Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Arcing Over Poles

The Horse Gods were smiling on me again last night. Trainer was pulling out of the driveway just as I was turning in. That either meant that she was finished with lessons, or running to catch some food before her next one. I haltered up Milo and led him up to the barn. The only car to be seen was the evening feeder's, aside from her only the BO was in the aiselway putting board invoices into the mailboxes.

I curried Milo vigorously, trying to warm up he and I. Small clumps of hair were beginning to fall out, making me excited for the shed to come - indicating springs arrival. I wanted to save our stretching exercises for the arena after a bit of warm up. It dawned on me the other night as I drove home, that trying to take tension out of Milo's muscles is most likely for not when I attempt to do it before riding. His muscles aren't warmed up, certainly it will be much harder to help him loosen them, it not potentionally injure him.

Since the arena was empty, I took the opportunity to set up some poles for us to work over. An exercise from the book to help strengthen Milo's stifles is one I had been wanting to try, but never had the opportunity to. I set up four ground poles in a half circle and about three feet from each other. The idea with his exercise is to not only allow the horse to lift their legs over the poles (stifle strengthening) but to do so in a "bent" fashion. Milo will need to have his body on an arc to correctly work over the poles.

I warmed up Milo on the longeline flatly first, giving his body a chance to warm up before asking for somethign a bit more difficult. I must add too that Milo has been working so much nicer on the longeline then ever before. Remember a few months ago when I was worried about his longe behavior? I think what has really helped is Ive re-evaluated how I work with him. I no longer want to force my horse to do something via fear or pain, as I had originally trained him on the longeline. While Im not afraid to swing my stick and string when needed, Ive been giving him much more subtle cues with my body for him to pick up on, its rare for me to even need to lift the stick up anymore. I much enjoy this quieter version of longeing versus the frustration and anger created from our previous workings.

Milo was now warmed up and working nicely, so I moved on to the poles. He worked traveling right first. It took a few passes over the poles for him to get his rythym but finally he trotted over them nicely lifting his legs and back and arcing his body correctly into the turn. I changed him directions and sent him over the poles. This side was much more difficult for him (this is the same side, the left side, that he is most stiff on undersaddle and in our muscle/stretching exercises, same side hes having trouble truely releasing his tension with). He tried to travel over the poles in a straight line and even wanted to poke his nose to the outside. Next time sending him over I tried to keep his head to the inside and attempted to push his barrel out with pressure (air pressure, not on his side) from my stick. It sort of worked a bit better the next attempt, but I figured this exercise would need some assistance from my part, best undersaddle.

He was warmed up now so I worked on his stretches and tension releasing. He released his left side beautifully which surprised me.

I mounted up and got right to work, keeping Milo straight and really holding in my mind the value of the outside rein. He was moving nicely straight so I moved him up to the trot, trotting straight lines, straight circles, and transitioning from working trot to smaller trot, lengthening and shortening his stride. Once I got a steady circle going I positioned him to work over the poles (left side). He was awkward and stiff the first pass over. But the fourth try yeilded a greater attempt to lift up and wrap around my inside leg. With a good effort I sent him out on a straight line again.

Trying to maintain straightness in the lope transition, I kept my leg at the girth, picked up on my outside rein, then half halted for the change. Milo lifted up so much underneath me and with a great leap of strength departed into the lope. It wasnt an explosion into lope, but just a very controlled and calculated lope departure on Milo's attempt. It was really cool, he knew exactly how to get his body into position for the lope. We loped around a bit on the rail and in circles, but this being his "better" side I didnt have much difficulty in anything (excpet my problem with the outside rein creeping out of my hands - when I needed it it was gone! I had to keep picking up miles of rein to acheive some outside rein again...Im not sure why I do this).

Back down to a trot I worked him over the poles again (right side). He felt wonderful! Arced and working nicely. Aha! This is what it is supposed to feel like, now I have to get the left side to mirror that.

Changing direction back to the left side with good knowledge of what it should feel like I positioned Milo on a circle over the poles. He needed outside rein, a touch of inside rein, and inside leg to hold him round. He was centered on the first two poles but veered towards the outside of the poles for the last two, strying to avoid arcing in the turn. We tried it again. Mindful of his antics, I prepared to pick up more outside rein. This attempt was much better but he was heavy to my inside leg. Once more I tried, and this time he gave his best effort yet. Arced and lifting, but with lots of effort on my part. No matter for now though, his body just had to feel what it felt like to correctly travel over them this direction.

Moving onto the lope to the left, Milo departed nicely, but had difficulty holding his shoulder up, trying to duck it down and travel leaning to the inside. The voice of Sarah filled my mind with her statement that I need to pick up more rein and let this bit to its job. I gathered a few more inches of rein, holding with my outside then touching a bit on the inside as well as my inside leg. There was some shoulder lift and Milo maintained it for half the arena. Good boy I said as I relaxed my seat to a downward transition. Giving him a trot breather for a second, I pondered whether or not I wanted to work on the serpentine lope exercise. Remember Sarah tell me that this exercise will help unlock his shoulders I thought it would be a good idea.

Loping again, I came around the corner and set him up for the exercise, coming towards the inside of the arena, then back to the rail. By the second attempt Milo lifted up his shoulder and even held it when we reached the end of the arena length for the corner again (a place where last time he wanted to drop to a trot). Good Boy again Milo, and we came down to a walk.

I cooled him out with some turnarounds and walk to halt and back transitions, getting him on my seat again. Finally with a regular breathing rate, I dismounted and led him around with me as I put poles away. Good Milo.

On another note, I decided to take a small chop to Milo's mane. Gasp! No worries, I didnt cut it off. But I did hear that trimming the ends can encourage more growth, and I wanted to get his mane looking a bit more even again.


and After:

No I did not cut a chunk out by the braid...I just didnt bring it all forward for the photo. But I evened out the mane length a bit...still uneven but no way am I cutting it as short as the mane his blanket has rubbed down! I have the braid in there too because I heard that a little weight can encourage the mane to grow more...hoping that holds true. Ive been applying MTG to the poll and wither area weekly.

On a final note, I found a DM Turbo Lifter bit for sale for only $50 so I made the purchase yesterday. It has the same mouthpiece but swivel cheeks, which I think in fact will be nice for Milo I feel sometimes he still needs a little help from the side pieces that the fixed ones of the current bit dont offer. So, waiting for that now!


Anonymous said...

Sounds like a really nice work session - he seems to really try for you.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Kate, Milo is getting better all the time. Thanks largely to Sarah who is showing me how to communicate effectively. Milo is a good boy he does try real hard. :)

Rising Rainbow said...

Sounds like you and Milo are doing great I would say largely to you. While Sarah is helping with information on what to do, it would be useless if you couldn't execute it. Good for you.

Anonymous said...

Thanks MiKael. Its certainly a hard road to erase muscle memory, but its coming easier when the correct results follow...just like for Milo.

I always wonder if my blog posts are a bit boring to the reader...especially since instead of an entertaining read, I post mostly to document my progress in myself and Milo. Sometimes I read back over them and they are hard to follow....Im glad you guys seem to know what Im talking about. Its hard to describe how things feel. :)

in2paints said...

I find it difficult to put my sessions with Lilly into words too... but I know exactly what you mean when you talk about what you're doing with Milo. :)

I've been keeping Lilly's tail trimmed because I also heard light trimming will encourage it to grow and it seems to be working. Even braided it touches the ground now.

Story said...

I really enjoy reading about your progress! It's easy to visualize what is going on. Keep the stories coming!

What technique did you use to trim his mane? It still looks very natural. Due to the extreme length differences in Dee's mane I've been wanting to trim it back a bit but I'm afraid she'll come out looking like a kid with a bad bowl cut lol.

Anonymous said...

Story - The simple technique of trimming the ends with scissors! LOL his mane is so thin, I can cut it with just scissors (did this for the bridle path too) instead ofpulling which would take volume out. I cut upward...scissors vertical not cutting horizontal - it makes more natural looking cut marks. And thank you! Sometimes I feel that Im talking to now one, but I like documenting how things are going.

in2paints - Im glad you know what Im talking about lol even if I feel its confusing. I trim Milo's tail quite a bit too mostly because we reiners want it at about the fetlock so they dont step it out since we back up a lot LOL. I dont have a problem growing his tail, its the darned mane!