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Bringing Along The Rather Smart OTTB

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  • Bringing Along The Rather Smart OTTB

    I have a 6 year old CANTER horse that I purchased in September. Initially, he came along at light speed, happily volunteering the basics and working hard to figure out my requests. He was underweight, but otherwise healthy and things went smoothly.

    Now, 4 months later, he's almost up to weight and still very sweet. He goes brilliantly jumping, staying in a wonderful rhythm and is doing very well, even half halting from the body and staying in great balance.

    Flatwork is another bear entirely. I get the feeling he reckons he's got the basics and he's bored, so he focuses outside the ring and not on me. He doesn't have that many buttons yet, so I am looking for more exercises to develop him while keeping that mind busy, because trotting figures is not cutting it.

    He has the beginnings of bend and the beginnings of lateral work. Sometimes he half-halts, sometimes he doesn't bother. We've begun transition work at halt/walk/trot. The canter transition is still pretty much a starting gate leap, but he settles into a rhythm eventually.

    (1) Is this fairly normal? A sort of "honeymoon is over" period?

    (2) Now what?

    We do work with two trainers on occasion, one local, one BNT, but finances limit me.
    Life doesn't have perfect footing.

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  • #2
    My guess is that you're starting to ask for self carriage, and that is much harder work than simply accepting contact... so things outside the arena are becoming more interesting than working harder!

    I would say you're on the right track with the transitions. Get him sensitive to your WHOA and GO and refine from there to develop the half halt. Transitions within the gait are also good to get him paying attention.

    I try to combine the transitions with different figures, spiral in and out, and changes of bend. Sometimes just focusing on figures, or just on transitions still isn't enough variation for a busy brain TB!

    Another idea is to build in a reward- i.e. stretch down or free walk- and use that to motivate him. Say he gives you 3 minutes of focused work- he gets 'good boy' and let him stretch. I also tend to want to be a drill-sergeant when my horse isn't focused, so these mandatory rewards are a good way to break the session up and keep us both relaxed.

    Good luck, it sounds like he is coming along well!
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    • #3
      How long are you riding him for?

      At the track sets last anywhere from 5-10 minutes on up to 45 at training centers like Fair Hill.

      But even at the longer rides there was a process....walk in shedrow, throw rider up. Walk to training area, jog maybe 8 -16 mins. Stop turn around, gallop for 3-8 minutes then pull up, jog back and then walk home. So there's a training arc.

      Ask yourself.... do you have a training arc still or is it a monotonous line resembling a corpse's life support screen? Because many horses like to experience peaks of exertion and then valleys of rest. So they have some "excitement" and then relax and then more "fun" and then relax.

      Drilling flatwork on a greenie is akin to watching cement sit for some horses. They just want to have some fun thrown in.

      "Courage is not the absence of fear but rather the judgment that something is more important than fear. The brave may not live forever but the cautious do not live at all." ~2001 The Princess Diaries


      • Original Poster

        Originally posted by Xctrygirl View Post
        Ask yourself.... do you have a training arc still or is it a monotonous line resembling a corpse's life support screen?
        I love this!

        I think we still have an arc. I don't wear a watch when I ride (30-45 mins unless an issue rears up I have to ride through?), but we do have defined warm up and cool down and breaks where he can just relax on the buckle. I hate monotony too and am very sensitive to not just "doing arena laps." But there is definitely room for more complexity and fun, the latter being a very good reminder to give him something to look forward to.

        Leah, good idea about doing the transitions and figures at the same time. Although I think you may be challenging my coordination just so people can laugh at the results... We've definitely worked on spirals, but not enough!!

        Thanks and keep thoughts coming!!
        Life doesn't have perfect footing.

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        • #5
          First brainstorming thought - don't make a strong distinction between "jump" days and "flatwork" days. Do your flatwork in a saddle you can at least hop crossrails in, and toss in crossrails and pole exercises along the way. Linda Allen's 101 Jumping Exercises is full of pole on the ground steering straightness exercises. Trotting into a crossrail can be a really good way to get a balanced canter transition, btw...



          • Original Poster

            Thanks, Jeannette -- I had gotten away from my initial approach of putting a jump or two in every ride and for some reason, he DOES get that landing from a jump = nice canter, so why am I not using that? (rhetorical question because I had a duh moment) Now, I just need BO to stop taking apart my pole patterns!!
            Life doesn't have perfect footing.

            Bloggily entertain yourself with our adventures (and disasters):
            We Are Flying Solo


            • #7
              DEFINITELY change it up. You know my old saying: it's a thin line between a Smart TB and a Smart-Ass TB. You can't drilldrilldrill on these guys like you can a WB. They get bored, then they start making trouble. So make life interesting for him. If he's not feeling the loff for lateral work, double-dawg dare him to hack quietly to the end of the driveway and back - and work him in serpentines on the way back home. A Smart TB can take as much inventiveness and creativity in the work as you can throw at 'em. Have fun!!! I loff the smart ones!
              "The standard you walk by is the standard you accept."--Lt. Gen. David Morrison, Austalian Army Chief


              • #8
                Do you school in the same place all the time? If yes, go new places. Do a school in a field, or practice his skills on a hack (or teach him new ones! I've introduced all sorts of new lateral movements while hacking out). Add in trot poles in the ring (I use trot poles all the time with Toby...they break up the ride a bit and they are also a good test of his obedience). I also like the idea of throwing in the odd jump here and there and (something I do a lot of young horses).

                Also, don't be afraid to introduce new ideas to him. He doesn't have to be perfect at it, but the challenge of a new problem to solve (how DO I bend my body and cross my legs) can keep a smart horse sharp and listening.

                Smartie pants are very fun but also very challenging, especially when they are green and just not strong enough to do much. I have a VERY smart horse and he keeps me on my toes every ride as I figure out how to keep him engaed and "with " me without pushing his body further than it is capable.


                • #9
                  HACK HACK HACK!! use hacks to sneak in bending, steering, balancing up and down hills..going forward.. coming back.. . make it FUN!!!


                  • #10
                    Best advice I ever got regarding 'training' was from a BNT who told me to go home and drag my ring (well, I didn't have a ring, I rode in the back pastures on my parent's cattle farm on grass, but I got his point) and then look at the ring post ride. There shouldn't be a bit of arena that didn't have multiple hoof prints in it.

                    Simply put...lots of changes of directions, lots of circles, lots of half circles (and half circles in reverse), lots of lateral work (even if only 2-3 steps of it), ride up the quarter line, ride up the center line, etc.

                    Even I get tired of riding on a circle.
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                    • Original Poster

                      I totally agree with hacking and do it as much as I can and we are not talking about just wandering around at a walk! We spend as many hours as possible out and about whenever we can make it happen. Arena, blech. Unfortunately, I do have to be at work, so during the week, we are left with the arena, which is the only thing lighted, so we are stuck in there until the time change.

                      Good point, Amanda, about doing new things and not having to do it perfectly. I smell all new lateral movements coming on....

                      glf, I consider it a failure on my part if I look at my hoofprints (I'm OCD, I can't help it) and they just go in a big circle a bunch of times, so I would completely agree with your BNT and one cannot be reminded of that principle enough!

                      Thank you, all!

                      We had a dressage lesson this morning and I was able to put together some things on here with watching trainer briefly ride my horse just to feel him (a rare treat to watch him go myself!) and a bit of an epiphany from watching Anne Kursinski's first session ride at the GM Horsemastership clinicis on usefnetworks.com (if you haven't watched it, check it out, free lesson) and we made some MAJOR PROGRESS! I think we took a chunk out of our roadblock and I got an all-new and really great feel. Excited!
                      Life doesn't have perfect footing.

                      Bloggily entertain yourself with our adventures (and disasters):
                      We Are Flying Solo


                      • #12
                        Spell your name with your horses hooves in the arena. I actually haven't tried that yet but it would be interesting. When I do arena work with my OTTB I do all kinds of circles, serpentines, lateral, trotting over poles, because we also compete in trail I have her back between poles, sidepass over poles, and so on. We also do plenty of trail riding. We do at least a few little jumps most sessions. Have fun and keep him busy!


                        • Original Poster

                          Ooo, that sounds like a challenge. Now I have to try it...
                          Life doesn't have perfect footing.

                          Bloggily entertain yourself with our adventures (and disasters):
                          We Are Flying Solo


                          • #14
                            I have one of these. I have to stay calm and thoughtful and methodical, but I cannot get in a rut with her. I have to make sure I do things in a different order so we don't get in a pattern because she starts to anticipate a lot. If I keep her entertained by switching things up it tends to go much better. I do a lot with changing up the length of stride/tempo which helps make her more adjustable but also seems to help keep her focused on what I am asking instead of thinking she knows what we are doing.
                            I also try to do a lot of work with ground poles which gives her something to think about without me needing to nag on her, so it keeps her brain busy while I can work on things like my position and aids, or just improving the quality of her gait. I can put 4 on a circle and we can keep going over them and she gets less bored than a plain circle, yet I can get things accomplished that call for doing the same type of excercise for a little while.
                            She tries SO hard, and whenever we run into a problem or it seems like she is being naughty it is just because she is trying so hard to get it right. I feel like that is harder for me to deal with than for one that is being naughty to get out of work. But I have to say when I get out on XC there is no horse I would rather ride because you just know when she "gets it" and you always have confidence that she is going to try whatever I put in front of her.


                            • Original Poster

                              Wordplay, she sounds very similar to mine. I like the ground poles on a circle, that is a good one that I have not used yet!
                              Life doesn't have perfect footing.

                              Bloggily entertain yourself with our adventures (and disasters):
                              We Are Flying Solo