Thursday, December 18, 2008

Dixie, again

After exploring uncharted territory with Champ, I bribed Dixie into letting me on her back.

As usual, she started off behind the bit and very eager to rush away as fast as possible. While we zoomed around the field all panicky, I tried to come up with a Plan for today's ride.

I don't want to get into a fight with her about going slow. I try only pick fights that I can win, and I'm sure I could win a "slow down" fight with her - that's not the point. The point is that I value her willingness to charge forward. I just want to channel it into the direction I want to go, then one day into bending, then one day into a bit of collection. (You don't actually want to classically collect a gaited horse in an intermediate gait, from what I've read, but collection at a walk or canter is still a viable goal.)

I did want to get her to reach out for the bit again. She's a champion at evading it - either ducking completely behind it or trying to rush through a loose rein. Tuesday's ride was fantastic and I wanted something close to that again.

I wanted to stay balanced no matter what. I wanted to remember to breathe, to stay loose, and to follow whatever she was doing.

I managed to follow my meta plan pretty well. The only times I'd rate her speed were when she'd try to trot or canter - I'm not opposed to the trot or canter in principle, but I'd like to figure out and train specific cues for them rather than put up with them when she feels like it. I love Champ and wouldn't trade him for all the tea in China, but I don't really want another trotting Walking Horse that gaits when it suits her.

I managed to make and follow a bunch of mini-plans pretty well. We'd come to a place where we could turn any number of different directions. I'd remember to telegraph my intention to turn by looking in one direction, then shifting my weight in that direction, then cueing Dixie to turn. She and I had a few differences of opinion (this is polite talk for "I asked for a left turn and she sidepassed to the right at a rack and we played chicken about whether she'd actually run into that tree") but I kept her head pointed where I wanted to go, kept my weight and legs very clear about where I wanted to go, and that's where we went.

I got her to slow down to a nice stretchy walk a couple of times, but only briefly. I managed to follow that huge headnod with my hands pretty well, but she was kinda hyper and kept wanting to take off. In keeping with the meta plan, I'd let her speed up to a RW or a rack whenever she wanted.

We worked for maybe 45 minutes. Our final lap was a very nice rack around most of the property - we got near the gate to the northern paddock and she (finally!) asked to slow down, so I asked her to turn around and head south toward the truck at a rack for about a hundred feet, then asked her to slow down to a nice walk.

She was surprisingly blown after that. I urged her into a slow walk for a couple laps around the house and my truck, but she was blowing and sweaty and generally done for. I felt kinda bad about working her so hard - she's out of shape and it's my fault and I know it. But it's not like I asked her to work that hard.

In general, my training philosophy says to ignore undesirable behavior. I didn't ask for a fast rack for 45 minutes - I just ignored it when she gave it to me. I asked her to slow down every couple of minutes, either for a turn or for a full halt, and after the halts she chose to dart off again every time. Therefore, I ignored the uncued behavior. I didn't try to stop it but I didn't reward it. Hopefully she'll stop offering fast gaits all the time!

Anyway, she was fine, just more tired than my horses usually are after my softheared self rides them. I fed her in the roundpen, then when I let her out she followed me to my truck. I know she only loves me for the grain, but at least she wasn't so outdone with me that she just stalked off :)

1 comment:

  1. It always makes me sad to read Dixie stories, only because she had to endure the treatment ("training") that made her this way in the first place.

    I do think she's a lucky one to have found you, though!



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