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Day 1 at LS Ranch

February 15, 2014

A very full day, indeed.  Started with time at the pole barn, Dave discussing his plans for the next 3 days.  Today is day 1 of a 3 day ranch versatility clinic.  I have been assigned Ricky for the next 3 days.  Ricky is a 7 yr old Appendix gelding who’s been ridden by apprentices for the past 3-4 years.  Dave walked us through the trail class obstacles for the clinic and explained that on the last day there will be a competition, sort of.  We will get scored on the 12 obstacles on Sunday, as well as some of the other things we will work on throughout the clinic.

Dave stressed the importance of the counterbend, repeatedly.  He went so far as to say it is one of the most important maneuvers you can do on a horse.  He also talked about making turns around obstacles by asking the hind to move instead of the fore.  With the counterbend and hind end control, he believes turns are much easier for the horse and keeps the rider out of the horse’s mouth.  I played for a while with taking corners by asking the horse to bend then asking him to move in the direction of the bend (to the outside).  He’s then perfectly prepared to head off straight in the direction of the turn.  It’s like setting up the horse to turn, but then letting him actually make the turn without me.

Jody did a demo on using extreme friendly to connect or relax a horse.  This was a great demo and something I’ll definitely be using on several of the horses I’m currently developing.  The idea is to respond to their reactionary behavior by using extreme friendly and rewarding the connection (or the relaxation – whichever is your focus).  This is a great technique for spooky horses or overreactive horses.  Once it’s in place on the ground, get it going in the saddle.  When riding, if your horse is tense or spooky, employ the friendly stimulus you’ve developed to get them reconnected and back to you.  Brilliant!

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Ricky is heavy on the fore and I was struggling a little to get him lighter in front and more engaged behind.  Dave gave me some help on the side.  He had me create commotion in the bridle until Ricky would lift his head and then help him learn that he’ll be more comfortable with his head higher.  In the canter, he had me ride every other canter stride while lifting the front end of the horse.  This all made perfect sense, just an application I’ve never tried.  I cantered around playing with asking him to be light in front and then playing with asking him to stretch forward.  Walter Zettle says every canter stride should be a preparation to jump, so the rider gets to decide – are we jumping high or are we jumping far and wide.  I was able to develop the canter I wanted with each stride with this focus in mind.  Awesome.

Jody had us jumping up a wall jump in the afternoon.  There is a 3 ft’ wall jump and she explained straightness through the jump, preparing for the jump by circling at the beginning of the approach and peeling off exactly at the point of the circle that sets up for a straight approach and then grabbing mane high on the horses neck to make the leap.  We went both up the jump and then back down.  I’m not much of a jumper, but it was a nice challenge to set up Ricky to do it straight and feel my focus. 

I had to laugh at myself when I tried to make a big jump on my own after the wall jump.  I went for a jump about 3’6″ (about waist high).  I was jumping into Dave’s honeycomb over the top of hill and fortunately noone saw me bite the dust!!  🙂  I asked Ricky to leap over it and he wasn’t prepared.  We approached to slowly for that big of a jump.  So I was deciding how I wanted to reattempt as we stood at the jump and he jumped it from a stand still!  I was caught off guard and fell forward over his neck as he came down.  Doh!  I landed on my head after sliding down his neck and grabbing whatever I could to make my landing softer.  I had to laugh at myself and I think Ricky was calling me an idiot as I brushed the dirt off and checked my myself for injuries.  I’ll be jumping more this week in hopes of getting more skill and understanding of good jumping technique.  Gemini has taught me a lot about riding the buck, so shouldn’t be too hard for me to learn to fly over jumps!

After the group broke for the day, Dave took 2 of us to play with flying changes.  The idea here was to set up the horse to do flying changes versus asking the horse to do them.  Basically, we used a huge bowtie pattern and we’d ride the rail sideways at a trot then canter off on that lead.  Each time we came into the fence we prepared to ask the horse for sideways in that direction. The horse prepares to do the sideways and in doing so, changes his lead.  I was riding the nicest flying changes ever without really asking for anything but a direction change.  The horse learned he’d be better off changing leads all by himself.

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Ricky is a really nice horse with plenty of go and plenty of whoa.  He does whatever I ask and helps me understand when my asks are not clear.  His attitude is that of the perfect partner.  Jody and I discussed getting into the more challenging horses after this clinic (day 4 for me).  For this clinic though, he’s helping me focus on my own learning by being a willing and trusting partner.

Can’t wait for day two.  We’ll start with the cows and do more of the ranch versatility work tomorrow.

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8 Comments
  1. Amy permalink

    Sounds like a great day Tia! I can’t wait to learn the extreme friendly game Jody demonstrated – I can really use it with Django! Do you think he’d be offended by it? I played with him today, and he was very hot and spirited – I struggled to get a connection.

    • This game is huge for connection! I’ll demonstrate it asap. I think you and Django well really benefit. Side note, there’s another horse in this clinic named Django!

  2. Amy permalink

    No more falling off!!! That’s my job! LOL!

    • Hopefully, that will be it for this trip. I’m still laughing at myself. Glad no one saw it!

  3. drica_oliveira@yahoo.com permalink

    awesome TIa, some of the terms you used Im not familiar with, but sounds like you are having a great tme. Try to stay up on the horse 🙂 Im glad you did not get hurt, Can’t wait to find out what you did today. Very happy that you are jumping and a little jelouse.

    • Let me know if I can help explain some of the terms! Having an incredible time! Told the group about you and they were all very interested in the latest saddle adjustments. 🙂

  4. Tia, Extreme friendly connect sounds like something that would be good for Tex and I. What do you think?

    Sounds like you are already learning and trying allot of new ideas and methods.

    • Hi Mike, it could be a great tool to help with connection. I’ve been able to figure out that it’s best used after a horse has a solid foundation on maintain gait and direction. We will definitely be playing with this, though!

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