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Quick question on gait
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RobVSG
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 Posted: Sat Feb 7th, 2009 09:08 pm
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This topic interests me oh so much.

Yes Cheryl, I can agree with Dr Deb from my own experience that one of the worst things you can do with a gaited horse is jump on and gait them constantly. I personally learned soon enough from my horses that that don't fly, but I can tell you I have seen some lame, broken down, broken spirited gaiting robots that are only "expected" to be usable under saddle until 7 or 8 years old if they are "bred strong". How sad.

Dr Deb  told the class that a certain percentage of time and no more should be spent trotting in our regular routine. When she said that, in my mind I applied that statement to gaited riders by substituting "trot" with "gait" as in: "xx percent of the time and no more should be spent "gaiting" within your regular routine."

The Teacher may actually give a different number percentage for gait time and trotting time as I'm sure that gaited horses really need both incorporated in their routine. That question really didn't dawn on me until after the clinic was over but Dr Deb what would you recommend for trotting time and gaiting time in a typical 1hr to 1-1/2hr routine????

Dr Deb I have something else going on with my mare you saw at the clinic in Tx I just haven't completely worked out yet.

She is mostly Standardbred and comes from the "Falcon Rowdy" line of speedrackers. She is very "trotty" bred as folks with speedrackers call it. When I first got her in May of 2008, she had bad saddle sores and would pace straight out of a walk. If you tried to gait her fast she would rack but only to about 14mph and would not go any faster than that in any gait (including a gallop) period. Of course this is all typical of a horse in pain or maybe "swallowed his birdie" as "paceyness" is linked with "tenseness" as I understand it.

I have worked her walk and bending and such since I first got her and will occasionally "open er up". She has gotten so much better. She will transition from a walk to a rack up to 15mph and back down to a walk so smooth that from the saddle you wouldn't even know she transitioned from walk to ambling gait other than the speed and her head nod gradually becomes less and less with the increased speed until her head is not moving much at all. She will give me 19mph now which shows she's coming "unlocked". But from 15mph to 19mph she gradually gets more and more lateral until almost but not quite into a full pace at 19. I've verified this with personal slo-mo video.

Again all of this is typical and developing a speedracker takes time I know. But not all "Rowdy" bred horses are like this, I've seen and rode many that are in a squarely timed and smooth rack at 26+mph. You can hear it in the footfalls. And I've seen slo-mo video that shows how square they can be at that speed. (some are on youtube but I've seen many personal friends videos that are not on youtube).

Your clinic was soooo much of a help as proven by the fact that the first time she trotted under saddle with me was at your clinic. I'm so glad she has become O.K. enough to trot under saddle. Although I had been trotting her on the lead line and "working the walk" before, I have a much clearer routine for doing so after learning at your clinic. And we have even made trotting under saddle a small part of our regular rides.

After that long winded explanation of the "typical" things I have worked through, here is my "issue" ( if it's really an issue or if I am just being a little obsessive???):

I've noticed that this mare has not much action in the front end. Most of these types of horses' front end gets bigger and bigger as they get faster (similar to an Icelandic)and I believe from a mechanical standpoint is part of why they can rack so fast and stay square in footfall timing. Her full sister breaks above level in the front barefoot and has never worn anything heavier than a keg shoe. Her sister is more typical of this type of horse. "Rowdy" horses are actually known for having a lot of front end action without weights, chains, or other "artificial" action devices.

I have taken more video of Poca and even at the trot she barely picks up her front feet. I have gotten her to mount the drum since the clinic and she acts like she can hardly pick her foot up high enough to step up on it.

Watching her 19mph-almost-pacing video it seems that if she would just pick those front feet up more like she should, her timing would be a lot more square and "correct" as compared to others of her type.

I have a yellow lab named "Bones" that i'd say is a slender, healthy 60-65lbs. I've seen that dog jump fallen tree logs, low fences, small creeks etc. but when I let the tailgate of my truck down (and he loves to ride) he acts like a 20 year old overweight mini poodle that just can't jump that high.

It's all isolated to her front end. The rest of her body does everything a speedracker should. Poca is sound, but can there be something with her birdie related only to her front feet? or muscles? that can be "fixed"????

On a fairly steep down hill slope she will rack at speed more square and pick her front feet up higher. I don't have enough of a hill close to me to ride on regular and I wouldn't want to over do it when I only occasionally do get opportunities to ride a hill.

Gosh I hate to sound so obsessive about it. As long as she's sound and will live a long healthy life that's all I really care. I've never been to a show or speedracking competition and probably never will. I just want to help her stretch her front legs out like I think she should esp. if it will not hurt her but actually benefit her.

Helen
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 Posted: Sat Feb 7th, 2009 09:29 pm
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OK DD thanks, I didn't realise that about reinback. Then back to miriam's question - when we are asking the horse for only one step, does that mean one foot or a diagonal?

DrDeb
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 Posted: Sat Feb 7th, 2009 09:59 pm
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Helen, it means you take what he offers unless the offer is obviously coming from a desire within the horse to do the minimum or avoid what you're asking.

To ask a horse to take a step back "one step at a time", whether from the ground or from the saddle, involves the following events: he will tilt from one side to the other, so as to unweight the foot (the front foot) that he intends to move; he will then pick that foot up; he will swing it backwards once it is clear in the air; then he will set it down. He may or may not move a hind limb at the same time as the forelimb; you don't worry about that part.

You are never, Helen, to keep repeating an aid or a request until the horse does it "perfectly". You ALWAYS take what he offers, then rest upon that. If what he offers is avoidance, then you ask again, but you ask with no more hurry and no more force or pressure. The same applies if he is clumsy or unsure: you PERSIST. It is up to his neuromuscular system -- not to anything having to do with you -- to supply all the coordination that is ever going to be supplied. When you are light enough, when you never press more than he really needed just to understand what you want, then you will be interfering with him little enough that his own coordination can kick in.

One of the great revelations as the horsemanship in a person becomes more mature, is to realize that physical pressure, even in the most minimal degree, always interferes with the horse. We also interfere with his judgement and his desires, and when we do that "just to show who is boss" and not because the horse is choosing something dangerous to him or us, then in that case also we do nothing but interfere, preventing an outcome that might have been better on all levels. -- Dr. Deb

Pauline Moore
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 Posted: Sun Feb 8th, 2009 12:30 am
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Thanks again for the reply, Dr Deb - The horse in the photo is 3/4 spanish, 1/4 TB, but in every respect could be a clone of his PRE grandsire.  I'll keep an eye out for any more regular instances of this type of movement.

Fascinating about the fossil trackways - if Hipparion and Pliohippus were preferential amblers, what would have been the survival advantages for subsequent generations to develop a preference for diagonal trotting?

Best wishes - Pauline

DrDeb
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 Posted: Sun Feb 8th, 2009 10:04 am
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Pauline, all horses can do all gaits. All foals "mess around" or experiment with every conceivable footfall coordination. This assures us that whatever the genes that mediate ambling may be, they have not been lost from the domestic horse gene pool.

What we see among domestic horses, in the developed countries, is a rather recent dichotomy between riding horses that trot vs. riding horses that amble. Prior to about 1760 in Europe this dichotomy never existed. It did not exist either in China, Turkey, or Persia until recent times. In Europe and in Asia until recently, ALL quality riding horses were bred to amble, trained to amble, and expected to amble. Note I am saying RIDING horses -- plow-horses and cart-horses "hacked" or trotted because, since these horses were not particularly intended to ride, it did not matter whether they ambled.

Ambling has repeatedly been shown to be more energy-efficient than trotting; this is the presumptive reason why it would have been adaptive for Hipparion and Pliohippus to travel at this gait. Equus caballus (i.e. Przewalski horses) are generally "trotty", and this may have to do either with body proportions (i.e. conformation) or with their massiveness. The same can be said of the almost equally chunky Equus burchelli, the Plains Bontequagga or Common Zebra. The more gracile Equus (i.e. Equus asinus, Equus zebra, and the half-asses Equus hemionus, Equus onager, and Equus kiang) are much more likely to amble. If you will go over to Knowledge Base and look at the horse evolution papers, you'll see that the body restorations of Hipparion and Pliohippus show that they were very flat-bodied and gracile -- more than asses or even half-asses -- almost like small antelope or deer.

So, what I am indicating is that there has been NO strong survival value in trotting for most horse genera and even for most species in the genus Equus. We today have a "trotter bias" because of the worldwide preference for the Thoroughbred; because the invention of posting as a technique made riding the trot for long distances feasable; and because Napoleon at the end of the 18th century converted the world's cavalries to a preference for trotters. The Olympic games won't look at an ambler, and neither do we see them very frequently among the endurance crowd. Where the ambler shines is in back-country areas, and in mountainous countries, that lack paved roads. There, not even a jeep can outperform the ambling horse, and in these world areas, there is no "trotter bias" even today. -- Dr. Deb

 

RobVSG
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 Posted: Mon Feb 9th, 2009 04:52 am
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 Dr Deb may have overlooked my questions pertaining to gait with the changing of the page or she's not had the time to sit down and figure out what this boy is rambling about. Either way it's understandable.

But let me tell you-let me telllll you what happened on my ride just today!!!! I just have to share.

I mentioned before that the first time my mare trotted under saddle for me was at the Texas clinic. I haven't mentioned that about a week or so prior to the clinic I was out gaiting her on down the road and twice she offered-she didn't really trot mind you- she OFFERED to trot but before I could tell her yeah or neah it was over. The GLIMPSE of a trot was there and then gone just that quick. At the clinic she became O.K. enough to really TROT and I let her. And I was happy.

Well since the clinic I've been doing a routine 3 times a week of pretty much everything we did at the clinic and no gaiting. I just improvise and mix the clinic routine up a little not to be too much like by rote. In the middle of the routine we've been trotting more and more. (1 or 2 days a week we warm up then rack on down the road and the other days she rests in the pasture) This Friday I trotted her through some tall grass. Her range of motion in her front end was really picking up high then. But I was bummed out a little Saturday when I racked her down the road a little and she still would get very lateral with more speed.

Well today I was given a new GLIMPSE twice!!! We were racking on down the road and she kept wanting to trot ALOT. That's cool. More and more I'm bringing her into gait FROM A TROT instead of her going stiff and lateral and trying to bring her into gait from there. Well although we were not in tall grass and not on a downhill slope, as I would bring her into gait she'd get in a certain "spot" in her gait and start really picking up those front feet. Well after several cycles of going from trot to gait and back to trot again, she gave me  just a GLIMPSE of some smoooth serious speedracking acceleration!!! Just like earlier, before I could tell her yeah or neah it was gone. But for that split second, she was everything her super fast sister is although we didn't even top 13mph. (I always wear a gps on my wrist). It was just a glimpse.

Dr Deb could it be that in the process of her coming unlocked her front end is just the last part of her to come undone??? Or am I misinterpreting some things or missing something???

I'm trying to be patient and have no schedule or deadline to get her to her full potential, but I do hope I'm seeing the light at the end of the tunnel with this mare.

Thanks,

Rob

DrDeb
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 Posted: Mon Feb 9th, 2009 08:53 am
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Rob, old bean, you are seeing the light at the BEGINNING of the tunnel. You will never get to the end of the tunnel, because (as we both know), your horse is better than either of us is.

You are discovering what "transitions" are all about. This knowledge has been lost in the Anglo gaited world, i.e. in the American South, so you are now reclaiming that original heritage. Southern horsemanship was once admirable, and widely admired, by knowledgeable people. Long ago.

If you want to get a GLIMPSE of what more your mare might be able to do....go look in a previous thread in this forum for the photos (from Hurleycane, I think) showing Tom Bass on Belle Beach.

The source of speed is power. "Power" means physical strength. What your mare is gaining from the transitions and the trot work is, simply, a new degree or a greater degree of physical strength. How can she go fast if she's weak? The exercises that promote power (of the "core" muscles, i.e. the loin coilers and back-raisers, as well as of the gluteals, biceps, and inner britches in the hindquarters) are the transition from long walk to short walk and back to long walk; "the rocker", where you back on featherlight reins one step at a time for a predetermined number of steps, then without letting the energy die out, "boing" forward into either walk or trot; and cavalletti.

As an aside -- you can measure a horse's gains in physical strength by lifting its tail. Do the britches muscles that are on the INSIDES of the hind legs touch? In other words, are they that bulky? Or is there a space between the two hind thighs when the horse stands normally? The stronger the horse is, the bigger those inner britches muscles will get -- like on a good stallion.

Power will come to be there, but it can only be expressed when the horse is supple. Trotting assists gaited horses in gaining, and maintaining, lateral flexibility of the ribcage and loins. But so also do all curving figures, especially where they switch from one bend to the other, i.e. as in a figure-eight; little short leg-yields that go only four or five steps laterally and then straighten the horse for one, then come back the opposite way, continuing down the long dimension of the arena as a zigzag; serpentines, which are figure-eights that have been "split and unfolded" longwise; and, most powerfully, shoulder-in. These are the exercises we practiced at the clinic; there are still more, but not for another year yet.

So Robert, remember: the idea was not to turn your gaited horse into a trotter. The idea is to USE the trot, and the suppling, and the cavalletti, and transitions, to supple and strengthen the horse enough that, when she is THEN asked to gait, she does so with power, loftiness, speed, rhythmicity, and beautiful carriage of the neck, back, and loins.

The best reminder I can offer you at this point is to keep your bouts of gaiting rather brief. If you've got a dirt road to go ride on, look for a spot along that road where it slopes up -- not real steep, but a long grade with about a 1% slope to it. Ride her up to the base of this and then, very gradually push her over the brink into gait, allowing her to speed up only as much as she can do without stiffening. She should feel "rubbery" -- like firm rubber -- and the footfalls should sound as regular as clockwork. Never push her into a spot where she has to stiffen in order to do it -- this has negative consequences throughout her body and mind, because in fact it hurts her. So you keep her "within the envelope of okayness" both physically and mentally.

When you get to the top of the grade, maybe that's where you turn around for home, or maybe you ride a square route and come back another way; but after this sort of effort, when you get to the top and the road flattens out, you transition down and you allow her to flat-walk without too much demand on her most-all the whole way home. She should arrive back at the barn dry from the walking itself, and feeling kind of sweet and mellow, and mentally in no great hurry to get back to the barn.

Work on this hill no more than one or two days a week for six weeks. After about the second time you do it, go out there ahead of time in a car, and tie a haynet with nice hay up in a tree someplace nobody will bother it. Put it a ways past the top of the grade someplace you can take her off to the side and spend half an hour with her safely -- maybe at a neighbor's place if they would let you. So you have a very good reward for her built into the ride. You let her work on that hay for half an hour while you dismount and loosen the girths. Then you roll you hay net up and put it in your pocket, get back on, and ride her home nice and dry. I promise you that this will cure any desire she might have to hurry back to her own barn, and will also go a long way to erase any resentment she might feel at being asked to work up that long hill. In fact, she'll get so she can't wait to go up there, and your main job then will be to keep her from going just as fast as she can -- you never are going to find out how fast this is, you see.

But your hair will be blowing back pretty good anyway. Cheers -- Dr. Deb

RobVSG
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 Posted: Mon Feb 9th, 2009 03:05 pm
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Thanks Dr Deb.

Yes "Power" describes well what I felt. She is a fairly strong horse but for those two short bursts she was like Lou Ferigno with green paint on. And very smooth. How her sister is all of the time.

I guess the though of strength and muscle development helps me understand why it's taking so much time with her. Most of the other horses I have dealt with already had the physical strength, but had rushing issues and were "hard mouthed"/ stiff necked or just plain old don't know how to rein or do anything else except single-foot straight down the road. Comparatively speaking, dealing with those issues it seems progress was more easily noticeable. Poca is a younger horse and has been more of a "clean slate" and she has taken a lot more of my time.

But it is all so enjoyable and I'm learning so much.

Thank you again,

Rob


And I meant to say I will be searching for the "right" hill near me and putting your suggestions into practice.

Last edited on Mon Feb 9th, 2009 03:08 pm by RobVSG

RobVSG
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 Posted: Thu Feb 12th, 2009 06:54 pm
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DrDeb wrote:
The best reminder I can offer you at this point is to keep your bouts of gaiting rather brief. If you've got a dirt road to go ride on, look for a spot along that road where it slopes up -- not real steep, but a long grade with about a 1% slope to it.
Work on this hill no more than one or two days a week for six weeks.




Dr Deb, ballpark, distance how long of a ride should this be? The low grade hill and then ride home?

I can see the wisdom in the details of you recommendation. I've seen folks do something similar but they have it backwards and use that barns "pull" and let them go headed home but hold them in gait. Not good.

I'm ready to ENTER the tunnel Dr Deb. A lot of things that I've learned from horses but that you have helped me to understand suddenly came together in my mind yesterday and it frightened me. This may sound crazy to some folks but I know you'll know where I'm coming from: you see although not meaning that I literally have laid a horse down, quite some time back I have been at the place with a horse (not Poca) similar of where Tom put the little girl on the horse at the end of the horse whisperer movie.... but I did not know I was there at the time or even anywhere near appreciate the responsibility on my part from that moment forward. Yesterday I had a revelation of sorts. Not really a revelation but everything added up and came together in my mind and now I know how much I do not know as far as experience and if I ever get to that place again I pray I'm not as ignorant. I understand now where I am headed with Poca and suddenly time and speed do not matter any more. Not to say they don't really matter to me but although I do not know how long the tunnel might be, patience is the only way I'll make it to the end of the tunnel.

I'm sure I still don't have a lot of stuff straight in my mind but certainly paying closer attention now.

Or maybe I am just crazy, but that's besides the point!!!

Thanks,

Rob

DrDeb
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 Posted: Thu Feb 12th, 2009 08:45 pm
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Yeah, Buck Brannaman, and before him, Ray Hunt, have both said this: if you don't watch out, this style of horsemanship will make you feel crazy. Because within a culture that has a lot of things the wrong way around, what this asks you to do is go right the opposite way of what you see many other people doing. And, sometimes, also to go right opposite what your previous experience or your habits or even your sense of self-preservation tells you to do.

One time I had a guy who had been in a couple of clinics with me walk up to me and say, "OK, Dr. Deb, I've finally got you figured out. The deal is, what you're telling me is, whatever I would have done on my own, to just do the opposite and then that will be right!" Well -- maybe not literally but yeah a lot of times it is so!

As to "patience" -- Rob, it doesn't really take patience. It just takes you seeing out of your mare's eyes. You have to see and experience time as she does. Then it's not patience at all -- it's just reality.

As to length of the hill: a quarter to a half-mile, about what you'll find. If the only thing you have is a lot longer than that, then don't start gaiting until you're halfway up. And you can gradually take her into this routine that way, too; you don't have to start gaiting at the bottom of the hill, but somewhere partway up. The the next time, you can start a little closer to the bottom. But it should be a long time, maybe a year, before you let her gait on flat ground. And NEVER gait her downhill, or permit her to speed up when going downhill.

You will find that the hill does more for you than just "conditioning", which is typically the only facet of this that a trainer or even a veterinarian will be thinking about. The physical tilt of the ground helps the horse to round up and to take firmer, longer steps with the rear pair of legs. This is what you felt the other day when the "door opened" and she was briefly able to perform like your other mare.

So go at this with her in mind, and let her show you how she feels about things and how much she can offer at any one time, and have fun with it. -- Dr. Deb

kindredspirit
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 Posted: Fri Feb 13th, 2009 01:10 pm
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Hills....

I wanted to comment about this.  I moved from FLAT Florida to hilly Northeast TN with some Fl bred horses.  It took a while for all of us to acclimate to the terrain.  Then last year this time, I adopted a retiring therapy horse, a TWH who has always lived in this area.  When I first rode him at home, I was amazed at the power of his hindquarters and how he could engage and just lift going up a hill.  I had never felt that before!  Now this horse has been a work in progress, lots of worry in him so most of his gait was trot (better than a pace I know).  His canter was non-existent when being ridden, it was some type of pace/lope thing.  I had no clue why he moved that way other than his un-ok-edness.  I backed way up in how I worked with him, gave him a year to settle into life here.  He gaits up a gradually rising driveway and I can't stopped grinning when he does.  Amazing feeling.  I call him turbo-butt. 

As he becomes more supple and relaxed through his topline I suspect things will just continue to improve.  I am in no hurry with him.  He canters when out and about so I know he can.  His mental and physical braces are slowly becoming a thing of the past.  He is 18 yrs old, so he has a lifetime of habitual ways.

Anyway the discussion about working on a slight grade got me to thinking about that incredible feeling I have experience riding him!

Best,

Kathy

 

      

 

 

 

RobVSG
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 Posted: Fri Feb 13th, 2009 02:18 pm
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Kindred, I know what your talking about. I went to visit Clintwood, Virginia last May. I rode a couple of horses and brought home the one I could afford, Poca. The other horse I rode was a 4year old stud colt. He was about 14.3hh, black, and had a good looking build but nothing that spectacular. They threw a saddle on him and his owner got on and shot down a VERY steep gravel road about 1/4 mile then turned around and shot back up. He did this about 4 times and he was at a VERY fast rack never missing a beat going up or down. The hill was actually the side of an Appalachian mountain that my 2-wheel drive 3/4 ton diesel had a little trouble climbing because of the rear wheels loosing traction on the gravel going up. 

When he got him "warmed up" the guy said "here ya go, do whatever you want with him, you ain't gonna hurt 'im" I climbed in the saddle and expected him to be stiff necked and ready to bolt or rush. He was exactly the opposite. He was soft, supple and no trouble getting him to walk up and down the mountain on a loose reign. I knew HE could rack very fast down that hill I had just seen him do it, but I was not comfortable and felt like we would trip and topple over face first. on a dirt bike they call it an endo. After we walked a while and I gained more confidence, I opened him up, but pointed uphill  for fear I would go endo. YOU TALK ABOUT SOME POWER FROM THE HIND QUARTERS!!!! His acceleration uphill was phenomenal, we were smooth racking never missing a beat about 15mph, (not as fast as his owner did on him) and it felt so good we turned around and went the same speed going down. Now he never missed a beat going down either but he felt more trotty going down.

That little stud was out of my price range, so I bought Poca from another one of their relatives  a couple of mountains over. She had bad saddle sores, was very step-pacey, she was bracey, but if you didn't try to speed her she would relax and walk very supple and rein very nicely. And she just had a 'sweetness' about her. She comes from bloodlines just as good, if not better than the little black stud.

Anyways, I saw firsthand the benefit working a horse on hills while in Clintwood and so have been really wishing I could find a steep hill close to me. But I have made a lot of progress with her without steep hill work, and it dawned on me that like people, horses are individuals too. She lived her first 6 years of her life in the setting of a mountain goat, and she came pacey and bracey, in fact like Dr Deb said, it hurts her to be pushed to a speed where she braces. So while I think hill work can definitely make a 'hoss' I think it can be harmful to still other horses, or maybe it's how the rider aproached the hill work..

I'm still learning.

Rob

DrDeb
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 Posted: Fri Feb 13th, 2009 09:47 pm
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Rob, please remember -- you don't need a very steep hill. Stay away from steep hills. Let the grade be long and gradual, like a dirt road would be out in the country (well, I remember dirt roads around Lawrence, Kansas being like that: but you can find 'em anywhere). You do not want a jeep trail, as being both unnecessary and dangerous. -- Dr. Deb

RobVSG
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 Posted: Sun Feb 15th, 2009 11:38 pm
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Yes ma'am, I understand, 1% grade is not very much. Poca came from the steep hills of Virginia and if she didn't learn to carry herself and a rider properly up there, then it will take the gradual approach. I think I understand. It's like getting her to be a rear-wheel-drive and pushing from the rear instead of being a front-wheel-drive and pulling herself from the front. And going downhill she's using her back legs to slow herself down like trailer brakes and counter-productive.

I have a good 1/2 mile gradual slope going uphill headed out within a mile of my house.

I'm following your prescription and I do believe it will work.

Thanks,

Rob

Pauline Moore
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 Posted: Mon Feb 16th, 2009 05:56 am
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Hello Rob - Since we are talking about the benefits of hill work as part of a strengthening program, I thought you may be interested in this story about two connemara ponies.  I think I've told this story before but can't find any reference so maybe it was on the old forum.

Some twenty years ago I got to know a couple in their late seventies who bred connemaras and ran a combined trailriding and riding school business.  Some of the youngstock were sold but many remained on the property where they were born to work as trail/school mounts. 

Lessons were held on a flat grass paddock and always incorporated a few passes in each direction over a grid of cavaletti, about 8" high.  Trail rides were through the hilly forested part of the property.  The horses lived out 24/7 in a large paddock of around 60 acres, and at least once per day would meander up the steep hill to await their portion of hay.  The horses were never overworked, most only doing a single 1-hr ride, no more than 3 or 4 times per week.  Most of the customers were beginner riders, children and adults, or tourists wanting a scenic ride.

The old lady led all the rides and had two rules that were strictly enforced.  No rider, no matter how experienced, was allowed to hang onto the horse's mouth, not even a 'contact'.   Children were given a neck strap to hold onto and adults told to hang on to a hunk of mane if they felt unsafe.  The other rule was that no horse was allowed to rush up or down any of the hills - walking only was permitted.

The elderly couple both passed away not long short of 90, the family did not wish to continue the business, so eventually all the horses were up for sale.  At that time I went back to have a look at a couple of the ponies as possible recruits for a therapeutic riding centre.  The two for sale were 26 and 23 years old, both having been born on the property and both having spent their entire lives carting beginner riders up and down those hills.  They were in fantastic condition, their backs and bellies as straight and strong as any young horse.   The controlled hill work and weekly cavaletti sessions kept these ponies sound and strong for 20+ years of beginner riders bouncing around on their backs.

Best wishes - Pauline


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