Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Going Back

I'm going back to the running martingale.

Last night I fought with Ashke for almost 45 minutes before he finally stopped fighting my hands. I feel like he spent all of that time dancing around the arena with his mouth wide open. I don't want to be that hard. After that 45 minutes he finally relaxed enough that I could be soft again. I hate fighting.

So, some of the observations:

-- I'm pretty sure that however I am asking is not communicating clearly what I want from him. I know he is trying to do what he thinks I want and the miscommunication is coming from me. Once he figures out what I want him to do, he does it with the lightest of touches.

-- He is very sensitive to pressure from the ground. I can touch him with a fingertip and ask him to move over and he does.

-- He hates the pressure and doesn't give to it when it's in his mouth. The bit I am using seems to fit him very well and he mouths it a lot. He just doesn't give to the pressure in the way other horses do. He braces his neck and raises his head. He just doesn't understand that he needs to lower his head and flex his poll.

-- He has learned what I want and expect when I ask him to back and it takes only the softest touch to cause that to happen. He doesn't understand the half-halt Nicole has been having me try. He fights the very idea of pressure to move him forward and at the same time pressure on his mouth asking him to maintain his speed. He wants to move forward faster when I cue him with my leg. He doesn't understand flexing his neck and raising his back as a way to get away from the pressure on both his mouth and from my leg.

I have been riding him the same way for four months and haven't made any progress in getting him to relax and flex. His back and leg are getting stronger, so it hasn't been a waste, but I feel like I still haven't found the right combination of cues and tack to encourage him to do what I am looking for. This is kind of like physical therapy, in that I need him to flex at the poll and raise his back in order to strengthen the muscles and support the hamstring.

So, the reason I am going back to the running martigale is in the hope that redirecting the pressure on his mouth will encourage him to relax and flex. He has no problem giving to redirected pressure of side reins when he is being lunged. In fact, he responded very well to draw reins, the one time I rode him in them. I wonder if he was started in a driving rig or lunged a lot with side reins prior to being sent to Steve. I know that Nicole doesn't believe in martigales or tie downs, but she has a very different horse than I do. I think if the tool allows me to show Ashke what it is I am looking for, than it will be worth doing.


  1. In general I don't believe in martingales or tie downs either. But as physical therapy, you may need to force him into the frame for a while to get him to build the muscles. But I would say at the same time, spend a little time working with him without the martingale--or you will always need it. The martingale changes the angle of the pressure.
    One thing you can do is to let him fight himself. Lock the reins in your hands braced on his withers and let him figure out where it is comfortable to carry his head--that is closer to the angle of pressure coming from your hands.
    Getting him to collect and raise his back from hand and leg is a very advanced skill, so reward baby steps. When he gets it just for a moment, reward him by letting him relax.

    1. I have tried to lock the reins and let him fight it out. It doesn't work with this horse. I fought with him for 45 minutes yesterday and it made him less willing to try to lower his head than it had before. All he knows is that he's under pressure and is willing to fight til the pressure disappears than to give in to it.

      I am hopeful that just like he learned to back with the martingale on, he will learn to relax and collect with the martingale. And just like I stopped using the martingale for backing, he will recognize what I want him to do and do it without so much fighting, even without the martingale.

      I also need to recognize that asking him to lift his back, to leg yield, to rollback, to back up and to walk hills are all PT for him. It's going to hurt and he's not going to want to do it. I need to reward his try and give him lots of praise when he is able to accomplish the task. Sigh.