Monday, May 2, 2011

Hill Woes

Hill Woes

I have had more troubles with Cole on the hill leading to the river than anywhere else in the whole park. Before the weather turned sour in December, I spent time leading him up and down the hill, over and over, hoping for improvement, and I did achieve some. Once the weather got snowy and the hill got icy, I discontinued the hill training and concentrated with our arena work.

Now that it is spring, our old problem has reared its ugly head. The few times I have crossed the river, he was fine there, but he was awful on the hill.

It’s not just going towards home; it is going away from home, too, which is downhill. He just wants to trot—regardless of direction. He is doing a better downhill. I think the problem with that stemmed from lack of strength. It takes a lot of control to fight gravity and stay at a walk. He is stronger, now. If he gets too fast, I ask him to stop and stand. When we restart, he has more control over his legs. There have been times we have made it down the hill with nary a trot step.

Uphill is different because it is on the way home. After 3 disastrous trips up the hill because he was so excited, I knew I had to come up with a plan. We went through a rainy spell where I couldn’t cross the river, so I was riding Cole in the arena. One weekend when I finished, I took the saddle and bridle off and led him down with the halter. There was a huge improvement. He definitely led better with the halter.

Another thing I added to his training program was not taking him to his stall when we got back to the barn. I would either lead or ride him on the driveway or the arena for 5-10 minutes. I didn’t want to give him a reason to rush home.

The next weekend was rainy, too. I advanced him to the next level and rode the hill with the halter on over his bridle. This way, I could lead him back with the halter. I didn’t need it. I was able to ride him up without trouble.

The following weekend, it rained, too. I felt confident enough with him to leave the halter and lead rope at the barn. I didn’t need it. He was fine, and I was feeling pretty good at this point.

I decided it was time to try it in the evening. Up until now, I had only done it on my morning rides. There wasn’t enough daylight, previously to ride Cruiser first, work Cole in the arena and take him down the hill.

I don’t know how other horses are, but our horses are always more hyper in the evenings than in the mornings. Even quiet Mingo was more energetic in the evenings. I expected Cole to not behave as well as he did in the mornings.

I made it down the hill with him only rushing a little at the very bottom. I turned around to go back and his attitude changed. As soon as we started up the slope, he began to prance and dance. I made him stop and stand, but when I asked for forward movement, he resumed. I made it only about a minute when I decided I would be better off leading. I was getting nervous and I could feel myself holding the reins too tight. I was only contributing to the problem.

Unfortunately, I was overconfident this time and didn’t have the halter. I had to lead him up with the bridle. Though he was far from perfect, he was nowhere near as bad as he was on those first 3 rides up before I started our program. I clicked him whenever he lined his head up with my leg, and after a bit, he was doing it fairly often for the clicks.

When we got back, we walked up and down the driveway for 5 minutes.

So, it is evident I need to work with him on this the same way I did on the morning rides. If the river ever goes down and I have enough daylight, I will include it with a regular trail ride. On all of these rides, he didn’t have any horse companionship. I believe if he did, he would have been much better.

Someday, I will laugh at all this. It was almost a year ago that he was afraid step on pavement, and we couldn’t cross the street to get to the trail…

1 comment:

achieve1dream said...

You're doing everything right, just be patient. He's young and he'll figure it out. :)