Sunday, November 2, 2014

Transitioning to barefoot

Clair seems to have really good feet. I'd like to have her barefoot if possible. Eight weeks ago I had the farrier pull all four of her shoes. Since then her hind feet have been doing great. Her fronts, however, really got beat up in the hoof wall, especially in the front of the hoof. It all chipped away -- the crazy wet weather over the last eight weeks didn't help. Her soles stayed hard has a rock, and she showed no lameness at all, so I talked to the farrier before her latest trim last week and told him if she needed shoes on her fronts, that was fine with me. He said he'd really like to keep giving barefoot a try. He trimmed her while I was on the road, and her feet looked really good when I returned, but I could tell that Clair was footsore in front. Yesterday she minced her way across the gravel driveway, and she looked hesitant when I lunged her, even though the arena footing is lovely and soft. Today she seemed at least 50% better -- striding out better over the gravel and more willing to move out on the lunge. I think in a day or two more she'll be back to normal and I'll be able to get back on her.

I haven't ridden her since the saddle slipped (except I quickly hopped on after the accident for W-T-C. which went fine), but the more I think about it, the more I think the whole thing was entirely my fault. Clair has gotten quite fuzzy in the past couple weeks, and it's really slick fuzz. I think I was just too blase about getting the girth tight enough with her slicker coat. I'm also using a short-billeted dressage saddle for the first time ever, and I read that because more of the "grip" comes from the girth rather than the saddle, it's extra important to get the girth tight. You just have less surface area to provide friction.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Saturdays with Suzanne: Driving Your Horse Forward

Driving Your Horse Forward

My husband, Wolfgang, would always say, "you can't ride until you can drive!" Forwardness and impulsion are most definitely not running a horse off its feet! Doing so just confirms that the horse is on the forehand and running through the bridle, often with a shorter, quicker stride. The rider must then pull the horse around corners and curves and into transitions.

The rider must be sure that half-halts actually come through and reach the hind fetlock, causing the horse to shift its weight back, hesitate for a moment, and wait for the rider to push it forward in the desired direction or transition, tempo, and frame. This method also ensures that the rider "gets" the horse in the corner (Wolfgang also said, "Corners are our friends!", but that's another subject), can push the horse into an actual lengthening (rather than speeding up), and can accomplish clear, balanced transitions between and within gaits and movements.

Being able to drive the horse forward is also indispensable when dealing with disobedience. The rider must be able to correct everything forward. Usually the rider's instinct is to stop the disobedience with the hands, which tends to get the horse "behind the leg". Doing so just creates another set of problems. The seat and leg aids should actually precede the hands. The idea is to always ride the horse from back to front no matter what the horse does momentarily. This consistency in the rider's aids is not lost on the horse, which can only help the progress of training.

Our goal is self-carriage, which implies that other criteria have been met, such as "throughness" and balance. This is the point at which "driving your horse forward" can create true impulsion instead of running.