Horsey Therapist

Monday, August 07, 2006

Slow horses

I spent Saturday watching Joe Wolter at Piper Ridge Farm. I woke up the next morning with a burning question, so phoned to friend LL who was in the clinic and anyway has usually got some good ideas to pass along when I'm in a quandry.

My question was about how to use my body when livening up my dear Sofia mare. Her default speed is HALT. She's green but not a newly started green. Joe was talking some and demonstrating how to get a youngster going, and how to get an older horse going. He doesn't use words to describe what he's doing with his body the same way some other teachers do, so my questioning him then and there would have helped me get information that would be useful.

I find myself working harder than Sofia when it comes to moving someplace while riding her. I know this is not how it's meant to be.

LL's wonderful memory came up with this that Joe had said recently: with a slow horse (yes, Sofia qualifies as a slow horse!), reward the very smallest try. In other words, with a faster horse, a horse who naturally liked to boogie here and there, you could ask for more life now than with a slow horse. In any case, I experimented with this in mind later on after the phone call.

I'm glad I had talked with LL because otherwise I'd have been felt as pushy and demanding by my dear horse. Instead, I really focussed on rewarding the smallest try on her part. So if I livened up and got a forward lean in preparation for a step, hurray hurrah! And built on that. Before too long, we were trotting and she was holding the trot energy for 8-10 steps without my continuing to put effort into our movement. I was so proud of myself. I was so pleased with her.

I changed focus a few times, giving her relief from my "plan" and exposing her to other things. Like the flag. I ended up steering her with the flag while riding her. That was after helping her feel comfortable with it flopping around her shoulders, neck, head, back, rump, legs, etc.

I spent more time encouraging and allowing her to go anywhere, instead of steering AND livening up. Then I added some occasional steering and her response was good.

Soon I hope to be out on the trail with her. Just waiting until I feel VERY confident with another horse and rider combo so Sofia can get the best exposure with support from a sane horse at her side.


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