I have caught up on some badly needed rest—sleeping 12 solid hours last night. And today is like paradise here in the “Heart of the Rocky Mountains“ HYPERLINK “http://www.salidachamber.org/“ http://www.salidachamber.org/ . It‘s warm and sunny and no wind—and I‘ve even found some time to relax a little, reading my book on the deck in-between loads of laundry. It‘s good to be home!
To take up from last time, I only managed to write about the first day of the 3-day VRH clinic/competition HYPERLINK “http://nvrha.org/docs/CLazyUFlyer.pdf“ http://nvrha.org/docs/CLazyUFlyer.pdf . The first day, Saturday, we had roping and cutting clinics. As I said, I put together some very important components of swinging the rope; and in the cutting I learned a really important key to training my horse.
Jack McComber of Rocky Ford CO was the cutting instructor. As I said in my last post, most of the people in our group were cutting for the very first time, so we took it slowly. And that is exactly what my horse needs- slow and stealthy, not the balls-to-the-walls screaming cow eating shark that he thinks he is. What I learned from Jack carries over to all the cow work I do with Dually- whether cutting, fencing, boxing, roping or circling. THE REWARD IS THE COW. He only gets the cow if he does things right—no charging, no wheeling around the cow trying to beat him around the corner. He only gets the cow when he stays quiet and focused, stops straight and turns correctly. Then he can eat the cow for lunch!
Like a retriever that lives to chase the stick, a very cowy horse wants it more than anything. Once he knows that the only way he can get what he wants is to stop straight, fly right and make no unauthorized attacks on the cow, he will do it right every time. But there will probably always have to be reminders along the way. With Jack in the cutting clinic, when my horse got chargey- trying to provoke the cow into some action, I‘d just stop, back off and put him behind the cow following the cow—a place he‘d rather not be (can‘t have the cow yet). That gives him time to think about being slow and steady and when he is, I let him have a little action on the cow. This point would really sink in on the next day of the clinic.
Saturday night, we had dinner by the pool and hot tub (read the previous post about the hot tub at C Lazy U). With tables around the pool, a lovely covered portico with porch heaters, and a beautiful inside lounge, all 40 or so of us there for the VRH clinic had dinner together followed by a hilariously entertaining musician and ending with all 40 of us on our feet dancing and singing in a group. Between the good food & drink, the raucous laughing, singing and dancing, every single person had a fabulous time. We should‘ve all gone to bed earlier, knowing that tomorrow we would ride again all day.
Sunday offered two more clinics for each of the four groups of 10 riders. For our group, we did reining in the morning and working cow in the after noon. The reining was taught by Dwayn Hoelsher of Berthoud CO, an outstanding trainer of reining horses and he also judged the schooling competition on Monday. On the second day, Dually was still feeling good—a little too froggy perhaps. Since reining is something he does really well, I try not o practice it too much—if he makes a good maneuver the first time I ask for it, that‘s all I ask. So the reining clinic was a good time to take it easy on Dually, knowing that I would still do some vigorous training in the afternoon‘s working cow session.
Often when you take a clinic, you have the opportunity to learn a totally new perspective on something. Sometimes this new perspective will enlighten you to a whole new way of doing things and other times it will confirm that the way you were already doing things is good for you and your horse. Since reining is a relatively new sport as compared to Dressage, which is thousands of years old—less than a century compared to millenniums, there are many varying ways to train the basic maneuvers of the reining horse. Take the spin, for instance.
As long as I have known about spinning (which is simply a fast pivot on the hindquarters at the walk or trot cadence), there have been two main camps for how to train it. The first walks the horse forward into the spin and the second backs the horse into the spin or, more accurately, doesn‘t allow forward movement. I have always learned under and have had good success with the former method: from forward motion. But Jack had us consider the latter method: forward motion prohibited. And as it turns out, Dually spins much better that way! The truth of the matter is, that not one training technique is perfect for every horse. Yes, I can get pretty good spins using the forward method, but Dually is a horse for whom forward does not need to be encouraged and it turns out he spins better when forward is prohibited. But then there are horses like Tucker, for whom forward impulsion is not always easy to get and perhaps the forward method works better on him.
Jack likes his spins to be flat (the frame of the horse as seen from profile), with the head low and pretty straight in the body. You can‘t argue that it makes a pretty picture. What he trains his horse is that I either tell you to go forward or turnaround and there is no forward motion in the turnaround (although there is forward impulsion). So the horse is merely going where you direct him with the reins and unless you reach way up to the horse‘s ears to signal that you do want him to step forward, he should not step forward. I discovered that both methods are good but Jack‘s is better for my horse. But for a horse that does not maintain forward impulsion well, you may need to train him into a spin with forward motion.
I can see by now that there will have to be at least one more part to the C Lazy U story, because I cannot write it all now. Next I‘ll write about the final clinic session with one of the top trainers in the country, Sandy Collier, and then the competition. But for now, I‘ve got to go ride my horse for the first time since the competition four days ago. He‘s had a nice rest in the green pasture and is ready to go back to work (I am projecting my opinion on him now ;-).
Hope you are enjoying good times on a good horse this weekend,