Calm, Forward, Straight

Calm, Forward, Straight

Saturday, February 5, 2011

In the Arena #50 - Keeping it simple

Contrary to popular belief, horses do not get bored with simple basic work. If the rider has clear goals in mind, and pays close attention to detail and quality, neither horse nor rider will have time to get bored by even the most rudimentary work - instead, a true sense of accomplishment will be attained. Nothing is more important, more challenging, or more difficult, than cultivating the basics. Erik Herbermann

Thursday's forecast called for several days of cold, wind and rain to come, so I figured we'd better get another ride in - bareback again. :)

For this ride I focused on straightness - both moving on a straight line as well as keeping ourselves straight - Val's neck mainly. It occurred to me, while making the many minor corrections necessary, that straightness is just a series of tiny little turns, with the inside leg / outside rein changing depending on the correction. And further, that circles are just a series of straight lines + turns on the forehand. Seems counter-intuitive, but true, if you're not popping shoulders / haunches out or falling in... being truly straight. I believe my trainer has mentioned this numerous times, but apparently it is just now sinking in. :)

Then I had another thought - that riding straightness is a similar dynamic to what you need for successful trailer backing. An awareness of where you are to begin with, breaking the movement down into a series of small turns and corrections, and avoiding over-correction which may lead to starting all over again. Ideally with both tasks, you should get to the point where the corrections - if any - are so minor as to be undetectable.

We also incorporated cone work... same idea with leg yielding through the cones - the inside leg / outside rein flip flops. We did some respectable circles, (approaching round), figure eights, some very nice work on the buckle, and had a better overall energy level.

There are many small improvements, but what I'm most pleased about is that in our last few rides I have begun to feel an integration of the aids. Reins, seat and legs working as a unit. While it's far from being second nature yet, I'm hopeful that muscle memory will eventually kick in. Super happy with this ride :)


A conversation overheard at the barn this morning...

Me: "Val, I'm tired of picking all this hay up off of the floor. It's wasteful. Starving horses in China would love to have this hay! I have to work really hard to pay for this hay. I have to spend a whole day driving to pick this hay up. Who do you think unloads this hay and stacks it in the hay barn?" I slowly fill the wheelbarrow with forkfuls of discarded hay.

Val: "Well, let the starving Chinese horses have it then. But don't pick it back up, put it in the hay bag, and expect me to eat it. Because I'll just yank it out and throw it on the floor again. I like my hay fresh!!!" Val stops beside the wheelbarrow, now layered with piles of yesterday's manure and the discarded hay. He buries his nose in the mixture and starts munching...

After discovering the hay needle damage in Val's mouth last month, I went back to using the large holed hay bags, thinking he'd be more comfortable while he healed up. I didn't want him to lose any weight, considering how (insert curse word here) cold it's been. Now that he has gone back to his wasteful ways, I guess it's time to bring back the Nibblenet :)


  1. Very good thoughts - straightness is so important. Liked the thought on circles. For me, straight is also about forward - forward with good impulsion makes straight easier, particularly as the horse develops the muscle strength to carry itself well.

  2. Kate-
    I agree about forwardness. It does come before straightness in Calm, Forward, Straight lol... however, I haven't gotten so confident in my bareback skills as to venture much past a walk yet.

  3. What is it about hay mixed with manure in the cart that is so irresistible??!!

  4. It's amazing how many horses can't go in a straight line. Good entry and good points.

  5. Liked the quoted part from Erik Herbermann. I believe that the basics are really important too. This is why we spent such a long time with Dusty just walking until she learned the clues fairly well. We're still working on the basics with her but I do mix it up now and then, just because I want to.

    Good work with Val today too. Sounds like you've got a good plan and good thoughts on going straight.

    What is it with these spoiled horses and their hay anyway. Ours are the same. If you're not crazy about your Nibble Net why don't you check out my daughter's blog and see what we use. They really work great and are very easy to fill. And they're soft. Her blog is Hope you find something helpful there if you decide to visit.

  6. My Pie is big like an aircraft carrier. At the walk, if we are too slow, he gangles around and falls apart and I lose "straight" completely. If I push him into an extended walk, he immediately straightens out for me without any extra work. This reminds me of driving my grandfather's boat when I was little. When we were going fast, it was simple to steer, but as soon as we would slow down, all the steering went out the window and I couldn't handle turns at all.

    LOVE the conversation with Val about hay. My boys and I have had this exact exchange. They only eat the alfalfa leaves and step all over the timothy/brome mix. Ugh!

  7. Wonder what Chinese horses would think of North American, East Coast hay? LOL

  8. Haha, the starving horses in China comment had me laughing! Especially at Val's "Go ahead and give it to 'em..I dont want it!"
    He's adorable...I LOVE a grey TB!

  9. You always put up such detailed, thorough and useful descriptions of your sessions with Val. I learn from them and appreciate your attention to the details so much. Thank you.

  10. Annette-

    I don't know what it is but it's sort of annoying :)


    Thanks :)


    Spoiled is the operative word. Actually I have seen that post on your daughter's sight and am thinking about ordering some hockey net for myself. I am a bit of a hay miser lol :)


    Forward definitely makes straight easier - love the analogy of your Granfather's boat! I've been reticent to combine forward with bareback, but am working up to it :)


    That's what my parents always said when I didn't want my brussel sprouts or canned peas lol!


    He is pretty cute isn't he ;)

    Muddy K-

    I take the idea of the training journal seriously because:

    It keeps me honest, I rarely get to see my trainer and I'm fairly challenged in the short term memory department. The act of remembering and then getting it down in written form seems to help me absorb what I'm learning.

    So glad you're getting something out of it too!!


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