Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Flat Work

My last ride recap was well into last month, and it was the final post in a series where all I could write about were all the naughty things Bobby was getting up to. Since then, I've revamped the program and we've come out the other side in a very different place than we were before.

I did one ride after that last post where I attempted the Tough Love attack. I got after him with Mr Tappy when he pulled his shit, and Mr Tappy was relentless in his corrections. That did...nothing. Bobby wasn't any worse for it--he didn't freak out even more because he was getting spanked--but he didn't take the lesson to heart. He didn't acknowledge it at all.

So I scrapped dressage rides. He wasn't acting up during jump schools (another vote for the lack of work ethic there as jump schools are fun work), so that's what we did ride after ride. Recap on those rides, and more recent ones, will come tomorrow, but first I want to write about the dressage work we've done the past few rides.

It's been sane, and lovely, and totally without dramatics.

The first dressage ride back I did on him simply because I ran into BM teaching make up lessons over the holidays and didn't want to interrupt. I'd trotted Bobby around in the indoor quickly while Hubby was dragging the outdoor for me, and he grabbed some video before we headed out there.

strange formatting due to my wonderful, wonderful phone.

You will note that he's wanting to duck behind the vertical. I tried the fancy Herm Springer bit on him that day because it's fancy and I really want him to like it, but he really does not. Oh, well. it was back to the boring egg butt after this ride.

He was quiet and calm during the brief time we were inside, but that wasn't much of a break through. In the rides where he was being a nutter, he started off fine, but once asked to continue working, that was when he'd have his melt down. The big test then was to see how he would take to having to restart his work after moving from the indoor to the outdoor and having a break between the two.

The footing was a little slimy, so we never made it to the canter, but we did quite a bit of trot work, including firing off a few lengthenings which were sure to rile him up in those earlier rides in December. He remained cool in his work, and we finished with absolutely no theatrics.

I was--and am--still firmly set into doing more jump rides than flat rides, but somehow we ended up doing two more flat rides in a row before getting back to over fence work. For both of those rides, he continued to go to work and not make a fuss.

I've come to the conclusion that my posting throws him a bit off balance, and honestly I'm better at managing my ride when sitting the trot anyway. Trainer was a staunch believer in the sitting trot, and that's pretty much the only way we rode in her lessons, so that's what I've switched to doing the past several flat rides.

Also, because he does better right off the bat, and his meltdowns were coming after being asked to go back to work, I've made our flat rides short but intense. From the first step away from the mounting block, he needs to perform to the best of his abilities.

The walk needs to be long and forward. The trot needs to be uphill, collected, and forward. He needs to lengthen and shorten his stride at the touch of my legs or the slightest pressure from my seat. The canter transition needs to be quiet, the connection maintained, and the step easily adjustable.

And then we're done.

Sometimes I'll cool him out with some stretchy trot if I feel he's in the right sort of mood. When we do get to do this, he drags his nose along the ground, but only for a few strides at a time before he loses his balance and gets quick. That's strength work, and we'll build on it as the brain catches up.

He's no longer bucking or cross firing in the canter. He's not evading the contact, or trying to get out of the correct bend. The lateral work is uninspiring, but it's quiet. He takes a correction and moves on. If I need to push for more, I can do it, and he gives it.

I'm also heavily praising him for these rides. I stuff handfuls of candy or sugar cubes in my pockets, and he looks for his treat when he knows he's stepped up to the plate. Maybe he was feeling insecure before and he needs this sort of "Do your work well and get rewarded extra well" confidence boost. I don't know, but this new approach is working for now.

Going forward, I'm going start incorporating ground poles so we can work a little longer during each ride. I'm hoping these jump-like objects will keep his brain distracted from adding on more time to a flat ride. Of course, they also have the added bonus of stretching out or compressing his stride and making him focus on what his feet are doing. My barn also has stacks of cavaletti blocks, so I'm excited to use those, too.

We'll see how long this lasts, but for now, it's a good plan and it's working.


  1. My instructor recently told me that some horses respond much better to sitting trot than posting, and others are the opposite. And some, like Fiction, pick and choose days to like sitting and days to like posting, so really it's just applying what works at that time. Glad the flat work is getting better!

  2. ha i love the tactic of using 'jump like objects' to stretch out the time during which he'll willingly oblige you. whatever you're doing is working - he looks great in the videos!

  3. Riley definitely likes sitting trot (even to warm up!)-- he's got a lovely swing in his back and I think it allows him to lift it up to meet my seat and really stretch over his topline! ps. I love your breastplate!

  4. Glad you found a routine that's working!

  5. Sounds like you are finding what works for Mr. Bobby! That's awesome. D sometimes prefers sitting trot as well, preferably when I don't have stirrups. Maybe because I have to sit more balanced? I always feel like I can ride his back "up" better from sitting trot, in any case!

  6. That horse always keeps your brain engaged, doesn't he? Glad you are finding something that is working, he really does look lovely and quiet in those videos. Interesting that the sitting trot works better than the posting trot.

  7. Changing it up is always a good idea. Glad Bobby is cooperating rn

  8. Looks like the breastplate is working too!

  9. I should give this strategy a try, the quiet "nope, you can feel like you don't wanna but you're going to anyway!" until I get compliance, and then heavy praise and calling it quits. I don't FEEL like I fuck Murray over by over-riding him or picking fights but sometimes it is hard to ignore the "don't wanna" when you know they are perfectly capable....

  10. I also use the treat method after super-good-boy-behavior and find it to really help the "good boy" sink into their brain a little better. But, then you have the drawback of them turning and looking at you during a dressage test when you halt. ;)

  11. He looks awesome in that last picture: really stepping under himself. I've been using the treats for good behavior training method myself and it does seem to work.

  12. He looks so fancy, glad he is giving you a break from theatrical behavior! Also, those gloves are da bomb!

  13. Bribery totally works! Rico learned to passage with bribery. Every time he did anything sort of passage like, he got a break and sugar. Eventually he had a passage (and the sugar/rest went away- poor Rico).

    Glad Bobby is doing better, you guys look really great in the video/pictures!

  14. Well that lateral work is simply looking superb

  15. Definitely looking good! whatever works!

  16. Maybe Bobby is a donkey? "Bobby wasn't any worse for it--he didn't freak out even more because he was getting spanked--but he didn't take the lesson to heart." <----this is exactly like training donkeys...so frustrating.

  17. Ha! I've totally done the "flat riding sucks so we're jumping" school of training. It works oddly well.


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