Baby Dino Learning Half Pass

Baby Dino is growing up and beginning to learn some big boy dressage movements! Dino is still 3 (4 next month!), and spent most of the year riding-wise just goofing around hacking in a relaxed frame. But, his young age hasn’t stopped us from working on some upper level movements. We just do them in-hand!

The half-pass builds on the very basic lateral movements that baby Dino began learning in-hand as a 2 year old. Dino knows how to perform haunches-in and shoulder-in from my touch. This was then used to build the side pass. When Dino had these movements down, the half pass, was the next logical progression.

Half pass is a forward and sideways movement where the horse is bent in the direction of travel and around your inside leg. Although this sounds similar to the side pass, it is a much more difficult gymnastic for the horse to perform. It is a great exercise to teach in-hand as there is no weight of the rider to influence the horse’s balance. The horse is free to figure it out himself.

Dino picked this up fairly easily at the walk and is progressing to the trot.  He still has his 3 year old moments, but he really does try. You can see his concentration in the pictures below. Gotta Love the Dino!!

Oops! Never forget the basic rule of liberty jump training….

There is a right way to liberty jump train and a wrong way. You would think after 30+ years of training, that I wouldn’t miss the #1 fundamental rule in liberty training.

I took Kelsey and pony off site for some jump training, but pony was a little too spooky for her. So lacking all necessary lunging equipment, I decided on an impromptu liberty jump training session. Pony is pretty new to liberty jump training, but he really loves it. I thought it would be the perfect way to get his extra energy out, and it definitely was!

I found 3 out of 4 of the basic “issues”, but judging by the video, finding the unknown last “issue” was the key!

Sweet 16 Ride!

For Wiley’s 16th ever ride under saddle, Kelsey (13) took the reins. Wiley is already 16.3 and Kelsey is just at 5 feet, so they made an interesting pair. I just let them walk around, and Wiley was a perfect gentleman. I was so proud of them both!

Although this was a fun thing to do for Wiley’s Sweet 16 Ride, there really is a reason why I did it. I wanted to start generalizing Wiley’s under saddle training. I don’t want Wiley thinking that I am the only one that can ride him. He needs to learn that it is OK for others to get on him. I start slow, and feather in other riders occasionally. Everyone gives aids a bit differently. Wiley needs to understand that all of that is OK. He passed his first test with flying colors!

Wiley has gotten to the point that if I told a competent rider he was an old, un-tuned lesson horse, they would get on and ride thinking nothing of it. His steering is a bit jerky at the walk and trot.  And at the canter, his steering is still a work in progress, but he rides like a kid’s lesson horse. He knows the basic aids, it  just takes him a bit of extra time to process them.  Wiley’s transitions are decent. He only trots a few steps before the canter. He picks up his correct leads most of the time and he keeps a consistent pace. He can trot serpentines, and he can back, turn on the haunches and forehand relatively decently. He just needs time in the saddle and his response times will get better. I started riding him outside the arena as well. So far, so good, but of course, I am taking it sloooooow!

Transferring Aids – Ground Work to Under Saddle Cues

Wiley has been ridden a total of about 2 hours in his lifetime. In this video, I am beginning the process of transferring some of Wiley’s aids from ground work to under saddle. Wiley is clicker trained, so he is rewarded after each correct effort.

The lateral aids I used on the ground for turn on the forehand and haunches are close to the aids under saddle. With very little ride time, Wiley is already starting to understand these movements. He can delineate between an aid slightly in front of the girth (move the shoulder) from an aid behind the girth (move the haunches). Backing while giving at the poll was just a straight pick up from ground work.

At this point in Wiley’s training, most  cues are very light tactile aids. I can use one finger on the reins or a touch of the stirrup for Wiley to understand what I want. Notice on the backing aids, however, that Wiley makes a big “give” while backing. That is not from pressure. That is from his training to give while backing.  He is just making a big effort here. Wiley can back with one finger on the reins. The one thing Wiley isn’t very good at yet is turning while moving forward. He is just learning to control his body. For now, sometimes he over turns, and sometimes he under turns. Sometimes he doesn’t turn at all and sometimes his body doesn’t follow his nose, and he pops a shoulder out. Since I am not yet using leg aids to control his body while riding (I am working on getting the forward cues solid), I use a dressage whip to touch his shoulder and remind him to keep it in line. Works perfectly. The turning thing just takes time for him to understand just how much turn I want. It will come with experience.

Wiley is also learning to canter. This video is of his third time ever cantering under saddle. Although you can’t hear it because of wind noise, I am using a verbal canter cue to help Wiley understand what I want. When he first transitions to the canter, I reward him so he knows he is doing the right thing. The second time I ask, I let him canter a few circles before the reward. Even though his canter is very smooth and rhythmic, I can tell he is still very unsure of himself. I will keep his catnering very short until he gains confidence and balance.

First Canter Steps Under Saddle!

Wiley is growing up fast! With a few trotting rides under his belt, it was time to try canter.

Just like when I first asked Wiley to trot under saddle, Wiley was put on the longe line. This way Wiley can focus on 1 variable of change-carrying a rider under saddle.  He doesn’t have to think about too much. I am in the middle giving cues and supporting him the whole time. Once again I chose Amy for the first canter ride because she is a quiet rider that won’t lock up if Wiley should pull a baby horse stunt.

Of course Wiley has no clue about canter aids under saddle, so Amy’s aids are only a pre-cue. Wiley is taking his commands from me. I just like him to get used to the idea of the under saddle aids. Eventually, he will start cantering off the pre-cue alone. Amy will only use her legs for transition to the canter and then take them off completely (no steering with them…that comes later). Her only steering is through the reins.

When Wiley first transitions into the canter, I click him after only 2-3 strides. This lets him know that the transition was correct. It also gives him a reward before he thinks too much about what is going on. After rewarding him for the transition twice, I go ahead and let him canter a full circle or so before a reward. In his 4th canter transition under saddle, I let him canter 3 full circles before giving him a  jackpot reward and ended it there. That is plenty for Wiley to think about day 1.

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