Art2Ride Associate Trainer Program: Allison and Contigo: Walk, Trot & Piaffe
Hi everyone! I’ve got a lunge video for those still working on your lunging aides. In this video, I’m working on “leg” before “hand”. Leg is my whip and is designed to ask if Contigo will move his haunches slightly away from me and reach more deeply with more energy under his under his belly. Hand is my lunge line connected to Contigo’s pole and jaw and is designed to correct him if he shortens and tightens his neck and pole. When I send the whip out to Contigo’s inside hind leg, I want him to offer to move his haunches slightly away from me and reach more deeply with more energy under his belly without speeding up WHILE also lengthening his neck and lowering his pole. Eventually, I want to use less and less “hand” (suppling) as Contigo learns this correctly.
In this video, you’ll see I’m working on the timing and dosage of my “leg” and “hand” aides. I also couple these aides with voice aides which you cannot hear. I’m still learning, so I’m not perfect, and my audio commentary explanation isn’t perfect, however, I am getting more effective with my aides and Contigo does answer my aides both correctly and incorrectly helping to illustrate the process. The process goes like this: I ask him a question with one of those aides and wait for an answer. Then, I either praise his response if it’s correct or I correct his response if it’s incorrect.
Contigo walks for eleven minutes where I develop a very low, long forward stretch with a nice relaxed swing and wave like quality (accomplished with relaxation and good energy).
Contigo trots for ten minutes and I see this as his “warm up”, where I don’t ask too much. I develop as low, long and forward a stretch as possible with swing and a wave like quality similar to what I achieved in the walk. I’m happy with this, but Contigo doesn’t reach as deep under his body as he is capable of, so I give him a walk break, then return to the trot to ask him if he can give me a more optimal hind leg stride which is the longest slowest stride possible. Only when he achieves the optimal hind leg stride while his back and whithers are up will he be able to lift his front end.
Contigo trots for seven minutes where the added energy causes him to tense up because he’s spooking a bit at one corner, and as a result he chooses to speed up in that corner. Rather than terminating my mission just to avoid him running himself onto the forehand, I stick with it, and try to help him settle and relax within that added energy he’s producing. I do that by asking him to continue to dialogue with me. I continue to ask the same questions with the same repertoire of aides. “Contigo,” I ask, “Can you keep offering an active pushing hind leg, but try not to speed up, but rather relax settle into it and allow yourself to reach deeper while stretching your neck low, long and forward? “Contigo,” I ask, “Can you listen to what I’m asking, and try to answer correctly?”… because there is a reward: balance which equates to comfort, relaxation and stretch which equates to feels great, and treats and praise which both are yummy. You’ll see me run with him for a few minutes toward the end because I want him to pick up on my energy and I need him to keep offering the hind leg activity while I try to help him listen and respond correctly to my suppling hand aides to relax and lengthen and lower his neck. It’s hard for horse’s to listen to two aides at the same time so by running next to him I’m hoping to get him to just automatically, without thinking about it, join up with my energy.
Note: When there’s not enough activity behind, a horse can’t engage it’s hind legs, achieve it’s optimum reach under it’s body, swing fully through it’s whole body from lower back to pole and most importantly, develop muscling over it’s topline. As a student of Art2Ride, and a Foundation Associate Trainer, I’m learning how much a retroactive hand undermines my end goal by blocking the hind leg. At the same time, I’m learning that the hand is very important because in the effort to gain productive energy from the hind end, if that energy rolls into speed and not nurtured into just the right amount of forward with relaxation, a horse will just run onto the forehand and never achieve the development of the optimal hind leg stride which is one that ultimately lifts the front end up. So getting the correct timing and purpose and dosage of my aides, both leg and hand, is really important to me. I am trying to develop good, clear communication so Contigo can actually learn from what I’m trying to teach him and therefore offer what I’m asking him to offer with less and less aides. Wouldn’t that be nice?!?!
Note: Contigo used to be very imbalanced, falling in on his inside shoulder. In fact, he used to lean into the circle like a motorcycle at high speed, answering almost every aid with a very tense back and often derailing by bucking and kicking at me.