Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Train the Trainer

06/13, Robin came over, and we caught Chewie, tacked him up Hunter, and headed to the round pen. Worked him through a halter-round pen warmup, and a little warm-up on the bit & side reins. He was his normal self, a little spunky, then relaxed & cooperative.

Robin climbed aboard. She got great trot both directions, and had one decent canter-left. Her second canter-left, Robin lifted her hands about 6" up in the transition, grabbing his mouth. Chewie dropped his head a bit in the transition. She panicked, and pulled back on the reins. Chewie, trying to get the bit relaxed, pulled forward again. One thing led to another, and he did a little bucking. Each time he pulled the bit forward, Robin pulled back & up. I had been sitting on a bucket in the middle of the pen, and I stood up, and said to her, "Just Breathe." Her response was a stressed, "I'm trying." I replied, "Chewie, shhhh", and he came up to me, relaxing, and halted. As soon as the reins went loose, and she quit putting leg on him, he relaxed.

Robin settled after a while, as did Chewie, and they completed their ride with plenty of walk, working trot, and Western jog. She never went "to the buckle", and Chewie never gave her his A-game after that. Both were untrusting of the other. I could see it in her, waiting on each stride for Chewie to buck, Chewie's eyes at each step saying to me, "I hope she doesn't pull on my mouth again, that hurt."

I got on him, did a little bit of work at a working trot, light bit contact, and, after a bit of fuss, Chewie relaxed & gave to rein contact. I rewarded him with plenty of long & low trot and jog. At the end, I asked for a WP jog, on the buckle. He responded with a tiny relaxed jog, reaching for bit contact. He absolutely appreciated the break, and I know he was satisfied to have all the rein he wanted.

We talked about it for the longest time, and there was closure & conclusion that Chewie needs a brief relax on the bit at the canter transition. If he's got tight rein contact the whole ride, he's just going to be bitter. More confirmation for me he's not ready for dressage competition (beyond Training Level), and if he does reach "ready", he won't enjoy it much. The last time I rode Chewie for more than a day on hard contact, he started getting bitter, grouchy, hard to catch, and impossible to work with. As soon as I learned light contact, we became a team.

Learning more about my well-trained horse... and learning things to apply to Romeo so he doesn't get more sour, or grouchy about contact.

1 comment:

fssunnysd said...

Thoughtful post -- I enjoyed reading it.

I'm working on hollowness with my gelding, whose response to contact is pop his nose in the air, and to become hard to bridle. Not sure if it's my hands (probably) or a teeth/bitting issue (will be finding out!), but we're trying it bitless for a while. It's not a final solution, but he needed a break, I needed not to be fighting with him, and so far this seems to be a compromise we can both live with.

I'll look forward to reading more on your progress.