It was now February/March of 2017. We had been going so well. The circle of cones had become larger. Some days – all was fine – other days – it wasn’t.
I had also added something – the bitless bridle. I wanted to get Ducati used to it – and I wanted to practise the gentle rein movements. This was my first mistake….. it wasn’t that the bridle was a problem…. the handler was!!! Here is a photo!
I was practising turning. Ducati was rushing the turns and second guessing what I wanted before hand. I turned to my coach – Cindy Martin – who is one of Alexandra Kurland’s Click That Teaches coaches.
I sent endless video footage to Cindy – what was I doing wrong?? What was his problem??? This is what I received back. Cindy’s comments are like gold!
Ok, I watched these. And this LEAPT out at me.
I think some part of Ducati’s anxiety and energy could result from you
not releasing the rein early enough. In fact, I think you should
engage the rein, get the movement started, release the rein. Take the
rein again when you ask for the turn, release the moment he begins
turning. Take the rein to ask for the back up, release the moment you
In the videos, you are hanging onto the rein all the way until he has
backed. And is some moments, you hang on AFTER he has turned and
backed, because he has backed TOO much and you adjust hi forward, THEN
One of the points Alex makes in the WWYLM exercise is that we need to
release the rein or lead rope as soon as the horse begins to respond.
Everyone I’ve ever watched learn this lesson had to struggle to let go
of the rein. And then they had to struggle to learn to let go soon
enough. But that is the whole point of the exercise. For us to let the
horse go, let him follow the pattern, and if he wanders, we take the
rein, influence his trajectory and let go again.
We use the rein or lead to influence the horse’s movement. To get
movement started, or to change the direction. But the moment the horse
has shifted, from stationary to moving, or the direction, we need to
“release” the rein, even if we don’t also click. Then we need to let
him continue on that path.
When we are first teaching him the pattern, we will release for that
first shift and also click. He will stop. We will reinforce. Then we
will get him moving again. Another shift. It might be forward, or it
might be the beginnings of a direction change. And we will click. And
repeat that, until we have gone through the choreography, the pattern
we are working on.
Once he learns the pattern/the geography, we can use the rein to
influence/make a change, and release as soon as we get a shift. But we
don’t have to click. The release has been paired with the click, so
the horse knows its meaning. He knows he is working his way toward a
click. The rein contact is simply a cue. The entire pattern is a micro
chain. Each time we adjust/influence his movement, we have cued the
change, and that cue has substituted for the clicks and treats we used
earlier as we built the pattern.
Be kind to yourself. This is a learning piece EVERY ONE of us must go through, as
we build our skills in Alex’s rope handling and exercises.
But I think this may make a big difference for a sensitive
over-achiever like Ducati. The release tells him, you are on the right
track. He can feel when the rein changes from loose to slightly
engaged. That tiny change means “change what you are doing.” When it
doesn’t release right away, it tells him, “More.” So he gives you MORE
speed, or MORE turn. Then he over-turns. He goes past his point of
balance. He abruptly re-adjusts his balance. Then he scurries to back
up. And he becomes anxious.
So there’s my quick review for this evening. Trust me, I’ve been in
your shoes, and probably will be again.
Yes… now I could see it – of course! It was so obvious!!! Ohh! Why did I do that???
I had been thinking about my loops – they were pretty ‘clean’ and we had built the cone circle out… then what had I done? I’d introduced the bitless bridle …. and then I ‘lumped’. I was thinking about the end goal rather than the smallest steps…
The idea of the ‘turning’ was ground work in preparation for riding… but now I struggle to watch the video – it’s awful – that poor horse was so patient with me!!! I never gave him time to get used to the bridle – I never practised handling those reins ‘off the horse’ – and I took my attention off food delivery….. In fact, I took my attention off everything but my end goal of riding!!!!
Here is a photo of the ‘food delivery’ deterioration! I’m not even looking at him – I leave my hand near my body – and he needs to reach over – that pulls him off balance and adds to the stress levels
Now – if you go back to 11. Alexandra Kurland’s Italy Clinic – an Epiphany!!!! you will read about the simulations we did to highlight the importance of feeding position – it changed everything – but at this point – in early 2017 – I was yet to experience that.
And here is a photo of a horse feeling some anxiety!! I had noticed his tail a little higher in the video footage and his whole body was tighter… when you look carefully, it’s amazing what you find – and when you slow the video down… well… that’s a real eye opener!!
Now, there’s much more to this story – much more!!!!! ……. but that’s enough for one post!!!
COMING UP – ANXIETY BUILDS – UNDOING THE MISTAKES…
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