Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Tolerance to pressure, travelling circles and responsibilities

In June, our favourite instructor Jo Bates, Inspired Natural Horsemanship (website http://jobates.net/) came to visit us for a holiday and to give private lessons to me and Seraphina. Here are some of the concepts we played with during our sessions.

Testing tolerance to pressure in a learning situation
The idea of seeing if the horse can be more tolerant to pressure so that I can ask with more energy without her becoming worried about it, when I want her to respond with more energy or greater effort. Playing with this to find out where her thresholds are, knowing that I can always lift off, and if necessary go back to less until confidence is restored. I realised here is the difference from this time last year, our relationship is more solid, more confident, and so more experiment becomes possible.
She has become less of a nervous but willing pupil and more of a partner, more confident and interactive in a learning situation, we are holding a dialogue, with either of us able to say, "hey, steady on, watch what you're doing" or "that felt good!".

If you are always afraid to try, or to push the horse to offer more, you will never advance to amazing levels. Maybe some people don't want to, or are happy where they are... (Really?) I am not talking about competitions or winning prizes, but relationship and connection, partnership, great horsemanship. Living the dream.

Be particular without being critical. 

Ask less, expect more.

Responsibility of the horse to maintain gait and direction.
We played with this on the circle, using travelling circles, and also at liberty in the paddock instead of in the round pen, an indication of how we have moved on since last year. 

Doing circles at liberty in the rectangular paddock meant that Fina had first to understand what we wanted and to relate to the pattern she had been taught, the circle. Without the help of being in the round pen, which provides the limit but the horse then has less responsibility to find and maintain the pattern for themselves. At first of course, she does not understand, and Jo helped by being a fence, or I had to go and reconnect with Fina if she went to the shed or Lucie. What we looked for Fina "owning" the circle, that is, to recognise the desired pattern and to seek comfort and confidence from it and maintain connection mentally with me in the centre. Once she did this, and I could remain neutral as she circled around me at liberty, maintaining gait (trot) and direction, I could start to ask for transitions or changes of direction. From this, I would then be able to add in other elements, move up to canter, more frequent transitions, as well as looking for purity of gait and rhythm. Lots to play with there! For the two sessions, we looked at changing direction at trot, using draw, without disengaging, and resending in the other direction.

Travelling circles is going to be a useful and exciting pattern which I have tried before but not developed, now I have lots of ideas of how to use it. This is on line, on the 22' rope, although as we progress, a longer one would enable us to do bigger circles in the big field. We set it up in the square field above the shelter, where unfortunately the bramble patches I keep meaning to clear kept snagging the rope, but the idea is to send the horse onto a circle around me, and then I walk forward and around the field, as the horse circles around me, their responsibility being to maintain gait and direction until asked for something else. At first we are looking for comfort, confidence and consistency, of course it is a bit ragged at first until we establish the pattern. We started in trot, and it is so good to see Fina find rhythm and tempo, and really start using her powerful little frame. She was not even hot or blowing after our two circuits of the field, in circles at trot. This is also going to be something energetic I can do with her so she gets a bit more work than Lucie, and I can make a programme of it.

Travelling circles, notes:
- anticlockwise round field, then clockwise
- start and end in the same place
- manage rope so there is less drag
- make a programme of it
- allow the pattern and programme to make changes in the horse
- keep doing it in trot until consistent rhythm
- look for rhythm and relaxation in trot before cantering
- maintain gait
- when adding in canter, start with doing one side in canter, other in trot
- once you have consistency and purity of gait, play with transitions

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