Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Be Patient And He Will Figure It Out

I'm so excited about Ollie!  I had a lesson with him over the weekend and he was a star.  I came home and couldn't stop babbling about it.  I love what we're doing!

It may sound very basic to all of you.  And it sounds basic to me.  In fact it's all things I already know.  But putting something into practice and reading about it are two entirely different things.

Our lesson began with me on Ollie and Ollie telling me that all he wants to do is trot. This is very typical behavior.  That's all fine and good except I wasn't asking him for trot.  There we are in the riding ring he knows well, with his best buddy hanging his head out the window watching us, everything around us is familiar and comforting to him.  He had no excuse for wanting to go fast.  He just felt he was in control and was going to dictate to me when we trot and when we walk.  This just isn't going to work out in the long run. 

George, my instructor, had me take one rein and hold it on my thigh, causing Ollie to go into a small circle and we would hold that position until he walked and I immediately released the rein and we would walk off in whatever direction we were heading at that moment.  We did this every time Ollie decided he wanted to trot off.  I would alternate reins so our circles would always be different. Ollie caught on quickly...  I felt like I could see the wheels in his mind working it out, "If I trot, then the bit will hit the bars of my jaw and I go in an uncomfortable circle.  When I walk, that nuisance goes away.  I think I'll walk!"  The moment that walking became his idea was the moment of joy for me!  We did this so methodically, and without any drama or arguing.  It was like an "ah ha!" moment for me.  I can communicate with my horse!

Then we got to where I was asking Ollie for trot.  He'd move along just fine, then he'd get to a spot and speed up.  We did the same procedure as before but instead of getting him to walk, I was just getting him back to a nice working trot. 

The best part of our lesson was working on his self carriage.  George told me that I need to get rid of the running martingale.  I told George I'm all about it!  I need to get rid of it if I ever want to go to a dressage show!  The problem is when Ollie throws his head up and takes the bit.  My martingale is very loose so it is only effective when Ollie is very head high.  Read:  it makes me feel better even though it's not doing anything 99% of the time...

At any rate, we worked on getting a round frame.  And boy did we succeed!   We would travel in a mini version of our arena with 2 long sides and 2 short sides.  As I traveled down the long sides, I would tip Ollie's nose to the outside with my outside rein but maintain our travel in a straight line with the inside rein.  When Ollie gave with his jaw, I immediately released the pressure from the reins and he would trot off in the most gorgeous fancy dressage horse frame.  I was peeing in my pants with excitement!  At first it was only a few strides, then he held it longer and longer.  George told me that soon enough he would be doing it all of the time.   I was exaggerating the release of the reins.  In time, it will be much more subtle.  George wants me to be very clear in what I'm asking Ollie to do at this point.

This is all so basic but I'm moving forward with Ollie and I'm thrilled!  George told me I could do everything in our lesson at the canter as well but he recommended that we work on his frame at the trot for now as he builds strength along his top line.  

George also caught me moving our mounting block a few feet to my horse rather than leading my horse to the mounting block.  So he gave me some homework to steer Ollie to the mounting block.  It'll be a good exercise for our groundwork.  It'll probably be helpful in loading him onto a horse trailer too. 

I love what we're doing!  I know it's basic but it's huge in our book.  This year is going to be great!


  1. I got excited with you! So great to hear of your progress and joy; I have a new young horse and have lots of basics to work on, too. Different ones; my horse is lazy instead of motoring around.

  2. Thanks Michelle! I read your blogs all the time! I don't know how you keep up with your blogs so well. You're inspiring me by going to a horse show without worrying about where you are and if you are truly ready. It's all about getting him experience. That's what I need to do as well - as soon as I get the confidence to remove that silly running martingale.

  3. CONGRATULATIONS, WENDY AND OLLIE!! Communicating clearly is part of the success of riding, and it sounds to me like George is helping you with that. My guy wants to CANTER because that's how I warm him up--10 minutes or so of walk on the buckle and then some lovely canter work--both directions of course--doing straight lines, weaves, circles of different sizes, some counter canter, some "Grand Prix" corners which means he has to compact himself a bit to make it into the corner rather than "cut from H to C"--etc. I LOVE when the horse "gets" what he is supposed to do--the rooting the reins out of my hands is something Huey tries every time, but after one or two "roots," he realizes he's going to get "booted forward," and THAT's no fun. He'd rather stand on contact while I contemplate my navel (or whatever it is he thinks I'm doing "back there"). Glorious when things like this come together, ain't it?

  4. Wow, reading this is enough to make ME excited about dressage! :-) That is so cool that he is getting the idea of maintaining a nice round frame. You knew he could do it! I'm very glad you found George (if you've talked about that I missed it) because he sounds like a great instructor. SO important...

    Keep up the good work!

    P.S. Keeping my fingers and paws crossed that Gustas finds a wonderful home very soon. You and my friend who I stayed with last time are the only people I know in Lex, and she already has four (!) doggies, so unfortunately I haven't got any ideas.

  5. Sounds like it was an awesome lesson.

  6. Those breakthrough moments are what it's all about, and you sound like you have an awesome instructor. You need to find someway of communicating a reward to your horse for working correctly, and that rein release is brilliant. Once it's more established, it only has to be for a second at a time. My TBs reward at the end of a session was a loose rein, whichever speed we were doing. Cantering while your horse has his nose on the ground is an amazing feeling, when they get to that stage. Keep up the good work.