Happy breakthrough this evening! Had to share!
This is my first time posting on this part of the forum for the most part, but I have been retraining my gelding Drifter to be an "english" horse. I am 23 and have rode english my entire life, with a main focus on H/J and Eventing.
Drifter was a horse I found for sale at an auction who was being sold by a woman I had once worked with. I had worked with him before and absolutely loved him. He was bred/trained for barrel racing and running poles, but had been sold from home to home.
One of the main problems I have been dealing with is that the owner who had him before me wanted to use him as a H/J horse for her daughter. Well, to "teach" him how to hold himself "correctly" they cranked his head down in side reins. Sadly, this led to Drifter being broken at the 3rd vertebra. His immediate response usually as soon as he feels me pick up contact is to suck his head to his chest- like he is rolkuring (spelling? sorry) himself. While doing this, he also tries to suck himself back behind the bit and resist forward movement.
For the last few months I have been working on helping him to relax and stretch his neck out and keeping him in front of my leg. Tonight I rode him for a short lesson and he did FANTASTIC!! He kept his head in the proper place the entire time and stayed in front of my leg the entire ride. I was so proud of him.
He was meant to be my eventing horse, but absolutely hates his job, so he is not going to do that. I have a new guy for that. However, I am going to continue working with him on dressage and really stretching and lifting his back and loosening himself up. I was just so proud of him today. It probably seems like nbd to most people but getting him to not be broken at the 3rd vertebra is really such a challenge and rides like the one we had tonight just make me warm and fuzzy inside :lol:
Kudos not for only retaining the horse to move more comfortably, but also to acknowledging he hates his current job and allowing him to do what he's happy doing.
I agree with MBP - it takes a great owner to be able to admit that the horse doesn't love where you want to go but keeping him on training to make him a happier boy!
Thanks for the kudos on realizing he didnt like his job- but I dont know if they are much deserved. I think I had known for a while, or at least had a suspicion, but it took me a while to accept it which makes me feel a little cruddy now. I just couldnt sell him, but I couldnt give up on wanting to show again and stuff as well. Thankfully my new boy was found and was a real blessing. He has allowed me to have the best of both words. To continue to show, and to keep my main man Drifter :)
TinyLiny- One of the things I did that I think helped a lot was that even though I am away at school I have kept in contact with my old trainer. I was on the phone with her one night a few months ago and I kept explaining how I felt like Drifter had the potential to this great english horse that I knew he could be..but that I was just so frustrated he wasnt. She sat quietly for a few seconds and then told me something that really affected me! She said, "if riding the horse you WANT him to be is frustrating you so much, why not just ride the horse he is?". I set to work trying to really understand Drifter and his training. I discovered he was very sensitive to leg aids and that he preferred to be ridden with no contact what so ever. I have since slowly increased contact, which has helped him a great deal to be accepting of it. I am sure our idea of "contact" still has a lot to be desired, but he has made leaps and bounds of progress.
As far as helping out his breaking at the 3rd issue, we have entire 40 minute rides dedicated to him stretching his neck out. I do a lot of big circles and lateral movements trying to help him to relax. The more he relaxes, the more his head begins to be where it needs to be. Also applying leg as soon as I feel him try to suck back, seems to be stopping the problem before it can occur so I have been trying to get better at detect the exact moments I need to apply leg.
So really, we have a ways to go yet and are definitely a work in progress. But I really feel we're headed on the right road! thankfully we have a great instructor willing to work with both of us :)
Interesting. I have had some time out of the saddle this summer, due to health issue. about a month, really . So, the last few rides on Z have been very , very careful and slow, and I have felt that I had MORE sensitivity to the rein and had him lighter than ever and responsive. I think that the time away somehow got both me and him to step away from some "battles" that we had been having where I was trying to force him into contact, and he was resisting. Feeling more fragile as a rider, I've just been easier all around and doing more "asking", and darn it all, if that isn't working better!
sometimes , absense makes things better. maybe just a new perspective.
I have talked about this some on the trail riding thread I am a part of- but I recently (about a week and a half ago) started something I was referring to as "30 days of Drifter". I told myself that for 30 days I was going to try and change my attitude about working with him, just focus on the positives of every ride and not hold him up to specific expectations for each ride. I have already felt a difference and my instructor commented on it during our last lesson. We still have our moments where we frustrate one another, but we relax soon after and get back in sync.
What you described in your post about reconnecting with Z reminds me a lot of what I have been trying to do with him. I got so wrapped up in what I wanted to do, that I forgot I had another living being working with me. I'm hoping by the end of the 30 days, our horse/rider relationship will be stronger and repaired and so overall- my attitude will have changed. That was the crux of the problem I know
what a great story - congrats on recognizing and accepting who your horse is, and while also getting him to learn to accept a contact and move properly and overcome his past training issues! it's so nice to see and read, and i know the connection that working with a horse like that will build, will be well worth it, as i have that with several of my guys and it makes working with them really really great :)
(though i do still have my days of frustrating, so i'm trying to ride more without time limits or constraints, so that i can work on what my horses tell me they need to work on and focus on myself as well so that i can ride them better the way they need)
I am doing the same thing CJ! I love Drifter with all of my heart but I am more go go go while he is more slow slow slow. I am always ready to jump to the next thing while he would prefer to spend a little more time figuring that particular step out. I make sure to not pay attention to the clock when I ride him. I can't go into any session with a set in stone plan either.
It's definitely a learning process. Getting a horse I could use as my "show" horse while still keeping Drifter was the best thing that could have happened for us. It allows me to pursue what I want to pursue while letting Drifter be Drifter. I do not try to push him beyond his comfort zone now.
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