Sunday, 29 November 2015

Our first Western clinic......

Very interesting outing today. Went to a clinic organised by the Western Edge Riding Club, which is a monthly affair at a yard not far from here. Thought it would be good experience for Sky to do something out of her comfort zone and also decided to take Tari along for a look.


They both coped very well, considering we were in an indoor school and it was blowing a gale and chucking it down which meant all sorts of odd noises, plus some sort of clay pigeon shoot happening nearby. Sky only had one real spook, and Tari just seemed more interested in investigating the mirrors a the far end......


The clinic was with Shane Borland who I'd never heard of before but turned out to be really good. He started off explaining that neck flexion thing the Western horses all seem to know but ours had never been asked for. Now to me it's always looked a bit extreme and really just not comfortable for the horse. But I was interested to know the reasons for doing it.

As Sky had never done anything like that before so didn't know what was being asked of her, he used her as an example. Ali had to slide her hand along one rein, then take that rein out and away from the neck then bring it back to her hip. And wait. Sky of course at first started going round in circles trying to follow her nose.
But the third time Ali did it, Sky realised that movement was not what was being asked for, so she stopped. You could really see her trying to figure it all out.

As soon as there was the slightest softness in the rein, Ali released it. And Sky lowered her head and seemed to lose all the tension in her neck. As this is one of the things we really struggle to get her to do, it's something to play around with a bit more, methinks......

Another interesting idea that he gave them to try was the concept of "throwing things away". So you start trotting the horse along and then you release your hold on the reins and slow down your rising more and more then take your legs away, relax your seat completely and see how long it takes the horse to stop once you stop micro managing. And if they're the sort of horse that speeds up, you use the neck flexion, but nothing else, to change the direction and keep changing the direction until the horse slows down.

What I especially liked about his approach was that he was getting people to look at what they were doing from the horse's point of view. He said the rider needs to perceive the horse's take on what they're being asked, as horses will never be able to see things from the rider's point of view. If you read my last blog post, you'll know why I was so happy to hear that today.

Another exercise was to hold the reins completely loosely on just one finger of each hand, and without shortening them at all, just add one finger at a time to see how little it would take to get the horse to rein back. Remarkably little, as it turned out......
He also explained how he doesn't think most people let their horse ever make a decision. He explained how he likes to let his youngsters decide what they do when he first starts riding them. So he just sits there and is a passenger, they get to go where they like for a bit, then he gently asks them to go in the direction they're already going in so he doesn't start getting into an argument with a horse from the off.

He asked the riders, one by one, to set off down the centre line from A at a trot or canter, then let go of the reins halfway along. The other horses were lined up on both sides of the school. He wanted to see what each horse would do when left to its own devices. First problem was riders cheating and not letting go completely! But when allowed to go where they liked, some horses headed for the gate and some to other horses. Sky just went straight on down towards C but Ali didn't try to grab the reins back and turn her (much to Shane's surprise!) and Sky stopped by the wall, but didn't head for Tari, which I found surprising.......

So lots of food for thought today, Ali said she really enjoyed it and would like to do another one. Tari was a star and apart from occasionally getting bored and needing distracting, was as good as gold. And I was really impressed with how Sky handled it all. Shane said that he wouldn't expect a horse to be as calm in an unfamiliar place as at home, he said you can't always know how much of your home horse is out with you on the road, which I thought was a good way of looking at things.
Oh, and we got to see some rather nice spotties :-)



2 comments:

English Rider said...

Some interesting exercises with potential cross-discipline applications. He sounds like a true horseman.

Tails FromProvence said...

Interesting, he sounds similar to Alexandrine/equitation ethologique/la cense stuff that I've found here

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