Work with Arroyo
Posted by Irina Yastrebova on Monday, July 11, 2016 07:12 PM
My two-year-old Arroyo has been introduced to leading exercises, lunging with a halter, carrying a saddle and wearing a bridle (no rein action) last year. This year he is learning next steps which include
work in hand in the bridle, introduction to lateral work, driving/long-lining with a halter first then with the bridle later. Also, he is been learning to stand at a mounting block and waiting patiently
for me to fiddle with stirrups, pushing the saddle around and laying across it.
Besides that we done walking over poles, over tarp, walking on trails and through the fields. I do not pony my horses because I ride alone and
do not see much of the benefit from teaching them to follow another horse. When it is time for them to be ridden on trails they do it alone just fine because they walked those trails with me so many times.
Arroyo works twice a week from 20 to 30 min arena/trail time. He loves to come out and play with me and in comparison to my other two horses he is the most confident and quickest learner.
His favorite moment is getting a handful of cookies in the barn at the end of our session together :)
The bit I use for bridle work is "Happy mouth" mullen. I start the work in the barn by simply hooking my thumbs into bit rings and gently pushing bit backwards toward his ears. I want him simply to open his mouth and chew. If he
doesn't get it I slowly nudge a few times until he shows even slightest indication of opening his mouth. Very quickly he learns to open and chew with very light pressure. Next step is still in the barn. I use reins over his neck to
ask him to turn his head away from me by drawing on outside rein and pushing bit on inside away with my hand (Phillipe Karl work). At this stage I only want him to turn his head following the bit pressure on the corners of his mouth.
Outside I repeat the barn exercises and start walking with him by his shoulder, reins over neck, inside rein is very short, close to the ring of the bit, outside rein over the withers like a fulcrum with the whip in the same hand to influence haunches.
Arroyo got introduced to the whip last ear with leading exercises so he does not have any fear of it and understands what it means when I touch or tap him. I keep gentle contact on the reins at all times, encourage stretching and slight inside flexion.
The excises we do is walking large (around perimeter of the ring), circles, squares, a few shoulder-in steps or leg-yield steps, figure eights, counter-squares, serpentines and halts, I work him from both sides, though I change direction often staying on the same side like in figure eight exercise. We started trotting with the bridle. For trot I have reins off the neck and hold them like for leading. Again, I strive to keep gentle contact at all times. I do it from both sides of his body.
I introduced driving with lines attached to side rings of a halter. Though he is wearing a bridle headstall under the halter I do not hook lunge lines to the bridle now. I do that because I do not want to spoil his mouth if he runs suddenly, or pulls on the line. While learning to be driven a young horse make mistakes and can spook and run and lines attached to the bit will create huge punishment that is scary and hurtful to a young horse who doesn't yet understand bit actions. After he gets comfortable being driven and learns rein aids from work in hand then I will drive him attaching lines to the bridle.
For a warm up I lunge him first with double lines. Inside one is normal attached to the side ring of a halter and the other is running from the halter through surcingle ring or stirrup around his haunches to my hand. Our lunging sessions are very short 3-5 min each direction with straight lines after each big circle. Straight lines are either a bit of lengthening of trot or a canter. I do not yet canter him on a circle unless he wants to continue and canters through short side in a big 20 m half-circle then straight again.
After warm up I shorten my lunge lines and make them symmetrical running through the surcingle on both sides. I do not drive directly from behind or from far back. I stay slightly to the side and fairly close to a horse. It is more a long-lining only they are even closer right up to the horse's haunches. I have a long in hand whip that I carry in different positions depending on a horse. For Arroyo it can be to the inside parallel to his body, above him, or behind him. For his mom, for example, it must be pointed backwards, otherwise, she is very concerned if she sees it to her side or above her.
Arroyo was quick to learn that he needs to walk with me being rather behind him and we are now able to hold a straight line for sometime, do circles, changes of direction and halt. At this point the work is still done in walk as he is still learning how to listen to the whip and outside rein.
The progression of this work for this season is more and more sophisticated work in hand, long-lining with the bridle (walk, trot, may be canter), introduction to riding by mounting and being led around in walk (late summer/early fall).