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Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Passage on an Andalusian Stallion!

I had the most amazing day today! I went for a lesson on an Andalusian schoolmaster not too far from here. His owner has 10 Andalusians and Lusitanos and is an accredited Centered Riding Instructor. She does displays with them for charity and is lovely abd great fun. One of the first things she said to me is that people take riding too seriously and forget to have fun, which is what I'm always telling people too.

The schoolmaster I rode fulfilled many of my dreams all in one go. He is an Andalusian stallion, called Henry, and he has paces to die for! His trot is like floating on air and his canter is just wonderful - so much lift in his stride and it almost felt like slow motion.

I had a lunge lesson to work on my position and I expected to feel a bit insecure as it's ages since I rode without stirrups, plus I'm used to a suede seat and this was slippy leather, but I was very pleased to find that when I slipped a little my muscles automatically pulled me back into centre, without me having to think about it at all, and I felt as safe as houses. Henry was also a big help as his paces are so smooth.

Caroline told me that I'm always in too much of a hurry (something I know that I'm guilty of) and need to slow everything down, just think about what I want the horse to do, then wait and trust him to do it, and that the lazier the horse is the less I should do. It worked wonderfully with Henry, who was not over-enthusiastic about lunge lessons(completely understandably)and walk trot transitions became effortless (so much so that I did accuse Caroline of aiding from the ground but she assured me that she wasn't) and we even managed some walk to canters!

She also told me that I need to stop using my muscles to move my seatbones and let the horse move them for me. I hadn't realised that I was doing that but she was right and it felt much better when I did as she said. She got my legs a lot more stretched and wrapped around the horse and told me that I need to feel as though I'm sitting more on the back of my seatbones to get me more upright, and that definately did work (I lost the sense of where upright is a long time ago and am still trying to find it again when I'm on the ground too!

Then my biggest dream come true - I was allowed to try some Passage on Henry! Caroline trains it from Spanish Walk and she got me to try my normal position, then the "more to the back of the seatbones" position, and the difference it made to the height of Henry's steps in Spanish Walk was amazing! Proof if I needed it that she was spot on!

I stuck to the new improved position and we both asked for Passage and it was fantastic!!!! Very difficult to sit, as you'll see from the video, but the height and power were awesome! It was everything I thought it would be and more! Caroline said that it's her favourite movement too.

I came home walking on air and tried out my new way of aiding transitions on Bella and she responded brilliantly. I've also noticed some very big, slow trot strides happening occasionally just lately and I now know that she's heading gradually towards Passage. Caroline told me to try it in hand, from Spanish Walk, doing it myself and waiting for her to copy me, trusting that if I stick with it then it will happen, so that's the plan!

Mike is going to have a lunge lesson on Henry next time so he's in for a real treat - the sort not many novices get the chance of!

Here is the lovely Henry:

A very short bit of video. This was the second bit of Passage we tried and Henry did very well to concentrate as it was blowing a gale and the horses in the field next to the school kept taking off and galloping around like lunatics!!!


  1. Oh, Henry looks like such a sweetheart!! Lucky you! How wonderful to be able to learn from such a brilliant teacher...and Caroline looks to be a good teacher too! *G*

  2. I'll be back in just a second to read this post, but I had to respond to your comment on my Training Roadblock blog. Thank you so, so much for your comments. They helped a lot and I really appreciate you taking the time to write all of that.

    You/your trainer make a very good point about how we expect things to happen quickly because of CT. In fact when I read that it reminded me of when I very first started doing CT with Chrome I couldn't believe how fast he was learning and offering behaviors. I guess I just thought that was him, but actually it's the CT. :) Remembering that is going to help a lot with my patience level I think.

    Thank you for the compliments about Chrome. He's my first horse to clicker train (although I've had horses since I was five) so this has all been a learning experience for us both.

    I'm so glad to hear you don't use a variable reinforcement schedule either! Such a relief. I was dreading that and worried that would effect our work. I'll just keep asking more and more for the click and treat instead of rewarding every single time.

    I think I praise a little vocally (have to go back and watch my video to be sure), but not as much as I should. I never even thought about appreciating verbal praise and pets as being a learned behavior (remember all my prior CT experience is with dogs who love praise), so I'll have to be more conscious about using praise with him. :)

    I'm sure I'm forgetting something, but just wanted to say thanks. Your comments helped me out a lot. I'm ready to get back out there and get to work again. :D

  3. Henry is so cute!

    Wow, congratulations! What an awesome opportunity for you. I'm glad you got to fulfill those dreams. :) You looked great on Henry.

    I can't wait to see Mike ride him.

  4. Thank you very much both of you,

    achieve1dream, it was very useful for me too, to think things through a bit from a different angle. As regards the 'variable schedule of reinforcement' I think you'll find that you do that anyway, naturally, by asking for more before you click or by just clicking the very best bits, or increasing the number of things you look for before you click (i.e. the attitude Chrome is showing, or the way he carries himself in a certain exercise, or softness, or speed of response, or all of the above together!!

    The problem I've always had with the language of clicker training is that it makes it sound very complicated and very dull and we know that it's anything but either of those!! I know that scientists love these scientific terms and I'm sure they have their place but I do think they're a big turn off to us mere mortals who just want to relax and have some fun with our horses, without having to carry a glossary around with us for reference!



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I am a clicker training addict and there is no cure - thank goodness!!!