Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Fast and slow

It can be interesting riding two horses who are polar opposites.

Gabe is big, long-legged and graceful, but he's slow and tends to be a bit on the lazy side. He'd rather amble along than put forth any more effort than is absolutely required and there are rides when I have to push, push, push until I'm ready to fall off from exhaustion.

Calypso is short, compact and built like a bulldozer. But she's a much more forward mover and is willing to go go go until she falls over from exhaustion.

Calypso is in some ways a more difficult ride than Gabe. Not because she's a bad mare, but because I spend a good portion of the ride reminding her to SLOW DOWN and fighting with her desire to go faster, faster, faster. She has head-in-the-air-itis and gets quick, rushy and on her forehand fast. It doesn't help that she's already built with an upright shoulder, upright pasterns and is naturally built downhill. I totally understand why she gets rushy and why she tends to travel with her nose brushing the sky but I don't like it. Not one bit. It makes for a horrible ride and is not any good at all on her back and joints.

If I can get that issue solved with her she'll be pretty darn near ideal for anyone who wants to ride her.

It's an on and off thing with her, too. Some days she drops her neck and goes slow without much reminding. Those are the best rides on her and fortunately they are becoming much more frequent than they once were. Making progress, slowly but surely.

Last night's ride, not such a great ride. Head in the air, rush rush rush, quick mincing little steps, a jackhammer bareback ride in which I spent the entire time asking her to JUST SLOW DOWN DAMMIT. Yay. I'm SORE this morning.

It's during those rides that she responds when she feels like it and will just as soon keep blowing through the aids than listen to them. I can give her a series of half halts and she may respond to one of them. Her halt is good. Sit on your pockets, hold your abs tight, stop all body movement and quit following with your hands. It's even better if you combine the aids with a low "whoa." And, she stops.

But I can't get her to connect the halt aids to half halts and SLOW THE FREAK DOWN requests. She'll give five or six good, easy strides, then is back to head in the air rushing.

There are days when I'm sorely tempted to put a curb or a Kimberwicke on her just to get her attention, then go back to the D-ring snaffle she's in now. I don't know what to do. I'm not at all a big proponent of bitting harsher just because you can't properly train a horse to slow the heck down. I'm a firm believer that all good, well-trained horses should be able to go well in a snaffle...curbs are for fine-tuning and advanced movements, not for making better brakes. But there are days when I completely understand why rushy, fast horses are put into harsher and harsher bits and I really question why I haven't with her.

I think I'm going to put her in the side-reins and spend some time longeing her in them to try to help her figure it out without having to worry about a rider up there. We'll see what happens.


  1. A lot of good riders swear by circling the horse to make her slow down. Gaited riders especially - when the horse braces, rushes, and starts pacing. Pull her into a one-rein stop whenever she starts going poorly. I say "easy" and half-halt, then if Dixie blows through it I pull her into a circle. Most of the time she slows down at the half-halt now. That doesn't KEEP her soft, but it does get her soft for a few strides.

    Anyway, the gaited people swear that if you just stick with it - if you pull her to a circle every single time she starts to rush - you will eventually win.

  2. I've not used the circling with her, I will have to give it a shot. I used to do it with my TB mare who was very similar, fast and rushy. There was a point where we were circling every 10 strides or less, but eventually, she figured it out.

    I really hate getting in her face when she blows the half-halts, the circling will definitely get me OUT of her face and keep the frustration level to a minimum.

  3. Oh, I am so there with Pippin. The little short, fast, stiff, hoppy strides with the head in the air checking for incoming aircraft! We've almost conquered a more relaxed walk, but as soon as I trot, up comes the head, the back stiffens and it is no fun at all.
    Thanks for the reminder about circles. We'll do daisy chains and see what happens!!!
    If anyone has any other ideas, please post them as I'd love to help my guy get over this as well.

  4. Circling got me a relaxed walk (well, mostly relaxed, most of the time, unless there are goblins on the trail), but the only thing that got a relaxed trot was just lots of trotting. I ride endurance, so we're talking miles of slow trotting - not fast death trot, not the halfhearted jog-waiting-to-turn-and-bolt. I just push Dixie up to a medium trot and after 1-2 miles at the most she relaxes and loosens up.

    That's probably not what a normal person wants to hear, though. ;)

  5. Circles, fairly small ones, and she'll learn to rebalance herself and go at an appropriate pace, and no pulling on her face required! Good luck!

  6. Polar opposites? Try a mule for an hour and then a horse. Makes an interesting ride day.

  7. Dreaming...oooh...that Pippin! :) I loves that silly guy! He and Doc crack me up and they are so handsome. Circles, circles, circles...I'll be doing circles with Calypso tomorrow evening (if it doesn't rain).

    Funder...I don't know if Calypso could even go a MILE at a trot, any kind of trot. She's so flippin' fat and out of shape it's going to take a couple of months to get her to that point.

    Kate...I have to watch how big the circles are in the beginning, she's just out of shape and fat enough she may just fall over. :P She kinda resembles a bloated tick at the moment. Easy keepers...sheesh.

    Kathy...Definitely want to do that some day! I may have to come out and give it a try...mule, then horse, then mule, then horse...and make an evaluation to compare the two. :)

  8. They're waiting for your visit Jenn. You can hop on Willow first. hehehe

  9. I'm gonna try to get out there next summer, if I can find a farm sitter for a week. I'll hop on Willow...in a safety vest and helmet of course! :D

  10. Just the thought of the circle...keeps Wa shower.
    I'm also experimenting with staying at the pommel, slightly longer, till she responds.
    I'm glad you have those two diverse horses...what excellent trainers they both are!