Thursday, February 18, 2010

Training: Using bend to reduce a spook

Armani isn't a "spooky" horse precisely. He's more of a challenging and clever horse. He'll go from one act of defiance to another: too slow, too fast, too lazy, too hot. When he feels "hot" he'll "spook" with a big leap and bolt - or maybe a rear and back-up. I can usually feel something coming about a half second early.

My instructor gave us this technique. Like a lot of our tricks, this one employs lateral work and bend. If I can pull this off early, I can eliminate or reduce the severity. If I miss the subtle signs, and he goes off like a cannon, I can use this technique to "bring him back".

Exercise: Bending through a spook (or shy, or bolt, or what-have-you)

1) Bring the horse's head and neck to the inside. Assume we are are traveling counter-clockwise and spooking at something on our right (outside). Bring your left (inside) hand back by bending your elbow. Keep both hands low by the horse's neck. Resist lifting them up towards your chest. Use a stronger aid than "normal". Bring the horse's head toward the inside more than is "normal". 

2) At the same time: activate the inside hind-leg. Apply your left (inside) seat-bone (or upper-leg or calf if you don't have a strong seat aid yet.) Push the left (inside) hind-leg so that it steps underneath the horse. This inside driving aid is very important. It keeps the horse moving toward the "scary" object. Apply more aid than is normal. Your leg aid should match the degree of rein aid: more rein = more leg.

3) When you feel your horse relax, immediately relax your aids. This rewards your horse for listening to you, rather than acting on impulse.

4) Repeat as necessary. You can repeat these aids again, even a few strides later, when necessary. Just remember to relax and reward when your horse is good.

The key here is that your aids are stronger than usual. I only employ the strong aids for enough time to get him obedient and then I relax and reward.

You might also want to check out Jane Savoie's write-up that sounds like the same idea.


Golden the Pony Girl said...

My trainer taught me something similar and really saved us our first show when Bodhi was convinced the judge box was going to eat him!

Grey Horse Matters said...

It's a good exercise to ward off trouble. I've used it many times.

A Bay Horse said...

It's always reassuring to hear that a technique is taught by other instructors. Usually means they are onto something. I found Jane's post while I was musing on this technique.

SprinklerBandit said...

I use something similar; the moment my mare loses focus on me, I put her in to a leg yield or shoulder-in or something lateral to say, "Hey, pay attention". It works for me on the low level stuff when she's looky/spooky, but it doesn't help much with the rearing part yet. I think that's more due to my lack of response time so far.

EcoLicious Equestrian said...

this maneuver is so important, thanks for sharing...I can't even count how many times it saved my butt in heated situations

Denali said...

Hum... I wish I would have seen this prior to eating dirt on Sunday.