Tag Archives: Jitter

Intro to dressage (or, TDG says yield and Jitter giggles)

The filly and I have spent about 3 weeks discussing sidereins. I think of this as more of a discussion than instruction. I’ve used them before, but in the Hunter Land I come from, there hadn’t been much cause to use them quite as much as I am now.

This is actually at the recommendation of our vet, who I called to diagnose a phantom hind end lameness that turned out to be non-pathologic lameness and completely inefficient motion. Obviously I’m more ok with that than a chip, but it certainly sounds damning.

We started out simple–on the third hole on a set of sidereins with elastic ends. The vet came for a check-up, and promptly cranked them up about 18 inches. This sounds kind of…insane but as it turns out, she’s perfectly capable of resisting the bit even with them that short, so I don’t feel I’m forcing her into anything much.

She understands what they are for, and gives me beautiful, beautiful movement when she decides she wants to listen. However, as a greenie she gets bored/mad/tired/lazy/hormonal/angsty/whatever some days and spends about 30 min. fighting them before bringing her head to the little perpendicular line I’m supposed to imagine coming from the ground. Other days, it’s an instantaneous head drop, and I keep the sessions short on those days as reinforcement.

Mind you–I don’t know much about dressage. Probably best to describe my feelings toward it as similar to those toward brussels sprouts: a necessary pain that everyone will lecture you about the benefits of. I’m trying to keep an open mind, but the more frustrating the learning process, the harder that’s becoming.

Current struggle: Correctly reinforcing a yield under tack.

Apparently, I’m tending to catch her in the mouth when she yields. I don’t mean to be doing this, and I try to soften my hands as soon as she gives, but I’m either too late, or too enthusiastic, and I drop her mouth altogether. There doesn’t seem to be a problem when I keep my reins longer but in contact, since I can keep my hands soft to start with. When we first start out though, this doesn’t work so well, and the pretty merry-go-round pony sticks her head straight up and sets off like a Standardbred.

Particularly distressing: I am told that this is a Formative Stage In Our Training (like, what isn’t?) and if I don’t get this right soon, I’m going to frustrate her out of yielding, which is way harder to fix. Any dressage newbies out there got a suggestion?

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“Stupid human” diaries: Jitter speaks

I have to say, summer in Kentucky has got to be the BEST thing ever.

I mean, there’s the grass…and the clover…and the rain…and did I mention the grass??? But Kentucky grass isn’t just any grass. Kentucky grass is Magical. All those extra sugars inspire a lot of brilliance and creativity.

Last summer, I found that the grass (and my pasturemates) provided me some great ideas of How to Evade the Stupid Human. I’ve long been a believer that if the Human is Stupid enough to let us loose in a 10 acre field with no halter, then they deserve whatever they get. Quite honestly, watching everyone else mindlessly trudge to the gate, swatting flies and complaining about all the work they’re going to have to do is really grotesque to me.

I applaud those among my fellow equines bold enough to go tearing across the field at the sight of their Human (away from the Human, I mean). But such a simple diversion is really a little uninspiring.

Therefore, I have come up with my own game plan that I’d like to share with the less brainy of my buddies:

  1. Always keep an eye out for the Stupid Human’s vehicle. The vehicle means nothing short of immediate capture. If you are able to do so out of direct sight of the vehicle, gradually move away from the gate. Do NOT look at the vehicle, or you will ruin the illusion that this is all coincidental grass hunting, preventing the Stupid Human from catching on to you.This is especially effective if you are positioned such that the Stupid Human can see you in your original, so-close-they-can-touch-you-from-the-fence state and you can make it all the way across the pasture while they go to the barn to fetch a leadrope, almost appearing to disappirate. Yes. I read Harry Potter. Shut up.
  2. When the Stupid Human enters the field, do not acknowledge the noise of the gate, grain bucket, or any squealing, whistling, calling, begging, pleading of the Human. This furthers the impression that you are deaf, and cannot possibly be expected to respond. Or work.
  3. When the Stupid Human gives up calling and begins walking toward you, lumber off in the opposite direction. Pause long enough for the Human to get within three feet of your shoulder, then walk casually away. This makes the human think that they have approached you in front of your tipping point, and that this is all (still) a misunderstanding.
  4. When the Stupid Human, if they have studied that “unnatural horsemanship” weirdness, tries to approach you from the front, proceed to turn away and offer them your butt, but turn only as quickly as they walk toward you. If you are very clever about this, you may give the Human the impression they are failing to actually move.
  5. As the human grows more persistent, allow them to get closer. If they get too close you will have to trot (yes, I know, tragic) away to get an appropriate distance before allowing them to try again.
  6. Now that you have created a slow boil in  your human’s little brain, it’s time to have a lot of fun. After several reps of #5, take off at a breakneck speed toward  your buddies and drive them into a blind gallop. If you can aim some of the low friends on the totem pole at the human, all the better. Ideally you should arrange this with them over breakfast, but if not just nip a few butts and you’ll get the same result.

Repeat steps 3-6 as needed.

There are several benefits to this system for you: more grass, less work, more fun. Did I mention more grass? But really this is your selfless act of the week for your Stupid Human. I believe it’s a valuable experience for them.

  • They get great aerobic exercise–which, let’s face it, their lazy butts could really use
  • They improve their sense of movement in relation to (somewhat) still objects–a great bonus for jumpers
  • They get anger management training
  • They sweat out that awful hairstyle, which really didn’t look that good anyway
  • They learn humility. Particularly if their parents or friends have chosen today to come to the barn

It’s a hard life, being the keeper of a Stupid Human. But in the end we can’t help but love them. Which is obviously why we add a little head toss and buck into the equation. Ahem.

Stay tuned for more how-to guides on dealing with your Stupid Human!

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About Us

Hello there.

If you’ve stumbled upon this one of about 9.7 bazillion blogs in the world as a bored 9-5er or browsing horse fanatic, welcome. If you’ve wandered over here because you are a non-horsey friend or relative, I’m sorry. Er. I hope you learn something?

I am a former hunter/general English riding mutt who recently purchased a very green, 7-year-old Thoroughbred/Percheron mare. She was a sort of rescue at age three, when she was found very neglected on a farm in MI. She’s big. She’s a temperamental, overly sensitive girl. And I broke her myself about a year and a half ago, at which point she had little to no experience with people, handling, or anything not involving grass.

What the hell was I thinking?

That’s a very good question. While I am in the process of working out the answer, I am trying to teach both of us the basics beyond stop, go, and turn. Though I spent a lot of time growing up clinging to fast and tough adult horses, and a little time breaking Thoroughbred babies, I’ve got no experience teaching a fully mature adult everything they need to know to function.

I hope this blog will be a journal of our training progress. Ultimately I’d like to event with her, but am fully accepting of the fact that this is a long term goal.

Very long-term.

Like, sometime before I retire would be great.

This is a place for quandaries, rants and raves and I hope some of it, somewhere along the way will be of amusement.

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