Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Mid April Re-Cap , What I'm Learning

I have some things to readjust my mind to. Hear me out here, comment as you see fit.

While I rode Ransom, I had to adjust my riding style. I couldn't ride every day, he just couldn't hold up to that work load. As time went on, I went from riding three days in a row, to two days in a row, to every other day. That even faded some to three a week, every other day, with two day weekend break. I had to learn to go easy, take it slow, and don't ask for it all on any one day. I could turn up the intensity on a show day, but then that required three days off for him to rest.

Now, with Harley, things have changed, again. Here's just a short list of what I'm having to adjust to:

Multiple days in a row aren't just good, they're a requirement. With all the new lessons I'm pouring into him, he can't remember if I don't repeat the next day, and the next day. As you might have seen from reading, I'm going to try my hardest for a minimum of four days in a row, maximum six.

Long sessions are back. No more "jump on cold, stretch the walk, ask long & low trot, then get to serious work". I don't start and finish in 40 minutes anymore, and accomplish everything I want to. I'm up to an hour just to warm up and accomplish anything.

Repetition is awesome. Ransom HATED the same thing more than twice without a change, and I was doomed if I asked him two days in a row. Working walk for more than five minutes, and I could count on something yucky happening. With Harley, I've had to retrain my brain that five or six times is a minimum. In one session, while I can break up a lesson repeat by loose rein trotting, even the loose rein trotting can't be lazy. Which leads to the next point.

Each. Thing. I. Do. Must. Have. Purpose. I can't just saddle him, I have to desensitize him. I can't just lob the reins up over his head, I have to do it three times, to keep him lowering his head for the reins. I can't just lazily walk him to the arena, I have to stop, back him up, and insist he walk with me, not behind me. We didn't wander the pasture yesterday without multiple stops and flexes. I use each hosing cool down after the ride, spraying him absolutely all over, sometimes kind of randomnly, insisting his face be sprayed every single time. Cookies even require stretching, making him reach around to the side, and down between front legs to receive one.

The longe line is my friend. For those first 5-10 minutes every workout, I throw them away. Completely pitch them to the wind. If he isn't trying to attack me, and he reliably "bucks forward", I don't really fuss too much. He is a baby, and he's still challenging the value of work.

Praise everything close to a try, the first time. With Ransom, I got to only praising perfection. Sort of collected? Sorry. Cantering speedily, but on the corect lead? Not happening. Yesterday, when Harley took a half an inch step towards the pond with me aboard? I patted, rubbed his neck, and praised him verbally. When I squeezed my legs on him again, he took that step into the water. I got him through the water, back on dry land, praising the whole time. At first, Harley didn't know what to make of me moving around the saddle, and these "pats on the neck" while he was moving. I've discovered the "release" is key, but the praise is the reinforcement.

Briefly, those are the main ideas that come to mind. I'm sure there are more, and I will do a better job of making a list to share with you. Has this ever happened to anyone else? Have I become incredibly observant, noticing even the smallest things I'm doing? I've also wondered if I should just "Shut my brain up and ride", but those few random moments when I do that, Harley tries to cheat, just a little. He'll bring his head and neck up, he'll take a lazy step and trip. He may even spook or shudder at the flailing tree limbs. If I focus, and concentrate, all remaining emotionally neutral, he learns fast and retains even more.

1 comment:

Kate said...

Its funny how different horses learn so differently. Cadence now rushes every time we head towards the wall, because I made the mistake of doing transitions there for two rides in a row. Bad idaa! Where as with Arty (My pony) I could do them wherever as often as I'd like and he wouldn't care. Cadence had our dressage test memorized the second time we did it... Arty has yet to memorize one :P Maybe htat's just inteligence, but I think personality has to do with it as well. Cadence is also a lot more eager to please under saddle, but has a short fuse. Arty is just plain awesome, and has the longest fuse ever, and is like physically incapable of snapping. If he wasn't so nervous and... well, hot, he'd make the best beginner horse ever.