Monday, January 12, 2015

More Ground Work with Cole

More Ground Work with Cole

Cole and I have been working on our ground work every time I see him. He is now doing all the simple exercises very easily. It was time to move on a challenging exercise—shoulder-in.

Shoulder-in is a dressage exercise where a horse is put on a bend and then is asked to go straight while still maintaining a bend. I have been working at it in the arena for the last few winters, and we have been slowly getting something. Typically, he can do about 3 steps, and then he starts falling apart. I am at a huge disadvantage when I try to teach him because I have never ridden a horse doing a proper shoulder in—so I’m not sure what it is supposed to feel like.

I was hoping that teaching him on the ground would help us in the saddle. The instructions said it would take 7-10 lessons to get it. I’m glad that the book explained how tough it is for horses to learn so I wouldn’t get discouraged.

The first lesson was an abject failure. I was able to push his shoulder and get a step, but that isn’t the way you are supposed to do it. I still clicked and treated him for that step. I switched from carrots to candy corn—hoping it would encourage him to take that step.

The next day went a little better when we did it to the right—which is funny because the book said the left would be much easier. I was getting 3-4 decent steps, and he was getting clicks and candy corn. We were doing it the proper way using the reins and my body position as a signal. I guess that meant that sometimes you need to give them a push to get the step—just to show what you want. He still seemed clueless on the left side.

Our following lesson went very well on the right side. We could do nearly as many steps as I wanted most of the time. He got lots of clicks. I started to get some proper steps on the left side.

The next day, I rode first. Towards the end of our ride, I asked for a shoulder-in to the right at a walk, and he nailed it! There was no improvement on the left. After the ride, we did more work on the ground, and both sides improved.

On the next lesson, I rode first. This time, he was doing super at the walk on the right side and improved on the left side. It was time to give the trot a try. We have done shoulder-in at the trot in the past, but he was inconsistent. Well, when we did it to the right, he was perfect. Well, as perfect as I could imagine. I’m not sure if our bend was too strong, but I won’t worry about that for now. He held the bend I asked for beautifully, but he moved with balance and grace. It felt like he knew exactly what I wanted. We did it a number of times—and he got lots of clicks. It felt great. The left shoulder-in wasn’t as good, but it was better than in times past.

I never thought I would reap such rewards in just a few weeks’ time. We work no more than 10 minutes a lesson, too. Cole is still enthusiastic—probably because the treats keep coming.

I just need to come up with a practical use to shoulder in on the trail!

1 comment:

achieve1dream said...

That is awesome!!! He is so smart. Some people use the shoulder in on the trail if the horse is jigging or is being spooky. I don't know if either of those apply to him though. You could just do it for fun lol. Also once he knows how to do it really well on both sides you can do twice as many steps on the bad side so that he balances his strength and flexibility on both sides. :-) Once his bad side turns into his good side you do more the other way. Dressage is all about constantly trying to get them even on both sides hehe.