By Patty Wilber
It might be apparent from the blogs that I kind of like horse training and horses. Each horse is different and despite the fact that I have started a good number of colts (100? 150? I have not kept track) I like that it is not uncommon that I say to myself, “Well, I haven’t seen THAT before!” So much to learn! So little time!
I also have really enjoyed having my own trainer/coach so that I can continue to get new ideas and techniques, because part of the fun for me is finding which keys to use to unlock the potential of each horse, as best I can. I find getting in-person coaching with a particular horse under me really helpful and more fun than videos or reading.
BUT, right now, the cow guy I am working with is in Clovis (200 miles away) and so I can only go once a month at best, and thus I have “resorted” to books and video. On dressage. Not even western dressage. Gasp.
But, why dressage you may ask?
1.Two of my friends have horses that have been diagnosed with mild cases of kissing spine. One found an article about exercises that can help alleviate the problem and those exercises are dressage based.
2. When I started Lucy last year, I didn’t work on developing very much flexibility or feel with her for reasons we don’t need to go into here, but suffice it to say that I regret it. I am working to correct that and I felt like I was spending too much time arguing with her and not making the kind of progress I wanted. The kissing spine article kind of sparked an interest in dressage exercises and a FB friend of mine posted a number of interesting dressage-based exercises, which I happened to see.
3. I went to Clovis to work with Clay Hight at Hight Performance Horses (for cow stuff) and he does a lot of circles that are sort of shoulder-fore/in (a dressage exercise) based and a lot of haunches in type moves that also reminded me of dressage. He does not teach his horses to go sideways in a counter arc like I have, but likes them to be straight to arced in the direction of travel and that made me think of dressage “side-passing” as opposed to the dressage “leg-yielding” which was more similar to what I was doing.
Dressage stuff just kept popping to the forefront!
So, I got some handouts (shoulder fore and shoulder in).
I watched a video series by Marijke de Jong.
And I bought a book! Katrin Silva is horse trainer and a facebook friend based in Santa Fe and she just published Dressage for the Rest of Us.
Well, right on topic, for me apparently!
I really enjoyed Katrin’s book. Her philosophy resonated with me. Her stories throughout the book were engaging, and in chapter 10, especially, she talked about various dressage exercises that are foundational to her training program. That was my favorite chapter. You can buy this book here!
And so, based on all that insight and info, Lucy and I have been working mainly on shoulder fore (we have not progressed to shoulder in) with a big focus on the inside hind riding toward the outside front leg (beginning stages) and long and low exercises. While I have always liked bending and lateral work, this more focussed set of exercises has helped her become softer in her poll and neck and we are moving in the training direction I want to go more rapidly and with less stress. Her lovely trot is feeling even more lovely and her ability to softly go faster and slower as well as maintain a nice balance is improving. Fun stuff!
I also tried it with Penny, and perhaps because she is a “finished” horse, she was really willing to put her body where I asked and she seemed to really like the long and low. I thought that was strange because she never particularly liked going low like a western pleasure horse. This long and low is, well, long in addition to low and I can feel her moving with more power and a longer stride, from behind.
H and I worked some and I am impressed with his natural suppleness, but then I left him with Clay two weeks ago to get more face time on cows since I have no cow access right now around here. I hate having him gone, but to my mind, he has the makings of a super cow horse, so he ought to have the chance to get a good start on the stuff! And I can pop over to see him every couple of weeks reasonably easily.
Next weekend, if the weather permits, we are off to Clovis! I will work Lucy on cows, and will tote along one of my new (6 rides in) colt starts for a field trip, not for cow work. She is a tall, laid-back, pleasure-bred horse. H will come back the end of March and a few people I know should have cows here I can use, by then.