Sunday, February 19, 2012

Reining for non-reiners, or, she TRIED!

Today I bestirred myself from the couch (and my renovation projects) to do a reining for non-reiners clinic by a local trainer, K. It was excellent, and my horse was excellent, and I even acted like a grownup and enjoyed myself!

My friends ~C (on Diego!) and R on Quick were there, and a bunch of people I'd never met before whose names I promptly forgot. (Sorry, yall, if you read this later.) There were three Arabs (Diego, a grey, and a chestnut reiner), a Haflinger, and a TWH (your favorite Dixie) - all the rest were stock types. I'd say three people were Reiners, two were Very Green, and the rest of us were somewhere in between.

We all assembled in a huge round arena. To start, we all introduced ourselves (which clearly did me no good at all), then did trot/canter circles in the center to show where we were at. The reining horses were beautiful, the green horses were green, and everybody else was somewhere in between. I was the last to go, and Dixie did not want to canter to the left - she did a high-headed fast trot/pace/rack - but cantered nicely to the right. Then she did not want to woah and sort of petered out to a halt in about 7 strides. K was like "... And woah means WOAH" and I was like "nah dude we do not WOAH, I used to run her into immovable obstacles to get her to stop so we don't have a snappy woah but I'd love to learn one." So that became a Thing for us to work on.

The format was individual one-on-ones with everybody else watching - we each got two or three individual sessions. I really enjoyed watching everybody else go - I think everybody, especially the less-advanced people (me included!), visibly learned a lot. For instance, the greenest person there (clearly a boyfriend/husband lured into horses) was on a horse who wouldn't stop jigging and he couldn't stay out of her mouth. K walked him through "keep her moving, pull back and tell her to walk, good, RELEASE, ok, let her trot" basic rider stuff really well.

When it was our turn, K had Dixie and me work on counter-bending. There's a dressage word for it, and probably all disciplines have something like this: have the horse trot in a circle to the left, with its head bent to the right (or vice versa). It's supposed to give you, the rider, control over the legs / ribcage / hips / shoulders, to keep the horse from falling in or outside the circle. We tried it and immediately got into a fight, and I pushed through for maybe a minute, and right when I was starting to think "maybe this isn't going to work" K interrupted us. She said "This isn't working, let's try it in a straight line." She had us trot in a straight line, with me bending Dixie's head to the left and bumping her forward with my right leg. Dixie got a stride of it a couple times, just enough for me to start to feel it, then we were done.

We watched all the rest of the riders go. One of the reiners really made his human look great, and one of the reiners really didn't look like he was having a good day / career, and I learned something watching everybody. Then we took a break - I hopped off and gave Dixie an apple and got a drink, then headed back in and worked on the counter bending thing some more on the rail. It took a lot less leg for me to get her going right on the rail, after the earlier practice and some time for it to settle in.

Everybody trickled back in, and we stood against the rail and watched again. When it was our turn, Dixie and I cantered big circles ON BOTH LEADS like pros. Ok, like Ammy Owners. Ok, fine, like amateurs at an unrated show - but still! She promptly picked up the canter on both leads, and I don't think I flopped like a fish too badly - I was so very proud of us. Then we took another little rail break, then worked on STOPPING. I did a very bad stop while K watched, then she explained the right sequence / body movements - sit deep, exhale, feet forward, "WOAH," haul on the reins as necessary. We did trot/halt transitions maybe five times and got better each time. I think our big issue there is going to be my exhale-woah thing - I've used a big sigh as a pre-cue to halt/slow for years now. (It started off as sigh/"woah"/one rein to a halt within 50 yards of the panicked bolt.) She definitely checks herself as soon as I sigh, before I actually ask for the woah. I don't know if we'll ever get to the point where that truly matters for us, and I don't think it'll be too hard to train around if it does.

When I first watched the Reiners go, I didn't like the amount of spur they used. They weren't spurring their horses bloody by any means, but it was bump-bump-bump with the spurs on every stride. I still don't think I want to desensitize my horse to being poked with spurs to that extent - but I do wish I had spurs now. I think I will pick up some cheapie shoe-spurs (so I don't have to put on boots with my real spurs). I don't want to ride with my toes out and spurs in on every stride - but it'd be really nice to have something to POKE her with when she sandbags me. And woah yall, I have been consciously riding dressage-y with my toes FORWARD instead of OUT for a couple years now, but I didn't realize how effectively I'd trained myself to do that until I needed to give her some heel today.

I am already sore in muscles I didn't know I had. All that leg requires hip flexors! And even my shoulders are sore, wtf! Dixie was barely damp under the girth, but I'm going to assume she's a little sore too for as long as I am - maybe we'll go do The Hill on Tuesday or Wednesday.

And you know what's really amazing? We stood. We stood rock-still for several hours. Most of the other horses were also standing like rocks, which helped a lot, but it did take some conscious work on my part. I took a zero-tolerance stance: if she shifted her weight, I'd raise the reins vertically and say "no." If she moved a foot, I'd back her up two steps. If she ended up turned to where I couldn't see what I wanted, I'd back her in a circle til I could see what I wanted, then drop the reins and watch. It was cold (for a Southerner - 40s!) so I spent most of the day with my hands in my pockets. I balanced "she has a stay apparatus" with "she needs to stretch her muscles" by turning and walking around when it wouldn't interrupt things - over to my friends, over to the water tank, over to an open space, etc.

Dixie was not like "Oh man cantering in circles is my ~true calling in life!~" but she was alert, tuned in, responsive to me. I asked her to do lots of somewhat-weird things, and she tried to figure out what I was asking. She didn't buck me off or tune me out, and I think our relationship might have even gotten better. She tried.

It was really excellent. I hope I can do a semi-private thing with C and R again, maybe next weekend - we're all at a similar level (not polished at what we do, not rank beginners, not afraid to TRY at any speed) and I think we learned a lot together. I just looked at the calendar and oh god running out of time - next weekend is free, the weekend after that is the AERC Convention, then the NEDA 20 miler, then RIDES OF MARCH OH GOD. Someone hold my hand while I breathe into a paper bag.

Next: book reviews! I read so many books since the last one, but most of them were in a series and that just counts as one review IMHO.


  1. Awesome! Sounds like you did great! I am looking forward to further updates!

  2. Sounds like a lot of fun. And had to be a nice break from all of the home construction you've been doing :)

  3. Sounds like you had a good day! I get the thing with spurs. I also found it unusual when I tried my first Reining clinic, we were all over the place! Now? we are still all over the place, but less so!lol!

  4. I really enjoy that kind of activity, but prefer one on one lessons when I can get them. The group thing kind of intimidates me though there is a great value in watching other people sometimes. Sounds like a very good day for you and Dixie girl :)

  5. Nothing like working hard in a good clinic to make you appreciate the "try"! Sounds like you both had fun too!

  6. How fun! Sounds like a great day on horse back.

  7. I knew you and Dixie were going to have fun AND be able to show off some as well!

  8. oooh, fun! I could use a lot of work like that, though just the words 'head right leg right' becomes 'blah blah blah' and I blank it out. I would LOVE to try cutting one day, on a horse that knows what he's doing because I'm sure I would have to completely concentrate on not falling off.
    Now - as for that paper bag, B-R-E-A-T-H-E slowly and don't panic!
    - The Equestrian Vagabond

  9. Yay Dixie! It sounds like a great day and a great experience--just what you were looking for. She'll be sliding to a stop at those vet checks pretty soon (!)

  10. That sounds like so much fun! I like that your instructor changed tactics when things were clearly not working.

  11. Cool! Sounds like a worthwhile day. Good for Dixie with all that try!
    Last year I had a friend from the coast come stay overnight and then watched her work at a local reining show, it was really interesting and SO different from tearing up trails on my Arabs. Of course I prefer tearing up trail, but fun to see and do different things once in a while!

  12. Oh dear lord... 'I used to run her into immovable obstacles to get her to stop'...I can sooooo freaking relate to that as I have had several horses like that in my life. ROFLMAO!!!

    I love that you tried and that Dixie tried for you. I have gotten to where I really enjoy going to any kind of clinic, regardless of event/discipline because there is always something to learn and it just makes for good horses. Although, I have to say...Any attempt at Endurance would most likely kill my fat buggers. LOL

  13. Man, that sounds like so much fun!!
    Congrats on the team work with Dixie- sounds like you really got somewhere!!!

  14. I'm pretty sure Miss Dixie can do anything.

  15. You are so FUNNY! I love your descriptions, and enjoyed going 'virtually'. Made me laugh out loud. Totally what I needed. Thanks!

  16. I think Blogger ate my comment, so I'll try again. (Delete whichever one you want, I don't have a long enough memory span to say the same thing.)
    This cracked me up, and was totally entertaining and what I needed to read today. THANKS. You're so funny, and honest, and...real. Glad you had fun at the clinic, and good luck with the Whoah means WHOAH!

  17. Jane, they're both funny and made ME smile too, so I published them both!

  18. Those are my favourite clinics, the ones where you get 1 on 1 time. I think you can always glean something from the other riders goes if you pay attention (I know that doesn't work for everyone though)

    That exercise you were describing, the counter bending, we call it a reverse arc.
    Oh! And your description of stopping "run her into immovable objects" that was how I used to stop when rollerblading lol


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