Relaxation at the walk - or, the jigging 23 year old mare
I'd like to brainstorm about relaxation at the walk, particular when transitioning to and from the walk mid-ride and during the cool-down stage of a ride.
I have about a ten minute window or so at the beginning of my ride where mare is typically very relaxed and is happy to transition to and from the free walk to collected walk to medium walk, what have you. I also typically have no issues should I maintain only the walk throughout our ride (i.e. if the ring is too sloppy to do much else, we'll do a walk only ride).
However, once mare starts working, our walk breaks become...fascinating. She has a lovely, ground covering free walk as well as a very nice collected walk, but she tends to want to jig sporadically throughout our walk breaks as well as when I ask her for free walk and then take the reins back up (and no, I don't drop her in the free walk).
She has a great work ethic - almost too MUCH of a work ethic though. She's very willing and always trying to guess what we're going to do next. She's also incredibly smart. And, a coming 23 year old Trak. So, she's got stuff figured out.
We're not currently showing but in the past, we've done well at Second, and there's not usually enough walking time in the tests to give her a chance to think about jigging. So I'm not asking from a showing perspective, but more from a - my horse is a workaholic who sees no point in actually walking all that much perspective...
I keep her brain occupied. By this I mean - I rarely ride just on the rail. I work her in figures. I implement lateral work when I feel her getting jiggy - circles, serpentines, changes of direction, shoulder in, haunches in, whatever - halt. Back. Transitions.
Within the trot and canter, she's much more malleable - she does work well off the seat and actually has a pretty sensitive, soft mouth (her tendency is always forward but I can hand gallop her in the field in a KK and she comes right back).
I really suspect she's not being BAD per say, just doesn't much appreciate the value of the walk break.
Anyone else have a horse of this mindset? Or any input? No one can believe this mare is about to be 23
Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue.
I have a 20-25yo ex polo pony. She's pretty convinced walk breaks are for sissies. She's never been great at them unless she's been worked HARD. Even then, she'll walk(ish...) just long enough to catch her breath, then she wants to go again. Pro polo players couldn't break her of it. I've long since stopped trying. She is great on a longe and is my go to for beginners learning balance, but anything other than that and you better want to MOVE if you're on her back.
I've got nothin in the help department. I've never met another like her that just. won't. walk. Others? Work hard, ask for walk. Don't want to walk? Back to work. Walk? No? Back to work. Most figure it out pretty quickly. My mare never has and I doubt she ever will at this point. It is what it is.
I've got a young mare who likes to jig at the walk unless you've got no contact. I'm going to be working her over some ground poles to see if that helps. She is more than capable of a correct walk but wants to move laterally once you pick up the contact.
She can do anything from a big ground covering working trot (doesn't have the foundation to do medium just yet) to a tiny western pleasure jog. That jog is great for trail riding but not much help in the arena!
I have the same problem in my 21 year old chestnut TB mare. She's totally fine walking around nicely until we've started warming up and then all hell breaks loose and when I ask for a break she wants to jig or speed walk the entire time. I have found that riding her for more than an hour a day for several days in a row seems to help take the edge off a tiny bit - but not much. When the weather has been bad and riding gets skipped a few days I know the next ride will have NO relaxing walk break! She's just too jazzed to chill out.
I am constantly hydrating myself so the best thing I've found is to teach her to stand next to the water bottle holder (usually a jump standard) while I take a drink from my water bottle. Sometimes we'll stand there for 2 or 3 minutes but at least I've been able to catch my breath and then we continue back to work.
I had to laugh when I saw she's a Trakehner... my very first thought upon reading the thread title was, 'I bet it's an Arab', so I was close! Others have given you some good advice. You might also try really riding her off your seat in the free walk and asking for more than straight lines... give her something to think about that will keep her focus.
Furthermore, my mare is barely deterred by any of those grid jumping exercises designed to slow something down. As a polo pony she was taught to use herself to the extreme....so she can, with absolutely no issues, do grids and things at Mach 10. Instructors have been amazed. I just have to laugh. She's all, 'Look! I did it!' at the end. Yes mare, yes you did... Riding her more just makes her fitter. It doesn't really take any kind of an edge off. Even at over 20yo, she'll happily do 3-4 hour lessons a day.
So yeah, I've given up trying to slow my old red TB mare down. Ironically my 8yo Arab is the calm, sensible one of the pair.
Perhaps instead of walking her in a straight line, walk in serpentine loops...much harder to jig on a curve. When she walks calmly, let her walk on a straight line for a bit. If she starts jigging, start putting her into serpentines again.
When mine was younger (now 20), I taught her a "Reeelaaax" cue. She's the same kind of workaholic personality. She got much, much better as she relaxed into dressage work and learned to let me have a bit more say, but anytime she has a long break we have to work on it again. I will also say she's very sensitive to my seat and any tension in my thighs. To keep the big, forward walk without breaking, I have to make sure to make my thighs heavy and show her the rhythm I want with my seat. As soon as I tighten up, she reads it as "half halt"-->"transition coming!!!"
I think teaching a "Relax" cue can help the ones who really like a job, because instead of "stop doing everything" walking can become "your goal is to relax and stretch." It gives them a target, rather than a pointless void.
I should clarify that I rarely walk her in straight lines and certainly not at the free walk all that frequently! As I noted before, we do frequent changes of direction, bending lines, figures, laterals, etc. Grasshopper, I think you're on to something - I've got to be tightening somewhere and just not realizing it, and that's cueing her to the transition...Like I said, I don't think she's being naughty to be naughty...I think she's honestly anticipating *doing* something. But that's almost a worse mindset to retrain in this respect.
I think another thing I'm going to work on is doing more frequent but shorter bursts of walk and then bringing her back up versus trying to give her too long of a break to think about anything. She's pretty fit - I wouldn't work her to tire her out anyway, but a) that wouldn't work with her, with her Trak/TB blood, and b) especially not at her age and with her ringbone.
Guess she just likes to keep me on my toes!
Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue.
I owned a mare like this. She was a qh and trained for cutting and reining. She also did not know how to walk. A few bit changes, a few feed changes and we had a workable mare. She never quit jigging completely though, we just got creative with her and taught her dressage. teaching the difference between pirouette and spin was by far one of the funniest things we did.
She was also a workaholic and just wanted to work work work. Miles of trail didn't phase her or slow her down at all. But the patterns of dressage did give her a nice happy place to work her body and mind in perfect harmony.
Adoring fan of A Fine Romance
Originally Posted by alicen:
What serious breeder would think that a horse at that performance level is push button? Even so, that's still a lot of buttons to push.
What worked, somewhat with my very sensitive TB Chestnut mare was - deep breathing as opposed to shallow breaths, body relaxed as much as possible, imagine your feet are dragging the ground, be as still and relaxed as possible.
If your mare is like mine, think walk and look where you want to go and she will do it. Half halts, fidgets of any sort will distract her. Aha moment for us was in a clinic we were working on turning down the center line at A. Instructor told me to stop half-halts, etc. She told me to me to just trot down the long side, and as we approached the corner to look over my shoulder toward C until the turn was complete and we were on the centerline. Presto magic mare made the most perfect turns, was steady and happy.
"Never do anything that you have to explain twice to the paramedics."
Courtesy my cousin Tim
Oh, yeah--fooler's breathing reminder reminded me that the first useful advice I got re: my mare was to exhale deeply when picking the reins back up.
Also, I've lost track of which "anticipating/walk" thread this is, so maybe it's on the other that ideayoda posted some ideas about the way contact is established and the beginning of the free walk, which may be useful.
I ride two horses like this. They are older (17-20) workaholics and anticipators. The only possible way to get a flat walk out of either of them is for me to be completely relaxed and every few strides I will gently floss the bit. A regular old half halt isn't good enough, it has to be a left-right sponging with the reins at regular intervals. Basically, I have to catch them at every jig but not create too much tension in the reins, because tension = go faster to them.