During September Ricky had Tony on the east coast with him. The month started out with Tony getting his second set of shoes, and along with Tony’s kind and gentle nature he stood like a pro. Tony has great feet and is comfortable standing on three legs (because of his balance and understanding) so Ricky enjoys shoeing him…and that is saying a lot (ha). Being on the road really exposes a horse to a lot of things, so the months he has had while teaching clinics has given Tony a lot of experiences and education. From the change of scenery to the hustle and bustle of life, not much bothers him anymore. The hours under-saddle that Tony and Ricky have together has also continued his education through quality and exposure.
While riding Tony, Ricky has gotten to a point where most of what he is helping Tony to understand is a continuation of things they have worked on previously. Through September Ricky spent more time getting Tony to feel of him through his seat, especially to the stop. If Tony wasn’t able to find the stop (which happens very infrequently because of the consistency that Ricky has offered him), Ricky will bend him in a short bend for 360 degrees and then come out at a walk. This is a multifaceted technique. It helps to get the horse’s attention which is usually what is lacking if they “miss the cue”. It helps them to find their balance, which could also be what is missing and thus causing a lack of confidence executing the stop well. It will also give another opportunity to engage the hindquarters both physically (strengthening) and mentally (intellectually).
Having Tony really keen on his stops is such a developmental step. Confidence within the stop just continues to help with whatever comes after a strong, straight, balanced and calm stop. The quality stop (as we have talked about in previous posts) is important for so many things; from the simple and crisp transition, staying mentally engaged, working a cow, to the most refined of movements.
As we talk a lot about stopping it is easy to forget where this skill has been derived, moving forward freely and comfortably. Always working to better the horse’s balance and the fluidity of each gate is vital. As Ricky and Tony have progressed with all gates on a loose rein, Ricky is using both reins more and more to help with collection and refinement. Ricky will only use two reins once the horse can travel freely, balanced, regulate their own speed and regulate their speed from his seat. This is achieved through good groundwork, strong fundamentals, constancy and overall feel offered to the horse. Working to have these things as a dependable part of the horse’s education, it would then be time to use two reins at a time. Taking your time to get these things strong will pay off later.
The strong foundation that Tony has helps to facilitate a steady progression of his education. The early education for a young horse may seem slow early on but as they get solid and confident their progression just sky rockets. An example of this is in the leg yield. As a person gets their horse comfortable, strong and understanding with moving their hind quarters, (through ground work and then from the saddle) they are ready. Then, before you know it, the leg yield is just ready and waiting. Asking for the leg yield a couple of steps at a time for a bit, will then develop into something you could ask of your horse all day long. To continue this progression you now have a reliable leg yield, so, as they understand the propose of this move, they can help you open and close gates, press off a cow with smoothness, change position on a calf that you have roped, the list goes on. Now that your horse has a grasp of why you have been working on this you realize that all of that foundation and repetition really paid off. Tony is no exception to this.
As Ricky has chipped away at things and worked with such an emphasis on the good stop, his foundation is really paying off. When he puts Tony in front of a calf and gives him an idea of what Ricky would like him to do, Tony stops so hard, while calm and patient. Then he is ready for a turn, to track the calf or just walk off. A lot of what is paying off now is also having so much of this skill be Tony’s idea. He is so hooked onto cattle, and that hasn’t come from putting him in front of tons of cattle. It has come from such success when he is in front of cattle. He has succeeded and understands the goal. This is a great place to be; both for Tony and for Ricky. Ricky is really proud of where Tony is.