Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Strengthening and reschooling

The barn manager bought a 13 year old TB for herself last week, a sweet guy full of personality with some holes in his training.

On observation when first presented the horse during the tryout, we felt he was bunched up, ridden too much from hand into an artificial 'frame'. He willingly went like this, rolled up in front, his inverted topline negating any push from behind. Our friend rode him well, with minium fussing with her hand and he rode more quietly with her.

We were itching to ride him, so after he had been with our friend a week, she generously offered us a ride on him. Now, Thoroughbreds are our favorite breed for many reasons, not the least of which is their spirit and try. This fellow showed himself to be attentive and willing to listen to our body and is a joy to work with.

He is visibly weak in the right hock and gluteal area, showing on the lunge an inability to hold the weight on that leg while cantering to the left. He will switch out behind, pronging off the ground during the change. This weak point was clearly felt under saddle in trot on the right rein, a stabbing unbending motion with little flexibility in the joint. While it is our feeling this weakness is something that can be worked with, we realize any strengthening must be done slowly, deliberately and conscientiously.

We worked him for a half hour or so, just at walk and trot, testing his knowledge of and response to the aids. We found him quite flexible through his body laterally inspite of a tendency to tighten his jaw and invert. With encouragement, he was able to use his right hind for support, bringing it through quite well at points. He would get tired, and we would return to straight lines.

Boo has had similar issues with her back end, although it has been her stifles which lock. Her weak link is the left hind, which we have been able to alleviate by riding her straight, controlling her shoulders that they stay aligned with the desired contour of her body. She has always been encouraged to maintain impulsion behind, as an opinionated draft cross could too easily prefer to drag herself along on her forequarters! Not to mention it is our obligation to encourage correct, balanced movement for her own good!

With the new fellow, we were able to shift his weight to the carrying right hind for short periods by asking for shoulder fore and shoulder in, turns on the hind quarters and leg yielding. We used light contact and asked him to reach for the bit, coming from behind. He, like Boo, would benefit from a system incorporating ground poles, up and down transitions, lateral work and, when the weather allows, slow hill work.

All of this makes us eager to begin again with Boo and Dime when the footing returns. We look forward to riding other horses as well, as they help us reinforce what we have been taught by our own horses.

Podhajsky's book honoring his horses as the real teachers will need to be read again!

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