Monday, January 20, 2014

Strategies for Red and Me, and Pie's Canter Much Improved

I've been thinking about how to help Red with his walk/trot transitions.  One of the quotes from the previous post is a good place to start - the horse's state of mind before the transition will in large part determine what happens during the transition.

I'm realizing that one of the reasons Red does his brace-up-and-to-the right thing is because he's not soft yet, at the point in our work sessions where I ask him to trot.  He may seem soft - the body posture and movement at the walk appear soft, but he's not mentally soft yet, which is why walk/trot transitions later in our work sessions are no problem at all.  The tell is the backing.  If we halt early in our work session, and I ask him to soften and back softly, big brace.  Later in our work session, after trot work, no problem, beautiful, soft steps backwards - in fact, I often use no rein pressure at all and only have to think back to get it.  He's soft and connected to me.  Not so at the end of the walk work I've been using for our warm up.

What we're doing already isn't working consistently, so I need to change things. So I think the solution may be more in what we do before I ask for the first walk/trot transition, rather than the transition itself, although there may also be some things I can do to help him stay soft through the transition.  But to stay soft, he has to be soft, before the transition, and that's been lacking.

* * * *

I wrote that before my work session with Red today, and before I read more of Mark Rashid's new book A Journey to Softness.  The timing of the book arriving was uncanny - it gave me some pieces that I needed to help Red and I solve our problem.

The things - some of these I was on the track of already, and have heard from Mark before, but the book really brought them into focus - that made a difference to me and Red from the book are the following:
  • Softening at the point of resistance.
  • Changing how I made first contact.
  • Nothing sudden or abrupt.
These are all about softness in its various aspects, and how I needed to offer Red softness even when he was thinking about bracing.  I can't say enough how good this book is, for me at this point in my horsemanship journey.  More about these concepts later . . . but suffice it to say that Red and I made a huge amount of progress today.

And an update - after Pie's and my hard work on the canter Saturday, and getting Pie breathing properly, we tried some canter today and things were orders of magnitude better - Pie's canter was relaxed and soft from the start - and/because he was now immediately breathing and relaxed.  All that canter work yesterday unlocked things.

This journey with my horses never ceases to amaze and delight me.


  1. The journey we are on with our horses is a never ending work in progress. Each small victory is amazing and appreciated. Nice work with both horses today.

  2. every time I read about your riding journey, I first want to find and indoor and ride! and also want to come watch you work, you have such a sense of your horses and you write about it all so well!

    1. fern - I probably write about it better than I do it! But you'd be welcome anytime.

  3. I have been following Mark Rashid on Facebook and saw that he had that book available. I think I might just have to buy it.
    I need to check Rio's breathing at the lope, to see if that is part of the problem.

    1. Shirley - I'm still reading the book and have yet to watch the DVD - which is an extended interview, I believe. It's outstanding - I'll do a review once I'm done with it.

      On breathing at the canter - I think young horses often find cantering with a rider quite challenging - I know Pie had a lot of concerns about it. So they hold tension in their bodies and minds - hence the holding of the breath and then the cross firing. Getting them to breath once per stride helps them enormously with relaxation, and hence balance and engagement, which helps relaxation, which helps . . .


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