as it should but is becoming a brace of its own.  Red's got a strong sense of fairness, and it's clear he didn't think what I was doing was fair - he didn't do anything bad but he was clearly annoyed.  I got ride of the whip once he was moving forward nicely and he maintained it well.  So I'm rethinking what to do - I'm not going to nag him with my leg to get forward - he'd resent this just as much and he's a master of the brace-against-brace thing, and it wouldn't be soft.  I'm not sure what I'll do - some experimenting to come.  Next ride we'll try no whip, and I may let him warm up a bit more slowly at first rather than asking for so much forward right away.  If I need a secondary cue, I may try something a bit different, like slapping my hand on my leg - we'll see.

Pie and I did a lot of cantering work - work on his departures - his walk/canter departure tracking left is almost there; the right lead still needs work - and work on continuous cantering with softness.  He did very well and his forward at the trot was pretty good, even though I (deliberately) wasn't carrying my dressage whip to give him secondary cues for forward - he's not resentful of this as Red is, but I wanted to see how we'd do without it.

It's supposed to be colder and windy, but sunny, tomorrow, so horses should feel good - particularly with all that fresh mud to roll in!


  1. My Tucker gets very insulted with the whip. I use a verbal "Hissss" to get more impulsion, but that doesn't always work. Years ago a I had a western bat that was just a wide, flat piece of leather that made a nice slapping sound. No sting to the horse. Not sure where it is, but something like that makes a good noise, but doesn't insult your horse's dignity.

  2. Red sounds a lot like a mare I used to ride/own. Sunshine would give you the world, and even accept discipline if it was warranted, but make no mistake if you were slacking or pushing arbitrarily, NO GO

  3. When I use the crop in the ring I get the same reaction: nothing bad happens but I know Lilly is annoyed. But without it she is sluggish and nearly unwilling. This makes me detest working in the ring and yearning for the trail. Then nobody has any fun in the ring! There have been times I have used the crop on my boot or my half chap just to make a motivational noise. Then I thought: what kind of idiot uses the crop on herself? In any case, we still have not solved our issues of enjoying the ring and stepping out without sullen crabbiness.


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