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Fugitivo XII Blog

February 03, 2012

Calm down.....Trust the Process

15min. Calm Lesson does more than 1hr stressed

by Antonio Topete Diaz

There is a rule of thumb that we should try to follow. That is that, our horses should return to the stable as fresh as when they left. This of course does not mean that if the horse is hot when we take him out that he should be hot and jumping around, bucking or rearing. What this means is that, we try most of the time if not all the time to make sure we don't over work the horse. 

I see many riders/trainers lunge their horses for an hour or thirty minutes before getting on the horse. Whether it's in a round pen or on the lunge line, the horse uses up a lot of energy doing this, if we then add forty five minutes of a training session, patterns, or school figures we risk over working the horse. 

I like to teach all my young horses to stand quiet until asked to move away. This is important because, no one likes a nervous horse fidgeting about. If I am breaking in or rather backing a young horse, I will  spend a considerable amount of time on  lunging lessons. But, not just running around and around in circles, NO. I will spend a great deal of time teaching the horse to balance itself without the weight of the rider, then with the weight of the saddle, and finally I will ad a bit and side reins with time. I try to never spend long time with a horse, because I don't want to get it annoyed or frustrated, I want him to enjoy his work. So, some of the time that I spend on the lunge line with the young or green horse will be to teach him to stand quiet and ignore  his surroundings. Some of the early lessons will be to do nothing but to stand quiet for the whole lesson. Boring? Perhaps a little. Necessary? You Bet! Once the horse has been backed I will only lunge occasionally and this will be done, on straight lines, large circles, spirals and to teach the lengthening and shortening of the strides and other transitions.

When the horse is at a certain level of his training, I will not lunge him but rather get him out of the field (most of my training horses, geldings and mares, live at pasture 90% of the time) or out of the stall or turnout ring, in the case of stallions, saddle them up and ride them out on a loose rein. That's my warm up. A nice loose relaxing walk, in the open or in the arena if for some reason I can't ride in the open. In this way the horse has already learned to stand quiet in the early lessons and to stay calm. 
So now I don't need to worry about the horse spooking, shying, running away, bucking, etc. I have spent the time necessary in the basics for this. 

Some times a lesson will go for 15min including my warm up at the walk. That is all! 15min! Especially during hot, summer days. I can drill a horse over and over  for an hour, but the horse will learn to hate his work and the more he hates it, more he acts up, and the more he acts up the more the rider feels he needs to get him to sweat it out, and the more the rider gets him to sweat it out the more the horse get his stamina going, until one day the rider will call me and ask me for help. Yes? Yes. It happens more than you would think, sadly it really does. An average lesson is about 45minutes to 1hour and 15minutes if worked correctly. As long as the horse is stressed, there will be no learning on the part of the horse, only frustration on the part of both parties. 

We need to push the horse right to the line, but not cross it. Kind of like teasing a bear behind the bars at the zoo. We don't want to bear to get out of the cage, we just want it to get used to us being there so we can continue to have fun teasing it. We want to push that horse slowly forward, until he has gotten used to being worked longer and has acquired the right state of mind. 

This is why it is better to workout 15minutes and not break a sweat, but do it with correct form and with the right meal plan, than to workout for two hours a day and stuff your face with carbs, saturated fat, sugar, and the stuff that makes you put on the weight. No matter how much we work our horses if we don't do it with the right goal and the right plan to accomplish the goal, we won't be able to make it. All of the old masters say, "ride your horse, forward, calm, and make it straight" the key word in this case is "calm". If the horse is not calm, it is up to the rider or the trainer to make him calm, even if it means taking the horse out and letting him just stand there for ten minutes and then put him away. This alone can and should be a lesson at times. When we talk about bringing the horse back to the stable as fresh as when he left, it is not meant that we do nothing at all with him, unless of course we are doing the previous lesson, but this however must be done at the right time, that is why  the rider or trainer must learn to discern when or at what moment, how, and why. Always why. 

Yes there will be times when, we must work the horse for a little longer than normal, and yes there will be times when we will not be able to bring the horse back to the stable as fresh as when he left, because some times it will be impossible to follow the rule. This is when we must think, and act accordingly. 

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