+ TVhorsetalk: Do We Make the Grade?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Do We Make the Grade?

A few Sundays ago, I watched an episode on Clinton Anderson’s Downunder Horsemanship show on RFD TV.  He was grading a student on the Fundamentals section of his horse training program.  It made me think about how Max and I are progressing.
Upon reflection, I had to admit that Max doesn’t really show energy in his take-off and his lungeing at the trot seems sluggish most of the time.  And I must strive to be more consistent and project high energy with my body language. 
The student he was grading was worried about her horse yielding hindquarters and giving two eyes.  She was concerned that he wasn’t doing it fast enough. 
Remember, I was concerned earlier about this and decided to work on it.  But on this episode CA said that if the horse is getting that backend around and looking at you, it’s okay.  That when you go through future exercises that require him to yield his hindquarters in order to do the exercise, he’ll get better and better at it, so don’t just work it to death.  Okay.  I’m good with that.  We’re moving on.
I know I need to project energy in my body language in order for Max to get energetic.  He’s a lazy type (and I can be, too), and he can get an attitude if not kept in check.  He decided to demonstrate this today when I wanted to work on the energy part.
I went to the barn with the intention of seeing what kind of grade we’d get on Lungeing, Stage One.  I wanted to project energy so he would take off with some snap.  We began, I projected and he snapped all right. 
He snapped loose from me as I attempted to point and cluck him up to a more energetic trot.  He went through the open gate and out of the pen, and when he got to his stall he yielded those hindquarters with energy and gave me two eyes.  He cocked his foot and licked his lips.  I laughed out loud!
I went and got him, neither scolded him nor soothed him, walked him back into the arena (closed the gate!) and took up where we left off.  We practiced, both of us with energy, for a while with no more incidences.  Maybe by the end of our practice we could have pulled a B…

Monday I did an evening workout with Max.  I was surprised by his light take-off when I pointed and clucked.  His whole trot seemed a little lighter and more energetic.
               I pointed and clucked to get him up to a lope.  I used the stick and string the second time I pointed and clucked.  On the left lead he tossed his head kind of like, “I don’t know if I’m going to do this without showing you I don’t like it,” but he stepped it up. 
On the right lead when I pointed and clucked, and then pointed, clucked and used the stick and string the second time when he didn’t lope, he tossed his head and wanted to kick out and got a bit snarky.  He tried to jerk away, but I held him and kept the pressure on while he acted silly.  We worked through it. 
He went a time or two more at the lope, then I brought him to a trot for two circles, then stopped and rubbed him and rested just a moment.  We started again in the same direction and had no problem.  Thanks, CA.  Good instructions.
Lungeing Stage One had definitely improved.  More energetic take off, better change of direction.  We might get a B on that.  Don’t get me wrong. He’s not stopping and rotating around on his hindquarters and taking off in the other direction. 
He’s stopping.  He’s giving two eyes better and understands, most of the time, to go the other way when I point in the other direction and cluck.
I’m thinking that I should even go back to the four backing up methods.  On some days I think we’re definitely B material.  Then again, when I tapped the air today for Max to back up, he looked at me like, “What?”  
I did the yielding hindquarters and backing and he stood still after yielding.  I don’t think I was clear on my signal to back up on this one.  We hadn’t practiced it in a while and I was clumsy with the cues.  But no B today.
We continue to work on moving forequarters.  We can do about 180 degrees until he wants to step forward instead of across.  No B on that one.

Do Max and I make the grade?  I’m afraid that right now, we don’t rate a solid B on several exercises in Gaining Respect and Control on the Ground – Series I.  The episode reminded me that I must keep my expectations for both of us high when training Max.  We can do it...    

            Have a nice ride,


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