Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Triple-Header Days

It has finally happened. I now have not one, not two, but three horses to ride. Acey has replaced Consolation as the green bean of the group, and Aaruba has graduated to downright safe and pleasurable.

You might recall that, back in late June, I took my first ride on Acey. Though calm, she was less than confident about moving forward under saddle, and I determined to do more ground work -- particularly driving -- with her before mounting again. As it turned out, Aaruba's conditioning, Consolation's training, and life in general got in the way. Twelve weeks passed before I spent any more significant time with Acey. Finally, with Owyhee Canyonlands completed and the ride season over (waaah!), the time was ripe to try again.

After a quick review of such prerequisites as giving to halter pressure and accepting ropes dangling around her hind legs, Acey and I spent several days "plowing" the round corral, until she moved forward freely and turned and backed with ease. Then, I mounted up and asked her to move off. Voila! Confident forward motion.

I usually disagree with old-time fiddler and horse trainer Frankie McWhorter's training techniques, but he had a point when he said that ten days of ground driving equate to thirty days under saddle. To read about how I introduce ground driving, click here. You might also be interested in Susan Catt's description of a different ground driving method; see her September 7, 2008 post at The Pony Expression.

Consolation is moving right along...sort of. We've conquered her obsession with returning home and are now focused on adding up miles and experiences. This is a bit frustrating at times because Consolation likes to pick her way cautiously along. Given her way, we'd poke down the road at 2 mph, investigating every stone and twig for concealed artillery. She's not spooky, exactly, just careful. I try to view this as a nice change from Aaruba's emotion- charged speed games, but truth be told, it's a bit frustrating. There's nothing worse than having to push a horse down the trail.

What's the solution? I'm not sure yet. I think, however, that I'm dealing with a combined lack of confidence and a poorly installed "hustle" button. Miles under a firm but empathetic rider should cure the former; I've begun remedial training to cure the latter. This is an easy problem to fix, requiring only clear signals and consistency. Consolation has plenty of "go" both physically and mentally; I just need to train her to engage it.

The "hustle" command works like this: think, look, seat (if mounted), voice (click), leg (if mounted), more leg, tap hindquarters with dressage whip. Consolation is no dummy. Yesterday, it took all of one tap with the dressage whip (startled the cobwebs right out of her brain, that did!) to get her listening for a "hustle" click.

By the way, I'm calling this the "hustle" command because I'm asking for more speed within a gait, not an upward transition. Interestingly, Consolation has gait changes down pat, including the pre-cue I've found useful for gauging Aaruba's energy level on endurance rides. Before chirping, "trot!", I almost always ask my horse, "ready?" If the horse wants to trot, I'll get a trot in answer to my pre-cue question. If not, I get it on the "trot!" command, but I know my horse isn't enthused about the idea and respond appropriately.

Speaking of Aaruba: He enjoyed a two-week vacation to celebrate the end of ride season, but I think he liked our first trip back on the conditioning trail even more. Here he is, cooling out in the round corral after Monday's 9-mile jog.

Note that I took him out in Consolation's Indian bosal from Crazy Ropes. Though it's a bit small for him, he went beautifully in it. Once my sponsorship saddle arrives from Stonewall Saddle Company, I'm going to order him his own Indian bosal, fancy-stitched in red to match the blinged-out saddle.

Bling? Me? I'm branching out, folks. Live a little!


Jonna said...

Tamara- very interesting about the go forward button not being properly intalled with Consolation. I think I mentioned it to you once before but I had the same trouble with JB. Hmmm, mmaybe it a barb thing?? I grew up riding TB's and warmbloods and never had to think about how to get a horse to move willingsly and freely forward.This was a change for me as well. What I found worked is very much the same in what you describe. Think forward and ask by lightening my seat and a soft squeeze of the calf if no response, a little harder squueze, maybe a Kiss (noise), then if still nothing, a bump, bump, bump with the leg,until there is a try. Then get quiet if said horse moves off. The more important part I would like to share about my experience with JB is from the words of my favorite clinician, Harry Whitney. That is "find a trot in yourself"...ok, I admit, easier said then done. Really it's just about your thoughts and the horses thoughts getting in line with each other. It's amazing what happens next!!Good luck and enjoy the quiet strength of these barbs.

Tamara of In the Night Farm said...

Hi Jonna. :-) I hope Susan and Jackie will chime in here, as both have bloodlines related to our Barbs'. Jackie has shared some interesting thoughts about how these Spanish Colonial types tend to be slower than Arabs on shorter rides (25-50 miles) but their toughness really shines on longer rides and multi-days. It's too early to be sure, but I strongly suspect this will be the case with Consolation.

Huh. "Find a trot in yourself." I like that, but I'm going to have to ponder what it means. :-)

Quiet strength, indeed. If I could describe Consolation's motion in a word, it's "effortless." She flows over the ground like water. I've never felt anything quite like it.

Jackie said...

Consolation is a thinker! That we do know.

Horses behave diffently when alone and when in groups. Consolation must trust you for her to leave the herd, because every instinct in her body is screaming DON't LEAVE THE HERD! I assume the herd instinct must be very strong in your Barb's and my SM given their upbringing running being in a herd.

I let Tia stop to smell the roses, so to speak, quite a bit on our solo rides. Her training is still more mental than physical conditioning right now, and I try to head towards a grazing destination so that she has a reward for her efforts.

Like you, I have had my doubts about her suitability as an endurance mount, because she doesn't exhibit that go-go-go mentality and big ground covering trot, and is sometimes, :-) , unwilling to work and opinionated. But those doubts were erased on her first 25 mile LD ride.

Her calm demeanor was striking amid all the dancing prancing agitated horse flesh. She was easy to control and we rode the ride on a loose rein. She ate and drank well all weekend. She 'rocked' on the ride and we finished 8th out of 60 with all A's on our vet card except for a B+ on hydration at the final check.
So, I expect to see good things from Consolation as she seems to have a similar disposition to Tia. Let her smell the roses now, speed will come later.

ellescee said...

I'm jealous! It sounds as though you're doing very well with all three horses.

I may be hitting the trails sooner than I think, so I'll probably see you out there!


Jonna said...

Well, it is reassuring that Jackie echoes this "trait" we all seem to be seeing in the Barbs; that they are not always the "go type" mentality and can be downright obstinant at times about getting out and moving. I think this will be more suitable in longer rides. I will say, that while the arabian riders are barely staying mounted in the beginning of a race, JB is usually on a loose rein wondering what all the commotion is about! He got a little excited at the last ride but nothing like what I have witnessed with other horses. I love that. Alot of what I have experienced this year with JB is also related to growth. From March of 2008 to July of 2008, JB grew from barely 14.0 hands to 14.2 hands. He is 6 and still growing it seems. have to remind myself that these horses mature slowly. Robert did warn us I guess!

Ride on ladies and gents!!

Susan Catt said...

Tamara, thanks for the plug. At some point I plan to outline the entire 5 step process I use for driving. Your style appears similar in terms of goals and what the horse learns from the lesson.