Monday, August 23, 2010

Training New and Old....

This past weekend was a good experience for my horse and I. We tried some new training techniques, and repeated some of our old training. And I have now reviewed my photos enough to gulp! Gulp! Share them with you (LOL)!

New Training in the Round Pen
At the suggestion of TR (excellent author of El Rancho Garza blog, link at the right), I started some new training in the round pen. I want Buckshot to learn to achieve certain gaits and stay in them until I change them, including the elusive slow lope. I began with work on the ground. I think that sometimes I underestimate Buckshot’s intelligence and don’t challenge him enough, allowing him to show me what he can learn and do. So I decided that I would develop new cues to the gaits (from the ground) and teach him. I decided to use one finger, pointing up, as the cue for walk, two fingers for slow trot, three for regular trot and four for lope. I began with verbal instruction: standing in front of Buckshot, I said “walk” and held up one finger, “easy trot” and held up two fingers, “trot” and held up three fingers, and “lope” and held up four fingers. I repeated this sequence several times to him. He seemed to understand (LOL). Then we began. Using my training stick (from a famous trainer program, ahem…) to slap the ground a few times, I got him to move away from me, to the rail, at the walk. I used both the word and the finger cue. After nearly a repetition, I said “whoa” and gave him our signal for whoa: my hand, palm down, moves toward the ground. He stopped and came into the center for reassurance. I gave him praise and a treat. We began again, and with a few slaps of the training stick, he moved up to a slow trot. After a repetition, I whoa’ed him and gave him praise and a treat. We began again, and I think he gave a slightly faster trot for the three finger cue. This all took no more than ten minutes. I ended with success at that point. He really did well, learning, I think, the first three cues in the first session. Then I took him to the barn to tack him up and go to the arena for our regular patterns/ exercises/ practice work. He did great. I did okay, but I was doing new training also (more on that below).

More Round Pen Training
On Sunday, we went back to the round pen and worked on our new training again. Since the day was hotter and muggier than Saturday, I took longer at the walk, to help him warm up. He seemed to know the finger cues easily, and when I said “whoa” he stopped and looked at me, but didn’t come into the center. After moving through easy trot and then trot, I tried to get the lope, using my voice “lope,” and slapping the ground to demonstrate energy and using the four finger cue. For several revolutions he just trotted faster. Then finally, he broke into a canter for a few strides. I let him come down to a “whoa” and gave him praise and a treat. We tried it in the other direction, but I couldn’t get him to lope. He just trotted quite fast. I finally decided it wouldn’t come today, and brought him down to a whoa and gave treats and praise. But he does know now that we are building to the lope. And he has been responsive and learned finger signals rather quickly. So I feel success at this new training effort!

We went on to the barn, and then the arena, and when doing the canter (which I called lope), we had some very good results- my seat stayed stuck to the saddle and the steering in circles wasn’t bad. I deliberately cut short our session because of the extreme humidity. The BO observed and complimented me later on what we had done, so (smile!) I felt great about it!

The Photos
Well, the photos above are of me on Buckshot. They are the better ones I have. Several other photos showed me some things I hadn’t realized about my riding, like how I sit perched up and forward, almost like I’m going to take flight over Buckshot’s neck! I had no idea how perched I was. I also could see my stirrups were too long. They hadn’t felt too long, but I could clearly see that I was raising my heels. And lastly, and most embarrassing, I could see how I pooche (is that a word?) out my midsection. Goodness! Where is my posture? Where is holding in the all-important core of my body? I had totally let it go to pot! How humiliating! And yet, how enlightening!

I also had photos of the reining trainer riding various horses and I compared my seat to his! His seat was immensely better than mine! His stirrups were better. His posture was better. So the photos, much to my chagrine, clearly pointed out some of my faults! With that in mind, I went to the barn Saturday determined to improve. “ I will sit back more,” “I will sit back more,” “ I will sit back more” has been my mantra. “Hold tummy in” has been my other mantra, and I am trying to do it at work, and in the car, and at home. As for the stirrups, they are the easiest to fix - I shortened them. While riding, I tried to work on my posture and my seat. It will certainly take me a while to retrain these areas, but they may very well help me ride better overall. Overall, while some of the pictures embarrassed me, they did show me a few things that are really good to see, unfortunately.

So both Buckshot and I began new training this weekend! I am going to be optimistic – That both of us can learn new tricks! (And speaking of tricks – how does he get out of his fly mask? I found his long nosed fly mask on the ground Saturday, with the Velcro straps still attached!! Does he open the straps, take it off and somehow attach them back together??? He’s like Houdini! With his fly masks! I think he must make a game of it! What a character!)


Anonymous said...

Sounds like a great weekend with you and Buckshot both getting some good experience!

Carol said...

I used the round pen quite a bit when starting Rogo - it helped reinforce the idea of him listening to me and taking his ques from me. Sounds like you're making great progress there.
My husband Doug frequently tells me I'm perching :) Don't you hate that? I do it less now, but it creeps in if I get tense, like at a show (just when I want to look good!).
I'm impressed with your progress.

Grey Horse Matters said...

You two look like you're enjoying your ride time together. I absolutely hate it when someone snaps a picture of me riding though. Ground work is always a good thing, I'm sure you'll both get something from these experiences. Enjoy your new training exercises.

As for fly masks... I've actually seen Grady undo Sami's velcro and pull it off for him and this goes for his grazing muzzle too. I guess it's always nice to have a friend to help you out.

Jan said...

Thank you for listening and your kind words!

I know what you mean about perching- I had no idea! I thought I was "sitting up straight!" Oh, my.

How funny about one horse "helping" another remove the fly mask!! I had no idea they could work together like that! They are clever, aren't they!