Monday, 26 January 2009

First clinic of the year

After a rather desperate post Xmas dip in energy, we are back!

Just enjoyed a great clinic here, and I got to have my first ever ride on an Icelandic. Ednah invited me to have a ride on Glaesir. What a horse! I've just been looking online to see what's for sale out there, and boy, they are expensive! I'd have to sell at least a couple of my horses to buy one of those.

I was in some trepidation about this clinic. We've learnt a lot this winter and it's always a bit confronting taking new stuff into clinics. I always have this slight fear that someone is going to say, 'Ah, but last year you told us this, and now you're saying this'. Anyway, it was fine. In a way, good horsemanship is good horsemanship. The feel that horses respond to doesn't change.

One of the horses in the clinic was a ten year old Haflinger mare who just pushed her way through everything and everyone who came in her path. We used to go out 'sorting horse problems' and it took me back to the stressy times that go along with that kind of work. We made a lot of progress but even after two days she was no way sorted enough to go home. She is staying with us for a few more days. Today I carried on working towards one of our goals - taking her for a long walk - she was loads better and I am feeling pretty confident she is beginning to glimpse a happier way of being. We have also made a good start getting her to relax her mouth and neck while she is being ridden - I think she's going to be a nice little horse.


glenatron said...

That is one chunky little horse you're sat on there. A few years back we were on holiday up in Scotland and we went out for a morning's trail riding on little icelandic ponies in the Pentland hills south of Edinburgh. They were very entertaining.

June said...

I rode a couple of Icelandics late last year. What fun horses! I want one! Perhaps we could have a whole new sport - polo at the tolt.

Shell said...

As I was at the clinic I can say it was definitely rich with learning ... and fun!

Kathy Baker said...

Hi Shel,

Anything of particular interest that really stood out for you? Any personal ah-has? I am always keen to hear from folks fresh out of a good clinic!

Nice looking Icelandic Tom was on!

Shell said...

Hi Kathy

Not so much of an ah-ha as consolidating information I already had but was still failing to consistently translate into practice.

I think I could sum it up as "doing less and maintaining a boundary" (very useful in all areas of life as well of course)

Example: Horse in halt starts snatching head down and trying to push bit out of the way. I get busy trying to correct this by moving my hands upwards and second guessing horse's head movements. Result - horse has ah-ha moment about how to push the bit out of the way!

More effective would have been to do less ie keep hands still and maintain integrity of my position through engaging my back - horse would then come up against a firm boundary and would hopefully then learn to soften the jaw and maintain the desired head position to get a release. Of course, this may not work on all horses and some may require a stronger or different response, but i suppose it's about starting with the minimum intervention possible first.

It sounds really obvious now I've written it down but like anything it needs to become an unconscious competency. I suppose its like starting with the softest possible leg to ask the horse to go forward - you only up the ante if you don't get the response you are after. Also always reward the slightest effort so that your horse feels good and doesn't get demoralised. (Or am I projecting now?!)

Think about splitting work into 2/3 short sessions rather than going for one long one, especially with youngsters.

The other good point I recall is remembering to spend time practising what you want, not what you don't. So if something isn't working, don't keep banging on repeating the same stuff and setting up a battle. Think around it, think laterally and your horse may well come round to the idea that that is what he wanted to do all along.....

tom909 said...

Glenatron - Do you know I enjoyed riding Glaecir as much as I've enjoyed riding any horse, ever!

June - that was one of my thoughts too. How fantastic he would be at polo. Can I be in your team?

Shell - you are welcome.

Kathy - I know you didn't ask me but I'll say anyway. I re-realised how much horses appreciate me being soft and calm around them, and trying to be clear and simple in my requests. Once they get one or two things sorted out like that they feel able to relax a little and 'enjoy' learning. I've put that in speech marks because I'm still wondering about it.
I'm really practising at not using 'hit and miss' horsemanship. By that I mean just trying stuff randomly, and hoping something will come out of it. I'm trying to imagine how confusing that feels to a horse.

Hairy One said...

Tom - TY for putting my hairy one on your website - it makes me feel so proud of him, especially Kathy's comment about a nice looking Icelandic. Just for the record we had a brilliant weekend - my friend has the Hafflinger - helping to focus on the horse and ourselves at all times. I discovered that if I wasn't clear in what I wanted to do Glaesir would try something to see if it was what I wanted (which certainly isn't bad behaviour). I learned that I had to be more focused; what came as a bit of a shock was how much we had been bracing against each other. Tom has attempted to teach me hjow to find the 'softness' that is possible from G's mouth and neck and of course my contact with him. Quite an insight there!! There is so much I feel I still need to learn, on the ground as well as in the saddle, that I'm now saving like mad so I can go back and do more. I'm not past it yet even if of dubious age and ability. Thanks so much to Tom and Sarah and their horses. See you soon.

Hairy One said...

ps The people on the course were brilliant too, supportive and friendly.

Kathy Baker said...

Well it is "clear" to me that everyone had some insightful moments regarding "clarity"! Thanks everyone for the feedback. All those tiny particles of feel are so important to the horse. We tend to gloss over this at times. I remember when I first met Harry Whitney and he was working with my very sensitive worried T-bred gelding. He said, "horses don't like gray, they need things in black and white." That really struck a chord with me as to how important it was that I be clear to my horse. Which meant I needed to know what I was looking for from my horse, the results, the response, the outcome. If I didn't know, how in the heck did I expect the horse to know? That clarity thang again. I have learned much since then, and continue to do so, you never stop learning with horses.

Softness is a big part of all of this too. I have found how much more I can get done with "less" but with clarity. I have found how often out of habit I was providing backward traction on the reins even when I thought I was being soft! A whole new understanding took place then.

Right now I am particularly aware of timing. Even though I think I have fairly good timing in most circumstances I am finding that I am "late" when I really need to be early. (Releasing on the thought for example).

Ok, this has gotten long but thanks everyone for your responses regarding your clinic with Tom. I can feel all the good energy! You are very lucky to have him there!

zIggI said...

actually I'm 12!
Home safely and unloaded like the very good little pony I really am.
Am saving up for my darth vader mask!
love and kisses
Suze (the Haffy)

Shell said...

Hello Kathy

Yes I particularly liked your comments about making things black & white not grey, for the horse. This seems so basic yet how come I've not really pondered on it up to now, not really deeply anyway. Not really tried to work out how to do that ... til now, thanks to this work with Tom & Sarah. I guess you only "hear" things when you're ready to act on them and open to change.

Shell said...

Tom -

Us Humans appreciate you being soft and calm around them too!

Kate said...

Oh, I wish I had been at the clinic-and I have always wanted an icelandic, they rock!

The issues around timing and black and white signals are something I have to think about a lot-my timing isn't always great, and sometimes I am not sure how to ask for what I want, and my horse suffers from my confusing signals!

I also had a slight crisis regarding the different way I am riding now (thanks in part to Tom and Sarah's recent thinking..!) and how my horse was doing what she thought was right (and so did I) and now is being asked to do something different again. So we are having to relearn some things, and rethink some stuff that I have laid down amd reinforced. I have worried I am being a bit unfair to her.

However, she is very forgiving, and my intentions are good. Which I hope is justification enough. Each time I alter what I am doing, and am asking of her, it is only with the intention of doing something better for her and improving our experience together.

Sometimes I get so bogged down in the subtlties of what we are doing (which is the right thing ultimately) I forget to look back at the bigger picture, and remember that this is a horse that arrived on the 3rd ring of a gag, with a standing martingale, and a succession of riders she had scared off! Feeling guilty now about whether I have been giving conflicting signals to her about how to get her off her forehand, and to achieve a relaxed front-to back-way of going is a long way from where we were not that long ago!

Roll on more learning and striving to achieve a better way of going, even if that does mean changing tac now and then!

Kate said...

Uh oh, I think I might need to pay more heed to my spelling though!

Kathy Baker said...

Kate, it SURE does help to go back and look at the big picture to see where we have come from. Good reminder thanks!

I have a very sensitive T-bred gelding, picks up my emotions easily, (poor fella). He use to carry such a brace in his back, it felt like I was sitting on a piece of cement, ugh! It would take quite a bit of finessing to have him let go and relax. Now I NEVER feel that cement block anymore. Sometimes I need to remind myself of that. I have just started him on an amazing herbal remedy and now he is feeling even better, almost loosey goosey. I am thrilled to say the least.

One thing I thought of when reading the responses here is what Mark Rashid says: When a horse asks a question, and we don't answer, the answer to the horse then is always yes. I go along and try to visualize a huge question mark glowing over the top of my horses' heads. This helps me keep things in perspective.

Wish I had spellcheck in my finger tips!

oifonly said...

haha..I can identify with the strong, stubborn Haflinger! My little chap is maddeningly opinionated and not at all keen to accept someone else calling the shots. If it weren't for the fact that he's such a nice, kind, genuine person underneath I think I'd have decided he was too much for me by now. As it is I get glimpses of what a great pony he could be someday, so I persevere in the hope that I must be getting something right or he'd be a whole lot worse by now...