Saturday, April 26, 2014

2014 Mark Rashid Clinic - Day Three Pie - Leave Only the Opening You Want, and Fixing Falling In to the Right

Day three of the clinic . . .

Sunday night it poured - someone said we'd gotten 5" of rain.  Needless to say we were back inside on Monday - but even without the rain, it was in the 30s and the wind was very strong and it snowed on and off all day.  The indoor arena was cold, even with the wood stove going full blast.

I had planned to work on trailer loading with Pie but think it'll be fine if I'm clearer with Pie - I've just been confusing him.  He actually loads just fine, but I haven't been able to have him understand that I'd like to send him, rather than lead him, into the trailer. The work we did on day three will actually help us with our trailer loading, I think, and with lots of other things.

I told Mark that Pie and I had been struggling a bit with our lateral work - turn on the haunches, turn on the forehand, side pass and also leg yield.  Pie sort of does them, but not crisply or precisely - and since this is Pie, this was undoubtedly due to my not asking him in a way that was clear and consistent.

Mark helped us out a lot with this.

First, many people (including me) tend to lean our body weight towards the leg giving the aid.  This makes it very hard for horse to do what you're asking since the horse has to lift that side of its body to move away from your leg.  When people complain that their horse moves away from a gate they are trying to open, this is almost always the problem - when they lean over to open the gate, they inadvertently put leg on on that side, and the horse correctly does what they're (unintentionally) asking and moves away from the gate.  So stay straight and don't lean.

Don't leave any openings except the one you want the horse to move into.  Be clear and precise.  The reason Pie was fumbling around with my requests for lateral movement was that I was leaving too many possible opening for him to move his body into - in an effort to be soft, I was being unclear.  It's possible to be clear and soft at the same time. I need to clearly define where the opening is and not leave him all those possibilities to sort through.  I just have to be more definite and more precise, while still being soft.

Take things one step at a time - moving hindquarters (tip nose), moving front end, then side pass, before trying any traveling movement like leg yield or half pass - isolate movements then put them together in side pass first.  Once side pass is fixed, traveling movements should be easy.

Pie and I have always had a tendency to fall in when tracking right.  Mark said this was unlikely to be my upper body - head tilted to right or shoulder dropped - that if anything would be likely to shift him left (since the rest of my body would be compensating by moving left).  Mark said that I'd been working a lot on improving my upper body position, and that I perhaps was ignoring my lower body in figuring this out. Mark watched for a while as we trotted to the right and then said it was my left leg.  I was appropriately using a little right leg preemptively to help Pie not fall in, but I was also using a very slight amount of left leg, a hair more than the right leg I was using (unbeknownst to me) and that was the cause of him falling in.  He was just doing what I was asking - honest Pie. As soon as I thought about taking my left leg off - voila!  no falling in - this was a tiny adjustment.  I have to work on not bracing with the leg I'm taking off, but that will come as it's more automatic.

One of the things I like about working with Mark is that he's perfectly willing to admit that he's learning things all the time.  He said he'd had exactly the issue I'd had with Pie with a horse he was working with - the horse kept doing perfect half passes across the arena in one direction - and Mark wasn't asking him to do that - at least consciously.  Mark said it took a while to figure out what was going on.  The horse was an ex-roping horse, and was overdeveloped on one side of his body, so the saddle didn't always sit perfectly square.  Mark discovered that in trying to compensate for the slight unevenness in the saddle position, he was inadvertently putting just a hair more leg on the horse on one side than on the other side and the horse was responding.  The lesson is that, whenever you find a repeated pattern with a horse, take a close inventory of your whole body position and what you may be signaling the horse to do without even realizing it.


  1. Very helpful. Thanks for sharing. Just one question... I know how to my the hindquarter, but I'm not clear on how to move the shoulder (working toward the sidepass). Dan

    1. One way I've learned together the side pass, once the horse and you have accomplished the haunch turn, is to ask for one step of haunch turn, then one step of turn on the forehand. Work slowly, one step of each, alternating, then as what you want becomes clear, slowly pick up the pace, until it flows.

  2. Dan - to move the shoulder, you have to first free the front end to move - slightly rock the horse backwards as if you are going to back. Then look in the direction you want the horse to turn and give an opening rein on that side, with a supporting outside rein (if your horse neck reins this will help) and the outside leg at or slightly in front of the girth. The horse should take a big step to the side while keeping the hindquarters almost still, and then cross over with the front legs with the next step. Take it very slowly, one step at a time, and stop between steps. That's how I do it - not necessarily "correct". If the horse steps forward or the hind end swings around, focus on the rock back and support on the outside. The only opening should be the opening inside rein.

    1. And there's a moving version - a walk pirouette, where the hind legs step in a very small circle - same thing as a turn on the haunches but a bit more forward impulsion.

  3. As I've been working on turn on the forehand and shoulder-in, I am just recently aware of how important it is to weight the seatbone of the direction I want to go. Like you said, when I'd cue with the left leg, I'd unconsciously weight the left seatbone, making it that much harder for the horse to perform the movement. It's not anywhere instinctual for me yet, every time I have to think about it in steps (which direction? which seatbone?) but that really makes it easier for the horse. Oh, and since I'm one-sided, I find it much much harder to the right than the left. I'd love to have worked on this today, but I found my horse sore in her lumbar region so she got a beauty session, and tomorrow I'll call a chiropractor.

    I'd love to try the walk pirouette when she's feeling better.

  4. Taking inventory of our body position sounds easy but it really is tough to do and that's where it helps to have someone else observe and tell us what they see; those unconscious things we do that are second nature for us but are obvious to others.


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