Monday, January 25, 2010

Bernadine Clinic Part II

Once I had all my tack adjusted properly I was asked to take Boo on a circle at the walk to see how he would behave with the martingale adjustment...we then went into a trot. He seemed to be okay with it. No head in the rafters like I usually get, but then again he wasn't entirely martingale free either. Boo is essentially a lazy boy, and going forward in a relaxed frame is something that takes a lot of work to get him to do. Sometimes it feels like he's just chugging along and other times it takes a lot of leg to get him there. It's exhausting! Bernadine told me not to nag. I'm to ask once with a light leg aide. If he does not respond with a surge of energy into what I'm asking for, be it a lengthening or a gait change, I am to kick him hard enough to put him into the next gait up then bring him back down and ask again. I'm to keep doing this until he is awake, listening, and responsive to my cues. I could use a dressage whip if I didn't want to kick but I have found that whip equals buck, so I usually opt for the kick. Of course when I kicked him he would jump into the next gait with his head in the air and trot or canter around indignantly. I praised him for the attention I was being given and brought him back and asked again with a light leg aid. He's a quick study and it didn't take him long to figure out that he should not tune me out.

Once we had him tuned in to me on the circle at trot and canter we went on to lateral work. I would trot around the arena turn up the quarter line and ask for a leg yield to the wall. We found that Boo was ignoring me in this movement too. Bernadine had me stop each time I asked for leg yield but didn't get it and sidepass him to the wall. I was essentially saying to him rather forcefully "I said go sideways!" This took a bit longer than the work on the circle but eventually Boo started moving over at a crisp pace without lollygagging around. One thing he did try to do before we got to that point was try to speed up rather than go sideways. When he did that we stopped and sidepassed again. After all Bernadine had said to leg yield not go faster.

It was one of those lightbulb moments for me. I realized that I had to know exactly what I was asking for when I asked my horse to do something. I had to know exactly how to ask him, and I had to know exactly what I was going to do if he didn't respond in the way I wanted him to. In other words if I wanted an obedient, light, responsive horse I had to ride with a plan and be consistent. I had been saying Boo was lazy and that was true, but apparently so was I. When I bought Boo he was a well-trained horse. I had inadvertantly retrained him through my inexperience. I had retrained him not to stay attentive and respond on a dime. I had deprived him of a leader. No wonder I he acted like a spooky pony.

I know this won't be easy (retraining myself) but I at least recognize now that I need to do it. I am going to be a horse trainer. Something I should have been all along.


  1. Sounds like you are learning some great work! I went to a Buck Branaman clinic a few years ago. I have to say, your first paragraph sounds like him! He was really having riders ask their horses to go forward when they asked, and if they didn't, he had riders get after them until they did. He said they wouldn't have to ask so hard the next time, LOL! I wanted to try that with my horse. But some of the riders were kinda harsh, thumping on their horses a lot. I need to get over this fear of pushing (and therefore babying) my horse. It's not going to kill him and I've created a bit of a lazy monster, I'm afraid!

  2. Good job Char, Booster gets whisper whisper smack!!

  3. Sounds like you ladies had a successful weekend. I chatted with Linda this afternoon and she said she learned a lot, too.

    Don't you just love the "I wonder if she means me?" attitude from our horses? Nothing like assertiveness training for the rider!

  4. I am always amazed at everything you can learn form a trainer...that you really already knew sometimes! I only trail ride but almost everything I read of peoples experiences I can relate to my rides...and then I say, oh ya...I shoulda known that!!!

  5. Sounds so good, you are on the right track!