“Bazaconi” part 8 , Racehorse to riding horse, the boringly technical solution.

So canter??  For a Bazaconi this could mean only one thing, we are about to gallop.
Racehorses gallop in a straight line, jockeys just barely steer at that speed, and usually ride until breaks aren’t that hard to apply, fatigue does the job. It’s a bit like getting in your car, getting it up to sp@eed and then not using the break but waiting to run out of petrol, not a massive deal on a straight line but try and drive around the streets like that see how helpless you feel until it ends badly!!!.
This is what you have if you canter a racehorse without giving it some serious re education, too much go and not enough whoa.
I have lots of strategies for moving horses into the canter, it depends on the horse but it all starts with developing quality trot work and an understanding of the aids.

Gallop is what the thoroughbred is bred for. For 400 years they have been systematically bred to gallop faster and faster. They do it well, canter is not far removed from gallop, gallop is a four beat stride with a moment of suspension canter is a three beat stride with a moment of suspension.
Bazaconi could gallop, out of control head in the air like he was being chased by a T Rex, he had great endurance, another purpose bred trait of the thoroughbred. When he went to the barriers he would have been led by a guy on a pony head twisted to the side fighting all the way. He would have gone into the barriers, he is very bold, but from the moment the gates opened he would have been out of control, madness at 65 kph, head in the air no steering, hind quarters under like he had just received an electric shock, flat stick to the finish line then a mad fight with the jockey to get some semblance of control, falling sideways, mouth open the full weight of the jockey hanging off his head which he would toss from side to side in discomfort/pain and confusion, adrenaline pumping like fire hose through his veins he did on occasion need to go another lap before they could pull him up.
So canter?? A controlled strike off and transition immediately the correct aid is applied, “inside leg on the girth, outside leg behind the girth” a clear strike off from the two beat trot calmly into the three beat canter. Maintaining rhythm and tempo correctly flexed in the direction of travel, steady and consistent head carriage and contact on the bit. Waiting for the next sensitive direction from the rider.
These two pictures are a long way apart aren’t they. For most thoroughbreds it is challenging, for Bazaconi it was near impossible, I’m pretty certain that without me it wouldn’t have happened. Very few people would have put the effort in.

The trot work was getting there. Sometimes horses can just fall into the canter one day and never look back, without proactive riding, Baz was liable to break into canter at any moment, “let’s try! let him roll into it”, flat stick in our 25×15 metre indoor arena totally OUT Of CONTROL, head in the air galloping side ways about four strides to cover the length of the arena,  At every crazy zig and zag he came perilously close to falling over it definitely felt like driving a car through the city with no breaks, very poor steering and a Jammed accelerator.  Even with all of the previous foundation work and decent canter on the lunge, OUT OF CONTROL. I should have known better but I had to give it a go and I got pretty much what I expected. At every crazy zig and zag he came perilously close to falling over definitely felt like driving a car through the city with no breaks and very poor steering.

Right!  the most important thing in being ready to introduce the canter is a good consolidated trot with obedience to, and acceptance of the aids, rhythm and tempo, contact on the outside rein with the horse flexed to the inside, most people try to hold the horse bent and on the line by holding the inside rein, holding is never the answer, they must be ridden forward to the contact. This in itself is a difficult concept for most people trying to re train a thoroughbred,  a lot of people rely on the horses natural forward in doing this the only way you can influence the forward is by holding  this is always wrong except in an emergency. You have to get to the point where you feel like you could push at any time, you may not need to push but if you don’t feel like you could if you wanted to you are a passenger not a rider.If you have all of this consolidated the canter will be there. Baz was on the way with this but the reality of it was, that all of this would need consolidation for at least another 12 months. In the meantime if he was to leave me, he would need to be able to be ridden at the canter, that is one of my un movable boundaries.
To get a reasonable, workable and safe canter he needed to learn to balance himself and his rider, the rider can help the horse find his balance by sitting still, keeping his weight in the centre but a horse needs to trust this and find the best way to be balanced. A law of physics is , the load can’t balance the support. In the case of horse and rider the load can assist the support in finding how to balance himself.
all horses are crooked, raceing makes them more so,  along with all of his mental and emotional issues Bazaconi was inclined to carry his hind quarters to the left.

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With his hind quarters carried naturally to the left Baz would be inclined to fall out through the right shoulder when traveling on a left circle

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To the right Baz would fall in through the right shoulder, same issue, hind quarter carried to the left power driving through Baz’s incorrectly aligned back and out through the right shoulder.

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This is how Baz needed to travel with his body aligned with the line on which he was traveling, hind quarters driving toward the fore through the supple correctly aligned spine. This would be the best position for him To be balanced with the rider on his back and would encourage correct muscular development.

For Bazaconi to get past this mechanical issue I would need to be able to push him, he had never been pushed, only held. I was able to push him at the trot that was a start, my plan was to get him more bent to the inside than he needed to be, have him working reasonably well at shoulder fore or better still shoulder in, on the circle, this would ensure he was stepping under himself with his inside hind leg and forward into the outside rein. If I could get this happening he would be in the correct position to canter, he would be balanced, I could control his enthusiasm with the breaking of the alignment of his spine the bend would also allow him to go forward with more speed but not be panicked  by the compression of the driving and restraining aids, he could allow some energy to dissipate out through the outside shoulder if need be and then I could shape the canter into something workable.
Boringly technical isn’t it ?
If you want a more thorough description of how to get to this point get my E book Horses from courses . All the detail is in there.

This method was always going to work it was just a matter of whether or not I had the persistence to stick to the plan, I can assure you I did.  I just had to stay in one piece.

end of part 8″

“Bazaconi” part 7. A new home ?

 

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It’s around this stage of a re trained horses education that I start to search for a new owner. I don’t like to get stuck with them once their training is complete, this ensures I have space for another horse to enter the re training program at the first opportunity . I try to match them with an owner while they are still in training. If possible once the horse has reached a reasonable level of ridability I want to get the new owner involved in the training process, I would like to see them ride the horse as many times as possible to try to build a workable relationship before they take the horse home. It’s just as important for me to check out the new owner as it is for the new owner to check out the horse.

Bazaconi had some potential. He had movement to die for, he was certainly good looking enough and had the presence to be a show hack, he was bold enough to jump, it would all be about finding the right owner/rider to deal with him.

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Most riders experienced enough to take him on aren’t looking for a horse off the track, if they are are they have their own connections to find one and are good enough riders to safely re start them.
Baz needed a committed rider with good basic skills and strong support around them to continue to take his education forward. When I advertised Baz I got dozens of enquires immediately, most were not good enough, not brave enough or not committed enough to do the job, a few came to look at him but on enquiry I knew they were not right. Baz would not go until I was confident the required elements were in place, the new owner was aware of his issues and my gut said it was ok.

Finally a girl with loads of enthusiasm, enough basic ability and a good support network stepped up. She loved all the things I loved about Bazaconi. I warned her, he would be a challenge for anyone, she rode him and was confident she could go on with the job, based on her support network and the fact that she was looking for a challenge. I was cautiously hopeful that this might be a match.
The girl came and rode Baz several times and though she was just getting back into riding after a break I could see her getting her legs back with each ride. She handled Baz well and I kept reminding her of the importance of taking things slowly and consolidating the work I had done.

She may have ridden Baz 10 times or there abouts as his training progressed, I saw nothing that made me think she could not do the job, certainly under my instruction she could. A careful and skilful instructor should be able to make it work.

My goal, is to train horses to the point where they could compete at preliminary dressage level and pop over a few small jumps if that is the new owners wish.
Bazaconi’s work gradually consolidated, his education progressed more quickly than his physicality, this is is often the case with off the track horses I train. There is no shortcut when it comes to physical development.  Thoroughbreds are incredibly intelligent they learn quickly, limited mostly by emotional baggage from their racing days. Strength and musculature need to transform from that of racing horses, carrying minimal weight for very short periods, to that of riding horses carrying up to a quarter of their body weight sometimes for very extended periods sometimes many hours, they may have to jump jumps that they would never even consider in a natural environment, you could put your horse in a yard with 1.5 metre fences, put water outside and none inside and he would die of thirst before jumping the fence, yet, jumpers can be trained and conditioned to jump much higher and harder obstacles than this as a matter of routine, “what incredible athletes they are” Baz would continue to need loads of rising trot work again and again until it was so easy it was boring. He need to initially get his muscles working correctly and then let them build and strengthen. The canter would be a totally new challenge.

I’ve said it before but I will say it again horses were not designed to carry weight, we need to help them develop the posture strength and endurance to do what “we” want from them.
So, though baz was developing basic education which would need to be carefully continued, the tangled weak mess that was his back would need careful management lest, with muscular discomfort, he fall back to his conditioned racing reflex of “run away”. Once he had slipped back into that mode it would be difficult to convince him to give a considered response.
All this was impressed upon his potential new owner. A decision was made, assuming all progressed as expected, she would take Baz when I was happy with his level of education.
Baz had, with some strict conditions, found a new home fingers crossed!

End of part 7

Only a race horse. Tribute to troop horse star.

 

 

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OIC Kirsten McFadden  with Scott Brodie, trainer of star and former NSW Mounted Police  officer .13th January 2012 commemoration cerimony for troop horse “Star “who died on duty. His former rider is the man slumped at the back of the photo. Bill Adam .

if you ride a horse and don’t learn something you have waisted an important part of the ride. Every horse teaches us something, some teach us more. Star was one of my great equine teachers. He was not selected for his temperament, one day I was told to pick a horse from a bunch of horses we had on trial as money had become available to make a purchase, hesitation would have seen the money used elsewhere. None had shown aptitude as police horses so I pulled a name out of a hat, “Star”, challenging but inspirational, I can’t thank him enough for the lessons he gave me as a rider. He should never have made it but he did, even winning the best performance by a police horse at Sydney royal show.

He came no more than a race horse,
With really not much of a chance,
For all that he knew when he came here
Was to pull like a steam train and dance.

But a picture of horse flesh he stood there
Coat of auburn and tail of black.
Was he destined to make police horse
Or maybe a heavyweight hack?

Though he seemed slightly edgy… attentive.
Not a thing passed his wild brown eyes.
He stood like a rock and inspected
Any thing that appeared by surprise.

A trait that is rare amongst horses
Resistant to hasten to flight.
He stood there with nervous persistence
Until he was sure things were right.

And so with a sensitive rider,
Who was willing to let him inspect
A bond could be formed, an alliance
A bastion of mutual respect.

Then on to the street to start working
From green fields to concrete and tar,
With an air of importance, majestic,
A model police horse was Star.

Excelled on the show ground at Easter
At demo and rally and fair.
He strode into brawl, fray and fracas.
Where some hesitated to dare.

But the risks of the city are many,
Not always those we would expect
Sometimes even vigilant riders
Can fail their mount to protect.

As simple as slipping and falling
On surfaces burnished and tough,
Immune to an equine enforcers
righteousness, presence or bluff.

And so the demise of a great horse
Who rallied and toiled for us all
An unfortunate innocent victim
Of something as trife as a fall.

So salute to a warhorse of honour
Intelligence, courage and grace
And salute his devastated rider
The anguished despair on his face.

 

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A Plaque at the site of stars death in east Sydney honours his contribution to the New South Wales Police Force.

Star was foaled in 1988 and was bought by the NSW Police Force on 20 May 1996. Before his career in the NSW Police Force he was a thoroughbred race horse known as Coolah. He served as a valuable member of the NSW Mounted Police Unit for nearly eight years, dying at the age of 16 following an incident at Woolloomooloo.

Just after 9pm on 13 February 2004 police were conducting patrols of the Woolloomooloo area on troop horses ‘Star’ and ‘Hero’ when the tragic incident occurred. Troop horse Star was being ridden up a kerb on McElhone Street when one of his hind legs slipped on the gutter causing him to fall. During the incident Star tried to re-gain his footing when his rear leg got caught in the grate of a drain and broke. William Adam the  Constable, who was riding Star, was thrown from the horse before he and his colleague came to his aid. Sadly Star’s injuries were so serious that he had to be put down at the scene.

“Bazaconi” part 6 ,so close and yet so far.

 

Poor Baz, the memories of racing were going to die hard. Every time I mounted him, the head went up in that same twisted way and he threatened to take off out of control, all it would take at this stage was an unforgiving hand and all of the work done so far would have gone out the window.
He hadn’t bucked at all and considering the tension and weakness in his back that was a fair effort.
He was bold, often horses with all of bazaconi’s issues turn to shying at everything, when they are confused with what is  going on with the rider, it seems everything in the world is scary. Baz had not shied once in all the time I had been working him, he was showing at least a couple of admirable traits.

No, bazaconis answer to any question to which he didn’t have the answer was “run” it didn’t really solve his problem because jockeys don’t often come off, the problem wasn’t going away, “run” hadn’t worked for him, and though I was doing everything I could to convince him there were other alternatives, every time I mounted him I could feel that “run “was his first thought.
All he was doing at the moment was walking off quickly with a rushed panicky feel but to most riders this is a signal to pick up the reins and hold on, for Bazaconi’s education this would have been a recipe for disaster.
Human nature is a funny thing, most cues our brain gives us about riding are absolutely the opposite of what we really need to do. A bit like baz running away we tend to go toward self preservation, not in a considered way but in a a panicky primitive way. We are concerned with regaining our own balance,not considering that of the living creature below us, we grip with our legs, that says to the horse “go!” we grip tighter, “go faster!” we hold the reins tighter and tighter, head In the air, back hollow, more panic,” run away from the lion on your back”
Have you ever tried to paddle on a very narrow kayak or maybe to row a single skull, they are so tippy, very very difficult to “sit up”, most people who would try to sit on one of these craft without instruction and probably someone physically holding on to it, would finish up in the water in less than a second, the boat tips one way, we overcompensate the other and in we go, less than a second. These overcompensation are just as influential to the horse the only difference whilst riding is we don’t finish up in the water, we need to consider our responses or we will, finish up on the ground and the horse at the pet food factory.

What about this example you stand In front of a boxer, he or she don’t have to be very good, “hold your hands up protect your face at all cost” they say, one quick fake to the mid section, you drop your hands to protect you tummy and before you can pick them up again the second punch has bopped you on the nose, they told you what to do and your instinct just wouldn’t let you do it, a little like instructions from a fairly average riding instructor.

So Bazaconis required very considered responses by his rider. To a professional horse person these responses come as conditioned reflex, I can generally ride most horses most of the time with my body reacting as I need it too, conditioned reflex, no more thought involved than picking up food on a fork and placing it in my mouth. This makes riding for the professional much less stressful than for the average rider.
Bazaconi made me think. If I was not constantly on my game he would take advantage of every opportunity to do something unexpected, Rush forward , head up , twist and turn, for every shift in weight or inconsistency in contact on the rein he would punish me, not dangerously but with a loss of connection and control. He was not helping me in any way shape or form. At this stage it was up to me to call all of the shots and ensure I made them very accurate.
The job of the rider is to sit still in a balanced position and give clear accurate aids to the horse, we would like the horse to listen, but in time we should expect him to do more, he should help. By maintaining tempo and rhythm he helps us maintain our stillness while everything around us is moving, if we should momentarily loose connection with the rein contact he should seek it. If we are both working toward the same goal the ride is much more enjoyable for both of us.
Baz wasn’t helping, I needed to get him on my team. The tempo and rhythm were starting to come but trying to build enough confidence in the bit so  that Baz would seek it all the time even when I wasn’t helping, was going to be a fair ask.
Consistency and accuracy are the only answers, keep doing the correct things consistently, let the horse feel and learn that Being ridden is not confusing, in fact done well it is incredibly consistent.

Horses learn good stuff and bad stuff just as quickly, they come from racing with lots of bad stuff, riding horse wise, generally undoing damage done is like starting at -20 rather than zero, Baz started at about -50, it was a long road forward but the same rules of consistency  and accuracy would apply.
Consolidation over and over again. Teach him to relax rather than run when confused, teach him to consider his responses.image
Time passed ,consolidation was gradually occurring, Baz would travel along quite nicely as far as the uninitiated was concerned but look closely, Baz was not particularly happy, it would take some time before he began to find it easy, there was always slight head nodding at any inconsistency, remember I am talking about inconsistency in me! 30 years as a professional rider, riding with all the accuracy and care that I could, totally aware of Baz’s issues, this wasn’t inconsistency as in, riding on the trail and gathering up the reins a handful at a time Whilst talking to the person riding next to me. This was finite inconsistency and he let me know with that little bob of the head at every opportunity that I needed to be better. This may seem pedantic but I was acutely  aware that unless Baz was unquestionably working toward helping the rider, all of the careful work I was doing would fall apart and quickly. Little bobs of the head  and dropping of the bit for me would soon turn into head up and rushing for most riders.

end part 6

“Bazaconi “the instructor . Part 5

 

Attention gained, check, Foundation more consolidated, check, rhythm and tempo heading toward establishment,check, time to try riding again.
I mounted Bazaconi, immediately he put his head in the air twisted it and hollowed his back he moved off abruptly, I had to stay calm, he was expecting to get what he had always gotten from his rider, a meaningless pull on the mouth and a confusing fight, I gently took up the inside rein and asked him to move his hindquarter to the outside, initially he didn’t respond but I was not being drawn into the fight, I would sit and wait for him to recognise that what I was doing on his back was exactly what I had done from the ground whilst working in hand, finally he dropped his nose to the inside, he kept walking in a small circle but he had responded in a positive way to the bit, I gently took up the outside rein and started to proactively influence him, he would react to me not me by him.
He shook his head violently and put it up in his usual twisted way. Stay relaxed, keep asking gently, reward him at every opportunity. He Softend again poll relaxed, with little to no outside leg I asked him to step in exaggerated way toward the outside rein with his inside hind leg, softer, voice command, .”and halt” this is the voice command I had used all the way along, “and” being the precautionary aid_”get ready get ready”, long and with a downward inflection “aaannnd halt” . He understood and he stopped, he stood in a correct frame and breathed out in a heaving kind of way. It was as if he said “oh I get it”
I picked up the new inside rein and went through the same process again. Now I applied my outside leg and encouraged him to walk forward out of the circle, he did it but with the straightness came tension in his back, he was inclined to rush forward which at times threw me off balance, it was all I could do not to hit him in the mouth with the bit as I regained my position. Had I clumsily taken up the rein, the head would have gone up and the battle would have re started.
Baz needed lots of walking on small circles but I didn’t want to be on his back until it started to ache, it was a whole new way of going and it would take him some time to get used to it, like a swimmer starting running training. Very fit but in all the wrong places for what we wanted.
He would get his physical exercise on the lunge, at the same time developing strength, rhythm and tempo and I would snake around the arena at the walk on his back being very obvious and consistent with my aids for 10 minutes each ride.

Gradually he developed the understanding of the aids, he spent more time in a correct frame than not, I could feel he was starting to reach for the outside rein after all these years of avoiding it he finally reached for it, he was accepting and maybe even seeking the support.

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On his good side I eased him into the trot, immediate tempo and fairly good Rhythm, and still moving into that outside rein, the contact had to be obvious but elastic and sympathetic or he would panic, God he was good for my riding, who needs to pay hundreds of dollars  for lessons. This was his good side and he was happy to step under my weight with the inside hind leg. I knew the other side would be harder, for a start it was naturally his week side, it had been made weaker by years of not using it correctly, secondly, it is his racing direction ,there was bound to be conditioned reflex and bad memories, there was, up went the head and the speed and out the window went the understanding. Again I stuck to my guns “let the horse be influenced by you, don’t be influenced by the horse” I kept asking him correctly and calmly. With his hollow back and head in the air he was very unbalanced, he had struggled to carry a rider on the track in a straight line let alone a 20 metre circle but he needed to work on the circle so I could help him find the feeling we needed. Breaking the alignment of his spine by working on the circle takes away his ability to fight and encourages him to relax. I have felt some unbalanced horses in my time but Baz was so bad he was very close to falling over on many occasions, this just spooked him more, voice commands were overruled by fear and confusion I needed to get his attention I moved his hind quarters across dramatically with my leg, backed up by the dressage whip, he felt even more likely to fall, I had to help him find some comfort by discovering his balance, I asked and asked with the inside rein for him to at least look to the inside, this has to be done without holding, if you hold he will hold back and flex more to the outside, I persisted carefully but somewhat demandingly, riding on the incorrect diagonal will cause the horse to step more dramatically underneath himself as he strives to get his balance, this is a very effective technique in stopping a horse from falling in and helping him take up the outside rein contact, I could feel some improvement .
Finally he dropped his head to the inside and stepped under our combined weight with his inside hind leg, now, weather it was because of the aids or because he could see the ground coming up at him or just by accident, it didn’t matter I rewarded him immediately by taking away all pressure “aaannnd walk” and he walked.
I let him enjoy it for a few moments then went back to the same exercise, this time it only took a couple of circles before he dropped his nose to the inside, he was tentative, no, terrified to take the contact on the outside rein at this stage but he had flexed and bent to a down transition. Back to his  good side, no drama, I gave him a few easy wins in relation to attaining his reward, back to the hard side, better than before, Baz had now worked out that he could let the pressure off by relaxing that’s what I needed. He was learning to relax rather than panic when things got difficult. Back to the walk, piece of cake. Lovely changes of direction snaking around forward into the outside rein, the epiphany at the trot had Helped to consolidate the walk no end.
End of part 5

 

bazaconi”consolidation” part 4

imageAfter lots of gentle work, making the required outcomes very obvious, Bazaconi started to work with me rather than against me. Not many people put the effort into ground work that I do when working with horses off the track. You can’t underestimate the value of ground work and a systematic approach, you need to have short and long-term goals. Up until now the short-term goals and steps of the system for BAZ have been.

Respect my space.
Pay attention
Listen to voice commands
Accept the bit as communication on the ground.

If I had simply jumped on his back without these foundations he would put his head in the air, twisted and turned it to the left and run into the fence.
So now I wanted some Consolidation of all the steps. To this point, Baz thrived on consistency as most horses do, the more sensitive they are the more they need it. Consistency and confidence from the handler, the same as they get from another horse in the paddock. Dominant or senior horses if you like, display a certain confidence to their subordinates, handlers need to have the same thing, you can’t really fake it, horses will catch you out, be confident with what you do.

Most horses, 90% are followers, they thrive on confident leadership. In a herd there is the stallion and the lead mare everyone else is a follower. A healthy happy herd environment is determined by the success of the stallion and the lead mare, they will both be far more dominant than you can ever dream of being and will receive unquestionable respect from the followers.

All of the work I had done to this point was consolidated every day with Bazaconi, to this I now added steady correct lunging.
Lunging is an extension of the work I had already carried out whilst training in hand except now it would be done from five metres away, Baz would feel he had a certain degree of freedom so it was imperative to maintain his attention. I started lunging him on a very short lead so if need be I could touch him gently with the whip. As I was confident I had his attention I gradually let him out onto a longer rein. At times it got too much for him and he would become over excited, slow him down shorten the rein and gradually build up again.
In time I could lunge him on the long lead his attentiveness was crazy and so my control of myself needed to be immaculate. One false move and he would react too dramatically.

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Lunging is a good magnified reflection of how a person rides. I can usually predict what kind of rider you will be based on how you lunge. Clumsiness, carelessness, over reaction, too much hand, too much leg, or not enough will all show up on the lunge.
I could tell by the way Baz lunged that he was going to test my riding and concentration, I was starting to look forward to the challenge, I now new Baz understood the basics, applied correctly on his back they should transfer to the same result I had from the ground.
Lunging was going to help Baz develop physically, the muscles which had not be developed in racing and atrophy those that had been developed that were not required as a quality riding horse.

 

Calm lunging for short periods in each direction in a correct frame developing tempo and rhythm, this was the next step and short-term goal in the system. For a horse like Baz who couldn’t run on a straight line, a 10-20 meter circle is a major effort. Horses never travel on a circle this small in the paddock, it’s not natural, the strength to do so for an extended period must be developed slowly and sympathetically, no more than five minutes at a time in each direction for as long as it takes for the horse to really relax over the back and seek the rein contact. Often with Baz I would feel like I had almost achieved the goal only to have him excited by some outside influence which would add another 10 minutes to the process. It’s funny, 40 minutes seems to be the magic number with horses with real issues, be they physical, mental or emotional.
Once I could get reasonable periods of quality work on the lunge it would be time to get on and ask for the same thing carrying my 90 odd kilograms.
End of part 4

“Engagement ” engage Your brain before your opinion

 

Now just before all you “know all” dressage experts reply emotionally to this blog, Please engage your brain before your emotion. You won’t!
imageThere is conjecture at the moment about some things that are currently occurring in high level dressage. The one I would specifically like to discuss is the newish phenomena of the exaggerated high front leg action of horses particularly in extended trot.

The FEI rules state 4.5. Extended trot.                                                              The Horse covers as much ground as possible. Without hurrying, the steps are lengthened to the utmost as a result of great impulsion from the hindquarters. The Athlete allows the Horse to lengthen the frame and to gain ground whilst controlling the poll. The fore feet should touch the ground on the spot towards which they are pointing. The movement of the fore and hind legs should reach equally forward in the moment of extension. The whole movement should be well-balanced and the transition to Collected trot should be smoothly executed by taking more weight on the hindquarters.

Now I have had some awesome classical instructors who have given me the classic descriptions of what is correct , theoretically the upper arm of the front leg above the knee should be parallel to the hind cannon bone when the extended trot is executed. As in seen in the bottom photo
Now I have been taught exactly this, but most importantly I have always been taught that the extension is initiated from the the hind quarter, the horse moves in front of the engine which is behind the rider, with ultimate enguagment of the hindquarters the front legs can lift off the ground they are not needed “levade”

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It was always pushed to me by my wonderfull instructor,Tina womelsdorf, that the horse can only reach as far as his nose with his front legs. That is to say, he can reach further than his nose whilst the foot is in the air, but it will return to under the horses nose prior to reaching the ground.
I was always warned about being deceived by Flicky front legs as opposed to correctly engaged hind legs when looking at the extended trot. You often see Flicky front leg action in the hack ring which is often not supported by correct hind quarter engagement.
I suggest that anyone who is competing internationally at grand prix level has had at least as much classical education as me and much more than most of the readers of this blog.
I suggest that they have a fair idea of the concept of engagement of the hind quarter.
Let me raise this view for consideration.
If you look at the two photos attached and carefully study the enguagment of the hindquarters you will note that there is very little difference. The angles of the hocks of both horses, are almost identical. Don’t tell me the horse in the top photo is not engaging his hind quarters.
So the top horse has a crazy front leg action the leg is extending forward and out from the elbow. The bottom horse has correct parallel lines from front leg to back leg. Both have fantastic engagement of the hind quarter.
If the most important prerequisite of a properly developed trot is engagement of the hind quarter, why does it matter so much what the horse does with his front legs. There is no doubting that both horses have developed their extension based on the theory espoused by the classical school.

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The high front leg action is shown in the Spanish trot which is excecuted at the Spanish riding school in Vienna a bastion of classical dressage. I was always taught this is not a dressage movement but more like circus, this is stated by Franz Maringar in his book “horses are made to be horses” . Is the parallel theory relevant only, in relation to the rules of competition dressage, as some comity has seen fit to declare?

I’m not sure. I’m just thinking. I think a lot. I never accept anything just because someone said it, that’s not what being a horseman is about. Horsemanship is about problem solving as much as anything else. It would be good if more horse owners engaged their brains and got a thorough education on a subject before they spruke some view that was spruked to them by some other horse owner who probably didn’t engage their brains.

As for my opinion, I don’t know, but I do think about it, I do question it, I need a practical mechanical explanation for all things riding, if you can’t explain the mechanics and the purpose don’t raise it with me.
As for the high leg action, it looks pretty flashy but doesn’t seem to promote the same flow and rhythm as the parallel lines. I have however seen horses perform the high knee action in the paddock. So it’s not un
natural. I THINK A LOT.

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Now I have to put up with the opinions of all the arm chair experts

For those who keep telling me I should write a book ! “Horses from courses” re training a horse off the track.

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Every year thousands of thoroughbred ex race horses, often referred to as OTTB, (off the track thoroughbreds) retire from the racing industry, their future uncertain. Many well-meaning horse enthusiasts seek to take these horses and retrain them for sport and recreational purposes. This book takes the accumulated experience and knowledge of horse trainer Scott Brodie—manager of the New South Wales Thoroughbred Rehabilitation Trust, re-trainer of hundreds of ex racehorses—and allows the novice trainer to tap into this valuable source of information previously unattainable for the average horse enthusiast. The book is available in E book format from Apple I books and Amazon for under $10 

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Scott Brodie is Manager of the Racing NSW Thoroughbred Retraining Program. A NSW Mounted Police horse trainer and classically trained rider, Scott has a unique spin on the retraining of retired racehorses. Utilising a surprisingly smooth synergy of natural horsemanship and the practical application of classical dressage, Scott’s systematic approach to this often difficult and dangerous endeavour ensures the smoothest and fairest transition for the horse from racing machine to a pleasurable riding partner. 
 
A qualified Instructor with the Equestrian Federation of Australia, Scott has trained under many Olympians and world class instructors. He has competed to Advanced level in eventing and has schooled horses from break-in to the Grand Prix movements in dressage. Scott is an advocate and accomplished practitioner of ‘Natural Horsemanship’ techniques.
 
As a serving Mounted Police Officer, Scott was selected to represent Australia in the Royal Pageant of the Horse, at Windsor Castle for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. He won numerous police horse events at the Sydney Royal Easter Show, and was presented the prestigious “Silver Spurs Award” for outstanding horsemanship and service to the NSW Police Force by the Police Commissioner. Scott was also the recipient of a Bravery Citation for incidents that occurred in 1999. Scott is currently a contract horse trainer and instructor with the NSW Mounted police, implementing his training system for the education of police re mounts.
As Thoroughbred Retraining Manager with Racing NSW, Scott has appeared on television and printed media as spokesperson for the program and held demonstrations statewide. He mentors a first class team of horse trainers who implement the program on a daily basis, as well as supervising the training of corrective services staff and inmates involved in the program. Scott is also the facilitator of a program of equine assisted therapy for returned service personal recovering from Post traumatic stress disorder. He has personally overseen the retraining and rehoming of hundreds of ex race horses

Scott Brodie is far more than an outstanding horseman. He has dedicated his life to coaching not just in many sports but for many people in life skills

Scott has been attending the St Heliers Correctional Centre for numerous years, working with inmates including some violent offenders, and coaching them in horsemanship skills. Many of these inmates have never had role models in their lives and look to Scott’s mentorship as an opportunity to help them become better people and productive members of society. The skills in horsemanship taught by Scott transfer into life skills as the men learn empathy, commitment, control, and communication skills.
The training system utilised and designed by Scott is easily passed onto inmates and returned service personnel suffering from post traumatic stress disorder ,who Scott also works with, some of whom have had very little to no horse involvement previously.
Some of the skills taught in Scott’s training system relate to day-to-day life skills include reading body language, utilising body language as a means of communication, problem solving, patience, and calm decision making. The transformation from hardened, career criminals or damaged service personnel into caring and responsible community members with focus and direction is amazing and the recidivism levels of inmates completing the program is zero.
The experienced gained though all of the previously mentioned fields along with a 30 year history as a coach and mentor have given Scott a great insight into how horses can improve lives.

Bazaconi “language and communication class” part 3

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So, “Bazaconi gump” had finally stopped running. There  was no doubt he now recognised me. He new ,when he was with me, he didn’t have to gallop, that was a start but there was no doubt the running thing would raise its head again.

With all the handling and a basic education on, what was my space and what was his, Bazaconi seemed to be settling whilst in my company. Race days were still going to be an issue_ more than likely for ever.

Back to the round yard. As he had settled considerably I decided to give the saddle another go, no problem, though a little anxious he stayed on his feet. When I let him go he through in a couple of bucks, not unusual with this bigger heavier saddle, then off he went, back to the gallop. This time he lasted about 10 minutes before he came to me, today was the day we were moving on.
The first thing I needed was to have his undivided attention.
This time when he came to me I sent him back out again pushed him for a lap and then sat down again, sure enough he came back. Now I could get rid of my milk create. I sent him out invited him back, sent him out invited him back. With a little adjustment of my energy levels I was able to have him walking stopping, trotting walking, changing direction, his focus was incredible no matter what he did he always had one ear on me. Often I will use a lunge whip to create some energy when working with green horses with Bazaconi all I needed was my finger. It’s imperative at this stage that the horse believes he is moving because you have asked him to ,you have to be honest with yourself as a handler, if the horse is running away from you you haven’t achieved anything. Even if the aid to go forward is as fine as raising your finger you need to believe you are making the decisions. Never underestimate how closely they are watching if you have truly gotten their attention. Horses in the paddock communicate through body language, a slight change of posture, ear position, body position even facial expression “never underestimate what they notice” all of your movements become part of the language between you and you horse, when you are with him make your language clear and concise, talking on the mobile phone whilst lunging is confusing, not having accurate control of you lunge whip is confusing sometimes even swatting at flies is confusing, if you are in a bad mood and your shoulders are tense, that is confusing. Baz wouldn’t have coped with any of these, I really needed to be on my game.

So with baz responding to my body language and now voice commands I began preparing him for the lunge., there is no better way to passively  start to develop the muscles required to carry weight than by working the horse calmly and correctly on the lunge. It give you the chance to develop your voice control, asses the horses movement, pick up physical issues and develop calm tempo and rhythm.
It was also the opportunity for Baz to have the bit in his mouth and work with out having to fight.
Well, Baz was not a great fan of the bit. As soon as it went into his mouth he started to chew and grind, wrestle with his tongue,  his head twisted up and to the left, that was his preferred position whilst the bit was in his mouth, no rein or riding pressure required, head up and to the left.

When I stated to ask him to accept some contact it was total confusion, now most race horses have no idea of the grey areas between stop and go when it comes to the bit. It’s very simple in the racing world ” bit off” = go “bit on” = stop,if you like. Stop, if not understood can become 50kg of angry rider leaning back with all their might. An old bushy once said to me “those track workers have hands like black fellas feet” referring to the hard calloused feet aboriginals develop from years of walking bear foot in the bush. Not particularly politically correct but it paints a picture.
I don’t think baz was there the day they learnt stop. He defiantly had the go thing down pat.

The bit was a total mystery and misery to him he twisted and turned his head trying to avoid it, more contact resulted in more twist and more again meant go harder. He gaged and worked his tongue with his mouth wide open. He really did seem to resent the bit across his tongue. I decided to try something different I purchased a bit with a large port that avoided tongue contact at all, it still worked on the bars of his mouth as required but left space for his tongue to sit commortably “hey presto mouth closed” shame that wasn’t thought of 5 years ago, once again, one size doesn’t fit all.
So, working against him had been, a poor basic education, very uncomfortable mouth, conformation that led to head in the air and hollow back, in the racing stable that equates to “that horse is a bastard I hate riding him” mmm that’s not gonna fix it.
Now Baz was more comfortable in the mouth, he had stopped fainting, he knew about my personal space he was starting to understand my body and voice language. It was time to re introduce the new bit in a new simple, understandable way. After a number of weeks of gentle instruction Baz started to get it.

 

He started to trust and respect me, he new I wouldn’t hurt him but he also new I was in charge of the partnership, yep, it was definitely becoming a partnership. Gradually he started to seek out the bit, recognising it was one of our important means of communication, finally he reached for it, in doing so he lowered his head and released the tension in his tangled back, it must have been such a relief. You know that feeling when you have pain some where and feel like you have to walk around tensed protecting the effected area, its exhausting you finish up angry and irritable. “Bazaconi”

End of part 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Bazaconi” friend of foe ? Part 2

I know there are plenty of readers out there who will say, “oh that’s like the thoroughbred I had”, “that’s what so and so used to do”. No, this horse was different. I think I could confidently say that anywhere else he would have been euthanised at best, at worst sold for pet meat.

We have had almost 300 horses enter the TRT and I have trained many more. This guy was different, very lucky to have had such a caring owner. I guess when I started with Bazaconi we had trained around 100 horses at the TRT, I thought he was pretty tricky. Now we have had nearly 300 and I know he was very tricky.

Some horses are limited by their conformation—certain types of confirmation lend themselves to certain training issues. Looking at Bazaconi as a horse, his neck is set very high, that is, it seemed to come up steeply out of his withers so before a rider even gets on, his head is carried high.
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This is fine if he is just to live in the paddock and eat grass, but to carry weight the horse needs to develop the muscles in his back. When the rider jumps in the middle of the back of a horse with this confirmation, his head will go up further, his back is more uncomfortable, and he panics. What do horses do when they panic? The same thing they have done for 50 million years, they run. Panic, fear, discomfort, pain and confusion from all of these things and the horse will run. It’s what he is designed to do. Once he starts to run, he is not designed to assess the situation, he does that when he has run away from the issue. If the issue is on his back, he keeps running and panicking, then the rider tries to control him, so he pulls the rein this way and that, resulting in more confusion and more panic. With a sensitive horse this situation is magnified. This was Bazaconi—he had been head-in-the air confused and running away all his life.

Now I had to gain his confidence, convince him that the lion on his back was not going to eat him and that the pulling, seesawing piece of steel in his mouth was trying to tell him something. If I was breaking him in as a clean slate, I would consider his sensitivity and his conformation and choose my methods of training carefully. Unfortunately, most racehorse breakers have a one size fits all philosophy it certainly didn’t fit Bazaconi. It has never ceased to amaze me that people will pay $1,000000 dollars for a horse and then $1500 to have him broken in, in just 2 weeks.

Bazaconi’s first struggle was coming to terms with the fact that though he was at the racecourse he didn’t have to race. The TRT operates from Canterbury racecourse in Sydney, and race meeting are held at least fortnightly and weekly at times during summer. Baz didn’t cope well at all. On race days he was a mess, he walked his box until he was a lather of sweat, he refused to eat or drink and by the end of the day he was a mental wreck, standing with his head in the corner of his stable he would then scour for the next two days.

Early in his ground work period (which with the TRT generally lasts about 6 weeks) he struggled with being tacked up, believing he was going down to the track. Now I’ve seen cold backed horses fall to the ground when girthed up too tightly. I’ve even seen them damage themselves fatally in the process. I am always careful to girth horses very, very carefully, particularly if they are showing signs of stress. Racehorses are girthed up very tightly by stable hands for track work or racedays—the life of the rider depends on the person who has tacked the horse up. This tight girthing often stays with racehorses for sometime after retiring from racing, some for life.

Bazaconi’s issue with saddling up was very unusual. On regular occasions he would freeze as a cold backed horse often does, then he would faint. Yes, I said faint. He would just drop unconscious to the ground, he would lay there for a number of seconds then get up and he would be fine. At that time I had never seen this—I since have on occasion. I had the vet come and told him what was happening, he asked if it would happen if I saddled him now so I took him into the arena saddled him up and sure enough down he went. The vet had never seen it before, he went over him, checked all his vitals, nothing out of the ordinary, he had just fainted. I assume like a soldier on parade, in coming to attention and standing in this state for a long period the blood vessels to the brain are constricted, this limits blood to the brain and the soldier falls over. I’ve seen it plenty of times in the police service while some dignitary makes a speech that seems to go on for days but never in a horse. To say he was tense was something of an understatement.

So back to work on join up. No saddle, no bridle, just me and the horse at liberty in the round yard. Baz wanted nothing to do with it, he galloped out of control around the yard, often to the point where I feared he would fall over disunited in his cantor/gallop or completely on the wrong lead, head turned as far away for me as he could get. At one end of the round yard he could see the race track, and here he would accelerate sometimes with his tail tucked between his legs. Just me standing in the yard was way too much for Baz to cope with. Usually in join up, the idea is to place pressure on the horse, keep him moving and each time he faces you, let the pressure off, however with Baz so fired up and galloping so hard, this wasn’t going to work—the potential for him to hurt himself was too great. I took a milk create and sat on it in the middle of the round yard and just let Baz go. Thoroughbreds have great endurance probably because of the strong Arab influence in their bloodlines, obviously a great benefit to the racing fraternity. Baz went around and around and around, rarely changing direction. For a week of more all I could do was take him into the round yard and sit on my milk crate while he burnt off steam. In the early sessions I would have to bring him out before he ran himself into the ground he didn’t seem to have any respect for fatigue and I was sure he would do himself damage if I let him go until he could go no more .

Each day I got him out groomed him, let him run around washed him and put him back into his box. He was a bugger to wash, wouldn’t stand still, head as high as he could put it or rubbing it vigorously on anything he could reach. He danced and stomped, striking for minutes on end on the concrete ground and then at every opportunity tried to rub all over you. This is not on, rubbing all over you is a mark of serious disrespect with a sharp jerk away from me on the rope halter I let him know I would not accept the rubbing. Every time I led him he tried it on and every time he got the same result from me. He picked it up in a couple of days and understood not to come into my space uninvited. So many horse owners love the horse rubbing all over them, I can assure you the dominant horse in the paddock does not let other horses rub all over him uninvited. By letting him do this he puts you below himself in the pecking order, not to mention the potential danger of having your head split open by an over enthusiastic rubber with a steel bit in his mouth.

So the first thing Baz learnt was to respect my space. I extended this into don’t rub on anything when I am in control, “you get what you accept so only accept what you want”. Smart horse, he now stood like a statue when I told him to and the second I relaxed or walked away he would rub like a maniac over whatever was closest including people. No one was to handle Bazaconi but me.

One day in the round yard Baz just stopped. It was like that scene out of the movie Forrest Gump when Forrest after running for years just stops, for no apparent reason he has just finished running. Baz looked out at the race track, looked back at me sitting in the sun on my milk create covered in flies, walked straight to me and stood quietly in front of me. Sounds a bit like a scene out of some corny horse movie, like he had made a decision, was it to be racing or me, he chose me. Yeah, that’s a bit corny but he finally stopped. I stood up, put his halter on and took him straight from the yard, that day he stood more quietly in the wash bay. The next day he galloped for two laps and came straight to me. He had worked out that he didn’t need to gallop, there was nothing to fear and nothing to be gained, he had learnt that by coming to me he could stop and I would take him out. Finally, some sort of mutual connection. Yes, there was something in it for him, but he wanted to be with me. Now we could really start to work.
End of Part Two.