Training the Mind of the Horse and Rider

Training the Mind of the Horse and Rider
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Monday, September 21, 2009

Stephens Forest CTR

Stephens Forest is beautiful and I love forest riding!!! I was looking forward to this ride, just to get out and ride. I knew my horse wouldn't be ready, but I didn't realize how un-ready he was until we started riding on Saturday, and by Sunday, he was just ansy and mad!

Conditioning is important to me too, and it was obvious that I hadn't done enough of it! My horse was a brat - I guess I shouldn't have given him 3 weeks off in Aug! My horse is a perfect gentleman at home, and you guess it, you never know what horse you have until you get to the show/ride! Not only mares are pissy, I can tell you that!

I trailered by myself so I didn't wait the extra 3 hours after checking out to find out what my scores were. I know, wimp! But that drive home by myself wears me out! I called my friend, Tammy, who I shared the trail with, and she told me I placed 3rd in horsemanship and Finny didn't place at all. I knew he wouldn't place after he came up with sore loins on Saturday check out and was very anxious the whole ride. We had minuses all over the place, starting at check out for Saturday start, and at almost every obstacle he was anxious and chomping the bit if he had to wait for his turn. He was great at some obstacles, where there was no wait turn and you just kept riding forward. That is the horse I have at home. oh, well...

I had a cantle bag with water, which I have used before, and this time I even double tied it so it stayed in place, but the waters must have been hitting him. I know at 1 trot time, a bottle fell out. I took the bag off for Sunday, massaged his back some Sunday morning and Sunday after I got in from the ride, and he checked out with a sound back. He did have some stocking up, but no
matter how conditioned he is, he always does. It may have something to do with his long pasterns, and I am going to research that. His metabolics were good, lost some points to hydration, but we have those gut sounds going!

I knew we didn't have the ride time in that we had in for the spring rides, so I just wanted to improve in some areas. We had some great maneuvers, and some awful ones. He is not a great backer, and we will work on that further. He is gotten terrible with chomping the bit, and at 1 time, I looked at Sheri and said, look at him, I am totally relaxed, not a stiff muscle anywhere as I was trying to sit very relaxed, and he was worse than ever!!! I'm not going to make excuses for his bad behavior- he is pleasure/performance bred and has a little hot blood in him, and it showed. Going down the trail was awesome, and he could have gone a long ways at a trot. Waiting his turn was miserable! what a brat! When he is great, it's great, but awful is miserable! next time, that guy is going to have his butt loped into the ground before we even start! If he doesn't do well at metabolics, at least he is going to stand tired!!!

But I have been working on my Centered Riding techniques, and I worked on breathing to help him stay relaxed, as well as that did for him! But it sure helped me as no matter what he did, I was relaxed and thought oh well, you better be good, because when I get you home, vacation is over! Lol

Some of the judged obstacles were:

Friday afternoon check in, with both the vet and horsemanship judges. We stood still while the vet judge checked metabolics and looked for cuts and marks on the horse’s body. The horsemanship judged checked for cleanliness. We then trotted away from the vet judge, lunged a circle in both directions, then trotted to a cone. I have lunged horses for years, keeping the lunge line coiled in my hand. CTR’s want you to figure 8 the line. Even after 2 years of practicing this, as I sent Finny out to lunge in a circle, he was sluggish, so I shook the line at him. As I did that, I dropped all of the line that was folded in my hand. I quickly picked it all up while lunging him, and had the line loped again before I needed to turn him. Finny checked in clean and sound.

Our first obstacle was 8 am Saturday morning. We were to wait until the person before us trots down the trail, then we were to trot away. The horsemanship judge was checking for balance. Finny wouldn’t stand still, but I kept him from moving around as quietly as I could.

I wanted to do some trotting, but the riders who left before us were still walking, and we would have just caught up to everyone too fast. Finny was anxious. We had to wait at our next obstacle. We were to turn around at the ribbon, and back between a rock and a stump. Finny didn’t want to back, and when he did, he was crooked. The judge commented that he did what he was suppose to, even though he moved against the leg that I was asking him with. Afterwards, I thought to myself, I backed between a stone and a hard spot!” ”! This was an old saying that I have heard from my relatives. It means that something was difficult to do. The horsemanship judge was hiding before this maneuver, and she was watching if we crowded each other as we came up a hill and if we were sitting light and off the cantle.

After a P&R, we also had a judged mount with the vet judge, after she performed a metabolic check. We were to back in hand next to a concrete wall of an outhouse, and mount. Finny backed but wouldn’t get close to the wall. I had to ask twice. He was a little farther than he should have been from the wall, but he stood while I mounted. He was to settle, and I sat a few seconds longer than necessary after he did settle.

For the horsemanship judge, we were to step over a branch with the front feet & counting to 10 before continuing down the trail. We did well as Finny was able to walk right up to the obstacle without any wait time and he wasn’t watching a horse move on down the trail. At another obstacle on Saturday, we had a trot by and the judge was checking for balance and vertical alignment. When I checked the cards Saturday night, the judge commented that I was a little off to one side. The next morning, I had Tammy watch me trot as she was behind me, and she said I looked evenly centered, from the saddle down to my stirrup length. We also had to trot to the judge and was asked to stop. The horsemanship judge was checking for light hands and how well the horse listened to the rider. The last horsemanship obstacle was while we were crossing a bridge and the judge watched if we shifted our weight out of the saddle as we went up a hill

Sunday obstacles started with a trot by the vet judge in the morning while she checked for lameness. Finny trotted out and was ready to go. Obstacles for the day included trotting down a path, and continue at a trot as you approach a log, and either trot over or jump the log. Finny approached the log with perked ears, and smoothly jumped the log. It was a very smooth feeling. I don't think I held 2 point position long enough as I felt I came down into the cantle too soon. At one of the metabolic checks on the trail, I should have dismounted, as Finny wouldn't stand still. Then we were to show where we were on the map and what trail we would be taking. I made the additional comment that we were to be heading west, as I looked at the compass on the map also. But they were actually checking to see if our horse stood still while we checked our maps.

For the horsemanship judge, we were to stay on the gravel path and walk through brush. I kept near the middle of the path and slowly allowed Finny to place his feet among the branches. At another time, the judge was hiding near a tree, watching as we moved up a slight incline. We had a good laugh at this obstacle. We had been on the horses for 3 hours without a restroom break. I told my friend that I needed to get off my horse and to watch the trail. I was already dismounted when the judge said that I should move down the trail and use the restroom that was just beyond the curve in the road. LOL! I almost mooned the judge as I had unzipped my pants by the time she said something! LOL! But I wonder how she jusged me at that spot. I was up and off my horse before she spoke, and then I had to remount, using terrain.

On both days, P & R's were good, but not perfect. After the first P&R, we were to hand walk the horse down the path and around a curve to the judge. We were to mount, using the terrain. I turned my horse sideways, and mounted from the high side. My friend moved the horse closer to a rise in the path, and used the higher ground. Finny did not want to stand quiet at the 2nd P&R on Sunday. At this P&R, we had to trot a long time into the P&R. Finny should have been tired, but he was excited and wouldn’t stand still as he saw other horses move on down the trail. At all the P&R’s, I remained relaxed. I tried deep breathing, hoping that Finny would mimic my breathing and calm down.

We had many metabolic checks on the trail, and I did lose hydration points. The days were cooler, but there was little water on the trail, and Finny didn’t drink much. Finny lost points as he did not stand well for the vet checks. I realize now that I should have dismounted and held my horse at each check. My daughter gave me a good idea and told me that I should have dropped his bit at the P&R’s and metabolic checks. We are allowed to dismount at the checks. I think I would have lost less points from the vet judge if I had held my horse. I also think I will work with a bitless bridle. I could use a bit with a roller, to give my horses something to play with. But that may also get annoying.

The Stephens Forest CTR was a wonderful time with friends, as always! I loved the scenery. Even though Finny wasn’t a calm horse, when we could trot down the trail, without any nervousness, it was glorious. Come along on the next CTR!

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