“No heaven can heaven be, if a horse isn’t there to welcome me.”
Snow and ice and frigid temperatures! But. . . .it is February, the time we want to be at the arena tuning up! We’ll be ready as soon as it melts off!
I’m reconnecting with Whiskey after a season off. Work and life distractions, let’s sweep what we can under the carpet and get back at it!
Whiskey has been in the barn at Angela Tanner’s for a couple of weeks before I started integrating with him. I’ve started with lesson time, and also participated in a Saturday four hour workshop.
It starts with the bridlework. Rein hand to your buckle, other hand with the dressage whip as a MOTIVATOR! To TAP the side of the horse, like a TICKLE! NOT a stick, NOT a whip. If Angela sees you be too heavy handed, inadvertently of course, she will come over and remind you! I cluck to Whiskey for the forward cue, and only lightly tap if needed. It doesn’t take long for Whiskey to move forward with the verbal cue only.
From bridlework, we ask for a disengagement, and for Whiskey, wait until he relaxes his neck and head, then ask for a back, with a soft rein. Say “whoa” and release. Relax.
Relaxation is the key ingredient for Whiskey. While he was bred to carry his head high, he is after all, an American Saddlebred, I am helping him be relaxed in his work and carry himself in a relaxed frame. Each horse has his own translation of relaxed frame, as it applies to their conformation. Find where this is for your horse! That is my goal for him.
Continuing the bridlework, we add the shoulder over. Take five steps straight, then take five steps promoting the shoulder over. I turn my body to an 11:00 position, and Whiskey needs to angle over using his shoulder to move away from me. This will translate into the saddle. I repeat both sides, using the 1:00 position alternately. Often!
Angela comes to check in. She reminds me to not lean on Whiskey, as this creates brace. He needs to step out of my way and move his shoulder over. Whiskey’s right side, or shoulder over to the left, is not as smooth, so we work on that side often, until it becomes as easy as the left side, or shoulder over to the right.
Whiskey and I also practice our relaxation at the mounting block. There is a big wooden one in the arena. We have been practicing our hip over, for easy line-up. Whiskey is becoming nice and relaxed with this! This is a new skill for him, and it’s lots of fun to learn new skills together!
How have you started your season tune-up? I’d love to know!
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