Filed in Category: horse training
Run Horsey, Run.
Hello Ross Sorry to hear about the bank situation. It's frightening because you hear it on the news but when someone you know encounters theft of this nature it cements how real the situation is.
I have been playing with Merlin who is Whistlers brother. Merlin is nearly four and is dead to the leg. For the first week and a bit I have mainly done ground work because I noticed that he walks with no life. He just seems to plod along and be totally shut down, he even hangs his head so low it looks like he wished it was under the ground as he walks. I found it really hard to get some energy into Merlin so I introduced a flag as I felt like I was working hard and the more I tried the slower he got. The flag definitely brought out a different side of Merlin. I worked both sides and the flag is still a work in progress, each day had started the same as the day before but his nervousness about the flag shifts much quicker. I have progressed to riding him and found that he is the same plodder in saddle. He has no life in his walk and is just going through the motions. His owner said that he pins his ears when asked for a trot and I think this is because his walk is not there and when you ask for a trot it interrupts his thought and he pins his ears but he is so sweet that that is all you get. I tried to squeeze first and he goes but with no life so I asked again, no change so I asked by releasing the reins and doing lots of annoying kicks and the minute he went I would stop but this worked for a second. I then tried a squeeze, kick, big kick and this worked but is a lot of effort and I don't think was productive. I thought about it and realized that he goes with the flag so perhaps sound sets him off. I then squeezed, he walked on I raised my energy , squeezed again then made a funny sound which made him go with life. This works for a few steps then back to plod and the ritual starts again. I thought to then grab a branch with a few leaves and use that to make some noise. What I noticed though whether it be my voice or the branch which I use slightly not aggressively is that we go from plod to trot more than plod to active walk. I slow him by going in a circle to an active walk but then we go to plod. In try to stop before the walk becomes a plod but miss the mark. Can you please bless me with your wisdom of how I can get an active walk not a plod and what I should do if I go from plod straight to trot. Thanks Irena
You are on the right track. Don't worry so much about an active walk just at the moment. Work on getting the walk to trot transition smooth and an active trot. I said in my last post that a good walk is the hardest gait of all to achieve. This is especially true of a horse like Merlin. Use the natural energy that the trot creates to get him thinking a more forward response to the leg.
Squeeze with your legs, then if there is no response, use the branch, flag or crop to get him forward. Keep repeating this exercise until you can get a nice trot just from a squeeze of your leg (we'll worry about a response to your seat another time). Don't just accept any old trot. Insist of on a forward trot - not a plodding trot. Remember squeeze, then get busy with your flag or tree branch or whatever. Busy is more effective than firm. When I ride a horse that is unresponsive to my seat and legs, I apply the crop with a flurry of activity. I don't get forceful and beat on the horse. Instead, I whack my leg repeatedly until I get a response - it might be 10 whacks in 3 seconds - that's what I mean by a flurry. I keep being busy with the crop until I get the change I want. So don't stop just because he gives any old trot. Keep using the crop rapid fire until you get a good forward trot. Merlin understands what it is to go forward - it's just that somebody has trained him it's not important. Now you have to reprogram him into thinking forward is important.
So the first task is to have Merlin going from walk to trot with just a gentle squeeze from your leg. If he goes to a plodding walk when he comes down from the trot, immediately send him forward again into the good forward trot. I mean immediately, not 2 or 3 strides later. Get the good trot and allow him to transition to the walk again. If the walk is sleepy, instantly send him forward into the trot again. Keep repeating the process until he gives you a few good walk steps. Give him a break before repeating the process again.
It won't be long before he will offer a forward walk from your seat, a good trot from your leg and canter from a little more leg. You'll be able to leave the crop in the tack room. Remember to give him plenty of rein and no contact - don't hinder his forwardness in anyway with the reins.
Let me know how you get along.
Filed in Category: horse training
The Quality Of Gaits Of A Horse
I was reading an article on a web site a few days ago by a well-known and highly acclaimed dressage trainer and rider.
The thing that caught my attention was the claim that the quality of a horse’s walk and canter were fixed at birth by genetics, but the quality of the trot could be improved with training.
I don’t mind stating emphatically that he was speaking utter rubbish. All gaits can be improved or ruined by training. Genetics plays a role in determining the limit of the quality of a horse’s gait. The potential for how far a walk, trot and canter can be improved is determined by a horse’s genetic conformation. But anything short of a horse’s full potential is largely determined by training (except in circumstances of injury).
The dressage “master” did not explain why there is so much room to play with the trot, but so little room with the walk or the canter. He just makes the bold statement without any clarification or explanation.
In my experience, training can modify all gaits. It is largely dependent on the degree of relaxation and straightness. I have seen horses that appeared dead lame at all gaits until they learned to relax; when the lameness magically disappeared.
I do think the hardest gait of all to achieve brilliance is the walk. The trot and canter have their own degree of innate impulsion that can be used to create expression. But often the walk is quite flat because of the relatively low energy a horse brings to the walk. Often times in order to create energy to a walk and bring engagement, a rider will put a rush in the horse and ruin both the rhythm and relaxation that is so important in a quality walk. I think if a rider can train a good walk in a horse that is not naturally inclined to it, the trot and canter are pretty easy in comparison.
My own horse, Riley had a terrible trot and walk, but a naturally great canter. The trot was stilted and short and quite jarring to the bones. And the walk was like a retired trail riding horse. But both improved dramatically as Riley learned to get off his forehand and carry himself better. It required more impulsion and softening through his topline. On the other hand, Six (my mare) had a brilliant soft walk, but struggled at the trot and canter. She naturally had a terrific level of energy at the walk, but at the trot and the canter that energy led to a hurry. By getting her to soften through her whole body she became much straighter and the trot and canter have both improved beyond recognition.
In short, I think the limitation on improving a horse’s walk; trot and canter come from their genetic potential at one end and our ability to train them at the other end. I believe all gaits are susceptible to change from our influence to train them. To buy a horse on the quality of just one or two of its gaits seems very short sighted to me.