Monday, May 4, 2009

Quiet Legs

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.


Unknown said...

Ya know 4-H was such a great experience for me when i was young I have some issues to pick with them over some silly rules and up here there are some backward mindsets - but in general it's such a good thing for kids.

That is very cool thing that you help the 4-H kids out...

BrownEyed Cowgirl said...

I so hear ya on the "mindsets". If I didn't have Megan around to show some of these people what the difference looks like...I would NEVER be able to get them to change or try any of the stuff I think is important to learn.
But because Megan kicks their butts all over the show ring(and I don't mean that to sound arrogent), they are trying to immulate her.
For crying out loud-they are still using the SAME trail pattern at the show as what we were using 21 years ago when I was in this 4-H club. I mean Come On! and then they pout when they take their kids to state and they are not the least bit competitive? Not hard to figure that one out.
I do have nice people to work with, for the most part. And almost all of them are experienced riders, so Whew! We just have to work on the finesse.

Danielle Michelle said...

I want to come work with you! I need another pair of eyes sometimes, especially with the younger buggers!

Keep it up - I wish I'd had someone to help me out as a kid!

Chelsi said...

Oh me too! Where do we sign up? I wish I could go to 4H now! I didnt when I was a girl but always wanted to.

Laura said...

Sounds like a good lesson - you are right, if there had been 10 kids you wouldn't have made as much progress. They are lucky to have such a good coach! I did 2 years of 4-H and we didn't have any coaching like that. We just did halter and rail classes - no fun stuff like trail/barrels!

cdncowgirl said...

I've said it before and I'll say it again... if I ever get the chance to ride with you I'm taking it! You seem like a helluva teacher :)

And speaking of legs, that new horse I went and tried out has none. Leg cues are foreign to him but dang can he run a nice pattern and he sure locks onto a steer!

ColtysHeart said...

I agree - you can make so much more progress with a smaller group. My 4H group consists of 6-10 girls that are beginners to intermediate riders. All are new to the showing. There is something to be said for them learning from watching others too.

Paint Girl said...

I was in 4-H for 8 yrs and we hardly ever got together with the group and the horses for lessons, except for showing. I wish we could have done what you are doing. I think it would have helped alot of the kids! Alot of kids don't have big, fancy trainers, I didn't, we did everything ourselves.
Rip is one big horse! And a beauty too!

BrownEyed Cowgirl said...

I love hearing that so many others have been in 4-H, or even wished they had. It's a great organization. I did 10 years myself.

One of the great things about this club, is the parents of the kids that are in it now are primarily the same bunch that I 4-Hed with. In reality any of them could get in and work with these kids, but they are gracious enough to let me work on specific things.

I've had a lot of people help me with things over the years and it feels good to be able to be able to in turn help others with problems they are having.

Andrea said...

How much fun! I wish I would have known about 4H when I was little. I had no idea it existed. My high school was full of FBLA kids.

Sounds like the smaller group was fun. I like smaller groups when trying to teach horse stuff.

And that blue horse is HUGE. It's good that Megan tries to work "smarter". I like how she puts it. I just need to ride my Ozzie horse a bit smarter!!

City girl turned Country Girl said...

That is so great that you are at least trying to get your 4H kids to do something!!! To bad more didn't show... Maybe I could get you to channel some energy to our Horse Project Leader, we still have yet to do ANYTHING with our horses this year UHH!!! In his defense though he didn't want the duty he just took it...But still!!

SunnySD said...

I'm with cdncowgirl - I'd jump at the chance to be one of those 4-Hers and ride with you to coach. It's taken me literally years to figure out what you described was happening with the first rider and the "hyper" horse. Just get off them, settle, breathe, and 9 times out of ten, the horse will settle, too. I guess on the plus side I finally did figure it out - but I still have to think about the whole relax and breathe thing way too often! LOL!

Sounds like a good practice, even if you were a few riders short.

gtyyup said...

You're a great teacher...I commend you on your efforts to lead a 4-H group...not an easy task. Well done!

4-H was the only thing we had available where I grew up, but it sure was better than nothing.

ezra_pandora said...

I think you would make an AWESOME 4H leader. And working with small groups is definitely more beneficial. Too many kids and you get too much chatter and messing around. We were going to have my older one in 4H at our last barn. It was the biggest joke. We only did fundraisers and then the barn owner/4H leader stole all the money!!!! We hightailed it out of there as soon as our horses started losing weight and we heard she got kicked out of the fair for the condition of her horses. Totally ridiculous. I know you would never be like that though, you are too smart and actually care for the horses and kids to do well.
And Big Rip looks....BIG!! He's gorgeous. I'm with your girl too, I underuse my legs. My trainer is telling me 1/2 the time to use my legs and I'm like "I am, can't you see??" Her answer is always no, so I know I need to do more. I still have to desensitize my girl to them though too because any amount of pressure and she moves.

Shirley said...

Sounds like you are a good teacher- getting that first kid working right was pretty cool.