Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Big Show Trot

The Big Show Trot

I have mentioned before that when I work with Cole in the arena, he has a huge trot. I am not exaggerating—it is huge. His suspension is incredible, and it looks nearly like the dressage movement called the passage. It is hard to ride. I can’t manage to post it because he nearly throws me on his neck, and I just can’t get the timing right. I have a very strong sitting trot, so I sit it. It is tough, and I usually can’t manage more than a few laps.

Now that I am riding most of my rides in the arena, we are having trouble. He is reluctant to trot well. Instead, he gives me his “stupid trot.” It is short-stepped, very slow with his head up in the air and his back is hollow. If I ask him for a better trot, I either get the big, show trot, he continues to do his stupid trot or he stops. Lately, he has been stopping way too much.

After a number of rides like this, I have had enough. Sure, the big, show trot looks impressive, but I don’t have fun riding it. (I have been riding Dante’s smooth trot—and I live it.) Maybe Cole is telling me he doesn’t have fun doing it, either. If I get exhausted doing it, maybe it is tiring him, too. The big, show trot had to go. I no longer wanted it as his default gait.

How do I get him to trot like a normal horse? I spent several days thinking about it.

He trots like normal horse on the trail, and if it is fast enough, I post it easily. If it is a little slower, I sit it easily. I decided that this would be my starting point—I would post.

I started our riding session with posting right from the start. Within 10 seconds, we found a nice rhythm, and I was posting easily. Of course, you can guess what happened next—I clicked.

He stopped and got his treat, and we did it again—over and over. Usually, I was clicking in the first 10 strides. I wanted him to be clear with what I wanted, since it was a totally new request. After a bit, I had him go longer before he got the click. It was working.

I don’t know if Cole is a particularly quick learner or if it is the clicker, but within 5 minutes, he was consistently trotting in a new way. (Why did I wait so long to do this?) I could either post it or sit it. The trot was much more comfortable. (Still not as smooth as Dante, but he is exceptional.) He was carrying his head in a lovely position—not with his nose in the air. The trot felt balanced, and I could tell there was more suspension than he would have on the trail. I was able to trot full laps without exhaustion, too.

It was time to get a second opinion. I called Kevin out to see us. I explained the problem I wanted to solve, and then I showed him our new trot. At first, he thought it was still the show trot, so I knew he looked good. Upon further observation, Kevin could see that it wasn’t as extreme—and he liked it.

Cole and I have a new trot, now! I think one of the reasons that he took to it so quickly is that he wanted a new trot, too. Once he got it, it was self reinforcing. This was just the first lesson, though, so we will see where we go from here.

I am sure that big, show trot is still there, and I will teach him a cue for it so he knows just to give it to me when I ask for it. In the meantime, I will encourage Cole to make the new trot his default trot. I think I am going to like this.


Camryn said...

Awesome use for the clicker.

achieve1dream said...

Yay for clicker problem solving! I have a feeling that his big trot was making him sore since he was doing it more often now that you are stuck in the arena. A passage type trot takes a LOT of strength. I'm glad you were able to find another trot that is more comfortable for both of you. :)

Judi said...

Yes, I think the big trot was making him sore and this was his way to show me. He is doing a more normal trot most of the time, now, and we are both much happier!