You might be amused to know that Jazzy has literally been stuck for more than a week out in her pasture and I haven't been able to get to her out of fear of serious injury to one or both of us due to glare ice. Since it's summer for you, we're in the depths of a horrible deep freeze. I was able to get to her on Friday to work her for the first time since I got your advise. Lunging her based on your recommendations, rather than all the other ways I've been taught was an interesting experience. I felt clumsy, and had a hard time not getting in front of her, so it's going to take some practice, but the results were amazing. She even went into a canter without a temper tantrum, only one dirty look, no tail flick, and I never had to "get after" her.
Riding her went VERY well using your suggestions.
Sadly, we're now in a huge deep freeze with sub-zero highs (F) for the next couple of days. I have moved her closer to the barn, so I can get her out when the cold breaks.
I'm trilled to know you'll be coming to Minnesota! I am not familiar with Suzy Fitzsimmons, can you let me know where she's located? I would love to know if I'll need to budget a travel day on either side or not for the clinic as it will for sure be one I need to attend (maybe with BOTH horses with my husband if he's willing.) If you have to come to Minnesota, you couldn't pick a better time than the fall.
I'm very glad to hear you had a great season with Jazz. You should be proud of you and your horse. I look forward to seeing the improvement when I come to MN.
I'm not sure exactly where Suzy lives because I've not been to her place before. I met her in MT last year at a clinic that Alex Mufson hosted. She brought a horse to work with and then contacted me about coming to MN. I think she is quite close to Minneapolis, but I'm not sure which direction or how far. The best thing would be to contact her (her contact details are on the Schedule page of my web site). I have not yet set dates with her, but I think we are looking at around mid September. She has offered 2 x 4 day clinics, so I'm sure there will be spots available.
I'm sorry that the weather is so miserable for you, but we have our own weather problems. It's been the hottest summer on record and too hot to work horses most days. I was fencing a couple of days ago and the thermometer was sitting in the sun near me - it was indicating 55C, which is about 130F! It's making summer in Arizona feel temperate.
Here is a video from Kristin with her horse Jazz. It seems very surreal for her to be so rugged up while working her horse while I watch the video sweating in the heat.
I have some very general comments about your work with your mare. I’ll first talk about the lunge work and then discuss the riding.
There is an article on teaching a horse to lunge on my web site on the HorseTalk page. It may be helpful to you to read it.
There are fundamental problems with Jazz’s crookedness and the effort she puts into being forward. You’ll see that so very often she is counter bent to the direction of travel and you are constantly driving with the whip just to prevent her from stopping.
I believe the crookedness comes about partly because she does not feel good about being with you – so she tries to avoid you. Jazz looks to the outside because committing to being with you and paying attention to you is in her mind not a good option.
With regard to a lack of forward, I do think she is sore and that does not help. But I also think that you fail to get her to feel it is important for her to go forward. Even when you get a change by flicking the whip, it only lasts for a moment and she never really had a change of thought to go forward – she was just avoid the pressure of the whip for the time needed. Never ask anything of a horse unless you get a change of thought.
The other general comment I want to make is in regards to the way you use your body. You exhibit very little energy and show hardly any sign of changing your energy level when you ask Jazz to change her energy level. If you and your horse are really together, then she and you should feel off each other’s body language and energy levels. But you rely almost totally on the energy level of the whip to invoke a change in her.
There is a big difference between driving a horse and directing a horse. When you drive a horse you send them away from something – in this case your whip. Jazz is getting away from the whip. But when you direct a horse you send them towards something. Ideally, your energy and lunge line would direct Jazz to go forward by sending her thought 15 or 20 ft in front of her, then her feet catch up to her thought. But in your case, her thought is behind her trying to stay just ahead of the whip.
0.3 – 0.9
You ask Jazz to get more life by flicking the whip at her. She scoots out of the way at a trot, but returns to the walk as soon as she is clear of the whip. You did not get a change of thought for her to go forward. You are teaching her to only stay out of the way of the whip.
0.9 – 0.20
When Jazz is trotting there is no interest in her of either going forward or checking in with you. You flick the whip at her several times, but there is no change in Jazz. The whip is being used only to discourage her from stopping. But it should only be used to create a change, not maintain what you already have.
I would encourage you to think about walking more rather than standing still in the middle and pivoting. If you want Jazz to circle to the left, you should walk a small circle to the left and the other way if you want her to go to the right. You should walk with enough life in your feet for Jazz to feel the life in her feet. If you walk a little, she should walk a little. If you pick up your walk, she should walk bigger or trot or canter (depending on what you want). If you slow down your walk, she should slow her feet. If you stop, she should stop. This is part of keeping her focus on you and will go part way to helping overcome the counter bending she does so badly.
0.21 – 0.38
These are mindless circles where she is crooked and sluggish and not paying attention to you. They are counter productive to her education. If she is doing circle mindlessly, then don’t circle her at all. Your lunging needs to be constructive and educational or you should not do it. Try to think about varying your circles much more – especially when you see she is out to lunch as she appears here. Do a circle, change direction, ask for a slow walk, fast walk, stop, trot, stop, change direction etc. By mixing things up a lot it will encourage her to pay closer attention to you because she will never be sure when you’ll ask for something new. You don’t have to be abrupt. Be smooth, but be a little busy. With what I see here, I wouldn’t be letting her do more than 1 ½ circles without asking for some changes and on some circles I might only do ¼ of circle before asking for something to change.
0.39 – 0.43
Jazz jumped when you flicked the whip again. This is because she was mentally absent up to that time and the whip bothered her. But at least you woke her up for a few strides rather than the sleepy disinterested trot she had been offering.
I think before you used the whip to ask her to go forward, you should have picked up your own life in your body with a slightly bigger walk. She may not have listened to the increase in your body energy, but if you always ask first with a change in your energy one day she will hear it and respond nicely. But if you never start with just a small increase in your energy she’ll never learn to respond to a soft polite ask from you. If she doesn’t listen to the change in your walk, back it up with the whip to make it clear to her what you were asking. But always start with the small amount of ask that you hope one day she will listen to.
0.43 – 1.31
The head flinging and breaks into a couple of canter strides are Jazz’s way of telling you how badly she feels. You stand in the middle flicking the whip at her from time to time without getting a change and she gets really annoyed at you. Either get a change in what she is thinking and doing or don’t ask anything.
You are like the mum who tells their kid to clean their room and threaten if they don’t clean their room there will be trouble. But never follow through with the trouble. Then the day you do make the kid clean his room, you get called all the worse names. But if the first time you asked your child to clean their room and they say “no”, you turned off the tv, locked them in their room with no computer, no telephone, no tv and they couldn’t come out until their room was clean no matter how many meals they missed; it would only take one time before what you had to say was important to your kid. But when you nag and nag and threaten without getting a change, you are only annoying to them.
That’s what Jazz is experiencing. Those head flings are Jazz calling you the worse names. She is not doing anything wrong. She is only responding to what you are teaching him.
Jazz stops and faces you, preparing to go the other direction. You quickly step to your right and flick the whip at her to get her to continue travelling to the left.
You should not have stepped to the right. If you want a horse to travel left, walk to the left – even if she is trying to change direction. You got suckered into her need to try something else that might work better for him. Don’t discourage Jazz from experimenting and finding out if something like changing direction will work for her. Let her do it, but keep asking for her to go to the left. Be persistent. But don’t get stronger or try to punish her. Let her find out it didn’t work on her own accord and not because you made it impossible for her to try changing direction.
While I’m thinking about the way you move your feet, I notice you step back a lot. Try not to do that. When circling to the left, your feet step left and maintain a circle that is neither forward nor backward. A concentric circle inside the circle your horse is making. Watch the video and you’ll see you often take a backward step as you step left – especially if Jazz cuts in on the circle. Backing up will only encourage her to cut the circle.
1.50 – 1.56
When you try to drive her forward you walk the wrong direction ie to the right. Don’t do this. Keep walking to the left. But in addition you direct the whip towards her hip. I suggest you avoid doing this and direct the whip at the shoulder. The reason for this is that directing the whip at the hip will encourage a horse to swing her hip out of the circle. Jazz doesn’t do that so much, but many horses will turn and face you if you put pressure on the hip. It’s a good habit to avoid.
Again, despite all the energy you put into flicking the whip, Jazz did not make much of a change. If you are going to put that much pressure on a horse, I’d like to see her zoom out of there. By letting her keep trotting with hardly any change, you are teaching her to ignore the pressure of the whip. Don’t stop applying pressure until you get a change commensurate with the amount of effort you are asking her to put out. Before asking anything of Jazz I urge you to have a clear mental picture of the result you are wanting. If she gives anything that is significantly less than the picture in your mind, don’t stop asking her until he gets closer to what you wanted.
The rest of the lunging work is more of the same. I don’t feel the need to repeat what I have already said. When you watch the video again you’ll see the same issues come up again and again.
Clearly the biggest problem in the riding is the lack of energy in Jazz and her lack of response to your seat and legs.
I’m not going to critique the riding section frame by frame or discuss the backup and turns because the lack of forward is an overwhelming issue for you. I think by just giving you some thoughts about how you might address this issue you’ll have more than enough to work on for now.
I notice you are riding with a crop. That’s good and I would rather you use a crop than spurs. The problem lies in the way you ask for Jazz to make a change in her forward movement. There are similarities here with the same issue on the lunge. You don’t get a change of thought when you apply you leg or tap with the crop. Jazz tries to escape from the pressure of your leg and crop for the short time you apply them, but she never says “Kristin wants me more forward, so I guess I had better get moving.” Again, you nag and threaten but don’t follow through. When I ask my horse to make a change I am absolutely confident and certain that I will get a change and I pass that certainty on to my horse that things are about to change. But you beg and plead and hope that Jazz will change her idea. My horses never doubt that when I ask something that something will change – even if they can’t do what I am asking, they will try something different than what they are doing.
I am about to suggest you play around and experiment with a couple of things.
Have Jazz standing still and your reins as loose as you feel safe. I want your back loose and soft. The goal is to ask Jazz to walk off briskly from a halt.
When you want Jazz to walk, lift your seat (tilt your pelvis forward, but don’t move your shoulders or lean back) – it’s like pushing your belly button towards Jazz’s ears. When you do that, if Jazz does not walk off briskly I want you to lift your legs out and away from her sides (like they were wings), and then bump her hard and abruptly with your legs against his sides. I want you to repeat this with your legs quickly several times – bump, bump, bump, bump – until she shoots forward. Then stop bumping. It’s not a “bump, wait to see if he is going, then bump again if needed”. It’s a flurry of bumping against her side – like somebody punching a bag quickly – that you continue until he is going briskly. Don’t accept a lazy walk. If that’s what she gives you, bump her some more until it gets close to the picture in your mind of the kind of walk it should be. You are trying to make your legs important to her and not something she might get around to listening to when she has time.
When she does go forward with life, she may even trot or canter. Make sure you leave the reins alone and don’t pull her to slow up. Let her go with life for a distance. Enjoy the ride. After a half a circle or more, politely ask her to halt again. When she is stopped and settled, ask her for forward with just your seat again – remember to loosen the reins again. If you get a poor response, swing your legs out and in again with a flurry of bumping until she scoots forward with good energy. Gradually bring her back to a halt again and repeat the process. Keep repeating the exercise until Jazz walks away with energy from just the tilting of your pelvis. Remember if she trots instead of walks, it’s okay to let her go and gradually wind her down to a walk and then a halt.
When the halt to walk transition becomes consistent, you can ask for walk to trot transitions. Start from a good forward walk. Ask for the trot with your seat and a touch of your leg on his sides. If you don’t get what you wanted, bump, bump, bump with your legs until she trotting briskly. Again repeat the process again and again until she trots from just a polite ask of your seat and legs. You can carry the same principle over into your trot to canter transitions, halt to trot and walk to canter etc.
With regard to using the crop, you can apply the crop with your leg or as a substitute to your legs if you like. So begin with asking with your seat and then if nothing happens back it up by bumping with your legs and tapping with your crop at the same time. The crop tapping is the same as the bumping of the legs. It’s a tap, tap, tap, tap in a flurry. You don’t need to use the crop hard, just fast.
I suggest you play with these exercises and get back to me. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask. I’m happy to clarify anything you don’t understand.