In yesterday's post, I briefly described a problem I'm having with Leah. When I ask for the trot, she tosses her head and acts kind of mad. At first, I thought it may be the saddle, because I didn't think she did it when ridden bareback, but last week she did it in saddle and bareback.
1. Leah prefers the trot to the walk or lope. I have a hard time getting her to start out at a walk. She wants to get up and go. For the first half hour, it takes me about 2-3 asks to get her from trot to walk. At the slightest provocation, she will start to trot again.
2. When SHE chooses to trot, she doesn't toss her head.
3. The tossing happens bareback and in different saddles.
I was watching Julie Goodnight last night (I tape all the episodes) and she had one on a horse that would buck when asked to lope--an "explosive departure." The horse was very forward, sensitive, smart and athletic. She pointed out that the horse was nervous about being asked to lope because he expected the rider to pull on his mouth. The ask for movement, then the pulling back of that movement, was sending the horse mixed signals and he had developed a sourness or anxiety about the transition.
Here is a link to Julie's article on this topic.
During my lessons, I was always told to gather up my reins and make them short before asking for the trot and, I'm thinking now, my execution of that has made Leah anxious about the walk-trot transition.
Julie's advice was to throw the horse the rein before the ask and really emphasize that you WILL NOT get in their way or yank on their mouth. AND, to use her seat only to ask for that transition. Then, let them move into the new gait for a few steps before gathering up any rein.
She also said to use his movement and don't try to hold it in all the time.
1. Let Leah start out at the trot, if she wants, and stay off her mouth except when needed for control. (Julie said that allowing them to move out at first will help them get in the groove and listen better when they settle down.)
2. Throw her some generous rein whenever I ask for the trot and let her find that movement for a few strides before I shorten the rein. And, if I don't need to, I'll continue to give her that rein--which I have been doing.
3. Use my seat ONLY for the ask--no clucking (which she hates) or leg--seat only. Leah is extremely sensitive to cues. I have to be very gentle with my leg cues anyway. As for vocal, she even hates it when I'm talking to other riders while she's trying to work. She'll pin her ears back anytime I start talking loudly. On the ground, however, she likes voice commands. Go figure.
Now, I just need to dig my trailer out again and get to the barn to put this into practice!