Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Second Reining Fundamentals Clinic

Last month I attended the second Reining Fundamentals Clinic by Patricia Ruff, my my first she put on. This month I signed up for a second (and half already signed up for a third in January). This time the clinic location was in a rather familiar arena, the same covered one I used to haul to and take lessons with Sarah in, and ironically enough, instructor Patricia used to operate her program from this very facility years ago before she and her horseshoeing husband bought their own property.

One of the best things I have found about attending these clinics is the general atmosphere. Although most clinics are much the same: waiting around for long periods, getting cold and stiff, tired horses and riders, the education and approach to learning that Patricia offers is quite exceptional. She never has made me feel that we are miles away from where we should be, or that I am on the wrong mount for the discipline, things I have been told before by trainers in lessons and clinics. Patricia doesnt fairy coat anything, but she understands that the average enthusiast doesnt have a $50,000 horse to compete on either. Thats maybe one of the most refreshing things about these last few clinics. The majority of the horses and riders are basic people, on basic horses ranging from all different breeds and disciplines, skill levels and interests. Therefore, it further exemplifies the training offered - that any horse can benefit from these exercises and although they are geared towards creating a better reining horse, the transformation I have witnessed in the other participants shows the benefits.

This clinic touched on what we learned at the last one with the Five Easy Pieces, but went beyond. We schooled the five pieces to start, then moved on to other things as well.

Milo and I at the clinic, courtesy of the clinic organizer

Five Easy Pieces: Milo is coming along very well with these. I have been a good student the last month in practicing these and even teaching them to the paint mare Splash when I ride her. Patricia even gave me warm fuzzies when she commented "Nina will be teaching the next clinic, folks!" after I demonstrated our five pieces. Milo has learned to work fluidly from one piece to the next, and now we are asking him to up the ante. By far step number three, basically the half pass, is where Milo looses the most impulsion. An exercise Patricia gave me to help with this, particularly at the trot, is to approach a wall at a forty-five degree angle, and cue for step three along the wall. Initially when we tried this, Milo threw his first fit of the day, an episode I hadnt witnessed in two years since we left the drill team. But I ran him a few circles to emphasize NO, and even the other participants commented how he sure looked sorry about that decision. When we returned to the wall it took a few tries but he gave much more effort in step three. I even noticed later how it had greatly improved our work at the walk as well.

We moved onto neck reining: Patricia mentioned a scenario I'm sure we all have witnessed; rider "neck reins" their horse, pulling on the outside rein in an effort to make the horse neck rein "better", which really just tips the horse's head to the outside of the turn. Right? Ugly and incorrect. But how do we maintain an inside bend when we neck rein with the outside rein? Teach the horse to look to the inside when the rein is on the outside. So we all walked round and round the arena, "slapping" the rein up onto their neck, and if no response was given, bringing the head towards the inside with and inside direct rein. BUT to keep the horse on a straight track, keep the INSIDE leg on as well. So, slap the rein up onto the neck, no response, bring the nose in (and this is only slight, no nose to knee action here) and put inside leg on. Repeat. Eventually, Milo, and others, were figuring out that when the outside rein was applied, he should look to the inside and get patted, or have his nose brought around for him.

The word Woah: Milo has learned the word woah before, I taught it to him for his slides. But I learned that the work Woah is much more valuable then I was actually applying it with. Patricia said that the Woah actually should mean "back up". She also emphasized teaching three ways to stop: with the word Woah, with the rein and LEG, and from the seat. All aspects I have taught to Milo. But here is where the aha moment was: to teach each SEPARATELY and apply each SEPARATELY. Dont do them all at once. So first we taught them the word woah. Walk a straight line, say woah WITHOUT using any other cue be it seat, leg, or rein. Just say the word woah, when they stopped "choke down on the rein" and back up. Continue until the horse stops and backs a few steps on the word woah ALONE. Milo got this down after a few attempts. One key piece to remember was that once stopped, dont go forward again on the same line. Basically, when we stop the horse we told them we dont want them going any farther in the direction they were traveling. After stopped, turn the horse a different direction to walk on. Changing direction reinforces the word woah.

The next part of the stop was stopping with the brakes on, as Patricia called it. You hold the reins with enough "pull" that you actually have to push the horse with your legs with every step. Each horse has a different level of threshold they need for the rein stop, so use enough that at any point when you stop using your legs the horse will stop AND back. But never change the level of rein pressure throughout the exercise. Many horses dont like this exercise much because it can be frustrating, but it is a good indicator of your rein stop. After a few attempts Milo had the hang of it.

Finally, the combination of all of these comes together with the seat stop. Which takes time and many other riders didnt have it, but since I have done a lot of work on this with Milo, he has a seat stop and back, all in one fluid motion. The most I got out of the stopping work was in reinforcing the three different parts and not using them all together at once. Ask with the word, if not response, go to the seat, and then the rein.

We loped the horses a little bit to warm them back up, then it was time for some rundown work. I was really excited to work on this, but I seemed to get stuck at the end of the line again. By the time it was our turn, he wasnt really having it.

Rundown: Patricia drew a white line along the middle of the arena the long way, and a mark on one of the posts at the end. The white line gave a visual to try and stay straight and the mark on the post gave your eyes something to look straight and up towards. We werent fencing at this point, just teaching the horse to run straight towards the wall. Stop. Turnaround, then lope back increasing speed. Once past the halfway white line, then to ask for a stop. We watched a lot of other goes and were last to try. At that point we had stood in a cold corner for at least forty minutes. We ran down towards the fence building speed. Milo stopped at the fence pretty well, not too squirrely either way as some horses were when nearing the end. I turned him around and took a breath. I asked him to lope off and he threw a second fit, leaping and shaking his head. Patricia reminded me to not make a big deal out of it and to keep going. I wasnt going to try and lope my horse down the arena building speed when all he wanted to do was leap and buck, so I turned him back towards the fence and ran him hard towards it. He only squirreled up when loping back towards the other horses, when going towards the fence he would get over it. But on the second attempt I managed to get him going decently and tried to stop, which he blew through, although apparently compared to the other horses wasnt bad as Patricia said I should get off to reward him. I commented that that was really bad for Milo so no reward would be given and tried again. The third attempt he still didnt frame up nicely in the lope like he knows how to do, but he put his butt down a little bit and actually stopped this time, which got a few whoops from the group. Still nothing from what I know he can do, but enough was enough with that. We are already five hours into riding in the clinic and I knew there was only so much I could ask for in one day. However, I feel that this exercise is a really good one to work with Milo on at home.

Spins: we touched on spins once again and built on what we learned last time. From last month to now Milo is much more responsive to the cue of letting off my inside leg, he waits for that moment that he leg come soff and goes right into a turnaround. We still lack more forward in it as he continues to try and swap to the outside hind pivot foot. Patricia said each time he did to push him straight out of it, and a better spin was starting to come out. The hardest part is feeling the timing for when to push him out of his wrong leg spin. The trouble is he has learned cadence on the wrong leg so it feels good to me but its really on the wrong leg. I didnt really come away with anything new to work on with this, but I guess its just something to keep plucking away at.

One thing I did get out of the whole experience was I still need to pay more attention to my leg position. I tend to use C in step three when I should be using B, which in turn makes going from step three to step four difficult because step four requires C position and I cant get any further back then that if I'm already at C. I also need to work more on putting my leg forward in position A when I want the shoulder. I tend to stay in B instead of being more clear. So more leg work to work on in the upcoming rides!


Story said...

I always got road blocked and Piece #5. But then I suppose that is probably an indicator that numbers 1 through 4 were not as solid as I believed them to be!

Are you getting more practice time in now that Milo is home?

paint_horse_milo said...

yes, if 5 is hard then theres work to be done in 1-4!

I wouldnt say I get to ride any more then before. Its harder now because I dont have an arena. So I can do easy laid back rides at home, but to actually work on anything I have to haul to an arena. But I do get a lot more general horse time in then before!! And I love seeing them twice a day. :)