Sunday, May 3, 2015

schooling the halt

I've been working on transitions lately - specifically between the halt and trot. Plus a little backing mixed in, but not always bc Isabel likes to anticipate and get ahead of me. 

Lots of trot-halt-trot-halt-back-halt-trot etc etc. I try to mix up the number of strides we do in everything too, otherwise if I'm not paying attention we click onto a rhythm and repeatedly transition at the same time or place in the arena - also not great for a horse that catches on to patterns quickly.


But really, Isabel's doing well with it and it helps her quickly settle in to a nice trot rather than shooting off like a bottle rocket and spending a couple laps slowing back down again lol. 

And the upwards transitions are starting to get REALLY soft - like, miles ahead of where we were last summer. This obviously pleases me a lot. 

and apparently pleases the barn kitties too

But the downwards aren't really there. I know they could be there - Isabel is so sensitive and reactive that she could halt from the tiniest hints of a whisper from me ... that is, if she chose to do so. And generally, she is not particularly inclined haha. 

So our halts are slow to develop (that's putting it quite nicely, isn't it? lol) and Isabel is usually hollow, inverted and set completely against my hand. Nose straight out, mouth agape. 

accurate representation of our halt. stellar, no?
Obviously I don't really love this... But I'm not sure how to 'fix' it, aside from repetition and working really hard on my own position and balance to set her up as nicely as I possibly can. 

I plan to ask my dressage trainer in our lesson today (soooooo excited!!!!) - but would definitely appreciate any pointers in how to get a more, um, *ahem* submissive downward transition - particularly the halt. Are there any exercises or patterns that would help here?

22 comments:

  1. *raises hand* I might have an idea! :)

    I like to do a "many loop serpentine" (however many loops you can fit in your ring), and do transitions within the gait across the centerline. So, I'd start with trot, and then "almost walk" for a few strides across the centerline before returning to trot and turn to the next loop. Repeat. Once she figures that out, do a real walk transition on center, but not every time. Eventually, add a halt here and there.

    You can be creative - but I think the key is that you start with almost-but-not-quite transitions. That way, you can use her ability to anticipate/memorize to your advantage. If you "almost walk" repeatedly, ideally she is automatically shifting her weight back in anticipation of the transition. Then, you can get her to push off her hind end when you say "actually, don't walk - now trot forward." If she gets frustrated, you can change it up or do it at a walk (walk-almost halt-walk).

    Maybe worth a try? I've used it a lot for rushy/sensitive horses, so let me know what you think! :)

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    1. I've done the "almost" transition thing too! It REALLY helped the Warmblood mare I leased last year who wanted to go go go! We'd walk, but walk so slow that literally one leg moved at a time - it was more to get her attuned to my seat and legs than anything, tho.

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    2. I second (third?) the almost walking. Really helps get them soft and listening to your seat knew that your hands. It's really hard though! Re: controlling posting speed. Kind of the same deal.

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    3. this is a really excellent idea - thanks everyone!! isabel might get slightly pissy, but i think you're right about her anticipation actually being a good thing here. definitely adding the serpentines with *almost* transitions to our repertoire!

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  2. I'm so glad Iz is coming back into regular work strong and steady!

    As for the halting thing, it really depends on the horse and what tactic they utilize as evasion. For a mare I was leasing who would throw her head up at the last second in the halt and brace, a trainer I was riding under had me ride her (in contact) in a forward walk and then slowly start asking for her to halt - the walk steps would slow down to the point where she'd barely be moving but I was instructed NOT to halt her unless her head stayed down and she remained balanced. If she chose to throw her head up and resist, I was to push her forwards again.

    For Suzie, that exercise doesn't work - it just pisses her off. LOL. She is also a Western trained horse, so their "reprimands" and training is a bit different. But, if she sticks her head up or lays into my hands I back her up 7-10 steps very, very fast or until she submits her head. Then I walk her forwards and try again.

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    1. good points about finding the exercise that best suits the individual horse. isabel sounds somewhat similar to your former lease mare in that she braces at the last second, and i like the idea of not actually coming to the halt unless she's soft and balanced.

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  3. The cowboy clinic I went to the other weekend suggested starting by halting on a circle - apparently it is less easy for them to brace against your hand with with one rein shorter than the other. His other trick was to halt going into the fence/wall and letting it do some of the work for you...then turn on the haunches 180 and do it again the idea being they start to pick up more on you asking from your seat and anticipate needing to rock their weight back for the turn. The basic problem is they are dumping onto the forehand, so the two awesome comments above are great tools as well...just thought I'd add a couple more ideas to mix it up with (also can you tell I am dealing with the same issue? lol)

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    1. interesting! and i just read about your 180 turn trick on your post yesterday - sounds particularly insightful bc isabel gets so caught up in the 'halt' that she's not thinking about what comes next. and if i can put into her mind that the halt will likely only be step one of a two part maneuver, then maybe she'll be better? the going into the fence part isn't great tho, as i used to stop her after jumps by halting at the fence line, and now she doesn't want to stop UNTIL she reaches the fence lol. tricky girl!

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  4. Yeah bending into a halt is a good place to start - also make sure your walk-halt is good and your halt-reverse is there. Sometimes when I train a very difficult horse I'll cheat and add a woah in order to keep my rein aids very light & my seat and voice will tell the horse to stop.

    If you think she understands pretty well, come back to yourself. Do you pull at all for the downward transition? It should be as if your elbows lock and your fists close. Does your upper body change position? Do you collapse onto her back? Do you add too much leg? Any leg? Do you twist through the saddle?

    You've got a sensitive horse which is a blessing in many ways but I also find that you absolutely cannot cowboy through things like this. If you're not seeing improvement in 7 repetitions I'd try something else.

    Don't be afraid to use anticipation to your benefit while you're examining your own riding.

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    1. examining my own riding is definitely on the forefront of my mind haha - esp as it's been pointed out repeatedly that i make subtle changes in my position right before a transition. so that's definitely part of what's going on. i definitely sense some resistance from her tho (she has a lot more go than whoa haha) so maybe changing up the exercise is in order

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  5. Lots of good tips from other commenters that I am storing in my brain for future reference! Apollo has a good stop because he is lazy...speeding up without being a flailing mess is still a work in progress.

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    1. haha it's funny how horses can be so different. getting izzy to GO is no problem (tho honestly we still flail!)

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  6. Great ideas here - what helps me in the trot/halt is to think of riding the back up into my seat. So I think of my seat like a suction cup and instead of sitting DOWN on the horse's back to ask for halt (which results in hollow back, head up, mouth open!) I LIFT my seat and close the thigh & hand, but still support with the lower leg to keep them moving into the bridle. With Dino I also have him sort of trained to transition to halt within three strides from when I ask, so the first 2 are like half-halts and then we halt completely on stride 3, and I exhale strongly on each step to keep myself from getting too rigid. Curious to hear what your dressage trainer has to say on the topic!

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    1. i actually really like the idea of 'lifting' the seat with a closing thigh and hand. that's actually something we did a little bit in the lesson (details forthcoming tomorrow, probably) - and i'm actually feeling like i suddenly have more control over my thigh, perhaps as an unexpected outcome of loosening my hips through posting the canter??/ who knows lol

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  7. There are a lot of good tips here. Love the barn kitty photo ha!

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    1. lots of good tips indeed - i definitely have ideas for moving forward :)

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  8. Ok, when Tucker and I started working on our halts last winter, my trainer had me do a lot of "almost halts" or "false transitions." So I'd start asking for the halt and as soon as I felt him brace/lean against my hand send him back up to trot. We'd trot for a bit and repeat again, and again, and again. I didn't think it would work but it did, he got the message. They still aren't 100%, but we're still working on it and it's much improved.

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    1. interesting! i'm definitely noticing a theme here about asking, but not going all the way unless the horse stays completely soft. my tendency is to brace when isabel braces, but obvi it hasn't been working for us so i'm definitely going to give this a try instead - thanks!

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  9. Loving all these suggestions! Looking forward to hearing more about the lesson tomorrow and how many of these work for you.

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    1. i'm loving them too!! will definitely have to put them in action haha, tho we ended up doing other (and also pretty cool stuff) in the lesson

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  10. We're in the same boat - upwards is good, downwards not so!
    You've gotten some great tips already - I just ride super deep before a down transition - then if Oscar braces he will only come up slightly. The deepness seems to keep him soft though and he's much better for it. It's a good hint if you have a dressage test coming up, then they don't come above the bit and keep you from losing a point or two!

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    1. good points!! my problem with 'riding deep' is that i'm actually pretty terrible at it and my seat digs and drives in ways that the horses don't quite like... so gotta work on that before i try to 'sit any deeper' lol

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