Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Haunch Magic

I've decided there are three things I need to refine with Steen before we go back into the hackamore. These are:
  • short-serpentines
  • whirly-gigs
  • lope transitions
We've got a really good handle on the first two. In fact today we were pretty much nailing those every time I asked.

So we spent a lot of the ride working on lope transitions. Our trouble with these lies in the coming back down. Steen is usually quite good about moving into the lope, and he's good at stopping from the lope. What he's not good at doing is shifting from the lope to the trot. He stays wound up and trots around trying to jump back into the lope. It's my fault, of course. I had the habit for a long time of loping him one way, trotting him long enough to turn him around, then loping the other way.

But now we're trying to break the habit, so today I warmed up by doing a lot of work on the haunches first. This was all amazingly good. I know I say this roughly once a month, but Steen and I have reached a new level the last few rides. I feel like he finally gets what his haunches are for, and he's happy to use them at every opportunity. Short-serpentines were so soft and consistent I hardly did any. Whirly-gigs were good when I could get my act together and get the timing right when asking for the front. And loping, when I asked for it, was amazing. Steen felt light as a feather on his front feet. I never quite realized it before, but a horse that is loping a circle is physically incapable of accomplishing the turns without leaning if they are heavy on their forehand.

Today at the lope I could feel Steen reaching in with his front while he balanced on his haunches. We never got forward or chargy or tilted. It was just smooth and balanced and rhythmic.

Until we came back down to the trot, that is, at which point we always had either a few seconds or several minutes of excited-Steen-scooty-trot.

When this happened I worked in tight figure-eights until he settled down. Then we loped again.

This strategy made for a fun, fast ride. At one point I took Steen down the strip and couldn't resist encouraging him to open up on the way back. We shifted to the gallop for a brief stretch. He never stopped paying attention to me, but he was a little slow to stop from that, so that's probably something we should work on, too.

He was also incredibly soft to my legs and hands all day. One of the other things that feels different now that he's engaging his haunches more is how he moves off my leg. He can do it in a more balanced manner when he's already light on the front.

And as if that wasn't enough to make a wonderful barn day, Brian had a fabulous ride on Laredo. It seems like a lot of things just clicked for them today. I can't wait to see how our youngster feels for me when I ride him next.

Ride Time: 1:00
Horseback hours YTD: 66:15


  1. your term "whirly-gigs" makes me smile, I have to agree with your previous post. After going to a Buck clinic, I've witnessed how effortless he does that maneuver... I can barely do a proper rollback. Sigh, things to work on!

    Also - I bought the Clinton Anderson book you suggested, I haven't had time to crack it yet but hopefully in the week!

  2. :) I don't remember how exactly we came up with "whirly-gigs." I think we just got tired of saying, "the exercise where you disengage the hindquarters then the forequarters."

    That's awesome you got the book! I hope it's as useful for you as it was for me.


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