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The trip to the AERC National Championship at Red Rock, Nevada, afforded me the pleasure once again of passing through the Lassen National Forest. I always look forward to the trip because I can sit back and enjoy the ride.
Once above 5,000 feet elevation there are
many straight stretches of highway in excess of a mile. The fall
colors and fast moving waters of the world famous Hat Creek pass
by. Golden leaves of Aspen shimmer in the breeze awaiting the
first rains and the spring melt of winter snows. Fall is always
great because it is as though spring and summer have done their
work and the forest is waiting for winter to do its work.
Let the horse take you for a ride.
Training a horse is so easy that it is difficult. As riders,
we miss many of the simple signals sent by the horse not to mention
the subtle ones we send unknowingly. Let the horse take
you meanssitting still, centered, balanced, thigh
and seat contact only, slack reins and no guiding. Its
a simple test and exercise to determine how well your horse is
prepared. So, where is the challenge? Simply put, its a
test to determine who has the responsibility for rate and steering.
If the rider guides or rates the horse, the rider is being used
as a crutch. So, unless the rider has prepared the horse properly
to rate and guide, we have pilot error.
How many times have we heard, I just let him go at the start until he slows himself down, or My arms get so tired from him pulling on me that I think they are going to fall off. Heres a classic. He goes out strong for a while then he slows down on his own Well, yes, sometimes he has a metabolic problem and I get pulled. The problem with the last statement is the word I. The rider is worried about his accomplishments and the horse just happens to be there.
So, how do we prepare our horse to rate
himself in the trot and canter? Simple, the rider is always the
leader and has control. The rider never allows the horse to choose
the speed. Good mental preparation will result in physical conditioning,
and the natural speed of the horse will show over time; therefore
training for speed is never an issure.
The horse who is thinking about going someplace
is in control. He should be thinking, Where are we going
now, how fast, whats next? Those are the thoughts
a well prepared horse should be thinking. My quarter horse mare,
Plenty, tested me at the Cuyama Multi-day ride in March. It took
us three hours to travel two miles. She was pushing, trying to
break and walking on eggs the whole time. I decided I was going
to wait her out which really tested my patience and skills. It
would have been many times worse next time. I am the leader.
There were many times where she only took 2-3 steps on a slack
rein followed by a single rein stop. I had to disengage her hind
quarters, wait for her feet to stop, get soft in the face, then,
the release, not before. Finally she came to me and the rest
of the day was easy. I could then ask her to trot and she would
come back to me at anytime. The next day there was never a problem.
Let the horse take you for a ride and he will tell you what needs to be done. Can you hear him now?