Friday, September 22, 2017

Driving with Accuracy

Related image
Chester Weber - always accurate

Good dressage advice from Larry Poulin:
"Don't give up the easy points." or.....They give you a map ahead of time. Be there!

The Benefits of Accuracy, Peter Dove wrote:
"...accuracy is probably the quickest way to pick up, or at least not throw away marks in a dressage test. However, it is not the act of being accurate which brings in the extra marks, the mere fact of learning to be more accurate allows your horse to become more balanced and have the greatest chance of performing well in the test. It is the benefits of being accurate which increase your marks too."

If you are not accurate at home, you won't be accurate in competition. Use the real estate you are given.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

The Language of Instruction

I love listening to experienced, talented equestrian clinicians teach. In live lessons with horses, things regularly happen faster than you can talk about them. Good clinicians have honed their language to a hard whittled essence to get their point across succinctly, adroitly and with power in brief phrases they have learned over time to rely on because they are quick , powerful and effective.

Much of what happens between horse and rider or driver are "taste like chicken moments". It's mostly about the timing and feel of pressure and release. The 'feel' on the rein is like....Like what? 2 lbs of pressure? Not quite right. Holding the hand of two year old child learning to walk? Closer, maybe. It should feel like butter? Like squeezing a sponge? Not really. The description of feel and timing is almost always LIKE something else.

First, the imagery has to be correct. Then it has to be meaningful to the rider/driver. Which does the rider understand better: put your heel down or point your toe up? Then it has to be brief, e.g before the next need for instruction comes along two strides later. It has to be memorable. What good is a lesson without retention?

So, you are wondering what this image has to do with all of this.

This is a LIMPET

I was describing to a new driving student, who comes from the riding world, the concept of offering her horse instruction and staying out of his way so he could accomplish on his own what was asked . Basically, showing the horse the way to self carriage. She instantly nodded in recognition and acknowledged she has been repeatedly told by her riding dressage instructor that she interferes too much.

I have a theory about a key difference between riding and driving: It may be more difficult to not interfere with riding horses because one simply has more tools available under saddle. There is the direct physical contact of the seat, thigh, calf and ankle and the influential weight and balance of the rider, none of which is available to the driver. Because there are more tools, there is a natural tendency to want to use them to get the most out of the horse. Actually, sometimes to over-use them.

With a driving horse, the better strategy is to create the horse you want out in front of you. He is, after all, literally going to get there before you do! And if you become good at creating the horse out in front of you....say, 1/4 of the way... 1/2 way around the the end of the long side of the should not have much to FIX when you get there. It is far more successful strategy to create the horse you want in advance, than to wait to fix the horse you have. student told me her riding instructor reprimands her for excessive interference by saying: "Stop interfering! You're on your horse like a limpet!"  An artful image! Correct, meaningful, brief, and memorable! Provided, of course, you know what a limpet is and how they operate.

From Wikipedia:

True limpets are capable of locomotion instead of being permanently attached to a single spot. However, when they need to resist strong wave action or other disturbances, limpets cling extremely firmly to the surface on which they live, using their muscular foot to apply suction combined with the effect of adhesive mucus. It often is very difficult to remove a true limpet from a rock without injuring or killing it.

I thanked her for that image. I am sure I will hear that phrase erupt out of my mouth at just the right instant in some lesson down the road.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Power of Instinct

Sometimes you see a horse photo in which the real subject is not so obvious at first glance... where it takes an intimate understanding of the subject to fully appreciate the entire scope.

Here we have a groom who knows and truly loves all the participants in the turnout: Two horses hooked as a tandem ( a challenging driving turnout if there ever was one!) and driven by his wife.

What we see here is a raw,  pure instinctual action by Ray, the groom. Just purposely but kindly stroking the lead horse  on his hind end, with the back on his four fingers. It's not planned.   It''s not practiced. It's not trained. He just reached out and did it out of pure natural as stroking a curl on a young daughter's hair.

We have two horses to consider. Ray is standing in the middle of  both of them. He can't reach the lead horse' s head. But he instinctually  knows the leader will feel and appreciate his presence by stroking him on hind end. He knows the horse well enough to know the horse will feel comforted, not concerned, by the touch coming, for all intents and purpose, out of nowhere for the lead horse who cannot see him.  The lead horse just senses his presence....and trusts the participants enough to be reassured rather than startled  by the touch,....and Ray knows the same: the lead horse will be reassured by his calculated soft bush with the front of his fingers, done with pure, calm, yet meaningful and purposeful energy. You'll note there is no talking going on here. It's pure touch and pure energy.

It's the instinctual move of a natural horseman. Well done!

Photo by Dana Goedewaagen at

Monday, May 15, 2017

Balkers that Lie Down

Balkers that Lie Down or Throw Themselves
Some horses lie down when they are balking or throw themselves. When you have this kind of horse, don’t try to get him up by beating him with a hickory club, a barrel stave, or a fence rail, or tie a chain around his neck and fasten a team of horses to it. Instead of this, kneel down on one knee close to your horse’s head, placing your hand on the ground if you wish a resting place. Keep your hands of his neck. Blow in the horse’s ear and sometimes he will be up in a few seconds. When this fails tap him on the ear or on the end of the nostril, tapping a little harder each time you repeat it. When this fails raise his nostrils up in the air and pour some water into them. You will find that your horse will not stay on the ground very long. If this fails hold his nostrils shut, cutting of his breath, and he will fight for air. If he does not get up saturate a handkerchief with ammonia and hold it to his nostrils. Don’t place your hand on the horse for a resting place and do not keep the handkerchief on his nostrils too long, as he might get used to the ammonia and stay on the ground. When your horse is up reward him by patting him on the shoulder. ~ advice from the 1800's

Image result for throwing horse training

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Inside Leg to Outside Rein?

I read this online not too long ago and it was too good not to pass along:

"Someone once told me that your inside leg is like the wind 
and your outside rein is the sail, 
wind blows into sail and that sends the boat forward."
 ~ Nancy Allen 

But what about driving where no inside leg is available?

I highly recommend Muffy Seaton's book and video: "Bending the Driving Horse". She explains it very well and shows it very plainly in the video. Once you learn this, you will use it with every horse, every drive forever. Worth every penny!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Equine Back: swimming like a fish

There are those who claim the horse's back does not really flex laterally. Watch this video.

When you are sitting behind your horse in a carriage, the back, from it's tail all the way up to the poll,  should look like a fish swimming through water *if* all the parts are moving freely and correctly. If that is not the case, it's probably time to enlist a chiropractor, acupuncturist, farrier and vet.

It should look something like this from behind:


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Polydactylous Horse

 poly = multiple  dactyl = finger

Julius Ceasar's horse with multiple toes

An eight footed equine

Mark Sittich von Hohenems, Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg (1574-1619)
The horse had been obtained in Arabia, each of its alleged eight feet possessed its own horseshoe in the painting, and the painting itself is on public display at the Palace Helbrunn (now a museum), situated between Salzburg and Untersberg, Austria. 

Odin Rides to Hell on Sleipnir, an 8 legged horse.

Yes, it happens to people too!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

What kind of bitting is this?

Here's the original photo followed by an enhanced close up.

I am familiar with overcheck bits. but this bitting looks unusual to me.

Tell me what's going on.

UPDATE: The best explanation received so far is that the large ring is a bit attached to the overcheck *and* the reins. Normally there is a separate overcheck bit but not always. The smaller ring on the side of the head is likely part of the caveson/noseband known as a race ing halter today and is used for cross tying the horse while harnessing etc and or for attaching other driving equipment to. There are what appear to be 2 reins on the near side (left). The bottom one likely is a lead for tying that is probably attached to the higher noseband ring on that side. 
Credit for this explanation goes to Lori Pennell and Dottie Billington and Janice Jones

It's a version of these bridles: 

Image may contain: one or more people and horse