Honest Assessment: Part II . . . And Some Photos and Updates!

Happy Friday, Y’all! giphy.gif

Hello, Pony World! Happy Weekend to You!

I’ve got some really good training updates, but first I must share that Comfort’s winter coat has shed out, which means new spots! I took a lot of photos chilling with her in the woods, yesterday.

Furthermore, Paisley is LOVING the spring weather!

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When it’s not raining that is…. Which it’s been doing a lot. Never really understood “April Showers” until I lived in Virginia.
IMG_2807Me too, Paisley. Me too. . .

Hopefully the may flowers will come and the showers will end because Comfort and me, pony trainer bestie, and two other friends are all going horse camping together, next month! Maybe some of you have done this before, but I have not, and I am SO EXCITED! I’m not really sure what to expect, but I know the campsite has stalls, which is pretty cool! I’m especially stoked since I’ll be in the company of really experienced, competent horsewomen I can learn from! Yippee! Another horsey friend of mine was suggesting to me that a great way to help my progress with Comfort is to get her off the property more, so this is a good start and I’m excited to measure the results!

floating flowers!

 


 

Back to my honest assessment challenge!

 

I saw a whole different pony after one session of doing the relaxation techniques. I was 2animals.jpgso relieved, to be honest. I’ve been stressing and worrying that Comfort has started to hate our work together, but it turns out I just needed a new approach and a break from the norm. Comfort and I had a crazy-cool connection; it was slightly spiritual. NBD.

So basically I couldn’t find the horses anywhere so I went into the woods and there they all were being precious and Comfort came right up to me!!! If I can get that twice more, I’ll take issue #9 (hard to catch) off the list! I hung out for a while on a log and took a lot of photos of her and then the horses migrated out, at which point Comfort looks back at me like hey are you coming? Which I did manage to capture in photo form:img_2820.jpg

So I hang back and then go into the field after the horses to actually get comfort and do something with her, even though I was soooo satisfied just with her feeling chill in my presence. I felt like she would be ok with me squeezing in a little extra time together. Sometimes once she’s sniffed me, she’s done with me, and I was worried she might feel that way once I went out to the field, but instead she let me come right up to her and put on her halter! Success! I walked her all the way across the field (it’s HUGE) and she was completely relaxed the entire time. She stopped twice (she usually stops 5 or so times because she has anxiety about leaving the herd), and I just told her to keep going and she did and stayed right where she was supposed to be (she also likes to try to get ahead of me). This was seriously phenomenal. I walked her up through the gate and then past the barn and right into the arena. She was so relaxed for the whole thing that I did one lap around the arena just walking her in hand and then walked her all the way back across the field to where her buddies were and just turned her back out. I was SO proud of her for how laid back she was! It really goes to show that it’s so worth it to check in and make sure your pony is relaxed. We were going to do our relaxation exercise, but she was so great that I just decided she needed to be finished for the day. I’m really glad I did, because I think short, happy sessions are great positive reinforcers, and Comfort completely agrees with me.

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So we didn’t work on problem #1 (sniffing things) because she was so great!!! But next we will definitely do the relaxation exercise again and work on duration of time, per my pyramid chart, and then see where things go. I might work on sniffing things or I might let her be finished. It will depend on how she’s feeling. More updates next time!

Honest Assessment Challenge: Fixing Things Phase 1

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“I’m just being honest!” Heyyyyyy Yaaaaaa! I got the gif here.

I am feeling SO ACCOMPLISHED RIGHT NOW!

So my honest assessment pointed out to me that my pony is not relaxed very often. And I started to realize that we don’t really have a “thing” we do to fix that. Like the “thing” teenage girls have in the movies where they touch their horse’s nose and can instantly read his mind and sooth his soul? Yeah, I feel like I just stand there staring at an animal flipping out at the end of a rope asking myself, how did we get here? Well not anymore! I acquired cinematic level horse soothing powers today.

It’s called – standing there and doing nothing.

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I LOVE the idea of doing nothing! YES! Got gif here.

In my last post, I talked about 9 things I seem to have accidentally dropped along the way in my training and how I need to pick them back up again. I realized I needed to work on something sort of broad and foundational that would aid Comfort in relaxing and help with our 9 issues. I concluded working on “sort of ground tying” was a solid choice. I even made a training pyramid, which I think is my new solution to every problem. Expect an ancient Egyptian quantity of pyramid charts from here on out.

I tried out “sort of ground tying” today with 1,000X the success I thought I’d have. I was shocked. I really didn’t expect this to go so well. Comfort was totally soothed by the whole situation, stopped acting like she was on death row, and understood exactly what I wanted, YAY! I think this was the perfect balance of quietness and clear, simple instruction. So hopefully I can recreate this for the rest of our lives and also find ways to integrate this level of clear communication into all we do.

If you read my last post and wanted to try this out for yourself, I want to share some amendments.

  1. I tried using the technique I talked about in my last post with almost no success, at first. The idea was that you told the pony, “whoa” and then flicked the lead rope every time she moved her feet so she would understand she had to stay still. The clinking metal of the lead rope was causing Comfort a lot of panic. I ended up needing to tie the lead rope onto her halter while I held the metal clip. Once she  had a soft rope knot under her chin, she responded expertly. Thanks, Julie Goodnight for the great advice. You were totally right. She went from looking like a wild stallion to an enchanted unicorn.
  1. The second thing – if your pony is freaking out too much to lead properly (as mine was) she’s not going to wait for you to get situated a proper distance from her body all calm and nice. She’s going to try to keep walking and push past you. So a great way to create that distance is to lunge her at a walk and then ask her to stop and turn in to face you. Then she’s already an appropriate distance from you without you having to move your feet and confuse her. The less fiddling around you have to do, the better. Shoot for clarity and simplicity.

I thought I’d get through 2 minutes, but instead I got to about 8. So from here, assuming the foundation stays from yesterday, I’ll shoot for 10 or more minutes of standing, no movement. It’s ok if she moves a foot or something, because otherwise I can’t teach her that I don’t want her moving her foot. Just correct her and keep standing there. I can see, now, that ideally all my communication would look like this – slow, simple, clear, clean, relaxed.

I know I need to work on the 9 things, so let’s address that by breaking them down into manageable tasks:

My Assessment

This time through the lens of Pineapple Express, because why not? 

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Truly what happens after a bad day with Comfort when I try to hide from my boyfriend that I fell off. Why I need to keep her relaxed…. 

  1. My pony won’t sniff her saddle without considerable work, but she sniffs the pad.
    • Once I’ve done my relaxation exercise, I can work on leading Comfort around the arena and letting her sniff new objects. When she sniffs, she’ll get a treat. This will include her saddle. The next step would be to do this from the saddle. I think it’s safe to do this at any point, but I think ultimately, she’ll feel better about her saddle when she feels better about riding. 
    • This is basically how comfort feels when I put on her saddle: 

      flex

      from giphy

  2. My pony won’t stand at a mounting block, she swings out her hindquarters or walks away.
    • My exasperation with this one is just !!!!!!!! GAH!!!!!!!!  What have I done to you that you seem to despise me so much? All I do is love you!
    • nice guy.gif
    • This one REALLY blows. I’ve used process of elimination to decide that what I really need is someone to hold her or I need to create blockades to keep her in place. I can’t take no for an answer on this one; I’ve just got to make it happen. Again, I think she’ll feel better about mounting when she feels relaxed just hanging out in her tack and also feels good about us riding, which will just take time.
  3. My pony sometimes takes one step back when I lift the bridle to her face. When I put it on, she likes to take a couple steps forward.
    • I’m going to try asking her to turn her head towards me and encourage her to bring her head to the bridle instead of away from it. I need to include her more in the bridling process instead of just throwing the reins over her head and taking her by surprise. She doesn’t like that. I think this one will be an easy fix. 
  4. My pony won’t stay still if I drop the reins when I’m on her and at a halt. She might, momentarily, but then she decides to walk off.
    • I think the relaxation exercise I’m working on will REALLY help with this, so I need to make sure I use my verbal cue, whoa, to ensure she associates the exercise with her situation. I also think that because Comfort really likes contact, this one might take a while, because dropping the contact is intimidating to her. This one might be something that I work on towards the end.

hurricane.gifMy pony won’t stand still after I mount.

  • A holder person/blockades could help with this. For now, I need to beat her to the punch and ask her to walk on before she decides on her own. At least that way I’m in control. 
  1. My pony tries to pull ahead of me when she’s anticipating something and I’m leading her. When she isn’t anticipating, she’s usually great.
    • Basically, eliminate the anticipation. Generally making our sessions more clean, clear, and relaxed will help with this. One thing I know I need to do is make sure I’m always in the correct position next to my pony – guilty as charged. If I’m all over the place, how is she supposed to know where to stand? I also need to focus on asking her to whoa and go without pulling on her. If she won’t use my body language and verbal queues, a wiggle of the lead rope to stop and a tap of a whip behind to go gets a better response from Comfort. Sometimes backing up is good, too. 
  2. My pony pulls through direct rein pressure when she’s anxious, this includes when I’m on the ground about to mount her or when she’s distracted and no longer listening to me while riding.
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      It escalates quickly with Comfort….

    • This is related to the last one. Basically the same issue and the same solution. Of course, I can’t do that from the saddle, but doing a lot of this ground work will help and be relatable. Using my voice, weight aids, and then going to the contact is best. Making my contact a wall instead of pulling is also something I can work on. It’s less of a war, that way. 
  3. My pony still won’t stand still for her feet to be picked and will try to get away from me. When she’s in the right frame of mind, she’ll stand patiently.
    • I’m really excited to use my whoa exercise for grooming. Looking back on me writing this, while her feet are the toughest part, Comfort just throws a fit sometimes when she’s being groomed in general. I think I’ve slacked off and stopped noticing a little because she’s tied or in a pen or stall and isn’t posing a threat to anyone. So, again, I need to flesh out exactly what behavior I want from Comfort, and then be very precise about it. It will help if I give her some aids like another horse next to her, a bucket of grain, etc. We can work up to it.
  4. My pony is hard to catch.
    1. This one is just my pony’s personality, right now, and it’s a symptom of her seeing our interactions as work instead of fun. I think this will wear off over time. I have some techniques in my back pocket that work for me. For now, I’ll wait and see how things looks when we fix the other 8 issues. 

It’s my hope that after all of this, we will be better than ever!

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More updates to come! We will keep working on relaxation and see where it leads us! I think today we will work on that and then follow it with quietly leading her around and letting her sniff things. So, problem #1 – you’re up to be fixed! I’ll let you know how it goes!

I am at block #2, going for 10 minutes.

pyramid

 

 

Honest Assessment – time to acknowledge what I need to work on and JUST DO IT.

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Yes, I hate honest assessment, even though it’s basically the only way to have real growth or progress. 

I HATE honest assessment. It makes me point out my flaws, which I’m too prideful to be comfortable with. I have to force myself to do it, but that’s where real, good training comes from, I think. Once you’ve identified something has gone off course (no pun intended), you have to be willing to hone in on the baby steps which is so hard and frustrating and forces you to be creative and actually think and … Ugh. Work. Yes, sometimes it’s better to walk away if I’ve lost my cool, but then I need to come up with a plan and come back and try that plan out and break it into fun, tiny pieces. Boy that’s NOT easy to do. If it is for you, you should probably go do this pony thing professionally, because that’s an incredible gift!

I have been in a nasty cycle of wanting to continue progress with my pony while watching little pieces flake off along the way. After a while, I have to acknowledge the little pieces I’m dropping and take care of them. It’s annoying because I have a fear that if I’m always going back for the little pieces, I’m never going forwards. Unfortunately, I’m DEFINITELY never going forward if I’m losing pieces along the way – that one I really didn’t understand for the longest time.

Here, I’ll share my honest assessment, and I challenge you to do your own. Ponies are notorious for their stubborn ways, but they’re actually way more flexible and open to change than we humans are. You can pretty much smooth out any issue if you come at it the right way.

neck and head

So maybe my pony thinks she’s the head, especially when she’s anxious. Do we need to work on trust? Sure, yes, totally, always! But I also know that, in reality, I am in control, unless I choose not to be. Ponies are not stubborn, they’re smart. Sometimes it seems like they’re smarter than you, but you can ALWAYS outsmart your pony. You have logic and reason and there’s really nothing you can’t do.


My Assessment 

And I’m not afraid to list it out, because I know I am in control and can fix all of this with my powerful logic and reasoning capabilities and patience! If I want it to be, it’s just a matter of time until these are no longer issues. Let’s do this!

  1. My pony won’t sniff her saddle without considerable work, but she sniffs the pad.
  2. My pony won’t stand at a mounting block, she swings out her hindquarters or walks away.
  3. My pony sometimes takes one step back when I lift the bridle to her face. When I put it on, she likes to take a couple steps forward.
  4. My pony won’t stay still if I drop the reins when I’m on her and at a halt. She might, momentarily, but then she decides to walk off.
  5. My pony won’t stand still after I mount.
  6. My pony tries to pull ahead of me when she’s anticipating something and I’m leading her. When she isn’t anticipating, she’s usually great.
  7. My pony pulls through direct rein pressure when she’s anxious, this includes when I’m on the ground about to mount her or when she’s distracted and no longer listening to me while riding.
  8. My pony still won’t stand still for her feet to be picked and will try to get away from me. When she’s in the right frame of mind, she’ll stand patiently.
  9. My pony is hard to catch.

Ok, there! It’s out there in the universe. So what should I work on first? What’s most pressing?

I’m going to make a couple assumptions in order to move forward

  1. My pony doesn’t hate me
  2. If she’s not relaxed, I need to break it down further

I am going to spend the next few blog posts addressing each issue and coming up with a solution that makes sense for me and my pony (and trying it out). This first post, however, will be a little different. The thing that seems most pressing to me is that my pony isn’t relaxed and doesn’t have a clear sense of my rules, still, and we need to practice this and make it second nature. That means having clear rules, structure, no confusion, kindness, trust, willingness to take a new approach, and patience.

Because of this, I’ve chosen something that I know will be engaging, that I can break down into tiny, tiny pieces, and that will be confidence building for my pony and me. I also wanted to pick something that would be useful for all my other issues. So I’ve decided I am just going to work on getting Comfort to stand still and only move when I say she can. If this happens to lead to an awesome new ability to ground tie, I am sooooo into that! Most of the time, when I teach Comfort something new, I base it off what someone else has already vetted. So this is going to be based on Julie Goodnight’s ground tie article in TrailRiderMag.com.

What I’ll do is stand in front of Comfort and off to the side, a little, with her halter on and me holding the lead rope and say, “Whoa.” Comfort knew whoa when I got her, and I also use it when lunging, so this is something I don’t need to teach. As soon as she moves (this could be her nose starting to lead her into a turn or a foot moving) I’ll flick the lead rope so she knows that wasn’t the right answer. I don’t want anything to escalate with Comfort, so being clear and fast is really important.

Where we practice is important to Comfort, I’ve learned over the years. Being in a big grassy field isn’t really conducive to her learning. Being in the arena with a bunch of new things could also be a little much. Ideally, Comfort learns best when she doesn’t have the thought in her head – Why are we here or why is that there? It just gets in the way. So, I’ll probably work on this either in the arena with no new jumps around or where we tack up. If she gets anxious and starts pacing at the end of the rope, it’s going to really muddy up our communication and make it hard to teach her. I don’t want to deal with that at all.

Eventually, I can start lengthening the duration of time I stand there, then the space between us, and then start making small movements so she gets the idea that when I move she still stays. I don’t want to wear her out, so I’ll do this exercise slowly over time and in little pieces and always quit while we are ahead.

Ultimately, I’d like to be able to move around my pony completely without holding the lead rope. This will be an awesome foundation for working on calmly picking her hooves! I’d also like to be able to just walk away. All of this will be great for mounting and halting when riding, too. The thing is, if I work on the practical applications too early, I could mess up our training of the foundational concept, so I am not going to put this to the test until I’ve finished training it completely. I think I tend to jump ahead too quickly and then I don’t know how to recover. I don’t want to have to do that, so I have to be conscious of not skipping ahead. This will make everything a lot easier for me and for Comfort.

One thing I’ve learned with training is that if you don’t have a clear pyramid of “easy to difficult” in your head, you can accidentally skip ahead and confuse yourself or the animal. I had this revelation reading Brian Kilcommon’s Good Owners Great Dogs. Maybe, in my instance, I’m asking for duration of time and distance all at once. That probably isn’t going to work. I’ve got to break that down and choose to do one or the other until it’s mastered. So for training my quasi-ground-tie, I’ve made a little chart so I can make sure I don’t accidentally go overboard.

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(Despite my capitalization errors) I think this is a good approach for Comfort and me!

So, as we master this, I’ll update with new posts and then I can move on to working through everything else on my list. I think I’m really going to come out strong if I stick to this, and I am excited to fix our issues so we can keep moving ahead! Just as I’ve broken this down, I need to break down my 9 issues, too. They might be related, and working on one could really help another. In my next post I’m going to make sure my issues are in the correct order so that it’s as easy as possible for Comfort and me to overcome them. Until then!

 

 

My Experience Riding a Medium Sized, Narrow Feeling Pony

I’d like to share that these are findings I’ve gathered from experiences with my own pony, and they may not work on or apply to others. I hope this information is helpful, but know I am not an expert, and I am just contributing my experiential knowledge to the giant horse library that is the internet [[[besides the part that is just “My Little Pony” fan art; I am in no way in cahoots with all that.]]]

olivanders

How I feel about My Little Pony, lately. Thanks, Tumblr!

Back the the point!

There is something I discovered about riding Comfort that I could barely find ANY information about on the web: How to ride/stay on narrow, medium sized ponies. Firstly, most information on the internet about ponies is from the UK. Secondly, since most people writing articles and posting on forums are adults, these UK adult riders typically ride large ponies. I have a medium sized pony and I swear she has bird bones and the fitness and flexibility of an olympic gymnast. If she becomes fearful and jumps sideways, good luck! If she wants to drop a shoulder or turn on a dime, have fun staying on! All of this is to say – there’s almost no advice out there about how to stick with a pony like Comfort.

Comfort is a POA, and most POA’s have a little bulk to them. Comfort, on the other hand,  looks like someone took a shrink ray to an actual thoroughbred and just hit the miniaturize button and then sprinkled on spots.

Grand champion POA stallion KS’s Pony Farm:         And then there’s Comfort:

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Comfort the POA!

KS's Naturally Nifty 2014 grand champ stallion.jpg

KS’s Naturally Nifty 2014 POA Southeast Regional Grand Champion

So Comfort obviously doesn’t look precisely like a typical POA, but hey, she’s cute and is bonafide! But in her all-around “mediumness” Comfort poses a lot of challenges to an adult rider.

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Here is a comparison! Thanks to my friend Danny who took this photo of my friend and me. Check out how little leg Comfort takes up. Also check out the amazing face she’s making!!!

Comfort is a narrow pony, in the sense that when you sit on her, the V created by your legs is not quite as broad and stable as it would be on an equine with a bigger rib cage. Riding her bareback is CRAAAAZY feeling. It’s not that the pony is too small for me to ride, it’s just that her build is atypical from the average lesson horse. You will not feel a big bulging rib cage and belly supporting your legs. This is a major benefit of big horses and rotund ponies (bless their hearts :). When I mount a horse and I feel my legs stretch around either side of the horse’s body, the last thing I think about is falling off. I’m extra-super secure feeling. With a pony like Comfort, you immediately notice that big blob of support is missing. It’s up to you to stay balanced, and everything you do is going to require a tad more work on your part. One particularly awesome rider on an airplane once sympathized with me saying riding Comfort sounds like you are “riding an envelope.” I completely agreed!

Comfort can move fast, and you can get unseated pretty quickly. Your weight has a huge influence over a pony her size. Sitting up tall and sticking with her is crucial. BELIEVING you can stick with her is the absolute most important thing you can do. You have to trust the connection. Mentally relax and feel yourself completely give over your weight to the pony. Be in the saddle, not on the saddle. Don’t be an half empty sack of rice, but make sure you are actually sinking your weight into the saddle. I think I got that concept from Mary Wanless, but don’t quote me. I think it was she that said your center can’t be floppy. I love Mary Wanless, check out these awesome before and after photos from people who have worked with her! Wow!

Anyway . . . Next topic:

NEVER LET GO!

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Stay in the saddle with the pony! Never let go! (Link)

At some point when you get on, your seat has to say to the pony- Hey, I trust you and I am not going anywhere. Here I am, don’t expect any changes, know you can always feel me here.

I think so much of good riding comes down to attitude. At first I didn’t realize it, but for a while I was distrustingly tensing my muscles ever so slightly when I rode Comfort. I didn’t know it about myself until I was on Comfort when she was totally relaxed and on a trail ride. As she remained loose and her body shifted over obstacles, hills, and dips in the trail, I realized I wasn’t letting her carry me; I was still carrying me. I think (and I could totally be wrong!!) that’s what people mean when they say to “be deep in the saddle” or “let your weight sink into the saddle.” My decision to stop carrying myself was 10% feel/muscle and 90% awareness/trust. I think many issues with riding come down to your mindset and trust. Ever since I felt that sensation, I’ve been able to recreate it in our rides, but it’s very easy when your pony is in a flat arena for this to go unnoticed. I really think trail riding is a great tool for bringing your attention to things you might not notice in the arena.

So I hope that’s all helpful and useful or at least interesting. I would love to hear stories from other riders who have ridden medium sized ponies like Comfort. Do please feel free to ask me questions or comment and share any more ideas/experiences if you feel compelled. Thanks for reading!

How to Execute the Half Halt!

Ok, so I have done so much research on the half halt, and every article says that it’s the most helpful and most underused move in riding. I wonder why it’s so underused? Most  articles will say it’s because people don’t really know how to half halt. I have spent years of my life sort of dabbling in half halt research, and I wanted to create something in All American Pony that basically summarizes what all the websites I’ve checked out say. These are in order of google hits, not in order of who I think is right.

#1 Horsechannel.com – summary – basically, follow your horse with your seat. When you are ready to half halt, all you do is squeeze your abs and make it so your spine is saying – I’m not with you. Apparently, when you squeeze your abs and still the spine, your arms also will give a subtle cue, naturally.

So I tried it. I closed my fist around my finger, and I squeezed my abs as hard as I could. I felt a VERY very subtle change in the way my fist felt, but you definitely can’t see it. Your arm does not go back at all and your fist doesn’t visibly tighten. It’s a tiny muscular contraction inside your fingers that is super super subtle. You only do this for a moment. This is only supposed to last for one stride, so whether or not it worked, you release the pressure immediately. If it didn’t work, do it a little more obviously the next time. Lastly, you should have light contact with your leg to say ok continue!, afterwards.

link – http://www.horsechannel.com/horse-exclusives/half-halt-how-to.aspx

Let’s look at another website!

#2 Erin King from California made a 2 minute video about this that is featured on thehorse.com

“It’s a little bit of ho and go used together”

Sit deep, strong core, tighten back muscle ask with a little outside rein – “flex” with your outside wrist – follow through with your leg!! <– my biggest challenge, I’m always like SLOW DOWN, woman! But actually, putting on leg seems to be the key to having them give their energy and attention to you so you can use it.

What’s it supposed to feel like?

  • Horse’s back comes up to meet you

What’s it not supposed to feel like?

  • Horse resisting you and hollowing through the back

Link – http://www.thehorse.com/videos/30459/how-to-do-a-half-halt

# 3 Ok let’s check out another!!! This is one point of view from the dressage world on dressagetoday.com. I am not exactly a dressage rider, and this isn’t quite as applicable to me, but my method is to digest 1,000 different points of view until the concept clicks.

Here’s the breakdown:

driving the horse  – should happen on both the front and back end of the half halt – using your seat to follow and drive.

Then sit deep and tall, don’t drive with your seat anymore,  and “turn your wrists in” to go on a bit more contact

Then right back to driving with your seat! – this is the part where the horse carries on with better balance.

They also have a little section where they talk about when the half halt doesn’t work. Because I have more of a greenie, I focused on these two issues:

  • Sometimes a horse might be too green, they explain, and might not be ready to shift their weight back like that.
  • Also a horse may be focused on something else and kind of geared up. It’s better to send them forward, they say, and let the horse settle down on his own. Once he’s relaxed and focused again, it’s ok to half halt.

The link! http://dressagetoday.com/article/secrets-halt-25099

#4 horseandhound.co.uk says it’s “a momentary closure of the seat, legs, and hands.” They break down the half halt into what you’re trying to do. So if you are connecting the front and back end of the horse to get him “on the bit,” you…..

  • First want to send your horse forward. Unlike the dressage article I read, they just focus on using your leg (as opposed to your very deep seat), in order to keep things simple.
  • Then you are going to use the outside rein. “Close your outside hand . . . in a fist to capture, contain, and recycle the energy back to the hind legs.” ***
  • You don’t want to actually turn your horse to the outside, so next you will — and here is where I see something really different than other articles  — give three “squeezes”on the inside rein so that the horse remains straight.
  • This whole thing should take three seconds
  • Afterwards, go back to what you were doing before, release the contact back to the usual level and use light contact with your legs
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I think this is a great explanation of what your hand does in a half halt and why – something I found to be pretty confusing in my research. I found this here. And I also must credit the fabulous Jane Savoie. This is her work. 

 

So I hope that helped anyone wondering what the half halt is! For any How I Met Your Mother fans – it’s like when Barney says Legen-waitforit-Dary! The -waitforit- is the half halt. I think the half halt can be used for many things. It’s the same idea, but it all depends on context and what gait you’re in. A half halt in two point, might be a subtle check and release of the reins. A half halt in a sitting trot could be asking for a clean transition to a walk. You and your pony can use it for a transition, to rebalance, rock your pony’s weight back, to refocus attention, or any other number of things. This is all info I’ve learned through research, and, if you would like to add to this collection of info, or if you would like to correct anything, please comment! Input is welcome!!!

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The Half Halt, as explained by Barney Stinson. Robbed from http://www.hdfbcover.com

Relaxing!

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Comfort is RELAXING! I am really starting to see it come together with her. I finally feel like we are back to our old selves and now even surpassing that mark. Comfort is keeping her cool, and I am happy and confident! I am loving this feeling and each good session with Comfort is building on the last like a chain reaction in perpetually positive motion! I feel like one session that isn’t perfect won’t make our whole masterpiece fall apart, and that’s, I think, what being a real team is supposed to feel like.

I can’t stress enough the value of riding lessons in this whole process. I’ve only had 4 lessons since I moved to the new barn which was months and months ago, but I realized that having someone validate what you are doing is extremely important and makes you a much stronger rider.

[[Edit: I feel like I did not express myself accurately, upon re-reading this post, and there’s actually a few things I’d like to add. I would not suggest taking on your first green pony without a trainer or instruction, and for me to have ridden Comfort independently for so long was never my intention and was due to a horrible string of unfortunate circumstances that were beyond my control. During that time, I regularly was taking lessons at other barns on schooled horses. Additionally, I had a close group of experienced trainers available to me over the phone and willing to visit me in person. I think one of the most important components of all this, for someone whose been riding one discipline for a long time (like me), is to have instruction that works with what you already know instead of against it. Having my trainer-bestie, who I’ve mentioned in other posts, along with the rest of my Blacksburg pony family, saved me, but our plan all along had been for me to find an instructor available on site who understood my background, was non-judgmental about our progress and intentions, and knew how to deal with a variety of horse types, including green ponies and extra sensitive ponies. Last but not least, an instructor that understood ponies (as opposed to horses). Some people are very anti-pony (I mean, you’d really be surprised!!!). I’ve seen people who just don’t get ponies, and you and your instructor probably won’t click if your instructor thinks that what you’re doing is a waste of your and their time.]]

I think the thing I needed most was just someone to tell me that we are doing a good job and that they are completely confident in me as a rider. Now I feel like I can move forward, make tweaks, and communicate on a more subtle level with my pony. I also have a friend that is willing to watch a low quality 20 minute video of me trotting around an arena, willing to drive over an hour to help me and ride my pony when she goes wonky, and is constantly available for phone support at all times of day. ***Thank you, universe, for bringing me my pony savior bestie.*** You really do have to take care of yourself before you can take care of someone else, whether that be human or animal.


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New girth! New saddle pad! New halter!


My instructor has also given me some really valuable tips, one of the most insightful being that my pony is the equivalent of an OTTB. My instructor has had tons of experience converting OTTBs into pleasure riding horses and once she and I started applying her zen techniques on Comfort, my little pony started polishing up quite nicely, moving out, rounding her back, stretching her neck, flexing better, and relaxing. The ultimate!

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If you’re curious about what we’ve been doing, it’s basically just that we are asking Comfort to turn, circle, figure 8, serpentine, and basically squiggle around the arena at the walk until we see her visibly relax. At the trot, we are focusing on keeping her nose straight and keeping our rhythm consistent. We are working on me slowing her with my posting and keeping her engaged and guessing until she trusts me and relaxes. Another piece we added in was keeping the contact a little stronger. She seems to like it better. Lastly, I’ve been working on keeping my weight in the saddle better and using my abs more. It’s all coming together!

Update – The Micklem bridle and french link snaffle are doing great for Comfort! We have a great connection, and she and I have nice long talks via our rein walkie talkies. I’ve been able to keep her on progressively lighter contact! I also recently noticed that I shorten the reins unnecessarily to trot – trust is so very important. Trust fearlessly.

Trust fearlessly, don’t care what you look like. Don’t let your horse step on your hair.

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from google images

 

Micklem Bridle Review!

My first day using the Micklem bridle was a huge success. I went from your average bridle with a full cheek snaffle to a french link bit and a Micklem bridle. It was a fantastic transition. There’s quite a lot I like about the Micklem, so let’s look at some photos and get started.

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The french link snaffle was a hit, for starters, but I think she found it to be even more pleasant when paired with a steadier contact. The thick, rubber reins (which I honestly have always thought were a little awkward looking) worked wonders to keep my hand in place and keep the contact steady. The clips on the bit also do a great job of stabilizing the bit from the opposite end.

The fit is great. As you’ve probably already read on other blogs and websites, the cheek piece does need to be snug, as does the “flash” strap. The top of the bridle is very soft and thick, making is as comfortable for the horse as possible. Brass buckles and fittings add a nice touch to this already beautifully crafted bridle.

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I invested in the Micklem multibridle, which has an additional lunging cavesson on the nose. This doesn’t bother me one bit. I am all about schooling. If I make it to shows, that’s great, but it isn’t my main focus. I am all about practicality and this is a great way for me to lunge, tie, and ride my pony all with the same piece of equipment. The cavesson is a little stiff, but it’s not so much that it would rub, and it’s breaking in nicely. The whole bridle feels really sturdy, which is a great feeling to have. Most importantly, Comfort responded so well to me putting it on and her wearing it. Once she got used to it, her whole demeanor relaxed, which was a huge gift. Relaxation is key with Comfort.

All in all, I really like this bridle. I know it will require more use before I can give a wholly comprehensive review, but, so far, it’s absolutely an improvement for my pony, and I can feel secure knowing that she isn’t receiving any unnecessary pressure on the sensitive nerves of her face.

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Really such a clean and beautiful design. This bridle is incredibly simple and uncomplicated, which I love. It only has two buckles that you use to put on and take off the bridle, and you can immediately tie your horse after a ride by using the ring on the nose, which can really come in handy! It’s a little bulky hanging in the tack room, but it’s also one of the most beautiful pieces of equipment I own, so I really don’t mind it standing out! I am glad I invested in the Micklem Multibridle!