Every since I have started talking about Frosty on this blog, the biggest ongoing 'training' thing with him has been increasing his ability to extend through the shoulder...as well as the ribcage.
I had an interesting conversation with my farrier the other day...I always have the best conversations with that guy...I get these ideas that sort of float around in my head, but don't really come together in a cohesive thought and then I talk to him and Boom!! It all comes together.
Once again, I have been having problems with Frosty stumbling. Stumbling to the point where he has fallen completely down in the front end with me. And he is hitting himself with his hinds again. Clack, clack, clack...Almost every stride. It's ridiculous. So I asked the farrier to refresh my memory of those exercises he gave me the last time Frosty was stumbling and hitting himself. I remembered the bumping of alternate sides to try to get his shoulders speeded up, but they weren't helping much this time. My farrier rattled off a couple of things, but then he stopped what he was doing and looked me straight in the face and told me, 'You knowwwww...The best thing might be just to over and under the big, lazy jerk and wake his butt up'. Out of the corner of my eye I could see the farrier's new assistant straighten up and look at him wide-eyed. I think he was dumbfounded to hear his new boss tell one of his clients to whip on her horse. I busted out laughing. Partly due to the assistant's expression, partly because I know my farrier is right. Frosty IS a big, lazy jerk!! He isn't stumbling because of a physical reason, we've already been down that path and eliminated possible reasons. He's stumbling because he is soooo lazy that he forgets to actually pick his feet up and move them.
We moved on to talking about a little meatier subject...We were discussing how freakin' cool Little John is and how awesome he is going to be as a barrel horse. The discussion turned to how big a stride LJ had for such a little horse. He's not over-extending, but every since he learned how to stretch out in the pasture, his stride has really lengthened and he can flat cover the ground. I pointed at Frosty and said, 'If that horse had 1/2 the stride as this little horse, he'd be running 18's on the pattern now instead of just loping along in the 19's' (Using a standard sized pattern for reference).
My farrier took that opportunity to tell me that, while he wasn't trying to tell me my business, but he thought I was wasting my time with Frosty.
This is NOT the first time I have had people tell me that. To be perfectly honest, I have always wondered if Frosty will top out where I think he should. It's one of those things...I know Frosty is not a f.a.s.t. horse. He will probably always get outrun on a big, fast-ground pattern. But, I can still feel, in my gut, that this horse has a ton more to give me. Whether I can get him to give it up or not...Well, that is the big question.
While that comment was mulling around in my head, my farrier stepped over to Frosty and placed his hand on the top of his shoulder and said, '...And this is why!'. Okay, finally someone who is going to give me a valid reason why they don't think Frosty will be successful. My farrier continued, 'Because this horse is straight in the shoulder and as heavy as a buffalo. He cannot extend that shoulder to increase his stride length and that is where your speed comes from'.
Suddenly everything in my head clicked. I didn't bother to tell the farrier that *I* don't think Frosty has a straight shoulder, nor do I think he is overly heavy built in the shoulder. The horse is big all the way around. Frosty certainly isn't any straighter or heavier made in the shoulder than Little John is (relative to overall size). It would serve no purpose to argue with my farrier because he had just made me remember the ONE thing I worked on continuously with Frosty last winter...
Getting him to extend through the shoulder and stretch through his ribcage. THAT IS where stride length comes from and whatever speed a horse has, follows that movement.
Now we have work to do!!
To Be Continued...