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June 19, 2014: Horse Training: Moving Forward on the Home Front

Raudi and I are now working on sidepassing. I realized at the competitive trail ride clinic that I clearly didn’t get it. I knew that there was a connection to be made between teaching this to the horse on the ground and in the saddle, but I wasn’t quite sure what it was. So yesterday I attempted to make this connection.

I first went through my books and looked at online articles and videos. I read, took notes, and read some more until I began seeing similarities in what the various horse trainers were advocating. Ground training involved first teaching the horse to turn on the forehand and the

haunches and then sidepassing along the fence line. Mounted training involved teaching the horse to respond to specific in saddle cues.

Taking this collective approach seemed like a more effective training means than did hopping on the horse and responding to cues.

And so, I began by working with Raudi on turning on the forehand and turning on the haunches. In turning on the forehand the horse pivots its rear legs around its front legs. And in turning on the haunches the horse pivots its front legs around its rear legs. Raudi (I noted) does well in turning on the haunches.

I next had Raudi sidepass along the fence line, first using my open palm to get her to move sideways, that is bumping my hand along her mid-side. This worked. So I next moved on to having her having her move her front and rear legs, one set first, and then the other. I used a crop to guide her – not surprisingly, she was more adept at moving her rear than her front legs, which was an indication to me that perhaps we do need to work more at turning on the forehand.

Lastly, I worked on sidepassing while in the saddle, again along the fence line, moving to the left. As I worked, I used the analogy of a gate. I opened my left leg, and moved the left rein to the side. This was the gate opening. And I tapped on her with my right leg, and held the right rein close to her mane. This worked. I then did this again, reversing direction. This also worked. I did not do this repeatedly, but rather stopped after each effort, and rewarded Raudi with treats.

As I was doing this, I had an insight that’s related to my thoughts about moving forward. This was that we are moving forwards as we are moving sideways. As importantly, what Raudi and I are learning in the formal arena setting is connected to what we’re learning on the home front.

An example – last Friday Raudi balked when asked to take a jump. Beth’s observation was that I needed to use more leg. I released the reins, grabbed a hold of Raudi’s mane and she went right over the jump. And so it behooves me to teach Raudi to move laterally, which is what she’s doing when she sidepasses. This will of course also be useful on the trail, since quite often we have to bypass trail-related obstacles.

Tomorrow I will chunk things down further, and have Raudi (on the fence line) sidepass over a pole, both on the ground and under saddle.

I repeatedly chided myself as I worked with Raudi because sidepassing was an activity that I should have begun work on a long time ago. But then I later realized that Raudi and I now really are doing well together. I went for a trail ride with Mariann Stoffel, her friend Jana, and Pete. Raudi did wonderfully, taking the lead and hanging back when asked, and walk, trot, and cantering when asked. She also dealt well with Hrimmi, who was insistent in walking out in front of us. And I gave Mariann an impromptu lesson upon our return, using poles and cones in the roadway. My goal was to show her ways of increasing Kohlfaxi’s suppleness and making him more aware of where he was putting his legs. All along, I got the sense that indeed, I as a horse person AM moving forward.

Next: 169. 6/20/14: Lessons Learned: Focus is everything