Friday, April 20, 2012

Jane Savoie: Part 1

Recently - a few months ago - I listened to 2 1-hour talks featuring Jane Savoie. I took a lot of notes and wanted to share those notes (my own add-ins in purple) here for others so voila Part 1 today and next Friday, Part 2.

The topic of Part 1 is - 4 Mistakes Riders Make

#1 Resistance

When a horse resists one mistake a rider will often make is to back off, which rewards the behaviour, or the rider will get aggressive and bully the horse, which creates an unhappy horse.
In training, resistance is inevitable when we ask the horse to move out of its comfort zone - do not be afraid.
Keeping in mind the mantra "when the horse says no you either asked the question wrong or asked the wrong question", when you experience resistance as a rider:
1 - check yourself (your aids, position, etc)
2 - break the exercise down into baby steps
ie, leg yields - initially ask for the yield off the wall, teach all the components of the leg yield
(release to pressure, sidepass...), etc

#2 Quality
Exercises, maneuvers, etc are not an end unto themselves - focus on the big picture (what those maneuvers produce) and on quality
Suppleness - the ability of the horse to smoothly change balance front to back (ie, lengthenings) and side to side (ie, serpentine).
The primary goal is to create an athletic horse and to 'give back' to the horse's movement under the weight of a rider.

#3a Forward - Responsibility
It is your horse's job to maintain gait and the activity.
Take your legs away then correct if your horse slows - do not micro-manage or nag!

#3b Reactiveness to Aids
Give feather-light aids - do not adjust the aid to suit the horse. A horse can feel a fly land on its skin. I don't care what breed of horse you have or what temperament he is or even how small your legs are. He feels your aids.
Correct if you get a sluggish or nil response.
Do a retest after the correction (crucial!) - the response/reactivity must be black and white ie, 100 percent forward (not 99.9 percent).

#4 Connection - it's simple
You will experience trouble when you have not taught the horse the AID to put him on the bit.
Follow the training scale - the horse must be supple through the body and at the poll to connect.
The connecting aids - control the surge from behind (ie, lengthening)
1 - apply your calves (lengthening) - you should feel the surge
2 - catch that energy by closing your outside rein in a fist
The connecting aids should last only 3 seconds -
3 - soft squeezes on the inside rein to keep the neck straight - squeeze and release (like a
sponge or a baby bird in your hand)

There was quite an extensive Q&A session afterward so I will share that also:

Q: Horse bearing down on the bit?
A: A horse bearing down on the bit is being lazy and is not exhibiting self-carriage.
1 - get him quicker behind with quick transitions (this strengthens his engine, his hind)
2 - ease tension in the reins so he learns to carry himself (at first say 2 strides is okay

Q: What is the rubber band exercise?
A: The rubber band exercise is one Savoie uses whereby the horse goes forward and back - do this on a circle at first.
ie, close your legs - 6 strides of forward trot (driven off your leg aids)
tighten your abs - 6 strides of med trot (from your seat)
rinse, lather, repeat
This exercise is essentially transitioning within a gait - ie, the trot - to develop the horse's engine and to develop self-carriage. It develops longitudinal suppleness.

Q: Elastic elbows
A: Part of having an inviting, elastic contact - have elbows that allow for movement (ie, an elastic elbow)... THEN the horse may connect.
How to have open elbows - when posting at the trot, imagine pushing the horse's mane down, or pushing clothes down a washboard.
ie, with the western horse on a looped rein, the same degree of loop is kept the same

Q: Draw reins
A: Draw reins are a quick fix - they are a substitute for good riding. Riders use gadgets when they run out of tools. In draw reins the horse will break at the 3rd and 4th vertebrae as the horse learns to 'save' himself. As a result, he rolls under the bit. The solution to a horse rolling under the bit (evading contact, breaking at the 3rd and 4th, being BTV) is to put the bit in front of the horse. You can do this by lifting the hands up and forward to the same degree, maintaining contact (ie, lift your hands 2'' up and 2'' forward). The horse can therefore step up into the bridle rather than be rolled over the bit. Maintain contact with the horse's mouth during this exercise - think of it as 'lifting the bed sheets up then allowing them to float down' - lift your hands up and forward then allow them to 'float' down.

Q: Counter Canter
A: When riding the counter canter, pretend the opposite canter is correct/true canter and pretend the wall is not there. Riders often overbend the horse's neck to the inside in CC: the opposite shoulder then pops out and the horse is crooked and on the forehand. Think about riding CC while in counter flexion - flex at the poll away from the lead the horse is on. This slides the shoulders over so the shoulders are between the reins. Then ask for true flexion (toward the lead the horse is on) and expect the shoulders to remain straight and between the reins.

Q: Flying Changes
A: Prerequisites:
1 - balanced counter canter
2 - collection - at 2nd level (SI, HI, simple changes), where you have modest collection, about
50/50 weight balanced on the forehand vs. the hind
3 - clean, clear simple changes - walk-canter-walk (no dribbly walk steps in between)
Then you can think about flying changes

At training level about 60/40 weight is balanced on the forehand v. hind
At 1st it is about 55/45
At 2nd it is about 50/50

Q: Canter aids - depart
A: Inside rein - 'turn of key' (thumb up and forward) motion at wrist for poll flexion to the inside
Outside rein - closes in a fist - 2nd level dressage
Inside leg - pushes at the girth for forward
Outside leg - behind the girth to drive outside hind
Weight slightly on inside seatbone - push that hip toward the horse's ear

Q: Basic aid to slow
A: Brief squeeze and release on outside rein. If the horse ignores your cue, exaggerate the correction ie, bring the horse to a halt, then pick up the w/t/c again and retest - accept only 100 percent.

Q: Suppling the poll
A: A dead giveaway of tension in the poll is the horse tilting its head, which indicates a 'lock' in the poll - the horse's ears need to be level.
To supple the poll:
1 - 'turn the key' (twist your wrist so your thumb is on top and forward), support with the
opposite rein
so the horse is not bending through the neck and is instead flexed at the poll
2 - test - see if the horse holds the flexion when you put some loop in the rein
This is +1 only - the horse should barely turn his head at the poll and the crest should flip. Go back and forth with flexions right-left-right-left-right-left
(Check previous blogs on suppleness exercises and YouTube Jane Savoie poll flexion for more)
When the horse's body does not track straight in this exercise, suppling is not going through his body 100 percent - the use of the rein is ricocheting through his body negatively. Correct with leg.


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A very informative blog for all the horse riders and horse owners who often make mistakes while handling their horses. One must first learn and figure out detailed information about horses. Thanks for enlightening us.

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