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Sunday, May 26, 2013

Training Tips

So I have told you guys over and over about Sjapoer’s spooking issues.  We all have had a horse like that or even the calmest old guy at times can turn into a fire breather.  I have gotten advice from trainers through the years about how to deal with this attitude.  I think I finally saw the light bulb this week when Shauntel put it into words.  Sjapoer was putting a little freak on and I gave him a smack with the whip.  Her voice came calmly in my ear, in sugar tones.  “If you were deathly afraid of spiders, and every time you saw one and you got scared you got a smack; would it make you less afraid of spiders?”  Ding Ding Ding.  No way in heck I thought.  I would get worse every time!  After a pause long enough to let that sink in she said,  “so we work to build their trust, to let him know we aren’t going to risk his life.”  So when I got home that night I thought a lot about herd instincts.  Among wild horses, the herd follows the lead without question, to water, away from threats, up into the mountains to find shelter and down into the valleys for food.  Why do they follow; from trust.  If I can continually show Sjapoer that he can trust me not to get him in a risky situation, that he has nothing to fear, that I have the situation in control; he will turn over more trust to me.  We will have fewer incidents!  As Lendon, Shauntel and Jeremy have all said to me explicitly; he isn’t going to turn into a different type of horse.  He is 14 now.  He is who he is.  You can only work with his personality, not change it at this point.

     Another pointed piece of advice about canter pirouettes.  A horse’s hocks only have so many pirouettes in them.  Don’t use them all up in practice.  Only do those 2 or 3 times a week max on any horse.  On the other days you can work a bit on getting the canter shorter and shorter and then lengthening (so prep work) straight but not the spin. 

     Particularly after his day off, Sjapoer is usually so full of energy that it makes it hard to get any work done.  We have nicknamed him the energizer bunny because he could canter all day without getting tired.  I think I told you before, when I first got him we would lunge him for about 30 minutes, then Bre would ride him for 30 minutes or so and then I would ride him!  Anyway, he could canter all day and not get tired, but this is not productive.  We have been working lately so that when he first comes out for warm up we get his neck low and long, so he lifts his back in proper canter position, and I canter him this way for as long as he needs.  This is hard work.  It tires him out but it is productive letting off energy because we are building his back muscles while getting him ready to work. 

     As we go into the final stages of qualifying season the big push has been to first, not rest where I feel comfortable.  This is tough, particularly if something has been successful.  If you get 6.5/7/7.5 regularly in a certain frame, with certain impulsion etc. it is hard to risk 5.5/6 to be bold.  However, you don’t get 8/8.5 without pushing.  So we practice this every day.  As Shauntel  said to me the other day, if you only “go for it” at shows because you are afraid he will get amped up, and then at the show you push him, “he will get amped up there” and you haven’t prepared or practiced it! Also a reminder about transitions, Jeremy said never settle for a weak transition in practice.  Everyone should be an 8!

     Finally, Jeremy said he will be home the entire month of June and the weeks in July before NAJYRC!  Yeah, six weeks of pressure cooker hard work ahead for me. He will also be at the next two shows.  I can feel my sore muscles already.  But it will be a good sore. I will keep you updated so stay tuned.  More last minute information to help us all do great in Kentucky. 

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