The Art of Natural Dressage

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 05, 2008 11:56 am 
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Wow! :shock:

It worked! :D

After reading this topic and posting it, I thought, what the heck, and just went out to try it with Blacky. And we actually got one flying leadchange! :sunny:

If I was to describe the method we tried, it would be something like this:

Canter Lead Changes through small figure Eights

Prerequisites:
- the horse needs to be able to make canter-walk or canter-trot on an easy voice/bodylanguage cue
- you need to be able to walk, trot and canter circles next to your horse, both by running on his inside and his outside of the circle.
- You need to be able to walk, trot and canter in the shape of an eight without you changing sides (for example, your run on his right side all the time, so one loop of the eight you run on the inside, the other on the outside.

After some brain-wrecking on how to make the easiest serpentines, I decided that it would be best if we would just make eights all the time because that way we would use both canters equally, and because that way you stay in the same area repeating the figure all the time on that spot so that Blacky could anticipate on it.

It's a small eight, spanning the short side of the arena (so a small volte from be to X, and one from X to E, crossing over on X to make the eight). That way you can use the sides of the arena as an extra help to let the horse turn into another volte again. For Blacky and me it works better to do it in the middle in the arena and not next to the short end rail because aiming a canter circle towards a corner of the fence slows him down too much.

First you let your horse get used to the pattern by walking the eight, and for example stopping on the X a couple of times before walking into the other direction. Then trotting the eight, and you can also trot one circle, take a few steps of walk on the X and then trot into the new direction again. And then canter! First with the walk in between, but you can also let the horse figure it out on his own.

I did the latter with Blacky. 8) I just asked him to canter the small circle and then asked him to turn into the other circle. Blacky got a bit puzzled with all his legs, did some walk/trot steps and then started the other canter. We repeated that a couple of times and then suddenly he made a flying canter change on the X! :D I rewarded him with almost all the food I had of course. 8)

Then I thought it could be easier if I asked him to come from canter to walk on the X and then ask to canter off again in the new direction. Wrong, it became too complex, because of the slowing down I came too much to the back, Blacky bent his body too much around me and started the new circle in the old (now counter canter) lead. Which was a pretty interesting result too, but not what we aimed for. 8)

So I guess I'll just let Blacky figure it out on his own from now on. But it was great to see him let those legs fly all over the place. Apparently he has been practicing during his holiday because the difficult canterside went way much better too. The only thing that seems to get him in the wrong (counter) canter is me, because if I am too far to his rear when running on the outside next to him, he will turn his head towards me a bit and to the rail and start off in a counter canter. So I really need to be next to his shoulder when running in the middle, and in front of his shoulder when running on the outside, and on the outside keep my outside arm stretched forward to show Blacky the outside perimeter of the circle, and when I walk on the inside I need to keep my inside arm open and a bit forward in order to ask him to bend his head towards the inside now.

So on X my movements are actually the following (now I come to think about it :oops: ): when I run on the outside and will be on the inside after the X, the outside arm that was stretched forwards towards Blacky's head in order to let him turn the volte away from me, will move away from his head towards the inside of the nex circle, asking him to turn in and change into the new direction.

Super Blacky!!! :D


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 05, 2008 4:44 pm 
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I LOVE THIS FORUM!

:lol: :lol:

Miriam, that was a fabulous description, very thought out and made perfect sense. Thank you so much!

About running on the outside of the circle, what about us with big horses? Caspian has a huge stride and I just don't think I could keep up, even with collected canter on small circle -- at least, not unless he got REALLY collected.

Do you think I could do a sort of "rear cross" as he switches circles on the figure-8 (agility experience finally coming in handy!)? I wonder, though, if that would break his concentration too much, and put me too far behind him when asking for a change...

Of course, this is pretty far in the future for me, but it's fun to think about. :D

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 06, 2008 10:27 am 
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Well, small horses do help. 8)

But with Blacky I noticed too (when I trained with him the second time) that he tends to overtake me in the canter when I run on his outside, and then I can't turn him in anymore for the circle towards the X.

So instead of asking him to canter the entire circle, I went to walk for the outer halves of the circles, and only in the last quarter of the small circle towards the X I ask for canter (for example with me walking on the outside of the circle). On that spot he is already bent in towards the middle of the arena and if he wants to take me over then, it's fine because we were going to change towards the next circle on the X anyway. Then Blacky can take me over in the canter, discover that he suddenly is on the other circle, and make any kind of transition towards the other canter (he now did through some walk/trot hops).

Then after the X we canter for 2/3 of the circle, go to walk again and than start collected canter again 1/4 circle before the X for the next change.

So probably with big, large cantering horses it's a good idea to work on a really collected canter first, and also get the walk-canter transitions perfect first. That way you don't have to use the trot on the eight, and that makes it a bit more controlled with all the transitions. With Blacky I noticed that combining canter with trot on the circles doesn't work, as he is too fast in the trot and tends to take me over (and leaves me less time to think! 8) ). But if we ever master real lead changes, I will try and do them with transitions to trot too, as the collected canter on the small eight might also help Blacky to get his trot more collected.



Asking for a kind of rear on the X could work too by the way, a very interesting thought indeed!

A rear during the canter would be a sort of terre a terre hop, which causes the horse to collect extremely on the X and then you can ask him to move freely forwards in canter again after X. I might actually be able to use that idea too, by marking the X/transition point with the words 'and... Hop!', as 'Hop hop' is our cue for terre a terre too. That might mark the change even more for Blacky. , and make it easier for him to become aware of the motions. Great idea!


The only 'risk' 8) I can see from my chair ;) is that that way you might teach your horse to first change lead with the frontlegs and only after that only cross over the hindlegs - while it 'should' be one jump in which all the legs cross over at the same time. But it could work very well to teach your horse to cross over in the start, and then it doesn't really matter how it's done (in two jumps or one), because first you just want to reward any consciousness of the right canter lead.


By the way, our next training session was a total chaos, with Blacky taking me over in trot the first half of the session, and only then I thought of only using the collected walk in the circles, and in the end we got two transitions with a few steps of walk/trot in between. Which looked very chaotic as I don't cue it but let Blacky figure it out on his own instead - but it worked! 8)

I must say that I am really totally amazed by how easy Blacky changes sides when cantering. :shock:
I always felt that canter was a kind of at random process, but Blacky is really aware of which lead he takes. Sometimes after the walk/X transition he starts the wrong canter lead, I just say 'no' and ask him to slow down to a walk again. Blacky then goes to a walk for two steps and takes off in canter again, now in the right lead. Also when we're just cantering together through the entire paddock: sometimes he starts a counter canter instead of the good lead, I just ask him to slow down and go to canter again, and he is in the good lead. I probably shift my position a bit when I ask for the good lead, but other than that, Blacky does all the thinking on his own. And it's so wonderful to see him experiment with all those legs in canter, it really is like a dance! :D


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 06, 2008 10:38 am 
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Makana wrote:
About running on the outside of the circle, what about us with big horses? Caspian has a huge stride and I just don't think I could keep up, even with collected canter on small circle -- at least, not unless he got REALLY collected.


What probably helps Blacky is that we've already trained the canter pirouette, so he knows how to canter really, really slow (which doesn't mean that he always does it of course 8) :lol: ).

So with a big or uncoordinated horse I think the pirouettes could be a good idea indeed, as someone posted over here already. I would at the beginning make the eight really, really small with two pirouettes as 'circles', and only expand the figure gradually when the horse gets a better coordination.
For example, you could walk/collected canter from the corner of the arena to F, make half a canter pirouette away from the fence, then go back to the corner in walk and use the corner (with you on the outside) to ask for collected canter in the other lead again. You could also change your positions and walk on the outside of the F-pirouette so that you're on the inside of the corner-canter if you feel that that's safer.

I know I puzzle a lot about how to place the eight and where I will be then! Higher mathematics indeed. 8) :lol:


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 06, 2008 9:36 pm 
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Not to change this topic into my diary, but today I tried the eights/lead changes again, and decided to add the 'en.. Hop' voice cue on X. You won't believe it, bu the first time I said it... Blacky did a flying lead change! :shock: :lol:

He did two more (somewhat at random, with the rest being leadchanges through walk) and I played a bit with the size of the eight and it's direction. It worked best when we turned it a bit and enlarged it so that the pedestal formed the center of one circle, and Sjors (who was just standing there looking a bit puzzled about what Blacky and I were doing 8) ) being the center of the other circle. That way we came out of the corner as we usually do in the regular canter, and the two focus points seemed to make it easier for Black to understand that he was to turn into a new circle again. So a center of attention in each circle might prove to be a lot of help.

I also think that the voice cue and flying leadchange had something to do with the timing of my cue. I gave it two more times (and I think I did it too late) and then Blacky didn't respond to it but just did his walk transition. It will be great to experiment some more with this, and the best thing is that Blacky really likes it!


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 07, 2008 10:20 pm 
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Thanks for all the new info! It sounds like you really have a good thing going. Let us know how Blacky and Sjors progress at it!

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PostPosted: Sat Aug 09, 2008 1:40 am 
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Makana wrote:
Do you think I could do a sort of "rear cross" as he switches circles on the figure-8 (agility experience finally coming in handy!)?


Too funny Hannah!! I was thinking the same thing...agility will always be in my brain!

I can rear cross with Lucy at the walk, and a bit at the trot, but canter is a long way off I think. For me it's hard to motivate her from behind as she deosn't have a lot of natural 'go'.

But hey! That never stopped me before!

Caspian is such a 'Border Collie' tho.. I bet you could teach him rear crosses, even canter <G>!!!

Brenda

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 13, 2012 7:46 pm 
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ok, here I go!

first for the flying lead changes on the ground:
-we practiced a lot of changes of direction on a circle at a trot untill he could supplely do them (I did use a long driving whip to get him to do it at a further distance, because Beau tends to come very close for support when he is in doubt, this way I could explain to him he needed to be at the end of the whip, my long arm)
-then we just cantered on a circle and than made simple lead changes, to a trot, change direction and then up to a canter again, solely on me bringing my energy up (getting bigger and wind myself up)
-coming to you at a canter and stopping in front of you is handy to help him getting the point that cantering to you is allowed
-then yielding at a canter on the circle, making the cricle bigger or smaller and staying at a canter, it's like flowing out and in
-then you wait for a day you feel superhappy and superexcited and then you let him canter his circles and yield outwards away from you, then all of a sudden you give your cue for change of direction(with me it is running backwards and then changing direction myself=putting my new inner shoulder to him) so I run back and put my new shoulder to him and drive him into a new yield outwards onthe other hand

if you do this last step right, he changes canter with a flying change... :) Beau did at least


riding evolves from the groundwork, same steps:

- getting nice circles which you can yield outwards and inwards on, making them bigger and smaller
- cantering without using legs , just energy, so you can stay loose
- changing from one circle to another or a diagonal can then be used to first do simple changes and when you and your horse get excited and want to give it a try then change...

-> I have to admit that it is still difficult for me to sit right, I cannot use my legs nor stiffen up just a little or Beau will not change, I keep loose and just imagine how it would feel... dream of skipping from one circle to another :) but that is just me I guess :) I do way to much in riding and am still learning not to!

so far the explanation of how Beau and I are playing with lead changes, I hope in time I can do more of them on the ground, just letting him go further out and than cantering in a straight line to me changing multiple times :) Yes, I have a dream!

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 13, 2012 8:32 pm 
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Thank you very, very much for writing this down, Barbara - sounds like a great way to develop the lead changes, and I will certainly try something like that when the ground will have dried up a bit. If you ever get the chance to make a video and post it here, this would be absolutely fantastic. :)


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 15, 2012 4:01 pm 
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I will try to film it, but then I need a camera set up right at the time I feel frisky enough to do it, and those are mostly the days I don't think about anything and just go in and be an idiot ;) so afterwards I think: this should be on film ;)

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