Ups and Downs

We're continuing to work hard at Fraser Equestrian Center. Each lesson (three times a week) starts with lunging. In order to make sure that Rogo understands and learns the forward trot we're teaching him, I hold the whip while a more experienced person uses the line. I follow the movement around the lunger and am getting quite a workout. We don't really need me there anymore, or at least not as much, but it is really giving me a much needed workout three times a week.
Then I ride and we are making great progress in some areas and encountering blocks in other areas. The trot work, which needed the most improvement, is going well. He's becoming more forward and supple. We do a circle at each end and when we've warmed up with that for a bit we do three loop serpentines. The serpentines really help with getting the 'flow' of switching bend and keeping rhythm through turns. I'm pleased with our progress here. Rogo is really improving use of his hindquarters and at times booms down the long sides. I look forward to the day when this power is there most of the time and carries through the corners rhythmically.
One very good exercise that Sue has us work on is taking a step sideways, off the inside leg and halting. Then from the halt take a step sideways and walk. Then we do it trot to walk. Then we do it while trotting. It gets Rogo listening and responding to my inside leg more readily. Sue's training programs are very consistent as the horse and rider move up the levels, so you might see a PSG horse doing a similar exercise. I like that the pieces clearly build on one another.
Now for the canter - it is challenging. Canter has always been Rogo's favorite gait and one I didn't struggle too much with. He got lengthen and shorten, counter canter, circles, etc. fairly easily and unlike his trot he's always been nicely forward in the canter. However.... this is the area where he's rebelling against the new asks. He's six, he needs to learn to work in a rounder frame and not stick his nose out so far. I'm not talking tucking his nose into his chest - I'm religious about not wanting him behind the vertical. I'm talking about asking him to round and use his hind quarters. It's not like he was completely on his forehand. He couldn't have done the work he did on his forehand, but he does / did canter with his nose stuck waaay out and it's time to ask for roundness. Rogo doesn't think this is a good plan and his reaction is to resist. He'll refuse to pick up the canter, he'll canter on the wrong lead (he's never done this), he won't steer (a circle is out of the question) without REALLY heavy aids that ruin the ride, he'll balk, he'll duck out of the arena, throw in a buck,.... If you've read my posts about backing him you'll recognize this behaviour from that time (minus the buck). It seems to be a reaction to being pushed out of his comfort zone.
I was feeling quite guilty about it - thinking I wasn't giving my aids properly and confusing him, that I was throwing his balance off by insisting he use his hind end, blah, blah, blah. That is until he got so bad the other day that I got very firm with him. He was verging on dangerous and I admit it, I gave him several good whacks. I sure don't advocate this as a training method except in extreme need, but it was a revelation for me re his canter in this instance. I put him back on a circle, lightly asked for a canter, and got the best canter we've had since we got there. It was wonderful - soft, immediate transition onto the correct lead, forward but not rushed, steering perfectly on circles and across the diagonal with the lightest aids. Huh? What were the last three weeks of cantering issues about? He knew exactly what I wanted and did it easily, so why all the resistance? I don't know and never will. I doubt it's fixed, we'll probably have some more struggles before all is said and done, but at least I know he can do it.
My sweet boy, who I dote on, is quite capable of doing this (resisting training) for months. He has in the past and patience and consistency are called for and will win the day in the end. He might decide to get with the program this week, or it might be months. Time will tell, but I think I know now that this is a likely response from him when training goes to a new level.
On the plus side, the resistance in canter has demonstrated that he can counter canter deep into corners and stay balanced, do clean flying changes easily, do a quarter canter pirouette when he's about to hit the wall, do canter / halt ... :) Now I just need to get him to want to do it with me, not at me.


Properly holding and swinging a lunge whip is super tiring :) Sounds like you and Rogo are making great progress Carol - I love these posts.

I've been getting resistance from Val over the last few months about going forward as well - balkiness, head tossing, little bucks - and a couple of good whacks one time worked wonders when my leg was getting ignored consistently.

He immediately responded to lighter aids and carried himself more properly. "Oh heck - she means it this time!"

I have been thinking his behaviour was more of a response to inconsistency in my aiding and requiring accuracy rather than related to the movement itself...
Carol said…
CFS - we seem to have a lot of similar issues with our horses, and they're at similar stages as well. I suspect that it isn't your aids, but Val's termperment that is causing his behavior. I forgot to mention head tossing - yes Rogo is throwing some of that in too :)
I notice in your pictures that Val is going rounder and looks great. Perhaps he was rebelling a bit against this too? On the plus side, my teacher says that all good dressage horses are somewhat willful - they come around and their willful streak gives them confidence and presence. Maybe she's saying that to make me feel better? :)
Thanks for letting me know I'm not alone!
Jeni said…
Yes, I recognize the behavior in Rosie too! However, I also know I have saddle fit issues. Once I resolve those then I will address the Rosie'tude!

You're doing great with Rogo Carol. I know it's frustrating and often feels like it's 3 steps forward and 4 back with training a youngster.

I believe it will all be worth it in the end. Having not achieved the end yet - I can only believe =)
Kelly said…
So encouraging to read this post! I feel like the only person in the world having to give my young mare a whack with the crop to get her forward - no one else in our barn does this. But my daughter assured me it is ok!
Val said…
Hey, no worries. They all need a little energizing once in a while (or once a ride, depending on the horse, of course). Even horses that rush forward can still be behind the leg. Correct movement takes effort and sometimes we, as riders, have to serve as the personal trainer and coach.
Margaret said…
Serpentines are something I just learned. I also was watching a clinic (Buck) and it is so important to watch the shoulders and know when to cue the horse to turn. I was watching from the fence and it was SO easy to point out the mistakes... but when in the saddle, I felt bad I had been so critical. It DOES take practice - at least for me! :)

Thanks for all the detail as I am just learning all this "stuff".
Anonymous said…
...with me, not at me.

Well said, Carol! Good insight.
Carol said…
Thanks for all of the feedback everyone. It's good, as always, to know I'm not alone.
Achieve1dream said…
I definitely don't advocate beating a horse, but when their behavior gets dangerous there is absolutely nothing wrong with getting their attention. We have to always remember how potentially dangerous it is to ride horses and safety is the most important thing. It sounds like he was just testing his boundaries and when you put your foot (whip lol) down he decided it was in his best interests to cooperate. You did nothing wrong and I'm glad he is finally listening. I'll keep my fingers crossed that he's through with his protesting. :D Keep up the awesome work!