“Parking” your horse

Spent some time out last weekend teaching Miss Savannah to “park”. As in stop, and stand on a loose rein until told to proceed. Doesn’t matter if your horsy mates are leaving, or they are coming up from behind you… STAY STILL.

So many horses can’t stand still on the spot on a loose rein. Nor can Savannah, at the moment. But she’s learning. I find the easiest way is to make sure a horse has a good lateral mouth, and then control those “can’t keep still” feet with one rein. So halt, drop the reins, and if they move off without being cued, ONE rein so that they find themselves going in a very small circle. The instant they stop, throw the reins away again. If they move, repeat… for about 15 repeats in Savannah’s case, till she got the message and kept those pesky feet still for more than about 2 seconds.

It’s all the same principles as anything else…

1. Give the horse the opportunity to do the wrong thing so you can point out to them the error of their ways. If you never let go of the reins, they never get the chance to make the mistake of moving off without being asked.

2. Make the wrong thing hard: going in very small circles is hard work, and they tend to end up facing the OPPPOSITE way to where they wanted to be going!

3. Make the right thing easy – when they DO stand still, the rein is loose, the rider is quiet, and life is good.

How does this apply to endurance? Well, I would like both my hands free at checkpoints to take a drink, grab some lollies, adjust my knickers…(Sorry, TMI!). I don’t want to be hanging onto my antsy pony while I attend to what needs to be attended to. Plus, a good “park” cue is a clear signal to an endurance pony that we are stopped for a bit, so grab a drink or a bite to eat while Mum does the same.

Joe learning the "park" signal on his third ride ever

Joe learning the “park” signal on his third ride ever

In other news, the 2013 calendar is out and it looks like our first serious ride (25 milers, to kick off) will be at the end of March. Our endurance club runs an Easter marathon, so I get the opportunity to run both horses over 40km (25 miles) a couple of days in succession (if I can round up a spare jockey). This is a great way to get them really fir before their first 80s for the year.

I am antsy and twitchy and CAN’T WAIT to get back into the saddle on one of my boys! But the weather continues to be revolting – hot and humid – so to start with it will mean some very early starts to beat the heat. Still and all: I have cleaned out and organised the tack shed, bought a new saddle (a Freeform, yay!), and I have started a weight loss and fitness programme – gotta get those Xmas kilos off. I am in danger of sneaking into the Heavyweight category and that is NOT going to happen! Plus I need to be an equal partner, not a passenger (more on rider fitness in another post).

That butt does NOT need to get any bigger...

That butt does NOT need to get any bigger…

I’m ready – bring it on!

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