Tuesday, June 14, 2011

That settles it.

Amber definitely needs to work in the fork, or at least a martingale for a few months.

I decided to test the waters without it today, just to see if I could get softness from her. She's very responsive at the walk, but the head just gets higher and more firmly set the faster we go. She avoids contact like the plague. And it does us no good for me to keep tugging on a mouth that couldn't care less about the signals I'm trying to send.

I posted on a forum asking a question about whether or not a running martingale breastplate attachment could be used as a training fork (it looked to be the same size as the fork we've been using). And of course, I got a chorus of "that's not necessary", and "her pain issues aren't being caused by improper carriage". Got me thinking which is mainly why I decided to give riding "naked" today a shot. Frankly, she's just building the wrong muscles, learning bad habits, and in her case with her conformation, possibly over-stressing tendons and muscles. She didn't get nearly as sweaty despite her working longer today, as she does with the training fork. Which suggests to me that she isn't really applying herself without it.

I'm not looking for a headset here. What I'm looking for is her to stretch down and just use the right muscles.

I've been considering sending her to Patricia for 60 days of training. If anyone could teach her to accept contact; it would be Trish. I'm still hesitant with the fork a bit, because I don't want to become reliant on it to get her on the bit, and I don't want her to learn that when she's wearing the fork is the only time she has to keep her head down.

I guess we will see. She wasn't "bad" today. She just at a point stiffened right up and refused to listen to my hands. It's more evident when she starts to get tired. She wants to be silly and try to run off out of the circle through her should and go around the place crooked and choppy with her nose in the air.

I know exactly how Bob thinks is the ideal way she should carry herself. In the typical HUS style. Sometimes I can get that if I *drop* my contact with her, but if she gets distracted, the head goes back up, and she's not really trying to get on the bit and apply herself, just trying to stick her nose in the dirt and be silly.

Either way, we'll make it through. If we could just get her to accept and listen to contact, everything else would be no sweat. But it's a road block. She can't understand when I ask for more advanced things if she doesn't understand what I'm conveying to her through my hands. She's only getting part of the picture from my legs and seat. They are of course important, but communication with the hands is important, even if lesser so than seat and leg.

*Sigh* We will see...


  1. thats the problem though, I think, you're just getting a headset and not true contact with a fork. those things are tiny and only force the head into position. Although I havent seen pictures, I can bet she is not engaged form behind...Even though she goes low with the fork, the second you take it off (what it sounds like) she pops right back up. Obvously, she isn't getting it with the fork..I don't want to sound rude, but maybe set it on a loose setting so that its not a constant hting and she learns she can carry herself only with its assistance and not always using it. Or, is that how you'v ebeen using it, loosely? sorry, just trying to help ! :)

  2. Frustrating indeed. I do not use artificial aids myself, but I have been riding for well over 40 years and had some really good teachers along the way.

    Fixing an issue like Amber's is not easy. Using the fork will help, but as you point out, you also don't want to depend on it to get the job done in the long run.

    As long as you don't make it too tight so that she HAS to put her head down, it will help you. But you might want to seriously consider having a trainer work her for you to establish that proper contact without the fork. Most horses I have worked usually prefer to go properly down and round once they understand it as it's much more comfortable for them to carry a rider that way. I would hope Amber is like that too (Again presuming there is no physical problem keeping her from going that way.)

    So, use the fork with discretion and see if it helps her learn to be happy in a better frame.

  3. Actually, if I focus and actually ride her instead of being lazy myself, she does engage her hind end with the fork. I just have to really focus. It does aid us some. She'll never use her hind end with her nose in the air, so it does help me to get her to the point where I can make her engage the hind end. I do agree with you though. She isn't really learning anything from it, only learning that it prevents her from carrying herself how she'd really like to. I discovered that she doesn't understand contact though. She thinks mouth pressure merely means stop. Great work whoever started her, idiots. When she starts to trot and lifts her head and feels the pressure, she wants to stop. If I give a gentle squeeze release, even with a driving seat, she reacts like she wants to stop - not out of laziness, totally mixed signals.

    The fork we are using DOES make her have to keep her head down. She "can" lift it, but not far without jabbing herself. The one I'm ordering can be adjusted longer, and I think it will serve as a much better aid to us. I mean, I still think Bob is right, a training fork COULD help her understand self-carriage better, but she's definitely got to learn it from me, not the fork. I just need to keep a check on myself about using the fork as an AID, not a LIFELINE.

    She feels much, much sounder in the fork. She's choppy without it because her head is so high, she's got all her weight on the hind end and it's not engaged because she isn't listening to my seat and leg because her back is hollow and her nose is in the clouds. It's not "lame", but it's awkward and off balance, and she WILL hurt herself traveling around like that if I continue to work her moving like that.

    I think she mayyy be going to Trish's for 60 days of training though. I think 60 days of consistent work with Trish on accepting and understanding contact would really put her on the right track when she comes home, and put her at a level of understanding it that *I* can go forward with. I'm just not good at teaching horses the concept of contact. I know how to get it on horses who understand it, I know the difference in a headset and having real soft contact. Even back with Jack, you all know getting good contact was an issue. He was never like Amber, and he did carry himself properly, but up in front? Psht. And I think part of it was, Gulliver spoiled me. He put himself on the bit on a loose rein. And apparently I just never got the hang of having to teach a horse about it.