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post #3101 of 3134 Old 08-31-2019, 07:29 PM
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Thank you for the compliment Gotta! I agree with you completely. There are a lot of different methods, although I think the psychology is often the same behind them. It makes me almost... I can’t think of the word I want to use, something like dismiss I guess, what someone has to say when they are so adamant that things must be done in one specific way.

I am a good “hired man” so to speak. I am good at following most orders. I watch people around me all want to be boss, and often that puts me in the position to be given several conflicting orders. It makes my anxiety skyrocket, but that’s irrelevant. It shows me though that people often want to cling to their ideas at any cost. Open mindedness would show them that most methods lead to the same result. Lol

Am I not your own donkey, which you have always ridden, to this day? Have I been in the habit of doing this to you? - Balaam’s Donkey
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post #3102 of 3134 Old 09-01-2019, 12:57 AM Thread Starter
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Beach ride with Nala and Hero tonight.

As I rode, I was thinking about my riding, and about how dynamic riding really is. There is no posture to achieve, no way to be correct. The horse is always changing, and so must you. Without realizing it, I run through a series of checks, over and over. I guess it is all the years of riding and lessons, which make it fairly subconscious. If I think about it, my brain is constantly doing checks.

I think about looking where I intend to go. I feel my head raise.
There is a whole series of checks that happen with my lower body, from how much weight is down my leg, to the position, to where the stirrups are on my foot, to adjusting the right amount of relaxation versus tension for what we are doing at the moment.
Then there is my back, my pelvis, my hands, my elbows, my wrists, my fingers. My breathing. Check, check, check. Adjust, adjust, adjust.

What is correct one moment might be wrong the next.

There was only one thing wrong, doing my checks, which was that my heart was pounding and I felt a tad unsettled. After a moment, I realized it was due to coffee just before the ride without food to temper it. Something to ignore.

As we started out, Nala's rider noticed Hero was holding his mouth and tongue oddly. I looked over everything, palpated and moved his jaw, looked inside his mouth. He didn't object to the bit on the ride, and was able to eat, but kept doing strange things with his tongue. The only thing I could think of was that I'd noticed the new barn helper had given Hero the wrong hay net the night before. I'd just left it, thinking it was not an issue - the only difference is that it has very small holes.
We decided perhaps he had been unused to wrangling the hay out like that and maybe strained something in his jaw or tongue.

As we rode, I considered some things. Our first several times cantering and trotting Hero was very balanced and the transitions seemed effortless. On a loose rein, he was using his body well, and adjusting his rate or the length of his gait with my slightest ask. He was with me, and connected. Wow, it was lovely.

After we turned around, Hero was also very relaxed and gave me a swinging walk on a loose rein. Then for some reason, we hit a period of tension. He wanted to trot away and now he had his neck arched over and perhaps some would have thought he looked better than before. However, now he was not with me, he was pushing and tense, and although he was driving forward into the bit he was not coming back into my hands easily and we were pushing against each other.

With Halla at this point I might have let her speed up in order to let the tension out, but Hero is different. Movement itself does not necessarily soothe him. He is more mental than physical. So I made him drop back to a walk, and got some jigging, and I kept trying to relax my seat and relax the reins until finally he did calm. He is learning to do this faster.

I pushed his walk out, and soon he relaxed. At that point I shortened the reins again and this time he had the mental ability to be connected with me, and it was much different. Now we were moving balanced and together the way we had earlier on a loose rein. But now he had more energy and tolerated a stronger feel, and we moved forward together, and if I closed my fingers momentarily he would move his balance back toward me.

In this way we now were able to pick up a canter again without resistance, and then long trotted for awhile. We went away from Nala, and were such a team that Hero ignored the fact that she was hopping and frisking toward the beach exit and I took him in loops and directions away from what he wanted, and he kept his mind with me.

It was funny, later when we were almost home, he did the same thing as the day before. He tried to rush after Nala, I held him back, and then told him when he could go. The moment I let him forward, he went leaping into the air, very put out. This time I circled him back around and had him try again, and the second time he was able to trot forward calmly.
We went down a very steep hill, walking strongly. His physical issues have become so minimal - I haven't felt him losing a rear corner from stifle slippage for a few rides now.

I was thinking about how horses control their bodies, we certainly don't. Having ridden some strong-willed horses, I well understand this. It's all about getting the horse's mind with you. Nickel, who is so docile and light in every setting except the beach so far cannot get his mind with the rider yet on the beach. So he becomes no longer light or docile.
It's not exactly what type of cues you use, or style of training, but as Knave pointed out, the principles.

It's an interesting feeling when a western horse on a looping rein gives as much pull back under your body in response to a weight aid as a dressage horse does to a half halt. In either case the horse does the work, but the cues are a lot different.

You really don't have to make a horse work in a certain frame to improve balance and responsiveness to a rider. My lovely light cantering I'm achieving often with Hero now rather than the lurching, unbalanced stuff he was doing a while back has not come from me making him lower his head or curve his neck.

I'm a big believer nowadays that saddle fit and comfortable hooves are the most important factors for getting strong, loose back muscles. I'd be willing to say conformation was the biggest reason why Hero has strong, rounded back muscles while Nala and Nickel don't, except you can easily see how his shoulder muscles have filled strongly behind the withers and both of the other TBs have atrophy pockets there. Their saddles just don't fit that well. No amount of rounding over the neck or long and low work will help their backs. Great fitting saddles and exercising under those saddles would.
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post #3103 of 3134 Old 09-01-2019, 04:17 AM
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Originally Posted by bsms View Post
Kind of hard to like your post, gottatrot. I think I'd favor strapping weights to every person there and then using an electric cattle prod to make them 'canter' across the desert. Or just dump them in the ocean for the crabs to eat... I do not understand how "Big Lick" riding is legal. Seems like obvious abuse to me. But a lot of horse riding lessons also strike me wrong. Shouldn't we train new riders to think of the horse as their FRIEND first and foremost? And who would kick their friend every step along the way?
There, now I don't have to say it.

And to everyone here: I'm a bit scarce at the moment, and can't chime in much, but it's like a patch of sunshine to come here and see how you all care about animals more than you care about your own egos, and how you will question yourselves periodically just to make sure you're not failing to see the forest for the trees.
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post #3104 of 3134 Old 09-01-2019, 11:15 AM
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Originally Posted by gottatrot View Post
...As I rode, I was thinking about my riding, and about how dynamic riding really is. There is no posture to achieve, no way to be correct. The horse is always changing, and so must you. Without realizing it, I run through a series of checks, over and over...

...I pushed his walk out, and soon he relaxed. At that point I shortened the reins again and this time he had the mental ability to be connected with me, and it was much different. Now we were moving balanced and together the way we had earlier on a loose rein. But now he had more energy and tolerated a stronger feel, and we moved forward together, and if I closed my fingers momentarily he would move his balance back toward me...It's all about getting the horse's mind with you...

...I'm a big believer nowadays that saddle fit and comfortable hooves are the most important factors for getting strong, loose back muscles...
They really need a "love" button!

This is what I think is the important part of good riding - riding the horse's mid, while being aware of his body. Not because you control the body, but because it gives clues to the mental state, and you cannot ride the mind if unaware of how THAT horse's mind thinks.

I mentioned how a couple of days ago I cantered Bandit alone in a short section of sandy wash and how he really surprised me with how much power he put into the canter compared to our round pen-arena. Thinking about it...most of our cantering is done with the other horses somewhere behind us. Bandit's job on a group trail ride is no longer to outrun them, but to keep his herd together. With them, he adjusts his speed and even stops on his own to keep them close to him. Solo, we've been going on a dirt road with side-to-side unevenness because of gullies. And rocks set in concrete hard ground. So...maybe that is difficult enough and painful enough that, while willing to obey, he isn't going to get excited.

But solo on a stretch of decent sand? Exciting! Finally! A chance to show what he can REALLY do! Wow! Good fun! But of course, when we were about to hit the branch crossing the wash...didn't want to slow too soon, but did so just in time and with a hard twist to keep us both safe.

Unlike Mia, he was having fun AND keeping totally sane. And he knows I'm not going to get angry because he cantered a few extra strides. Not if he was having fun.

But when we went down the exact same section of wash the next day, with my wife on Trooper behind us, he showed no interest at all in going fast. He had a herd to take care of and he may understand that "Trooper + wife" means no high speed work. Not prudent for the herd. So he didn't offer and I didn't ask.

Another thread had me thinking last night about "subtle communication" and horses. To me, the constant back and forth between Bandit and I as we negotiate our way thru the n-dimensional hypervolume of our lives is subtle communication. The back and forth exchange. Subtle enough that I don't know how it happens, yet we are doing it.

I think others define it as "Can I tell my horse to switch from a left lead to a right lead right NOW - THIS stride, not the one before or one after? Can I do so without obvious visual cues?" In western pleasure, I'm told a "spur stop" is good because you can cue your horse to stop now without moving the reins, impressing the judges. I don't think Bandit would call it subtle!

I once watched an AQHA video of a judge discussing how she judged a WP ride. The judge was talking about how "forward" the horse was, and how incredibly subtle the rider's cues were. I found myself shouting, "She's poking him with her spurs every stride!" And of course, the WP judge and I have very different ideas about what constitutes a forward horse!

I think it boils down to "Body Control". Who does it? The horse or the rider? There is nothing wrong with teaching the horse a game where you ask with detailed cues and the horse picks the right answer at that moment - body control. And to do so, you really DO need to know exactly how each leg is moving at that instant. But there is also nothing wrong with what Mia taught me - that SHE controlled her body just fine so I didn't need to.

Or Bandit, who extends that to "I'm responsible for ALL the horses when we ride". Unless we are solo. When we ride solo, I need to adjust my expectations. And understand I give general guidance which he translates into specific actions. But that he may do what I want by ignoring what I ask...granting me my goal but not the specific act.

PS: Bandit needs a lot more speed work, but I realize now we may need to do that when riding solo. Even if it is only a hundred yards. Solo may be the only time he will think a sprint is prudent.

Riders ask "How?" Horsemen ask "Why?"

Last edited by bsms; 09-01-2019 at 11:21 AM.
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post #3105 of 3134 Old 09-01-2019, 12:48 PM
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I think so much subtle conversation goes on that it would be impossible to teach or explain. I feel like when I am riding I am communicating as much as I am thinking. Everything communicates... and often it is subconscious. How much weight is on each hip bone and stirrup is communicating with the horse. Of course, then there are moments of intentional conversation, but all the hidden communication has prepared for the spoken.

Of course, there are moments of quietness too. Cash hit that easy lope around the pivot on our last ride. Everything was perfect, he was soft and smooth and it was simple. I am sure my relaxed happiness was also a communication to him, just as his ease was to me.
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Am I not your own donkey, which you have always ridden, to this day? Have I been in the habit of doing this to you? - Balaam’s Donkey
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post #3106 of 3134 Old 09-05-2019, 06:10 AM Thread Starter
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Regarding the above two posts, I also can understand why people think horses can read our thoughts. Sometimes communication can be so subtle that you don't really know how you cued the horse, but somehow the horse knew. That's why I think we shouldn't be too quick to punish a horse for anticipating a cue. We might have been actually cuing.

Last night I took Hero and Amore out for a walk. I let Amore loose on the hillside since I knew she'd stay because of all the available grass. Then I lunged Hero a bit on top of the hill, which was a good, more advanced work since the area undulates gently so it is more challenging physically than on the flat. It is good footing though.

Amore stuck around, Hero got his workout, and did well. By the time I was done it was getting quite dark, and the way back to the barn is along a narrow trail between bushes and creek. So it was a "feel" thing, and I did as I often do on narrow trails, have one horse in front and the other behind, with me walking next to one of them.

When we got almost to the barn, the path widened, and Hero went shooting past me from behind. I slowed him down, and then Amore went shooting forward. Next, both of them went. So I thought it was just them anticipating getting back to the barn or something, but each time I got them settled and started walking again, one would dart somewhere.

Finally I realized the lunge line I thought I was holding in my hand all coiled up nicely was actually just the very end. I had dropped the rest which had been slowly uncoiling behind us, swishing through the grass and sand. Once I took care of the very long snake that was stalking us, the horses stopped rushing forward randomly.
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post #3107 of 3134 Old 09-06-2019, 02:51 PM
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I hate when I do that! Not lunge lines, but I have done it more than once with long lead ropes.

Am I not your own donkey, which you have always ridden, to this day? Have I been in the habit of doing this to you? - Balaam’s Donkey
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post #3108 of 3134 Old 09-08-2019, 04:32 AM
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Originally Posted by gottatrot View Post
I was thinking about how horses control their bodies, we certainly don't. Having ridden some strong-willed horses, I well understand this. It's all about getting the horse's mind with you.
Yes, I think that's a big misconception out there in mainstream riding, and you're spot on, and I think this little group of riders all get this.


Quote:
You really don't have to make a horse work in a certain frame to improve balance and responsiveness to a rider. My lovely light cantering I'm achieving often with Hero now rather than the lurching, unbalanced stuff he was doing a while back has not come from me making him lower his head or curve his neck.
Again, I think that's spot on. The main thing is getting balanced so you're not interfering with the horse's movement, and building up the horse's strength and agility under saddle - which can be done in a number of different ways. My favourite way to do that on a horse in on trails - as you get better, include trails with uphill, downhill, twisty-turny, soft footing, rocky footing (booted if sharp) - and you always have things to see and fresh air and a feeling of freedom - both horse and rider.

When I did ring work - which I haven't for more than two years now, I'm enjoying the trails so much, and I'm not going to horse shows now - then it was sort of like dancing lessons between hiking expeditions. Sunsmart prefers the hiking, and I have to tie my dog up to do ring work because otherwise she will get outraged that we're just going around in small spaces, and try to encourage us to stop with the nonsense and go on a nice walkies with her. My horse is 23 this year and we're in his last 5 riding years, so I want him to have what he likes best.

I like your observation that it's backwards to force a posture on a horse; its posture will pick up naturally when the rider isn't interfering and the horse gets stronger and more supple under a rider with practice. Sort of like, Pilates is about building up the muscle groups in the back and core of humans, which will help with posture, rather than people adopting a forced posture. There's a difference between a well-conditioned, supple human paying attention to their body and how they're standing, and a human forcing on themselves a stiff upright posture that looks more "correct" to onlookers, but it's not really more correct at all because it's using muscles in an artificial and stiff manner that's actually counterproductive to good posture achieved from a combination of increased core and back muscle strength, and suppleness, and an awareness of your body and its posture.


Quote:
I'm a big believer nowadays that saddle fit and comfortable hooves are the most important factors for getting strong, loose back muscles. I'd be willing to say conformation was the biggest reason why Hero has strong, rounded back muscles while Nala and Nickel don't, except you can easily see how his shoulder muscles have filled strongly behind the withers and both of the other TBs have atrophy pockets there. Their saddles just don't fit that well. No amount of rounding over the neck or long and low work will help their backs. Great fitting saddles and exercising under those saddles would.
And to teach the object lesson, we need to get riders to do two extended hikes (not on horses, on foot!) on the same hiking trail, one after the other. For the first we will give them terrible shoes and unbalanced, heavy backpacks, constructed the old way to hang off the shoulders. We will have instructors with them on that trail to criticise their posture and walking. For the second go, we will equip them with nice supportive footwear that suits their type of feet / biomechanics, and they can have backpacks with cushioned hip straps and an air gap at the back, which allow them to carry the weight in the pack mostly on their hips and very little of it on their shoulder straps. Then we'll ask them what they preferred.

The problem with a lot of people is that they lack the imagination, empathy and thoughtfulness to put themselves in the position of the horse, to see what their main challenges are, what it's like from the horse's point of view. They'll be full of "shoulds" and "musts" and really have no idea, because they're not understanding the horse's side of it, they're just always wanting the horse to understand their side... sort of like the kind of spouse you're not going to have a happy marriage with, because they're thinking about themselves and what they want from you, instead of putting themselves in your shoes, and trying to understand your own lived experience as a human being, which is different from their own. You can't have partnership without empathy and understanding and fairness and really caring, not with humans and not with horses.

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Last edited by SueC; 09-08-2019 at 04:45 AM.
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post #3109 of 3134 Old 09-08-2019, 07:10 AM Thread Starter
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The problem with a lot of people is that they lack the imagination, empathy and thoughtfulness to put themselves in the position of the horse, to see what their main challenges are, what it's like from the horse's point of view. They'll be full of "shoulds" and "musts" and really have no idea, because they're not understanding the horse's side of it, they're just always wanting the horse to understand their side... sort of like the kind of spouse you're not going to have a happy marriage with, because they're thinking about themselves and what they want from you, instead of putting themselves in your shoes, and trying to understand your own lived experience as a human being, which is different from their own. You can't have partnership without empathy and understanding and fairness and really caring, not with humans and not with horses.
Yes, excellent!

I can't believe how many people treat their horses like a machine, and take the horse that has had a month off any work for a hard ride. I think athletes can understand better how gradual and time consuming the process of getting and staying fit is, and think about how the horse might feel the day after a workout too.

Speaking of empathy, I've been putting Renegade boots on Hero for most workouts now and have been seeing a difference. I'll call it a learning curve with my first TB. His hooves look pretty good for a TB, he does have some concavity and the hooves are hard and fairly sturdy. But they are certainly not like my Arabs' hooves were.

I've thought that most of our rides are on grass and sand, the fields are mostly soft, etc. Why wouldn't I ride barefoot?
However, there are pitfalls with stretches of hard, knobby plant roots that hide in the grass, fifty feet of gravel road here and there. I think it's similar to when I would ride my Arabs on the logging roads. They weren't visibly ouchy going on gravel, but when I put boots on I could tell they were less reluctant to move and also more willing. So the varied terrain we've been going over is the equivalent with these hooves to going over the gravel roads with Arab hooves. Probably the rocks and things Hero would step on now and again would cause little tender spots and all those add up.

I was hesitant to put boots on since most of our rides are on the sand. But the Renegades have been functioning perfectly well in the sand, and Hero is going much better over all terrain.

I believe taking away whatever level of discomfort there was with his hooves has added to his other feelings of well being. I took him around the barrels in the outdoor arena that made him rear a while back, and he just walked around them very calmly with his head down.
Going down the beach yesterday on a 7 mile ride with Nala, he was so calm all the way down the beach I thought a beginner could have ridden him. When we turned around, he was more of an intermediate ride, but I am learning so much about helping him.

If I want him to do cantering stretches, I do them on the way out. Then he can pick them up over and over and go very balanced. On the way home, feeling more tired, he does better if I don't ask for the canter more than once or twice, and instead have him do his big power trot. This works better with his mind since he has more difficulty cantering if he gets excited. That too is getting better, but still is not 100%.

Poor Nala is getting more manageable for her rider, but does not do much speed work anymore. With Halla as a strong leader, she was confident and would gallop off, knowing Halla was coming behind and wanting to reach her. Hero does not want to go fast, and really has no drive to race at all. I did not realize his hooves were at all uncomfortable, but now with boots and his stifles feeling good, he has long periods of being very calm and slow. Yet when he goes he is smoother and more powerful.

Now Nala has to lead, and she doesn't like to. She gets more nervous in front and stares around at everything. She does not want to canter off, because Hero won't follow. So she is doing a lot of slow cantering now while Hero either canters or power trots.

Next week Nala and Nickel are moving to a new barn, which is a bit sad. Hero will be doing a lot of alone work this winter. However, I am planning to meet up for some rides too.

Yes, I am sympathetic to hard working horses though. I am training for a 6 mile run next month, and after that workout, did our 7 mile ride, and then met up with family for kayaking, which made my upper body sore too.

My dad is 84 and has always had so many hobbies. He paints, plays piano, reads, learns languages, rides his bike, has an extensive garden, goes mushroom hunting, cooks, you name it. For a few months he has been working on an old duck boat that was sitting in his basement for 35 years. My mom was worried it wouldn't float, but we put it in our truck along with our kayaks and took turns trying out the duck boat too.

Then we got him both into and out of a kayak to try, which he'd never done. My mom is less adventurous and watched from the shore. Some 5 year old kid was having a lucky fishing day and pulling up all kinds of nice bass from the lake. His mom wasn't catching anything. It was pretty fun for all of us.
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post #3110 of 3134 Old 09-08-2019, 08:05 AM
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Your father really sounds wonderful - it's great when someone in the family you grew up in has lively interests! Brett had that with his mother - she's into all sorts of science, especially astronomy, and art, and craft, and reading all sorts of different nonfiction and fiction books, and watching good dramas, and going walking, etc etc etc. He had a lot of interesting activities growing up as a child, in his actual home! My mother was not interactive; she kept the house clean and cooked and made sure I made my bed, but it was more like having a housekeeper for a mother, than having an actual mother. She actually had no regular hobbies other than shopping and watching television. I could get her to go ice-skating or swimming with me sometimes as a child, but I did most of my interactive stuff with my grandmother when she was visiting (cooking, knitting, crafts, drawing, puzzles, crosswords, reading, real conversations - my grandmother cared about me, and enough to want to know who I was) - and at school, and with my friends.

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