Thursday, February 10, 2011

Quality over quantity

It was a cold and frosty morning, but the sun was shining and I knew I would be heading to the barn to spend time riding Boo. On the way out, driving off of the hill where I live, I could see fog over the river down below. I wasn't sure it would bode well for being sunny at the barn, but the fog burned off rather quickly. Once I arrived at the barn I brought Boo inside and cleaned him up rather quickly. I knew I would be a lot warmer once I was in the saddle. I needn't have worried. Just cleaning him up was enough to get the blood going, so I deposited my coat back into the car.

I always try to take my time when I am tacking up. I think it sets the tone for the whole ride. He's relaxed and so am I. Once we worked through a few ground exercises that I do to check out his grumpy quotient, I climbed on and began sorting through everything I could remember from my lesson with Tracey last Thursday. Tracey had told me I wasn't assertive enough. I remembered that when I rode on the following Tuesday I had tried to be more assertive. Even so, he was resistant to accepting the bit until well into the ride. Today my goal was to shorten the amount of time it took to get to that place. That would mean that I would have to be consistently assertive from the very beginning.

I didn't want him to get away with clamping down on the bit without chewing, so I took a peppermint out of my pocket and gave it to him before we even started the ride. Then I took advantage of the flow of saliva that produced to gently move the bit in his mouth. I got him to chewing in record time. I also had his full attention because I'm sure he was hoping for another peppermint at some point. We did our walking warm up and Boo stayed soft and chewing. However, when I asked him for a trot he did his usual. Up with the head, and shuffling forward like an old man. I instantly gave him more leg and a tap with the whip all the while asking for him to stay connected. It took a few minutes for him to realize that if he stayed fairly forward he didn't get the whip and if he gave to the bit he got "GOOD BOY." Still it wasn't quite the quality I knew he could give so I did some transitions from walk to trot and trot to canter. Back and forth we went practicing these transitions in both directions. Throughout the entire process it wasn't good enough for him to give me the gaits I asked for. He had to give me the gaits I asked for while on the bit, and then he had to stay on bit. Quality over quantity.

All in all it was a good ride, and I think I figured something out about Boo. He moves forward more freely if I canter him early on. He needs instant reinforcement when he does not do what I ask him to do. He understands the words "GOOD BOY' and he really does want to please me. As a matter of fact I would just bet that from his point of view he has been pleasing me all along.


  1. Some horses do seem to need that cantering first to establish forward - then everything goes better - Maisie was like that.

  2. I love your last sentence. We all should remember that.

  3. Good thought! And I'll be you're right.

    I don't know why but I have never been able to get my horses to eat peppermint. I'm sure they're missing out on a great treat but they're not so sure I guess. LOL

  4. I hadn't heard of the peppermint idea, but that is genius. Sounds like a great time together--especially since you learned so much about him and sensed his wanting to please you and work as a partner. My horse Cowboy, has that forward issue, but on the trail. I've got to reassure him that I'm not going to hold him back and that he has the freedom to move--then he's happy to do whatever. There's a reason for this, but I don't want to hijack your blog! I just think you're onto something there from my own experience. ;)