Thursday, October 14, 2010

This week in the saddle...

Well, as I told you, I spent Monday (usually a riding day) sick in bed/the bathroom floor, but apparently the world doesn't completely hate me because I was rewarded by a meeting cancellation which resulted in a riding day on Wednesday (usually a work night). So, I still managed to get 2 weekday rides in this week despite the minor setback on Monday (isn't that sad? That I get excited by getting in two rides....ugh!).

Tuesday was your average ride. Granite wasn't fabulous, but he wasn't nasty. Becky was teaching a lesson in the arena and while she says I can ride wherever I want, I try to be courteous and stay out of the way. I also feel a little self-conscious when she is in the ring because she trained Granite and gets much better results from him than I do. So, I didn't push the issue of the canter but I did manage to get one solid transition (not a run-into-it canter, but a transition).

Granite has developed a new vice, now instead of simply grabbing the bit, jacking his head up to the sky, and hollowing out through the back, he curls his neck and dips behind the bit! I hate this habit even more than the second because short of popping him in this mouth, I don't know how to remedy the situation. He seems to do it most when I drive him forward through my seat and legs and try to get more action from the back. Any suggestions out there in blog land? Books I can read on the issue of bit avoidance? I really have tried to leave his head alone and not ask for collection but focus on going forward, but now when I drive for that forward motion I am met with the neck curl/bit evade!

Aside from our episodes of "how can i avoid this thing in my mouth", Granite was pretty solid during Wednesday's ride. He is doing well with his trot transitions and I (fairly easily) got a few canter transitions out of him. I also got to ride with a new boarder. I generally don't like others, but she seems pretty dag on cool (the binder twine currently holding her spurs on make me give her my nod of approval-- that is SO something I have done!). Anyway, she is a freshman at my alma-mater (also, cool points) and she hails from Kansas. She has a little Morgan and they Event. The Morgan's name is Al and he is cool as hell. He will do lead changes on the straight-away every two strides. He collects, he bends, he will jump anything like a pro. I am in love with the little fella. To my pleasure, 'Kansas' offered me a go on him on Wednesday after we both finished our own rides! I happily accepted and even traded her mounts (She is only the 4th person ever to even sit on Granite's back).

This was so much fun for a few reasons. A) I got to ride the coolest little guy ever. B) I got to see my horse go under english tack for the first time. C) I got to feel some MAJOR differences between our horses (mainly that my horse has a gigantic stride and major potential) and D) Much of my issues with Granite are probably my fault.

I felt like I was riding a pony and we were going in slow-mo because Al is so small and I am used to such a gangly dude. I also noticed that HE (well seasoned super star Al) hesitated for a canter transition, indicating that I am off balance or really not asking in the most efficient manner. I felt myself go off balance a few times as well (I can never tell on Granite because he is so wobbly-- you know riding a green-bean like him is not unlike working one of those joined snake toys that never go all in one direction at one time). I really wish I could afford some lessons even on other horses, because I need to address these issues I noticed. But at least I am aware of them and can be mindful of them during my rides.

Al was a champ for me and I even popped over a little fence for the first time in decades. Thank god he is pretty "point and click" because I sure didn't help him out any.

Big Al doing his thing with Kansas

They Rock!

It was also great to see that despite the constant bit evasion going on, Granite looked like a rockstar under saddle. I have only seen Becky ride him (western, draw reins, training rides) and it was a world of difference to see him under english tack with a great little rider on top. It gave me a glimpse of how AWESOME our future can be if I ever get the time to properly devote to him.

Ok, Time to go BACK to work (I neeeeed new jobs!). 


  1. Curling! Curling is P's favorite past time, and I can literally tell when she's getting tired because she just rolls her little neck up and drops behind the bit...

    I've heard several theories on this, but so far what works best for me with miss pia is to give her a fairly sharp poke with a spur to kick her up in front of my leg again. If she's really ticking me off I literally raise my inside rein and 'pop' her up, but that's ultimately disruptive and not a good constant correction.

    Also, early on in our rides, when P was testing me and curling all the time, as soon as she dropped behind the bit I'd push her onto a fairly tight (10 meters or so) circle and make her WORK. eventually she figured out life was much, much happier if she just stayed on the vertical. :) that might be a better approach for your greenie. let me know if you find a magic solution!

  2. Curling up possibly means a couple of things - one, that you're being too rigid with your hands, and two, that the horse thinks that's what you want. I'd work with a lot of stretching down and relaxing the neck and topline - curling up is a sign of anxiety and I wouldn't add to that with spurring or whacking or anything else. Dawn and I have been working for a while on this one and making good progress. You also have to be rock-steady with your hands so the horse knows exactly what the boundary is and what you want. Also think about whether you're using the right bit - different horses have different mouths.

  3. I think I know what you mean, I've felt green horses do this before and I think it can be a balance issue. I think he's struggling with staying balanced and going forward. The stronger he gets, I bet the less this will be an issue. Make sure you are carrying your hands and not letting your reins get too long with your hands in your lap, as that will encourage him to get behind the vertical. Other than that, keep sending him forward and getting him stronger!

  4. Oooof that is an annoying one! I would say if your feeling up to it ride him in a halter and see if he still does it. If he still does it then it is a forward issue. If he does not do it then it is a bit issue. :)

  5. I have a theory, and my apologies if it offends anyone. You mention at the beginning that he did the hollow-backed giraffe impression and is now curling up way behind the vertical. Then, at the very end, you mention that some of his early training was in draw reins. I would speculate the following: first he was started and forced into a position tha his body probably couldn't comfortably cope with, second he responded to FREEDOM by inverting the neck and hollowing his back, now he's responding to your requests the way he's been taught, "set the head" aka curling the neck and sucking back behind the vertical.

    Now don't get me wrong, draw reins can have a use, but must be used very judiciously on a horse that is fit enough to travel according to the pressure draw reins (or neck stretcher, or pick your gadget) exert. I would guess that since Granite probably didn't have the muscle fitness to stay deep and round with draw reins that he probably sucked back behind them and thinks that's the correct answer. Solution? Stay away from gadgets with a young horse, better to teach them slowly and correctly to build the correct muscle groups. At this point I wouldn't put any gadgets on, leave his head alone and just hack around the ring, forget the collection. You need rhythm and suppleness first. If he starts to get quick on you then slow your own rhythm and use a circle to get his feet underneath him. Try not to make the circles so small that his ribcage bulges through the turn, the circle is more for reengaging his brain than anything else. At this point with a young horse it's all about keeping their mind involved and active without stressing their growing body.

  6. Gingham: I'm glad to know P has the same issue, I may try the circle thing but he does it for a stride or two them pops back up, so I fear it will be difficult to maintain consistency...

    Kate: I've always been accused of being too lose with my hands and to firm with my seat and legs, so I hope its not rigidity causing the issue! I've tried three bits this month. A think single jointed egg-butt, a single jointed D with copper rollers and a french link- lose ring snaffle. He seems to go best in the latter so I hope my decision to stick with it isn't adding to the problem but easing it a bit. ahhh frustration!

    Marissa: I am very guilty of letting my reins get too long. I showed Quarter Horse Circuit for wayyy tooo many years! Forward is my mantra; I shall stick with that too :)

    Golden: Great suggestion. Granite is sooo pokey, so I'm not fearful to ride him without a bit, I just wonder if I can get him to navigate. Its worth a shot, so i will try it!

    Laura: I agree with the draw rein thing. Becky used them for the 60 days she trained. But, he hasn't had them (or any gadget) on him since July 1st. The curling thing has just begun in the past two weeks, so I am really confused. He is doing well with the rhythm thing and being able to detect when I slow my posting and ask him to slow down or create more impulsion (impulsion is difficult, he is super lazy). I will try to use the circle method as a couple of you have suggested. I do this already in the corners of the arena if he pops his shoulder out. Lets hope I can just ride through this with no rein pressure and he will realize that curling up is not a solution or the answer to my questions.... ugh! babies!

  7. Well once again Granite sounds like Hampton's twin. :-) This is a pretty normal stage. He's still testing things out. Hampton will do this when he gets behind my leg. He doesn't need a ton of spur or anything too drastic but just shooing him forward usually helps. Upward transitions and leg yields also help. Thinking about "carrying" the bit like you would carry a platter of tray of food. (Hope that makes sense).

  8. Karen~
    Thanks. I like the idea of using leg yields and transitions. I will add it to my arsenal. Hampton and Granite are probably long-lost brothers :)

  9. I guess I pretty much sound like everyone else, but Izzy went through a pretty long phase where she did that. It's partly that she has a great neck, so it's super easy for her, but it had a lot to do with her getting behind my leg. Since neither I nor you had/have the nuance to fix this otherwise, I'd always just ride her forward and get her ahead of my leg again.

    Good luck! He'll outgrow it someday.

  10. Kinetic drops behind the bit also. He'll just bulldoze around the arena with his head between his knees, and I'll have no leverage to pull him up again. I'm pretty sure it's a balance issue. My remedy is to "drop" him. I'll just drop all contact and ride on a completely loose rein. When he realizes that he's not getting any balancing help from me he'll usually pick up the contact on his own.

  11. Better late then never right? Babies love to try new's just them figuring out their world. Dont beat yourself up over your position too much, but it's good you're aware of where you could improve. I think just trucking on, encouraging him just moving forward will help you through this patch. Try to stay in the rising trot to avoid over pushing with your seat. Shortening your reins a bit if you feel they're in your lap and carrying your hands softly in front of you is great to practice and will help your balance and his. Sometimes babies will do the giraffe thing, then the curl thing, then the HEAVY thing, then the curl thing again, then the giraffe thing again...before they get the submission, moving freely forward and over the back thing :) Hang in there!

  12. PS- I may be really not paying attention to detail but I LOVE that TK has made the blog as Granite's daddy :P You're too cute!