Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Life in the Rope

Siete and I had a good session today leading towards ground driving. Tomorrow, it’s Silk’s turn, and I’ll share her with my daughter as we ride around in the arena. This is the perfect weather to enjoy being with the horses, sunny, no humidity and pleasantly cool.

I bought Mark Rashid’s “Ground Driving 101” DVD to help me with Siete. As always, I enjoy his easy-going, very mellow style. The horse that he uses in the DVD is so calm that it’s a bit surreal. I wish he’d also worked with some other horses that were more high-spirited. My horses can go either way.

Some days, they are perfect angels. Other times, you’d think there’s a stick of dynamite under their tails when I lunge them. So, my question is always what to do when I’m not in a round pen, and I’ve got a thousand pound horse flipping around like a crazed fish on a line. Breath deep, don’t panic, and don’t stop because it will make them think that they are being rewarded for behaving that way. It’s a control issue, and Silk especially likes to test me every once in a while.

I was very interested in Rashid’s discussion of ropes. He uses a braided soft rope and recommends spending some time twirling the end of it. He talks about learning how to feel the “life in the rope”. Twirling it underhand sends the energy out and moves the horse forward. Going forward with the twirl pushes the horse away from you. It intrigues me that this inanimate object has life and energy. The first step is to rub the rope all over the horse’s body so it isn’t frightened by it, especially if the rope gets wrapped around the horse’s legs. Mark recommends that you take your time, saying it could take two hours or two days or two weeks for the horse to become comfortable with this. It took Siete and Silk no time. They could care less that I was rubbing and dragging the rope around them. So, I guess I better watch the rest of the DVD tonight since we might be moving faster here than I thought.

What I’m aware of though is that there is a chain of knowledge. Rashid points out that any link in the chain that is missing could cause problems down the line as you learn and become more skilled. I deeply believe this is the key to successfully learning how to do anything. As is often the case, the one who needs to go slow and not miss any links here is me, not my horse.


Rising Rainbow said...

I'd like to get into using a rope. I haven't even found one I like the feel of yet, but I keep looking.

You're right about those links in the chain. It's funny how we can think we have not missed anything and then later it shows up that we did, only because we didn't know we needed it. Experience is such a great teacher.

Heidi the Hick said...

That's one of the reasons I'm taking all my rider level tests. Riding all my life, mostly self taught, is fine... until I want to pass my knowledge onto someone else. Then I really find all the gaps in my knowledge.

The great benefit to going back and filling in those missing basics is purely selfish though! I've improved. This means that my own horses will improve. Win-win all around!

Pony Girl said...

I've heard such mixed opinions on the fish-flipping horse on the lounge it an okay place for them to buck and play (better there than under saddle!) or is it considered misbehavior? I tend to let My Boy goof around a bit, but not pull on me or if the arena is wet and a bit slippery (he usually senses that and is not as nutty.)

billie said...

I was just reading a piece this morning about using a square space instead of a round pen, and using a completely relaxed longe line or none at all instead of the usual "connected" line. It had to do with letting the space (the corners) do the work instead of the trainer, and allowing the horse to find its own balance and circle w/in that square.

I've read this before and have thought of sectioning off a corner of the arena to get a square to work in and try it out.

So many things to explore! Hope your ride was good.

LJB said...

Victoria, when you touched your horses with the rope, were they standing still? Did you/can you do the same thing while you are walking at their neck/side/hip? Can you loop a rope around a hind foot and lead your horse backwards? Can you stop her with a rope around any foot when she's walking or trotting? That understanding of yielding to pressure under various circumstances is something I strive to help my horses with.

I wonder about all the activity on the lunge line... maybe if you start 'lunging' with your horse closer to you until you are certain that she understands what is expected and still feels connected with you even though you have sort of sent her away...

For a horse who is connected and who is used to being close to us (because that is what we expect and support and reinforce), it is a big change to be asked to go away. So if she lost that feeling of connection with you, that would disturb her.

I find it useful to go slower in my progression from leading close to leading at a distance (lunging) so I don't miss any sign of potential disturbance in my horse. I want that connection to remain even if we are physically further apart. My horses don't disconnect unless I do something that (unintentionally) promotes that. This may not be the case for you, but I've written all this out anyway.

Like you, I wish Mark's DVD showed him working with some more worried horses, but gee, he's one to focus on the good stuff anyway, isn't he. *g* So he has given us something clear to be looking for. I suppose shaping our expectations is a good thing! And any problem solving he would show with a worried horse would not necessarily generalize to a problem with another horse.