Last night I had the 1st 4-H horse practice of the year and while only one family brought their horses to town, we went ahead and worked on some specific exercises. Having only a couple of kids to work with was actually an advantage. But talk about having to work with polar opposites.
The neighbor's kid was riding his dad's horse. A horse I dearly love. He is a tremendously athletic bay gelding named, Fly...and I think he could fly. What I wouldn't give to be able to start this horse on barrels and poles.
(Sorry, I took the camera, but got busy with the kids and forgot to get it out of the pickup.)
Dad has been using Fly to rope and tag calves in the pasture, so he was a tad on the hot side and boy oh boy was that bothering this kid. The harder he worked to get Fly to stand still, the hotter Fly got with him. So I spent quite a bit of time just working with the boy just getting him to relax, lengthen his reins and let Fly walk out. But like most people who get nervous, all he could focus on was getting this horse to stand still. Soooo, we spent a lot of time walking up the fenceline, practicing getting him to stop square, stand for a second, roll-back off the fence and walking down the fence in the other direction. In the kid's mind, we were simply working on standing quietly, but actually we worked on getting him to sit deeper in his saddle, getting him to loosen his reins, teaching him how to sit deep and ask for a quiet, square stop and also how to cue his horse for a correct turnaround. Once the boy got focused on the exercise and quit worrying about Fly standing still, the horse calmed right down. He's a good horse. He's a broke horse. A loose rein and quiet legs are relaxing to him and once he gets those, he goes right back to quiet, old ranch horse mode. Then we were ready to work on some walk-over poles and back throughs. With this kid the primary goal is to get him quieter with his hands and legs. He is over-cueing in a big way. The thing is, this kid can ride. He's been horseback since he was a baby and riding in the pasture he just rides along. When he gets in the arena, he thinks he has to "do" more. We made progress. It's going to take quite a bit of work to get him consistent though.
His dad was riding a colt and about half way through the practice, we got to see quite the bronc ride. The squirrely little brat he was riding bucked right through the walk-over poles and never touched a single pole. It was a good show!
So then it was on to working with my girl and her blue roan horse...
Big Rip is not a horse that gets excited about very much.Any excess energy he has comes out in his head and neck NOT his feet. Rather than get chargy or humpy, he goes to twisting and shaking his head. His feet lack any energy whatsoever. Megan has always been a kid who rides with very quiet legs. Too quiet a lot of the time. Because she doesn't use her legs to create energy and drive, her horses always have a tendency to get strung out behind. Last year, she had gotten pretty good about using her leg...because we WORKED on it incessantly. We are kind of back at square one on that. Interestingly, I used the same exercise for her to get Rip driving up underneath of himself and moving his shoulders as I did for the other kid, except at a trot. Trot down the fence, sit deep for a nice, square stop, lots of bump, bump, bump, to get Rip to roll back on the fence and more bumping to get him to drive off in a trot going the other direction. I just wasn't seeing a lot of bumping going on. So Rip was doing what was natural for Rip, rubbernecking through the turn, leaving his shoulder hanging out there and kind of flopping around through the turn like a dying fish. Ummm NO!
Megan was whining about not having her spurs and I could see that she was getting a little frustrated. She shuts down when she gets frustrated, as do most of us, so I asked her if I could ride her horse for a minute, so she could watch. Rip and I cruised down the fence, stopped and when I asked him to turnaround, he tried that dying fish flop with me and I stuck the boots to his outside shoulder. He turned around. We did the same thing the other way. I could feel him wake up and start paying attention. It only took two times either direction and voila...he was moving those shoulders again. He's not ignorant, just lazy.
Megan had been having trouble getting Rip into his right lead again too. I suspected from watching her is was simply a timing issue, but it took us months last year to teach him how to pick that lead up, so I went ahead and did some two-tracking with him, some shoulder in, shoulder out and hip in, hip out(bastard dressage at it's best;) exercises and he popped right into his right lead when I cued for it. Another issue that was easily resolved by using a more active leg on him.
I will say one thing for my girl...if she sees that someone else can get her horse to do something easily, she is very good about acknowledging she is the one who needs to work smarter(A lot of the time it is not about working harder, it's about working smarter) and will get back on and be prepared to do things differently to get the desired results.
At first, I was a tad disappointed that more kids had not shown up for the practice, but after working with just two of them for an hour and a half, I was really glad there weren't more there. Once I get Megan riding right again, she won't need much attention, but I know some of these other kids are going to require a ton of one on one time.